DO-IT News October 2013 : All Articles

This page features all the articles from the DO-IT News October 2013 newsletter. This newsletter can also be viewed article by article on the DO-IT News October 2013 page.

Director's Digressions

Sheryl Burgstahler, DO-IT Director
Photo of Phase II DO-IT Scholars Peter and Lindsay look at geological rocks with an instructor
Phase II Scholars Peter and Lindsay look at geological rocks with an instructor during Summer Study 2013.

Forty-four DO-IT Scholars and Ambassadors participated in activities of the annual DO-IT Scholars Summer Study program in July. These high school and college students with disabilities from across Washington State, their advocates, and DO-IT staff celebrated DO-IT's 21st anniversary. This program has helped launch the careers of hundreds of students with a wide range of disabilities. At the end of the summer program, I asked Phase I Scholars to share what they learned. Below I have summarized some of their responses.

  • How universal design can be used to make things more accessible to people with disabilities.
  • How people with all types of disabilities can be successful.
  • About "ableism"—I now have a word for when people discriminate against individuals with disabilities.
  • That I can talk to anyone, no matter what their disability is.
  • How to think more about other people's needs.
  • That I have a lot more in common with people with disabilities different than mine than I originally thought. To be more up front about my disability.
  • About the variety of assistive technology that people with disabilities can use.
  • How I can take charge of my life and advocate for myself.
  • How most people have a sense of humor about their disabilities.
  • About disability support services in college and the process for requesting accommodations.
  • What I need to do to take the next step in my education.
  • How to get ready for college.
  • How the scholarship process works.
  • A better way of writing essays for scholarship and college applications.

The participants also had lots of fun at Summer Study and, as one Scholar pointed out, "felt understood. That is awesome."

Spaced Out: Visiting The Planetarium

Olivia and Ellen, Phase I Scholars
Photo of people sitting around the edge of the University of Washington planetarium looking up at the night sky on a giant screen
People sit around the edge of the University of Washington planetarium looking up at the night sky on a giant screen.

The Phase I DO-IT Scholars had the opportunity to go the Physics and Astronomy Department at UW to check out the planetarium and to explore the far reaches of the galaxies without using a telescope.

An interesting sight to see before entering the planetarium was the pendulum that moves with the earth's motion. Next was the sphere shaped room with laid-back chairs for us to look up at the sky. This activity opened up a great opportunity to gaze under the "stars" while having the comfort of being indoors.

It was fascinating looking beyond our own galaxies and to get personal with the planets in our solar system. We learned about the stars' constellations and about the stories behind them.








Disabilities and the Media

Joshua and Sean, 2013 Interns
Photo of Phase II DO-IT Scholar Eric is drawing on a piece of paper under a camera, which is also shown on the laptop next to him.
Phase II Scholar Eric uses one of the Reel Grrl animation stations to create a cut-paper video during Summer Study 2013.

For far too long, the media has portrayed people with disabilities in egregiously false stereotypes. People with disabilities are neither to be pitied nor feared, but are a valuable addition to the lexicon of characters available to screenwriters today. People with disabilities deserve a better portrayal in the media.

Reel Grrls, the after school nonprofit media program for youth headquartered in Seattle, has decided to make that happen. "Not only do we show students how people with disabilities are portrayed in the media, but our partnership with DO-IT allows us to have students with a disability make media," Reel Grrls program director Monica Olsson said. To that end, Reel Grrls held a weeklong workshop on disabilities in the media. The participants learned about the portrayal of disabilities in the media and worked in groups to create videos centered around that topic, correct stereotypes, and educate the public.

Phase II Scholars Jennifer, Dominique, and Cody created a live action video about what to say and not to say to people in a wheelchair. "Most of the scenarios in this video come from our personal experience," Cody said. "People often ask us questions that are disrespectful. People ask us if they can ride in our chairs. We want to teach people how to talk to people in wheelchairs and how not to talk to them." Phase II Scholars Eric and Hannah worked together to make a short video on how people view people with disabilities participating in sports.

