Closing the gap in Vietnam

The Sao Mai Vocational & Assistive Technology Center for the Blind is based in Vietnam. Like NV Access, they are a non-profit organisation. The Sao Mai centre was established in 2001. Here is an excerpt from the Sao Mai website:

Vietnamese schoolchildren singing

Vietnamese schoolchildren singing

“We work to empower the blind by using and developing assistive technology in education, employment and daily living activities.

We provide assistive products, computer and social/soft skill training for the blind.

We also work for vocational, job training and placement for the blind.”

Sao Mai has long recognised the benefits of NVDA. A screen reader which does not burden its users with ongoing costs is vital for Sao Mai’s clients. The average wage in Vietnam is less than $1,800 USD per year. Some screen readers cost that much just to purchase. Blind individuals in Vietnam are not able to afford such high costs. Sao Mai has been very encouraging of Australian charity NV Access and our work developing NVDA. They have been instrumental in translating NVDA to Vietnamese for their users.

A grant from the Nippon Foundation meant that their translators, who are all blind or vision impaired themselves, were fairly paid for their work, and were able to translate the official NV Access training material as well. This directly provided employment for blind individuals, while enabling other Vietnamese to learn in their own language. The school uses Microsoft Office to teach students needed computer skills. Microsoft Office is feature-rich, so having training material in their native language is vital for students to gain a solid grasp of the concepts.

Since the translation of the material, over 400 people have used it through Sao Mai. These users have gained valuable skills with NVDA and Microsoft Office. Skills which will give these users a valuable boost as they seek employment. In the past two years, Sao Mai itself has successfully placed 32 people in employment using NVDA and Microsoft Office after completing this training. To put that in perspective, the unemployment rate amongst blind people in Vietnam is roughly 94%. By training their students in Microsoft Office with NVDA, Sao Mai give their students access to employment and educational opportunities that they may not otherwise have had.

Sao Mai also collaborates with the Nguyen Dinh Chieu School in Vietnam, who teach school-age children vital computer skills. The translated materials on NVDA and Microsoft Office were distributed to the teachers and students at Nguyen Din Chieu School. The teachers understand the importance of grounding their students in NVDA and Microsoft Office skills early. The students particularly, are excited about the opportunities these skills will open up for them in future.

Producing high-quality training materials on NVDA with Windows and Office has been possible thanks to the close relationship between NV Access and Microsoft. The training material explores each feature of Windows and Office with NVDA. Writing this material uncovered opportunities for improvement both in Microsoft Office and in NVDA. Many of these issues involve features previously inaccessible to screen reader users. NV Access and Microsoft have worked together and resolved many of these issues. This has improved the products from both companies.

Vietnamese children working on the computer

Vietnamese children working on the computer

Microsoft has worked hard to improve the accessibility of their products in recent years. They have been eager to receive feedback from NV Access on any issues discovered as the training material was developed. The fruits of this can be seen in the improved experience for NVDA users in Microsoft Office 365. An experience which improves with each release of NVDA and of Microsoft Office. As the most commonly used operating environment in business, providing a quality experience in Microsoft Windows and Office 365 increases both education and employment opportunities for NVDA users.

Staff and students of Sao Mai Center for the Blind, Nhat Hong School for the Blind and Nguyen Dinh Chieu School in Vietnam are featured on the video above. NV Access founders Michael Curran and Jamie Teh also speak about the amazing impact that access to technology has for blind individuals.

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