What an amazing age to be alive in! Presently, the world is more technologically advanced than it has ever been. Each day, new strides are being made towards ensuring that we have ease of access to communication through the latest software and programs. And much of the new generation are particularly skilled users of various devices at the earliest of ages. It is therefore no surprise to learn that many students at the Abilities Foundation of Jamaica are getting on board the ‘Technological Train’ and are being trained in area of Data Operations which entails the use of Microsoft Word, Access and Power Point to name a few. With currently over 60 students, the foundation is one which is dedicated to the service of persons with disabilities, providing them with vocational training which best equips them for the world of work. Mr. Andrew Ellis, Data Operations: Level 1 and 2 Instructor, relates that the simple joys derived from opening up a new world of information to the students is his main driving force.
“I like the atmosphere. I like the reward that is given. Some of the simple things that you do are well appreciated especially amongst the learners. When you teach something for the first time they’re like, ‘Wow! I never knew that!’ They’re astonished, basically. It’s like you’re opening them up to a different level of horizon, something that they wouldn’t be introduced to before. Because a lot of them they come from schools where there were capabilities that weren’t really built upon. They were somewhat limited. So being here, they’re really pushed to that extent.”
Ever since he learnt about the Abilities Foundation through a friend, Ellis has been employed at the foundation for about of 8 years. Teaching an average of 10 trainees who are differently-abled, Ellis often realizes that he needs to adjust the curriculum to suit their varying needs and learning styles.
“What you find here is that some of our learners they tend to be bit slow, especially when it comes to the reading, so I [therefore] test them in the mathematical aspect of it…One of my challenge also is communication. Trying to get across information especially among my deaf learners. Because their language and our language are somewhat different in terms of structure, so I have to find myself at times tailoring the material especially how to present it.”
Ellis leant to communicate by means of Sign Language after his employment but was prudent to highlight that the learning challenges experienced in his classes are mostly similar to that of any other standard High School.
“It’s the same typical day that I guess most teachers would find in a regular high school setting, a learning environment. The same type of environment, given that we’re dealing with persons with disabilities. You will find that a few of them are reluctant in completing work, there are times that you have to find yourself dragging behind them but it’s the same thing.”
While others may be uninterested in governmental issues, Andrew Elllis continues to keep an eye on the advancements within the country and what its leaders are doing to assist persons with disabilities.
“I think there’s a lot more to be done. In terms of critiquing, it’s going to be a work in progress. I think Jamaica has come a far way. Up until a couple years ago, the government has started to identify the need of persons in the Special Needs sector. So I’m seeing where the government is making new strides in terms of facilitating learners. As the years progress I see persons with disabilities getting more incorporation into society and being facilitated in other ways as well. “
Just last year, The World Bank reported that around 200,000 Jamaicans live with a disability. Although being a Data Operation teacher was a not the initial plan of Andrew Ellis, his next words reveal that he is indeed a philanthropist at heart.
“…my passions really is to impart what I have learnt. Impart knowledge especially to younger people. And giving back in some way, that would be one of my reasons for teaching.”