DO-IT News January 1995: All Articles

This page features all the articles from the DO-IT News January 1995 newsletter. This newsletter can also be viewed article by article on the DO-IT News January 1995 page.

Director's Digressions

Sheryl Burgstahler
Picture of 1995 Phase III Scholars
Picture of 1995 Phase III Scholars

The DO-IT Scholars successfully transitioned to new phases of the program after completion of their on-campus summer programs in August of 1994. The Phase I program took place August 7 through 19; Phase II was August 14 through 19.

During the summer program, some of the Phase IIs were assistants for the new Phase I program. For some this was their first job experience. Duties included retrieving and preparing break time snacks, cleaning up after the Phase Is, coming up with fun evening activities, and making sure the Phase Is got to bed on time. They were introduced to the real world of work, including the cold reality that sometimes you have tasks to complete when you'd rather be doing something else.

Work was not the only thing the volunteering Phase II Scholars got to do. After the first week, they were joined by remaining Phase IIs for one week of their own program. Instead of having their interest piqued in several subjects, the Phase IIs had a one week overview of one topic. The four study groups were Computer Science, Information Systems, Paleontology, and Genetics.

In the continuation of the Scholars' education, the Phase II Summer Study focuses on a specific area of study, giving Scholars a taste of what they have to look forward to when they enter college studies and ultimately the job market. The DO-IT program assists its Scholars in realizing a successful future.

Four Phase II Scholars, who are part of our first group of Scholars, graduated after their second Summer Study to the level of DO-IT Ambassadors. DO-IT Ambassadors are former Scholars who have graduated from high school and elect to take on a more assistive role with the DO-IT program. They mentor, volunteer their time to teach a younger student about the Internet or computing, or take on other DO-IT projects.

DO-IT is actively recruiting a new group of Phase I Scholars, perhaps you or someone you know would like to join DO-IT.

College Life

Anna, DO-IT Ambassador

I live in Haggett, which is the dorm between McCarty and McMahon. It was designed by someone who left their brain at home. The stairways are narrow, and the worst part is that the door opens toward the stairs. We could get in a line and do dominoes with that thing.

Dorm food hasn't been too bad, though they've done really weird things to the eggs a couple of times and the Haggett food staff isn't as helpful as McMahon's.

I've gotten lost a few times on campus, and in very strange ways too. Some part of me was, apparently, attempting to be creative and unique. However, for the most part my first quarter at the U-Dub has gone quite well.

People are very nice and helpful, but sometimes they're too helpful and it's hard to always be polite because it can be irritating. But I try really hard and I think I've only really shown my annoyance once.

Finally, I'd like to tell you all the best things I've learned in my first weeks at college. First, if you're blind, don't get lost in big, wide open spaces. Second, don't get a cold while you're still trying to get into the swing of things. And here's the best one. In history, we studied the Sumerians who were one of the first civilizations. We read their story of the flood. According to them, it happened because the gods decided that they couldn't sleep because humans were being too noisy. So, they attempted to wipe us out.

Closing The Gap Conference

Anthony, DO-IT Scholar

The conference was held in Bloomington, Minnesota from October 17th through the 22nd. I attended from the 19th to the 22nd.

The conference was great because it gave me a chance to see what technology is available to help make our lives better. The technology that was displayed ranged from equipment for the blind and visually impaired, to the deaf and hearing impaired, to the physically handicapped as well as the mentally handicapped.

The main event for me was the meeting Thursday afternoon in which we spoke about the DO-IT program. Sheryl Burgstahler, Dan Comden and I gave a talk telling why DO-IT is important to us, how it operates and how it gives us a chance to see a wide variety of opportunities for a variety of disabilities.

My main part was to tell what it is like to be a student in DO-IT. I talked about what activities we took part in, like computer labs, projects in science, math, and engineering, as well as dorm living, and the skills we learned enabling us to use the Internet to communicate with others all over the world. I also talked about how it gives us a chance to keep in touch with each other until we meet next year and beyond that.

In all, it was a great conference and opened my eyes to the kinds of technologies that are available to us. I am ready to go back next year.

Closing The Gap (CTG) hosts a conference on adaptive technologies in Minneapolis, Minnesota, each October. CTG also publishes a newspaper by the same name; a resource directory is included in one issue each year. For more information about CTG, contact:

Closing The Gap
P.O. Box 68
Henderson, Minnesota 65044
Telephone: (612)248-3294
Fax: (612)248-3810

World of Radio, an Option for the Visually Impaired

Eric, DO-IT Scholar
Picture of DO-IT Scholars taking part in a science experiment
Eric takes part in an experiment in science, assisted by Lloyd.

There are a couple of things a visually impaired person could do in the world of radio. They could be an amateur operator or get internships in a radio station. The adaptations for both are quite easy. Amateur radio is a fun thing to do during spare time. One of the requirements of amateur radio is getting a license. The privileges you get depend on the class of license you have. I currently hold technician class. This is one that allows people to talk in the VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency).

