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
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.”