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The Alliance for Technology Access.

Welcome to the 9th Annual Computer Technology Issue of Exceptional Parent! This special issue also marks the fifth annual appearance of an article about the Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) and we are delighted to have this opportunity to address the readers of Exceptional Parent. We consider the readers and staff of the magazine to be our working partners in the mission to make assistive technologies a regular part of the lives of people with disabilities.

For those readers who have followed the progress of the Alliance over the past five years, you have seen our national network of parent- and consumer-driven, community-based technology access centers grow, from a group of 11 centers in 10 states, to the present level of 46 centers in 35 states. What might be new to you, though, is that two years ago the nonprofit Foundation for Technology Access (FTA) was created as the Alliance matured from a project of Apple Computer into its own independent national organization and movement.

Among other advantages, the FTA enables the community resource centers of the ATA to be effectively mobilized for innovative projects and initiatives around the nation. In the following sections, some of the FTA's most exciting current projects are briefly described: the Foundation itself; the Alliance for Technology Access; the Computer Classroom Integration Demonstration (CompuCID); the Mattel[TM] Project; the Partnership Project with IBM; Public Awareness and Education; Operation Outreach; and our newest federally-funded program, Accessing Computer Technology In Our Neighborhoods - the ACTION Project.

The Organization

The FTA is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose mission is to provide individuals with the tools to control and direct their own lives. It is dedicated to increasing knowledge and use of technology by people with disabilities, their families, educators and employers. The largest project of the foundation is the ATA network of centers.

The FTA and the ATA are changing the way people think about their own potential and the way they view technology - not as a luxury or a costly impossibility, but as a basic tool that can improve the performance and lives of all people. For no one is this prospect more dramatically demonstrated than for people with disabilities. With the support of appropriate and enabling technology, children and adults with all types of disabilities (developmental, sensory, learning and physical) are entering the mainstream of American society in schools, on the job and in the community.

Today's technology, when properly used, can totally alter the definition of a person's abilities, as well as his or her outlook on the future. Academic, social and job opportunities suddenly open up to people who many previously thought were incapable of living autonomous and rewarding lives.

Technology promises a great deal, but there is always a large gap between a promise and its fulfillment, especially in this field where so much specialized knowledge and expertise is required. The FTA was created to close this gap and fulfill the promise of technology. It exists to solve the problem of how people can find out about the power of technology and get the expertise and assistance they need to make computers work for them.

Alliance for Technology Access

In 1987, the Disabled Children's Computer Group in Berkeley and Apple Computer established the FTA's national network of community-based computer resource centers and technology businesses, known as the Alliance for Technology Access (ATA). Starting out with just 11 centers nationwide, it has grown to at least one in almost every state. The FTA built the ATA with the goal of increasing awareness, understanding and access to microcomputer technology in order to assist children and adults with disabilities in becoming independent participants in society

Grounded in the notion that the most collaborative effort is the most successful effort, the FTA is driven by children and adults with disabilities, their families and friends, teachers and therapists, technology vendors, professional organizations, and community agencies all working together and sharing the belief that meaningful and lasting change starts at the local level.

Each center, like the FTA itself, is an independently incorporated 501 (c) (3) organization with its own name, governing board, corporate structure and legal status. Each center is an outgrowth of its own community and is responsive to the needs of that community. Alliance centers provide services that help parents, teachers, employers and children and adults with disabilities explore computer systems, adaptive devices and software. Services include:
* hands-on-consultations; * minority and low-income
 * computer demonstrations; outreach;
 * adapted toy programs; * early intervention
 * information and resource services;
 services; * parent support and
 * technical support; advocacy;
 * workshops and users * transition training for
 groups; young adults;
 * equipment and software * computer camps; and
 lending; * other projects.

Every center is committed to: 1) the close collaboration among people with disabilities, their families and the professionals who work with them; and 2) serving people of all ages with disabilities of all kinds. People with disabilities and their families are deeply involved in the day-to-day operations, making all centers strongly consumer- and family-driven.

The FTA encourages, supports and trains the local centers, and assists them in expanding their services and broadening their impact. It maintains a telecommunications network that links every center, allowing: 1) the instant dissemination of new ideas and information; 2) brainstorming about solutions to specific computer access problems; and 3) effective use of precious resources by eliminating the need to reinvent the wheel."

The work of the FTA is crucial in translating the day-to-day work of the local centers at the grass roots level into programs of national visibility and significance. The Alliance has grown in a very brief time from a small group of parents, consumers and professionals to one of the nation's largest, most effective efforts devoted to enabling people with disabilities to gain access to the full benefits of technology. Public demand for our services continues to grow at a staggering rate. The number of individuals crossing center thresholds, for example, went from 20,000 in 1987 to over 100,000 in 1991.

New Projects

CompuCID: Computer Classroom integration Demonstration

CompuCID is a demonstration project funded by the U.S. Department of Education. This project involves communities in Colorado, North Carolina, California, Tennessee and Washington state. CompuCID is working in five public school districts in regular education classrooms to promote the integration of children with disabilities by using computers and cooperative learning techniques as mainstreaming tools. Preliminary results of this project, now entering its third year, are generating a great deal of enthusiasm among parents, students, regular education teachers and administrators who are participating in developing this model program and innovative approach to mainstreaming. Project results will be evaluated, published and disseminated during late 1992 and early 1993.

