On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Facebook had collaborated with Family Educational Services Foundation’s (FESF) Deaf Reach, one of Pakistan’s only branch networks of schools catering to the needs of the community with hearing disabilities, to adapt Facebook’s We Think Digital online safety resources for hearing-impaired students within the Deaf Reach school network.
To mark this important day and announce this partnership, Deaf Reach held an online roundtable discussion in collaboration with Facebook on “Empowerment through digital literacy and connectivity”. The conversation revolved around what can be done to improve the experience of people with disabilities online so that they can harness the full potential of the internet for their benefit.
While addressing the attendees at the discussion, Begum Samina ArifAlvi said “It was pivotal for the society to provide a level-playing field for differently abled people to make them valued citizens. The public and private sector along with civil society in the country had joint responsibility for facilitating access of people with disabilities to opportunities of education, healthcare and employment.” Furthermore, she appreciated the work done by Deaf Reach in partnership with Facebook for the community, and emphasised the fact that a digitally connected Pakistan was the way forward for everyone in the country.
The partnership between Deaf Reach and Facebook will involve adapting Facebook’s We Think Digital Learning Resources for hearing-impaired students within the Deaf Reach school network. These learning materials focus on online safety and will help to build a community of responsible digital citizens equipped with skills for a digital world.
“Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together — and that includes persons with disabilities. We are pleased to work with Deaf Reach and have our digital literacy programs made available in Urdu and Sign Language for the benefit of their students. It is critical that they are equipped with the right digital skills so they are able to use the internet safely and responsibly,” said Monica Desai, Global Head of Connectivity and Access Policy, Facebook.
The other attendees included Hassan Ahmed-Pakistan’s first Deaf Social Media Influencer, Dr. Izhar Hashmi, Director, PWTD (Punjab Welfare Trust for the Disabled), Ameena Zia, United Nations Representative, ECOSOC for FESF, Syed QasimNaveedQamar, Special Assistant to Chief Minister of Sindh,Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Sindh, Baela Jamil, CEO Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), Omair Ahmed, Executive Director, NOWPDP, Muhammad ShabbirAwan, President of the Accessibility Special Interest Group of the Internet Society, ISOC Pakistan, IsuruSamaratunga, Senior Researcher, LIRNEasia, Monica Desai, Global Head of Connectivity and Access Policy, Facebook, and Sehar Tariq, Manager Policy, Facebook.
Sharing his thoughts about this partnership, Mr. Richard Geary, Founder and Director of Programs of Family Educational Services Foundation (FESF), stated “Pakistan currently has a population of nearly 30 million people from the differently-abled community. It is crucial that they are given equal representation in the society, and technology is an excellent tool to make it happen. We are happy to have partnered with a global social media platform of Facebook’s magnitude to make this happen, and it is heartening to see them being so receptive towards making their community even more inclusive.”
This partnership is part of Facebook’s commitment to supporting accessibility and inclusion in Pakistan, aimed at creating a great experience for all users through features and technologies that helps people with disabilities get the most out of Facebook.