Microsoft partnered with Enable Ireland ten years ago to establish an Assistive Technology Programme. Both organisations have continued to work together to help improve access to, and understanding of Assistive Technology, amongst both people with disabilities and employers across a range of sectors.

In early 2011 Microsoft recently hosted the 13th graduation ceremony of the Enable Ireland’s Certified Assistive Technology Course. An inspiring and moving ceremony saw 13 course participants graduate bringing the total number of course graduates to 245. Assistive technology revolutionises the way people with disabilities can access opportunities and resources in education, employment, communication and independent living and this was echoed throughout the ceremony.

The ceremony was attended by family and friends of the graduates with several guest speakers including Cathriona Hallahan, Siobhan Long from Enable Ireland, DIT representatives, courses graduates and last but not least guest of honour, American Ambassador to Ireland, Mr Daniel M. Rooney. All guest speakers positively reflected on the opportunities that assistive technology can have on the lives on individuals affected by disabilities. Our built in accessibility features present in windows 7 and Office were praised throughout the day by people who have seen the benefit they have had on the lives of individuals.

The course is designed to train people in the use of technology including communication aids, computer access, alternative forms of power mobility and environmental control systems to enhance their independence. Electronic door openers, remote controls for intercoms, lights, curtains and windows are examples of the assistive technology available today.

Assistive Technology (AT) is one of the major enablers in helping people with disabilities to live independently, access education and enter the workforce. With over 70% of AT being discarded due to a lack of training, Enable Ireland’s services are helping to bring the full benefits of the technology to the people who need it. AT also benefits those who either acquire injuries or disabilities at work who might otherwise have to retire or take sick leave.

Siobhan Long of Enable Ireland said, “Assistive Technology is a tool for everyone. It can be something as simple as an alternative keyboard or mouse, or as sophisticated as a voice output communication device that enables a person who is non-verbal to communicate effectively. Enable Ireland is proud of its track record in promoting Assistive Technology across mainstream employers and educators, and has consistently championed the participation of people with disabilities in all of its AT training initiatives. Our continually evolving partnership with Microsoft is a crucial linchpin in our work programme, the ultimate aim of which is to put Assistive Technology into the hands of people with disabilities so that they can achieve maximum independence, choice and inclusion in their lives.”

Orla Hogan, Microsoft Ireland noted: "Helping people realise their potential through the use of Assistive Technology takes the use of technology one step further and helps people to dramatically improve their independence and quality of life. Technology can play a key role in helping bring people into the mainstream, either through the learning opportunities it presents or the skills and capabilities it provides. Microsoft is also committed to developing software that can be adapted and used by people with disabilities to aid them in gaining greater access to education and employment