Accessible Technology Services (2011)

University of Washington (UW) Information Technology's Accessible Technology Services (ATS) promotes the success of people with disabilities by using technology as an empowering tool to increase their independence, productivity, and participation in education and careers. ATS supports two centers:

  • The Access Technology Center for UW students, faculty, and staff.
  • The DO-IT Center, which secures external funding to connect to people statewide,nationally, and internationally.

Access Technology Center (ATC)

[Female student with a disability uses a laptop.]

Suite 064, Mary Gates Hall 
206-685-4144 (voice/TTY) (email)
Manager: Dan Comden

Access Technology

The ATC focuses on ensuring that UW students, faculty, and staff with disabilities have access to technology—including computers, software and special equipment—that supports them in accomplishing their work. Center staff work with individuals to help them select, learn, and use assistive technology such as:

  • Speech output or Braille to provide access for blind
  • Magnification of the screen for people with low vision
  • Alternatives to the standard keyboard and mouse
  • Use of speech recognition software as a writing tool
  • Tools to make the reading and writing process easier
  • Accessories to make computer use more comfortable
  • The capability to create and produce documents in alternative formats such as e-text, Braille, large print, etc

The ATC supports a technology showroom with numerous products including alternative keyboards, speech input and output technology, software for organizing ideas, screen readers and Braille displays for blind users, and magnifying software and hardware for those with low vision. In addition, the center provides a Braille embossing service for UW Seattle faculty, staff, and students. Braille can be provided in a variety of formats and languages, and tactile graphics are available. The ATC showroom also includes a collection of accessible science equipment such as automatic stirrers, tactile measuring devises, and talking calculators.

Accessible IT

ATC staff works with UW units to promote the development and use of accessible technology products by:

  • Engaging with central student computing facilities to ensure that assistive technology is available for student use
  • Working with departmental computing labs to help them provide assistive technology
  • Offering regular courses on access technology, delivering presentations, and conducting ATC tours for UW classes and other groups
  • Working with other campus units to prepare and provide academic material in accessible (electronic) formats
  • Assisting department web masters in designing accessible web sites and applications
  • Helping to ensure that electronic resources are accessible to everyone by assessing how easy they are to use with a variety of adaptive hardware and software
  • Supporting a central resource at Mary Gates Hall to provide guidance to technologists and administrators at the UW and beyond

[A group of students watches with interest as they gather around a rack of scientific equipment.]

DO-IT Center

4545 15th Avenue NE, Suite 100 
206-685-3648 (voice/TTY) (email)
Program Manager: Scott Bellman

The DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center secures external funding to address accessibility issues statewide, nationally, and internationally. Working with UW and external partners, the Center obtained more than $40 million in funding to support activities that increase the success of people with disabilities in college and careers, using technology as an empowering tool. DO-IT is a collaboration between UW-IT and the colleges of engineering and education. It was founded in 1992 at the UW with a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Through DO-IT programs, hundreds of students with disabilities and practitioners are engaged in electronic e-mentoring and communities of practice. In addition, 50 high school and college students engage in a two-week residential program at the UW Seattle campus each summer and many more secure high technology internships and participate in other supportive activities. The Center's longitudinal transition study and other evaluation measures document the success of DO-IT's efforts.

The Center also works with institutions and organizations in the United States and other countries to:

  • Adapt evidence-based practices to promote the success of people with disabilities in college studies and careers
  • Advance the development and use of technology for people with disabilities
  • Promote the application of universal design to instruction, physical spaces, technology, and services

DO-IT's Japan program, hosted by the University of Tokyo, conducts summer study sessions for teens with disabilities and provides mentoring and support for students with disabilities as they pursue college and careers. DO-IT Japan encourages high-tech companies to develop accessible technology, and it supports people with disabilities in using cell phones, computers, and other technology to achieve high levels of participation in education, employment, and community activities.


DO-IT has received numerous local, regional, and national awards including:

  • The National Information Infrastructure Award in Education, an international award which recognizes excellence and innovation in use of the Internet
  • The Golden Apple Award for excellence in precollege education in Washington State
  • The President's Award of Excellence in Mentoring for mentoring students with disabilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
  • The Harry J. Murphy Catalyst Award sponsored by the Trace Research and Development Center
  • Individual and project awards from the Association for Higher Education and Disability

Grant Funding

Examples of externally-funded projects in which DO-IT is engaged include the following:

  • National Science Foundation (NSF): AccessComputing Extension, the Alliance for Access to Computing Careers, in collaboration with the Department of Computer Science. Richard Ladner, Principal Investigator (PI); Sheryl Burgstahler, Co-PI. 2008–2013; $2,000,000.
  • NSF: AccessComputing Second Extension, collaborating with Department of Computer Science. Richard Ladner, PI; Sheryl Burgstahler, CoPI. 2010–2015; $3,750,000.
  • NSF: AccessSTEM2, the Alliance for Students with Disabilities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics to increase the success of people with disabilities in STEM postsecondary academic programs and careers. Sheryl Burgstahler, PI; Mari Ostendorf, College of Engineering, Co-PI. 2008–2013; $1,600,000.
  • NSF: PEERS, Transforming Engineering Through PEERS: Building a Better Experience for Underrepresented Students in UW College of Engineering. Phyllis Wise PI; Sheryl Burgstahler, Sapna Cheryan, Eve Riskin, Joyce Yen, Co-PIs. 2009–2014; $620,000.
  • NSF: RDE Collaborative Dissemination Project, NSF Research in Disabilities Education (RDE) Dissemination Project. Collaborative dissemination, particularly of the results of funding alliances and other projects funded by RDE, engaging in wiki and developing brochure, video, and web resources. Sheryl Burgstahler, PI. 2009–2012; $235,000.
  • NSF: Computer Science Collaboration Project. DO-IT is a subcontractor for this project,, that is funded through the Ed Lab group of Lynnwood, WA.
  • State of Washington: DO-IT Scholars and other Washington efforts. Sheryl Burgstahler PI. $500,000 per year, ongoing.
  • NSF: Center on Sensory Motor Rehabilitative Engineering, an NSF Engineering Research Centers (ERC). Yoky Matsuoka, PI. DO-IT receives $300,000 funding through this project. 2011–2016; $18,000,000
  • Faculty Learning Communities Grant: Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. This grant, hosted by the Seattle Community Colleges, engages a group of Washington state community colleges and the UW (represented by Sheryl Burgstahler) in an across-campus faculty learning community focused on the application of universal design to in-person instruction and online learning. It funded the development of a video on universal design of instruction (see 2009–2011; $10,000.

The DO-IT Center also supports other projects in increasing accessibility of project products and the representation and support of people with disabilities in project activities. This includes the NSF-funded Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) which is led by the UW Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity to increase the number of STEM degrees earned by racial and ethnic minorities.