New FITA services portfolio for persons with visual impairment
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The Foundation for Technology Accessibility (FITA), recently announced a new portfolio of services aimed at persons with visual impairment.
Among the services that FITA is strengthening and building on include:
Braille embossing services
By collaborating with local service providers and disability organisations FITA develops Braille embossing and document layout standards which provide easier access to embossed and tactile information for blind and visually impaired persons. In recent months the Foundation has revised all its services to incorporate the updated Unified Maltese Braille standard to ensure that informational, educational and exam materials conform to the same standards and methodologies.
ICT training and information sessions
FITA is updating its ICT courses for persons with a visual impairment to include more modern ICT platforms. The original computer training ranges from basic keyboard skills and screen reader technology to document creation, audio editing and web design. In recent months this has been augmented to include selection, customisation and use of tablets and smart phones. In order to address this demand FITA regularly evaluates new devices and delivers related information sessions.
Apart from the direct one-to-one training at FITA, the Foundation offers training services for the visually impaired even at their home or work environment. Additional support is also provided on a long term basis where problem solving and setup configuration are involved.
Since addressing the demand for ICT knowledge and equipment is not enough to ensure independence and effective access to information, FITA also supports product and service suppliers through ICT Accessibility Certification services. The Foundation evaluates these products or services against international accessibility standards and benchmarks to ensure accessibility for all disabled persons irrespective of the assistive technology they rely on.
In addressing the specific requirements of people with different abilities ICT developers, managers or student researchers, FITA relies on the knowledge of a network of experts and disabled persons, in providing the necessary information and recommendations. FITA processes an average of 600 such requests every year
The Maltese speech engine
Through the continued support of Crimsonwing Malta, FITA continues to feed new data into the Maltese Speech Engine in order to optimise the speech output. The scope of this software has expanded well beyond the original goal of assisting persons with a visual impairment to access electronic information and nowadays it is actively used to assist literacy students and people learning Maltese.
Photo: Mr. Michael Micallef, FITA ICT Accessibility Officer, with Josè Herrera, Parliamentary Secretary for Competitiveness and Economic Growth