Disability no handicap for top CyberTech student

KENNESAW‚ Ga. (July 30‚ 2007) — Wilkens Eugene can’t see to open a classroom door…

Georgia (Jul 30, 2007) — Disability no handicap for top CyberTech student

Jennifer Hafer

Abstract

Technology changing what it means to be disabled

Director of University Relations
Frances Weyand Harrison
770−423−6203
fharris4@kennesaw.edu

Writer: Jennifer Hafer‚ 770−423−6711 or jhafer@kennesaw.edu

KENNESAW‚ Ga. (July 30‚ 2007) — Wilkens Eugene can’t see to open a classroom door‚ but his recent graduation from CyberTech at Kennesaw State University has opened the program’s doors for future disabled students.

With the help of a screen−reading program called JAWS‚ Eugene not only completed the required course work‚ he excelled in the program winning the annual “Dean’s Choice Award” – the program’s top honor for achievement – and a new Dell computer.

“Completing this program raised my level of confidence‚” the rising Campbell High School senior said. “If I can do this‚ anything is possible.”

CyberTech is a strategic educational initiative based in the computer science and information systems department at Kennesaw State. Funded by the National Science Foundation‚ CyberTech is designed to attract under−represented high school students into careers in the sciences‚ particularly computer science.

“It’s amazing what a person can do in technology without being sighted‚ and Wilkens is a prime example of what can be accomplished‚” CyberTech program director Dale Benham said. “Wilkens has laid the groundwork for other students with disabilities to become part of the program.”

Dr. Pamila Dembla‚ assistant professor in the CSIS department‚ has been working to develop a pilot program within CyberTech aimed at attracting visually impaired students like Eugene to the field of computing. The pilot test will be used to apply for National Science Foundation funding to increase enrollment of visually impaired students.

“We believe that professions that depend significantly on technology‚ such as programming‚ would be ideal for students with visual impairments as they can work at their own pace in their environments‚” Dembla said.

Because of Eugene’s success‚ next year there will be an emphasis on recruiting disabled students for future CyberTech programs. This outreach effort will build upon KSU’s already strong commitment to attracting and retaining disabled students.

The university boasts a large selection of adaptive software and hardware for students to use including text readers‚ voice recognition programs‚ computer display enlargement‚ whiteboard capture devices‚ assistive listening devices and adaptive keyboards. There are currently 285 students actively enrolled with the office of disabled student support services.

“We work with the students to help them learn to apply technological supports to their academic pursuits in a way that enhances their endeavors and contributes to their success‚” Carol Pope‚ assistant director of disabled student support services‚ said. “I believe that the tools provided by technology are key to a productive work life for many individuals with disabilities.”

For further information‚ or to schedule an interview‚ please contact the writer.

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A member of the 35−unit University System of Georgia‚ Kennesaw State University is a comprehensive‚ residential institution with a growing student population approaching 20‚000 from 132 countries. The third−largest university in Georgia‚ Kennesaw State offers more than 60 graduate and undergraduate degrees‚ including a new doctorate in education.

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 35,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university's vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. A Carnegie-designated doctoral institution, it is one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.

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