IM this article to a friend!

June 19, 2004

ACCESS offers free computers for deaf, blind through grant

From: Palestine Herald Press, TX - Jun 19, 2004

Jacksonville Daily Progress

Armed with almost $500,000 in grant money, ACCESS is bringing computers to the blind and telephones to the deaf.

"This technology is designed to help people with disabilities who are left out of our technological transformation and give them the resources for communication," said Angie Hardy, management information systems coordinator for ACCESS.

ACCESS received a CATD grant - that's Computer Accommodations for Texans with Disabilities - from Texas Health and Human Services Commission totaling $464, 978. The money will be doled out over the next two years to individuals and ACCESS locations within Cherokee and Anderson counties.

"There were only 15 awards in the state of Texas, and we were the only ones to actually place computers in homes of persons with disabilities," said Bonnie Phlieger, public information officer for ACCESS. "This is an experiment, but our thought was, especially in a rural area where sometimes people with disabilities feel more isolated, this would be a way to overcome some of these limitations."

Grant money can be used to purchase TTY phones, computers, keyboards, printers, or software for home use of the disabled. This goes for any disability - physical or mental - including visual impairment, hearing impairment, mobility impairment, speech impairment, eating disorders, heart conditions, respiratory impairment, cancer, and diabetes.

"The criteria are quite broad. It's very easy to apply," Phlieger said. "There is just a short application. They have to have a doctor certify that they have a permanent disability."

Applicants also must provide proof of residency in either Cherokee or Anderson counties, such as a driver's license, utility bill, or a receipt for rent or mortgage.

Hardy isn't sure how many computers will be given out, but the group is hoping to buy about 50 customized computers in the two-county area.

"We will design (the computer) for the person with the disability," Hardy said, "For example, if I'm blind I need a different computer than you need... We might spend $10,000 on one award."

After completing a training session at ACCESS, those who receive the grants will have a technician help install the computer.

"People can balance their check books, pay bills online, use e-mail, (and) use online chat to communicate with family and friends," Hardy said. For some homebound individuals, the Internet can be a vital support system.

"Over the Internet a disability doesn't shine through," Hardy said. "The possibilities are limitless on what this grant can do."

ACCESS used some of the grant money to purchase a total of 18 computers for both ACCESS clinics, its 602 Dallas St. office, and it's partner in the grant application, HOPE - Helping Other Pursue Enrichment.

The labs offer instructional computer lessons to anyone -not just those with disabilities - in Word, Excel, Access and typing programs. Three technology trainers are available for one-on-one assistance.

"These are self pace programs," Hardy said. "You come in, sit down, and the computer walks you though the lesson."

A portion of the funds will also go to installing TTY lines at ACCESS locations.

The TTY line is a cross between a telephone and a computer, alerting the hearing impaired through a flashing light or vibrating wrist watch instead of a ring. Similar to text-messaging cell phones, the device comes with a keyboard where users can type responses, and the information is sent using regular phone lines.

"We're putting public TTY lines in our clinic and at our Dallas Street location and at HOPE," Hardy said, in addition to supplying them to the deaf.

ACCESS will accept applications for the computers "until the money runs out."

The computer labs are available during ACCESS business hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"We can do after 5 p.m. if it's by appointment," Hardy said. "We want to accommodate the (person's) disability."

Those interested in applying for the grant may call Dave Tennant or Angie Hardy at 903-586-5507, the ACCESS Clinic at 903-589-9000 in Jacksonville, or 903-723-6136 in Palestine, or HOPE Inc. at 903-586-7781 in Jacksonville. Applications are also available online at

Copyright © 2004 All Rights Reserved: Palestine Herald-Press