For more than a year, Glenda Bentz has been teaching adults with severe physical disabilities how to access computers and perform complex tasks using adaptive equipment. Recognizing the new opportunities that technology has created for adults with severe disabilities, Specialized Transitional Activities & Rehabilitation Training (START) created an augmentative computer training class. Upon hearing of this class, Mrs. Bentz was first to volunteer. Ever since then, she has volunteered her time five days a week, from nine to five.
For the first class that Mrs. Bentz taught, from June '97 to March '98, five of the six students who were enrolled could not speak and all of them used wheelchairs. The students learned skills such as web page design, manuscript correction and presentation design as well as basic word processing, spread sheet, and data base skills. Mrs. Bentz guided members of this class through placing pictures and resumes on the class web page and organizing a presentation for START's 15th Anniversary Celebration. Mrs. Bentz goal was to get employment for each of her six students. Five of these six students are currently employed and the sixth is a freelance writer.
This class is the only opportunity that many disabled adults have in the Greater St. Louis community will have to learn these valuable skills. Just this past July, Mrs. Bentz started her second nine-month training class with a new set of students. She spends several hours researching the latest computer programs and making sure that each student understands the difficult new concepts that she presents. The class takes place four hours a day, five days a week. For Mrs. Bentz, the students have changed, but her goals for them are still the same: employment and greater independence.