DO-IT News December 2002 : All Articles

This page features all the articles from the DO-IT News December 2002 newsletter. This newsletter can also be viewed article by article on the DO-IT News December 2002 page.

Director's Digressions

Sheryl Burgstahler

Meet the 2002 Scholars!

This August was DO-IT's tenth annual Summer Study program for high school students with disabilities — the DO-IT Scholars. This year's Scholars were funded by the State of Washington, the Boeing Company, and NASA.

Silvia is from Royal City, WA. She has osteogenesis imperfecta, which causes brittle bones. She is a member of the National Honors Society. Her favorite subjects include math and computer science. She is considering several different careers that include computer engineering, web specialist, and legal secretary.

Amy lives in Sedro Woolley, WA. One of her career interests is to be a fashion designer. Amy, who has attention deficit disorder, is also interested in pursuing a degree in business. She enjoys meeting people and writing letters to pen pals.

Rebecca lives in Stanwood, WA. Some of her interests include anime and manga (Japanese comics and cartoons). Rebecca, who has a learning disability, is interested in studying medicine. She also hopes to go to Japan for a couple of years to experience a different culture.

Ian, who has a muscle disorder, is from Whidbey Island, WA. He is interested in computers and hopes to become an expert in C++. After high school, he plans to pursue a computer science degree at the University of Washington.

Saroj is from Seattle, WA. Biology and sign language are a few of the classes she enjoys. Saroj, who has dyslexia and has been on the honor role, would like to go to college and become a social worker. She also enjoys dancing.

Gimmie, who has a learning disability, comes from Vancouver, WA. She received the youth achievement award for 2000 and 2001. She is interested in several subjects at school including biology and history. She would like to pursue a career in social work or financial advising.

Natalie is also from Vancouver, WA. She has a learning disability. Her two favorite subjects are science and history. She finds science interesting because of the fun experiments she can participate in. She would like to pursue a career in the medical field.

Scott lives in Bothell, WA. His favorite subject in school is United States history. Scott has a sensory integration disorder. He would like to pursue a career in nuclear engineering. In his spare time, he plays computer and card games.

Caleb resides in Westport, WA. He is hoping to earn scholarships so he can pursue a career in mathematics. He has a learning disability that affects reading speed and comprehension. He is also involved with a youth group and enjoys weight training.

Jacob lives in Cullman, AL. History and chemistry are a few of his favorite subjects in school. Jacob, who is partially sighted, has been on the honor roll. He is interested in music and also enjoys working with people.

Leon comes from Bellingham, WA. English is one of his favorite subjects. Leon, who has cerebral palsy, also enjoys playing on the computer and reading.

Alexandra is from Covington, WA, and she is partially sighted. She enjoys web design, crafts, and playing the clarinet in her school band program. Her career interests include research medicine, particularly virology and forensic pathology.

James is from Stanwood, WA. He is partially paralyzed on his left side. He enjoys participating in band and likes math. One of his goals is to become a lawyer.

Jared is from Kennewick, WA. He hopes to be a doctor some day. He is also interested in oceanography and cooking. He was born with congenital heart defects. In the past, he wasn't able to participate in sports, but now he can skateboard and ride bikes.

Andrew, who has a learning disability, is from Seattle, WA. Art is his favorite subject in school and he plans to pursue a career in it. In particular, he likes comic book art and fine art. He also enjoys karate, snowboarding, and swimming.

Rima, who has cerebral palsy, comes from Kent, WA. Her favorite subjects are biology and English. She plans to attend a university and study law and medicine.

Chris, who has muscular dystrophy, lives in Carnation, WA. One of his favorite subjects is Spanish. After high school he would like to attend a university and work toward a degree.

Carson is from Olympia, WA. He is interested in physical sciences and would like to pursue a career in engineering. His favorite subjects are science and social studies. Carson, who has a learning disability, also plays the French horn.

Dale, who has cerebral palsy, lives in Benton City, WA. He is interested in law and government and hopes to attend the University of Washington. One of his other ambitions is to enter politics on the national level.

Ryan, who has cerebral palsy, resides in Sammamash, WA. He is interested in science and history. He feels history is important to know because it helps us understand the present and plan for the future.

Angela lives in Lynnwood, WA. She has a mild case of cerebral palsy and loves writing and singing. She plans to attend the University of Washington and study to become a pediatrician. She is also considering a degree in music.

Boeing and NASA Expand DO-IT Scholars Program

With generous grants from Boeing, DO-IT was able to fund additional Scholars in 2001 and 2002. These grants allow us to serve more students with disabilities, helping them transition from high school to college and then on to careers. Thanks, Boeing! DO-IT invested your money wisely in preparing college students, skilled workers, and community leaders for the next generation.

For the second year, NASA has funded one out-of-state DO-IT Scholar. Jacob R. traveled from Florida during Summer Studies 2001 and 2002 to join the 2001 Scholars cohort; he plans to be a DO-IT Intern during the 2003 Summer Study. Jacob J. joined the 2002 Scholar group during this past Summer Study. He comes from Alabama. Thanks, NASA for helping us maintain a national presence.

Summer Study 2002 - DO-IT Does It Again!

Scott Bellman, DO-IT Staff
Picture of DO-IT Interns Zachary and Nohemi tie-dying t-shirts.
Interns Zachary and Nohemi tie-dying at Summer Study 2002

Year after year for the last decade Scholars have descended upon the University of Washington campus, hungry for new experiences and ready to take on the rigorous DO-IT Summer Study schedule. "Many days this year were non-stop from seven in the morning to ten or eleven at night," noted DO-IT program manager Sara Lopez. "Somehow, the Scholars made it through the challenging days with energy to spare!" And just what filled up all of those "challenging" days? According to Michael Richardson, DO-IT program coordinator, "If it's related to science and computer technology, we did it. Computer labs, hi-tech tours, sophisticated projects... and lots of e-mails!".

