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Promotion of new tools for people with disability

“Persons with disability can use technology for personal development and it can make life easier for them and help them exploit their potential,” – said Vladimir Lazovski, Executive director of Open the Windows.

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Teachers are the target audience of the first handbook titled “Use of information technology in schools for children with disabilities”. The handbook has been prepared with the financial support of the City of Skopje and published in Macedonian and Albanian language.

The second handbook “How to make the computer easier to use – accessibility options in Edubuntu Linux” has been developed in cooperation with the Metamorphosis Foundation, Free Software Macedonia and special educators.

The purpose of the handbooks is to improve the inclusiveness of the education system.

“The basic idea is to enable the inclusion of all people in the use of new technology benefits and integration of all people in all spheres of society, including people with disabilities” said the representative from the Metamorphosis Foundation.

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The two handbooks contain useful information and tips on computer use for students with special educational needs in the primary and secondary schools, and are available for download from the Open the Windows website.

A computer CD with simplified computer programs for writing and presentations from the Open Office program package were presented among other things that would help people with disabilities write texts and prepare presentations more easily. The software is published in collaboration with USAID, and the materials will be distributed to the schools.

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Nine communication boards were donated during the presentation, as part of the project of Metamorphosis and Open the Windows, 6 of which were provided to social institutions: two daycare centers for persons with disabilities from Skopje and Stip, SES “Zlatan Sremac”, the Office for Mental Health, Institute for Hearing, Speech and Voice, and the Association of Parents of children with cerebral paralysis from Veles. Three communication boards were donated to individual users who visit the center for accessible information technology of Open the Windows. The selection was made based on a mini-survey conducted in August 2010, covering 14 institutions or organizations of this type.

The communication board is an assistive device facilitating and supporting the communication of children with speech difficulties.

“If a child cannot talk, this does not mean he/she has nothing to say. The communication board makes it possible and opens new treatment opportunities”- said Jasmina Troshanska, a special educator in the special primary school “Zlatan Sremac”.

The board allows the recording of any message in 5 categories in each of the nine fields for messages. Messages can be deleted and new messages can be recorded, allowing long-term use of the device. It can also be used to help people who have temporarily lost their speech due to trauma, stroke and the like.

The board was tested with 2 children having problems with communication and speech. The first child had problems with communication and speech, but the child can be trained to communicate with the board and the use of exercises. The second child was a child that could speak, and managed to learn three songs and draw with the help of the board, with verbal instructions.

The board facilitates communication and helps to enrich one’s vocabulary. It can be used by people having an underdeveloped speech or speech difficulties, children with difficulties and inability for nonverbal communication, children with poor or incorrect coordination of their body, hands and mimics, autism and other disabilities.

The City of Skopje provided a venue adapted for use without compensation, as part of this project and to enable persons with disability to feel the benefits of technology.