DO-IT News October 2000 : All Articles

This page features all the articles from the DO-IT News October 2000 newsletter. This newsletter can also be viewed article by article on the DO-IT News October 2000 page.

Director's Digressions

Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

Meet the year 2000 Scholars!

Picture of Sheryl with Scholars
Sheryl shares a light moment with new Scholars Corinna, Jaime, and Brian.

In August we conducted our eighth annual DO-IT Summer Study program for high school students with disabilities. Twenty new DO-IT Scholars were funded by the State of Washington, and one Scholar, Nora, from Oregon was funded by the Samuel S. Johnson Foundation.

Nora, who has cerebral palsy, is from Oregon and enjoys studying English and foreign languages, especially Spanish. Her career goal is to "work in foreign language as an interpreter." Nora competes in skiing, swimming, and track for Special Olympics and was selected as the 1998 Blue Mountain Special Olympics Athlete of the Year.

Tasha lives in Seattle and enjoys studying math and the language arts. Tasha's educational goal is to move on to college to become a lawyer. She looks forward to learning more about computers and meeting other kids with disabilities (she has cerebral palsy) and is also enthusiastic about helping others.

Jeffrey, who has a hearing impairment, "strives to challenge himself." He enjoys both science and math and believes these subjects will enable him to reach his career goal of becoming an electrical or mechanical engineer. Jeffrey hails from Auburn.

Ryan, who comes to us from Bonney Lake, uses his computer for "homework, meeting people, and, of course, getting video games." He is part of the Computer Trouble Shooter team for his school. Ryan, who has cerebral Palsy, plans on a career in computer science.

Raleigh is from Spokane. He participates in athletics and the Associated Student Body. Raleigh, who has a learning disability, likes experimenting in his science class and learning about the history of our country in social studies. Raleigh is focused on succeeding in both school and "life."

Israel is from Rock Island. His dream is to become a computer programmer. Blindness doesn't slow him down in pursuing his interests in mathematics and music. Israel believes "technology is opening the door" to his education.

Brian's goal is to attend college in Japan and get his Masters degree in international business and foreign languages. Brian also enjoys history and is active in athletics and the community. Brian, who has a health impairment and comes from Bothell, "brings great tenacity to his studies."

Benjamin is a problem solver from Aberdeen. He enjoys physics because it "involves problem solving using formulas and putting the pieces of a puzzle together to obtain a final solution." Benjamin, who has a learning disability, has set his sights on attending college and studying law. He believes college will be "a life changing experience."

Jaime is the scorekeeper for both the basketball and volleyball teams at her high school in Lind. Jaime, who has cerebral palsy, wants to attend Washington State University and study neonatal nursing or physical therapy.

Brooke is from Seattle and is interested in history, chemistry, and architecture. Meeting the challenges of a specific learning disability, Brooke dreams of designing a building, "just something so that at the end of my life I can say that I made it."

Andrea's interests range from math to the performing arts and music. Andrea, who has a mobility impairment, is from Pasco. She has received academic awards over the years and desires to attend college, possibly in a foreign country. "I would like to travel and learn foreign languages and try new foods and activities."

Corinna hails from Everett and is "always willing to join in class discussions." Corinna, who has cerebral palsy, is interested in psychology, especially child psychology, and loves working and interacting with others.

Kasey, from Aberdeen, is not only successful in football, basketball, and tennis, but also in the classroom. Kasey's favorite subjects in school include history and English. Kasey has a specific learning disability and strives "to be more independent in school" by using technology and other tools.

Picture of Sheryl with Scholars Nick and Raleigh
Director Sheryl Burgstahler and Scholars Nick and Raleigh surf the Web during Summer Study 2000.

Deke's career goal is "to become a computer teacher in a high school setting." Deke hails from Chelan and has Aphasia. He has used a computer since he was 3 years old, has been on the honor roll for four years, and participates in track, basketball, and cross country.

Stephanie "is curious about many things but is especially interested in math." Stephanie hails from Spokane and is legally blind. Besides achieving the honor roll and student of the month award, Stephanie actively participates in the classroom. As one of her teachers puts it, "Stephanie is not a wallflower in groups."

Nathan, who has a specific learning disability, is from Edmonds. He enjoys "the structural aspect of rocks, dirt, and soil in geography." Nathan's other academic interests include engineering and physics. Nathan uses the World Wide Web for homework and playing games.

Nick "loves to eat all kinds of food," and hopes to translate that interest into studying food science and then entering the hotel/restaurant/resort services industry. In his spare time, Nick, who lives in Redmond, enjoys watching the Mariners, reading Spencer mystery books and playing with his pet hedgehog. Cerebral palsy hasn't interfered with his ability to shoot pool and bowl.

