DO-IT News January 2014: All Articles

This page features all the articles from the DO-IT News January 2014 newsletter. This newsletter can also be viewed article by article on the DO-IT News January 2014 page.

Director's Digressions: Disability 101

By Sheryl Burgstahler, DO-IT Director

DO-IT delivers dozens of disability-related presentations world-wide each year. Campuses, including the University of Washington (UW), typically offer disability-related content within courses sponsored by departments, colleges, and schools that include Special Education, Disability Studies, the Law School, Physical and Occupational Therapy, and Rehabilitation Engineering. But what about students who are not pursing these fields? Is there an interest in and a need for a disability-related course for these individuals? [Director Sheryl Burgstahler speaking at a podium.] Sheryl's Disability 101 seminar shares disability issues with UW students.

My colleagues and I at the DO-IT Center thought "yes!" I decided to offer the course as part of the Freshman Seminar series of CR/NC one-credit seminars at UW in the fall of 2012 and 2013.

Sheryl's Disability 101 seminar shares disability issues with UW students.


The seminar addressed disability types and experiences of people with disabilities, historical perspectives, applications of universal design, assistive technology, disability as a diversity issue, civil rights and legislation, services and support for students with disabilities, and leadership and advocacy.

Student Learning Goals

The seminar promised students that by its end, they would:

  • be aware of the history of the treatment of people with disabilities and approaches to access, including definitions and specific applications of accommodations and universal design.
  • be able to describe various types of assistive technology for individuals with a variety of disabilities.
  • be able to describe a process for the development of assistive technology.
  • be able to list strategies for making programs, instructions, and services welcoming and accessible to individuals with disabilities.
  • be able to describe services and support for students with disabilities at the UW as well as academic programs that focus on or incorporate disability issues/perspectives.
  • be able to compare and contrast issues with respect to disability to those related to gender, race, ethnicity, and other minority status.

Hybrid Course Delivery

Disability 101 was offered as a hybrid course, combining class time with online activities (using a discussion board, accessing web documents and videos, etc.) through the Canvas learning management system. Students met in person for fifty minutes each week, during which my co-instructors and I answered questions, demonstrated equipment, led discussions, and facilitated panels of students with disabilities and service providers.

The students were given credit for both online participation and engagement in class sessions. They also completed two assignments: an accessibility review of a science education program or campus lab and a short essay that answered the question, "What have you learned in this seminar that you can apply in your studies, career plans, community, or other activities?"


Responses to the course have been overwhelmingly positive. Comments made by students include:

"Prior to the class I hadn't ever thought about this world of disabilities... It wasn't that I didn't care: I just hadn't been exposed to it."

"One of the most influential and insightful connections made during the seminar was the similarity between disabilities and minorities."

"I have learned in this class that people with disabilities . . . know that it is part of them. Most aren't embarrassed so why should we feel the need to act completely different around someone who has a disability?"

"I learned the two ways of making academic activities accessible to students—accommodations and universal design. I think we should be able to provide universal design with most things these days, especially with the technological advances we have made, and therefore the need for accommodations should be reduced."

Photo of four students engaging with DO-IT director Sheryl Burgstahler's discussion on disability issues
Sheryl discusses disability issues with the DO-IT Scholars at Summer Study.

"I think if more people learned about issues pertaining to disabilities, our society would be better off because people will have fully incorporated these egalitarian policies."

"Our world should be oriented to accept anyone and everyone. [We should] push for accessible publications, accessible equipment, and more accessible locations."

"Before [this class] I would not talk to people with disabilities. Now 'Excuse me, may I help you' is no longer a hard sentence for me to say."

"I intend on getting a bioengineering degree and, instead of seeing impairment as a problem that needs to be fixed, as in the medical model, I intend to approach it as something that can just be a part of a functional human being."

"As I get into the publishing world, I hope to push for my organization or company to work towards accessibility for all."

