Annual Report 1992-1993


Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, & Technology

Director: Dr.Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph. D.
University of Washington

Message from the Director

The United States needs citizens trained in science, engineering, and mathematics, including individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups such as women, racial minorities, and individuals with disabilities. The National Science Foundation funded a University of Washington project to recruit and retain students with disabilities into science, engineering, and mathematics academic programs and careers. This project began on October 1, 1992, and DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology) was selected as the working title. The long-term outcome of DO-IT and similar projects is to increase the number of individuals with disabilities in these professions.

The first year of DO-IT brought the typical challenges of a new program - hiring staff, finalizing timelines and selecting participants. The efforts of all involved, however, culminated in a stimulating and fun-filled summer study for eighteen DO-IT Scholars. Some of the pictures in this annual report capture the richness of the program activities.

We look forward to another year of DO-IT activities that will increase the opportunities for people with disabilities and increase the awareness of others about their academic and career potential and accommodation needs.

Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D., 
Director, DO-IT 
College of Engineering/Computing and Communications 
University of Washington


Individuals with disabilities are underrepresented in engineering, mathematics, and science academic programs and careers. Few enter these fields and those who do experience high dropout rates.

Causes of this problem include:

  1. Individuals with disabilities lack regular access to role models who are disabled and successful in educational programs and/or careers in engineering, mathematics, and science. Potential role models are often separated by great distances, leaving individuals with disabilities isolated from those who have faced and/or are facing similar challenges in school and work.
  2. High school and college students with disabilities, counselors, social service agency staff, and special education teachers often lack an understanding of the content and requirements of science, engineering, and mathematics programs in higher education; they do not encourage disabled students to prepare for these fields; and are unfamiliar with the resources available to assist students with disabilities.
  3. There are inadequate resources and coordination of services provided for disabled students on post-secondary campuses.
  4. Lab facilities and computers are often not accessible to students with disabilities.
  5. Faculty lack information about the rights, needs, and potential contributions of students with disabilities and often have negative attitudes about including them in their academic programs.

DO-IT Goals & Objectives

The goals of DO-IT are:

  1. To recruit students with disabilities into science, engineering, and mathematics programs and careers, with a special focus on recruiting to the University of Washington.
  2. To retain students with disabilities in science, engineering, and mathematics programs and careers, with a special focus on the University of Washington.
  3. To act as a catalyst and resource for other institutions of higher education in their efforts to recruit and retain students with disabilities in science, engineering, and mathematics.

DO-IT has developed the following objectives for reaching these goals:

  1. To help students with disabilities learn how they can use computers, electronic communications, and Internet resources to increase their independence and productivity while pursuing academic programs and careers in science, engineering, and mathematics; to promote the use of technology as an accommodation for individuals with disabilities in these fields.
  2. To encourage high school students with disabilities to take mathematics and science classes in high school and college, moving toward careers in science, engineering, and mathematics.
  3. To facilitate communication between high school students with disabilities and role models/mentors who are accomplished students and professionals with disabilities in science, engineering, and mathematics, and other fields.
  4. To empower individuals with disabilities by providing them with opportunities to apply their skills in efforts to recruit and retain individuals with disabilities into science, engineering, and mathematics academic programs and careers.
  5. To promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in science, engineering, and mathematics academic programs and careers, and the creation of positive learning, working, and social environments by improving access to labs, programs, special services, and adaptive technology and improving attitudes towards individuals with disabilities.

To meet these objectives, the following programs and activities were established in the first year of the project. They are described in the following sections of this report.

The DO-IT Scholars Program

The DO-IT Scholars Program helps high school students with disabilities prepare for academic study and careers in science, engineering and mathematics. DO-IT Scholars increase their knowledge in these fields; gain prerequisite experiences to enter these fields of study and employment; are encouraged and supported by successful students and professionals with disabilities; learn to use technology to become more independent and productive; and are given transitional college experiences. The DO-IT Scholars Program consists of three phases. Admission to Phases II and III is based upon successful completion of previous phases and a desire to continue participation as a DO-IT Scholar.

