Some 18 Guyanese web developers and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) experts have been trained to create websites and applications that are usable by all, including persons with disabilities. Those who were certified are Randy Baker, Anthony Chin, Penelope DeFraitas, Maria Kissoon, Alicia Layne, Daniel Lewis, Missouri Mascolt, Orin Paris, Davanand Persaud, Girendra Persaud, Lakhram Ramadan, Telvin Ramdan, Marcelli Sears, Aliya Shivertan, Keon Steven, Janella Marks, Jamie Skeete and Ramadio Persaud.
The first phase of the training, provided by the Public Telecommunications Ministry in collaboration with the University of Guyana, focused on the National Capacity Building Programme on Web Accessibility. The second phase focused on the design and development of assistive software for persons with disabilities.
The trainers received the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) Design and Development of Accessible Websites certificate. Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Public Telecommunications Minister, Cathy Hughes underscored the importance of the initiative. “This training was a train the trainers’ programme… it was very important because, with our collaboration with the University of Guyana, we hope that we are going to train more web developers in terms of what they need to embed when they are actually creating the websites that enables it to be accessible by the visually or hearing impaired persons,” Hughes noted. In an interview with Guyana Times, some of the developers explained how beneficial the programme was for them. Ramadio Persaud of the Public Telecommunication Ministry said that the course, for him, was an enlightening experience. “Prior to going into this training, I was quite unaware of how restricted persons with disability were so this was like an eye-opening experience, I was thought how just a small insertion of a snippet helps in a vast way so what we have been doing is incorporating those things into our own Ministry’s website” Persaud disclosed. Another trained personnel, Jeanella Marks, stated “I would develop websites and in doing so, I never thought of a visually impaired person and how accessible it would have been for them. One of the features of the workshop is that they invited visually impaired persons who used a screen reader software and this was embarrassing to know that you can build this beautiful website and put it out there but for somebody who can’t see, it wouldn’t benefit them” the trainer said. In the near future, the Computer Science Department of the University of Guyana is expected to join the ITU Information Chain and include this subject in the curriculum. This is to ensure that Guyanese continue to develop Guyana’s national capacities for digital content and technical design. The National Capacity Building Programme was created by ITU with the objective of helping ITU members in acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills to develop and improve ICT accessibility policies and programs as well as accessible websites in their respective countries. The final goal of the programme is for the Government to develop accessible websites in order for vital information and services to be provided by public agencies which are accessible to all citizens including persons with disabilities.