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Facebook partners with Deaf Reach to help hearing-impaired students

By News Desk
December 10, 2020

On International Day of Persons with Disabilities that fell on December 3, Facebook collaborated with the Family Educational Services Foundation’s (FESF) Deaf Reach, a network of schools catering to the needs of the community with hearing disabilities, to help the hearing-impaired students within the Deaf Reach school network benefit from Facebook’s online safety resources.

To mark the day and announce its partnership with Facebook, Deaf Reach held an online roundtable discussion titled ‘Empowerment through digital literacy and connectivity’. The conversation revolved around what could be done to improve the experience of people with disabilities online so that they could harness the full potential of the internet.

Speaking at the discussion, Samina Alvi, the wife of President Arif Alvi, said it was pivotal for society to provide a level-playing field for differently-abled people to make them valued citizens. The public and private sector along with civil society in the country had a joint responsibility for facilitating the access of people with disabilities to opportunities of education, healthcare and employment, she added.

She appreciated the work done by Deaf Reach in partnership with Facebook for the community and emphasised the fact that a digitally connected Pakistan was the way forward for everyone in the country. The partnership between Deaf Reach and Facebook would involve adapting Facebook’s We Think Digital learning resources for the hearing-impaired students within the Deaf Reach school network. These learning materials focus on online safety and aim to help build a community of responsible digital citizens equipped with skills for a digital world.

“Facebook's mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together — and that includes persons with disabilities. We are pleased to work with Deaf Reach and have our digital literacy programs made available in Urdu and Sign Language for the benefit of their students. It is critical that they are equipped with the right digital skills so they are able to use the internet safely and responsibly," said Monica Desai, the Facebook global head of connectivity and access policy.

Those who participated in the discussion included Pakistan’s first deaf social media influencer Hassan Ahmed, Punjab Welfare Trust for the Disabled Director Dr Izhar Hashmi, United Nations representative Ameena Zia, Special Assistant to the Sindh Chief Minister on Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Syed Qasim Naveed Qamar, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi Chief Executive Officer Baela Jamil, LIRNEasia Senior Researcher Isuru Samaratunga, Facebook representative Sehar Tariq and others.

Sharing his thoughts about this partnership, founder and Director of Programs of the FESF Richard Geary stated that Pakistan currently had a population of nearly 30 million people of the differently-abled community. “It is crucial that they are given equal representation in the society, and technology is an excellent tool to make it happen. We are happy to have partnered with a global social media platform of Facebook’s magnitude to make this happen, and it is heartening to see them being so receptive towards making their community even more inclusive.”

This partnership is part of Facebook’s commitment to supporting accessibility and inclusion in Pakistan, aimed at creating a great experience for all users through features and technologies that help people with disabilities get the most out of Facebook.