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Chapter 4. Grassroots Efforts Support Ma... > Addressing Access Barriers in Commun...

Addressing Access Barriers in Community Technology Centers

Many community technology centers—in true grassroots fashion— are cobbled together from a few hardware and software donations and the vision of local people to improve the lives of their children and neighbors. Founded with little or no actual funding, staffed by volunteers, the large majority of community technology centers began as improvised local projects and may still contain formidable barriers to full participation for users with disabilities. Obstacles may include physical barriers, such as entryways that are difficult to navigate, inaccessible computer workstations, and rows that are too narrow for wheelchairs to pass among stations. In many cases, community technology labs are tucked away in unused corridors or storage areas of public buildings with other purposes, such as recreation halls or senior centers. The physical access needs of people with disabilities were most often not even considered as neighborhood groups scrambled for unused space in which to provide public computers and training.

Physical barriers are often compounded by the fact that assistive technology devices are seldom provided at community technology centers. In the rare cases where such devices are present, assistive technology services may not be marketed to the community, or the staff may not know how to support the use of assistive technology. With limited resources, community technology centers are seriously challenged to understand how to accommodate the needs of users with disabilities.


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