The Tech Council had a great turnout for its July 19th meeting on Technology and People with Disabilities: Access, Advancements and Opportunities at the SF Public Library. Following a wide-ranging panel presentation, attendees viewed the Patient No More: People with Disabilities Securing Civil Rights exhibit at the Library and enjoyed the Council’s popular wine and cheese reception.
Three local technology and disability experts served as panel members: Marti Goddard, Access Services Manager at the Library; Erin Lauridsen, Director of Access Technology at LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired; and Nicole Bohn, Director of the Mayor’s Office on Disability. Emily Beitiks, Associate Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University, provided an inspiring “inside look” at how and why the Patient No More exhibit was created.
Marti Goddard’s mantra is “No patron is denied access.” Marti focused on the vast array of old
and new assistive technology services and tools available to library users managing vision and hearing limitations, learning difficulties, and muscular coordination challenges. Those needing assistance will find help with reading, writing, highlighting text, and having materials read to them. Tools the library provides include real-time and closed captioning, screen readers and magnification, a private video phone, interpreter service, assisted living devices for public rooms, pocket talkers with amplification, adjustable tables and keyboard trays, laptops with assistive technologies at the branch libraries, and wheelchair lifts on bookmobiles.
Erin Lauridsen’s passion is technology design; as she says, finding “stuff that helps me do stuff.” In addition to design, she focuses on ensuring that technology tools really work for people with disabilities and understanding how people access technology. LightHouse programs that encourage innovation and design include monthly MADLabs meetings and the LightHouse Labs think-tank, providing conversation and design space for tech innovators to collaborate with blind engineers, scientists, power users and advocates. In addition, LightHouse helps Silicon Valley and other Bay Area companies with user testing and helps people with disabilities figure out what technologies they need, both in individual and group settings. LightHouse is an SF Connected Partner and works with several public and nonprofit programs in San Francisco.
Nicole Bohn’s mission is ensuring that San Francisco is compliant with city accessibility policy in areas such as disaster planning, the City’s technology infrastructure and website design, transportation, and voting accessibility. Nicole works closely with the City’s compliance reviewer on these initiatives and is eager to also pursue accessible smart cities. Nicole noted the Mayor will issue a press release on July 26th recognizing the 40th anniversary year of the 1977 Section 504 occupation and the 27th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
All three panelists stressed that designing for disability works for everyone. Access to technology needs to be seen as a civil right – no one today can thrive without technology for work, healthcare, transportation, communication, entertainment and other daily needs.
The panelists suggested the following resources for learning more about technology and disability:
- The California State University Northridge (CSUN) Assistive Technology Conference
- Raising the Floor, book by Andy Stern
The next meeting of the Tech Council is Wednesday, August 16, 2017, from 4:00-6:00 at the Twitter Neighborhood Nest office, 95 Hayes St. The meeting will be followed by a wine and cheese networking reception.
Wan He “Wanda” Liu is a whirlwind of energy, rushing around answering students’ questions. Saturday afternoons, she teaches digital literacy skills to seniors at the Excelsior Community Center at 4468 Mission Street.
The computer class, which meets from noon to 3pm on Saturdays, was Liu’s idea. During the week, she is the center’s employment services coordinator, helping residents find jobs. One of her requests for working at the Center was the opportunity to offer computer instruction.
“Seniors need to learn how to use the computer or at least the smart phone so they can communicate with their family and friends,” said Liu. “Most of these seniors live alone. Many of them have told me that after learning how to message and send email they’re better able to communicate with their children and grandchildren.”
Their children buy them these devices but, Liu explains, they “either do not have the time or the patience to teach them. That’s very upsetting to the seniors. They’re very happy that I am here to help them.”
Some of her students bring devices from home – iPads, iPods and iPhones – and ask for help with specific programs. Others want to learn how to use the Center’s computers. On a recent day, one woman installed a flash drive and her friends gather round to enjoy pictures of a family celebration. A few were learning WeChat so they could talk with families and friends in China.
Most of the instruction is in Mandarin, although several students are fluent in English. “I speak English, but it’s easier for me to learn when it’s in my own language,” said student Terry Fang.
It’s Never Too Late to Learn
Like her students, Liu began using a computer as an adult.
After receiving a degree in social work from San Francisco State University, Liu could not find a full time job using her new skills. When she heard that the computer lab at the Downtown Senior Center “needed a Chinese speaker who could explain things to their students,” she applied.