Societal trends are both reflected on and gleaned from the media, sometimes creating a vicious cycle of stereotypes and prejudice. The videos made in this workshop will not solve the problem in one fell swoop, but they may pave the way for more positive, accurate, and enlightened portrayals, one that will be beneficial not just for people with disabilities, but also for those without.

Summer Study: What Do Phase I Scholars Do?

Photo of Phase I DO-IT Scholars Clarissa, Hannah, and Ellen look at a computer during an EXO Labs workshop
Phase I DO-IT Scholars Clarissa, Hannah, and Ellen look at a computer during an EXO Labs workshop.

DO-IT Phase I Scholars participate in a two-week, live-in Summer Study session on the UW Seattle campus. They learn about college life; explore the Internet; interact with peers, staff, and mentors; and have fun. The DO-IT Scholars program started in 1993 as an experimental project for teens with disabilities nationwide. It is currently open to Washington State teens and is supported by the State of Washington, the Boeing Company, the Microsoft Corporation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Killing Killer Organisms?

Brenna and Karly, Phase I Scholars
Photo of Phase I DO-IT Scholars Julian and Karly holding different bottles of chemicals and work together in a classroom.
Phase I Scholars Julian and Karly work together on a science project during Summer Study 2013

On the third day of Summer Study, we were introduced to people at Seattle Biomedical Research Institute (SBRI), and what it means to work there. They study all kinds of different diseases.

SBRI finds ways to prevent viruses from speeding up and killing more people around the world. The disease we focused on in the class was tuberculosis (TB). TB travels by air, making it more contagious. It is most common to get in the lungs, but you can still get it anywhere.

After hearing all about their jobs, we were put into groups and given chemicals to see if we could destroy a virus. Each group had one jar of FDA, LB, and MEG. We then mixed the MEG with the LB, shook them for five seconds, and let them sit for three minutes. Then we chose three solutions from a table that had thirty or more different types of solutions from bleach to Bactine. We mixed those solutions with our MEG and LB, let them sit for three minutes, and then put the black light on to see if any of them worked. We all leaned in and squinted our eyes to see changes in the solutions. We were looking for the dimmer coloring. That meant the chemical would have killed the FDA. It was hard to tell what was light and what was dim. We loved all the bright colors the solutions created.

We learned about diseases that we hadn't heard of and how new diseases are evolving past our vaccines. This field of work needs more people to test and develop vaccines to help benefit the whole world.

Earth, Sea, Space Workshop

Cecily and Kim, 2013 Interns
Photo of OASST instructor Liz helping Phase II DO-IT Scholar MiKayla measure the beak of a bird to help identify what type of bird it is
OASST instructor, Liz, helps phase II DO-IT scholar, Mikayla, measure the beak of a bird to help identify what type of bird it is.

Phase II Scholars Nolan, Alex, Lindsay, Peter, and Mikayla participated in the Our Environment! Earth, Sea, and Space workshop. Each day held a different topic of study. On Monday, we focused on weather and climate, which included running a simple climate model on our laptops. On Tuesday, we explored concepts in oceanography and global warming with an oceanographer from the Polar Science Center. One cool experiment was to determine water level changes by melting ice in water.

Wednesday involved earth and space science. Through one experiment we charted the rate of speed of avalanches, icebergs, and mudflows. By allowing liquid nitrogen to build up pressure in a water bottle that was taped to a cylinder block and placed in a plastic garbage can, we were able to observe this explosion.

Our last day involved seabirds and marine ecology through the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team program. After learning about ecology, using wings, feet, and beaks, we were able to identify sea birds using a field guide. 




How DO-IT Impacted Our Lives

Clarissa and Nicole, Phase I Scholars
Photo of DO-IT Scholars, Ambassadors, and staff all sing Sheryl Burgstahler's favorite karaoke song, 'Stop! In the Name of Love' during ice cream and karaoke night
DO-IT Scholars, Ambassadors, and Staff all sing Sheryl Burgstahler's Favorite karaoke song, "Stop! In the Name of Love" during ice cream and karaoke night.