To get the required information to help me pass the test, I signed up with an organization called Courage Center. This is an organization that provides adaptations for disabled people. They also send out monthly newsletters about what new things take place there. I listened to their recording and had assistance from the Rogue Valley Amateur Radio club in taking the test. I passed it the first time and my license came in June, 1993. Currently, I am working to upgrade it.

I am upgrading to general class which will allow me to work the world on the shortwave bands. One way that disabled people can use their computers for this form of communication is dialing into an amateur radio bulletin board system. On these systems, people all over the world call and communicate with other operators.

Not only have I had experience in 2-way radios, but I have also had a couple of internships in radio stations. I acquired these internships through the Oregon Commission for the Blind. I used them as my career during the summer work experience program which is held annually every summer. I lived in a college dormitory and used public transportation to get around. My first internship was in 1993 when I was working for public broadcasting. Public broadcasting gave me a lot of the experience I needed. I gave weather observations over the air and did reception work. To give weather observations, I had someone tell the information to me and I brailled it out. The microphone was set up for me in the studio and I just adjusted it so it was level with my mouth and talked into it.

My second career was in Community Radio which is highly listener-supported. This one did not go well because they did not keep me very busy. Even when I was working, I was doing things like labeling tapes and CD's which did not give me the radio training I needed. There was also too much dead time. In the end, it was decided that Community Radio was not the place for me to work.

In conclusion, I would like to state that there is something in the world of radio for people with visual impairments and other disabilities. Look around for radio stations that might want interns. Check around for information on amateur radio if you are interested. I am sure you will find it exciting. For further information send electronic mail to

Information Systems

Rodney, DO-IT Ambassador
 Picture of DO-IT Scholars discussing the creation of the DO-IT Gopher Server
DO-IT Scholars discuss the creation of the DO-IT Gopher Server.

In the Information Systems class, we primarily learned how to set up a gopher system--namely the hawking one--and the basic UNIX commands for creating the files that go into it. Since the gopher software's creation out of the University of Minnesota a few years ago, many institutions--governmental, educational, and even commercial--have elected to set up a gopher as a way to efficiently and easily organize and distribute pertinent information related to their function as an organization. For instance, a company could decide to put their application for employment up on their gopher server.

The DO-IT program, like most with gopher sites, has available via its gopher a wide range of resources. Everything from what's been published about the program in the media to information on how to become a Scholar or Mentor to interesting science related resources. One interesting concept that we learned was that a gopher site is always in a state of evolution--it's impossible to have a completed gopher. Two reasons account for this. First of all, a gopher server is a "living database" of information, which means that files put up are constantly going out of date, being revised, added too, and things that are no longer relevant are being dumped. Sometimes a matter of taste dictates the gopher structure be reworked.

The second reason for the ever changing gopher has to do with links. There are a number of problems with maintaining vast resources of information. It would be inefficient, time-consuming, labor-intensive, and ultimately a waste of time to have many resources on many different topics on one gopher server. Also, the administrators of a particular site may want to provide information not directly pertaining to the function of their organization. So as an alternative to lots of heavy work, gophers contain links, or passageways, to other gophers.

For instance, in gopher, you can select a menu item which will transparently move you to an entirely separate gopher from the one you originally entered the address for at your system prompt. You could conceivably go through a limitless number of gophers in this manner in your search for interesting tidbits of knowledge. Gopher systems are constantly being created and decommissioned, and so when one goes down all the links to it on any other gophers cease to work.

The week-long class briefly went over some of the aesthetic issues of setting up a gopher, as well as some DO-IT specific considerations. We toyed with ways for making it screen reader friendly for blind users, making the structure of the files somewhat intuitive, and generally making sure things made sense. Overall, we think the class made valuable contributions to our understanding of the processes of the Internet, as well as giving us the knowledge to do things from our own Internet node.

Off the Net

Sally Bulford


  1. Avoid alliteration always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  8. Contractions aren't necessary.
  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  10. One should never ever generalize.
  11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "I hate quotations."
  12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  13. Don't be redundant; people find constant repetitiveness a turnoff. Repeating things already said can be annoying to others, as well. Besides, it makes people mad.
  14. Be more or less specific.
  15. Understatement is always best.
  16. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  17. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  18. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  19. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  20. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  21. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  22. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  23. Don't use considerably more words than those which figuring one way or another are really necessary.

Just DO-IT

Kevin Berg

A reprint with permission from Computer Wave

Adaptive technology and the Internet have opened many doors to those with disabilities. Just ask the high school students involved in Project DO-IT.

DO-IT is an acronym for Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology. This 3-year-old program, which is run primarily from the University of Washington, was started thanks to a grant written by DO-IT director, Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler, and funding by the National Science Foundation. Dr. Burgstahler had a vision of a program which would encourage disabled high school students to seek a college education and careers in the areas of math, science, or engineering. DO-IT is the product of that vision.

High schoolers accepted into the program are known as DO-IT Scholars. The first group of DO-IT Scholars numbered only 18, but already the program has had an impact on Scholars, Mentors, and staff, even beyond the expectations of Dr. Burgstahler.

The DO-IT program has been a success because of its unique organization. Broken up into three Phases, Phase I Scholars graduate to Phase II where they begin to act as mentors to the next class of incoming Scholars, and finally in Phase III they take on even more mentoring responsibilities.

