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August 2020

Donka student, Marcus Montalvo, had been training in-person but switched to virtual training in March. He is grateful for Donka's ability to continue his training so that he is on track to graduate this fall.

Donka Student Feature: Marcus Montalvo

When Marcus Montalvo began experiencing vision problems, he never imagined that he would be totally blind in one year. “I was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy – I hadn’t taken real good care of myself and it caught up with me,” he explains. Eventually, Marcus had to give up his work as a bartender – a job he loved and had been doing for over 10 years.

Diabetic retinopathy – a complication of diabetes where blood vessels in the eye are damaged – is unfortunately a common occurrence. Marcus, having been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 3, was at an increased risk due to the longevity of his illness.

After losing his sight, Marcus was referred to the Bureau of Blind Services (BBS) – an extension of the Illinois Division of Rehabilitation Services – and received mobility training to help him navigate his world without sight. He uses a cane to help him get around. Although offered a service dog, he feels he is not quite ready to take on that responsibility while still adjusting to so many changes in his life.

Once Marcus completed mobility training, his BBS counselor referred him to Donka to hone his Microsoft Office skills, as he hopes to work in the technology end of the culinary arts field and perhaps own his on bar or restaurant one day. “While working at the bar, I was always interested in the back of the house activities, so when I came to Donka I was really interested in learning Word and, especially, Excel,” says Marcus.

After almost a year of Donka training, Marcus expects to graduate in September - thanks to Donka being able to switch his training from in-person to virtual in March to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. Ann Byrne has been his Donka instructor.

Marcus describes Ann as an inspiration. “I am still amazed that she has been blind all her life and still worked as a programmer and now a teacher. She is so quick and can talk me through any challenge I have. She is so supportive and can really understand what I have been through. She even helped me with an iPhone problem at 9:30 one evening!” he explains.

Ann is teaching Marcus to use JAWS, a voice-activated, assistive technology (AT) application for people with blindness and visual impairments that interfaces with other computer programs. Using just his voice, Marcus has strengthened his Word and Excel skills and is currently learning Outlook – which has frustrated him a bit. “There has been a glitch is getting Outlook to recognize my Gmail, but Ann is talking me through it.”

As recommended by Ann, Marcus purchased his first iPhone to assist with his daily activities and movements. She favors the iPhone because of Apple’s accessibility features and the quality and responsiveness of its help desk support.

Marcus describes his Donka experience as fun and considers Ann and the staff his friends. “Since going blind, I have felt kind of alienated from everything and everybody. But the people at Donka have helped me feel like a part of something. I even went with Leanne to Dr. Scholl’s and talk about my training – and that was a great experience. I know that I will always be able to reach out to them for help – which is great to know,” he states.

Following his graduation, Marcus plans to work with his BBS counselor to access career and job placement services. His immediate goal is to – hopefully – get a job working with Apple’s accessibility help desk. He also plans to take more specialized classes through BBS, including a cooking class so that he can continue with an activity he enjoyed before going blind. He is also enjoying using his favorite iPhone apps: Apple Music and DoorDash.


Microsoft Accessibility: Get to know these great features!

Did you know that Microsoft Windows and applications – like Work and Excel – have accessibility features built-in? If not, you should definitely take time to check them out. Just a few of these features to help persons with disabilities navigate their computers include:

For vision:
  • Filters to help with color contrast and definition
  • Narrator – which reads out loud what is on the screen
  • Text size and screen magnification adjustments
  • Mouse and cursor size and color adjustments

For hearing:
  • Closed captioning for videos and presentation with audio
  • Mono audio for hearing loss one ear

For mobility:
  • Text suggestions prompt for decrease keystrokes
  • Mouse gestures with keypad
  • On-screen keyboard to “type” using a joystick, keypad, or mouse
  • Sticky Keys and Filter Keys to decrease and maximize keystrokes
  • Speech recognition to control applications with your voice – also good for visual impairments

Microsoft offers an array of accessibility features to help persons with disabilities navigate their computers – as well as applications like Word and Excel. (Photo credit – Microsoft)

To support these features, Microsoft has a Disability Answer Desk specifically to assist persons with disabilities using the accessibility functions. Click the link to connect to the Answer Desk. There are many resources here including videos that provide overviews of each accessibility feature. You can also find the Answer Desk telephone number and chat feature if you are not able to troubleshoot an issue on your won. According to Donka’s visual services instruction, Ann Byrne, the Answer Desk does a great job helping people to solve problems they might have with the features – or other computer issues in general.

