Quite unexpectedly, we were delighted to receive a phone call saying that we had won a prestigious international award and we were hurrying down to London by train to enjoy nibbles, wine and good company. There is nothing like the feeling of winning. We know we are doing the right thing by blind people as we deliver a free option; but its great to be recognised officially.
So what is all this E-Democracy and E-Participation business all about?
Its far more than voting machines. When I was a Head Teacher, I could not even fill in forms or tick the school register. Going into a normal library has never been a thrill for me because I needed help to find the inquiry counter, let alone the frustration of all those unreadable printed books.
But now blind people everywhere can get to a computer, have the Thunder software installed and learn to use it. This means we can read about our rulers, councillors, officials, and fill in forms, know what is going on and write up our views, complaints or solutions.
The building blocks of society are the individuals, the communities, the representatives and the leaders. Amongst many other benefits, the talking computer enables those of us with little or no sight to join in, have our say, and very much extend our ability to participate. We got our award for services to E-Democracy and E-Participation for making this possible for the world blind community. The technology is not new but our Thunder technology is easier to use than most and its free to everyone.
The award was given by Parmjit Dhandra, UK Minister for Communities. The commendation says:
Ministerial Award for e-local participation 2008.
. Dear Mr Hinds
ICELE (International Centre of Excellence for Local E-democracy) Ministerial Award
May I offer you my congratulations on Screenreader.net winning the ICELE Ministerial Award for making a difference to local communities.
The Thunder tool is clearly an invaluable product which enables the previously excluded to take a fuller role in their communities using technology. By empowering over 100,000 people you have made a difference and no doubt touched the lives of many. With the free tool Screenreader.net is providing, you are enhancing Society by matching opportunities for engagement with the opportunities for democracy that technology can potentially offer.
I would like to thank you for entering the awards and wishing Screenreader.net every success on taking forward this innovative and life-changing tool to the rest of Europe.
Parmjit Dhanda MP
So what is ICELE (International Centre of Excellence for Local E-democracy) all about? Probably most of us spend our days taking democracy and inclusion in society for granted and grumbling when petty things go wrong for us. But there are innovators with big visions who work behind the scenes on our behalf and such an organisation is ICELE. The ICELE brings people together who are concerned with empowering and engaging communities. The website is http://www.icele.org and their work goes far beyond the UK.