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Fernando Botelho


Project Enables Access to Educational and Employment Opportunities Through Free and Open Source Assistive Technologies

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About three years ago this was just an idea that would help me deal with my obssession with the need for low cost and scalable solutions to the challenge of IT access for persons with disabilities in developing countries.  However, the idea became a prototype and more recently the prototype became a project we call
The strategic view can be summarized as: Project enables access to educational and employment opportunities through free and open source assistive technologies.

The fundamental problem is that usually blind and visually impaired individuals in developing countries are forced to use very limited software since a single copy of the typical screen reader can cost the equivalent of multiple computers. This is a major issue even for the small minority that manages to gain access to such software, since they inevitably must face the cost barrier when they look for new training, internship, and employment opportunities. Project helps persons with disabilities overcome these obstacles by providing easy and inexpensive access to powerful assistive technologies.

Project provides all the software a person with a disability needs to use a computer, including operating system, applications, and assistive technologies (such as screen readers or virtual keyboards) in USB drives. A small change in the boot sequence of the BIOS of a computer allows the person with a disability to use almost any computer without the need to install anything on its hard disk.  For anyone not familiar with BIOS or unable to make such changes, the project has specially formatted CDs and DVDs that boot the computer directly to the USB drive or pendrive.  Effectively, anyone can place our DVD or CD on a machine, turn it off, connect the USB drive and turn it back on to find his or her assistive technology, applications, and personal files all running directly on the pendrive.

The USB drive, with 2 or more Gigabytes, contains everything the user needs to navigate the Internet, edit documents and spreadsheets, and send e-mails and instant messages.

The two assistive technologies we are currently using are Orca, a screen reader for blind users, and Dasher, a type of virtual keyboard that dynamically adjusts to the user and maximizes writing speed.

The installation DVD for persons with visual impairments and the DVD for persons with motor impairments are already available as a free download in Portuguese and in the next few months we will launch versions in English, French, and Spanish.  organizations interested in our software, training materials, and/or partnerships should contact us ( as soon as possible since we are in the process of planning six workshops throughout Latin America and might be able to reach other countries as well.  At the very least we should be able to mail our software.

We will certainly blog about our initiative in this space but if you would like to hear about our product launches and other major news, simply send an e-mail to:

Or follow the Project on Twitter.
You can also read more about in English, Spanish, French, or in Portuguese.