Noemi has cerebral palsy and hails from Sunnyside. According to one of her teachers, Noemi is a "people person and enjoys working in groups." Noemi is interested in becoming an educator and finds her history and ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to be very interesting.

Crystal hails from Rosalia. Her favorite academic courses include science and English. Crystal's hearing impairment has motivated her to become a sign language teacher in order to help other children with disabilities feel that they are "people too, who deserve to be loved and accepted."

Susanna enjoys how her science and math classes expand her level of thinking. Susanna, who hails from Spokane, is interested in marine biology and law, especially the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). She has cerebral palsy.

Gretchen comes to us from Bellingham. She believes her favorite subject, science, answers her questions about the world around her. Gretchen, who has a hearing impairment, programs computers in her spare time. She plans on studying education and sports medicine in college.

Disability and Football

DO-IT '98 Scholars Nick and Brian

When people think about sports, they mostly think about the players. For instance, when people think football, they usually think about all-stars like Jerry Rice, Steve Young, and John Elway. But, what about those people who are not physically able to play, and still want to be involved?

My name is Brian. I am in high school and I have cerebral palsy. I love the game of football. When I was a freshman I decided to go and help the freshman team. I went out to their first practice to survey the situation. I tried to talk to the coaches, and tell them that I was there to help the team in any way possible. The coaches weren't really sure what I was asking. So I kept going to practices hoping the coaches would let me do something for the team. Two weeks went by and nothing came up. I became frustrated and wanted to quit. My parents suggested that I go to the Junior Varsity (JV) team. When I arrived at the JV practices, the guys were very supportive of me and accepted who I am. The team even gave me the title of manager. I've been their manager for three years. I'm glad that I didn't quit.

My name is Nick and I am visually impaired. In middle school I played football for a year. Football was hard to learn since I really didn't understand it. I never had followed football up until that point. I have since then followed high school, college, and professional football teams. I guess you could say it changed my life. There is a lot that can be done to get involved in football as you can see with Brian and me. The situation can work around you. Don't think it won't.

College Internships

Eric, DO-IT Ambassador

No matter what college you go to or what you study, it is always a good idea to participate in a work-based learning experience such as an internship or cooperative education. These are special programs where a student applies what they are learning in school in a real work environment. It is sometimes possible to earn college credit. The number of credits will vary from one college to another and there may be limitations on what jobs you can do according to the requirements for your major.

Picture of DO-IT Ambassador Eric
DO-IT Ambassador Eric ('93 Scholar).

To acquire information on the work-based learning programs at your school, you can contact the career center or the counseling office. Discuss your career academic goals with the career center or counseling staff. They will be able to tell you about the policies and procedures for obtaining college credit for your work. Many work-based learning programs hold meetings during certain times of the week. These meetings serve important purposes. First, they give students the opportunities to meet with others that are doing internships. Second, they give students the opportunities to talk over work-related issues. You can learn how to make the most of your work experience and what kinds of problems might occur.

You should participate in work-based learning activities throughout your academic studies. You may want to do your work during the summer while you are not taking classes. Keep in mind that not all work areas offer internships. You should apply to several places and pick the one you like best. You want to do a job that offers activities you like. Some possible work areas include local radio stations, libraries, high tech companies, and organizations that serve people with disabilities. The application process will vary from one work area to another. You may be able to apply online or you can contact the career or counseling center at your college to get assistance with filling out the application.

After you have applied, you may be called in for interviews at each organization. Arrange transportation as soon as you hear about the interview. Once you reach the workplace, you will want to tell the employer what kind of work you are interested in. You may also want to discuss your accommodation and adaptive technology needs. However, you are not required to request accommodation until the time of a job offer. Sometimes, especially if your disability is obvious, it makes sense to get this conversation started at the beginning.

Once you get approved for an internship, you should check with the program advisor to make sure it counts for credit. I found this out the hard way back in 1997. I had completed an internship at Oregon Public Broadcasting and I did technical work that I thought would count for credit. I did not find out until the next term that it did not count.

Other preparations may be necessary. For example, if you're blind, like me, and you don't know where your work area is, you should arrange for mobility training. It is good to know the route to your job before you start work. In addition, if you need to acquire any adaptive equipment, you should order it once you know where you will be working and when you know what you will need.