These are just a few of the features available. To learn more, visit the Microsoft Accessibility website.


Kathy Mueller, Donka's board member, has already registered to participate in Race for Abilities. Join Kathy and TEAM DONKA today to raise funds for our AT computer training for persons with disabilities.

Race for Abilities 2020: Sign up now for this virtual run/walk fundraiser

Donka’s Annual Race for Abilities will take place this year as a completely virtual event – giving participants the entire month of October to complete their run/walk to raise funds for Donka. Join TEAM DONKA today by registering through our website.

Given the COVID-19 restrictions, the Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon & 5k – of which Race for Abilities is a part – committee made the decision to make the race virtual to keep runners and walkers safe and healthy.

While this format is a little different, it allows TEAM DONKA members to gather in small groups with friends and family to complete the run/walk on their own in the location of their choosing. Another advantage is that members can complete their trek in shifts if they like – instead of doing the trek all in one day.

Donka’s board member, Kathy Mueller, is the TEAM DONKA captain again this year. Join her in supporting Donka’s assistive technology computer training by participating in Race for Abilities. Among other benefits, runners will receive a TEAM DONKA t-shirt, a “Charity Hero” race bib, and will be eligible for top fundraiser awards.

We are also still seeking Race for Abilities event sponsors! For more information about sponsorships visit the Donka website, or, please contact Leanne Vos at 630-665-8169 or [email protected].


The Donka staff is prepared for safe and healthy in-person training! While more than half of our students have been training remotely since March, many of our student prefer in-person instruction.

COVID-19 Can’t Stop Donka: Virtual training continues

When the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions began in March, Donka quickly transitioned from in-person to remote training for more than half of our students. However, many of our students were uncomfortable with virtual training, so as soon as the stay-at-home order was lifted in June, we began in-person training as an option for our students. Safe precautions, such as social distancing and mask-wearing, are requirements for both our staff and our students during in-person sessions.

Because our offices located in the DuPage Care Center and the North Aurora Illinois workNet site were – and still are –visitor restricted, we began in-person training at the AmeriCenter workshare space in Warrenville. Our office space at AmeriCenter was an unplanned expense and to help us reduce costs, Kathy Mueller, Donka’s board member, worked with Northern Illinois University (NIU) in Naperville to help us secure an office space there at a much lower cost. Donka will begin scheduling in-person trainings at NIU in September.

Northern Illinois University - Naperville Campus

Click for directions

While we are hopeful that we can return to our regular office spaces soon, Donka is grateful to be able to help our students stay on track with their training. For questions about Donka’s assistive technology computer training during COVID-19, contact our Program Manager, Samantha Moore, at 630-665-8169 or [email protected].


A Donka Benchmark: Our first live webinar held on July 29th!

Donka conducted its very first live webinar on July 29th and we are happy to report it went really well! The webinar – entitled “Introduction to Assistive Technology for Rehabilitation Professionals” – provided an overview of the various types of adaptive equipment, software, and apps available to help persons with disabilities achieve greater independence to go about their daily activities.

Another first for Donka is that we were able to offer continuing education credits (CEUs) for webinar participants. A big thank you to Kathy Mueller, Donka board member and President of the International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals - IARP (IARP) of Illinois. With Kathy’s help, the IARP sponsored our webinar. Another big thank you goes to Northern Illinois University at Naperville for use of their conference room to conduct our webinar.

Donka's Program Manager, Samantha Moore, conducts our first live webinar, Introduction to AT for Rehabilitation Professionals, on July 29th.

We are proud of our entire staff for their hard work in developing the curriculum for this webinar. Thank you so much to our Program Manager, Samantha Moore, and our Donka Instructors, Ann Byrne, Rick Schopp, and Linda Yurka for making our first webinar a hit.

Donka looks forward to providing more live webinars in the future. So, stay tuned!

Donka is keeping positive during this “new normal” and focusing our efforts to continue to serve persons with disabilities and also professionals who serve persons with disabilities. The Donka staff and Donka stakeholders have stepped up to the plate to keep our program strong. We are thankful. Together, we all make a positive change for those we serve! Stay safe and Stay well!


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Our mailing address is:
400 N. County Farm Rd.
Wheaton, IL 60187
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