Expanding Access to Technology for People with Disabilities

By Adam Hymans, Director of Strategic Communications, SPIN.

For the past 46 years, SPIN (Special People in Northeast) has supported thousands of people with autism and intellectual disability to live, learn and work as valued members of the community. Our new Comcast Digital Literacy Lab at SPIN helps us continue our mission by putting technology within reach for people with disabilities and helping to bridge the digital divide.

After receiving $20,000 in grants from Comcast to make the digital literacy lab possible, we quickly assembled a team of experts in assistive communication, information technology, and special education to outfit the lab. We’re thrilled to say that the new Comcast Digital Literacy Lab offers 20 computers and five tablets with a variety of assistive devices and applications. For people who cannot speak or type, our eye-controlled tablets provide a way to connect with loved ones. SPIN uses the lab’s digital whiteboard to engage high school students with learning disabilities in a classroom setting. Combined with the ongoing support of communication and employment specialists, these technologies empower more than 300 teens and adults to lead more independent and fulfilling lives.

People with disabilities are the nation’s largest untapped workforce. More than 80% of people with disabilities of working age are unemployed, despite their ability and willingness to engage in meaningful work. SPIN addresses this disparity at the regional level by educating employers and supporting people with the skills they need to succeed. The Comcast Digital Literacy Lab will play a key role in narrowing this employment gap.

“Building real-world digital skills not only addresses under-employment and workforce training, it helps break down one of the barriers to closing the digital divide for populations in need,” said Robert Smith, Regional Vice President of Community Investment at Comcast, during the November 2016 lab unveiling ceremony. “The digital divide can impact families in many ways and Comcast is committed to help closing it by offering Internet Essentials and partnering with organizations such as SPIN to help people get the skills they need to take advantage of all the resources the internet has to offer.”

It will take an ongoing conversation between families and tech companies, business and government to close the digital divide for everyone. After partnering with Comcast, we’re excited to continue that conversation.

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Kathleen Brown McHale, SPIN President and CEO, during the lab unveiling ceremony.

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SPIN members utilizing the assistive devices and applications in their new Digital Literacy Lab.

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Communication and employment specialists will help SPIN members use the new lab and technology.