This article is reprinted with permission from Daman Wandke

The Value of Technology


By: Daman Wandke, 2005 DO-IT Scholar
Published in the United Cerebral Palsy of South Puget Sound's Fall 2005 newsletter (UCP-SPS Sounder)

This article contributed by UCP Webmaster Daman Wandke discusses the benefits of technology and the non-profit agency Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT). DO-IT serves individuals with disabilities by providing opportunities for increased participation in education and the workplace through computer technology. For more information about DO-IT, call 888-972-DOIT (3648), email doit@u.washington.edu or log on to http://www.washington.edu/doit/.

Technology levels the playing field for people with disabilities, from education to careers to social opportunities. I am a Phase I DO-IT Scholar and have been using technology just about all my life. Starting early in elementary school, technology has been a vital tool in my life. I have used a laptop since second or third grade to complete homework assignments and for entertainment. I will show you how technology has changed my life and how it can change yours.

In my early years, I just typed in Microsoft Word. At this time technology was still evolving and I had a laptop that had Windows 3.1! My early start with technology changed my life forever. By fourth grade I could do some customization of the computer. I was doing all my homework on the computer and starting to communicate by e-mail. Whenever I did an oral presentation, I would make a PowerPoint presentation. One thing that helped me greatly was my teachers. In fourth grade, my teacher had us in the computer lab first thing everyday. Then, in fifth and sixth grade, I was in a multi-age class and one of my teachers was in a computer training program, which opened up a wealth of information.

By junior high I had a lot of knowledge about computers. I could do more than most kids my age. Halfway though my seventh grade year, I switched classes, into a year long high school computer maintenance class. Being the youngest in the class, I still managed to get an A-. At the end of that class, I had some advanced computer skills. In eighth grade, I took CADD, Computer Aided Drafting and Design. This class gave me some skills for my primary career interest, being an Architect.

In ninth grade, I took three computer classes. First, I took a college level class, Cisco Academy, which is a computer networking class. Second, I took two classes in one period, Web Design and Maintenance, and Computer Applications. Web Design taught me a ton about the Internet and how to manage a large website. I became the Assistant Webmaster by the end of the semester and had access to the web server. In my Computer Applications class, I received three Microsoft Office User Specialist Certifications: Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Also, that year, I received an Information Technology Award. In tenth grade, I took Store Management to learn about E-Commerce.

DO-IT has also furthered my experience. They helped me have access the assistive technology I need. Also, it has given me the opportunity to help others with similar interests and be able to network with them. I think this is a wonderful program!

Where did all this training get me?

Last year, I was the Webmaster at my school. I also became the Student Manager of the Athletic Department, where I updated the sports websites daily, and I received my varsity letter. I also competed in DECA: An Association of Marketing Students by creating an E-Commerce Business Management Plan, placing 11th at state.

I also create personal, professional, and non-profit websites, including United Cerebral Palsy of South Puget Sound's website. I have the opportunity to help others with technology, just like others have done for me. Currently, I'm starting to be a speaker, sharing the vital message that people with disabilities are no different than anyone else. I work with UCP, DO-IT, and local organizations to find places to speak. Maybe someday all people will look at others equally.

Overall, technology is vital for everyone, but especially people with disabilities. We need to know how to use technology to succeed in today's society. By getting started early, we can have the time to get the training and experience to succeed, not only in careers, but in education and social opportunities. If you start early on technology, you will be able to get anywhere you want in your life. I hope you have the opportunity to integrate technology into your life and/or someone else's life.