04 Jan Open The Windows (OtW)
04 Jan, 2012
Established in 2005, “Open the Windows” (OtW) is the only non-governmental organization in Macedonia specifically focusing on promoting assistive technology.
Led by its vision “to build a world where technology enables all persons to fully exploit their potentials”, the organization has a double role:
- On one hand, OtW acts a service provider that enables access to computers and Internet for persons with various disabilities (physical, intellectual, visual) by using assistive information technology, i.e. hardware and software adjusted to the individual needs of the user. A professional team of special educators and an IT specialist use computers as tools in improving cognitive functions of users, developing their communication skills, obtaining IT skills and knowledge favorable for users’ education or employment, etc. Over 90 persons with disabilities aged between 6 and 40 have used the services of OtW since its establishment in 2005; currently, over 35 persons with disabilities use the free services of the organization.
- On the other hand, OtW is a project-based organization that promotes assistive technology use within society through capacity building of other relevant actors from both the public and civic sector and dissemination of information and knowledge. The organization provided equipment and training to establish accessible IT Centers at ten public day-care centers, as well as for civic organizations and service providers throughout Macedonia. Also, OtW has so far published and distributed ten manuals on topics related to assistive technology. In order to fill the existing lack of assistive devices on the Macedonian market, OtW mastered the production of five assistive devices (chin controller, foot controller, switch, big-button controller and access interface) and the adjustment of 4 three standard devices into assistive (joystick, trackball and mouse). The locally produced or adjusted products are significantly cheaper than comparable devices from abroad.
In 2010/2011, OtW was focusing on promoting assistive technology use in mainstream primary schools. A national needs assessment was carried out, followed by the provision of equipment (assistive devices) and training to selected 21 schools in the country, introducing assistive technology to the Macedonian education system for the first time.