Tuesday, February 26, 2008

e-inclusion and disabled people in Poland | the work of the Foundation FPMiNR

During the last day and a half, I had the opportunity to visit the Foundation Supporting Physically Disabled Mathematicians and IT specialists. The organization's main mission is to foster professional and social development of people with physical disabilities. Currently, the Foundation has 2 operational CTCs in Warsaw and plan to expand their network to 40 regional rural centers around the country. As posted before, the Foundation, in partnership with other entities (MIcrosoft, ECORYS, Ministry of Education, etc.) received resources from the European Structural Fund to set up 340 e-Centrum in rural areas of the country

As it name suggests, the Foundation was created in 1990 as an initiative of the Polish Academy of Science to improve the technical IT knowledge of scientists with disabilities. One must remember that in the early 90's personal computers were prohibitively expensive and the goal was to provide the computers for the scientists. As the initiative mature, the Foundation realized that the demand in the labor market for scientists was quite high and decided to broaden the scope of the program to reach the general disabled people population.

Today, the Foundation offers a very interesting comprehensive approach to employability offering counseling (psychological and legal), employment services (Internet job search, link to employers, etc.), and training and workshops (from basic to advanced ICT skills, SMEs, soft skills, to name a few).

During the field visit to the Foundation, we interviewed the director, 1 chief program coordinator, 1 program manager, two counselors, two trainers, 5 individual trainees, and conducted a group interview with 14 trainees during an ECDL training session. Tomorrow we will have the opportunity to participate in a workshop with the Foundation staff where they will discuss different strategies to improve the employability of its beneficiaries. It is going to be quite an interesting experience.

Everybody that we interviewed during the visits were amazingly kind to us and shared so many interesting insights that it is almost impossible to write it in one post. A series of posts between today and tomorrow will follow addressing some of the most interesting insights from our discussions. The richness of these conversations made the last two days unforgettable

A big Dziekuje (thank you) to all the people that despite busy schedules and family commitments were kind enough to spend time sharing their knowledge, sharing their stories.

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