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Youth, Accessibility, and Employability in Latin America

Findings

Successful programs attract clients by offering valued services.

Computers are
widely perceived as transformative, even by
the poorest and most disadvantaged. However, while most interviewees viewed ICTs
as required for modern life, they associated
use with young people. (Older respondents
feared that they could not effectively use ICTs
and assumed that youth could do a better
job). In Brazil and Guatemala, interviewees
cited technology second only to sports as an
activity likely to attract at-risk youth away
from illicit activities. People with disabilities
reported being attracted to technology centers
as spaces to build community and enhance
self-esteem. Training programs are valued by
both populations as sources of formal education and increased access to employment.
At-risk youth saw technology skills training
as a point of entry into the labor market and
as a way to overcome stereotypes surrounding
individuals from low-income neighborhoods.

Computer training can spark technology related career aspiration.

Such aspirations
were frequently expressed by people with
disabilities and somewhat less by at-risk
youth (see Figures 1&2). Among the trainees
with disabilities, a full 50% found jobs in the
formal sector. Of those, 40% worked at the
technology center where they trained. Entrepreneurship, though often touted as a goal by
program administrators, proved uncommon.

Employment requires more than training.

Most interviewees were confident of the
value of their computer training and certification, but employers were not. This limitation
is important because access to formal jobs
depends heavily on employer perceptions
and social connections. Effective technology training programs reach out to employers in a variety of ways, including disability
awareness, placement recommendations, and
post-placement follow-up. Individuals with
hearing or visual impairments faced significant accessibility challenges — workplaces
lack assistive technologies and, although
most technology centers receive donated
productivity software, many cannot afford
accessibility software, such as screen readers.

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