alt text

Seeing Through Software

Jenny Perez Barquero works in a call center in San Jose, Costa Rica. Like many of her co-workers, she is young and just beginning her work life. She has plans for a professional career beyond her entry-level job, although she has one significant difference from her friends as Jenny is visually impaired. Nonetheless, she has been able to take the opportunities fostered by accessible software tools and job-networking.

Providing opportunities for youth is a main commitment made by Microsoft, working in partnership with POETA YOUTH centers. POETA is an initiative of The Trust for the Americas which focuses on innovative use of technologies as a tool to help youth and people with physical and intellectual disabilities to achieve their potential. The program combines training in specialized software that addresses the needs of each student, and is complemented by a job placement network.

Jenny’s journey to her first job began in late 2009, when she joined the POETA Center for the Mobilization of Costa Rican Workers (CMTC), where she started learning about computers. “For me and for so many young people in situations like mine, it’s very difficult to find a computer equipped with programs specialized for blind people and to learn the basics like surfing the internet or using a word processor,” she says. At CMTC she was able to find accessible tools. The foundation is using software called Jaws. It is a screen reader and command facilitator that runs on Windows. “Our interaction with any device depends on this program and is the first step that we take in the course,” Jenny explains.

Case Study

From Jaws, Jenny moved on to other computer-based training, including basic Microsoft software. “Programs like Outlook are simpler to use than web-based mail platforms, which means that what we learn at the POETA Center allows us to better develop ourselves in the virtual world,” she said. Alejandro Rivera, POETA Center Coordinator for Costa Rica, sees these skills as key to Jenny’s success. “These improvements have had an influence on her opportunities for socialization and have helped her a lot in the call center,” he said. Microsoft has donated more than $700,000 in funds, operating system licenses and corresponding office packages to the POETA centers in Costa Rica since 2004, and worked with POETA to implement specialized courses in Windows, Office and the Internet explorer.

Jenny is one of the 176 persons with disabilities who have graduated from the POETA training centers to enter the job market since 2010. “With POETA’s job bank, I was able to get a job at a call center, where they equipped my workspace with Windows and Jaws; they also provided me with headphones to answer calls,” she remembers.

“Being in contact with Microsoft programs improved my abilities and allowed me to better interact with the environment giving me greater opportunities to develop as a person,” says Jenny. And the call center job is only the beginning of what this 24-year-old young woman envisions for her future. “This job has allowed me to be independent, to rent my own apartment. It’s small, but it allows me to follow my dreams, to finish my French studies and save money for my future trip to France.”

“Being in contact with Microsoft programs improved my abilities and allowed me to better interact with the environment giving me greater opportunities to develop as a person.”
Jenny Barquero, Costa Rica.
“This job has allowed me to be independent, to rent my own apartment. It’s small, but it allows me to follow my dreams, to finish my French professorship and save money for my future trip to France.”
Jenny Barquero, Costa Rica