Scholars also visited the Human Interface Technology Lab, performed surgery on sheep hearts, received advice from a career panel, worked on their resumes, learned about applying to college, and participated in mock job interviews with local human resource professionals. Projects for second year Scholars were awesome! They included consulting with the National Parks Service on access issues, understanding advanced computer algorithms, completing software usability tests, and thinking about ways in which humans interface with computers.

Picture of Stephanie and Scott.
'00 Scholar Stephanie and Scott, DO-IT staff

When asked the secret to the success of Summer Study, the Director Sheryl Burgstahler simply said, "Great kids + great could we lose?"

The DO-IT Web site includes a description of Summer Study 2002

( and the DO-IT Scholars program (


Summer Study '02: What Did the Phase I Scholars Do?

DO-IT Phase I Scholars participate in a two-week, live-in summer study session on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, Washington. They learn about college life; surfed the Internet; interacted with peers, staff, and mentors; and had fun. Below, '02 Phase I Scholars share some of their experiences. Note that some articles were edited by DO-IT staff to make them short enough to include in this publication. Additional articles by Scholars can be found in earlier newsletters at

Our Experience with the DO-IT Program

By Scholars Silvia and Saroj

This is one of the best programs for disabled students who want to succeed in life. This was our first summer, and we had a blast. We learned many new things, meeting so many people, some with disabilities, and learned new procedures for out of high school requirements. We also learned things to look for in a college. We also went to Microsoft, The Pacific Science Center, the Museum of Flight, and the Burke Museum.

We learned with computers, too. We created a Web portfolio, a resume, and other different things to prepare for college. Getting away from home can be scary, but we learned to be more independent even if we have a disability. Other individuals with disabilities who have a job or are going to college gave us tips on how we can succeed in life with a disability.

People like us with a disability don't really know how to ask for accommodations in a college campus or in the classroom. While we were there, we had a group discussion on the accommodations we need for college and how to ask for them. That helped many individuals with disabilities. Now we are not afraid to ask for accommodations.

In this program we have also done experiments and exercises. For example, we performed heart surgery on a sheep heart. We had to replace a valve for a needy sheep to get a feel for what a surgeon does. For our exercise, we did an event called Skiforall. It's where people with disabilities can ride special bikes. We could either go out pedaling using our hands or our legs. We had so much fun.

The best part of the DO-IT was meeting other individuals with different disabilities. We got the feel of what a college campus is like and expanded our computer skills. Every student with a disability deserves to succeed in life like other people. This program can help you reach your goal in life. Thanks DO-IT for giving us the opportunity to be in the program. We will miss you all, see ya all next year and year-round on the Internet!

Ice Cream on the Ave

By Scholars Natalie and Amy

On the 1st of August we went to the "Ave" for ice cream, not just any Ave either, it's the main street of the business area near the University of Washington located on University Way. The ice cream place was called Häagen-Dazs. There were many different flavors for us to choose from and also many different types of cones, too. Flavors that were the most popular were:

  1. Cookie Dough
  2. Chocolate Chip Mint
  3. Cookies & Cream
  4. Swiss Almond
  5. Vanilla Chocolate Chip
  6. Pralines & Cream
  7. Macadamia Nut
  8. Brandy Almond
  9. Coffee

They had these choices for cones:

  1. Sugar cone
  2. Dipped waffle cone with chocolate and nuts
  3. Dipped waffle cone with sprinkles and chocolate
  4. Also plane kinds, too.

Häagen-Dazs was just a little place on the corner. It had friendly people and they were very willing to help. They also were able to work under pressure because there were about 25-30 people and we had to get in and out so they had to work fast and we had to think fast about what we wanted.

There are so many different things to choose from you could be there all day long.

Social Life and Free Time

By Scholars Scott and James

The first topic we are going to talk about is the pool play. The second we will talk about was the Nintendo64 (N64) game playing.

The first day we went and played pool. Unfortunately there was no chalk, so no exceptional shots were made. The 10-ball was replaced by a former 12-ball that had lost so much of its paint that it looked like the cue ball. The light played tricks on our eyes causing us to accidentally hit Caleb with a ball. The Texan joined us in our games.

When we found the N64 in the computer room, we sat in front of the glowing screens for hours at a time. Chris brought in Super Smash Brothers and in the process, invited a larger crowd to indulge in four-player madness from 9:00 PM to 10:30 PM. Silvia drove a forklift into Zach's stolen police car while Nathan drove a nail file shaped car covered in solar panels.

These are interesting points we made about social life. We hope you find this information funny and interesting.

Dorm Life

By Scholar Leon

When you think of dorm life, what do you think of? Possibly the bad food or the horrendous room conditions, with no space to really move. But there are some good things about dorm life such as the kindness of the people, the activities, and the overall experience. The dorm rooms at McCarty Hall are great because there are two sets of drawers, desks, book cases, and two twin beds with sheets on them in every room on every level. The dorm has a main lounge with a partially covered outside area and an inside area with items including a pool table and a ping pong table. In addition, with all the other games and equipment, the people who live in the dorms are maybe the most important because a person can meet fellow dormmates in a dorm and become friends with them. They may keep their friendships for years to come.

Around college campuses, people are extremely friendly to other people, even to disabled people. Another thing is that everyone is helpful! For example, if a person who is in a wheelchair can't get into his room and a person walking by helps him into the room, it is courteous, helpful, and relationship-building. Dorm life is exciting because of the various things that are happening throughout the year, from the clubs/parties, to the individual sports, such as baseball, to the art or music performances on campus for the general public. Life in a dorm can sometimes be a drag, there are a lot of people in a small space. Overall, dorm life is a great experience to take part in but there are some minor drawbacks.