Phase I begins with a two week session in which the Scholars live and work in dorms at UW, while also attending classes, lectures and demonstrations. Much of the Scholars' time is spent in computer labs learning to navigate the Internet. Other activities may include going to the Pacific Science Center, Mariners games, or the movies.

Throughout the first year Scholars explore the Internet. They gather information on subjects they are interested in and communicate with each other via e-mail. Internet accounts are provided by the UW on a computer named after world-renowned physicist, Dr. Stephen Hawking, who is disabled himself.

Upon admission to Phase II, Scholars design and complete science projects which deal with the specific interests they have researched on the Internet. Scholars work jointly with faculty and other professionals in order to develop the knowledge and skills learned in the previous year. These Phase II Scholars act as peer-mentors to incoming Phase I Scholars both through e-mail and face-to-face contact during the two week live-in program at the U-Dub.

In Phase III, veterans of the first two phases are given opportunities to be individual contributors to the DO-IT program through activities agreed to by each participant and the DO-IT staff. Some opportunities include specific mentoring responsibilities, scientific resource management, system administration, newsletter editing, working in summer programs, and helping with other DO-IT sponsored events, such as the DO-IT exhibition booth at the annual UW Computer Fair.

The young people learn about more than just math, science, and related subjects. They learn about each other. Last summer's Phase I Scholars built strong friendships through interaction with each other on a more personal level than the Internet can provide. For example, those in wheelchairs would guide those with vision problems.

DO-IT Scholar Rachel says that her best experience with DO-IT was "making many new friends who have various disabilities, but to me, seem totally normal."

If incoming students do not have the necessary equipment to connect to the Internet, DO-IT loans the equipment to them along with any adaptive technology required by the student. Such adaptive technologies include screen readers, text enlargers, special keyboards and mice, and sip-and-puff systems that use Morse Code. The students are allowed to keep this equipment as long as they are involved in DO-IT.

An important part of each Scholar's development in Phase I is communication between the Scholars and their Mentors. DO-IT Mentors include professionals, professors, and college students who are involved in the areas of math, science, or engineering. Most of the Mentors are disabled themselves, and while several of them are from UW, there are many from other colleges, universities, and organizations. A few of the Mentors even live in other countries.

The role of the Mentors is to provide support for the Scholars. Scholars and Mentors are broken into teams, based on disability. Mentors and Scholars build relationships by communicating via the Internet. The Mentors are encouraged to write to their team at least once a week, as well as communicate with Scholars outside their own team.

Being a Mentor can be beneficial to the Mentor as well as to the Scholar. "It has been good for me, despite the fact that I don't hear much from them," says DO-IT Mentor Roger Harris. "I like being part of a resource that may be of help to them someday."

Most Mentors understand that these high school students enjoy communicating with each other more than with those who are older. If a student ever has a question or problem though, the Mentors are glad to help.

One of the most important things to the Scholars is the ability for them to be seen as equal to everyone else on the Internet. Thanks to the adaptive technology they use, they are able to go out into the world on the net and communicate with people who have no idea the person on the other end of the connection is disabled. DO-IT Scholars really enjoy the opportunity to travel around the world without leaving the room.


Mentor Dean Martineau

I've done a lot of things in my professional life, including teaching math; teaching French, Spanish, and English to foreign speakers; and helping newly-blinded adults adjust to their vision loss. Now I'm also on staff part-time with the DO-IT program, doing Internet training, finding Internet Resources for the Gopher server, and compiling and maintaining resource guides.

As a Mentor, I try to help people enjoy the net and find what they want there. The net has information and enjoyment for everybody, and I try to explain it in ways people can understand. I'm also happy to discuss life, computer access, the universe, and almost everything with no vision!

Scholar Ben

My name is Ben and I would like to write about how the DO-IT program has changed my view on life.

For years I haven't been able to walk or lift my arms. So I let my fingers shine and played video games. But whenever the word "computer" came into conversation I couldn't relate because I couldn't hold my arms up to type. One of the worst feelings I had was when I watched someone else's enjoyment using a computer because I couldn't.

I know how each of us felt. We got mad, asking why God gave us this disease or for being different from everybody else. Sometimes we couldn't take it anymore and felt like the only person in the world.

But when we entered the DO-IT program that all changed. We all felt so triumphant now that we could use a computer. From the very first e-mail, to cruising the Internet the only thing we have on our minds is, "What can we not do?" We are all going to succeed, we all are smart enough and now that we have the power of a computer the gold that was always just out of reach can now be grasped.

** To send a message to all DO-IT Scholars or Mentors, send electronic mail to or, respectively. **

Recruiting DO-IT Scholars!

Are you, or do you know someone who is:

  • a sophomore or junior in high school?
  • interested in science, engineering, or mathematics?
  • planning to go to college?
  • a resident of Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, or North Dakota?

If so, contact DO-IT to obtain an application to become a DO-IT Scholar. DO-IT Scholars participate in two Summer Study programs at the University of Washington, are loaned computers to keep in their homes while they participate by communicating on the Internet network, communicate with Mentors, and participate in a variety of stimulating activities throughout the year.