On your first day of work you will want to learn the layout of your work area and basic operations. Make contact with your supervisor and begin any necessary training on how to use equipment and perform job functions. Here are some of my words of advice while you are on the job:

  • Be up-front with people about what is going on. If something happens where you might have to leave, inform the employer and cooperative education director as soon as possible. If you have to take time off, you should ask your employer first if it is ok. You should then contact the cooperative education director and ask them if you will still get the credit you are working towards. In addition, if there is a problem with the transportation that is causing you to run late, call your employer as soon as you hear about it. They may ask you to work extra hours to make up the time or work an extra day after the term. It is good to have a wireless phone. If you don't have wireless access, you should always have change to make a call on a pay phone so your employer knows what is going on.
  • Periodically, you should ask your employer to evaluate your work. Part of doing a work experience is knowing where to improve. Your employer will tell you what they like and what they think you should work on.
  • If you do a job you really like and want to consider doing a similar job when you graduate, talk to your employer about the availability of similar jobs at other work places. They may be able to direct you to people to contact. I worked at the Oregon Commission for the Blind one summer and I taught students how to use talking PC systems and did research on adaptive tools for the visually impaired. I asked my supervisor what the difference was between doing technical support for the visually impaired and doing it for the general public. After this experience, I decided to do technical work after college.
  • Your employer might send you a recommendation for your work if you did a good job. Recommendations can be very useful. You can show them to future employers and it will increase your chances of getting a job. When you go to a future interview, bring a copy of both your resume and recommendation to show your potential employer.
  • Suppose you have reached the end of your college education and you do an internship to earn your final credits. If you did a paid work experience you really liked, it may develop into a full-time job. If the employer liked your work and wants to keep you, you might not have to fill out another application for your next position.
  • When you write your resume, incorporate information about your completed internship. A successful experience will help you get your next job.

No matter what your goals are or how close you are to completing your education, I would strongly recommend that you do an internship. It is a good way to earn college credit and/or add to your résumé. You might receive a recommendation and your internship might turn into a full-time job. Regardless it will pay off in the future.

DO-IT Camps

Kristin Otis
A picture of DO-IT Director Sheryl Burgstahler and Ambassador Kris assisting students using computers at Camp Courage
DO-IT Ambassador Kris and Director Sheryl Burgstahler help Camp Courage campers surf the Net.

Summer 2000 for DO-IT means that it's time to go to camp! DO-IT helps existing recreational camps for children and youth with disabilities go electronic! We give kids experiences with new tools for learning and fun and challenge participants with Internet and college preparation activities.

During the summer, DO-IT staff travel to existing camps for children and youth with disabilities to teach Internet and college and career transition skills. What a dynamic group of kids and staff! Some of our camper participants have become DO-IT Pals, using the Internet to explore academic and career interests and to keep in touch with other DO-IT participants and mentors.

This year, DO-IT participated in the Washington Muscular Dystrophy Summer Camp, Washington Summer Camp for Young Burn Survivors, Easter Seals Camp Harmon in California, Easter Seals Rocky Mountain Village in Colorado, Easter Seals Camp Reed in Washington, Easter Seals Computer Camp in Washington, and Camp Courage in Minnesota. Most activities were funded by the National Science Foundation and the State of Washington. Additionally, DO-IT received grants from Microsoft and Jeld Wen, and in-kind contributions from Easter Seals and the American Computer Experience (ACE) company to support this innovative technology training for youth with disabilities.

We are excited to share resources, teach Internet activities, support interactions and ultimately support academic and employment preparation.

If you are interested in learning more about DO-IT Camper activities, contact DO-IT.

DO-IT Profiles

Here's your chance to learn more about the participants in DO-IT.

DO-IT Scholar Profile
by Ali

Picture of DO-IT Scholar Ali
DO-IT Scholar, Ali

My name is Ali. I'm from Northern Iraq and I'm Kurdish. My family came to the U.S. in 1997 and right now we live in Lynnwood, Washington. I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which causes my bones to be brittle. I am starting the twelfth grade in high school this fall. I like science, engineering, computers, and math. I received an internship at the Boeing Company called Tech Prep; I'll be trained in engineering there this summer. I'll be graduating next year and I plan to go to a 4-year college or university. I hope to major in computer science or aerospace engineering.


DO-IT Ambassador Profile
by Amanda

Picture of DO-IT Ambassador Amanda
DO-IT Ambassador, Amanda

Hi, my name is Amanda. I joined the DO-IT program when I was a junior in high school. I am from Great Falls, Montana. After graduating from Great Falls High School in 1999, I attended the University of Great Falls. I am studying communications with an emphasis in writing. I am planning to minor in art with an emphasis in photography. The work is a little difficult, but I am doing well. My hobbies include reading, writing, and photography. My disability is paraplegia. My main diagnosis, however, is Campomelia Dysphasia. It means "curvature of the long bones." It is very rare. By using wheelchairs, both manual and powered, I am able to keep up with most everything.

