Lisa Maurer

Why the STAR Center is Important 

The STAR Center is important to me, as a volunteer, for a number of reasons.  First, it's where I learned to use a computer, with Jaws, the screen reader.  I learned to use Jaws with Microsoft Word, Excel, Hotmail, and many things on the internet, including internet radio and blogging, as well as exploring web sites that promote becoming active in the community by writing letters online, etc. 

Jaws is one kind of assistive technology, which allows a blind individual to read what is on the screen as it talks and tells him/her what is on the screen at any given time, either as it is typed or read, for example, on the internet.  These valuable skills have enabled me as a visually impaired citizen, to use my own computer at home, as well as to inspire others to learn these things at the STAR Center, where it all became possible! 

The STAR Center is a unique environment where citizens with disabilities and varying abilities can learn to use computers alongside of each other and learn from each other, and it is the STAR Center volunteers who make up the foundation and the core of this magnificent place!  It’s the first computer center where such teaching and promotion of truly independent, accessible computer skills became possible through the growing process of obtaining the assistive technology and the knowledge of how to use it; this is an ongoing process, which I’m glad and eager to be part of! 

Until the STAR Of Seattle opened, other computer labs and libraries, with all good intentions would somehow acquire the technology, wait for people to come in, point them to the equipment, and say something like, “Here; it’s on the table; learn it!”  While a very select few can truly learn in this manner, it isn’t the most practical way for most of us, and it is both as a student and as a volunteer at the STAR Center that I’ve found it truly possible to comfortably learn computer skills at one’s own pace, and to become a true contributor at the same time!  It’s a good way to give back to this magnificent place that made it possible to learn all that I’ve learned here, and to hopefully inspire others that we truly can do this!