The DO-IT Advisory Board selected the 1993 participants based on their interests and aptitudes in science, engineering, and mathematics; their motivation to participate in the program; and the benefit of the program relative to other applicants. The Board selected a diverse group of 13 sophomores 5 juniors from Oregon and Washington states with the following characteristics:

Schools: 17 public high school, 1 school for the blind; 3 rural, 8 suburban/small town, 7 city 
Gender: 6 female, 12 male 
Ethnicity: 14 Caucasian, 1 Native American Indian, 1 Vietnamese, 1 Pakistani, 1 Hispanic 
Disabilities (note: some participants have multiple disabilities) 
Blindness: 4 
Attention Deficit Disorder: 1 
Low Vision: 2 
Specific Learning Disability: 3 
Mobility/Orthopedic Impairment: 8
Speech Impairment: 2 
Hearing Impairment: 2
Brain Injury: 1


As applicants were accepted into the program in winter and spring of 1993, appropriate computer and adaptive technologies were selected and set up in their homes. Local Internet connections were made through partner post-secondary schools, K-12 consortiums, and other organizations. Students and their families received in-home training on the use of the technology, electronic mail, and Internet resources. In addition, DO-IT staff regularly sent electronic mail to the participants that included specially created lessons on electronic mail and the Internet, and other useful information about DO-IT, science, engineering, and mathematics. DO-IT Scholars used computers to enrich their educations and explore career opportunities. They accessed information and communicated with Mentors on the Internet.


A group of volunteer DO-IT Mentors was recruited. Mentors are college students, faculty, and practicing engineers and scientists, most with disabilities themselves. Most efforts to recruit Mentors involved pursuing recommendations from the DO-IT Advisory Board, staff, and working groups; corporations; and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Through electronic communications, personal meetings, and joint projects using the Internet, DO-IT Scholars were brought together with DO-IT Mentors to facilitate academic, career, and personal achievements.

DO-IT Mentors study and/or work in a variety of fields including computer programming, communications engineering, disabled student support, chemistry, research engineering, pre-college education, post-secondary education, statistics, engineering, computer science, computer consulting, adaptive technology, and biology. DO-IT staff and summer faculty are also available as Mentors. All Mentors have access to the Internet network through the University of Washington or other host institutions. In addition to mentoring Scholars, they contribute regularly to DO-IT project ideas and implementation.

Summer Study

Each DO-IT Scholar studied science, engineering, and mathematics by participating in lectures and labs and using computer applications and educational software, electronic mail, and resources on the Internet network during a two-week, live-in summer program held on the Seattle campus of the University of Washington in August of 1993. Subjects studied included: oceanography; heart surgery; chemistry; virtual reality; adaptive technology; geophysics; material sciences, civil, mechanical and electrical engineering; mathematics; software applications; biology; physics; astronomy; and climatology. Accommodations were made in each activity to ensure that all participants remained as active and as independent as possible. Materials, meals, and housing were provided for participants and personal care attendants. The most common complaint about the program was that it was not long enough. Participant responses included:

"I have become even more interested in the medical and science fields. I also found out some other things to fall back on if the medical field doesn't work out."

"Before the summer program, I was set in my ways. I was going to be a pediatric physical therapist. Now, I've widened my options."

"I found that I can do a lot more careers."

"I made friends here."

Throughout the year DO-IT Scholars were invited to participate in other special events including those described in the "DO-IT Events" section of this report as well as programs open only to the Scholars, such as the Washington State Science Colloquium. One Scholar participated on a National Academy of Sciences panel in Washington, D. C., in May of 1993.

After the 1993 Summer Study, fifteen students continued with Phase II of the DO-IT Scholars Program. In Phase II, DO-IT Scholars continue electronic communications with each other and Mentors and return in 1994, to the UW campus, for a one-week summer program. They agree to apply their skills and knowledge to independent science projects, including organizing a tour of Battelle Pacific Laboratories, designing a computer based CHAT system, working on virtual reality projects, evaluating software, working on the DO-IT NEWS newsletter, working as a staff assistant in the 1994 Phase I summer study program, and contributing to an electronic information service. Phase II participants will also act as Mentors to incoming DO-IT Scholars. Those who continue to Phase III will be given opportunities to be individual contributors to the DO-IT program through activities agreed to by each Scholar and DO-IT staff. Options include specific mentoring responsibilities, collecting scientific resources, administrating systems, editing the newsletter, working in the summer programs, and other DO-IT sponsored events.

Disability Awareness Presentations and Materials for Faculty

DO-IT staff delivered seven disability awareness presentations to a total of 140 UW faculty and staff members during the first year of Project DO-IT. The purposes of the presentations are to increase the awareness of the potentials of students with disabilities; improve attitudes towards disabled students; and provide creative and practical approaches for ensuring access to educational opportunities. Attendees were shown slides and given an informational brochure which lists legal requirements for accommodating students with disabilities, examples of accommodations, specific suggestions for faculty, and campus resources.

