A new state of the art computer centre opened at Sherbrooke Community Centre on January 11. The centre boasts some of the most advanced technological equipment for people with physical and cognitive challenges.

The new computers enable people who no longer have the use of their hands to manipulate the computer using a head mouse, voice activation software or a quad joy mouse to surf the internet, take online classes, social networking, play games and most importantly, to talk to family members around the world via Skype.

The Computer Centre is equipped with visual aids to enlarge print, a track ball mouse and joy stick for people who have limited or very limited dexterity, online photo software, and touch screens for new learners. The computers are adapted to be moved anywhere in the building to accommodate residents who find it a challenge to travel throughout Sherbrooke.

“I believe it is our responsibility to create opportunities for residents to live fully and it is essential for those people who have a limited ability to communicate to have access to computers, tools that most Canadians now consider basic communication technology,” says Suellen Beatty, CEO of Sherbrooke. “Now residents, even those who would otherwise be unable to access computers, are now able to communicate.”

The driving force behind the computer centre is Sherbrooke staff member Carrie Hart. She said shortly after it opened, “It is so exciting to see people using the computer as a communication tool. It is changing their lives, they can be independent. To see the expression on the faces of residents when they can see and talk to a relative or friend that they haven’t seen for years is really gratifying.”

Sherbrooke has a number of creative programs including art and music and we have plans for additional fundraising to enable residents to learn to play musical instruments, paint, make movies and do many other creative things with adapted computers.

Hart said, “We are looking for funding to purchase an eye gaze system for people who have no ability to communicate in the traditional ways. The program uses the retina of the eye to initiate movement (the eye becomes the mouse) to spell words. This technology has the potential to give so many different users the ability to communicate with the outside world.”

Beatty says that without the support of donors, none of this would have been possible, “Our sponsors have been so generous and we are very thankful to them, this is a huge gift to our residents.”

The centre was funded through donations from the Rotary Club of Saskatoon Nutana, the Skene family, in memory of Ina Skene, a long time Sherbrooke resident, the Hitachi Foundation, Hitachi Canadian Industries Ltd., Greystone Managed Investments Inc., and the
Sherbrooke Foundation Gala 2011.