Hello from beautiful Bogota Colombia home of our Tablets For Blind Children Pilot program. I know it's been a while between posts but it seems that the entire country of Colombia takes off from about December Fifteenth to January 20 for the Holidays. So much has happened and so much is currently in the works that it is definitely going to take a couple of blog posts to catch up.
By now everyone will have heard of the fantastic partnership between GW Micro and Microsoft. If you haven’t, customers with Office 2010 or later can download a full copy of Window Eyes free of charge from http://www.WindowEyesforOffice.com.
Pundits have already taken to the streets making predictions about what it all means for the state of the assistive technology industry. Yet, few people are giving thought to what it all means for the thousands of blind students in developing countries. Now a blind child in Colombia has one more tool in the arsenal to tackle school assignments, communicate with friends and family, enjoy gaming and entertainment, and overall live fuller and more independent lives. In my last post I gave a panoramic view of the Tablets for Blind Children program. Tablets using one of three different operating systems will make their way into the hands of eager children waiting to learn about mobile computing, and with the unveiling of Window Eyes as a free add-on to the PC with MS Office 2010 or later, it will now be possible for these children in Colombia to experience the breadth of one more sophisticated screen reading solution. It is now possible for us to configure a Windows 8.1 tablet to work out of the box with an additional screen reader a blind child might otherwise have been unable to explore!
I am pleased to share that Microsoft has made a financial contribution to the cause. Their gift to the AIR Foundation will make it possible for us to purchase, configure, and ship some but not all of the Windows tablets to the student participants in Colombia. We are very grateful to Microsoft for their generous gift and commend their commitment to universal access.
The recent announcement signals the beginning of a new era for assistive technology. We are truly moving closer to universal accessibility, and it is a wonderful blessing to note that “universal” truly means worldwide. There are over three million blind children in developing countries who can barely afford a computer, let alone the software to fully utilize it. The AIR Foundation is pleased to be able to seize the opportunity to spread this greater height of accessibility to the children who will carry tomorrow’s banner for leadership.
If you have not yet taken a moment to express your financial support for this worthwhile endeavor, please consider making an investment now. We still need to purchase more devices, configure them and ship them to various schools in Bogota. We absolutely cannot fulfill this ambitious undertaking without your collective support. We are also still in the process of equipping our office in Bogota. We were generously provided several items including a dining table with two chairs, a microwave, toaster oven, and most importantly a space heater. I wish I could say that cash donations are flooding in but they are not. Here is a chance for you to actually read and see your donations at work changing the lives of blind kids that will grow up to be tomorrow's leaders because someone like you believed in this program enough to support it and them.
The path forward is an open road. It’s exciting to think of all the wonderful results our first pilot will reveal. There is a lot more to our blind children than we give credit, and thanks to excellent developments such as those unveiled by GW Micro and Microsoft, we’re on the verge of discovering just how far technology can usher in a new age of independence. I'll be having some really important meetings with old friends and some interesting new ones. Stay tuned to our blog, Twitter, and Facebook feeds for more information.
Thanks to the support of companies like Microsoft an your donations, I think 2014 is going to be a year that will for ever bee seen as a turning point for the World's blind children!