DO-IT Pal Profile
by Matthew

Picture of DO-IT Pal Matthew
DO-IT Pal, Matthew.

Hi. I attend Chrysalis High School in Woodinville, Washington and plan to graduate in 2002. I enjoy math, science and computers. At different times I've liked different academic subjects. Recently I've enjoyed my computer class the most. I'm most interested in exploring graphic design. I have experience in Web page design, including some animation. I am in the process of learning how to use voice recognition software. I became interested in being a DO-IT Pal (an electronic community supported by DO-IT staff and mentors) because I want to go to college. I also want to meet other students with similar interests and goals as well as gain advice from successful college students and adults with disabilities. Send e-mail to to learn more about DO-IT Pals.

DO-IT 2-4 Profile
by Kristina Courtwright

Hello, my name is Kristina Courtwright. I am a DO-IT Mentor. I enjoy reading, playing with my cat Sparrow, and talking with other people who have disabilities. I have Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities and use a wheelchair and/or canes to get around. I attended Tacoma Community College, and then transferred to the University of Puget Sound, where I completed my Bachelors degree in Occupational Therapy. I became interested in DO-IT when I heard about the DO-IT 2-4 project because, in my own experience, there were very few role models with disabilities that I could find, much less go to for advice. There were many times when I got very frustrated. I finally started keeping a mental list of people I could go to for help with problem-solving, and pep talks - that sort of thing. That seems to be a lot of what the doit24 electronic discussion list ( does for people. In DO-IT 2-4 we focus on the transition from 2-year to 4-year schools for students with disabilities.

I became very interested in advocacy, mentoring and assistive technology during my schooling and two internships in Spokane. Ideally, I would like to work with children, teens, and/or young adults who have similar disabilities, because I think it is important to have role models and to share our experiences whenever we can. This fall I will be joining Americorps working with disadvantaged elementary school kids to improve their reading skills. Some of my friends think I am a bit loony for wanting to be a therapist, but I have learned a lot and had a lot of fun along the way. I have enjoyed being a part of DO-IT, and look forward to getting to know even more participants.

by Cynthia

My name is Cynthia. I am twenty years old and live in Seattle, Washington, where I am a freshman at the University of Washington. I have a disability called achondroplasia (dwarfism). I am twenty years old, but my height is only 4 feet. I have had this disability since the first second I entered this world. I was born and grew up in Vietnam. My family and I came to the United States in the summer of 1992.

When I was still in Vietnam, I thought I was the only one who had a disability in this world. I really hated my physical disability, because when I went out of the house the kids in my neighborhood would laugh at me, and sometimes even throw rocks. I would always ask myself, "How come I am the only one who is different from everyone?" I lived in Vietnam for twelve years, with the idea that disabled people are useless people. When I came to the U.S. I learned that there are many other people with disabilities and, of course, I am NOT a useless person.

In my first year of living in the U.S., I studied English. When I came to the U.S., they placed me in the sixth grade. During my second year in the U.S., my family and I moved to Seattle. Our life was difficult during these first few years, but I knew that it was just temporary as long as I did well in school. And now I was able to stand up and proudly announce to everyone that I was a "regular" person. During my two years of study at Denny Middle School, I received many different awards, like student of the month and honor roll. By the end of my eighth grade, I received the most honor awards of any student at the school.

When the summer began, all the other people my age seemed ready for their first year of high school. I didn't have any of those feelings. I felt nervous and scared because I was in the hospital to have surgery on my leg. It was the first time I ever had an operation. I got an infection following that first operation and missed the first quarter of my freshman year in high school. The next summer I had an operation on my other leg, so I didn't have a chance to participate in any programs. The summer of my sophomore year, I started to participate in DO-IT.

Before participating in DO-IT, I was not open to new experiences and did not believe in myself. Through DO-IT, I learned so much about life and myself. I have more confidence despite my disability, and I am more independent. I know what to do when I have problems; I know how to deal with my problems and other people's problems. I not only learned socially but I also learned academically. I also gained leadership skills. If you ask me, "What did you learn in DO-IT?," I can be proud and tell you that I learned everything. After participating in DO-IT, I am more open with the world.

During the summers, I try to participate in unique education programs. The summer of my junior year in high school, I went to the University of California, Santa Cruz to study about marine science. During the academic year I volunteer at hospitals and tutor other students in my school and neighborhood. All the participation and the awards I received happened because DO-IT gave me strength. DO-IT opened up my life and the world around me.