DO-IT Phase I Scholars "Get to the Heart of It"

By Scholars Alexandra and Rima

Picture of Alexandra
DO-IT Scholar, Alexandra

At 2:00 PM Tuesday, August 6th a needy sheep rolled into the operating room, its heart and lungs at the mercy of the eager, but inexperienced, hands of DO-IT Phase I Scholars. The sheep heart needed a faulty valve replaced and a coronary bypass. Actually, it needed a little more than that, but we did attempt miracles. Anticipation and even a hint of dread rippled through the room as the trays of preserved hearts, blades, tubing, and chalk were presented to each group, followed by rubber gloves.

Furrows of concentration lined the foreheads of many Scholars as they suspended the blades, poised above the congealed mass of cholesterol blocking a coronary artery. To bypass the blockage, one end of a rubber tube is inserted into an "x" created by two precise cuts while the other is connected to another "x" in the side of the aorta.

After gaining confidence through this relatively simple procedure, this group of budding cardiologists attempted a valve replacement. An incision was made in the side of the right atrium, the softest part of the heart. From there the surgeon probed a finger deep into the chamber in search of the opening to the artery with the troubled valve. Finally, the procedure was completed when the opening was found and the valve (chalk) was fitted into the narrow passage to regulate blood flow. 

Picture of Caleb, Dale, and Sheryl in computer lab.
Phase I Scholars, Caleb and Dale, explore internet resource in the summer study computer lab with director, Sheryl Burgstahler

Phase I Scholars Caleb and Dale explore Internet resources in the Summer Study computer lab with director Sheryl Burgstahler.

DO-IT Scholars proclaim the activity as a thrilling success. As for the sheep, we can honestly say that he was not negatively (nor positively) affected by any of the procedures.

UW: All Access or Restricted Area

By Scholars Caleb and Dale

During our time at the UW we, "Caleb and Dale," have roamed far and wide across the campus. Dale uses a wheelchair so he has experienced some accessibility issues. Overall the UW campus is fairly wheelchair friendly with its many elevators, ramps, and automatic doors. There are a few places where further improvement would be helpful. One of the first things we noticed was that the dorm room doors could be a little wider. Currently a student in a wheelchair has to approach the door at almost a ninety-degree angle. This causes the wheelchair to block the flow of traffic through the hallways, which in an emergency is a hazard. On the positive side the dorm rooms, even the smallest ones, have proved to be comfortable and habitable for disabled students in general.

The dining room in Hagget Hall is an example of good accessibility. The staff is helpful whether requested or not and the room itself is clutter-free, which allows for easy movement. Plus the food is great in both quantity and quality. Outside, however, in the conference eating area the story is not the same. Instead of rows of rectangular tables, there are several circular dining tables that are close together. This is fine for a quiet night on a date, but people in wheelchairs cannot scoot in close enough to avoid getting food in their laps. To remedy this, we suggest that a few square tables be added in along with more room to move around with a wheelchair. The other thing we noticed is that a few of the bathrooms should be remodeled to better accommodate wheelchairs, such as the older ones that have not been redone since the fifties. Other than those few, the bathrooms have been very wheelchair friendly.

Although we have not seen all the possible accessibility problems that may exist, our experience with campus accessibility has been a good one. We feel that with just a few minor adjustments and continued disability awareness, this university will be remembered not only for its fine educational programs, but also for its excellent accessibility.

The Final Frontier

By Scholars Ian and Jared

Towering six stories tall over an audience enthralled with amazement, the Imax theater at the Pacific Science Center features a presentation of "Space Station 3-D" that offers an experience to which nothing can compare.

Unlike traditional movies in 3-D, Imax utilizes a groundbreaking technique which blasts the viewer straight into the action. During the filming process, a special camera was used to record the same image, but from two different angles. The images are then combined on the screen. During the movie, viewers are instructed to wear a special headset which rapidly alternates blocking the left or right eye. Doing this forces the brain to combine both images on the screen, creating the effect of a stunningly realistic 3-D environment. At one point the entire audience leapt from their seat as a cloud of flying debris seemed to be heading straight for them.

As for the movie itself, "Space Station 3-D" provides an in-depth look into the construction, maintenance, and potential of the new International Space Station. Astronauts must go through extensive and meticulous training in order to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Once upon the Space Station, they can perform experiments, which are not possible on Earth, furthering our research in some day achieving a manned journey to Mars.

The unity of breathtaking 3-D technology and the amazing story of the Space Station makes for an incredible experience for everybody.

Computer Lab: Accessibility For Everyone

By Scholars Jacob, Ryan and Andrew 

Picture of Sheryl and Carson in computer lab.
Director, Sheryl Burgstahler, and Phase I DO-IT Scholar, Carson, in COLLAB.

Director Sheryl Burgstahler and Phase I Scholar Carson in COLLAB.

The computer lab for the DO-IT Summer Study enabled us to interact with people who live many miles away. The World Wide Web brought the world to our fingertips. For someone with disabilities and restrictions, the adaptive technology in this lab allowed endless and unrestrained access.


By Scholars Gimmie and Chris

DO-IT Scholars had a chance to visit Microsoft studios in Redmond. While at Microsoft, we learned about adaptive technology for different disabilities that are being integrated into the new Microsoft programs, and were also given a chance to have a discussion with a panel of employees who have disabilities.

In one of the lectures, the speaker stated that Microsoft was adding accessibility to its list of priorities. For someone with a disability, they want the user to be able to install a program and have it ready to run without needing to buy or install more accessible software. To accomplish this Microsoft is now making certain programs such as screen reader, a screen magnifier, and an on-screen keyboard a standard for their new operating systems so that a variety of users can access the computer, although some might still need more complex programs.

Scholars were able to talk to four of Microsoft's employees that had disabilities. They talked about what they found out at college and things that they wished they had known about before they went. This panel also discussed that simply having a college degree doesn't guarantee a job, but if you gain experience through internships you have a better chance of getting hired or finding out early that the certain field isn't a good fit for you.

At the end of the Microsoft visit we were reminded that every day technology is getting faster, smaller, and cheaper. With the growth of Microsoft internationally, they are always in need of skilled employees, and we should never be afraid to try something just because we have disabilities.

