Collaboration Provides Specialized Equipment for Blind Student

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The Braille Sense U2 QWERTY device at right includes a keyboard to streamline braille writing and an integrated computer to translate to and from braille.

ADAMS, Mass. — The Adams Lions Club, Hoosac Valley High School Leo Club, Lions District 33-Y Emergency Sight and Hearing Fund, and BART Charter Public School have joined forces to provide a specialized device that is helping a BART 10th grader, who is blind and has significant hearing loss, learn more efficiently and productively.

The collaboration enabled the purchase of a Braille Sense U2 QWERTY device, which cost $5,800. The device allows users to read and write Braille and translate it to enable communication with sighted persons. The Perkins School for the Blind provided one of the devices for a trial, and Perkins special education teacher Amy T. O’Brien worked with the BART student during the trial.

O'Brien explained that the Braille Sense U2 QWERTY is better for blind users with hearing loss because it provides auditory and tactile feedback to users. The increased feedback helps the student identify and correct mistakes in his work. During the trial, the student said he found the menu-driven device easier to use than screen-reading software with a computer that he had been using.

The student also noted that the Braille Sense device provides downloadable books, saving paper, and allows him to access the Internet.

BART Special Education Director Susan Lubell knew that Lions Clubs help blind and hearing- impaired people, so a BART representative contacted the Adams Lions Club over the summer to see if it could help buy the Braille Sense. Local clubs assist people in need with purchasing items such as glasses and hearing aids, though the cost for the Braille Sense is beyond the means of most clubs.

Adams Lion Art McConnell brought the need to the Lions District 33-Y Emergency Sight and Hearing Fund Committee, on which he serves. The 40 Lions Clubs that make up District 33-Y, including Adams, contribute to the fund so that Lions can help in cases such as this one. The emergency fund’s contribution, along with donations from the Adams Lions and Hoosac Valley Leos, covered half the cost of the Braille Sense, defraying the impact on BART.

“All of us at BART appreciate the assistance provided by the local and district Lions and Leos in obtaining the Braille Sense device for our student,” Lubell said. “The device is making a real difference for him.”

Adams Lions President Jim Dynes said that, as service organizations, Adams Lions and Hoosac Valley Leos raise funds through events such as food sales from the Lions trailer at downtown events. Community support of these initiatives makes it possible for Lions and Leos to help the blind and hearing-impaired as part of their mission of community service.  

“We are pleased that our organizations and BART were able to get together to purchase this much-needed device that is helping a student succeed at school,” he said.


Tags: BArT,   Lions Club,   

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CHP Adds Nurse Practitioner, Social Worker at Northern Berkshire Medical Practices

ADAMS, Mass. — Community Health Programs has expanded its Northern Berkshires practices with two new health care providers: a social worker and nurse practitioner.


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Most recently a private practitioner in Williamstown, Plunkett provides psychotherapy for adults, children, couples and groups, as well as diagnostic evaluation. He has previously practiced in Pittsfield, with a focus on addiction counseling. He was also co-founder of a residential addiction treatment center in Connecticut and previously served as a behavioral health specialist at Canyon Ranch in Lenox and Pittsfield Futures, a drop-out prevention program.

Plunkett earned his B.A. at Hampshire College and his MSW from Simmons College in Boston.  

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