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Technology lab for disabled



Published: Thu, January 3, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The local need for such a facility is huge, the campus dean says.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

CHAMPION -- Physical limitations won't stop students at Kent State University Trumbull Campus from moving up the career ladder.

A state-of-the-art adaptive technology lab will be unveiled during a dedication at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Kent State University's Trumbull Campus on Mahoning Avenue.

The lab, located in the new Workforce Development and Continuing Studies Center, provides accessible facilities for people with physical limitations and those who are visually or hearing impaired, allowing them to acquire and firm up skills as well as complete college courses.

Classes also will be available for teachers, trainers and employers working with the disabled.

The center's director, Margaret A. Croyts, said those with illnesses and conditions ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome to quadriplegia will be offered classes in computer technology, including Internet research and desktop publishing.

Bobbi Bain, computer systems specialist at KSUTC, said seven workstations will include 32-inch monitors to magnify text and images and provide an on-screen virtual work area.

Voice-recognition software will translate text of documents and Web sites into speech. A Braille software translator also is being installed, and special amplifying headsets will be available for those with hearing disabilities.

Bain said other equipment will include a Braille printer, audio AutoCAD drafting equipment and a computer mouse that's moved around by a person's head.

Need for facility: John Robertson, KSUTC's director of institutional research, knows firsthand the importance of such a facility.

A quadriplegic since a car accident in 1972, Robertson said there's a need for the lab.

Though there are numerous agencies that serve disabled people, Robertson said, the missing link is a connection to business and industry.

There's an increasing number of people with disabilities coming out of high schools because of the inclusion model of education that mainstreams them into public schools.

Robertson said the public's misconception that disabled people are incapable needs to change.

Some employers are hesitant to hire disabled people because they're unsure of the resources it will take, Robertson said, adding that the adaptations needed to accommodate the disabled are often minimal.

Trumbull dean Dr. David Allen said lab funding comes through a grant from the Ohio Board of Regents and Ohio Department of Development, corporate sponsors and private donations.

He said the lab is one of the first in the region to offer training and education using such a sophisticated level of technology. None of Kent's other campuses offers the programs.

"The whole idea is to support work force diversity so that people who have historically been unemployed or underemployed can acquire the computer skills they need," Allen said.

Many benefit: The need for such a facility in this area is huge, Allen explained, noting that officials were astounded by the number of local people who could benefit from the lab.

An intern working at KSUTC a few years ago did a survey that shows more than 1,000 adults each year are in some kind of local rehabilitation therapy program or associated with some kind of service agency and could be helped by such a program.

Plans for the lab came about with input from professional organizations and area service agencies taking part in a survey and meetings.

Croyts said a goal is to increase awareness for employers willing to provide adaptive equipment for current and prospective employees with disabilities.

Officials also are hoping to develop and expand current partnerships with service agencies, organizations and professional affiliates that serve the disabled.

davis@vindy.com




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