DO-IT Creates Web Site for Faculty

Rob Harrill, University of Washington Office of News and Information

The award-winning UW-based DO-IT program is using cyberspace to reach a national audience with strategies for creating a level playing field in the academic world for students with disabilities.

Program leaders started the new year by launching The Faculty Room (www.washington.edu/doit/Faculty), a Web-based resource that offers instructors and other professionals the means to provide full educational access for students with disabilities. From the site, postsecondary faculty and administrators can view in-depth information on instructional techniques and strategies and download information, including PowerPoint presentations and video segments, on topics ranging from academic accommodations to accessible Web design.

"It really is one-stop shopping," said Sheryl Burgstahler, assistant director of information systems with the UW's computing and communications department and director of DO-IT. "The entire site is created in response to the specific needs for information of faculty and college administrators."

The Faculty Room was developed through DO-IT Prof, a nationwide project funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education (779,716, grant #P33A990042) that equips postsecondary educators and campuses with the tools needed to provide full academic access for students who have disabilities. Through this project, DO-IT leads a consortium of more than 40 universities and partner schools, including Purdue, Drake, the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Seattle Central Community College and Arizona State University, in developing and presenting in-service and training resources across the country.

The great strength of The Faculty Room concept lies in its quick and almost universal accessibility, according to John Pedraza, disabilities resource coordinator at Michigan State University. "The Faculty Room is a great site for faculty to learn more about students with disabilities at their own pace and when they have immediate questions to be answered," Pedraza said. "MSU faculty find it extremely useful."

Content on the site covers accommodation strategies, instructional design to meet the needs of a wide range of students, legal issues, interactive presentations, and resources for trainers, staff and administrators. Case studies and FAQs illustrate many of the concepts.

DO-IT staffers are highly qualified to lead a nationwide educational thrust toward full accessibility for disabled students, according to Burgstahler. For the past nine years, the DO-IT Scholars program has used a combination of computer and Internet access, mentorships, and UW summer camps to provide disabled youth from around the country with the skills they need to be successful in challenging academic and career fields.

DO-IT has won a number of national and regional awards, including the National Information Infrastructure Award in Education, an exceptional program award from the Association for Higher Education and Disability, the KCTS Golden Apple Award and the President's Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring of Underrepresented Groups. The program was also showcased in the 1997 President's Summit on Volunteerism and the 1996 National Science Foundation Dynamic Partnerships invitational conference.

The unveiling of The Faculty Room is the culmination of years of collaborative work with the DO-IT Prof partner schools, according to Burgstahler. "The effort is unique in its broad representation of small and large, two-year and four-year, and geographically diverse institutions," she said. "We have created a resource tailored to the needs of any faculty member, teaching assistant or administrator at any postsecondary institution across the country."