Person with visual impairment finds light through digital competency training

The ILO's digital competency training and Suarise, offered as part of a UN joint programme, helped a visually impaired founder of a digital agency in Central Java finds light and rises in the midst of a pandemic.

Difficulties seemed to hit Revin Leofergian Warganegara in waves in early 2020. Not only did Revin nearly lose his job at an e-commerce company, he was also diagnosed by a doctor as suffering from Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), a genetic disorder that causes loss of vision.

“My vision decreased drastically, from grey spots in both eyes to blurring within two years. I feel like I'm facing a different world," said the 28-year-old. Revin decides to return from Jakarta to his hometown in Salaman Mloyo village, West Semarang district, Central Java. He spent a difficult year before finding a moment of awakening when he met a doctor who always gave him motivation in life. Revin also met with the chairman of the Indonesian Blind Association (Pertuni) in Semarang, Central Java, who taught him how to use a smartphone with the voice assistance feature.

The Diponegoro University's Water Resources Management graduate did not take long to adapt. He was soon able to use his mobile device to surf the internet and learn a lot of things related to his condition and visual impairment in general. This comic book fans also found the social media accounts of Mitra Netra Foundation – an organisation based in Lebak Bulus, South Jakarta, and Suarise.

Revin said he was surprised to learn that Suarise provides digital content writing services by empowering people with visual impairments. He immediately exchanged messages via Instagram with Suarise and was invited to take digital content writing training for the blind and other visually impaired in September 2021.

“I was very happy when I found Suarise. I felt alive again and am optimistic that I can return to work as a digital nomad,” said Revin.

Revin admitted that he didn't have high expectations when he started the training. He just wanted to know about Suarise's empowerment method and at the same time make new acquaintances from the visually impaired community. He also hopes that this training can accelerate his ability to use a laptop.

This digital competency empowerment training for people with disability is part of the Employment and Livelihood project, jointly organized by the ILO together with three other United Nations (UN) agencies in Indonesia. This project is funded by the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund (UN MPTF) to empower vulnerable groups to gain new opportunities to thrive in the midst of the pandemic.

The ILO's National Project Officer for the Employment and Livelihood project, Navitri Putri Guillaume, said that the ILO always supports efforts to improve the quality of life of vulnerable groups through empowerment training and skills development. "In addition to improving the economic situation, we also hope that this training can provide psychological support for members of vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, to achieve social integration," said Navitri.

Revin and other participants attended 18 online digital content writing training sessions using modules that have been comprehensively compiled and can be immediately applied when starting a business. Revin explained that he learned very useful basic skills such as using screen reader application, e-mail, and virtual meeting applications during this Suarise training. Revin also admitted that he learned how to utilise screen reader applications to operate various programs such as e-mail, virtual meeting and online classroom applications. 

According to Revin, the whole session in the training was very challenging. The participants were given assignments and pre- and post-exams to determine their level of understanding. After training, Revin, who has work experience in communication and marketing, applied his new knowledge to his digital agency, Capital Studio, that he had established in Semarang in 2020.

Revin applies three main principles in running his agency, namely using the ear to hear the client's wishes, the brain to draft and find solutions, and the mouth to communicate. The absence of eyes in Capital Studio's business principles reflects Revin's state of having LHON.

Revin said that he saw an opportunity from the mushrooming coffee shop and restaurant businesses in Semarang that did not have a good concept in marketing their business. “They only rely on good photos but with inadequate copy. In fact, choosing an interesting diction when writing a copy can bring a different understanding," Kevin explained.

Currently, Revin is preparing a new service, namely compiling brand guidelines for clients which he also learned during the training. He admitted that he had plans to develop a brand for women's bag products. Revin is currently building a solid team so that his business can continue to grow and develop.