If you want to communicate with me, please feel free to contact me at

DO-IT Mentor Profile
by Chaunce White

Picture of DO-IT Mentor Chaunce
DO-IT Mentor, Chaunce

I have been affiliated with DO-IT since January 2000 as a Mentor, and I am a student. My name is Chaunce White, a quadriplegic of seven years. After having my world turned upside down due to a vehicle accident, I enrolled and rolled into school on my way to starting a new life. I have taken computer-related programs and have decided that they are an excellent tool but not a career path for me. I am in the process of re-evaluating my interests and skills as far as a career direction. The instructors I have dealt with have bent over backwards to assist me with whatever it takes to make my learning experience comfortable. I grew up in Pennsylvania and the Navy brought me to Whidbey Island. After being injured, I moved to Seattle, which is a very accessible city. Eventually, I will move to the southwest for the warmth. Being in a wheelchair has not slowed my traveling down. I am on the board of directors for the Northwest Paralyzed Veterans of America, and a speaker for Think First, speaking to high school students about prevention of spinal cord injury and head injury due to negligent and extreme behavior. My first physical encounter with DO-IT was the previous teleconferenced pizza party. I think the camaraderie I experienced with the young people was energizing. DO-IT provides communication for people with similar situations, which reduces isolation. It also provides a place to address questions-that eliminates barriers of not knowing where to go or what to do. I urge the students to extract all the information, support, advice, and direction they can acquire from DO-IT.

DO-IT Staff Profile
by Doug Hayman

Picture of DO-IT Staff Member Doug Hayman
DO-IT Staff member, Doug

Hello. I'm an adaptive technology specialist for the Washington DO-IT program. I connect with new DO-IT Scholars, find out what types of hardware/software would be useful to them, get it for them and, then, support them in using that technology. This can sometimes involve a bit of trial and error, as there is no one set of solutions that meets everyone's needs. Instead, I have an ongoing relationship with each Scholar where his or her feedback and initiative is essential. This self-advocacy, paired with my enjoyment of seeking solutions, is key to finding suitable technological accommodations.

I also get to know Scholars outside of this technological relationship. We are primarily social beings and this technology we create is to serve us, rather than us being servants to it. I enjoy conversing about all sorts of topics. I've had a varied and sometimes interesting life with many unusual experiences to draw from.

In addition to this role at DO-IT, I am involved in projects to educate other organizations/institutions in the application of adaptive technology and accessibility thinking. When I'm not out on the road or in the DO-IT office, I can be found in the University of Washington's Adaptive Technology Lab.

Prior to working for DO-IT, I worked for a private adaptive technology consulting firm. There I not only played with computers, but I did a variety of creative things to serve clients from the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Veteran's Administration. I've modified wheelchairs; installed ramps, grab bars, and other household/workplace modifications for accessibility; and I've created custom-made accessibility tools for end users. Each of these assignments served to make a workplace or educational training program accessible to persons with disabilities. Many of these "manufacturing" skills I learned while working at a Seattle-based manufacturer of folk harps and hammered dulcimers.

Outside of work I attempt to match the computer gaming skills of my technical co-horts Marvin and Dan, with little success. And I occasionally do musical performances in and around the Seattle area where I "noodle around" on guitar, accompanying other musicians. I read quite a bit and I'm striving to spend less time at home in front of a computer now that I spend so much time in front of one at work. It's more important to be in contact with real-world humans.

DO-IT Staff/Mentors are Honored

Kathy Cook

Dan Comden, DO-IT staff, and Imke Durre, DO-IT Mentor, both received awards at WAPED's (Washington Association on Postsecondary Education and Disability) Spring 2000 conference.

Imke Durre won the Outstanding Student Award. This award recognizes a student with a disability who is currently enrolled in a postsecondary institution who has made a significant contribution to his/her institution or community or the State of Washington. Imke's selection was based on her academic/vocational achievements, extra-curriculum involvement, community services, and demonstrated self-advocacy.

Imke also recently received the University of Washington's (UW) HUB Hall of Fame Award (HUB stands for Husky Union Building, the main student activity building on the UW campus). This award is given to students who have been involved in community service and student organizations for at least two years, and was established to recognize their service and contributions to the University and the community. Imke's involvement with DO-IT over the past five years contributed to her receipt of this prestigious award. She is currently a DO-IT Mentor, facilitating discussions with scholars over email and sharing her personal experiences as a Ph.D. candidate at the UW. She has participated in several Summer Study programs, teaching classes and leading discussion groups regarding accommodations for people with visual impairments. Additionally, Imke has delivered numerous DO-IT Show & Tell disability awareness presentations to first grade children. During these presentations, Imke shares with youngsters how people who are blind use technology to communicate, gain knowledge and pursue college studies and careers.

