By Ryan MacDonald
As part of its commitment to closing the digital divide, the Comcast NBCUniversal Assistive Technology Grant Fund awarded $200,000 last year to six Easterseals locations across the country to assist them in constructing up-to-date technology centers that would better service their clients.
One of the lucky grants recipients was Easterseals Washington, a local affiliate in Bellevue that provides essential services for people with disabilities and their families. Because of the funding, this eastside adult day health and recreation center will be able to better serve its 80 participants, along with 240 family members and employees, and help them unlock their full potential.
“We want Easterseals Washington to build on its long history of providing expertise and technology support for children and adults with disabilities,” Marianne Bichsel, the VP of External Affairs for Comcast.
In February, clients of Easterseals, Comcast employees and other community partners gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony where they celebrated the grand opening of the Comcast Technology Achievement Center, a space that provides access to technology.
The primary goal of the center will be to educate and expose participants to digital services that may assist them in their day-to-day life. Here, they can come to develop socialization and improve their communication, memory, and computer literacy skills.
“One of our core community impact goals is to provide skills for the digital economy,” said Bichsel, who presented at the ceremony. “That’s essential in today’s world and Comcast is in a position to help people explore new and unexpected opportunities in life. I’m proud of that.”
Because the needs of each Easterseals member are different, the center features a variety of equipment like braille-equipped computer systems, voice command telephones and height-adjusted tables. All of it is aimed to help users overcome barriers in their home, at the job or in school.
But they can also have fun and take care of personal business, too. Some of the clients, like Kevin Nicely, plan to use the center to do homework and engage with friends on social media. Others hope to catch their favorite sports team on one of number of streaming devices or tablets that are available.
In addition to the newly acquired digital lab, the adult center offers classes and activities for the community so they can stay engaged in their life. They provide services to young people with autism, seniors with dementia and other disabilities related to aging, and adults of any age with mobility or sensory issues.
And there’s more good news. The partnership with Comcast and helping connect the disabled community throughout Washington won’t stop in Bellevue. At the ceremony, Bichsel announced to the crowd that Comcast will further its commitment to the organization by opening two more Technology Achievement Centers in Bremerton and Des Moines.
“We’re going to be a part of all three Easterseals Washington’s adult service programs, impacting hundreds of people with special abilities each day in King, South King and Kistap counties,” she said.
Since 2011, the Comcast NBCUniversal Assistive Tech funding has empowered nearly 50,000 Americans to live independently while broadening the spectrum of digital inclusion across the USA.
As technology improves the lives of so many around the Puget Sound, everyone should be able take advantage of it. Now the clients of Easterseals Washington will be able to stay plugged in.