An M-Powered future: Enabling the disabled to craft their futures

This article is part of a series on M-Powered, an initiative undertaken by Microsoft Asia and local nonprofits in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam to train youth and people with disabilities in IT, and improve their employability, connecting them to opportunities in the growing tech sector.

As a young child, Danny Gnaniah already knew that he wanted to create impact and make change. While the entrepreneur suffers from a permanent spinal cord injury and uses a wheelchair to get around, Danny has never let his disability be an obstacle to his dreams.

“I’ve always known that I want to make a difference,” said Danny, who is now the CEO of branding agency 4Thirteen. “Advertising touches lives and inspires change, so I decided to pursue a career in it. My disability never held me back.”

But Danny knew that drive alone would not lead him to success—he needed the right tools and skillsets. After his final exam at law school, he decided to go back to school to learn about the business of design and advertising. In his own time, he also read widely about the industry, asked his siblings for advice, and picked up other relevant skills such as coding, web and app development.

Today, Danny has gone from being a freelancer to running a branding agency with 20 employees. His office offers an accessible, wheelchair friendly environment. While Danny is currently the only person with disability working at his company, he hopes to share the space with others with disabilities.

“We welcome people with disabilities,” said Danny. “We tried hiring people with disabilities during a government sponsored campaign. Unfortunately, the candidates we interviewed did not have the right mindset or skillsets, nor the drive to learn and succeed.”

And this is what M-Powered Malaysia hopes to change. An initiative between Microsoft Malaysia and nonprofit Dialogue in the Dark, the accessible online platform hopes to empower people with disabilities in Malaysia through training programs, online mentorships and a job portal offering hundreds of opportunities.

Users can take part in a wide range of e-learning modules to develop skills relevant to today’s digital workplace, and gain valuable advice from experienced mentors working in various industries. The job portal will be regularly updated with the latest information on career opportunities and networking sessions and fairs. Through the M-Powered initiative, Microsoft and Dialogue in the Dark hopes to build an inclusive society that offers equal opportunities for all.

“The government has identified inclusiveness and wellbeing as thrusts for community development in the 11th Malaysia Plan,” said YB Dato’ Seri Ong Ka Chuan, Minister of International Trade and Industry II.

“Private public sector collaboration is an important part of realizing this vision and programs like M-Powered are the perfect role models in encouraging capacity building, employability as well as entrepreneurship and inclusiveness.”

Other than leveraging the M-Powered platform, Danny also encourages people with disabilities to equip themselves for the fourth industrial revolution by picking up digital skills such as coding, website and mobile app development, digital animation, and more. With these skills, Danny believes that people with disabilities will be able to become the innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

“IT, creativity, business—these are skill areas that don’t require physical ability, but are in demand by employers and economy, today and in the future,” said Danny. “With M-Powered helping to develop the right skills and work-ready mindsets, I believe people with disabilities can thrive and create change for themselves and society.”

Read the other stories in this series here.

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