It is nearly time for the fifth annual ITWeb Golf Day, sponsored by Softline. The proceeds of this year's event will go to the Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (CAAC).
It should come as no surprise that ITWeb is the ‘driver' of such an event, given that it is recognised as the most trusted voice in South African technology publishing and the first port of call for an audience that ranges from technology professionals to CEOs.
Taking place at the Pecanwood Golf Estate on 4 March, this event is intended to offer participants an opportunity to network and relax, while contributing generously to charity.
The CAAC helps people with full cognitive ability, but who are unable to communicate effectively, to integrate into society.
The centre is located at the University of Pretoria and aims to give a voice to those who cannot speak. Its motto is: “Just because you cannot speak, does not mean you have nothing to say.”
The CAAC also does a lot of work in disadvantaged areas, offering training to children at school level to help them integrate into communities and later in life, the job market.
In the 17 years of CAAC's existence, staff trained over 6 400 AAC users, parents, teachers and therapists in facilitating communication with individuals with severe disabilities.
Through training and follow-up visits, the CAAC has reached over 8 000 children, youth and adults by training families, community leaders and other professionals.
Learning to fly
In 2005, the CAAC started the “Fofa” project, which in Northern Sotho means to fly or to soar. The project is aimed at young adults and their caregivers, to empower them to become active in the workplace and financially independent, as well as integrating into the community.
It is an annual week-long immersion programme, with follow up communication and help via telephone. The programme culminates in a presentation by the participants, demonstrating the skills they've learned and discussing their hopes for the future.
The programme is still small because neither the centre nor the university have the capacity to accommodate or train more than eight individuals and their personal assistants.
Dr Kitty Uys, project manager of Fofa, hopes to have accommodation for at least 20 people someday in the future.
So far, of the 18 individuals aided by the project, four are already employed or self-employed, providing for themselves.
The CAAC is all about giving a voice to the voiceless, and that comes in the form of a special device with an audio output to help people with little or no speech to communicate. The centre believes the fact that someone communicates, is far more important than how they communicate.
Taking care of someone with little or no speech is a huge task. This involves not only devices and training to communicate effectively, but also helping the individual get around, by means of a wheelchair. Training is necessary for caregivers and participants alike, to learn how to deal with these special needs.
The centre has a long list of technology requirements. It needs not only the devices with which to enable communication, but also electric wheelchairs.
Uys says devices can be divided into dedicated and non-dedicated. A dedicated device is one that is specifically designed for communication. An example is a Pathfinder, a device with buttons indicating the letters of the alphabet and certain common words. Its advantages include its sturdy application and its increased memory capacity for specific phrases. Unfortunately, these devices cost about R40 000.
A non-dedicated device is not specifically for people with communication disabilities, but which has been altered. An example is a laptop, with special software for voice output.
The individuals at the centre also need 3G cards to communicate with the centre via e-mail. 3G will also enable programme participants to socialise with people from around the world, and share similar experiences and challenges, develop strong friendships and support systems, educate themselves and keep their minds stimulated and fascinated by the world that technology can open up for them.
The centre's needs are almost entirely technological, as it is the most effective way for the individuals to communicate.
Companies interested in supporting this cause through the donation of products and technologies should contact Leigh Angelo at ITP Communications on (011) 450-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Softline has a solid track record of profitability and cash generation. The group delivers quality accounting, payroll and CRM software solutions that improve the efficiencies of businesses around the world.