ESU Faculty, Students, Play Key Role in Project ENABLE, Helping People with Mobility Disabilities Explore Technology and Career Opportunities

Posted by: jrivera on June 13, 2013, No Comments

A Project Enable participant works on a computerized LEGO robot. Photo credit: Magee Rehabilitation Hospital

Frank La Macchia, who is paraplegic, demonstrates Magee Rehabilitation Hospital’s Ekso exoskeleton with the help of Magee staff members. Photo credit: Magee Rehabilitation Hospital

East Stroudsburg University Psychology Professor Jyh-Hann Chang, Ph.D., is helping organize workshops in which people with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities learn how to design smartphone apps, with the help of past and present students. The workshops are run by Project ENABLE, which was created through a grant sponsored by the National Science Foundation in conjunction with New Mexico State University and ESU to give people with mobility disabilities exposure to computer technology and its career possibilities.

Dr. Chang, who is tetraplegic, said Project ENABLE demonstrates how technology can level the playing field for people with disabilities seeking work. 

“I’m a strong advocate of science and technology as a way to work around these issues,” said Dr. Chang, a clinical psychologist who helps oversee the program.

Project ENABLE has also conducted workshops that teach participants how to do some basic computer programming and how to program LEGO robots to perform activities. 

 “The U.S. has a shortage of people entering into computer science fields,” said Kim Roselli, Project ENABLE coordinator at ESU. “At the same time, people with mobility disabilities often have a tough time finding jobs. Those who realize they have the aptitude for computer science can be a good fit because they can easily adapt to the work.”

Chang and Roselli are not the only ESU connections to Project ENABLE.  The organization also employs the talents of ESU psychology majors Joseph Fresco, from New Hope, Pa., and Shaquil Roberts from Philadelphia, who helped to organize the workshops and work with participants.

The workshops, which will take place June 13-15 at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital at 1513 Race Street in downtown Philadelphia, will also include a demonstration of a wearable robotic Ekso exoskeleton that allows disabled people to walk.

At the June 13 workshop, Frank La Macchia, who is paraplegic and works in the IT Department of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, will don Magee’s Ekso exoskeleton to show more than two dozen workshop participants how it can be used to help those with mobility disabilities.

“He’s been such a great role model to the participants,” said Roselli, who has a master’s degree in instructional technology from ESU. 

Many of the participants are former patients of Magee, which has been an important partner in Project ENABLE. The rehabilitation hospital was chosen to host the workshops for its accessibility to a large population of people with disabilities and its excellent reputation in the field of rehabilitation.

“We were thrilled because for us it was another resource for individuals who have had spinal cord injuries,” said Vilma Mazziol, a vocational counselor at Magee.

Project Enable is the brainchild of Jeanine Cook, Ph.D., an associate professor at the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at New MexicoStateUniversity. Cook and Chang have worked jointly on this program since its inception. 

For more information about Project ENABLE, please contact Kim Roselli at 570-236-4591.