e-Buddies in Action!
This is a new segment of the e-Beat! Each month we will highlight a school or agency involved in e-Buddies. Our hope is that this will be an opportunity to share some of the challenges and triumphs encountered through group participation in e-Buddies!
This month, we spoke with Debbie Goralski from Appalachian Crossroads in Oakland, Maryland!
How long has your group been involved in e-Buddies?
Appalachian Crossroads, located in Garrett County, MD., has been fortunate to be involved in e-Buddies for almost three years.
How many members are currently matched with e-Buddies?
We have had five total participants, but currently have three active members. Robin, our longest participant, has sent 118 e-mails, and has received 123. Evelyn has sent 94 and received 106, and our newest member has sent 17 and received 12.
What are some key challenges you have faced and overcome?
The biggest challenge was for Robin, who is visually impaired. Her first computer had Braille keys, but no voice feedback. She had to have a helper read everything to her and give constant directions. Robin is very happy with a new program at the library called JAWS. Jaws for Windows (JFW), is a powerful software program that works with a speech synthesizer with priorities for the visually impaired user. It offers both audible and visual flexibility for the sighted trainer or supervisor.
We have a range of students who have difficulty writing. For some a checklist has helped with the following: answer questions from your e-Buddy's e-mail, make comments about what they have written to you, and ask a few questions about your e-Buddy and share what is going on in your life now. For others a scribe is needed or a teacher has to offer multiple choice ideas about what to write. Often we print out a large print copy of the e-mail received and then use a word processor program to compose and then copy/paste the response since it took so long to compose. Responding weekly can be challenging for some of the students who are very busy with vocational placements, school clubs and specialists.
How do you make e-Buddies work with your group?
Our group has been very successful with e-Buddies because of a dedicated volunteer named Bill Roby. He assists every Thursday for 30 to 60 minutes for each person. Robin needs to go to the library, a few blocks away, and Evelyn and Virginia use computers at our Day program buildings.
What have your group members gained by participating in e-Buddies?
It is very important to our members to have gained a friendship with another person without a developmental disability. They enjoy sharing their lives, interests, and opinions with their e-Buddy. They also feel more independent being able to participate in this world of computer technology.
It is a wonderful program and I feel fortunate, as their Program Coordinator, to be involved in it.
Do you work with a group of e-Buddies participants? We'd love to feature your group here! Please contact us at email@example.com.
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