The East Tennessee Technology Access Center embraces a mission to help. The organization connects people with disabilities with adaptive technology tools.
Anything from wheelchairs to read-aloud books to toys that children with physical limitations can enjoy. That service can be life changing.
"I was a very good equestrian. Michigan champion multiple times," Jill Bishop McKenzie said.
Growing up in Michigan, she won awards with her Arabian horse.
Later, she moved to Tennessee and taught the art of showing horses.
"I have a gift with horses," the 72 year old said.
She eventually gave up her work with horses but continued to carve spiral sumac canes and walking sticks. And she kept up with her reflection books. They include articles, cartoons, quotes, and pictures arranged by theme.
Jill has a service dog now she calls Ollie. He warns her when she is about to have a Narcolepsy attack and suddenly fall asleep. She did not yet have Ollie eight years ago when she suddenly fell asleep while she was walking in a parking lot and slammed her head into a speed bump.
"It tore a hole in the macular of the right eye. They did surgery and they could not get it to work right," she said.
She is legally blind but can see a little out of her left eye. But not well enough to drive or read or work on her carving.
"I would see things and they would just disappear on me."
She started using a magnifying device to continue her hobbies.
"But when my old magnifying lamp needed repair and I could not afford it I thought I could not see to do anything anymore. Not until Brian searched around and found me a magnifying light so I can type and I can carve again," she said.
Brian is Brian Sward. He is the Technology Coordinator at the East Tennessee Technology Access Center (ETTAC)
"My role here at ETTAC basically consists of refurbishing computers, matching up people with various disabilities with computers that would be appropriate for their needs," Brian Sward said.
He said ETTAC is always in need to donated computers and parts.
Jill said, "I had a magnifying light until I couldn't afford to fix it. So they've got me back typing. They've got me back carving."
They gave her a machine that is a low vision magnifier. She can adjust the contrast and color and magnification.
"It just makes text and objects that they are working on bigger. It helps them see it better. As long as they have some visual capability these magnifying devices are very helpful," Brian said.
Jill said, "I collect Dick Francis books and Abraham Lincoln books and I can now put them underneath and actually hold the book and read them. And I could use them to color the pictures for the reflection books."
Jill can continue to enjoy her life with dignity thanks to ETTAC.
"ETTAC is just a great place because it gives you this opportunity to see how these things really have an impact in people's lives," Brian said.
Jill said, "I'm just very grateful."
A fundraiser to support the non-profit coming up.
A Night in Old Havana
Saturday June 10
6:30 to 10:00
The Foundry at World's Fair Park
The evening will include music, casino games, authentic Cuban food, silent auction, and a dance demonstration from Dance Tonight. Put on your dancing shoes and party into the night!
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