A key factor in opening up opportunities for people with disabilities in Russia is helping this population to adapt to the demands of a modern, specialized labour market. ORT Russia’s “Bridging the Digital Divide” program which begun in 2011 helps to meet this need by developing the ICT skills of students with hearing impairments, in order to boost their employability, independence and integration into society in the long-term. In addition to improving outcomes for individual students, the program aims to play a part in changing national perceptions about the educational and employment opportunities available to students with special educational needs.

To date, the program has initiated pilot projects in two schools – one in Moscow and one in Tula. Fully equipped ICT laboratories were established in these schools, who were also provided with training materials and face-to-face training for both students and teachers. In total, 60 students with hearing impairments participated in the projects, together with 20 teachers. With their newly acquired knowledge and enthusiasm, these students and teachers can introduce what they have learnt to other students and teachers in their schools.

The next step for this program is to expand to a further two colleges – in Tambov and Saransk – and to introduce a more advanced subject into the curricula of these schools and colleges: robotics.