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media:Fw: [cmac-access] Disabled Have Place To Try Out Technology

From: David Poehlman <poehlman1@comcast.net>
Date: Tue, 16 Jul 2002 19:15:16 -0400
To: wai-ig list <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-id: <006601c22d1e$a5b9a0f0$19e03244@DAVIDPOEHLMAN>

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kathleen Anderson" <kathleen.anderson@po.state.ct.us>
To: "CMAC Access" <cmac-ac@list.state.ct.us>
Sent: Tuesday, July 16, 2002 6:46 PM
Subject: [cmac-access] Disabled Have Place To Try Out Technology


Disabled Have Place To Try Out Technology
July 16, 2002
By GARRET CONDON, Courant Staff Writer

It's a cross between Circuit City, Bob's Discount Furniture and Home
Depot for people with disabilities. It's airy, bright and spacious - and
a first for Connecticut. Call it awesome, call it amazing, says Eva
Bunnell of East Haddam. But don't call it "special."

"Call it normal," said Bunnell, whose 20-year-old daughter, Jacinta
Skubel, is among those who will benefit from the New England Assistive
Technology Marketplace, a new, 25,000-square foot showcase for devices,
appliances and software that can improve the lives of disabled people
and keep them independent and productive.

The NEAT Marketplace, as it's called, occupying a former swimming pool
complex on the campus of the Connecticut Institute for the Blind/Oak
Hill in Hartford's North End, opens Thursday.

What NEAT makes normal for the disabled is something most people take
for granted: comparison shopping. The NEAT Marketplace won't sell the
gear on display, except for some small items in its gift shop. But it
will allow customers to try out everything from wheelchairs and lifts to
specialized computer keyboards, software and toys.

"They're going to be able to touch it and try it out, which is something
we have never been able to do before," said Bunnell, whose daughter was
born with lissencephaly, a brain malformation that has left her unable
to speak or to move on her own. Skubel, who also is subject to seizures,
lives in a CIB/Oak Hill group home in Middletown.

Bunnell said disabled individuals and parents of disabled children often
have to battle to get insurers to pay for costly adaptive gear and
medical equipment. Despite the high price tags and the struggle for
reimbursement, the equipment itself is usually purchased from catalogs.
Sometimes, when it gets home, it's not quite right.

"When you don't know whether something is going to work or not, it
really limits you," she said. "Now, we get to go shopping."

Rebecca Earl, president of the NEAT Marketplace and vice president of
CIB/Oak Hill, said that NEAT began as a pilot project of the nonprofit
institute in 1999.

The NEAT Marketplacenow has a permanent home that will be open six days
a week, beginning in the fall. The freshly refurbished facility has a
5,000-square-foot expo hall, a new 17-station computer lab and
facilities for trying out and training with assistive devices. The
center also refurbishes donated medical gear that it sells to retailers,
who sell it at prices 50 percent to 80 percent less than new products.

The NEAT program hopes to raise $3.9 million to bankroll the building
renovations and the program. So far, $1.73 million has been raised. The
program is expected to be self-sustaining by 2007.

Some of the technology is priceless. Bunnell said her daughter's
wheelchair now has a button that uses a computer chip with recorded
words to speak for her.

"I heard my daughter say `Hello' to me for the first time," Bunnell

The NEAT Marketplace, 120 Holcomb St., at the corner of Coventry Street
in Hartford, opens Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. More information is
available on the NEAT website: http://www.neatmarketplace.org/

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"The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone
regardless of disability is an essential aspect."
-- Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web
Received on Tuesday, 16 July 2002 19:15:58 UTC

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