Jul 192017
 

Please refer to the revised programme for tomorrow’s ICT Certification Ceremony.

This is being held at 11am at FITA, Gattard House, National Road in Blata l-Bajda.

11:00     Registration

11:15     Welcome speech by Ms. Elizabeth Olivieri

11:20     Personal experience by students

11:30     Speech by Hon. Silvio Schembri, Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation

11:45     Presentation of Certificates

     –         Reception

FITA Computer Courses Poster

FITA delivers courses for persons with a vision impairment and persons with an intellectual disability.   Courses for the blind and visually impaired are subsidised by MITA.  These are delivered in-house, thanks to the professional expertise of Mr. Michael Micallef and Mr. Stanley Debono.  To date we trained in access of 120 individuals.  Many of these we keep in touch with, thanks to the online community that we nurture and support via our helpdesk service. FITA also provides complimentary resources like alternative media and an ICT Pool service.

FITA ICT Training Courses statistics 2010-2017FITA first started organising ICT training courses for persons with an intellectual disability in 2003 via a pilot project and volunteer students from the MCAST ICT institute.  We ventured in this field, because although commercial courses could be made accessible, the financial cost footed by students was prohibitive.    In the ensuing years we started also collaborating with the Education’s Lifelong Learning Directorate, SAPPORT and the Ministry for Gozo among others.  Since 2003 we have trained an average of 45 students a year.

Courses organised by FITA are geared towards the ECDL certification, however in order to address demand, we occasionally also provided specialised training like Web Design, Social Media and ICT Accessibility training.

We also organise ICT courses for Deaf persons when we receive sufficient applications to organise a course.  This quota requirement, is because of constraints imposed by the additional costs of a sign language interpreter.  Individuals with different impairments, like mobility and mental health are assisted in identifying mainstream ICT training that matches their needs.

For more information or in order to apply for future courses, you can contact FITA at info@fitamalta.eu or on telephone 25992048.

Jul 172017
 

Information Session postponed

The information session which was due to be held on Tuesday 18th July is being postponed to a future date in October.  We regret the inconvenience caused.

FICTeX 2017

FITA visited the annual exhibition (13th to 14th July) held by the Faculty of ICT – FICTeX2017.  The event showcased the work of the Faculty’s students.  This year’s projects included areas directly relevant to the ICT & Disability sector. Among these were:

  1. Smart Home Automation
  2. PenTaGon- Personal Task Data Generator
  3. e-Voting using Blockchain for security
  4. Automated event scheduling systems
  5. Heart best rate calculation from facial images
  6. Keyboard layouts and dwell-free eye-driven typing
  7. Touchscreen interfaces and Voice interfaces
  8. HCI impacts on Maltese mobile users
  9. Sound localisation
  10. Interacting using technology – assisting speech pathologists

ICT Certification Ceremony 2017

Poster - FITA Photography Course 2017This year’s ICT Certification Ceremony is being held on this Thursday 20th July.  As with last year, we shall also be showcasing the work of students who participated in the Photography Course.  We wish to thank the students, teachers and supporting organisations, including MCAST, the Education Division, MITA and CRPD for their suppport.   If you wish to attend, please email info@fitamalta.eu or call 25992048.

ICT Certification event programme.

11:00 Registration

11:30 Welcome speech by Ms. Elizabeth Olivieri

11:45 Varying skill sets and learning media by Mr. Stanley Debono

12:00 Personal experience by students

12:15 Speech by Hon. Silvio Schembri Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation

12:30 Presentation of Certificates

12:45 Reception

 

 

Jul 122017
 

The Directorate for Lifelong Learning would like to inform you that applications for courses open today, Wednesday 12th July 2017 and close Friday 4th August 2017. Applications are on first come-first served basis.

Since 2003, when the Foundation for Information Technology Accessibility (FITA), together with its partners, including the Education Directorate and MCAST, first ran a pilot project providing ICT training for persons with an intellectual disability, we have gone a long way.  Thanks to the support of our project partners, we continue to deliver ICT training courses as part of our shared goal to address the digital divide and promoting opportunities for improving the quality of life of persons with disability.