“It was difficult at the beginning,” Liu says of her early job experience. One day a student had a question about her iPod. Liu, who couldn’t afford an iPod at the time, was frustrated she couldn’t help. “But, walking near the Apple Store after work, and I suddenly thought maybe I could ask the Apple people for help.” She did, and soon was able to answer her student’s question.
The Apple Store wasn’t the only place Liu sought training. Microsoft stores also had answers. Soon she was attending all the workshops she could fit into her schedule. “Now I can answer almost every question. When I can’t, I tell the students I’ll look it up and they should come back the next time.”
When the digital literacy class at Excelsior Community Center began four months ago, Liu had more time to spend with each student. Now, with 12 beginners, she must rush from student to student. An hour into the session, Fang moans, “Wanda needs an assistant. I only learned one thing today.” Other students echo Fang’s plea, “an assistant, please.”
But, by the end of the session, and after more time with Liu, Fang admits she “learned two things today.”
That’s the kind of comment that encourages Liu. “I like challenges and I feel good about myself for being able to learn and helping others to learn.”
Additional Digital Literacy Classes
Liu provides the Saturday class at Excelsior Community Center through Community Living Campaign. It is part of the SF Connected program funded by the San Francisco Department of Aging & Adult Services. For computer classes in other neighborhoods, see the CLC Calendar. Community Technology Network, Self Help for the Elderly, Lighthouse for the Blind, and Conard House also offer computer training and classes through SF Connected. To see a calendar of all free classes, or for more information, visit www.sfconnected.org.
“Information makes you have a life. My health is better, I’m finding information. This project is really beyond wonderment,” said Richard Beard, an enthusiastic participant in the Senior Vitality Program at the Curry Senior Center.
Orazgul Tachmuradova agrees: “I was so depressed before I came here. If not for this program and the iPad, I wouldn’t be healthy. Now I do research, I’m finding information so my health is better.”
Senior Vitality Program Uses Technology to Support Better Health
Angela Di Martino directs The Senior Vitality Program, which uses various technologies to support better health for seniors and people living with disabilities.
Participants receive an iPad (on-loan from Curry Senior Center), one year of free internet access (subsidizied by the Curry Senior Center), a fitbit and a digital scale (the latter two synchronized to the iPad). Angela Di Martino, project director, offered a simple summary of the Program. “The Program teaches healthcare self-management skills. When to seek help and how to talk with healthcare providers.”
Health and Technology Coaching
In addition to equipment, meeting space and Angela’s salary, the Curry Senior Center also makes one of their health coaches available for monthly one-on-one meetings with each of the participants.
In the early weeks of the Program, Angela focused on introducing users to relevant healthcare websites, her more recent workshops explored using the internet to find news and entertainment. Earlier this winter, staff from the San Francisco Public Library demonstrated how the library’s website can be used to download books, movies and music — further enlarging the students’ worlds.
Orazgul uses the iPad to research her illness, for emails and Face Time, as well as to listen to music, watch movies and practice t’ai chi and yoga. “Sometimes the information is overwhelming, it just keeps coming,” she said, exchanging a knowing smile with Angela.
Richard is particularly excited about Angela’s most recent lessons: classes on movie making. “She’s leading us into our own wonderful Oz, she’s opening the world for us,” he said. “It’s like someone giving you a new best friend, an honest best friend. I’m mentally healthier having this new best friend.”
The year-long Senior Vitality Program developed from a more limited pilot project introduced to San Francisco from the Netherlands as part of that country’s Healthcare Innovation Transfer Program. Angela also directed the earlier pilot project.
Research on the effectiveness of the project won’t be known until late 2017, when the data has been analyzed. Angela, and her enthusiastic students are convinced it works. “I know the program is working. Most of the students have really improved their technology skills, and many seem to have developed friendships through participating in the program. Just having to meet with me puts it in front of their mind,” Angela said.
Richard and Orazgul couldn’t agree more.
Before I received the iPad and learned how to use it, I felt I was being left out. Now I feel like I’m part of the 21st century,” Richard said.
“Before I was walking, now I’m flying,” Orazgul said, summing up her experience.
“We’re like a miniature library, but for the blind and print disabled,” Jane said.
