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May 2021

James Walter is a 2021 Donka graduate. We want to thank him for sharing his Donka story and we wish him the very best!

Student Spotlight - James Walter

My name is James Walter III, I am 38 years old, I was born with retinitis pigmentosa. Although I grew up as an oftentimes outgoing, energetic, and normal kid, I had already developed early stages of RP at a young age. Starting with night blindness around the age of 11, I started to alter my lifestyle at a young age, learning quickly that I was not like the other kids. I never felt limited I was athletic and popular, but I always felt different, realizing that I do have many limitations, these limitations helped me to realize that I had to be cautious while remaining sensible.

As I got older and my vision began to close in on me, the perceptions were beginning. As I encountered situation after situation of constant embarrassing altercations. I then decided that “no one understands” and this isn't funny to me. I chose to hide my blindness, I figured that if no one knows then no one can see!

It took many years to retrain my brain, but I started to develop certain skills that helped me adapt. In doing this I created a barrier that I followed daily. Simple, stay in at night, don't go out in public settings unless I have to, and most importantly don't tell a soul. I did not even attempt to participate and indulge in activities, hobbies, and or social events I felt I would struggle to see doing or attending.

I chose DONKA because I needed encouragement, I also flat out needed help, due to my philosophy of hiding my blindness I was lost. I couldn't believe the response I received as well as the knowledge I gained. My life spiraled, I had to leave my career due to low vision. Finding a new career was going to be impossible without any education more detrimental was the fact I could barely even turn a computer on, let alone type, imagine joining the unemployed world with little to no skills that can translate to success with low vision.

DONKA has changed my life completely and for the future. I came in as a beginner and now feel like a pro. Just learning to type was amazing, to go from that to writing publications for a sports media network is mind-boggling. Step by step, day by day, is the most important thing I learned as a student. Being limited is merely a metaphor, skies are the limits, potentially opening my vision to see and notice things I may have never.

I'm so thankful for this program, the instructors are superheroes as well as understanding, compassionately full of motive. The gains I've achieved are single-handed because of the technology received, the skills I've learned, ending with the confidence I now have in my soon-to-be successful writing career.

Any future students who are questioning whether DONKA can help, it's a no-brainer, just check out how much I've grown in such a short amount of time. I came from the trenches of retail to partake in one finger typing, to living out my dreams to write for my favorite team, the Chicago Bulls. Without DONKA not of this would he imaginable. You can SEE for yourself check me out @pippenainteasy.com or follow my journey on Twitter @jameswalterIII.


A Focus on Graduates 2021

May and June are a time to celebrate graduations and achievements. “While graduation is about celebrating the past, it’s also about the future, whether that’s more education or the start of a new career. While you should enjoy the present, you can also celebrate by looking toward all of the new opportunities coming your way.”

At Donka, we are excited that, as of April 30th, four students have successfully completed 100 hours of our Computer Basics with Assistive Technology course in 2021. Due to COVID, these students completed their course remotely – which is also a great achievement.

Donka continues to serve 10 to 11 students (remotely) with our four part-time instructors. Currently, 60% of the students have visual impairments and 40% have physical or other disabilities. All students have partial funding – 30% – through state programs and 70% of their training is paid for by donors and foundation grants. Thanks to Donka’s community of friends, our students do not have to pay for their training.

Students and instructors continue to meet via Zoom. Students are using loaner laptops from Donka, or their own, that have been installed with Microsoft Office Applications, screen reading software, screen magnification software, voice activation software, alternative keyboards. They have been provided large screen monitors if needed to accommodate their visual challenges.

In 2021, Donka is on target to graduate 20 to 25 students from the 1:1 AT computer skills training program. We can meet in-person for limited training at an office space that Donka is currently renting at NIU in Naperville. An alternate plan is to increase the size of the space at NIU to serve more students in-person as COVID restrictions allow. Donka continues to offer Train-the-Trainer programs at Benedictine University (remotely) and is still available to partner with education and disability agencies to provide outreach programs. For more information about Donka’s training program go to https://donkainc.org/enroll/.


Giving DuPage Days – Thank You!

From April 26-30, Donka joined dozens of DuPage area nonprofit organizations in celebrating Giving DuPage Days. Sponsored by Giving DuPage, this online event provided an opportunity for us to raise dollars to support Donka’s assistive technology computer training for individuals with disabilities.

We are excited to report that we raised $4,370 thanks to the generosity of our Donka friends – old and new. A special thanks goes out to the Wheaton Lions and Science of Spirituality for providing matching grants for our campaign.

Donka, like many other organizations, would not be able to continue our services without the help of our community. Last year, your support was especially significant in helping us transition our training from in-person to virtual to accommodate COVID restrictions.

To everyone who Donated to Donka during Giving DuPage Days, thank you for your support! Each dollar raised helps us train students – like Maryam whose video appears below – to learn assistive technology computer skills to get jobs, go to school, and go about daily activities with increased independence.


Technology Corner – Special Apps for Special People

Proloquo2Go is an easy-to-use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC) app that helps persons who are non-verbal or have speech challenges communicate with others. Using a visual display on a tablet, smart phone, or touch screen computer, users select pictures or symbols to string together sentences that are spoken through the app.
The app is appropriate for all ages and skills levels and has proven especially successful for people with developmental disabilities and autism. Proloquo2Go is customizable to accommodate various levels of fine motor skills and visual impairments.

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First-Then is an app that provides users a visual schedule. It was designed to allow caregivers to create an on-the-go tool for persons who do best in a structured, supportive environment, such as persons experiencing development delays and autism.
Customized schedules can be created to help users remember daily events and tasks. For activities that require multiple steps, the caregiver can break incorporate instructions or videos that walk users through to completion. Special messages can also be recorded to encourage the user and provide positive reinforcements for tasks that are completed successfully.

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Race for Abilities – Early Registration Discount

Donka’s annual 5K Walk/Run fundraiser, Race for Abilities – part of the Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon – returns this year with two options for participation: in-person and virtual. Our goal this year is to raise at least $5,000!

Mark your calendars for Sunday, October 17, 2021, from 7-10:30 am for the in-person event which will offer runners a scenic course winding through Naperville’s parks, neighborhoods, and the downtown district.

For those who opt to participate virtually, run anytime between October 1-31, 2021, from your chosen location.

As a Donka Charity Hero, you will run to support our assistive technology computer training program, which empowers the abilities of our students with disabilities. Each Team Donka Charity Hero is given a discount for the Marathon and is required to raise $150 for Donka.

Register now for early-bird rates

Use these promo codes to get your discount:

  • 2021-CH5K-ONLY 5K
  • 2021-CH13-ONLY Half Marathon


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