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HeePD to launch coding academy for people living with disabilities

People with disabilities in Cape Town will be able to access free training in coding, with the expected launch next month of a local coding academy.

The Hub Employment Ecosystems for People with Disabilities (HeePD), a commercial enterprise started in February, is working with partners to launch CoD – Ability Academy for People with Disabilities at the Open Design Festival between 13 and 25 August.

The academy for people with disabilities will offer training in HTML, Java and C+.

HeePD founder Riad Masoet, who has multiple sclerosis, told Ventureburn that HeePD will partner with various coding partners to establish the academy. Masoet did not want to say yet who these partners are.

A post made on HeePD’s Facebook page calling on applications for the academy, suggests that developers from the academy will work on ZiPD, its ride-share app for its transport solution for people with disabilities.

“ZiPD is a shuttle service for people with disabilities. It’s an exciting opportunity as we are transforming transport for people with disabilities where supply doesn’t match demand,” Masoet said.

“We have mapped against the largest townships relative to accessible transport for people with disabilities. We also have conducted quantitative research with our candidates and their challenges relative to where jobs exist.”

HeePD aims to address two main challenges faced by people with disabilities — exclusion because of access to employment and being able to access transport.

Masoet credits the idea for HeePD to his own experience living with a disability and from his background working and recruiting for companies.

HeePD model scalable in other developing markets

He said creating jobs and helping those with disabilities to start a business is one of HeePD’s long-term objectives. Masoet claims that only one percent of the disabled population in South Africa is employed. This is in stark contrast to the government’s goal of 7.5%.

Masoet’s claims are consistent with a white paper published by the Department of Social Development in March last year which stated that the country has a low labour market absorption rate for people with disabilities.

HeePD is partnering with the SAB Foundation, which contributed R2.1-million and also has backing from the Western Cape Government’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism of about R480 000. In addition the programme has received corporate social investment of R250 000 from a partner that Masoet did not want to disclose.

He projects that HeePD’s contact centre, shuttle service and urban farming ecosystems will likely be its largest revenue generators. “We are a commercial enterprise with a social impact but we still needed to make a profit,” stressed Masoet.

In addition to the transport service and coding academy, HeePD also has a service where it is contracted by companies to recruit people with disabilities.

“We have over 20 clients on our roster that we book for interviews, training venues and reference checks we do all on site. Candidates with disabilities do not have to travel far from their home,” Masoet claims.

Masoet said the biggest challenges HeePD has faced so far has been in obtaining funding, as well as sourcing a team of people who believed in the project’s vision.