Technology is the pipeline to opportunity, especially for people with disabilities. That's why the Verizon Foundation, which is committed to improving access to information and services that address the needs of people with disabilities, is awarding $55,000 to five Massachusetts nonprofit agencies that are dedicated to improving accessibility.
The agencies are: Children's Hospital, Easter Seals Massachusetts, the Lowell Association for the Blind, National Braille Press and the New England Homes for the Deaf. Over the past four years, the Verizon Foundation has awarded assistive technology grants, totaling more than $300,000, to Massachusetts nonprofits.
A ceremony recognizing the grant winners was held Tuesday (Aug. 24) at Verizon's Center for Customers with Disabilities in Marlborough. The center, which fields more than 350,000 calls per year, is staffed by 70 service representatives who assist customers with vision, cognitive, mobility, speech or hearing disabilities, and provide the customers with technology solutions that meet their individual needs.
"We are committed to advancing technology solutions to improve efficiencies and increase access to services for people with disabilities," said Donna Cupelo, Verizon region president of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. "We are thrilled to partner with organizations that open up new opportunities for people with disabilities."
Heidi L. Reed, commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, said, "These are wonderful grant awards to vital programs and a dynamic investment of support from the Verizon Foundation."
The award recipients will use the grants to do the following:
- Lowell Association for the Blind ($10,000) will use funds for its Kids in Direct Services program, which recruits and trains volunteers ages 12 to 16 to read child-appropriate books and magazines to be broadcast by over the Radio Reading Service for blind and visually impaired children. Youth volunteers will learn to use the equipment necessary to produce and record their own radio show while providing a direct service for blind/visually impaired youth.
- Children's Hospital Deaf and Hard of Hearing program ($10,000) will develop a series of webcasts that cover a wide range of topics important to caregivers and parents of children with hearing loss. The webcasts will be available in several languages through simultaneous translation and transcription (with printed languages via open captioning). In addition to providing direct auditory translation, as well as print transcription, the webcasts will also have an American Sign Language option. Participants will have the option of listening to, watching, or reading the information that is presented in their primary language, allowing for full access, understanding and appreciation of the information.
- Easter Seals Massachusetts ($15,000) will expand its Assistive Technology Demonstration and Device Loan Program to enable people with disabilities to participate in all aspects of their lives through the use of assistive technology. This program will connect more than 1,500 people from across Massachusetts to technology that will enable access. The grant will support personal consultations, educational workshops for people with disabilities and caretakers, and match people with the appropriate technology to improve their quality of life.
- National Braille Press ($10,000) launched the Braille is Literacy initiative to support reading and writing as a core skill and as a vital foundation that uses technology to help blind children of all ages. The grant will support two key programs. One program, Hands On! Books for Blind Children, provides Braille literacy support to families of blind children up to 9 years old to ensure they have the literacy skills to succeed in school. The other program, Braille for Everyone, is to develop a refreshable Braille PDA (personal digital assistant) that will give blind students of all ages access to e-mail, the Internet, text files and digital textbooks.
- New England Homes for the Deaf ($10,000) has established the Helen Keller Resource Center, which enables deaf and deaf and blind people to access computers and the Internet. The grant will be used to train the population served by New England Homes for the Deaf. Many of these individuals, all of whom are over the age of 50, have minimal experience with computers and are not comfortable with technology. They need specialized training to learn how to use the computers and the deaf and deaf/blind accessibility features.
The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, supports the advancement of literacy and K-12 education through its free educational website, Thinkfinity.org, and fosters awareness and prevention of domestic violence. In 2009, the Verizon Foundation awarded more than $67.5 million in grants to nonprofit agencies in the U.S. and abroad. It also matched the charitable donations of Verizon employees and retirees, resulting in an additional $26.1 million in combined contributions to nonprofits. Through Verizon Volunteers, one of the nation's largest employee volunteer programs, Verizon employees and retirees have volunteered more than 5 million hours of community service since 2000. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizonfoundation.org.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, NASDAQ:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving more than 92 million customers nationwide. Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America's most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers innovative, seamless business solutions to customers around the world. A Dow 30 company, Verizon last year generated consolidated revenues of more than $107 billion. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.