Monday, December 18, 2006

Internet cafe for people with disabilities

Kudos to Goodwill Industries of San Antonio for opening an
internet café for people with disabilities.

In many ways, the Good Bytes Café looks like many other internet cafes, but the shop’s computers also include assistive hardware and software such as screen magnifiers, joystick mice, and the equipment to have eye movements replicate mouse actions. This is a good idea that provides access in the community where none has previously existed for people with disabilities. The expensive cost of providing the access tools is covered by Goodwill via a grant from AT&T. The café will also be supported through food sales with labor provided by Goodwill’s disabled food service trainees.

I admit the concept is very novel and innovative, but the reasons given by Goodwill for starting the café leave me scratching my head a bit. According to the linked news article above, they say that there is a correlation between the 70% unemployment rate of the area’s people with disabilities and that 60% of that population do not have computer skills. Shouldn’t the call be for providing computer training instead of a public access point where the users would be expected to come in already possessing some level of computer competence?

Still, I’m not knocking the idea. This is a great step forward in providing accessibility. It goes hand in hand with other pieces of a much larger picture. It also provides a work training location for Goodwill to let their consumers get real work experience that can serve as a launchpad to another position.

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