Work began on a 10-minute videotape, funded by a grant and in-kind contributions from U.S. West Communications, to be included in the disability awareness presentations in 1994. The videotape, Working Together: Faculty and Students with Disabilities, introduces the viewer to faculty and post-secondary students with disabilities demonstrating successful techniques (using computers, adaptive technology, networks, and other accommodations) that allow the students to participate more productively and independently in science, engineering, and mathematics academic programs and careers. The material in this videotape is presented in such a way that it can be used by other campuses in disability awareness presentations. NEC Foundation of America committed funds to distribute the disability awareness workshop materials, including the videotape, to other colleges of engineering throughout the United States.

Adaptive Technology Seminar

A special hands-on workshop for individuals with visual impairments and tours of the UW Adaptive Technology Lab were offered on a regular basis during the first year of project DO-IT. In addition, a half-day workshop was created for students, faculty, and staff in science, engineering, and mathematics who wish to learn more about adaptive technology. Emphasis is on adaptive technology that can be used by students with disabilities to access computers, network resources, and scientific equipment. Hands-on experiences; ideas for making lectures, laboratories, and resources more accessible; and useful handouts were designed. The first offering is scheduled for January, 1994.

Electronic Resources

An electronic list has been created and is used to distribute DO-IT newsletters and other publications. Discussion lists for Mentors and Scholars have also been created to facilitate communication and group discussion. General information about DO-IT and DO-IT newsletters, were distributed to targeted distribution and discussion lists reaching an estimated 10,000 individuals. Electronic resources, including the University of Washington Information Navigator (UWIN), the DO-IT gopher, and distribution lists will continue to be used to disseminate information to other groups, including those interested in using DO-IT ideas and materials at their locations.

Access to Computer, Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Labs and Programs

DO-IT staff have produced quarterly reports on the enrollment, retention, and graduation demographics of students with disabilities in science, engineering, and mathematics at the University of Washington. In addition, students with disabilities who were enrolled in spring quarter, 1993, were mailed a survey. This input as well as a review of informal input to the office of Disabled Student Services and from DO-IT Mentors documents physical, programmatic, electronic, and attitudinal barriers that have been experienced by students with disabilities.

DO-IT staff have begun the process of reviewing computer, science, and engineering labs regarding access issues. Specific problems with labs are being recorded and updated. DO-IT staff are developing checklists that will help lab operators make their facilities more accessible. The checklists will include suggestions related to specific equipment, facility, documentation, computer, and network access. Project staff will meet with lab staff to review the guidelines and help suggest and implement improvements.

Year 1 DO-IT activities have increased the awareness of the Adaptive Technology Lab on the University of Washington campus, thereby increasing its impact on the success of students with disabilities. Adaptive technology purchased for the DO-IT summer program is made available to campus users during the school year, thereby enhancing the existing facility.

Outreach Publications

Through printed publications, the DO-IT program communicates program information to a diverse and salient audience. Methods and materials developed by DO-IT are shared with others to be used as examples for those who wish to develop similar programs and materials. Dissemination activities thus far have included the distribution of the following printed materials:

  • More than 1000 application packets of information in a variety of forms, including Braille and large print;
  • More than 80 press releases;
  • Three DO-IT NEWS newsletters distributed to a mailing list of approximately 1500; and
  • Brochures and newsletters mailed to all 400 College of Engineering faculty.

DO-IT press releases were printed in several publications. Articles about DO-IT activities appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Seattle Times, Time magazine, Tri-Cities Herald, The Morning News Tribune, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, and The Journal American.

Conferences and Presentations

During the first year, presentations about DO-IT and related topics to on-campus and off-campus groups included UW Arts and Sciences Department Chairs, UW Engineering Faculty, The Learning Disabilities Association, Microsoft, Washington Association for Vocational Education, UW Computer Fair, Northwest Council for Computers in Education (NCCE), EDUCOM, Closing the Gap, Association for Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), Society for Disability Studies, American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), Washington Technical Alliance Conference (WTA), Information Technologies on the Frontiers of Learning Conference, and disability awareness workshops for UW faculty. In all, approximately fifteen presentations were given to a total of approximately 600 people.

