Big Idea, Big Impact: Bringing Coding to People with Disabilities

#WeSpeakCode is all about encouraging people to give coding a try, and addressing the decline in participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. As part of this campaign, Microsoft employees across Asia Pacific were challenged to come up with the most creative, impactful and scalable idea to get the public excited about coding.

Out of the 24 outstanding ideas we received, John Paul “JP” Sibug, Audience Marketing Manager at Microsoft Philippines, came up with the best BIG Idea to make a BIG Impact. He received US$500 in funding to bring his proposal to life. What’s more, the Microsoft Philippines leadership team loved JP’s idea so much that they matched the funding, helping him reach even more people.

“My idea was to demonstrate how inclusive computer science can be, and its potential to connect disabled individuals to new opportunities. Jobs and opportunities for people with disabilities have always been a struggle, especially in a developing country like the Philippines,” JP shared.

Due to the lack of educational institutions with structured classes for deaf-mute children, they are easily disconnected from opportunities. The latest Philippines census reports that 90-95% of the 121,000 deaf people in the country are unemployed.

 JP wanted to demonstrate how computer science can bring coding to people with disabilities and connect them to new opportunities 

A project called Hear Us by Life Project for Youth was a great inspiration for JP, having succeeded in teaching computer skills to deaf youth. “Rather than simply use technology, we wanted to take these skills up a notch and open up opportunities for them to create apps or websites,” explained JP.

Microsoft partners for JP’s BIG Idea event included WIRED (Work Innovation through Resource Enabled Development), with the mission of connecting people with disabilities to training opportunities; and St Mutien College, which is developing a nonprofit entrepreneurship training programme called PwDE (“possible” in the Filipino language).

A total of 60 participants attended the event, which took place over three sessions. Microsoft Student Partners (MSPs) trained the participants with the help of a sign language interpreter from St Benilde College, and they used a special visualisation tool to guide the visually impaired.

"I was privileged to meet and work with Sir Allan Mesoga who is visually impaired but excelled in more areas than I could have imagined. More than me teaching him, he taught and inspired us," said MSP Kristian Catahan.

 Sixty participants attended the event organised by JP, in conjunction with Microsoft partners WIRED and St Mutien College 

JP was encouraged by the project’s success. “Microsoft’s core mission is to empower people to do more and achieve more. This project re-engineered the meaning of ‘inclusivity’. Computer science is the perfect platform to level the playing field for blind, deaf and mobility impaired individuals.”

“To the trainers and Microsoft Student Partners: Thank you! You created some magic, making the day meaningful, and exemplifying that inclusive training is possible," stated Krissy Bisda, Director of Human Resource and Training at WIRED.

What’s your BIG Idea to get more young people coding?

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