FITA believes that access to computers plays a very important part in providing independence for individuals with sensory, physical and learning disabilities. Using computers and the Internet, employees or students with disabilities are able of handling a wider range of activities and work independently on a level footing with their non-disabled peers.”

FITA’s courses are geared for persons with visual or intellectual /communication difficulties, so as to help expand their ICT skills and be able to contribute productively to the society and the economy.

People interested in applying may do so online via www.lifelonglearning.gov.mt.  Applicants who are 60 years and over are entitled to one free course per year. Applicants who do not have access to internet or cannot apply themselves for some reason or another, can visit ‘One Stop Shop – servizz.gov’ and apply there.  Attached please find the details of ‘One Stop Shop – servizz.gov’ locations, which you can print and disseminate within your centres.

FITA ICT Training

Applicants with a disability who already informed FITA of their wish to attend ICT courses starting next October will have their applications processed by FITA.  Ms. Maria Mercieca, from FITA, will contact each applicant to confirm that the application was processed by Tuesday 25th July 2017.

Visual and Performing Arts Courses

For Visual and Performing Arts Courses, applicants are to follow the same procedures as other courses.  However, for further information, applicants are requested to contact their school of choice on the below details:

Johann Strauss School of Music

32, Joseph Abela Scolaro Street
Hamrun HMR1304
Tel: 21242549
Email: jstrauss.music.sch@gov.mt

 

Malta Drama Centre

San Gorg Preca College, Blata l-Bajda Secondary School
Mountbatten Street, Blata l-Bajda HMR1575
Tel: 21220665
Email: malta.drama.centre@gov.mt

 

Malta School of Arts

106 Casa Brunet, Old Bakery Street
Valletta, VLT1458
Tel: 21234351
Email: malta.art.sch@gov.mt

 

Visual and Performing Arts School

Triq il-Hamrija
Xewkija XWK9034
Tel: 27830774
Email: gozo.art.sch@gov.mt

 

May 222017
 

The partnership between FITA and ADVICE continues to make available new technology solutions to persons with disability in the Maltese Islands.  Thanks to the support of suppliers and sales agencies, we are able to try out and demo the very latest products, for the benefit of our clients, many of whom get a chance to try out the technology for themselves before opting to buy it.

Two recent products which are being made available at the ICT Lab at FITA are the C-Pen Reader and OrCam device.

We published a video review of the C-Pen back in February 2017.  Scanning pens, such as the C-Pen Reader, are a popular and relatively inexpensive form of assistive technology which help people with literacy difficulties access printed text.  Different pens have different combinations of functions available.  Among these are: read back, dictionary definitions, scanning and storing and data transfer to PCs. These features make scanning pens especially handy for anyone with dyslexia as they can read aloud text from books, labels and documents.

This tackles literacy difficulties surrounding reading that many children and adults with Dyslexia, face on a day to day basis.  In very practical terms, this means that students with literacy difficulties can independently take their exam knowing that they can read and understand each question. Other portable scanner pens include the Exam Pen Reader from C-Pen, IRIS Pen and the Wizcom Reading Pens.  Please note that only the C-Pen Reader is presently available for you to try out at FITA.  For more information on these products contact FITA or visit http://www.dyslexic.com/product-category/hardware/portable-scanners/

At the time of writing, the OrCam comes in two flavours.  The MyReader which is designed specifically to read printed text and the MyEye which goes a step further by also identifying people’s faces and different everyday items or products.

Mr. Joe Cauchi, President of ADVICE trying out the OrCam device together with Mr. Stanley Debono, CEO of FITA

Mr. Joe Cauchi, President of ADVICE trying out the OrCam device together with Mr. Stanley Debono, CEO of FITA, at Gattard House in Blata l-Bajda.

If you already visited FITA and tried out the desktop or tablet based magnifiers and OCR readers, you shall realise that the OrCam pioneers similar OCR technology but in a compact and portable format.  With the OrCam you can hear any text, appearing on any surface. Recognize the faces of people in your life. Identify supermarket products and money notes. For people who are blind, visually impaired, or have dyslexia, aphasia or other conditions. OrCam MyEye gives a good deal of independence.