The library can do everything the regular library does: loan materials, answer questions, provide tech support, offer special interest groups. The LBPD loans books and magazines recorded by the Library of Congress, and audio-described videos. Special playback equipment is available on long-term loan. The LBPD also loans Braille books.
“We try to do everything we can to ensure that our patrons receive the same services sighted patrons receive,” Jane said.
But about half their patrons never visit the library. “It’s difficult to get here unless they live in the neighborhood or can schedule a paratransit ride, librarian Tom Duffy said. The others just want us to mail them the book cartridges.
Those who do visit the library can take advantage of a world of digital wonders: computers with Internet access, a scanner that converts text in speech, a Braille display and embosser, closed circuit television that magnifies books, audio equipment, as well as a range of simpler and less costly equipment.
“The community of the blind is divided by technology,” Jane said. “Many of the younger people are very tech savvy. They’re familiar with the newest equipment and software.”
Whatever their comfort level, librarians and specially-trained volunteers are available to assist them as they explore this technology.
“We offer one-on-one help them until they feel comfortable using the equipment,” said LaNay Eastman, who was recently recognized by the San Francisco Public Library for her volunteer work at the LBPD. “This work takes a lot of patience. You don’t just answer questions, we try to relate to the whole person. Some of the people who visit have been beaten by the world. We try to make this a safe and welcoming environment. We help them until they feel comfortable using the equipment. It is really a secret gem.”
Not satisfied with the services they currently offer, the staff has plans to increase the library’s offerings.
“We need a larger Cantonese collection; it would also be good to grow our Russian and Spanish collections,” Jane said. “I’d like to create personalized cartridges, with five or six books on a single cartridge, and do some local production of books, instead of solely relying on cartridges in the Library of Congress’ collection. I’d like to include more books by local authors.”
Jane thinks the library and the commitment of their staff and volunteers are unique. “I see it as an outgrowth of the social justice movement of the ‘70’’s.”
The Library for the Blind and the Print Disabled is on the second floor of the Main Library and maintains the same service hours as the Main.
Digital Inclusion Week, held May 8-11, 2017, at the San Francisco Public Library, offered something for every level of technology user, from first-timers to experienced users.
Seniors attended workshops on digital security, Gmail and social media such as WeChat.
Experienced techies networked and shared information on the newest software, and job seekers acquired digital tools to assist in their quest. A panel on the digital divide and the difficulties in installing citywide Internet fiber attracted Internet service providers and nonprofit managers.
Branch libraries highlighted the youth computer corps, where high schoolers provide one-on-one support to seniors learning new technology. They also offered technology-related workshops: card-making, Girls Who Code, digital photography, eBook Basics and more.
The library’s TechMobile conducted a special demonstration. Even the walls in the cafeteria got into the act, with two exhibits on the benefits of digital art for seniors and people living with disabilities.
Developing Digital Inclusion Week
While many agencies and individuals were involved in planning and staffing these events, they would not have occurred without the incredible energy of Wenwen Shi.
In the summer of 2016, armed with a fellowship from Google Fiber and NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network), Wenwen approached her new boss, City Librarian Luis Herrera. One of her goals for her fellowship year, she explained, was to work with the library to organize a digital inclusion week. “I didn’t have any specific plans for that week, but it seemed like a good idea,” she said. Herrera pledged the library’s support.
Wenwen immediately started recruiting allies, nonprofits that train seniors on technology. The Community Living Campaign and the Community Technology Network were natural partners. Other nonprofits soon signed on.
Companies such as Microsoft, Comcast, Digital Strategies, Google Fiber, Hack Reactor, Lyft, and Sonic joined the effort, as did other groups that give training: the Bay Area Video Coalition, JVS, SF Connected, Rithm School, sf. citi, St. Anthony’s, and Wise UP!
As the week approached, the library’s involvement intensified. Web Services, Community Programs and Partnerships, Public Relations, Media Services and the TechMobile departments committed staff time and expertise. Branch libraries scheduled workshops in their communities.
Wenwen admitted she worried about attendance, particularly for the first event, on an early Monday morning. “But over 100 people attended, and the session has since been streamed by more than 56 viewers,” she said. “The Android class was really well attended; the digital security class brought in a group of older people.”