Dan Comden won WAPED's Achievement Award. This is an award for technical and/or professional achievements in promoting awareness and development in issues of educating people with disabilities. This award is presented to someone who has contributed to increasing knowledge and awareness of disability issues in higher education or has developed techniques or methods in the application of such knowledge in higher education.

Congratulations to Dan and Imke. Thanks for all of your hard work and dedication to the community and to DO-IT.


Sheryl Burgstahler

DO-IT hosts an electronic discussion list for the parents of participants in our programs. On this list parents ask questions, share resources, and support one another. Below is an example of a recent message from parents of a 1999 DO-IT Scholar that was sent to the new DO-IT Scholar parents just before the beginning of Summer Study 2000. They share the feelings of many parents as their children move toward greater levels of independence and document some of the benefits of participation in the DO-IT Scholars program.

New Scholar Parents:

Next week is the start of DO-IT for all the new Scholars and I thought I would take a moment to share our experiences with the new parents. I remember last year we were very nervous about leaving our son. He may be taller than we are but he is still our baby. We live out here in the "sticks" on the coast and the UW is far away from home. Seattle is one great big city. Two weeks alone with a bunch of strangers. We sent him with our phone card, all our phone numbers and our email address. And then we waited and waited and waited. In two weeks, we got one lousy two-sentence email. It went something like this, "I'm having a good time. I've been really busy. Love Ryan." And that was the last we heard from him until we picked him up.

He then talked for most of the three hour drive home, including a stop for dinner. He had a great time, he learned a lot. He had a lot to say about his new friends, and had a lot of stories to share about who they were and where they were from. It really did sound like they were always busy. During the school year we saw a real change in his attitude about his ability and his willingness to speak up about his learning disability. He even wrote his own letter of introduction to his teachers explaining his disability and the accommodations he needed. He asked to do the talking at a meeting of all his teachers. We practiced ahead of time with the school counselor and then scheduled the meeting And he did do most of the talking, "Wow." Halfway through the year he changed his entire schedule because he felt that his English class wasn't working for him. He worked it all out with the teachers and the counselor on his own. This is the kid who would quietly fall behind in a class rather than speak up. He also began to see college as a very real option for himself and think more and more about what he would like to do in the future.

He is looking forward to returning to DO-IT for a week this summer. So don't worry, your son or daughter will have a very interesting two weeks, they will make new friends and hopefully learn a little about themselves. And maybe they will remember to call or write once or twice during their time away from home just to let you know they are okay! We are looking forward to meeting all of you. We won't however be there on the fifth, his grandparents will be driving him. (Thank goodness for grandparents, we couldn't bring him until Sunday and he would have "gasp" missed the Museum of Flight field trip.) We will, however, be at the parent meeting on the eleventh.

Kelly and Mike

Tech Tips: PDF and People Who are Blind

Many organizations and companies are moving to the World Wide Web as their main distribution for the public and their employees. Adobe's Portable Document Format, or PDF, is often used to publish material. Unfortunately, PDF documents are treated as images in the standard PDF reader, making any information inaccessible to someone who can't see the screen. Adobe has made available resources to convert simple PDF files, but these resources have not always been successful.

Picture of DO-IT Staff member Dan working with Scholar Raleigh on a computer during Summer Study 2000
Dan works with Scholar Raleigh during Summer Study 2000.

A conversation that occurred on one of DO-IT's electronic discussion lists about the challenges of using PDF files by people who are blind, points out some of the issues that come about when using the PDF format.

Speaker One: Most companies that offer job applications to be downloaded from their Web server are only available in PDF format. On one hand, I can understand why they want to use up-to-date technology. However, I don't agree with them only having the documents available in PDF format because it causes some accessibility problems. When I downloaded an employment application from a city's online server, it was in PDF format. When I sent it up to the PDF translator to get converted to text, the translator left out words and people in the career center at the community college had trouble interpreting it just like I did. I think the way to help us keep out of situations like that is to have the form available in more than one format. For example, they could have it in Microsoft Word™ form for Word users, PDF form for those using the Acrobat Reader™, and text/HTML for those using other programs. What does everyone else think of this idea? What would you do if you encountered a PDF file when you went to apply for work? Thanks.

Speaker Two: I agree with you on this that there should be more than one format. However, I am not sure how to get all companies to comply, not to mention other places, such as my university. As for what I would do, I would give the Acrobat Reader™ a spin and see what I could do. I haven't ever tested it, but after downloading/installing Adobe Acrobat Reader™ there is an accessibility plug-in that should also be downloaded and installed. I assume that this would help in the use of the reader. Have you tried this? If so I would be interested in how it worked for you. If not I know that the files can be downloaded from

Speaker One: Well, the advantage of PDF format is that it is platform-independent, i.e., the format stays the same no matter what computer you read it with. I suspect that the conversion done by the accessibility plug-in mentioned is similar to what you can get online via e-mail or the web. However, I agree that the conversions produced by the PDF-to-text translators are often inadequate, especially with application forms. If the form were also available in HTML, then everybody who can access the Internet can read it.

