NCBI presented a seminar “Enabling Access to Education and Employment – Digital strategies for sustainable community building” on the 18th of September in the Marker Hotel, Dublin. The seminar showcased DigiPlace4all , an online peer support community for people with disabilities developing digital skills for accessing education and employment. DigiPlace4all has been developed by the transnational DICE (Digital Inclusion Champions in Europe) project, led by NCBI in partnership with the Institute of Art Design and Technology and partners in Belgium, Poland and Bulgaria.

The day focussed on the value of peer support among students, educators and employers, the role of digital and social media and the need for multi-stakeholder collaboration and policies to support sustainability and funding of such initiatives. Guest Speakers Marian Harkin MEP and John Dolan, CEO Disability Federation of Ireland, talked about the role of European and national institutions in supporting the inclusion of people with disabilities.

Dr Mark Magennis, Director of the NCBI Centre for Inclusive Technology, explained the importance of digital inclusion for people entering employment or education: “The use of online and mobile products and services such as Learning Management Systems and company intranets is now standard in every education setting and in employment. Unfortunately young people with disabilities are falling behind their peers as they find it difficult to access the training they need to develop these skills. Mainstream training may be off limits because courses don’t cater for the needs of people with disabilities. What we aim to do with DigiPlace4All is to create a setting where people can share their knowledge and information to help others.”

DigiPlace4All 1 Esther Murphy of the DICE project, Marian Harkin MEP and Director of CFIT Mark Magennis

Through presentations and group dialogue, attendees explored and discussed issues around access to further education and employment, the role of peer support, the use of online communities, sustainability, stakeholder collaboration, public policy and funding.

DigiPlace4all peer support communities are now active in four countries, Ireland, Belgium, Bulgaria and Poland., and an extension to other European member states is also being planned. They provide a way for people with disabilities to request and offer support from their peers in developing the digital skills needed to transition from VET training to mainstream education and employment. They also provide functionality for sharing information on technology and accessibility and are open to educators and employers who wish to make their learning environments and workplaces inclusive.

The DICE project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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