Dr. Nantanoot (Apple) Suwannawut received her Ph.D. in Information Science from Indiana University, Bloomington in 2013. She now works for the Ministry of Education in Bangkok, Thailand. She is an Academic Officer in the Bureau of Special Education, Office of the Basic Education Commission.
In a recent email interview, she told us a little about her new position. She also graciously answered some questions about the use of software for the blind that helped with her studies. We are extremely proud of this remarkable woman and scholar. Below are excerpts from the email interview:
Main Job Duties: My main job right now is the academic consultant and international relations of the bureau. For example, this year is the remarkable occasion of the beginning of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) community -- therefore, there are many projects that requires a person who knows English, or the implementation of CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.)
Favorite Job Duties: I get to attend workshops and conferences - a good opportunity to learn and exchange new things. I was asked to take many roles in different occasions: a presenter, facilitator, panelist, and participant. It's also a nice time to talk with people and to network. There were a few times that I was sent to teach both pre-service and in-service courses for teachers/educators. I love when they ask and show their interests in the subjects - and was proud to be the one who create a correct understanding about disability in the society.
Current Project: Currently, the OBEC, MOE prepares a big and 1st time International Conference on Special Education. I'm one of the officers who is directly responsible for this event, particularly on the translation and PR (like website, brochure), and contacting our co-organizer (SEAMEO-SEN) South East Asian Ministers of Education-Special Educational Needs.
Tips for Students: ILS (Information and Library Science) is a diverse area of study, please find your specialty. You may be asked to be an expert in something and you should be able to provide them answers.
At the same time, you should know the basics of the relevant fields as well. Sometimes after getting out from the school, it could be possible that you will not be assigned to work on anything that is connected with your research area, please be ready for that and enjoy your life. Well, don't forget to always update knowledge either the new things you were assigned or anything of your own interest so you don't get bored.
Jaws software you used with your studies: Well, many people keep asking me how I can complete my study or work right now. It's rather funny, but for those who are not familiar to disability or blind community they simply don't know. Whenever I give a lecture (the topic mostly dealing with technologies for persons with disability or "assistive technology"), I always show my audiences new innovations along with the ideas how such technologies have an impact on the lives of disabled people.
One type of technology that is indispensable to me is a screen reader. It is a software application that enables blind people to use a computer. Screen readers work closely with the computer’s Operating System to provide information about icons, menus, dialogue boxes, files and folders. Users are required to memorize special commands apart from the common shortcut keys to interact with computers or compatible devices. Therefore, many people may have a wrong perception that the blind have better memory than sighted people. It could be true in some cases, but the majority is that because we have to be in such circumstances.
Aside from a screen reader, there are many technologies that assist persons with disabilities to improve their quality of lives - particularly nowadays where the advancement of technologies seem to be everywhere. Nonetheless, when comparing to the mainstream technology, assistive devices are still lacking behind both in terms of R&D and awareness. Therefore, I try to integrate this into my career and personal life.
Other than the work at the ministry, I also serve to a couple of working committees, such as audio description and web accessibility. Now we have a plan to promote more use of these technologies, under the lead of Thailand Association of the Blind - not only in this country, but also in the ASEAN region. This is already the second time that I'm helping in the coordination of ASEAN Community Blind Forum, which is scheduled to be held in April.
There are many things that I would love to do. Although it's quite challenging, I am happy that at least I'm part of it -- to build a better inclusive society.