Speaker Two: Well, I have never tested the actual reader with the accessibility plug-in, but if you plan to do anything with PDF, I would think it would be best, seeing it is an actual true reader of the format, not a converter. I assume the accessibility plug-in is somewhat along the lines of what MSAA does for Internet Explorer though I could be wrong.

Speaker One: You'd need Acrobat Distiller to fill out the application. My recommendation is to call the company and ask for a more user-friendly format. They are required by law to provide the application in accessible formats.

Speaker Two: You bring up a very interesting point. In fact, that is a policy that the FCC is trying to enforce. Has anyone out there visited their disability issues task force? I think you should go there to learn about what they are doing to help enforce the telecommunications act. It specifically states that all telecommunications equipment needs to be accessible to the disabled. I think they are working on a policy mandating alternative file formats. However, I would recommend that everyone check the online service to learn what they are doing. The address is I just thought you would like to know that in case you didn't hear about it already.

The above discussion reflects just one of the topic areas concerning accessible information on the Web. The PDF issue not only affects those who are blind, but also anyone who uses speech output in order to read. When we find a Web resource that isn't accessible, it's important to relay that fact to the owners of the Web site in a meaningful and diplomatic way.

The Thread: Working as a PWD

Sheryl Burgstahler

DO-IT hosts rich discussions on the Internet. Some get started as DO-IT Mentors share their experiences with younger participants in hopes that they will benefit from their successes as well as their more painful learning experiences. Below, we share a partial and slightly-edited discussion which began with the following e-mail message from a DO-IT Mentor who has arthritis.

  • Recently I graduated with a Master's of Social Work. Since then I have been working 40 hours a week. I have never worked that much before. I also have rheumatoid arthritis. My point here is that it took me a while to balance the three - confidence in my skills and education, having arthritis, and the conflict the two had on my work and personal life. Training my body to be effective for 40 hours a week, and more importantly to not exacerbate arthritis-related fatigue/soreness which then detracted from my mind, was tricky. I think I've sorta figured it out.

I thought it would be helpful if people shared their opinions/ideas on working as a PWD - here are a few of mine.

Picture of Katie at Summer Session
Katie, a '93 Scholar, returned to DO-IT Summer Study 2000 as a staff member.
  • Do not underestimate the power of sleep. Get a good night's sleep!
  • Try to be aware of what activities at work exacerbate your disability. Work to work around them. Don't be afraid to ask your employer to restructure your job or add accommodations, but be sure they are necessary and actually help.
  • If you have health care benefits (insurance), use them! I personally went through a whole series of checkups I ignored for years because I didn't have the insurance!
  • One last one - I'm sure people will add more. Make sure that your unemployed, able-bodied friends understand you will be tired Friday night and don't wish to be out until 2am. Trust me on this one, I know of what I speak!

A few of the responses to this message follow.

  • I agree with you except for the part about Friday nights. I am an adjunct professor with severe neurological disabilities and if it were not for my late nights of dancing and karaoke, my disabilities would be WORSE. Those late nights keep me mobile and from having to use assistive tech to get around. Thank God for those late nights.
  • My situation is a little different - fatigue is a bigger problem, I think. I also have a friend who would keep me out till 3 am if he had the chance! And, I can't sing to save my life!
  • Thanks for the encouragement. Well, I will have to listen to you sing and make my own judgment. (big smile)
  • I remember that the first time I worked in an office all day (at a summer job after my freshman year in college), I came home with a headache and thought I couldn't stand doing it. I got used to it fairly quickly though. My point is that working 40 hours a week takes some getting used to even if disability is not a factor. I don't mean to scare anybody away from working, but I think it's good to be aware of these things when you start your first fulltime job.
  • What exactly is a PWD?
  • Oops. A PWD is a "person with a disability." Sorry I wasn't clear. Last year, in typing my thesis I used the phrase "person with a disability" so many times I finally used Auto Correct to have PWD spell it out for me!

Oh, the Places We Go

Kristin Otis

Some of you have asked, "So what do DO-IT staff DO during the academic year?" One important DO-IT outreach effort is to attend, present, and disseminate information at conferences around the United States and in some cases internationally. Here is a view of some of the places we've been this year, who we have met, and what we've learned.

Picture of Sheryl and Sara at CSUN 2000 conference
Director Sheryl Burgstahler and project coordinator Sara Lopez describe DO-IT to an attendee at the CSUN 2000 conference in Los Angeles.

