SOURCE: Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation

January 24, 2012 11:49 ET

Kessler Foundation Awards $425,000 Grant to University of Hawaii Disability Employment Initiative

WEST ORANGE, NJ--(Marketwire - Jan 24, 2012) - Kessler Foundation awarded a Signature Employment Grant in the amount of $425,000 to the Office of Research Services at the University of Hawaii, to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities. This Grant is part of more than $2.7 million in grants awarded in 2011. Since 2005, the Foundation has awarded more than $20 million to innovative employment initiatives.

This Signature Employment Grant supports the development of a virtual reality (VR) software application, EmployAble: A World Without Barriers, to help jobseekers navigate the world of job hunting and adapt to the workplace. This Virtual Employment Orientation and Support Center, the first of its kind, will serve people with disabilities, including veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI). EmployAble will be developed by a team of researchers, many of whom have disabilities. Collaborators include University of Hawaii Center on Disability Studies, Virtual Ability, and Abilicorp.

"Projects like EmployAble are especially important because TBI is the signature wound of Iraq and Afghanistan," said Rodger DeRose, president and CEO of Kessler Foundation. "We need to do all we can to ensure veterans' successful reintegration into society." Kessler Foundation Research Center is also studying clinical virtual reality for rehabilitation applications.

EmployAble will draw on innovative components of commercial VR software programs including Multiple User Virtual Environments (MUVE), Second Life (SL) Virtual World Simulation (SIM). EmployAble will simulate social interactions in the workplace and demonstrate commonly used assistive technology, e.g. screen readers, captioning video programs, accessible document creation, presentation programs utilizing accessible features (VoiceThread, Adobe Flash, etc.), and text-to-speech software.

Kessler Foundation's two-year Signature Employment Grants fund pilot initiatives, demonstration projects and social ventures that lead to the generation of new ideas to solve the high unemployment and underemployment of individuals with disabilities. The next application deadline is Feb. 3, 2012.

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation is the largest public charity in the field of disability. Kessler Foundation Research Center advances care through rehabilitation research to improve quality of life for persons with spinal cord and brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological conditions. Kessler Foundation Program Center fosters new approaches to the persistently high rates of unemployment among people with disabilities across the nation. Find us at KesslerFoundation.org and on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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