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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Technology helps disabled get — and hold — jobs

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Job seekers with disabilities can find the technology they need to get work at "One-Stop Centers" across the state, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Ed Gatz uses specialized computer equipment and software for the disabled while Joy Lacanienta, a coordinator with the Komo Kaulike Project, shows off a telephone for the hearing- or speech-impaired.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

The One-Stop Centers, called O'ahu WorkLinks, Big Island Workplace Connection, WorksourceMaui or Kauai *Work Wise!, help with job searches, career planning services, training opportunities, and office and library resource services.

Through the $699,000 grant, the Komo Kaulike Project has equipped the centers with assistive technology work stations.

Ed Gatz, a wheelchair-using Waikiki resident who recently secured a job as an accountant at a hotel using WorkLinks services, stopped by the Dillingham Center Work Links to try out computer equipment last week.

The front section of a desk moved up and down as well as back and forth to place his hands in a comfortable position at the keyboard, and the back section of the desk adjusted to bring the computer's display to eye level.

The adjustments, said Joy Lacanienta, Komo Kaulike project coordinator, will accommodate even the motorized wheelchairs, which tend to be lower.

The desk also allowed Gatz to rest his arm while using the keyboard. He had the option of using a regular keyboard or keyboard with extra-large keys and letters. Keys were also embossed in Braille.

New software includes Dragon Naturally Speaking, which allows people who have problems with typing or can't see or read Braille to dictate their resumes, and those who can't move their arms to use a tiny dot applied to glasses or the forehead to direct the computer curser.

The largest portion of the grant, Lacanienta said, was used to train employees of the One-Stop Centers across the state. The employees learned how to use the equipment and how best to serve people with disabilities.

For information about One-Stop Centers, see www.hawaiiworkforce.org/OneStops.htm. On O'ahu, call O'ahu Worklinks at 592-8620.

Reach Karen Blakeman at 535-2430 or kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.