Increasing San Franciscans’ Internet Access
The Google Fiber Fellowship was initially restricted to cities with citywide google fiber, as yet unrealized in San Francisco. Since 2003, when the city first explored becoming an Internet service provider, free Wi-Fi has been installed in all the city’s public housing projects and public parks. But the technical and physical obstacles, not to mention cost, to laying fiber citywide have been challenging.
WiFi alone is not sufficient for the needs of the modern world, said Supervisor Mark Farrell, who is leading the current effort to install city-wide fiber.
“An estimated 100,000 low-income families do not have Internet access at home, while another 50,000 residents must rely on dial-up connections,” he said. “This is criminal. The Internet is becoming a ubiquitous part of life, from daily emails to internet research.”
You Can’t Have Access Without Support
Wenwen agrees that everyone should be connected. But providing the connection is only one step. There’s still much to do.
“Digital inclusion is not just about fiber; it also involves training and consistent support for seniors to ask questions and get help before they adopt the technology,” she said. “You can’t have access without support.”
Digital Inclusion Week introduced hundreds of seniors and others who are not yet comfortable in the digital age with the support the city does have to offer.
Increase digital inclusion in your community through a a unique multi-sector effort that brings together nonprofits, government, businesses, and academics. Spend Thursday, June 15th from 10:00-11:00 am with the Co-Chairs of the SF Tech Council. As part of the American Society’s webinar series, Anne Hinton, David Lindeman and Scott Mauvais will present an overview of the Tech Council, including its background, purpose, initiatives and upcoming plans. You can register here.
At the May 17th Tech Council meeting, members, guests and supporters gathered to explore strategic initiatives for
the Council over the next couple of years. Here are the meeting’s highlights:
Planning Ahead. Meeting participants discussed a multi-stakeholder Connectivity “+” (Plus) Campaign to advocate for and expand the availability of technology training, education, equipment and support for seniors and people with disabilities. In addition to addressing gaps and identifying innovative ideas in these areas, the discussion facilitated by Diane Krantz included the potential to strengthen the City’s aim to promote universal connectivity in San Francisco. Tech Council members will address project goals, challenges, design, outcomes, partners, leadership, and funding during June.
People + Moore’s Law + The Cloud. The meeting’s featured speaker was Gretchen Addi, formerly of IDEO and now a consultant and Designer-in-Residence at Aging2.0. Gretchen’s thought-provoking topic focused on the disconnect between the potential of technology to positively impact the lives of older adults and the culture lag in promoting and adopting technology by both businesses and consumers.
Digital Inclusion Week. Tech Council meeting participants celebrated SF Public Library’s amazing and successful Digital Inclusion Week! Over 1,500 people participated in the week’s events, attending 57 programs at 20 locations – the main library, branches and partner organizations. Twenty-two organizations staffed display tables at the Tech Expo. The library is looking forward to Digital Inclusion Week 2018!
And more … In other meeting activities, the Tech Council:
- Elected new member Kyra Geithman, Digital Content Manager with the SF Chamber of Commerce.
- Reviewed the presentation made by Nicole Bohn, Director of the Mayor’s Office on Disability, at the 5/4/17 Access & Learning Workgroup meeting. Nicole’s presentation, Technology and People with Disabilities: Resources, Rewards and Realities in San Francisco, provided a comprehensive overview of issues related to technology for people with disabilities. Following the presentation, the Workgroup discussed what the Tech Council can do to support the technology needs of people with disabilities. A panel on technology and disability is being planned for the July 19 Tech Council meeting.
The next full Tech Council is Wednesday, July 19th. Contact Tech Council Consultant, Susan Poor (email@example.com) for information.
Members of the Laguna Honda Hospital Computer Club are eager to share their digital art with other Hospital residents, visitors and hospital staff. The Computer Club has been a fixture at Laguna Honda for the past several years- exploring new software programs technologies and slowly recruiting new members.
While the group’s focus varies over the year, for several months this winter, Molly Hankwitz from the Community Living Campaign, led workshops on the MS Paint application. In February, the Hospital mounted an exhibition of their work.
In May, 14 artworks from that exhibit, as well as work from the Photovoice class offered by the Community Technology Network, migrated to the San Francisco Public Library as part of the Library’s show, Life Got Wider: Meanings Associated with Computer Use of Older Adults. The Library exhibit will on view in the Cafe Display Case (lower level) in the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin Street.
