EMPOWERING WOMEN & GIRLS WITH AUTISM
Kuala Lumpur, 5 April, 2018 – In commemoration of World Autism Awareness Day 2018, Microsoft collaborated with We Rock the Spectrum Gym+ to organize an Hour of Code for children on the autism spectrum. The first of its kind in Malaysia, We Rock the Spectrum Gym is an autism-focused, indoor playground and kids gym that provides children with fun activities in a sensory-safe environment.
The event was commemorated by K. Raman, Managing Director of Microsoft Malaysia and Nori Abdullah, Co-owner of We Rock the Spectrum Gym. To top it off, 50 students from various organizations, youth from the National Autism Society of Malaysia and employees from Microsoft as well as 45 participants from the recent Imagine Cup 2018 Regional Finals, also joined the event, where they spent an hour teaching and guiding children on autism spectrum through the Hour of Code Minecraft tutorial.
This year’s World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) was themed “Empowering Women and Girls with Autism”, in recognition of the United Nations General Assembly adopting a resolution drawing attention to the challenges women and girls with disabilities face in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Marking the occasion, the Managing Director of Microsoft Malaysia, K. Raman said, “We are proud to be partnering We Rock the Spectrum Gym in observing World Autism Awareness Day as we work to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Our long-term partnership with the Gym to include the Hour of Code as part of their program is in line with Microsoft’s efforts to democratise technology and bridge the opportunity divide. Empowerment begins with inclusion, and we firmly believe that the joys of technology should be shared with everyone, especially youth, as today’s digital natives are tomorrow’s digital workforce. Our efforts are also in line with Malaysia’s Year for Women Empowerment, as we try to tackle the challenges faced by women with disabilities.”
In addition to hosting the event, We Rock the Spectrum Gym announced a partnership with Microsoft Malaysia. The partnership will see the inclusion of an Hour of Code as part of the Gym’s program, thus enabling children who play at the gym to get a chance to learn and experience coding. To ensure that the children receive proper guidance, Microsoft will work closely with the gym trainers to ensure they are well equipped to conduct the Hour of Code sessions independently in the future.
Initially founded in Tarzana, Los Angeles by Dina Kimmel, We Rock the Spectrum Gym has expanded across the United States. In December 2016, Nori Abdullah – the wife of Youth and Sports Minister YB Brig Jen Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar – Hana Jamaluddin and Rahmah Mahmood decided to bring the Gym to Ara Damansara, Malaysia. Stemming from personal experiences as mothers with special needs children, the decision to bring the gym to Malaysia was a labour of love to provide children of all abilities with a safe place to play and have fun.
“As we approach an age where technology is all around us and as the nation braces itself for the 4th Industrial Revolution, we are constantly seeking methods to educate our young ones to be ready for a digital future,” said Nori Abdullah, Co-owner, We Rock the Spectrum Gym Malaysia.
“With that in mind, it warms my heart to see Microsoft bring digital skills to the children here at We Rock the Spectrum Gym, enabling them to learn through the Hour of Code. Children with disabilities are less likely to complete primary school and more likely to be marginalized or denied access to education. This is even more true for girls and women with disabilities. With the partnership of Microsoft, we intend to shatter this stereotype and show the world how inclusion, diversity, and equal opportunity, can truly make a difference.”
Also present during the event was Microsoft’s M-Powered ambassador, advocate for the autism cause, and founder of Serena’s Secret, Serena Zara Taufiq. Alongside Serena was Dr Wan Himratul Azliza*, accessibility advocate, internal medicine consultant and lifestyle physician, and mother to Serena.