Upskilling differently-abled people through tech as SA unemployment rate continues to soar

Published: Friday, July 26, 2019

Information Technology (IT)LabourCommunity AffairsElectronics/Computers

The right to work is one of the core components to the South African constitution. It is a right that affords millions a sense of human dignity, a way to make a livelihood, and be economically self-sufficient. 

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However, people who are differently-abled are disproportionately excluded from the labour market, primarily due to misconceptions around their competency and abilities.


“As the overall unemployment rate continues to reach unprecedented highs, differently-abled job seekers are looking to the impending fourth industrial revolution for a possible resolution, as strides in assistive technology continue to uplift and empower people living with disabilities,” says Alan Goldberg, Director of Education at Apple Premium Reseller, Digicape.


The growing innovation in assistive technology, specifically in the mobile space has been phenomenal. Leading tech companies have created tools that are levelling the playing field for people living with disabilities. Mobile devices have become convenient for abled-people but for differently-abled people they have the potential to unlock unprecedented new possibilities.


The notable difference, however, between Apple technology and other operating systems is that that all of the Apple assistive technology is built into the operating systems, whether Mac or iOS, and as a result can work with anything developed for the platform.


“This means that because Apple has a larger ‘built-in’ footprint, users don’t have to pay for additional tools as the applications are compatible with the iPad, iPhone, Mac or Apple TV. Saving the user time, money and frustration”, Goldberg explains.


Peter Laubscher, head of IT at Rolls Royce in Norway, is a deaf man who through assistive technology has grown professionally and personally. Using his hearing aids in conjunction with his iPhone, he is able to access advanced technology that enables him to enjoy music without missing a note, transmit audio as he types text and personalise his hearing experience to suit most situations & locations.


“I am always amazed and grateful for the technological advancements that have been made. For the 1st time in my life at the age of 45, I can appreciate the sounds in music I have always missed. I now get to hear Coke fizzing in a glass with ice, listen to the radio and even watch Netflix.”

Living with a form of disability often places one at a higher risk of poverty. This is due to a number of barriers including lack of employment and education opportunities. Technology can play an integral role in alleviating this risk by providing tools that can level the playing field and ready differently-abled people for the job opportunities the impending Fourth Industrial Revolution can offer.


Goldberg shares his top tools that are paving the way for people living with disabilities.




For a blind person or someone who experiences poor vision, VoiceOver is a phenomenal tool. It is a gesture-based screen reader that lets you use your iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV even if you don’t see by describing exactly what’s happening.

“The tool can even tell what’s in a photo, invert colours, reduce white point, enable grayscale, to support different forms of colour blindness and other vision needs.”




VoiceOver also includes systemwide support for braille chords in 6 and 8 dot braille, enabling direct braille entry without the need for a physical braille keyboard.

“The braille keyboard can be used to type text, launch apps, and find content in apps like Music.”




For a deaf person or someone who is hard of hearing, FaceTime allows one to communicate via high-quality video and fast frame rate.

“This feature is great for keeping deaf people connected while also preserving their sign language.”


Switch Control


People with limited mobility can use the Switch Control feature which lets them control their iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV, using a single switch or multiple switches or other adaptive devices to control what’s on the screen.

“This simple tool is changing lives in practical and measurable ways; it helps people with limited mobility participate and engage with the world around them.”

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