Care Center Staff

Computer center designed for disabled





A new computer center de-signed to bring computer technology to disabled children and adults and their families was hailed by parents and educators yesterday as a "first" for Staten Island and a step forward in pro-viding services to the borough's disabled population.

The center, at the Elizabeth Connelly Resource Center in Willowbrook, will feature 10 computers to be available to the disabled during the day and on weekends.

The computers, which are on order and should be set up within the next few months, will be activated either by touch screen or by voice command. Some will have adapted keyboards and mouse controls.

Software will feature enlarged graphics for the visually impaired. The computers will provide access to the Internet and users will be able to network and exchange e-mail messages.

The computers will be installed at special workstations that will be wheelchair accessible, according to Elizabeth Sunshine, executive director of the New York State Institute on Disability Inc., the agency that is coordinating the program.

The non-profit agency, founded in 1995, promotes community opportunities for persons with disabilities and their families. The agency has paired with McKee High School, whose students will mentor disabled children and adults who will use the center. McKee students will also repair and maintain the computers.

Students from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn will design the workstations and the lighting, flooring and other details of the room, Ms. Sunshine said.

"This is going to be a wonderful program for our children and parents," said Angela Quinn, co-chair-woman of the Coalition to Support District 75, and co-president of the PTA of PS 37, Great Kills. Her 14-year-old autistic daughter, Jennifer, learned how to read through

an adapted computer program, she said.

"Right now there is no general computer access for the disabled on Staten Island," she said. "The public libraries are not equipped and neither are most of our schools."

Antoinette Pica, co-president of the coalition, said the center will also benefit parents of the disabled, by allowing them to e-mail and network with other parents of the disabled through cyberspace.

"It will bring us new resources and new avenues of support," she said.

Consolidated Edison and Chase Manhattan Bank presented a total of $3,000 in grant money for the program yesterday. The funds will be used to purchase software, Ms. Sunshine said. Beverly Garcia-Anderson, principal of McKee, said her students were excited to be a part of the new center.

"The partnership is going to give our kids an opportunity to volunteer and serve the community, and at the same time they'll get to learn and to work with adaptive computer equipment. We hope it will lead to providing our students with career paths. It's a very positive program all around," she said.