The Burke Museum

By Scholars Rebecca and Angela

The Burke Museum is home to Washington's only real dinosaur fossils and has a world-renowned collection of the Northwest Coast Native Art.

When you walk in to the Burke, to your right is the museum store. There are a lot of things you can get there. If you go straight ahead from where you enter, there is the Life and Times Exhibit. That had a lot of dinosaurs, volcano, and Native art. That part was very interesting.

There is also a temporary Exhibit Gallery. When we went there, it was an earthquake exhibit. It was all about the last big earthquake we had in February of 2001. There was also a simulation where you press a button and you will see two buildings that were constructed on two different foundations, they will shake and one of them shook really bad and the other didn't.

Downstairs is the area is for Pacific Voices. When you walk around, you see about 17 different ethnic communities. Each of the communities chose an example to share in this exhibit. There are real good snapshots that explain their way of life. The Communities represented in the Pacific Voices all have their roots around the Pacific Ocean, in the Pacific Northwest, Asia, or the Pacific Islands. The exhibit includes China, Laos and Vietnam, Philippines, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Samoa, Northern Alaska, Hawaii, Northwest Coast, and has smaller displays from Islands in Indonesia and Micronesia. If you would like more information, then check out

Summer Study '02: What Did the Phase II Scholars Do?

Phase II Scholars return to the University of Washington campus for their second Summer Study. They met the Phase I Scholars as they participate in their first Summer Study, learned about college life and career preparation, and participated in a one-week workshop with postsecondary instructors.

Making our National Parks More Accessible to People with Disabilities

By Scholars Brandi, Jacob, Amy, and Chris B., and Interns Susanna and Zach

Our Phase II workshop was to figure out what we would do to make the national parks and services more accessible to those who have disabilities. We went on a field trip to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in downtown Seattle. We saw things there that needed improvement. We recommended accommodations, not just for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, but also for every national park in the United States and possibly the world, too. We came up with solutions to the problems we saw there. We decided that there was a need for the narrative tapes so that deaf people could understand what was said. Some tables needed to be lowered for wheelchairs so people could see at eye level. Larger prints were also needed for the narrative stories on the walls for those who are visually impaired, and, for those who cannot see anything, there should be Braille. The computer that was there should be on an adjustable table instead of being inside a cabinet. The bathrooms need to have better locks and also signs so people will know where the bathrooms are. In the auditorium, more wheelchair spaces are needed.

Learning About Usability

By Scholars Caleb, Jeff, Matt, and Sarah

In our workshop we learned about usability engineering. We learned what usability means and how to conduct a usability test. We also tested the accessibility features in Windows XP™ and talked about what things Microsoft should improve.

Usability engineering is the study of what makes a product usable. The study of usability examines the experience users undergo with a product and seeks ways to improve that experience. When performing usability tests, usability engineers recruit participants who would actually use the product.

One of the methods usability engineers use is the Think Aloud Protocol. In this process, the tester asks the participant to verbally explain what they are doing and what they are thinking. If the participant forgets to talk or stops talking, the tester gently reminds the participant by saying, "keep talking," or asking questions like, "What are you looking for?"

We tested some of the accessibility features of Windows XP, such as the onscreen keyboard and Narrator. We also tested how easy they were to find. Here are some of the issues we discovered:

  • Some of the features are hard to find because they are in different places than they were in previous versions of windows, like the numeric keypad mouse, Narrator, the high contrast settings and the onscreen keyboard.
  • The onscreen keyboard does not appear until after the user has logged into their account, which requires entering a password. So, if the user requires an onscreen keyboard in order to enter a password, then the user cannot log in.
  • The high contrast mode worked for the operating system itself, but did not affect the screen display on programs or applications.

Special thanks to our interns Stephanie, Carole, Emma, and Chanterelle.

The Game of Life 2002

By Scholars Elizabeth, Chris, Mike, and Brad

What do you typically think about when someone says the words summer camp? You're probably not thinking about what high school students call brainstrain, otherwise known as "The Game of Life." Indeed life is hard, but the Phase II Scholars have diligently learned how to make it a game. We experimented with a computer game played with colored squares on a grid. "The Game of Life" is a world of problem-solving strategies created by Conway.

In this game, you are a cell trying to determine your behavior based on the cells that surround you. Using this method, Chris, Mike, Brad, and Elizabeth created rules later translated to java code.

From The Game of Life, the Scholars moved on to bigger and better things exhibiting creativity along the way. Brad used pictures of past Scholars to present the dithering effect and had fun bringing his favorite cartoon character. Mike brought pictures from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to life for the blind by printing the image in Braille. Mike also read up on the history of the game and created Wolfram's world, a world of mathematical patterns based on simple rules. Chris developed a predator-prey game, and Elizabeth experimented with modifying the Game of Life as well as creating the shadow, fill, move, and step graphics. While working with people with past experience in the logic of The Game of Life, we discovered new things, conquered frustrations, and came away with a very rewarding sense of accomplishment.

DO-IT Celebrates 10 Years

Picture of presentation of award.
'93 Scholars Anna, Katie, and Nhi present director Sheryl Burgstahler with pictures of all DO-IT Scholars at DO-IT's tenth anniversary party.

This summer, DO-IT celebrated its tenth anniversary in UW Husky Stadium-Don James Center. On October 1, 1992, the first of many grants to support DO-IT was received from the National Science Foundation. The ultimate goal of all DO-IT projects is to increase the college and career success of individuals with disabilities. Technology is used as an empowering tool. Happy Birthday DO-IT!







DO-IT to Lead Alliance for the National Science Foundation

$4,000,000 from the National Science Foundation funds the Alliance for Access to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) for five years, beginning December 1, 2002. The purpose of this Alliance is to increase the successful participation of people with disabilities in STEM careers. Project activities are focused in the Northwest region (Washington, Alaska, Idaho, and Oregon) and outreach and dissemination efforts extend nationwide.

