People of all physical and mental abilities have the opportunity to improve digital literacy with the new computer lab equipped with assistive technology at the Easterseals Gateway Adult Services building in Bremerton.
Comcast partnered with Easterseals Washington to fund the Lift Zone Technology Lab with a $75,000 grant. Washington Assistive Technology Act Program designed the lab, at 4414 Perry Ave., installed everything and trained the staff. There was a ribbon-cutting for the new space on Thursday.
Comcast’s flagship cause is digital equity. People with disabilities are significantly less likely to have a computer or go online. Now Easterseals patrons have an easy outlet to bridge that divide.
“Participants, while they come to have healthcare and activities and socialization and nutrition, they also get challenged in the technology lab. And they get to reach their goals through technology in a very accessible, comfortable and fun way,” said Easterseals Washington President and CEO Cathy Bisaillon.
Dillon Andrade watched a Carrie Underwood video on the accessorized desktop set-up during the lab’s debut.
“He found his favorite artist,” said Stephanie Ellison to a fellow Easterseals staff member. Dylan has a tablet at home but doesn’t have much computer experience. “I was helping him learn about email yesterday.”
Assistive technologies available include Jelly Bean Switches, which simplify computer navigation and selection, and a Tetra Mouse, which is operated by the mouth. Desk configurations are highly adjustable and keyboards have bright contrasting colors and big bold labels.
The lab also has a safe room with a virtual reality device.
“The virtual reality is a game-changer, especially for people who have autism who are intimidated by certain environments,” Bisaillon said. “Someone can use virtual reality to virtually board a bus so that they overcome all that anxiety, and then we can actually help them really board a bus and access their community.”
Getting more access to the community is what it’s all about, said Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler.
“Creating more opportunities for employment provides self-worth for all people,” he said. “But digital literacy not only makes these people more employable, it gives them independence.”