Tuesday, November 27, 2007

You Don't Feel Alone

George Donahue of Watertown is a role model to young people in the Boston, as a mentor for the online program, Partners for Youth with Disabilities that is out of the Boston area. He uses online communication tools to connect with other individuals with disabilities.

"Being online and talking to other people, it keeps you social," said Donahue, who has a neurological disorder called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and uses a wheelchair. "You don't feel alone."
Boston.com, November 26. 2007

This article by Don Aucoin of the Boston Globe, goes on to discuss how a Donahue and his 28 year old protege, both with disabilities and in wheelchairs have created a solid friendship online, despite the fact that his protege, Gregory Walsh is non verbal and does not have use of his hands. Gregory will soon take the lessons he has learned from Donahue to another, when he becomes the mentor to a Boston area teen who is also non-verbal.

This is such a great example of how technology opens up the world for individuals with disabilities. In a school setting Gregory and Austin might have been viewed as less capable simply because of how they looked and the supports they need. Opportunities for writing and socialization would have been limited by the time that it takes them to generate language and Gregory, who looks at a chart with letters to spell out what he wants to say while an aide writes it down, it is likely to have have been viewed as not really doing his own work. But give these individuals an accessible computer, computer based voice output systems, and other technologies (I imagine they use word prediction or other tools to increase their speed) and the playing field is leveled.

As the world of education and technology continue to merge and as Web 2.0 tools become more commonly used by teachers, opportunities for individuals like Gregory Walsh expand. Writing is oral language for for individuals who are non verbal and communication online becomes an opportunity to write to learn--about the world.

For more information on Partners for Youth with Disabilities visit http://www.pyd.org/ and for info on their online program see https://pol.pyd.org/phpBB2/login.php

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