The UW partners with Washington State University in this effort and DO-IT leads the Alliance. DO-IT also partners with ENTRY POINT of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to place STEM postsecondary students with disabilities in paid internships and it collaborates with MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) to adapt hands-on science activities and teacher training strategies for students with disabilities. The Alliance brings together practices that have proven successful individually, to create a unique, comprehensive set of interventions. They include:

  • Hosting motivational college/career transition and STEM fairs for pre-college students and STEM academic/career activities for college students with disabilities.
  • Encouraging high school and college students with disabilities who show interest and aptitude in STEM with peer and mentor interaction, work experiences, and other activities as they transition to college, graduate school, and employment. Students who join the AccessSTEM Team will engage in an online community, mentoring, field trips, research, paid internships, and other activities to assure their success in STEM careers and promote the success of others.
  • Delivering training and curriculum materials through established pre-college teacher networks, teacher training programs, and professional organizations; providing educators with opportunities to work with students who have disabilities.
  • Helping STEM postsecondary faculty, support staff, counselors, and employers fully include students with disabilities in their courses and programs and creating accessible facilities, science labs, distance learning programs, and electronic resources.

The National Center on Postsecondary Educational Supports (NCSPES) will evaluate project outcomes and impacts, conduct research on factors that promote success for students with disabilities, describe replication models, and help disseminate results.

We at DO-IT look forward to coordinating this Alliance, promoting the successful pursuit of STEM fields for more people with disabilities.

DO-IT Begins its 11th year with New $million!

To frost the cake on our 10-year birthday party on October 1st, DO-IT received a commitment of $900,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to continue its efforts to help postsecondary faculty and administrators more fully include students with disabilities in their courses and programs. In the previously funded project from the same source, DO-IT Prof developed videotapes, handouts, training materials, and a Web site (check out The Faculty Room at Tailored to the needs of postsecondary educators, it includes content on accessible educational technology, universal design, and accommodations for students with disabilities in lecture classes, distance learning courses, computer labs, science classes, international travel programs, and other instructional settings.

Our new three-year project, DO-IT Admin, takes lessons learned from DO-IT Prof to create similar training products that will reach out to offices of admissions, libraries, tutoring centers, career services, and other student services units on postsecondary campuses nationwide. As with DO-IT Prof, we will work with a team of collaborators from around the country to assure that materials and methods created are of practical value to institutions nationwide.

DO-IT Prof and Two Team Members Receive Achievement Awards

Nancy Rickerson, DO-IT Staff

The DO-IT Prof project received the 2002 annual Achievement Award for outstanding program accomplishments from the Washington Association of Postsecondary Education and Disability (WAPED). DO-IT received this prestigious award for its contributions in advancing awareness and program development in support of postsecondary students with disabilities. Over the past three years, the Prof Team (23 colleges and their partner schools across the nation) have delivered hundreds of presentations at colleges, universities, and conferences, educating thousands of faculty and administrators regarding significant educational issues for postsecondary students with disabilities. The DO-IT Prof project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education (Grant number P333QA990138-01). For more information, check out The Faculty Room at

Deb Casey Powell, Dean of Student Affairs at South University in Palm Beach Florida and DO-IT Prof Team member, has been awarded the Mid-Level Student Affairs Professional Award by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA)-Region III. This award recognizes individuals who demonstrate outstanding commitment to the profession and to creating campus environments that promote student learning. Ms. Casey-Powell has been a member of the DO-IT Prof Team and has delivered DO-IT Prof presentations at national conferences.

Al Souma, Director of Disability Support Services at Seattle Central Community College and a DO-IT Prof Team Member, was awarded the 2002 AHEAD (Association for Higher Education Access and Disability) Professional Recognition Award for his outstanding achievement and contributions to the field of disabled student services. This award distinguishes those AHEAD members who go the extra mile to provide services to students with disabilities. Al has presented Academic Accommodations for Students with Psychiatric Disabilities and other DO-IT Prof professional development training at colleges and conferences nationwide. Please join DO-IT in congratulating these colleagues.

In Memory of Keaton

Sheryl Burgstahler
Image of Keaton
1997 DO-IT Scholar, Keaton

I am sad to report that Keaton, one of our '97 Scholars, died on December 26, 2001. Keaton was from Alaska and attended the University of Utah. He planned to pursue a career in engineering. About DO-IT, Keaton said, "I have found my membership in DO-IT to be empowering. The DO-IT experience helps liberate my mental functions from becoming stagnant or self-limiting. Thanks to DO-IT I have assimilated the thought patterns, 'I can DO-IT' and 'I will DO-IT'. [Participating in DO-IT also] helps me synthesize strategies pertaining to how I am going to DO-IT. DO-IT ROCKS!"

Keaton is missed by all of us who had the good fortune of knowing him personally or benefiting from his participation in the DO-IT electronic community. We will forever be grateful for his contributions.



DO-IT Staff Profile

Michael Richardson
Picture of DO-IT Staff member Michael Richardson
DO-IT Staff member Michael

My name is Michael Richardson, and I have been working at DO-IT for two years. Currently, I coordinate the CAREERS K-12 program. The goal of this program is to increase the participation of K-12 students with disabilities in work-based learning experiences, such as job shadows and internships. This also includes providing information and support to parents, educators, and employers.

Shortly after I was born in England, my family emigrated to the USA and we settled in Newport Beach, California, where I spent the first 8 years of my life enjoying the sun and surf. At the age of five, I was found to have a moderate hearing loss in my left ear and was fitted with a hearing aid. As I got older, my hearing loss progressed, and I eventually ended up wearing two hearing aids.

