HONG Kong's disabled community received a major boost last week with the launch of a hi-tech pilot project designed to help them be more active in society. The AT & T-sponsored HOME project seeks to encourage computer literacy among the territory's physically disabled. The service operates by using inexpensive bulletin board and data communications equipment which provide access to remote learning institutions and allows them to become productive in the workplace. The HOME - for Home Opportunity and Multi-faceted Education - project was conceived and developed by the Hong Kong Computer User Group for Persons with Disabilities (HcUG), a self-help group established in 1989. HcUG chairman Professor T. K. Kang said the cheap computing and telecommunications technologies now available in Hong Kong represented a ''great equaliser'' for Hong Kong's physically impaired. The new technology gave disabled users the opportunity to become as productive in the workforce as any able-bodied person. For the permanently home-bound, the new technology opened new vistas of opportunity for the disabled to interact with the community by keeping in contact with friends and world affairs via worldwide on-line services AT & T is providing the initial funding for the hardware and software to replace and strengthen a central bulletin board service on which the service runs. Hutchison AT & T Network Services (HANS) is installing AT & T EasyLink services, the firm's global electronic messaging system. AT & T computing subsidiary NCR also donated systems that some participants will use at home. ''The disabled themselves will run the show with help from others when needed,'' Mr Kang said. ''They will, at the end of the first year, tell us how far they have succeeded and hopefully extend these benefits to larger groups of disabled [people],'' he said. The pilot project will initially cater to 20 disabled users. The chairman of Hong Kong's Joint-Council for the Physically and Mentally Disabled, Professor Harry Fang, said that since disabled people learned to tap into the system, they ''will regain higher productivity through technology, training, and global networking at an unprecedented speed and magnitude''. The HOME project will run on an eight-line bulletin board system with public access that allows for messaging other bulletin boards locally and internationally through FidoNet and Internet on-line resources respectively. The HOME project will provide training in basic computer and telecommunication system use. It will also teach the disabled to use such special input devices as speech synthesisers and text/visual signal converters which some users may need. The project will also spread information among users, provide multi-line bilingual conferencing, on-line tutoring and electronic-mail services. The HOME project is open to any individual with disabilities. Candidates can apply for scholarships for focused training through a formal part-time course. The programme's ''scholars'' will then be asked to help another disabled person acquire the telecommunications skills needed to access the on-line service. Most of the tutors in the programme are disabled and are therefore well-versed in some of the problem encountered by the students.