I.T. Times
Volume 2. No 3 Information Technology News of the University of California, Davis Spring 1994

Students Put Computer Skills to Work

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Disabled Student Resource Room in Shields Library is an adaptive lab serving UCD's disabled student population. Below are profiles of Paul Carver and LaWanda Hawkins - just two of the many UC Davis students with disabilities who have benefited from advances in computer technology.

Paul Carver

As an intern at PG&E, Paul Carver performed the traditional tasks of a computer engineering consultant. He designed databases, installed new hardware and software and provided network support.

Sounds pretty routine, until you stop to consider that Paul Carver is blind.

"Computers are becoming the standard in the workplace, and this is making it easier for the disabled person to perform," says Carver.

In addition to standard computer equipment, Carver relies on a handful of adaptive technologies. A Braille printer, speech synthesizer program and an audio screen-reading program allow him to input, output and interpret computer data.

These technologies enabled Carver to complete his degree in computer engineering at UC Davis last quarter, and he is confident these same technologies can help other blind individuals secure a spot in the workplace.

This month Carver began working as director of training at the Lawrence Marcelino computer center in Sacramento. Operated by the National Federation for the Blind, the newly established center will provide computer skills training for the blind high school students and adults.

One of Carver's goals is to give his students skills demanded by employers.

"I think a real important aspect of the program will be working with employers to develop a program that will meet their needs," says Carver. "We need to find out what kind of skills are needed, and what kind of jobs are out there."

LaWanda Hawkins

Before she was introduced to computing, LaWanda Hawkins relied on friends and roommates to help with writing and editing assignments. Now, despite having vision severely blurred by congenital cataracts, Hawkins is using a computer to edit and design a newsletter for CalTrans.

"The computer is a lot more convenient," says Hawkins who was introduced to computing her second year at UCD. A double major in English and African American Studies, Hawkins now edits with the assistance of a program that projects text 16 times its actual size.

Hawkins' computer skills enabled her to land a journalism internship at CalTrans where she composes a newsletter for the construction division. She uses WordPerfect for writing and editing and PageMaker to do the newsletter layout. Macintosh Closeview (a screen enlarger program) is the adaptive feature that enables her to read the screen. CalTrans has provided a 14-inch monitor to facilitate projection of the magnified text.

The computer also has helped Hawkins in the classroom. She has used the Student Disability Research Lab to participate in "e-mail assignments" and "network research." These types of computing projects are becoming popular with UCD instructors who are using technology as a teaching tool.

Next year, Hawkins will be studying abroad in Ghana. After graduation, she plans to attend law school.