During our testing at FITA we confirmed that most of the capabilities covered by the marketing videos of OrCam are true and work quite well.   It takes some time and patience to teach it to identify new products.  However it learns faces quickly and identifies both products and people quite reliably once it learns them.  Reading books, magazines, small phone screens and shop signs requires good lighting conditions.  When it works and this happens quite consistently, it delivers a big sense of freedom and independence.

On the downside, battery life though respectable, is less than we expected.  With regular moderate use it lasted about 3.5 hours.  The manual needs some corrections, as it feels like the product continued to develop beyond the level described by the manual.  For example, the menu system as described in the manual is organised differently from that on the device.  Some gestures like reading time, by simply pointing at your wrist orcam devicewas also not covered in our copy of the manual.  However this detracts little from the overall experience, since the product is relatively easy to use once you master the first few commands, which mainly involve pointing at any text around you and having the device automatically read it out for you.

We invite you to visit us at FITA in order to try out the different products we have on display.  You may contact us at info@fitamalta.eu or on 25992048 in order to set up an appointment.

 

May 222017
 

On Wednesday 17th May, FITA representatives attended the the half day conference organised by the Directorate for Lifelong Learning on the above subject.DLL seminar May 2017

Dr Mario Cardona,  Director at DLL, kicked off the session, stating that “Adult education depends on what many agencies are doing in this area. The Directorate looks forward to hear the views so that together we can have a fruitful morning”

Ms Rhoda Garland, Executive Director, National Commission for Persons with Disability stressed that everybody’s “Rights to education and employment are fundamental”

Ms. Rhoda GarlandMs. Garland spoke about how important that persons with disabilities have access to education and be included. She said how  important the technology is and how  it can be used to help people lead a normal social life. She also said how persons with a disability face problems during class. She said some teachers do not feel comfortable when a  person with disability approaches them and tell them that they need the educational material to be more accessible. She said that this cannot be the case as the material can be shared easily as a soft copy.  She concluded by saying that persons with disability have to have equal rights and  access for information to seek employment and  education.

The conference covered other aspects not directly linked to disability.  These included a talk by Ms. Marcelle Bugre who spoke about migrants and how they face injustice on a daily basis.    Ms. Penelope Lewis covered many case studies where she presented various scenarios where disabled and migrant people have to face unnecessary and avoidable difficulties in their daily life.

FITA continues to organise regular ECDL training courses for persons with disability, in collaboration with the Directorate for Lifelong Learning.  More information about these courses is available here.

The conference report was submitted by Ms. Maria Mercieca, FITA.

May 172017
 

As most of the members on this mailing list will know, GW-Micro the developers of the Window-Eyes screen reader software, were taken over by Freedom Scientific, the owners of the JAWS screen reader.  After months of negotiations and insecurity for Window-Eyes users, there is now an announcement defining a migration route.

Sales of Window-Eyes stopped in the United States and Canada. Users outside of the United States and Canada should contact their local distributor for options. Existing software maintenance agreements will be honoured.  GW-Micro shall also continue to provide technical support to end users that have purchased Window-Eyes or a support package.  All users who are currently using Window-Eyes can continue to use the software indefinitely; however, as the Windows® operating system and/or applications change over time, there will be no Window-Eyes updates and Window-Eyes may stop functioning correctly.

For those wishing to migrate away from Window-Eyes now, GW-Mircor is offering JAWS® for Windows 18 as a replacement.  Existing Window-Eyes product purchases and software maintenance agreements will be addressed as follows.

  • End users that paid for and are current with Window-Eyes 9.x will be converted to JAWS 18 at no charge.
  • If you are using an earlier version of Window-Eyes, you can purchase an upgrade to JAWS 18.
  • If you are using the free version of Window-Eyes you can continue to use it. While there is not an upgrade path from the free version, if you are interested in purchasing JAWS, please contact their sales team at 800-444-4443.
  • Existing Window-Eyes SMAs will be rolled into the JAWS SMA program for end users that migrate to JAWS.

