Opening the door for the blind and visually impaired

GEORGE TOWN: Nur Aida Aqilah Kassim went blind in her left eye in 2021 after being diagnosed with glaucoma.

Within a short time, the 23-year-old, who aspires to be a teacher for special children, also lost her sight in the right eye.

Not letting her disability affect her spirit and determination, Nur Aida, who holds a diploma in Usuluddin from Universiti Sultan Azlan Shah in Kuala Kangsar, undertook a six-month IT course at St Nicholas’ Home (SNH).

“With my IT skills, I can now work towards obtaining a university degree. Even though I lost my eyesight, I am still positive about the opportunities out there.

“I want to make my parents proud,” said the youngest of nine siblings.

Nur Aida is among the many blind and visually-impaired (BVI) individuals who are currently undergoing a six-month information technology (IT) course at the newly-upgraded IT lab at SNH.

The upgrading was made possible with a RM300,000 grant by Flex Foundation which saw SNH fully refurbish its IT lab and equip it with computers that will benefit over 50 BVI students annually.

The IT lab received new flooring, ceiling, air conditioners, tables, chairs and computers equipped with software designed for the individuals at SNH.

In addition, Flex also sponsored the IT lab’s printers, wireless Internet access points and server, among others.

At the opening ceremony of the lab recently, Flex’s Information Technology vice-president Datuk SN Lee said the upgraded IT lab will play a critical role in promoting disability inclusion by bridging the digital divide among people with disabilities (PwDs).

He urged PwDs not to give up, but to equip themselves with knowledge and skills to sustain themselves.

“Since 2018, Flex has been actively employing PwDs. For its efforts, Flex has been named by the Social Security Organisation as a ‘PwD Caring Employer’ and the ‘Largest Employer of PwDs 2022’.“We have also been recognised as a ‘PwD Friendly Employer’ by the Human Resources Ministry for employing over 700 PwD staff to date,” he said.

SNH general manager Carmen Chew thanked Flex for investing in the BVI individuals’ future.

“With these skills, it will open doors for the visually impaired and blind to empower themselves with the tools to have a successful life. When Flex visited us in 2021, this lab was unusable with the ceiling leaking and the floor flooding. Now, those taking up the course can look forward to learning IT skills in a conducive environment,” she said.

Chew also said that SNH has five instructors, of which two are blind, to conduct the IT course.

“We are promoting this free IT course with six months of free accommodation and food. We will also be introducing a new course on web development to train our participants to do web design in January next year,” she said.Fatimah Sun, 29, one of the IT instructors at SNH, who teaches basic computer skills as well as Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint to the BVIs, said she took up IT at SNH while waiting for her STPM results in 2015.

Fatimah, who was born blind, said she then returned to Sarawak to continue her studies at Unimas.

“The skills I obtained at SNH had helped me a lot and now I am back here to help others equip themselves with the necessary IT skills they require to sustain themselves,” she said.

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