Special thanks go to those who helped deliver the course and arrange for panelists: Scott Bellman, Kayla Brown, and Dan Comden.

DO-IT NEWS, January, 2014, Volume 22, Number 1


By Scott Bellman, DO-IT Program Manager

Mitsubishi Electric American Foundation logo
Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) logo.

The new year brought excellent news to DO-IT staff, who have been seeking funds for an exciting three-year project called AccessSTEM-CAREERS. The Mitsubishi Electric American Foundation (MEAF, announced that it will support the initial three years of the project, which will help postsecondary students with disabilities and recent college graduates connect with industry mentors and apply for challenging internships and career-level jobs. A student leadership team will help implement the project. Online mentoring will address issues that relate to career success—especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

"There's no shortage of good ideas for new projects within the DO-IT community," shares Sheryl Burgstahler, DO-IT Director. "Members of our staff have a lot of expertise, but we also get very good ideas from DO-IT students, mentors, and esteemed colleagues and friends." Sometimes all that's needed is a thoughtful funding source that can help bring DO-IT's great ideas to life. For AccessSTEM-CAREERS, that's where MEAF comes in. As the corporate foundation of the Mitsubishi Electric group companies in the United States. MEAF works to make changes for the better by investing in innovative strategies to empower youth with disabilities to lead productive lives.

The MEAF-funded AccessSTEM-CAREERS project will conduct monthly workshops for students, recent graduates, and industry mentors. Workshops will include a visit to a STEM research lab, a resume-writing workshop, student competitions, hands-on engagement with assistive technology, and exploration of resources. AccessSTEM-CAREERS will also evaluate several college career centers, and partner with them so they can become more accessible and welcoming to students with disabilities. Employers who engage with the project will learn more about the great potential of people with disabilities in the workforce.

During year three of the project, staff will publish articles and disseminate project products across the United States, so that others can learn how to conduct similar projects in their area.

"AccessSTEM-CAREERS is going to be a great project," shares Tami Tidwell, DO-IT program coordinator. "We want the world to know about it, and there's no reason people should have to reinvent the wheel. We'll share what worked well, highlight our achievements, and encourage others to build on what we have learned with the generous support of MEAF."

To join AccessSTEM-CAREERS, email to learn more and receive details on upcoming events.

DO-IT NEWS, January, 2014, Volume 22, Number 1

A DO-IT Presence at "See It. Be It. Explore Your Future Career"

By Debra Zawada, DO-IT Staff

Photo of AccessSTEM Team member Jenica sitting behind the DO-IT booth at the 'See It. Be It' Conference.
AccessSTEM Team Member Jenica at "See It. Be It. Explore Your Future Career"

Through collaboration with the Seattle College Access Network (SCAN) and Seattle Public Schools (SPS), DO-IT participated in the preparation and execution of the third annual "See It. Be It. Explore Your Future Career" event held on November 16, 2013 at Seattle City Hall. Over the last three years, DO-IT has provided input on increasing accessibility for students with disabilities in all aspects of the event, including outreach.

The event designed for middle and high school students to learn about careers and what it takes to succeed attracted over three hundred participants. Not just your run of the mill career fair, industry representatives provided interactive, engaging, and hands on activities for students. Highlights included climbing aboard a coast guard vessel, racing to don "gumby" survival suits within a one minute time limit for safety, and testing diving helmets used by Port of Seattle Police. At one booth, Boeing engineers worked with students to assemble mock operating systems used to build some of their largest jets.

DO-IT Ambassador Sean Marihugh assisted at the ExoLabs booth, which demonstrated the new focus microscope camera. Sean pointed out how the camera benefits students with disabilities in terms of accessibility. One student with a visual impairment shared how the equipment allowed her to see enlarged images on the screen instead of through the microscope.

In addition to foreign language translators, sign language interpreters were on hand to interpret for students and family members who were deaf. As always, DO-IT representatives explained program options and handed out resources for students with disabilities.

