Lenore Rutherford, The Union Democrat

Angels Camp's Roy Mayben is turning the tables on a learning barrier faced by many special-education students, and building a business in the process. A special education teacher for the Tuolumne County Independent Living Skills Program housed at Sonora High School, Mayben started developing the Desktop Desk several years ago for one particular student. The student had cerebral palsy, and Mayben knew the student could do more if it wasn't such a struggle just to access the desktop. Mayben developed a desktop that could be moved to the level and angle the student needed, and it worked. Since then, Mayben has fine-tuned it and made it portable, so it can be clamped to any table-like surface - from a picnic table to a school desk. He worked with parents of disabled children and many agencies, including schools and hospitals, to make it as useful, durable and adaptable as possible. He also worked with engineering, manufacturing and shipping companies, and, finally, he developed his own firm. Last April, he started selling desktop desks, traveling to trade shows and gaining contacts. They are already being used in many schools and disability centers in California and around the United States. "We have a long way to go," he said, "but I think we have made a pretty good start. To help get things going this year, I asked for a job reduction for the 2009-10 years at Sonora High." He teaches Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On Thursdays and Fridays, he travels, introducing the desktop desk to schools and a variety of agencies that work with the disabled. The desktop desks cost about $900, including a custom bag that helps keep it as portable as possible. And the whole thing weighs just 22 pounds, he said. Mayben developed the Desktop Desk Sponsorship Program to help get the desktop desk to those who need it, at no cost. Sonora Rotary Club recently donated one to the Sonora High program, and Mayben donated a second one. Sonora Sunrise Rotary donated two to another campus. Mayben, 42, lives in Angels Camp with his wife, Diana, and their two children, Jonathan, 8, and Ashland, 14. They also own vineyards and sell their grapes to Calaveras County wine makers. "It's exciting to see a student be able to eat independently or write because of the desktop desk," he said. "The best feedback I have received so far was from a mom in the Bay Area. She e-mailed me to let me know her son, with cerebral palsy, was accepted to UC Davis and was going to take the desktop desk with him."