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KSU-TRUMBULL Computer lab assists people with disabilities



Published: Tue, July 9, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The lab includes software that will read what's on a computer screen to a blind person.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

CHAMPION -- A program geared at adult retraining at Kent State University's Trumbull Campus also is being used to help children with special needs.

The Adaptive Technology Lab in the workforce development and continuing studies center opened earlier this year. The lab has seven computer stations each with an estimated cost of $9,500. A state grant paid for the lab with some private donations.

The lab has several software items to assist people with disabilities. There's software that may be useful to a blind person, for example, that reads what's on a computer screen.

"Whether it's a Web site, e-mail or a chat room, the computer reads to you," said Margaret Croyts, director of workforce development and continuing studies at KSU-Trumbull.

Another program that is useful for someone who cannot use a conventional keyboard, converts speech to text.

"A person could dictate to the computer and it types out what is said in text," Croyts said.

Because people at the university had to be trained to use the equipment before they could help others, the lab has just gotten up and running in the last few weeks.

Programs for kids

The OhioReads program for children with special needs was conducted last month. Ohio Reads is a statewide program using volunteer tutors to help children with reading.

College for Kids is a program of four classes for children with special needs.

Activities include academics, social activities and crafts.

The lab's primary function is training adults for the work force. A person with a degenerative eye disease, for example, could remain at his or her job or find a new one through the equipment and retraining available at the lab.

It also provides an opportunity for continuing education hours for people who work with the disabled, such as teachers.

"We also want the lab to be available to academic students who have disabilities," Croyts said.

The lab works with agencies and organizations such as Easter Seals, the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, Fairhaven and Goodwill Services.

Representatives from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation have visited the facility, Croyts said.

'Phenomenal'

Bill Addington, chief development officer for Easter Seals of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana Counties Inc., said the agency hopes to take some children both with and without special needs to the lab this summer.

"It's fantastic," he said. "It's a phenomenal place."

Easter Seals hopes to take adults and older children to the facility to enhance their computer skills.

"I've not seen anything else like it in this area," Addington said. The lab recently received a $5,000 donation from the Warren Lions Club and $200 from the Eastern Ohio Rehabilitation Association. It will cost about $5,700 annually to keep the software updated.

Each computer station may, at the touch of a button, rise to accommodate a 6-foot-tall person, or lower to suit a child seated in a wheelchair.

"It's a very exciting venture," Croyts said. "It's a benefit not only to organizations and the clients that need it but also the kids. It gives them a little taste of what we can do now. When they're older, the technology will have changed significantly, but this will leave an impression on them."




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