Imagine yourself being locked up in a glass case where no matter how hard you try it is impossible to get out. Before we heard about the DO-IT program, our everyday life felt boring. When we were little, we didn't have many friends because we were too shy to express ourselves and talk to other people. We usually did everything alone without the company of friends. We would keep to ourselves more because we were afraid that others would judge us or talk negatively about us because of our disabilities.

After we participated in the DO-IT Scholars program, we realized that we need to change ourselves and our way of thinking. DO-IT has taught us how to become more independent by living in a dorm, being away from home, and trying our best to take care of ourselves without our parents' help. We learned skills that we think are essential in our lives. Other than independence, one important lesson we learned is to not let your disability, whether it is physical, visual, and/or learning disability, control your life. Do not let other people's negative comments affect how you live your life. Just always remember to be you and do not try to be someone else. Also, never give up your dreams. It is true that there are many obstacles, but never break down and stay strong, because you have to learn from your hardships to be able to move forward and reach your true goal.

DO-IT has helped us realize that if you keep your enthusiasm and hard work, that hard work is going to pay off and eventually you are going to receive a much better reward than what you would expect from the start.

Neurobiology: Mice, Bugs and Brains!

Vaughn and Kaylie, 2013 Interns
Photo of Phase II DO-IT Scholar Jessica looking through a microscope in the neurobiology lab
Phase II DO-IT Scholar, Jessica, looks through a microscope in the Neurobiology lab.

Phase II Scholars, Allison, Jessica, Lucas, Aaliyah, Alicia and Grace participated in a neurobiology workshop. They had the opportunity to participate in two labs on campus. They spent time studying the effects of different drugs on the heart and brain of embryonic mice and the reaction of roach legs to different stimulation. Both of these labs allowed the Scholars to experience real college lab settings. In addition to what they learned in each lab, they had the opportunity to advocate for themselves with university staff.





Summer Study: What Do Phase II Scholars Do?

Photo of Phase II DO-IT Scholar Jennifer uses a tripod and camera while Reel Grrls mentor Elise looks on
Phase II DO-IT Scholar, Jennifer, uses a tripod and camera while Reel Grrls mentor, Elise, looks on.

Phase II Scholars return to the UW Seattle campus for their second Summer Study. They meet the Phase I Scholars, learn about college life and career preparation, and participate in a one-week workshop with postsecondary instructors.




Independence—Living on Your Own

Hannah and Courtney, Phase I Scholars
Photo of Phase I DO-IT Scholar Kayla holds up her arm and speaks up in a classroom, with Phase I Scholar Clarissa sitting next to her
Phase I Scholar Kayla speaks up in a Summer Study 2013 classroom session.

Leaving the nest is something all teens have to go through sooner or later. Whether they go kicking and screaming or faster than the Roadrunner, there are challenges for anyone starting life on their own—especially for kids like us. What do I mean by that? Well, I mean that we are normal people, but we happen to have disabilities. From cerebral palsy to being hard of hearing, each DO-IT Scholar has a little quirk making life a bit more interesting. Our metaphorical flight from the nest may be just a bit more exciting.

Living without parental guidance for the first time brings some invisible responsibilities and actions to light. We are finally able to comprehend how much we rely on our parents' advice, as much as we hate to admit it.

DO-IT Scholars is an experience full of realization. Things as simple as finding a seat in the cafeteria became something we had to do almost completely on our own. For visually impaired people like us, maneuvering in low-lit areas can be pretty stressful. So, it was up to us to learn our way around the cafeteria and orient ourselves to the environment.

Our parents weren't around to advocate for us, so we had to learn to speak up for ourselves and concisely explain our disability. Most people take for granted being able to read the labels over the different food options or the daily menu posted over the counter. However, being legally blind, these signs present significant challenges. The experience hasn't been easy by any stretch of imagination, but it has without a doubt been completely worthwhile.

Independence is a key element to surviving in the adult world. DO-IT allows us to have a taste of it before actually going off to college, giving us a chance to prepare for the world that lies ahead. It was an amazing and nerve-racking experience. In the long run it will assist us on the road towards college.

