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Hong Kong introduces IT subsidies for visually impaired

The Social Welfare Department has recently released a press release stating that The Jockey Club IT Scheme for People with Visual Impairment and the Central Fund for Personal Computers will be open for applications until 31 May 2019.

The scheme supports non-governmental and non-profit-making organisations providing technological services or schooling for the visually impaired to acquire advanced Chinese screen readers, Braille displays and accessories.

It also subsidises visually impaired people in purchasing these devices for study or work and with genuine financial difficulty.

The fund for personal computers assists eligible people with disabilities in acquiring computer facilities for self-employment or receiving supported employment services at home with guidance and follow-up services provided by the referral rehabilitation organisations or the Labour Department.

To help people with visual impairment (PVI) to have access to information technology (IT), the Social Welfare Department, with the auspices from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, has launched The Jockey Club IT Scheme for People with Visual Impairment to enhance their use of IT to ensure greater inclusion in the community.

The Scheme has been further enhanced since October 2015, including the expansion of coverage on subsidy to purchase accessories/portable devices for PVI.

The Scheme aims to support non-governmental and not-for-profit organisations providing services/schooling to PVI and tertiary institutions to acquire advanced Chinese screen readers, Braille displays and accessories to facilitate PVI’s surfing in the information world on Internet; and to subsidise individual PVI who requires the usage of high-performance IT for the purpose of studies or employment, but has genuine financial difficulty in purchase of the aids.

Items to be supported:

  1. High-performance Chinese screen reader
  2. Braille display of 40 cells
  3. Accessories/ portable devices

Tech for disabled individuals in HK

In July 2018, a report noted that according to the “Hong Kong Poverty Situation Report on Disability 2013″, the poverty rate among the disabled in Hong Kong, with the effects of policy intervention already taken into account, stood at 29.5 per cent, far higher than the overall rate, 14.5 per cent.

By conservative estimates, the current unemployment rate among the disabled in the city stands at as much as 6.7 per cent, which is almost twice the percentage of the overall jobless rate.

The major reason why so many disabled people are living in poverty is that they often have a lot of difficulties finding jobs and hence their inability to get by.

To address this issue, it was recommended that the government enhance its supporting service for the disabled so as to foster a level playing field for disabled job applicants.

Recommendations included following the example of the civil service and require private companies to spare disabled applicants the trouble of screening and directly offer them job interviews.

The administration should also proactively offer “one-stop” support services to employers to encourage them to give disabled applicants a shot.

For example, the government can conduct seminars on hiring disabled people, provide consultation service for employers before and after their hire of disabled employees, give briefings and training to their co-workers, supply barrier-free facilities, as well as simplifying the application procedures for a subsidized scheme.

The Government was also advised to review the positioning of sheltered workshops and consider allowing them to be operated in the form of social enterprises.

If these sheltered workshops are to be changed to be operated under social enterprises, the administration should provide the social enterprises with financial, legal, management and promotion support in the long run so as to generate synergy effects and facilitate their sustainable development.

It appears as though the HKSAR Government has reportedly harkened to the calls for better services for the disabled.

In February 2019, upon the release of the new budget, it was noted that the new financial plan included welfare measures for disabled individuals.

Recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance payments, Old Age Allowance, Old Age Living Allowance or Disability Allowance will receive an extra allowance equal to one month of the standard rate. It will involve an additional expenditure of about HK$3.84 billion.

Moreover, with the announcement of the aforementioned IT subsidies, the landscape seems, in terms of job opportunities and daily functionality, optimistic.

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