Learning to use the technology in virtual reality computer systems to help the disabled cope is one of the first projects slated for the new Cal State Northridge Center on Disabilities, launched this month by the university's president, Blenda Wilson.
The center, which formerly was in the existing Office of Disabled Student Services, will organize a national conference in San Francisco next month on how elements of virtual reality computer systems can be adapted to help the disabled, officials said.
For example, touch-activated "data gloves" can help translate a deaf person's finger spellings into text on a computer screen, while virtual-reality head-mounted displays and goggles, in some cases, can help a person with partial vision see better, said Harry Murphy, director of the center.
The center has started out with a budget of about $700,000 in federal grants and a staff of eight working out of the offices at Disabled Student Services, which will continue to carry out state-mandated programs for the disabled on campus, he said.
Separating federally funded grant programs into a new center will help the staff focus on training and disseminating information for disabled services beyond the campus, Murphy said.