Detailed upgrade and SMA pricing information is provided at http://www.gwmicro.com/window-eyes/migrate/

Through the below link, you can complete a simple web form that will go directly to the JAWS sales team, who will then contact you with an authorization code for JAWS 18, or request additional information if necessary.

Requests for upgrades must be submitted at http://www.gwmicro.com/window-eyes/migrateform or by phone at 800-444-4443 by July 31, 2017.

 

Note: the free Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office version is not part of the conversion program.

 

 

May 112017
 

We wish to inform our esteemed clientele that between 15th May and 26th May the FITA front office, at Gattard House, will be closed. Previously planned initiatives and information sessions will be unaffected by this change.  FITA’s operations are scheduled to be back to normal on 29th May 2017.

During this time, clients wishing to contact FITA, may still do so via email at info@fitamalta.eu or via telephone on 25992048.

We regret any inconvenience this temporary change may cause.

May 052017
 
Mr Debono presenting FITA memory stick to Mr Luke Cassar

Presentation of MCAST certificate and FITA token to Mr. Luke Cassar

The Foundation for Information Technology Accessibility (FITA) has worked closely with the Nanniet Malta Foundation in order to help improve the ICT skills of the latter’s members.

In order to assist Nanniet Malta in reaching out to its growing number of members and coordinate online communication channels, FITA facilitated cooperation with MCAST, specifically two Bsc Multimedia Development students attending the MCAST ICT Institute,  Mr. Vincenzo Runza and Mr. Luke Cassar.  These students were mentored by Mr. Mark Anthony Farrugia, IICT Deputy Director Programme Management (University College) at MCAST.

The results of this initiative were inaugurated today 5th May 2017, via a press event that was held at FITA, Gattard House in Blata l-Bajda.  The event was attended by representatives from Nanniet Malta, MCAST and FITA together with one of the students, Mr. Luke Cassar.

Mr. Philip Chircop, founder and president of Nanniet Malta thanked MCAST and FITA for their support and had words of praise for the young students’ work.  He pointed out that a key reason for the establishment of Nanniet Malta was to encourage younger generations to show greater daily appreciation for their grandparents.  “A more accessible and better designed website will not only make it easier for our members to access information, but will also reach out to younger generations who can contribute, share and learn together with their elders” said Mr. Chircop.  (See video interview)

FITA WordPress ManualThe students used the WordPress CMS platform in order to provide key features requested by Nanniet Malta. Mr Runza focused on functionality while Mr. Cassar worked on the design and visuals.  Their work included automatically mirroring of posts between the organisation’s website and Facebook page, a new interactive sitemap, a revised photo gallery and featured activity  banners.  This work involved a number of preliminary meetings where specifications were discussed and agreed upon.  There followed design work using WordPress and a user acceptance testing session with FITA and Nanniet Malta.

Mr. Stanley Debono, CEO of FITA, explained how FITA provided specific WordPress training which will enable content managers from Nanniet Malta to create online content more easily as well as promote it more effectively.  FITA also assisted Mr.Chircop in producing more accessible, and easily searchable content.  This involved transitioning from Powerpoint based notifications and image files, to more accessible, but visually similar website pages.  He also said that “Establishing an accessible design framework for software and websites, helps avoid many problems that will arise when retro-fitting accessibility into completed ICT solutions.”

FITA memory stick keychainMr. Conrad Vassallo, Director at the MCAST ICT Insttute, presented the students with a certificate and voucher in appreciation for their voluntary work.  Mr. Debono presented the students with a memory stick bearing FITA’s logo, to thank them for their work and as a small reminder of the importance of  instilling the accessibility mindset, across their future work projects.

Nanniet Malta is migrating its old website archives to the new platform, but new material is already being posted to the new live website and Facebook page, thus taking advantage of the new platform’s possibilities.  The Nanniet Malta website can be access at http://www.nannietmalta.org/

Background information

About FITA

  1. The Foundation for Technology Accessibility (FITA) is the principal advocate and coordinator for making information communications technology (ICT) accessible for persons with disability across the Maltese islands.
  2. FITA also provides support to disabled individuals in overcoming or removing barriers to education and employment through ICT.

