The following article is reprinted with permission from the February 4, 1994, issue of the Glasgow Courier in Glasgow, MT.

DO-IT Program Seeks Sophomores

Many teenagers with disabilities think careers in science, engineering or math - fields that can require years of study, often under physically demanding circumstances - are beyond their reach.

Not so, say organizers of a novel program at the University of Washington College of Engineering. To prove the point, they're engaged in a six-state (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington) search for high school sophomores with disabilities, who have a knack for numbers, neutrons and the like. Applications should be returned by March 10.

Now in its second year, the DO-IT or Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology program uses home computers and electronic mail to link talented high school students year-round with each other and to others around the world who hurdle similar obstacles before succeeding in their respective fields. If a student doesn't own a computer, the program loans one, along with a modem and other hardware including adaptive equipment.

Students selected to participate in the National Science Foundation-funded program also will spend about two weeks on the University of Washington campus in Seattle this summer immersed in an array of activities planned to give them a feel for what turns people on to careers in science, engineering or math.

Meals and housing are provided, as are sign language interpreters and other accommodations needed to facilitate a successful academic experience.

"Most DO-IT students already have overcome barriers related to their disabilities in order to realize the success they have achieved in high school," said Sheryl Burgstahler, DO-IT director and an assistant director of computing and communications at the university. But still, the path to a successful career can be long, and practical advice and encouragement all along the way can be helpful - especially from people who have overcome similar obstacles.S

Program mentors include people such as Todd Heywood, a lecturer in computer science at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, who is hearing impaired. DO-IT participants can even reach by computer the famed British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease and is confined to a wheelchair.

For further information or to request application materials in standard print, large print, Braille or audio tape, write DO-IT, University of Washington (JE-25), Seattle, WA 98195. The DO-IT voice phone number is (206) 685-3648 (685-DO-IT), and the electronic mail

The following article is reprinted with permission from the March, 1994 issue of the UW Computing and Communications publication #14.


Most of us depend on our computers each day to help us with our work, access our bank accounts, and amuse our children. If you have a disability, however, a computer may be more than just a convenient tool. A two-week program at the University of Washington demonstrated that a computer can provide the key to communication.

Last August, a group of high school students with disabilities came to the UW campus to study mathematics, engineering, and science intensively during a program sponsored by DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology). Primarily funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, DO-IT is coordinated by the UW College of Engineering and Computing & Communications and directed by Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler of C & C. Among other things, DO-IT seeks to recruit and retrain disabled students in math, science, and engineering and to encourage them to pursue careers in those fields. Computers are a main component of that plan.

DO-IT purchases and installs computer systems for students enrolled in the program. Students receive equipment designed to compensate for their disabilities and then are trained to use the system. For example, a student who has only the use of some of his fingers has a special, contracted keyboard; another uses a sip-and-puff system to input Morse Code; another combines the use of a foot pedal and a joy stick to navigate the screen. blind students use voice output machines, low-vision students read enlarged images, and participants with learning disabilities use special software to check their grammar and spelling.

The adaptive technology used in this program helped the participants in the expected ways - writing papers (with the help of online dictionaries, encyclopedias, and research sources), playing games, and organizing files - but communication is where the power of the machine was most apparent. Participants were provided accounts on the DO-IT file server named Hawking (after Stephen Hawking, a brilliant physicist who himself is disabled by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Here they immediately learned the benefits of the Internet network.

Students were matched with mentors who are post-secondary students or career scientists, mathematicians, or engineers. Communicating through email, the mentors and students built relationships as they asked and answered questions. Many of the mentors have disabilities themselves and were able to give students valuable encouragement and advice.

The students also corresponded with each other via email over the Internet. Friendships that developed over the course of the program have continued despite the distance between correspondents. Participants from Oregon can "talk" to their friends in Washington as easily as they can communicate with a mentor in Scotland.

Covering distance is not the only benefit of computer-aided communication. Removing barriers to communication is an added bonus. One participant explained why email was so important to him when he said, R The people I write meet me, not my disability. Usually the disability is the first thing they see.S

For information about the DO-IT program, send email to