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

Kayla and McKenna, Phase I Scholars
Photo of DO-IT Interns Erika and Kaylie are dressed up in party hats and crafts while posing in front of a polka dot background
Interns Erika and Kaylie get silly for craft night during Summer Study 2013.

Ever since birth, we strive to make connections with other people. Throughout our lives, friendships are the anchor we grasp during the hard times. For some, however, making friends and having those life-long connections can be difficult. People with disabilities are just that: People first, who are affected by a disability. Disability does not define us; it's just a part of who we are. Some people, though, seem to disconnect and avoid us because we are "different."

Throughout our years, we have learned how to deal with this rejection. Honestly, it's not rejection though. Some people don't understand that we are all different. Nobody will ever be "normal." Understanding this concept can help us overcome fears to make friends and meet new people.

During this week at DO-IT, we have been thrown together with other people with disabilities from all over the state of Washington. We have met amazing people here and they have become close friends in ten short days. We truly believe these people will stay with us for the rest of our lives and help us through college and vice versa. As C.S. Lewis says, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'"

How Can You DO-IT?

Sign up to receive DO-IT News if this newsletter was not mailed directly to you.

Volunteer as a Mentor or to help with one of our Summer Study programs.

Pass this newsletter on to someone you know who can benefit from our programs.

Donate money to support and extend DO-IT activities including sponsoring Scholars from states outside of Washington, special events, work-based learning experiences, participant attendant or travel costs, refreshments for program participants, and creation and distribution of educational videotapes and publications.

DO-IT today by completing the form below! You may also make a secure online credit card donation at the University of Washington Make a Gift page by selecting the "DO-IT Program Gift Fund" option.

___ Sign me up to receive copies of DO-IT NEWS, a free program newsletter.

___ Send me more information about DO-IT volunteer opportunities.

___ I would like to make a donation (payable to the University of Washington, Federal ID#91-6001537) to support DO-IT operations.

___ I have enclosed a check for $____________

___ Please charge $____________ to my credit card.

___ VISA ___ Mastercard

Date _____________

Card Number __________________________ Expiration Date _____________

Card Holder Name ___________________________________________________

Signature _____________________________________________________

Address ____________________________________________________________

City __________________________ State _____________ Zip ____________

Phone: Home __________________________ Business ____________________

E-mail: ____________________________________________________________

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.

Mail to:
University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842

Thank you!

Pacific Science Center

Rahil and Julian, Phase I Scholars
Photo of Phase I DO-IT Scholars Ellen and Olivia using some of the science equipment at the Pacific Science Center
Phase I DO-IT Scholars Ellen and Olivia use some of the science equipment at the Pacific Science Center.

The Phase I DO-IT Scholars took a field trip to the Pacific Science Center (PSC). We went to several parts of the building, such as the Boeing IMAX theater, the exhibits, and the laser dome.

Our first stop was the movie theater, where we watched Flight of the Butterflies in 3D. The 3D effect really contributed to the movie experience.

After lunch, we formed several groups to explore the PSC exhibits. The exhibits were interesting and involved all parts of science, from astronomy to zoology. The butterfly house was fun because there were many different kinds of butterflies, and it related to the movie we saw earlier.

Our last activity was the Michael Jackson show in the laser dome. There were lines, shapes, and drawings made out of the light.

Call For Articles

DO-IT is pleased to announce the development of a new online resource: a place to cumulate emerging examples of universal design applied in postsecondary education as complement to the book, Universal Design in Higher Education: From Principles to Practice, published by Harvard Education Press (

Articles should include specific ways practitioners and researchers have applied universal design in postsecondary settings along with evidence of success. Areas of interest include:

  • UD applied to online learning
  • UD applied to on-site classes
  • UD as a topic of instruction
  • UD and faculty training
  • UD applied to student services
  • UD and information technology
  • institutionalization of UD efforts

Articles will be peer-reviewed by members of the Universal Design in Higher Education Community of Practice (, and if accepted, edited by DO-IT Founder and Director Sheryl Burgstahler. Articles selected for the online resource will be available free on our website. Authors will agree to these conditions while retaining copyrights to their individual contributions.