Mattel[TM] Project

The FTA is pleased to announce a new project in which the ATA will team with the Mattel[TM] Foundation and IBM to increase access to mainstream curricula for students with disabilities. The Mattel Foundation is expanding its Computer Learning Lab Project which currently supports IBM computers in selected schools across the country. One aspect of this expansion involves linking Learning Lab schools with their local ATA center in order to more effectively integrate students with multiple disabilities into Learning Labs. The ATA centers will provide training and technical support to teachers, students and parents in the Learning Lab schools. A key aspect of this project will be to provide students with disabilities access to IBM'S popular Writing to Read program.

The Partnership Project with IBM

Earlier this year, IBM and the FTA formed a powerful new partnership to further expand the awareness, understanding and implementation of assistive technologies to aid people with disabilities. As part of this partnership, IBM is lending over $250,000 of education software, adaptive devices and technical assistance to ATA resource centers on a long-term basis. Most ATA centers, working closely with IBM'S National Support Center for Persons with Disabilities in Atlanta and IBM Community Development personnel across the country, are now equipped to demonstrate the Independence Series of access devices, including Speech Viewer, Screen Reader and Phone Communicator. Additionally, a full line of IBM courseware products designed to teach reading, language arts, math, science and keyboarding is available at the resource centers.

Operation Outreach

Operation Outreach is a project designed to extend the benefits of technology to individuals with disabilities from low-income and minority backgrounds. The FTA is committed to altering the reality that access to technology has been a privilege of the middle and upper-middle classes.

Under a grant from the Public Welfare Foundation, the FTA is developing a variety of model projects to achieve this goal. In Mountain View, Calif., computers are being reclaimed from the high-tech junkyards of the Silicon Valley, then equipped with the needed technical adaptations, and made available on long-term loan to people who would otherwise have no access to them. Simultaneously, efforts are taking place to help families secure the funds needed to purchase their own systems.

With the encouragement and assistance of the FTA, centers throughout the Alliance are making progress toward the goal of increasing technology access to traadditionally disenfranchised communities.

Public Awareness & Education

The FTAs public outreach efforts focus on raising national awareness of the issues confronting people with disabilities and the critical role that technology can play in improving the quality of life for millions of Americans. Despite the enormous potential technology holds for changing lives, most people are still unaware of its powerful possibilities or of the importance of early access to these tools.

The FTA has launched an educational public service announcement campaign using television, radio and print media to inform people of the power of technology for people with disabilities. A variety of educational and promotional materials have been developed, including a videotape that is currently being screened in 40,000 medical waiting rooms across the country.

The ACTION Project

As part of the Technology-Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the FTA a three-year grant to develop, evaluate, implement and disseminate a proactive outreach and training model for low-incidence disability groups on the uses and benefits of assistive technology - Accessing Computer Technology in Our Neighborhoods (the ACTION Project). The ACTION Project will demonstrate the ability of computer technology to promote integration and independence.

Through the FTA's national network of community-based computer resource centers, the ACTION Project will put technology where it is the most accessible - in the heart of communities where people are living, working and playing. The project seeks to develop a comprehensive model from which communities may select outreach and training activities, methods, materials and information resources as appropriate to address the individual needs and resources within the community.

Directed and operated by consumers with disabilities and their family members in collaboration with professionals in the fields of education, disability and technology, the ACTION project will:

1. Work with five diverse communities to provide neighborhood access to assistive technology;

2. Provide announced demonstrations of assistive technology in generic and heavily-traveled locations such as public libraries and community centers;

3. Arrange for individualized and/or small group training and instruction in technology use;

4. Create videotapes of individuals with low incidence disabilities using technology effectively (the Video Advocate) to document the progress and the potential of technology for a given individual, and to enable consumers to share that knowledge and information with others they deem appropriate;

5. Educate consumers and family members about technology options, sources for funding equipment, and the crucial new legislative initiatives related to technology and independent living for individuals with low incidence disabilities; and

6. Broadly and rapidly disseminate the findings and project materials that are developed.

Join the Mission

The Foundation and the Alliance for Technology Access seek to redefine human potential by making technology a regular part of the lives of people with disabilities. They strive to accomplish this goal by providing easy access to conventional and assistive technologies, related services and information resources which enable people to achieve success, independence, productivity and social interdependence according to their individual needs and interests. The list of ATA centers is included in this issue and we warmly invite you, other family members and the professionals who serve your child to contact us and consider how technology might play an increasingly important role in your child's life.

Bob Glass is a program developer and assistant to the executive director of the Foundation for Technology Access. He brings to the Alliance nearly 15 years experience in management of national projects. For 12 years prior to his association with the ATA, he participated in educational research and materials development projects at the American Printing Press for the Blind.

More recently, for the last four-and-a-half years, Mr. Glass has has been a key participant in the growth and development of the ATA. He was a co-founder of the Disabled Citizens Computer Center in Louisville, Ky., which was one of the 11 charter members of the ATA. Since October of 1987, he has also been a member of the national ATA Planning Team. Among other responsibilities on the Planning Team, he has been involved with the review and acceptance of all of the ATA resource centers entering the Alliance since the fall of 1 987. As a result, he is well acquainted with the diverse personnel resources and expertise within the national network of ATA resource centers.
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Title Annotation:9th Annual Computer Technology Directory: 1992; computers and the handicapped
Author:Glass, Bob
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Previous Article:Santa's magic.
Next Article:Support and independence.

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