After finishing junior high school in Enumclaw, Washington I attended Charles Wright Academy, a private high school in Tacoma, Washington. My parents felt that a smaller classroom environment would be more conducive to my communication needs. Upon graduating from high school, I decided that I needed to meet other students with hearing loss and chose to attend California State University, Northridge (CSUN) near Los Angeles. Additionally, CSUN is well known for its support services to deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and I was impressed by their professional notetaking services. This was a great experience for me, and I learned sign language through my associations with my deaf friends. I received a Bachelor of Science degree in health education in 1990 and moved back home to Washington with the hopes of finding a job as a health educator.

Upon arriving home, I applied to vocational rehabilitation services for job placement assistance. The job developer, who was assisting me in my job search, asked me if I wanted part-time work as a job coach with her agency. I accepted because I needed a job immediately (I was anxious to get my own bachelor pad and out of my parents' hair!). My first task was job coaching a prep cook who was deaf. It was then that I realized I wanted a career working with people with disabilities. After a few months, I was promoted to a job developer and after two years, I accepted a job as a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the Washington State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). I worked for DVR for nearly eight years as a counselor, a regional coordinator of Deaf Services, and as a supervisor. Supervising was fun, but tough considering that most of my staff was much older than I was! Seeking a change in environment and wanting to work with students, I applied for my current position at DO-IT, and here I am!

Much of my free time is spent with my wife and two little girls, Devon, four years old, Emma, one, and my yellow Lab, Homer. Any other spare time is spent fly-fishing or restoring and riding vintage motorcycles.

My hearing loss has progressed to the severe/profound level in both ears. I use a variety of accommodations, such as a TTY and Voice-Carry-Over (VCO) phone, an e-mail pager, and sign language interpreters for meetings and conferences. I have no problem being deaf, but at the same time I would like to maintain and improve my oral communication skills as much as possible. That's why I decided to go high tech! On November 5, 2001, I had cochlear implant surgery and on December 3rd I had my device hooked up. In just over two weeks, things have really improved for me. Lipreading and oral communication is much easier and I can carry on a phone conversation with some family members (familiar voices). With additional programming and adjustments over the next several months, further improvements are expected! It has been a new and exciting experience for me!

Online Safety Tips: Protecting Your Personal Information

Doug Hayman, DO-IT technology specialist
Doug helps Rima with her computer.
Doug Hayman shares technology tips with Rima, Phase I Scholar.

The Internet has opened up a whole new world to people of all ages and abilities. Real-time communication with friends in all parts of the world is now commonplace and easily carried out with e-mail, chat, and other Web-based tools. Where children a few years ago would tie up the family telephone chatting with their friends, they're now online for hours chatting real-time with messenger tools and in chat rooms. Likewise, research that used to be carried out with the family's encyclopedia books has been replaced with the vast depository of information available on the World Wide Web.

The Internet is a human creation made up of folks from all walks of life. Some of those people you wouldn't want to leave alone with children. And yet many children are out there playing in a virtual playground, unaware of the real-world dangers that exist.

There is a now famous cartoon, of a dog at a computer keyboard with the caption, "On the Internet, nobody knows that you're a dog." Likewise, on the Internet, no one knows your age, gender, address, phone number, or other personal information unless you reveal that directly or indirectly. While it could be fun to take on the persona of someone you are not and pretend with someone else via e-mail or chat, it can have grave consequences. This is especially true if a virtual dialogue is followed by an in-person meeting.

On Friday, May 17, 2002, while DO-IT Scholars were enjoying another Pizza Party in Seattle and Spokane, across the country 13-year-old Christina Long went to meet a 25-year-old man at a nearby mall in Danbury, Connecticut. They had met online and in person several times. Her body was found the following Monday. She'd been strangled by this man. It turns out that she'd been living a double life, one known by fellow students as a happy, successful classmate. The other included venturing into places children should not go.

While Christina went looking for dangerous adventures, others unwittingly invite it by passively revealing information that should remain private. No one needs to know your real name, age, gender, address, phone number, social security number, whether or not your parents are home, and other details of your life that could be used by online predators.

Useful guidelines for safely surfing the Internet include:

  • Don't give out personal information (name, age, address, phone number, social security number) to strangers.
  • Never meet in person with an online stranger unless you get your parent's permission and have them come with you.
  • Never invite a stranger to come meet you in person or call you at your home.
  • Don't open attachments from strangers (or friends) without scanning them with an up-to-date anti-virus program.
  • Tell your parents right away if online interaction makes you feel uncomfortable or scared.
  • Use an online name that doesn't reveal your gender or age. A bad choice would be Mary_12; better names are "oaktree99", "grasshopper", and other gender and age neutral monikers.
  • Use passwords that meet the highest standards of privacy. Avoid using common words, pet names, or common word combinations. Instead, use combinations of upper and lowercase letters/characters along with numbers. And, don't give your password out to anyone.
  • Set up a separate e-mail account for times that you must provide an e-mail address to then be able to trap unwanted "spam". Several free services like or are ideal for this. Be sure to set the options for maximum privacy when creating such an account.
  • Use a firewall program, which restricts the flow into and out of a computer connected to a network. This will minimize the threat of intrusion, especially if you have a cable or DSL account that is always connected to the Internet.
  • Maintain operating system updates to close vulnerabilities as they become known.

Following these guidelines will not guarantee safety on the Internet, but they may help safeguard you and your family.

The Thread: Challenges in Employment

Occasionally, we like to share some of the content of our rich electronic community of DO-IT Scholars, Pals, Ambassadors, and Mentors. Scholars and Pals are still in high school. Ambassadors are people who were once DO-IT Scholars but have now moved on to college and/or employment and support the younger Scholars. Mentors are adults who volunteer their time to support the DO-IT Scholars, Pals, and Ambassadors, primarily through e-mail discussions.

Below are some of the responses to a recent question posed by a Phase I Scholar: "What was the biggest challenge that any of you have faced in employment? How did you meet or overcome the challenge?" I had to make a few minor edits, mostly to shorten the response to fit into an article of reasonable length.