Laguna Honda Computer Club
Paul, a Hospital resident, founded the Laguna Honda Computer Club. He is an accomplished cartoonist and has made dozens of cartoons with his signature character, the “Wheelchair Quarterback.” Prior to his stroke in 2003, Paul kept busy on his home computer, but “after the stroke, after I moved into the Hospital, I had nothing to do.”
A sympathetic case manager gave Paul an old desktop computer and a VCR. “The computer gives me something to do; it’s how I access freedom,” he explained. “As long as there’s Google, I’m free. I’ve gone to the moon with Fred Flintstone. I can be in a petri dish. There’s no limit to what I can do with a computer.”
Paul wanted to share this sense of freedom with the other residents, and asked Marie Jobling from the Community Living Campaign to supply free laptops and an instructor for the new computer club. Marie agreed, and with the help of Judy Auda, also from CLC, they joined Paul in recruiting members.
They had hoped to attract 100 members, but a disappointed Paul explained, “The interest was just not there. Even when I told them to tell us what you enjoy and we’ll set up the apps on your computer, people just didn’t want to try something out of their comfort zone.”
Renewed Purpose through Digital Art
One of the newer members, Linda, attended her first Club meeting two years ago. Linda studied conceptual art design at San Francisco State University before she suffered a severe stroke. “I didn’t touch a computer for five years,” she said. “I spent a long time in my room by myself; a long time before I could do anything.”
Linda had always enjoyed collage and her great eye and appreciation for color found a natural outlet in Paint. Several months ago, Linda began repurposing an Ansel Adams calendar from 2010, adding a bright bird, a person or monument to the black and white images on her calendar.
Although her renewed sense of purpose cannot only be attributed to the computer class, Linda said, “I feel hopeful. I’m really blessed, I came back from a severe stroke and I can do things. Someday I may even walk.”
In addition to the Computer Club, CLC also sponsors an open computer lab. Judy Auda, who coordinates the SF Connected program for CLC, explained, “They come for learning and it’s a social thing. We bring out the computers; people stop by and ask questions. Sometimes they just come by to socialize, and that’s good too.” CLC Community Connectors Jennifer Walsh and Elizabeth Dunlap provide computer expertise and coordinate both the Club and the computer lab.
Chris McCarthy, VP of Strategy & Innovation at HopeLab and Executive Director of the Innovation & Learning Network, gave a great presentation on Kaiser Permanente’s work on aging in place innovation. To build an aging-in-place ecosystem, their findings highlighted the need to collaborate, create a community vision, eliminate silos, and become business savvy. Critical elements of Kaiser’s discovery process were human-centered design, incorporating a focus on social determinants of health, and understanding the barriers to aging in place – which usually are not medical.
Thinking about the future, the Council reviewed the 2016 Member Survey, helped identify concrete ideas for the Curry Senior Center and George Davis Center Discovery Projects, identified potential Tech Council speakers, and participated in a discussion led by Co-Chair Scott Mauvais on strategic initiatives the Tech Council is considering. More strategy discussion to come in May!
Access & Learning Workgroup Co-Chair Cathy Spensley reported on the Workgroup’s 4/6 meeting, which focused on challenges and barriers to digital access, training, equipment and tech support in public/nonprofit housing. At the 4/6 meeting, Mike Zaugg, Director of the DAAS Office on the Aging and Paulo Salta, DAAS Broadband Technology Opportunities Program Analyst, provided an update on SF Connected. Helen Hale, Director of Residential and Community Services, Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, discussed how to improve and expand internet access at Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) sites. The Workgroup will continue to discuss this topic at its May meeting.
Wenwen Shi, Digital Inclusion Fellow at the SF Public Library, provided an update on Digital Inclusion Week, May 8-13. More than 50 programs are scheduled throughout the City! All DIW activities are FREE with lots of activities for older adults and people with disabilities, including movie screenings, hands-on classes, panel discussions, a tech expo, a week-long Learning for Action game and raffle and digital device give-aways. Be sure to check out the schedule and encourage people you know to attend!
NEXT MEETING: Wednesday, May 17, from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at Twitter’s Neighborhood Nest, 95 Hayes St. between Polk and Larkin. Wine and cheese reception to follow from 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Two new reports from the Pew Research Center provide insights into the digital divide for disabled and low-income Americans. Both reports – Disabled Americans are less likely to use technology and Digital divide persists even as lower-income American make gains in tech adoption – can be found on the Pew Research Center website through the links in this post.