Various aspects of assistive technology are being highlighted and discussed at Techshare Middle East 2014, which started in Doha yesterday.
The two-day conference, being hosted by Mada (Qatar Assistive Technology Centre), is the first of its kind in the region.
More than 300 delegates are participating in the conference, with around 500 people witnessing the exhibition held on the sidelines on the first day.
Techshare Middle East 2014 not only provides a platform for people with disabilities, but also gives companies and government institutions the opportunity to explore the latest technologies available for the aid of people with disabilities.
Topics covered at the event range from how technology can help people with disability succeed in education, employment and daily life, communication, the use of robotics and online as well as accessing digital content. It also includes special sessions of interest to families of people with autism and those with little or no vision.
On the occasion, a keynote speech – ‘Blind and partially sighted people in a digital, postmodern age: Unimagined riches or false gold’ - delivered by Kevin Carey, chairman of the UK’s Royal National Institute of Blind People and the World Blind Union Technology Committee, opened up the conference’s agenda to discuss accessibility and assistive technology at a national and regional level with international participation.
The issue of education accessibility and inclusion of people with disability was raised by Betsy Beaumon, V-P and general manager of the Global Literacy Programme, Bookshare Benetech (an online accessible library that serves users with print disabilities); Paul Thompson of AbleNet (an international company providing educational and technical solutions to help children and adults with disabilities lead productive and fulfilled lives); and Isphana al-Khatib, director of Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs.
Speaking at the event, Dana Haidan, head of corporate social responsibility and sustainability at Vodafone Qatar – the gold sponsor of the event, said: “At Vodafone, we understand the profound role mobile technology can play in empowering people with disabilities. So, we want to make the mobile phones and services we provide easier to use, particularly for customers who are elderly, deaf, the hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired.
“The number of people excluded from mobile communications due to profound disabilities is relatively small, but the potential benefits of using technology to improve their quality of life are substantial.”
Several other eminent personalities are speaking on key issues pertaining to assistive technology at the event.
At the open demonstrations, Mada is showcasing the latest products, services software and applications developed for persons with disability that could be installed in computers and mobile devices like tablets and phones.