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STAR Center lab offers technology for people with disabilities

Technology includes voice recognition, Braille translators and more

SEATTLE — June 1, 2010 — The Special Technology Access Resource (STAR) Center, a computer lab for people with disabilities located at Seattle Housing Authority’s Center Park residence, recently hosted an open house.

STAR Center computer lab

Several people were seen using the computers at the STAR Center computer lab during their open house on May 20, 2010.

Located in the northern part of the Rainier Valley, Center Park provides living accommodations for physically or mentally challenged individuals and their caretakers and is completely wheelchair accessible. The on-site STAR Center computer lab at Center Park offers adaptive technology for residents with disabilities from the Center Park Building and beyond.

The open house allowed visitors to view some of the unique technology available at the lab and hear from participants in their “Rite of Passage” program. The program, which seeks to provide technical training for people with disabilities in transition, focuses on high school students who will soon be graduating.

Rite of Passage student information board

This information board was designed by students of the Rite of Passage program. Several examples of students' work hangs on a bulletin board in the center's lobby.

The program teaches students a variety of skills including basic internet and software usage, publication design, job readiness skills and civic engagement skills. There are currently seven high school students throughout Seattle participating in Rite of Passage which is led by teachers Christy Rommel and Judy Lykins.

The STAR center, located at 2600 S. Walker St., opened in November 1999 with the help of Center Park residents, the City of Seattle and community volunteers. The Center Park Residents Council, serving as a non-profit community-based organization, received $100,000 worth of matching fund grants from the city’s Department of Information Technology and the Department of Neighborhoods. Seattle Housing matched those funds, provided the space and hired a consultant to help in the initial development of the center.

STAR Center’s mission is to empower people of widely varying abilities and disabilities to build community using computers, the internet and assistive technology. Assistive technology available at the center includes voice recognition software, special keyboards, Braille translators, mouse alternatives and many other types of hardware and software designed for varying disabilities.

The center relies on “peer-to-peer support” through its volunteer program. Each volunteer student is required to train the next round of volunteer students to help keep the program self-sustaining.
To volunteer at the STAR Center, e-mail Oscar Escalante at:  starofseattle@cablespeed.com or call 206-325-4284.