Benton County Enables the Disabled with Internet and Technology

Thanks to Nancy Hoffman for passing on the following press release on Benton County’s efforts to use technology to support people with disabilities.

Foley, MN December 19, 2011: With help from funding through Living Connected in Benton County, Independent Lifestyles of Sauk Rapids is helping enable the disabled and others with the use of technology and the internet through a project they call BRAVE – Broadband, Resources and Vocational Education. Funding helped Independent Lifestyles purchase computer equipment to start a technology center within their facility and also provides an opportunity for Independent Lifestyles’ staff to teach a variety of classes and work one-on-one with community members to build computer and internet skills.

The technology center at Independent Lifestyles is open free of charge for use by their consumers and the public. Along with the usual computer equipment, the technology center is also set up with rubber, indestructible keyboards, large style keyboards and roller ball and joystick style mice for easier computer navigation. “Many of our consumers and community members, both with and without disabilities, have taken full advantage of our technology center,” said Jennifer Harmanson, staff member at Independent Lifestyles. “We have many who are looking up job information or are using social networks as well as working on general computer skills.”

The availability of the technology center allows Independent Lifestyles’ staff to conduct classes and hold one-on-one training sessions. Classes that will be held in the technology center starting in January include Introduction to Computers, I took the picture, now what?, Learn Word and Create a Resume and Learn Excel and Create a Household Budget. Past classes included Social Media and Email, How Does it Work? “I have been able to somewhat tailor the classes to the needs of the students attending so everyone gets the information that they are looking to get out of the classes,” stated Harmanson.

For many Americans with disabilities barriers in their communities take away or severely limit their choices. Independent Lifestyles, Inc. (ILICIL) was founded in 1997 to help persons with disabilities break down these barriers. For more information about Independent Lifestyles or the classes they offer call 320-529-9000 or visit

Living Connected in Benton County is a project partner in the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities Initiative (MIRC). MIRC is a coalition of 19 statewide partners and 11 demonstration communities funded in large part through an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant. The work of the coalition focuses on bringing the full promise of broadband technologies to rural Minnesota communities, businesses and people. Blandin Foundation serves as the project administrator. More about MIRC is available at

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