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examples of experiences involving |
online volunteers and youth with disabilities
This information was last updated on May 1, 2000
- Using Shared Cyberspace for Inclusion of
Students with Intensive Disabilities
Through a project entitled "Creating a Shared Learning Space," students with intensive physical and developmental disabilities attending classes in a private, separate school met and interacted with students in a typical public school miles away via cyberspace, where the communication and social differences between the students were minimized by the common format of electronic communication. Not only were the students remotely located, but their communication systems ranged from typical 11 and 12 year old verbal and written language to symbolic picture communication systems. "By using the 'least common communicator' system of symbolic pictures, the students were able to correspond with each other and began to work on common curriculum units at levels appropriate to their functional abilities. "
"The experience of many classroom-based inclusion efforts has been that more normal social relationships have been the major benefit to students with intensive disabilities. To date, this project has demonstrated that these more normal social relationships can also be
developed in cyberspace. With additional time, it is hoped that substantial academic benefits for both groups of students will also be achieved."
By Information Access, a University of Delaware-based effort that sponsors numerous ongoing telementoring projects. Scientopia is an online community consisting of students, mentors, and advocates who are interested in actively discussing issues in education, research, careers, and news developments with a special emphasis on the sciences and disability.
e-Buddies pairs people with and without mental retardation in e-mail friendships. e-Buddies agree to e-mail ach other at least once a week for one year -- more often if you wish. e-Buddies is free for students and for people with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. Volunteers who are not students are charged a one-time $50 fee to help cover the costs of checking references and processing applications. Best Buddies, the sponsor of this program, check references on all applicants and require parental permission for those under 18. Best Buddies also requires all participants to agree to a code of conduct that prohibits the exchange of addresses and telephone numbers, the transmittal of pornographic information. In-person meetings are also prohibited, unless arranged by a Best Buddies staff member.
- Internet at Summer Camp?
An Opportunity for Children and Youth with Disabilities
Each year project DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) coordinates Internet activities at selected summer camps operated by different organizations. This paper details on the six steps that can help any group successfully include Internet activities as part of a camp program. It was originally presented at the 1998 Conference: Technology and Persons with Disabilities by the Center On Disabilities at California State University at Northridge.
- National Lekotek Center Compuplay Summer Camp and CompuClub
The Center presents Compuplay Summer Camp and CompuClub each year, providing computer instruction to children with and without disabilities in a recreational setting. The camp included a "virtual volunteers" program, where volunteers served as online "wizards", answering children's messages about computers and technology. Additional information about volunteers experiences in Compuplay and CompuClub will be added in the coming weeks.
- San Jose Children's Musical Theater
For a whole year, 45 young people throughout the country with serious illnesses and disabilities, all linked through ConvoNation, http://www.convonation.org, worked online with the San Jose Children's Musical Theatre. They shared their
fears and frustrations with young actors in San Jose, the theater artistic director Kevin Hauge, and playwright and Theater as Digital Activity (TADA) coordinator Tegan McLane. The result was Pulse, the Rhythm of Life, an original musical which premiered in May 1998 in San Jose, with young actors protraying characters that were "a mosaic of wounded, hurting kids whose loneliness is lessed by a keyboard and the knowledge that other children similarly suffer," according to a feature article in the San Jose Mercury News. Complete details about this collaboration are available here on our Web site.
- STARBRIGHT World
A private, interactive computer network where hospitalized kids from across the nation can interact with a community of their peers, helping each other cope with the day-to-day realities of living with illness. Kids learn about illnesses, procedures and coping and learn the definitions of difficult terms. STARBRIGHT World is available in hospitals nationwide, and there is a list of these hospitals on the STARBRIGHT World Web site.
- Digital Clubhouse Network
A not-for-profit organization, spun out from NASA, that is developing a 21st century learning center where people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds can master networked multimedia technology tools. The Network maintains Digital Clubhouses in Sunnyvale and at the New York Information Technology Center in Wall St. One of the Clubhouse activities is the Digitally Abled Producers Project, http://dap.digiclub.org/which pairs youth with disabilities ages 14-24 together with youth without disabilities, and teaches them multimedia, Universally Accessible webpage production, networking, and career skills. Participants use the Internet to communicate with each other through email and through chat rooms. The goal of this project is to help ease the transition from school to careers for youth with disabilities, as well as to heighten awareness and sensitivity to disability issues.
This Buffalo, New York-based agency has built on their success of providing and encouraging face-to-face volunteer friendships with children and adults striving for good mental health, by creating a new online component of this program. Online volunteers must go through the same onsite screening and training as face-to-face volunteers. About 25 online volunteers have participated so far.
- ConvoNation (formerly known as Convomania)
http://www.maniax.com or http://www.convonation.org
Based in Calfifornia, this national endeavor was begun by Apple Computer as a website for kids with a serious illness and/or disability to share experiences with each other via the Internet. It's chat rooms are availble to youth with disabilities and their parents 24 hours a day, and feature special online chat presentations by the youth themselves. They worked in partnership with San Jose Children's Musical Theater to produce an original musical about youth with disabilities (see below).
We would like to expand the resources on this page, by including others' suggestions and first hand narratives. If you would like to share information with the VV Project about your own experiences working virtually with volunteers or youth with disabilities, or you know of other online resources, please contact us.
If you have helped or are helping organizations as a volunteer via your home or work computer, please complete our online survey for volunteers and tell us about your experiences.
This component of the Virtual Volunteering Project is made possible by a special grant from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation. We are most grateful for their support and collaboration.