About Nanniet Malta

  1. Philip Chircop founded Nanniet Malta or Grandparents Malta, after being inspired on the important role of grandparents worldwide by Pope Francis’ words, when addressing millions of youths at the World Forum held in Brazil on July 26, 2013.
  2. ‘Jum in-Nanniet’ was established by Maltese Parliament in 2014, upon acceptance of the Foundation’s request and is now celebrated every second Sunday of October.
  3. Nanniet Malta can be contacted on (+356) 9920 7043 or (+356) 2144 7304 or by email at nannietmalta@gmail.com

For more information you may visit www.fitamalta.eu or contact FITA on (+356)25992048 or by email at info@fitamalta.eu

Related Resources

 

May 042017
 
Group photo at FITA, Gattard House, Blata l-Bajda

Group photo of 100 Mirrors project partners with FITA staff – 28th April 2017

100 Mirrors is an Erasmus project involving six EU based organisations, working on the topic of inclusive tools for the motivation of enterprising disabled women.  Representatives from the respective project partners held an info session at FITA on 28th April 2017, facilitated by AcrossLimits.

Ms Maryrose Francica, from AcrossLimits, explained that the aim of this project is to promote inclusive entrepreneurship for women with disabilities by developing a methodology based on coaching, mentoring and job shadowing of women with physical disabilities willing to become entrepreneurs.

The project deliverables shall include a needs and state of the art analysis, a number of videos and an E-book with testimonies of successful entrepreneurs affected by disability, a Guide and E-training on how to coach people with disabilities for inclusive entrepreneurship, a Manual and E-training addressed to women with disabilities.

The project enhances digital integration in learning, teaching, training and youth work at various levels by integrating open education resources (OER) in training programs and producing OER for training.  It aims to achieve this by developing the transversal skill inclusive entrepreneurship by using innovative methods based on job shadowing and coaching.  It also plans to assist with the professional development of VET teachers and trainers by providing them with effective OER.

200 mirrors portraits

Under the name of 200 Portraits are 200 hidden stories about entrepreneur women or women that have broken the glass ceiling. Stories of Mirror Women where others may be reflected.

Many of women, when talking about work, also refer to their private lives; either to point out a woman model they admire who has managed to reconcile her personal life and work; or to commit to women, without children, whose lives are dedicated to achieving professional goals, removed from any dependence. Whichever the case, to the extent that women name it, they do not detach themselves from “their” responsibility concerning maternity and caring tasks. We doubt that this subject would be mentioned so often – even for rejecting it – if men had been asked, or if they had been asked about masculine entrepreneurialism.

On the other hand, we have also seen that many of the answers associated feminine leadership with transformational leadership – coined by Bernard Bass – as the kind that is characterised by achieving extraordinary effects on satisfaction and performance by employees and that is comprehensive and sensitive to the needs of their team.

To end with, we would like to emphasise that today’s society, so needy of good leaders, cannot afford to limit access to decision-making posts for over half of the population (women), who have proven capability and are very well prepared” — The 100 Mirrors Report (https://www.100mirrors.eu/ext/en/looking-on-women)

The meeting held at FITA covered the different services and initiatives being delivered by the Foundation, with a particular focus on accessibility certification and the requirements imposed by the Web Accessibility Directive that was published in December 2016.

100 Mirrors project partners are based in Spain, Poland, Greece, Latvia and Malta.  It was interesting to learn how similar issues arise across different countries and how accessibility related difficulties are tackled.  Particularly how this project is pushing back the boundaries limiting persons with disability and making use of ICT to reach out and empower said beneficiaries.   It was also very interesting to learn from the experiences of different people and discover how these organisations can support each other to reach their goals.

 

May 022017
 

Google Digital Workshop partner logos

Google is on a mission to increase digital skills, mainly for business … but not only.

Started in Leeds in March 2015, Google’s Digital Garage project was set up to help individuals and companies develop their digital presence, providing skills and training to more than 200,000 businesses over two years. That includes anything from attracting visitors to their website or social media page, to growing their customer base and increasing sales.