DO-IT Events

DO-IT Scholars and other K-12 and college students with disabilities along with their families, teachers, counselors, and service providers were invited to participate in a variety of special events. These included the UW Computer Fair booth, presentation and reception in March; the Stephen Hawking lecture and private meeting in July; a presentation by Canine Companions in August; and the UW Health Sciences Open House in April. Individuals were informed of events through the DO-IT newsletter, other publications, and Internet discussion lists. It is estimated that more than 1000 individuals with disabilities and their associates took advantage of these offerings. A sample of comments regarding the UW Computer Fair are typical of participant reactions to DO-IT events:

"It was fun to see a blind UW Adaptive Technology Lab assistant showing (two DO-IT Scholars who are also blind) how to use voice output on an IBM compatible."

One participant's grandparents were there...they thought DO-IT was a great opportunity for their granddaughter...they were also VERY PROUD of her!

"The DO-IT booth was packed...people loved the DO-IT buttons."

A note was sent by one Scholar's mother: "Sheryl, it was nice to meet you and your staff! We really enjoyed the fair and the DO-IT presentation. It was so well done and very informative. We look forward to all the steps ahead of us in learning and being involved with DO-IT. Thank you."

Some participants made great efforts to come to DO-IT events. For example, one DO-IT Scholar made a four-hour trip across the state in a van in order to attend the private meeting with and lecture by Dr. Stephen Hawking. He was given a pass from the hospital in order to attend. Wearing a halo and brace at the time to immobilize his back and neck following a surgery on his spine, he was positioned on a cart and had to remain in a horizontal position at all times. Although the trip was uncomfortable, he summarized by saying "It was worth the pain!"


Primary funding ($500,000 for year 1) for the DO-IT project is provided by the National Science Foundation. The University of Washington also contributes substantial resources. Additional contributors include NEC Foundation of America ($40,000) and US West Communications ($15,000 plus gifts-in-kind). DO-IT partners who have contributed gifts-in-kind and support include Advanced Networking and Services; Apple; Battelle Pacific Laboratories; Clark College; Communications Technology Center; The Evergreen State College; Grand Coulee Dam School District; Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy; Kiwanis; Microsoft; NEC Foundation of America; Northwest Net; Pacific Science Center; Portland State University; Skagit Valley Community College; Southern Oregon State College; U.S. West Communications; University of Puget Sound; Washington Library Network; Washington North Central Educational Service District; and Washington School Information Processing Cooperative.


The Principal Investigator of DO-IT is Dr. Ray Bowen, Dean of the College of Engineering. The Director is Dr.  Sheryl Burgstahler, an Assistant Director of Computing & Communications. The volunteer DO-IT Advisory Board includes:

Dr. Gene Ball, Microsoft Corporation 
Karl Booksh, Chemistry graduate student 
Dr. Fred Campbell, UW Dean of Undergraduate Education & Vice Provost 
Tim Collins, Boeing 
Dr. Norris Haring, UW Professor of Special Education 
Dr. Jodie Haselkorn, Professor, UW Rehabilitation Medicine 
Jack Methven, US West 
Ruby Ryles, parent of student with disability 
Virginia Stern, Director of Project on Science, Technology & Disability, AAAS 
Jerry Van Noy, Manager, Transition Services, Washington State DVR 
Rich Walsh, Director, Resource Center for the Handicapped 
Robert Wright, Instructional Support Specialist, Seattle Public Schools

Dr. Ray Bowen and Sheryl Burgstahler serve as ex-officio members.

Year 1 DO-IT Support Staff includes:
Dan Comden, Adaptive Technology Consultant Deb Cronheim, Research Consultant and Technical Writer Marysheila Guichon, Office Coordinator Jane Hartway, Project Evaluator Serena Schubert, Technical Writer Nikki Stauber, Research Consultant and Program Coordinator

Additional Information

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) serves to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs such as those in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. Primary funding for DO-IT is provided by the National Science Foundation, the State of Washington, and the U.S. Department of Education. DO-IT is a collaboration of UW Information Technology and the Colleges of Engineering and Education at the University of Washington.

Grants and gifts fund DO-IT publications, videos, and programs to support the academic and career success of people with disabilities. Contribute today by sending a check to DO-IT, Box 354842, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-4842.

Your gift is tax deductible as specified in IRS regulations. Pursuant to RCW 19.09, the University of Washington is registered as a charitable organization with the Secretary of State, state of Washington. For more information call the Office of the Secretary of State, 1-800-322-4483.

To order free publications or newsletters use the DO-IT Publications Order Form; to order videos and training materials use the Videos, Books and Comprehensive Training Materials Order Form.

For further information, to be placed on the DO-IT mailing list, request materials in an alternate format, or to make comments or suggestions about DO-IT publications or web pages contact:

University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
206-221-4171 (fax)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane

Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

DO-IT Funding and Partners