Gainesville Daily Register

Local News

June 26, 2014

Jeppson speaks at Lions Club

Gainesville — David Jeppson, executive director of Computers For the Blind (CFTB) and a Colleyville Lions Club member, spoke at the Gainesville Lions Club meeting Wednesday regarding the expanding need for computers, training and equipment for the blind and visually impaired.

The CFTB volunteer organization was formerly known as the Texas Center for the Visually Challenged

The mission is to supply a computer to any person with a visual impairment who is serious about using a computer and is willing to commit to the learning process.

“The demand for computers set up to aid those with vision problems is growing mainly because the population is growing older what with the aging of the baby boomers and previous generations,” Jeppson said.

He said that the two major hurdles the blind and visually impaired have to overcome are primarily transportation needs and computer technology access.

“A blind person has to depend on others to get them places,” Jeppson said. “They cannot drive and in many cases do not have access to public transportation, especially if they live in rural communities.”

“Without computers that are specifically equipped for the blind, they also do not have access to the world around them,” he said.  

“The computer is such a part of our daily lives,” Jeppson said. “We now handle our finances, purchase products and communicate with others online every day.”

Jeppson said that the CFTB program was founded over 25 years ago by board member Bob Langford.

On the CFTB website Langford stated, "Learning the computer is a lot of work and takes real dedication. For those like me who put the effort into it, it’s a tremendous miracle."  

“The main mission of  CFTB is to enable the blind or visually impaired person to use the computer, shifting the learning tool from sight base to verbal format in which computer software has been designed to translate text to speech.

In the past Jeppson said that when sight was lost, the ability  to use a computer was lost also.

 “Since the program started 25 years ago, we have shipped out over 7000 computers across the United States,” he said.

“We are now averaging about 100 computers a month,” Jeppson said. “We are shipping them out as quickly as we can get them refurbished.”

Many of the donated computers come from companies or individuals who have upgraded their equipment. Since CFTB is a 501(c) 3  non profit, the donations are viable tax donations.

The CFTB website states that “the process starts with the donation of used computers. A group of dedicated volunteers refurbishes each computer by wiping the hard drive clean and installing special software including a screen reader and a voice synthesizer so text may be read aloud.”

Jeppson said that screen magnification software is also installed for those visually impaired that just need a larger size font.

“E-mail and word processing programs are included as part of the software library.” he said.

“Of the two million that are known to be blind in the United States, over half are the age of 65 and older who benefit from the larger font,” he said. “We can’t keep up with the demand.”

 “Primarily, these computers will give a visually impaired person freedom,” he said. “This knowledge can also enable them to work from home or via another business.”

Jeppson invited the Lions Club to participate with funding for the computer program or to find computers that can be donated to the program.

Lions Clubs currently participate in many vision programs including the Lions Camp, funding for vocational rehabilitation, Lions World Services, the Leader Dog program, Vision Screenings and the Lions Sight and Tissue program.

The one time cost of the computers for qualified participants are $150 for lap tops and $110 for desktops.

United Way executive director Angie Hare attended the meeting and hopes to become more involved in future activities.

“We are looking for more ways to partner with programs such as this that will benefit citizens of our county.” Hare said.

Most recently the United Way provided funds for the purchase of a vision screening device that will allow the club to offer free vision screenings to children.

A local Cooke Country donation site for used computers is in the near future.

 

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