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What Would You Do Without Access To the Internet?

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logo_burst_broken-line.new_Most Americans consider having Internet access as necessary as having heat, water or food in the house, but the surprising truth is that thousands in Washington State do not have regular, high speed access, or have no ability to interact on the World Wide Web.

Brown Paper Tickets is proud to announce its involvement with the State of Washington 2013 Digital Inclusion Summit. One of our Doers, Sabrina Roach, is on the steering committee for The Summit on Thursday, March 14 in Seattle, which will will provide a forum to share policy, curriculum research, and other resources, as well as promote digital inclusion efforts and needs in Washington State. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased right over here.  Those without internet access, or who just prefer a live person to online registration, can call Brown Paper Tickets’ 24-hour live customer service hotline at 1-800-838-3006. Just another way Brown Paper Tickets builds community as a matter of doing business, guided by our Not-Just-For-Profit business model.

Digital Inclusion has focused on access, literacy, and providing meaningful content and services to the communities currently not using the Internet.  The Digital Inclusion Summit is an opportunity to highlight solutions that will continue to drive broadband access and adoption and provide training and access to Internet facilities that help to make internet access a part of the human experience, not just for those in urban areas with enough financial privilege and education, but for all.  The Summit will unveil some of Washington State’s achievements and setbacks in broadband adoption, a critical goal in an era when broadband is central to education, job search and training, economic development, and the information needs of communities.

Some efforts already adopted in Washington State include public computers available for use at city facilities, technology matching fund grants, computer training labs at community centers, free internet for nonprofits, public wi-fi, and multilingual educational materials.

Here are some great stories that may be talked about at the Digital Inclusion Summit, that show the great strides that are being made in Washington State to make digital communication a reality for all citizens:

Edith Bishel Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired

The Edith Bishel Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired strives to enrich the independent quality of life of its clients. The Center primarily serves adults 55 and over, but focuses on clients of all ages in the computer lab, including children, high school students applying for college, job-seeking adults, veterans who have become visually impaired and seniors seeking to communicate electronically with their families.

This is a video the Edith Bishel Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired put together for a car drive back in 2011.

Brian Lee, the Independent Living Computer Technology Instructor, helps clients achieve their computer and technology goals. One-on-one training and assistance are essential because of the very specific needs of each client. New clients are evaluated by Brian and given a personalized action plan.

The technology lab provides access and training on a variety of specialized equipment and software, like a Braille printer, JAWS (a screen reader), ZoomText (a magnification tool for low vision users), and Naturally Speaking (voice responsive software for users with vision and mobility impairment), among others. Pearl, a very useful program that can make brochures and flyers accessible to blind and low vision clients, scans printed materials and translates it to text, which can be stored as a Word or audio file, depending on the clients’ needs. Additionally, Brian has recently taught clients to use iPads and iPhones with Zoom and Voice Over technologies – which are built into Apple products.

Brian has trained a number of people who have gained employment and acceptance to colleges and universities through achieving their technology goals. The most important outcome, he says, is helping people find independence and efficiency in day-to-day living. With the technology training and services offered by the Edith Bishel Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, clients are empowered to achieve greater self-sufficiency.

The Edith Bishel Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired also offers in home visits in six eastern Washington counties for clients 55 and older from a staff member who specializes in independent living skills. Clients can access low vision evaluations, social activities, and a free audio library. For more information, please visit their website.

Multimedia Resource and Training Institute (MMRTI)

Seattle’s Multimedia Resource and Training Institute empowers youth to become leaders by using digital media to create stories about their cultural heritage and communities. Class participants and clients are predominantly youth from immigrant and refugee families (mostly from Ethiopia), and MMRTI provides the tools to share their cultural stories through digital media. MMRTI partners with Seattle University, Youth In Focus, and Seattle RecTech, among other youth-serving organizations.

This video is advertising MMRTI’s Media Classes that were held back in the Fall of 2012 and talks a little about the institute.

MMRTI offers youth trainings on video journalism, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Photoshop, social media, and game development. Amy Merz-Mathis, who teaches a videography and journalism class, pushes her students to “take initiative and make things happen.” For example, in her class, students are encouraged to move outside their ‘comfort zone’ and interview people on camera. Students gain interpersonal skills that serve them in many facets of their lives. Instructor Paul Jackson teaches students how to use Final Cut Pro, Adobe Photoshop, and social media and video sharing software. He ensures that his students leave his class with a passion for digital media, and practical knowledge. “Save once, save often!” is his one of his mantras.

Recently, MMRTI partnered with SDK Bridge to use technology available through the Wii Dance Program to integrate images and video. Students learned about their culture while integrating it with the dance program. SDK Bridge’s course became a student favorite among regular class attendees. Nebiyou, a 15 year-old high school student, said it was his favorite activity so far at MMRTI.

One of MMRTI’s best-known programs continues to be Ethio Youth Media TV, a recurring TV program that showcases youth interviewing community leaders and government representatives. Last year, Yonathan, a 15 year-old MMRTI participant, interviewed Seattle Mayor McGinn. Many clips and full-length videos are available on their YouTube channel. The topics covered by the youth are issues directly affecting their Ethiopian immigrant community, including: cultural heritage, health and addiction issues, youth violence, and social justice. Currently, they are working on an audio story about the Yesler Terrace redevelopment, in partnership with the Frye Art Museum and the University of Washington.

This is an interview conducted with then mayoral candidate Mike McGuinn by Ethno Youth Media TV in 2009.

Participants at MMRTI benefit from Executive Director Assaye Abunie’s compassion, knowledge, and drive. He believes their success comes from great instructors, successful partnerships, and committed, driven youth. Amy Merz-Mathis explains why she loves being an instructor at MMRTI: “It’s a small space, physically, but MMRTI has a big heart and big dreams.”

The Washington State Digital Inclusion Summit will include workshops on engaging the state’s youth in technology, technology policies on the local, state and national levels, and empowering communities to make digital inclusion a top priority for legislators and policy-makers. Check out this link to learn more, and to become involved in deciding the state’s next steps in helping digital communication to be accessible to all.