Google Digital Workshop 24 April 2017Launched on 24th April 2017, the Google Digital Workshop initiative for Malta, is the result of collaboration between Google, the eSkills Malta Foundation and the National Skills Council (NSC).  Their message is clear.  Whatever you sell, service or product, growing your online presence is vital in allowing potential customers to find out about your brand.  Small business typically lacks the digital skills necessary to be more productive online and sell beyond their immediate area.

The Google Garage set of topics is addressed squarely at business and also for individuals who want to expand their online digital skills.
If you are a customer, and visiting a shop, you are expected to know that shops have doors, displays to showcase products, changing rooms, cash counters etc.  Many FITA clients will also be aware of lack of accessibility, like steps, microscopic price tags, narrow walking lanes, loud music and poor signage.   The online world is not too different and the customer-business experience is very similar.  Business must know how to use online tools.  Customers should be knowledgeable as to how those tools are being used to sell things to them.  The need for accessibility online is preserved too, but that is not covered by Google’s DigitalWorkshop/Garage, so we will set aside this topic, on this occasion.

There are currently a total of 23 topics.  You may be presented with a subset of these.  This depends on the choices you make during the initial profiling exercise, that is carried out when you register.

Topic Description
1 The online opportunity The world has gone digital.
2 Build your web presence Understand your options and create an action plan to get online.
3 Your first steps in online success The web offers many ways to promote your business or yourself. Learn how all the digital channels work.
4 Connect through email Start growing your customer relationships while also converting new prospects through email marketing.
5 Get started with search Discover how they work, why they’re important, how they’ll impact your business and why they are key to your online success.
6 Get discovered with search When people search online for the things you sell, make sure you’re being found.
7 Make search work for you We’ll show you how to apply the principles to get your business noticed.
8 Be noticed with search ads Want to know how to advertise to the very people searching for what you offer?
9 Get started with analytics We’ll show you how to slice and dice data to answer real business questions, and to measure how you’re doing online.
10 Improve your search campaigns Now that you know the basics of paid search, see how to make the most of every pound you spend with smarter, more targeted ads.
11 Find success with analytics So you’ve got the basic concepts of analysing data. Now see how to apply the data to benefit your business.
12 Get noticed locally Whether you’re a bricks- and- mortar shop or a localised service, find ways to use the web to reach customers nearby.
13 Help people nearby find you online When people are out and about they rely on mobile for what they need. Learn some ways to take advantage of that unique opportunity to attract new customers.
14 Get noticed with social media There’s more to social media than liking baby photos and sharing dog pics. Discover all the cool ways you can use it for your business.
15 Deep dive into social media Now we’ll cover managing your social presence, dos and don’ts of different channels, advertising on social media, and measuring your performance.
16 Discover the possibilities of mobile Understand how to use the mobile web and apps to reach just the right customers.
17 Make mobile work for you We’ll show you how to reach more customers through mobile: from SEO to mobile search, from display ads to video.
18 Advertise on other websites Get to know display advertising: what the ads are, where they show up and how advertisers can control who’s seeing them.
19 Deep dive into display advertising Everything you need to create clever display campaigns that get you noticed and attract more customers through your doors.
20 Expand internationally Everything you need to know about going global, from research to translation to selling across borders online.
21 Make the most of video Understand the powerful possibilities of using video to reach and interact with customers and grow your business.
22 Build your online shop Everything you need to know about e-commerce and what it can do for your business.
23 Sell more online Now that you know the basics, let’s get fancy. Learn to optimise, promote and retarget your online shop.

 

In summary, we all stand to benefit from everyone having digital skills. Promoting great digital skills across all sections of the population, benefits everyone in tech by increasing users/clients.  If your site is doing the best it can in terms of online promotion it is going to be found much more easily by potential customers on search engines.  This obviously includes Google Search.

Google Digital Workshop Dashboard      Google Digital Workshop Lesson1

So our recommendation is, whether or not you are running a business, or are even mildly interested in what is all about, go to https://learndigital.withgoogle.com/digitalworkshop-mt  and register.  It will very likely help increase your IT knowledge and help you make sense os all those online ads your are bombarded with daily.

If these courses trigger you interests and you have more queries, you can always contact the FITA helpdesk and possibly have information sessions organised purposely to help out in using this platform, especially in areas linked to accessibility.

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