October 1999 was a very busy month for conferences, beginning with Closing The Gap in Minneapolis, Minnesota. DO-IT hosted a booth with Courage Center, one of our camp partners located in Minnesota. Closing the Gap's annual conference has earned a reputation internationally as a leading source for information on innovative applications of computer technology and persons with disabilities.

Following Closing the Gap, DO-IT hosted an exhibit at numerous conferences including the annual Work Now and In the Future conference in Portland, Oregon, the Washington Science Teacher Association Convention in Spokane, Washington, the Northwest Council For Computer Education in Portland, Oregon, the National Science Teacher Association Convention in Orlando, Florida, and the annual AHEAD (Association for Higher Education and Disability) conference in Kansas City, Missouri. While much of our effort has taken place outside of Seattle, we've been busy at work locally and at the University of Washington as well. This year, DO-IT hosted exhibits and presentations at the UW Brain Awareness Week Conference, the Health Sciences Open House, the Engineering Open House and the UW Center on Technology and Disability Studies conference.

In addition to providing information and resources about access, technology and disability to educators, families, students and the general public, DO-IT strives to impact attitudes about people with disabilities in a positive way. DO-IT is full of success stories from all of you. Without you, we would not be able to DO-IT! These conferences are just highlights of the year, and represent a small sample of the many efforts of our Scholars, Ambassadors and Mentors involved in their own communities, paving the path for the future. Many thanks to all of you who have volunteered your time and energy to support DO-IT goals.

As The Web Turns: The Ten Commandments of E-Mail

  1. Thou shalt include a clear and specific subject line.
  2. Thou shalt edit any quoted text down to the minimum thou needest.
  3. Thou shalt read thine own message thrice before thou sendest it.
  4. Thou shalt ponder how thy recipient might react to thy message.
  5. Thou shalt check thy spelling and thy grammar.
  6. Thou shalt not curse, flame, spam or USE ALL CAPS.
  7. Thou shalt not forward any chain letter.
  8. Thou shalt not use e-mail for any illegal or unethical purpose.
  9. Thou shalt not rely on the privacy of e-mail, especially from work.
  10. When in doubt, save thy message overnight and reread it in the light of the dawn.

And, here's the "Golden Rule" of E-Mail:
That which thou findest hateful to receive, sendest thou not unto others.

The Browser - Our Calendar of Events

CTG (Closing The Gap)
October 19-21, 2000
Minneapolis, MN
Computer technology in special education and technology.

October 25th, 2000
Seattle, WA
7th annual job fair conference.

Connected Classroom Conference and Exposition
November 8-11th, 2000
Anaheim, CA
Mastering the Internet in your classroom.

World Congress and Exposition on Disabilities
November 10-12, 2000
Atlanta, GA
Conference brings together opinion leaders in science, medicine, technology, product development and care giving.

2000 Annual TASH Conference
December 6-9, 2000
Seattle, WA
"Moving the Edge" A conference for advocates, educators, and leaders in the quest for full inclusion and participation for all people with disabilities.

Cooperating School Districts
Midwest Education and Technology Conference
February 5-7, 2001
St. Louis, MO
Education and technology conference.

LDA 2001 International Conference
February 7-10, 2001
New York, NY
Issues related to learning disabilities, including advocacy, assessment, instruction and technology.

17th Annual Pacific Rim Conference on Disabilities
March 4-6, 2001
Honolulu, HI
Supporting students with disabilities in secondary, transition, and postsecondary educational settings.

NCCE 2001 (Northwest Council for Computer Education)
March 14-16, 2001
Spokane, WA
Conference which supports the use of computers in education.

NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators)
March 18-21, 2001
Seattle, WA
Conference for college and university student affairs administrators.

CSUN (California State University Northridge)
March 19-24, 2001
Los Angeles, CA
Technology and persons with disabilities.

NSTA (National Science Teacher Association) Convention
March 22-25, 2001
St Louis, MO
Science and education in the 21st century.

Touch the Future Expo 2001
April 25-26th, 2001
Assistive technology conference.

AHEAD (Association on Higher Education and Disability)
July 24-28, 2001
Portland, OR
"Widening the Umbrella: Access for Everyone, Everywhere."

How Can You DO-IT?

Picture of Cyndi, Katie, and Ed at Summer Study 2000
Volunteers Cyndi (far left) and Katie (far right) and Mentor Ed (second from right) participate with Scholars in a science lab during Summer Study 2000.

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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.

Publisher: University of Washington
Executive Editor: Sheryl Burgstahler
Managing Editor: Nanette Rosenthal

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)
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Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

DO-IT Funding and Partners