Articles may be submitted at any time to For author guidelines, contact

An Unexpected Flight: Wheelchair Basketball

Antonio and Ryan, Phase I Scholars
Photo of Phase I DO-IT Scholars Michael and Ryan ride a tandem bicycle on the Burke Gilman trail during Summer Study 2013
Phase I DO-IT Scholars Michael and Ryan ride a tandem bicycle on the Burke Gilman Trail during Summer Study 2013.

When we walked to the Intermural Activities center for the accessible sports exposition, neither of us knew what to expect. We knew we would have the opportunity to play wheelchair basketball, but many questions were lingering in our minds: What are the rules? What is the pace like? Will I be able to wheel myself and concentrate on the game at the same time?

Once we tried it, anxiety went away. "As soon as I [Antonio] strapped into the chair and gave it that first push, my fears were consumed by an excitement and intensity that I had never felt before: I felt like I was flying, like I was free." Ryan also added, "Although I was scared at first, it was a new experience that was very exciting." We recommend wheelchair basketball to everyone, even those without disabilities.



Innovation at Work

Dustine and Michael, Phase I Scholars
Photo of Phase II DO-IT Scholars Alicia and Aaliyah do an activity with cards with Intern Kaylie during the video games workshop during Summer Study 2013
Phase II DO-IT Scholars, Alicia, Aaliyah, do an activity with cards with intern, Kaylie, during the video games workshop during Summer Study 2013.

We had a great time at the Microsoft Campus. We learned about designing innovative products that serve the needs of people with disabilities. Scholars worked in groups to build a potentially useful product: a robotic service dog for people with disabilities. The activity provided a taste of how project development teams work together on a new invention.

A panel of Microsoft employees told stories of their disabilities and how they came to work at Microsoft, along with pieces of advice. Jenny Lay-Flurrie, the chair for the Cross Disability Employee Resource Group (ERG), advised us to consider disclosing our visible disabilities before the job interview, so that the proper accommodations can be made.

After the panel, Brannon Zahand talked about marketing video games. Brannon explained that Microsoft was making changes through feedback from people with disabilities to improve their games. The next speaker was Jessie; she explained what the definition of a game is, how games are classified, and the differences between AAA games, like Dragon Age Origins, and Indie games, like Plants verses Zombies. AAA games usually have large amounts of funding, resources, and marketing put into the creation of the game, while Indie games are usually created with less funding, often by a much smaller company.

Before we went to the Microsoft campus, we did not know about the video game industry and how Microsoft has responded to people with disabilities who use adaptive technology. We learned how to prioritize and work better as a team. We were left with a sense of awe and the belief that we could DO-IT!

DO-IT in Malaysia!

Sheryl Burgstahler, DO-IT Director
Photo of a view of Putrajaya Lake in Malaysia
A view of Putrajaya Lake in Malaysia.

A grant from the Malaysian government and other contributions support DO-IT Malaysia, a replication of the DO-IT Scholar program. Like the DO-IT Scholar program in Seattle and Japan, DO-IT Malaysia serves to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs and careers, using technology as an empowering tool.

For two Holiday Camps that took place in 2012 and 2013, DO-IT Malaysia leaders have been working with ten Scholars to prepare them for postsecondary studies, careers, independent living, and leadership roles in society. Activities at Holiday Camp included self-reflecting, speaking up with confidence, building self esteem, achieving personal success, hearing from role models with disabilities, team building, field trips, enhancing creativity, art therapy, financial planning, book sharing, and journal-writing.

Year-round, DO-IT Malaysia Scholars participate in "internetworking," mentoring, peer support, and work-based learning. Scholars communicate year-round on Facebook. An e-group for DO-IT parents has also been established. As with other DO-IT replications, such efforts are expected to result in more people with disabilities earning college degrees and employed in challenging fields and enhancing these fields with the talents and perspectives of this underrepresented group.

For information about how you can replicate DO-IT practices in the United States or internationally, consult DO-IT International Initiative

About DO-IT

DO-IT News is published at the University of Washington with input from DO-IT staff, Pals, Scholars, Ambassadors, and Mentors. DO-IT is primarily funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and the State of Washington.

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