This month I got one of the most beautiful evidences of the importance of the internet in our time and how it is about inclusion. New technologies are changing the human history and it is not created for the power and enjoyment of minoritarian groups, but information and communication technologies are a human patrimony we must promote to reduce the global digital gap.
The protagonist was Lorn Sitha, our young school chef at the Don Bosco Vocational Center Kep. He has already six months working as chief of the school kitchen to feed more than hundred students and teachers with the assistance of three other cooks. He does his work very good, while participating in other school activities such as sport and learning computers and English.
There is something I forgot to mention: he is deaf, something that does not limit his wonderful charm in making friends and leading his skills to the service of the community he is on now.
He began his formation in Krousar Thmey (New Family), an organization based in Phnom Penh supporting deaf children. When Sitha was grown enough, he was inscribed in a cooking course of another organization to protect deprived children as well: M’lop Tapang (Under The Tree) in Sihanoukville where he spent two years.
Upon concluding his cooking formation, he tried to get a job as a chef in some of the Sihanoukville’s restaurants, although his parents would like to have their boy back home, because they feared discrimination or something like that. Shame to some of those Sihanoukville’s restaurants! he was not accepted only because he was deaf.
At that time the Don Bosco Kep schools was looking for a chef, so M’lop Tapang sent his CV and he was accepted of course… So, from one NGO to another: Krousar Thmey to M’lop Tapang to Don Bosco. He is very lucky, but it is not the ideal in a society. It would be better to know that business people owning restaurants, hotels and whatever, could see deaf, blind, handicapped people as normal for work and they are really normal, especially if they get training. The problem is not, therefore, the handicapped people, but those who are not prepared for them.
One of the first activity to start a process to introduce Sitha in community was to ask the students of social communication to learn some deaf expressions thanks to the Krousar Thmey website resources. Because it, the students learn that Sitha was not a deaf chef, but a man with a personal history very similar to their own personal histories. The best part for the students was to discover that Sitha has a girlfriend in his original town.
One gift the students want to give to Sitha was to teach him internet. In the span of few days he got a Facebook account, he could send emails and chat with others. One fact we discover is that in chat channels and forums there are not deaf people. The students could hold conversations with Sitha without realizing they were talking with a deaf man.
But the most interesting was when Sitha began to use the Skype… the Skype’s chat? No. All the system, especially the webcam.
He contacted soon his friends, most of them deaf kids in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville and began to talk. In that moment we could proof what inclusion means in new technologies. It is important to develop more resources for persons with disabilities while using internet. Deaf people, as I could see in the Sitha’s case seem easier, but blind could be more challenging. Fortunately there are many resources online to guide in the process of how to introduce persons with disabilities online and how it could support their own development as personas and to participate in community.
So, all you, webmasters, ecommerce designers, NGOs… when you create your networks, remember to include apps for disable people. The internet is also made for them…