“When we talk of sustainable enterprises, we need to assure that no one in society is left behind. The Employers’ Network on Disability of the EFC – which champions this notion was set up way back in 1999 and implemented in 2001 – is a reflection of the foresight of my predecessors of the requirements in the ever-evolving world of work,” observed the Director General of the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC), Kanishka Weerasinghe. The EFC’s DG made these remarks at the 2017 Award Ceremony of the ICT Training Centre of the Employers’ Network on Disability held in November 2017 at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute.
The ICT Training Centre which was launched in 2009 with the support of the ILO is the nucleus of the Employers’ Network on Disability. Embracing the vision of ‘productive employment through social harmony’, its objective is to develop the employability skills of persons with diverse disabilities in the country.
The Employers’ Network on Disability which was inaugurated during the former EFC Chief, Gotabaya Dasanayake’s tenure as a CSR project has today evolved into a fully-fledged ICT training unit and an integral part of the EFC. Lauding the Manager, Specialized Training and Disability Resource Centre, Manique Gunaratne who was recruited by the EFC initially as a role model with disabilities and is now internationally acclaimed for her commitment towards people with disabilities, EFC’s DG further said that her endeavors have become more valid in a setting where the number of visually impaired people is on the rise. “People with disabilities are very much a part of our work force and enhancing their confidence to be gainfully employed is of immense value to society.”
The awards ceremony was also graced by Simrin Singh, the Country Director for the ILO Country office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives and Melissa Paulsen, Cultural Affairs Officer of the US Embassy in Colombo. Congratulating the award winners who successfully completed ICT modules in Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Computer Concepts, Windows Operations, Microsoft Powerpoint, Surfing the Internet, CISCO-ITE and CISCO CCNA and also spoken language skills, the ILO Country Director urged several other organizations to take a cue from the Disability Code promoted by the EFC which is on par with global standards. “People with disabilities are underutilized in the workforce and the EFC is facilitating a process of inclusion which is commendable,” noted Singh adding that EFC’s efforts in engaging with the private sector to champion the same is praiseworthy.
Urging everyone to celebrate the mettle of the award winners who have proven their skills despite the odds, Melissa Paulsen, Cultural Affairs Officer of the US Embassy in Colombo remarked: “I encourage you to be each other’s advocates and support one another.”
Deputy General Manager, HRM, Commercial Bank PLC, Isuru Tillakawardana in his remarks noted that integrating the youth with different needs is imperative to realize a diverse work force, adding that as a country we have a long way to go in terms of mindset changes and streamlining processes to achieve the same. “Nevertheless we have taken the first step and EFC’s support in furthering the cause is significant.”
The award ceremony also marked the launching of several devices and mobile applications specially designed for the visually impaired. These included the Obstacle Finder, English Eye (an English learning app) Schmoozer Mobile Application (which assists the visually impaired to navigate material with charts and images) and Finger Reader which identifies objects for the visually impaired. The special devices were rendered expertise of the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) and Singapore Institute of Technology. Several scholarships were also awarded to graduating students.
The ICT Training Centre of the EFC Disability Network which was recently upgraded with a special library and resource centre also collaborates with Curtin University of Technology in Australia and SLIIT, Malabe. The programs are also recognized by the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) and within the EFC membership which consists of 680 companies. The ICT Training Centre is also the only training centre in the country which trains people with diverse disabilities in the globally sought after CISCO courses. The training team consists of Manique Gunaratne and Mr. Anuradha Jayakody, Senior Lecturer from the SLIIT.
In her concluding remarks, Manager, Specialized Training and Disability Resource Centre, Manique Gunaratne urged more women with disabilities to come forward to become part of the work force. “Out of 1.6 million people with disabilities in Sri Lanka, 57% are women and in considering the significant numbers, we will be launching a special women leadership programme in 2018,” she noted.
Picture descriptions for vision impaired persons:
1 Welcoming the chief guest.
2 Welcoming the Guest of Honour.
3 Awarding of certificates for Cisco CCNA course
4 Group photograph of Cisco trainees.
5 Awarding certificates for Computer Concepts course.
6 Launch of the English Eye App.
7 Launch of the Finger Reader App.
8 Group photograph of the trainees.
9 Awarding certificates for Surfing the Internet course.
10 Speech by the Chair Person of EFC Network on Disability.
11 Awarding certificates for the Cisco ITE course.
12 Welcome speech.
13 Manique receiving certificates for all the international qualifications.
14 Comperes and sign language interpreter.
15 Speech by the Guest of Honour.
16 Awarding certificates for Microsoft Excel course.
17 Awarding certificates for Microsoft Word course.
18 Awarding certificates for Microsoft PowerPoint course.
19 Launch of the O Finder device
20 Lighting of the oil lamp.
21 Lighting of the oil lamp.
23 Launch of the Schmoozer mobile app.
24 Awarding scholarships for University students.
25 Speech by the Chief Guest.
26 Awarding certificates for Spoken English course.
27 Speech by a trainee.
28 Awarding of tocan of appreciation to Mr. Anuradha Jayakody from SLIIT.
29 Awarding tocan of appreciation to Commercial Bank
30 Awarding tocan of appreciation to Cisco Sri Lanka.
31 Awarding tocan of appreciation to Internet Society Sri Lanka Chapter.
32 Awarding tocan of appreciation to TVEC.
33 Awarding certificates for Windows Operations course.
Vice President – Rehab Lanka Sports Club for Persons with Disabilities