  • From a Mentor who has a mobility impairment: There is an ebb and flow, a rhythm, to work. Some days you have enough energy to take on the world; some days all you want is a pillow. Some days you feel like Einstein; some days ya don't (anyone else about to say "Almond Joy has Nuts, Mounds don't"?). Keeping this rhythm at a reasonable level in regards to work productivity is tricky enough WITHOUT a disability. Factor in levels of pain, fatigue, focus, etc... and how those things interact with work, and whammo! things can get a lot more difficult to manage. I find it is important for me to watch my emotional and physical levels. Sometimes I need to go home, grab a drink, some really easy food to cook, hit the couch, and stare at the TV for a night. I may need to be sure to lay a certain way, support a certain joint, etc... In other words, sometimes it's your brain that needs to shut down, sometimes it's your body, sometimes it's both.

    Recently I have discovered, though, that you can do the above too much and get into a rut. You usually know you're in one when your life becomes sleeping and working-and nothing else. I find that occasionally, even if I'm tired, I need to make myself go out with friends, hear music, go to a movie, dancing, whatever. DO SOMETHING to revitalize the spark. There are a few friends in my life who basically have this role- and I've told em' that!
  • From a Mentor who is blind: Hi all, I think one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced at work was making the technology accessible with speech. On my most recent teams, I have had to use software that could not be easily accessed using speech output and the keyboard. Among the least accessible programs was used to log calls. To resolve this, the Commission for the Blind hired a programmer to come in and check out the software. His duty was to determine if there was a way to make the program accessible. He was able to program the speech software so it would read all the text boxes in the call-tracking software.
  • From an Ambassador who is blind: Well, my answer has a bit of a funny spin on it. I'll start off by saying that I'm completely blind. I got my degree in biology, but turned artist in a pretty serious way during college and it's only become more intense. Art is the thing I love and that I know I am supposed to be doing, so in hunting for a job I wanted something that would give me flexible hours, that I wouldn't have to take home, that might allow me to work later in the day so that I could stay up drawing at night, etc. I thought a bookstore or coffee shop would be nice, but much much easier said than done. I actually applied to several coffee shops during that time and found, for example, that my ability to do math in my head and on an abacus was essentially made obsolete by their fancy touch screen inventory computers. And as for a bookstore, I love books, read tons of them, but couldn't actually stalk shelves and all that so I didn't even try. There eventually was a solution. I became a Mary Kay consultant. I control my hours, get to interact with people, can make it a career if I want and not if I want, and still have much time for art.
  • From a Mentor with a learning disability: My biggest challenge was finding the courage to stand up and say, "I really am an artist; I really am a writer. And that really is what I'm going to do." For me, employment is not only a matter of finding work that inspires me, but also work that provides me with the freedom to pursue my love for creation. It hasn't been easy. At middle age I completed a degree in English at the University of Washington, thanks to financial aid. I'm not working now, not in the conventional sense, but I've been lucky to have met people who understand what it is I do, and believe in it. I'm looking for work. It has been a disheartening experience, to find people will not hire me based on their stereotypical heuristics. They see my age, not my intelligence, my creativity, my strength. But I've never been one to let a little thing like insurmountable odds stop me. ;) Still, ahead of me are some frightening changes I've never faced, but whatever comes next, I can stand straight, and walk into my future knowing who and what I am. It will be a continuing challenge in a nation where cleverness is valued over intellectualism, where the concrete and the material are valued over the aesthetic and the spiritual, where brute force is more common than creative force. But then, life would be sooooo dull and flat without challenges, don't you think?
  • From a DO-IT Ambassador with mobility and speech impairments: Hello. I work out of my house as a Remote Troubleshooter for an assistive technology company. I do their technical service calls about their 5 different communication devices they manufacture. I have been doing this for about two and a half years already. I use a communication device to communicate with. Since the majority of our customers have disabilities, too, being helped by me offers them some hope for themselves to get an education, a job, or both. Before this job, I worked at a library which I loved and was very good at. When they had a job opening, I applied for it, but I didn't get it because I feel and they thought I did my work somewhat slower than the others. Another point I would like to make is that I'm beginning to believe that some employers believe that the government is going to take care of us no matter what because of our disabilities, so why do we need to draw a wage? They're more interested in giving that money to somebody who the government isn't required to support. I know that some of us do need the government's help with medical costs that we couldn't otherwise pay without going into major debt, and to me the government is disabling us that way. I would honestly like to see the government try to make a program just for medical and attendant costs for those of us who can work, but just need help paying for wheelchairs, attendant care, and other medical things. It wouldn't only be helping us, it would also save the government tons of money by keeping people with disabilities working.
  • From a Mentor who is blind: I have been in the working world for almost two years now, all with the same agency. My biggest challenge has been to stand up for what I believe is right, even though that meant undoing a lot of work that had been done before my arrival and did not reflect well at all on the colleague who had been heading the project I was working on. I was asked to evaluate a methodology that that colleague had been working on for five years and for which he had received a lot of funding. When I discovered that the methodology did not produce the desired results, I immediately realized that my results would have a significant influence on the fate of this long-term project, and that my results would require me to say some negative things about my colleague's work. After learning as much about the method as I could and double-checking my results in various ways, I finally decided to tell my supervisors what I had learned and recommend that the method not be pursued any further. My supervisors turned out to be very supportive of my results and conclusions, and after a few more weeks of discussions, they asked my colleague to discontinue working on his method. So, dealing with the unexpected amount of responsibility I had was my biggest challenge, and I found that I had to do everything I could to learn as much about the topic as possible, objectively evaluate the situation, discuss the situation with colleagues knowledgeable on the subject, and then trust in my ability to draw reasonable conclusions, even if those conclusions may not be what either I or others were expecting.
  • From a Mentor with mobility and speech impairments: I had an interesting conversation with my supervisor about an internship I have at a nonprofit organization. After I got to know her better, I asked her whether she was hesitant about hiring someone with a disability and she was very honest in her response. She said that she was hesitant about it because she was afraid that hiring someone with a disability would somehow make more work for her. She was afraid that she would have to intermediate between me and the rest of the staff, and that she would have to supervise me closer than the other interns.
  • From a Mentor who is blind: Being open about my disability (blindness) and up front about the accommodations I need has worked well for me. At the recommendation of my thesis adviser, I attached a brief "personal statement" to my post-doctoral fellowship applications, in which I described the alternative techniques I use to get the job done. I don't know if it helped alleviate any fears, but I suspect it at least answered some questions, and it certainly didn't hurt.
  • From a Mentor with a mobility impairment: It is very important to promote yourself as a qualified individual who would add great value to the company. You should practice interviewing and dress professionally. If your disability is visible, discuss issues frankly and how you have overcome barriers and limitations. Discuss any accommodations that you will bring. You may also want to ask your interviewer if they have additional questions or concerns. Remember to smile!

