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April 1, 2003

Library expands Web accessibility

From: Corpus Christi Caller Times, TX - Apr 1, 2003

Resource center has software for hearing- and sight-impaired

By Neal Falgoust Caller-Times

Gonzo Gonzalez, 40, has been steadily losing his vision over the past 12 years. An eye disease has reduced his line of sight to just four degrees.

But on Monday, Gonzalez was surfing the Internet just as capably as anyone with full vision, albeit a little bit slower and with the help of a computerized voice.

"Nothing can replace your vision," he said.

The city's Central Library on Monday opened a new resource center for people with disabilities. It features several new computers equipped with software to make the Internet and other Web-based communications more accessible. The new computers also will be available at the Greenwood, Harte, Northwest and Parkdale libraries.

Gonzalez used similar software to work his way through a master's degree in clinical psychology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, and he's also taking an Internet-based computer class at Del Mar College. With those kinds of programs, he never has to step into a classroom.

"It got me through grad school," he said.

Jackie Wright, who is deaf, used the new Central Library computers to carry on a "deaf chat" with a worker at the Greenwood library. Each computer used a small camera to buzz a live video through the computer lines.

"I like to chat in sign language, where I can see the person's face," Wright signed. "It's much easier than typing."

The new centers were made possible by a $53,310 grant from the state's Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund and a $5,500 match from the Corpus Christi Public Library Foundation.

David Ramos, director of the city's Human Relations department, said the new technology will help improve the quality of life for residents with disabilities.

City officials are years behind schedule in complying with requirements established by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The act, passed in 1990, in part mandates that city services and programs be made accessible to the disabled and prohibits the city from discriminating against them.

Ramos said the new computers are a sign that the city is moving toward_compliance.

"We're trying to remedy some of the situations that have occurred in the past and become more accessible," he said.

Contact Neal Falgoust at 886-4334 or

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