CSU Northrige -- October 17, 2003
Program Bridges Digital Divide for Deaf Seniors from CSU Northrige
An inventive pilot program—the brainchild of a Cal State Northridge
administrator and a Rotary International executive—was launched
this month to help deaf and hard of hearing senior citizens cross the
digital divide to the Internet.
The Deaf Senior’s Computer Literacy Project is the cooperative
effort of Northridge’s National Center on Deafness (NCOD) and
Rotary International, District 5260. It pairs 12 seniors with six computer-savvy
Northridge deaf and hard of hearing students, who provide each senior
with three sessions of personalized computer training.
Using computers donated by Rotary International, seniors receive up
to three hours of training per session, depending on the level of need.
They learn a range of skills, including computer functions, how to use
e-mail, how to access the Internet and how to use instant messaging—a
means of personal communication for deaf Internet users that now rivals
the use of text telephone (TTY) machines.
The program began in early October and will continue through Nov. 16.
“This collaboration aims to relieve the concerns of seniors who
feel isolated from technology and the digital world and who commonly
are daunted by the task of learning how to use the computer,”
said Merri Pearson, NCOD director. “Their new Internet skills
will introduce them to a whole world of health resources, community
programs and neighborhood services.”
Rotary International Past District Governor John Alexander said the
three-year drive to make the program a reality had to overcome a string
of obstacles. “It was worth the effort,” he said. The student
trainers receive $600 stipends provided by local Rotary Clubs, including
the North Hollywood, Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Granada Hills, Tarzana/Encino
and San Fernando Valley Northwest chapters. Rotary International, through
its Community Assistance Program, matches all stipends.
Local Rotary groups also are contributing an entire year of Internet
service and provider service lines for seniors in the program.
The NCOD, which has oversight responsibility for the project, identified
and trained the students: junior Mick Freeland, senior Chris Le, junior
Matt Guarino, sophomore Mike Catran, and graduate students Michelle
Massey and Erika Leger.
The NCOD’s technical team is handling delivery of computers to
seniors’ homes, and installation of computers, software and modems.
Alexander and Pearson formulated the idea for the project after striking
up a conversation at a grocery warehouse. Their conversation soon turned
to how the NCOD and Rotary International could join forces. Within a
few weeks the two had a plan for the computer literacy project.
According to Pearson, Rotary International may seek to replicate the
program throughout the world. A report on the pilot’s outcomes
will be submitted to the district level Rotary and Rotary International
at the project’s end.
Most seniors in the program were contacted through the regions two primary
senior citizens assisted living homes for the deaf: Pilgrim Towers in
Los Angeles and the Greater Los Angeles Council on Deafness facility
in Eagle Rock.
The cross-generational interaction has benefits for both students and
seniors, Pearson noted. “Seniors receive one-on-one training in
their native languages and at their individual pace, and students get
the satisfaction of mentoring, teaching and learning from their elders.”
For more information about the project, contact Pearson at (818) 677-2611
The National Center on Deafness has placed California State University,
Northridge at the forefront internationally in the provision of services
to people who are deaf and have other disabilities. Specifically, NCOD
has been honored for service to the campus and community, as well as
for its specialized projects and materials used across the nation.