    It is important to note that it is difficult for everyone to find his or her first job. Try not to assume your disability is what was the underlying reason you did not get the job. During school, try to get experience to put on your resume such as internships and volunteer opportunities. Summer jobs are good, too. I got my first job from my professor because he was impressed with my ability. You might want to start networking even while in college. Your professors and guidance center may be a good connection.

    Issues will not stop at obtaining a position. Afterwards, you may need to prove yourself to your co-workers. This happens for all employees not just an employee with a disability. However, I have noticed that sometimes it is more important for a person with a disability. I work with many consumers and customers which is face-to-face interaction. I noticed some people have no difficulty accepting me as an equal. However, it is difficult for others. The best thing is to put someone at ease by showing your skills or talking to them in a friendly manner. Try not to take anything to heart as it is many times a lack of understanding or exposure to person with a disability.

    Other issues that are struggling are not directly related to my position. The problems are PCA staffing, the extra energy it takes, transportation, and medical issues. Your personal life will play a part in your ability to effectively complete your job.

    When starting a new job, try to figure out what type of accommodations would assist you on the job. If you do not have ideas or experience problems right away, contact your vocational counselor about a on-site job analysis and assessment. I made a mistake of not doing this and ending up doing a patch technology job. Extremely frustrating! I even work in the area of assessment and assistive technology. I preach about accommodations but did not do it for myself. Make sure that you receive training with your accommodations as others may have ideas that you have not considered and without training, it will become less of a benefit. Your employer may purchase the items also. If transportation or getting to work are issues, make sure that you have the same equipment at home. I did not do this until later and got behind on projects.

    You may want to talk with your supervisor after several weeks. Discuss your job performance and any problems that have occurred. It is important to be proactive. If you feel that you are not being accepted at work, try bringing treats one morning and introducing yourself.

  • From a Mentor with a mobility impairment: My biggest challenge has been the day-to-day grind! I am a quad in a motorized chair and currently have six part-time attendants that assist me. I have worked for thirty years at a university and hope to put in a few more before I'm hauled out of here. But, getting up and driving to work everyday is a 2.5 hour adventure fraught with intrigue and disaster at every turn (late attendants, bowel program miscues, vomiting cats, you name it!). I refer to myself as a cottage industry, employing more staff to get me to work and help me live independently than I actually supervise at my job site. Trying to work a life into this endeavor is not easy but as was already mentioned, still pretty crucial to sanity and one's well being. Because of the rigors of this challenge, it has left me with little energy or time to focus on career development. When I started work, there were so few employers willing to hire disabled individuals- I sort of put all my energy into being successful in the setting I was in rather than looking around at potential opportunities elsewhere. I believe it might be better now and certainly hope that it is!
  • From a Mentor with a mobility impairment: I personally have no experience working. I missed my chance at co-op this summer because of health reasons. But my work study job was the pits. The person I worked for told me what to do then complained because I couldn't set up appointments with her every day to discuss what was going on. I had classes and physical therapy appointments to work around and she was hardly ever in when I was free. So she really destroyed my confidence in what I was supposed to do.
  • From a Mentor who is deaf: It sounds as if this supervisor was hardly fit to work with you. I encourage you to find other people who have a better talent for working with people.
  • From an Ambassador with a mobility impairment: My experience with work thus far is that, thankfully, most of my employers have been very willing to work both with me and on my behalf to ensure that my employment experience is a successful one. The main challenge that has been giving me a little headache is with Social Security which labels my status as unemployable because of my disability. The situation got to a point that every time I was paid at work, Social Security Administration required me to send my paystub for the paycheck I earned so they could deduct that same amount from SSI payment for the month. Both my sister, my payee representative, and I were getting really troubled by the entire situation, and after finding out that the person who was responsible for handling my case at the Social Security Office was doing lets say a somewhat less than satisfactory job with my case, I asked around and obtained all the names and phone numbers of everybody who was handling my case in every department I could think of...

    With the assistance of a social worker at my out patient therapy clinic, I found the name and number of my DDD case manager and left message after message until I was able to talk to her and schedule a meeting. Through meetings with my case manager, my sister, and myself, I learned that Social Security only allows an individual with a disability to work for so many hours and still qualify for monthly SSI. With the help of my case manager, I was able to submit a request for an extension of hours to work and I was also informed of a new program that DDD is implementing through their department that will allow clients more flexibility with their work hours. My case manager met with the person in charge of this new program on my behalf and e-mailed me his phone number and e-mail address right after she met with me. That is where I am with being employed.

    When it comes to getting over challenges in employment, it is best to get all the information on why or why not some things work and others don't.

  • From a Scholar with a mobility impairment: I am currently interning at the juvenile justice center in my area and let me tell you, it was hard to find an employer in the legal field who was willing to take me on. I find that persistence and presentation are two things that have really helped me. Keep in contact with potential employers and you'll be noticed for your enthusiasm, thus your more likely to get an interview. (The company may meet with you just so you'll stop calling!) Then once you get in the door, wow them with your skills and knowledge and you will have a good chance at getting the job.

More 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.

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