Maui News

Computer Class Offered to Deaf Community in UH-Maui College-MEO Collaboration

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Mikey Tomita watches a PowerPoint and asks a lot of questions at the Digital Readiness Basic Computer class held at UH-Maui College on June 21, Monday. Image courtesy of Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc.

Nine deaf members of the Maui Independent Living Center learned how to open email, use a mouse and refrain from data banking at free Wi-Fi hotspots. This was accomplished with the help of two sign language interpreters and lots of visuals – during a special basic computer class at UH-Maui College on Monday, June 21.

The three-hour Digital Readiness Basic Computer Class, which was offered for free to the students, was a collaboration between UH-Maui College and Maui Economic Opportunity’s MILC.

“MEO gets students there and they (UH-Maui College) have the technology,” explained Nani Watanabe, head of the MILC program.


It was a first for instructor Ben Howard, who has years of experience teaching computer skills to hearing people with little to no computer experience. For this class, he relied on sign language interpreters Torrey Ho-Ching and Chelsea Overly-Carvallo and visual presentations because “what they see is what they understand,” said Watanabe.

Most of her MILC clients are not computer savvy. They learned what the “@” and “.com” signify in addresses and the hacking dangers of opening personal or financial data when using free Wi-Fi. Students peppered Howard with questions in sign language, including about their 10-year-old computers and how to keep them operational. Organizers say students were shocked to learn that computers are out-of-date after three to five years.

Bernard Koko is putting in a password during a basic computer skills class held June 21, Monday, at UH-Maui College. The class is a collaboration between the college and Maui Economic Opportunity’s Maui Independent Living Center. Image courtesy of Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc.

Watanabe is in the process of helping her clients obtain laptops, which will help them with Zoom meetings and get-togethers. A phone does not allow enough faces on the screen, she said.


After seeing a flyer about computer classes, Watanabe contacted Peggy Kelley at UH-Maui College about creating a class for her deaf clients. Kelley is the college’s Non-Credit Computer Technology Training Program Coordinator and worked with Watanabe to set up the class and provide special accommodations, including the interpreters.

“The Digital Readiness Training Program, a UHCC and Workforce Development Council collaboration, has been a terrific opportunity to bring together our best computer technology instructor, Ben Howard, with MEO and our Maui-based deaf students,” said Kelley. “We are so pleased to offer the Digital Readiness training to this community and look forward to more collaboration with MEO in the near future to address our Maui community computer and technology training needs.”

MILC provides access to resources, education and training to support independence for persons with disabilities. The center works closely with the deaf and hard of hearing community to provide services and to help them become advocates for themselves.


For more information, call 249-2990, email [email protected] or go to the website.


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