Temple University receives $500,000 grant to make technology more accessible to people with disabilities

The 2,227-square-foot space is part of Temple’s Institute on Disabilities in the College of Education and Human Development.

(Photo courtesy of Temple Assistive Technology Department)

(Photo courtesy of Temple Assistive Technology Department)

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Temple University has a new community space at Morgan Hall on Cecil Moore Avenue that offers people with disabilities access to high-tech devices to aid their mobility, vision, voice or help them play video games.

The 2,227-square-foot space is called TechOWL, which stands for Technology for our whole life, and is part of Temple’s Institute on Disabilities in the College of Education and Human Development. The space will also provide 3D printing technology to help create assistive devices.

Sally Gould-Taylor, executive director of the Institute of Disabilities, said the space was made possible by a $500,000 grant from the state Department of Education, championed by State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D.-181st District) and State Sen. Tina Tartaglione (D.-2nd District) who has used a wheelchair since a boating accident in 2003 injured her spine.

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“Our work in advocacy for disabilities started in 1974 and we have been privileged to serve Pennsylvanians with disabilities, families, and professionals across the Commonwealth through our education, training, research, services, programs, dissemination, and community engagement,” said Gould-Taylor. The Institute held a grand opening for the community space on April 18 that was packed to capacity.

The TechOWL Community Space is open to the public and has a barrier free entrance and accessible restrooms. It is a culmination of our team’s efforts to make a meaningful difference in accessibility in Pennsylvania, said Gould-Taylor.

“We hope it will serve as a hub for learning and community building for people with disabilities across the state,” she said.

Several workshops have already been held at the community space, including one on interactive toys for disabled children, another on wheelchair and bicycle maintenance and repair, and one on sexuality and disability. An upcoming workshop will feature a speech therapist, discussing alternative voice technologies.

The hours are every Monday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Tuesday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; and other times by appointment.

The institute is one of a network of 67 University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education Research and Service (UCEDDs) that focus on inclusion, independence, productivity, and self-determination for people with disabilities. They are funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 246,000 (or 16%) of Philadelphians had an emotional, intellectual or physical disability in 2016, the latest data that was available. The American Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in everyday activities and protects their rights, such as access to public places, public transportation, parking, and voting.

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Monika Williams-Shealy, Dean of Temple’s College of Education and Human Development, said the TechOWL community space celebrates access to information;  to the curriculum; and to the world. “Our students, faculty, staff and community partners have come together to elevate the needs of our disability community,” she said. “This community space will allow us to amplify voices that may not have been heard previously. It’s an opportunity to elevate research and technology that we might not have seen.”

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