DO-IT NEWS, January, 2014, Volume 22, Number 1

Getting the Right Accommodations

By Tami Tidwell, DO-IT Staff

Photo of sign language interpreter interprets in front of a class
The correct accommodations can make or break a person's college experience.

Colleges and universities are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities. Each school may vary on what constitutes as acceptable documentation of a disability and what is considered a reasonable accommodation.

Consequently, it is important to compare the services offered by each college you consider, review your necessary accommodations, and complete the intake process with each college's campus Disability Services office. There are many differences between services provided in high school and those available in college. Colin Donovan, Disability Specialist at Bellevue College, recommends reviewing resources like "Differences between High School and College Accommodations for Students with Disabilities."

Many colleges require that the documentation be prepared by a doctor, psychologist, or other qualified diagnostician. Since documentation is used not only for academic accommodations, but also in housing, transportation, and other areas, it should include a diagnosis of your disability and how your disability impacts your major life activities. Although your individualized education program (IEP) or Section 504 plan from high school may help identify services that have been effective for you, it is generally not sufficient documentation. Discussing documentation with colleges while you are still in high school will allow you time to gather what you need. Submit your documentation early so that staff can notify you of any outstanding requirements for the accommodations you request.

Example policies and procedures from 2-year and 4-year institutions around the United States can be found at The rights and responsibilities of faculty, campus services, and students with disabilities can be found at

For more information, check out Preparing for College: An Online Tutorial at

DO-IT NEWS, January, 2014, Volume 22, Number 1

Public Presentations at the National Science Foundation

By Brianna Blaser, DO-IT Staff

AccessComputing presentation poster on student team member internships
AccessComputing presentation poster

AccessComputing staff hosted two public presentations about the participation of people with disabilities in computing fields at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, VA on January 14, 2014.

AccessComputing ( is a national collaboration of institutions that engages individuals with disabilities, and those who support, serve, guide, educate, and employ them in transformational efforts to make computing disciplines more welcoming and accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Poster presentations highlighted ways that AccessComputing has used evidence-based interventions to increase the participation of people with disabilities in computing. Topics included minigrant awards, student internships, efforts to create institutional change, and specific interventions.

A panel of high school, college, and graduate students with disabilities shared their experiences studying computing and pursuing computing careers. Students discussed how their disabilities affected their education and career paths. They also told how they benefited from AccessComputing activities, such as internships.

Disability in the Media: Part Two

By Kayla Brown, DO-IT Staff

In part one of this series ( I discussed representation and what it truly means: quality, not necessarily quantity. Just because we have a number of characters with disabilities in the media, it does not mean that there is sufficient representation. We must take a closer look at the portrayals to see their true colors, and consider the importance of having characters with disabilities played by actors with disabilities. Being a television and movie addict, I have noticed that non-disabled individuals portray most characters with disabilities.

Image from My Gimpy Life, showing the main actress sitting among a lot of business people standing around her
My Gimpy Life is written by the show's star, allowing the story to paint an accurate and nuanced picture of the character.

Some TV and movie producers blame a lack of disabled actors to choose from, therefore "forcing" them into hiring actors without disabilities. Why is there a lack of disabled actors? Likely, there are a myriad of reasons, but one huge factor may be that actors with disabilities have a hard time establishing their careers. If (some of) these actors are already limited in roles they are able to portray, it doesn't help that they have to compete not only with other actors with disabilities, but also the non-disabled actors.

You may be asking, why isn't it okay for non-disabled actors to take on roles of characters with disabilities? Isn't this just another facet of acting?

First, when people with disabilities are not in control of how disability is portrayed, we end up with portrayals that are completely wrong. For example, you can tell when a script had no one with a disability involved in the creation of the story when you see a character who uses a hospital wheelchair and is not in the hospital. It may seem like a small detail, but it medicalizes disability, coding it as sick or weak.

Christine Bruno, co-chair of the Tri-Union Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People With Disabilities (I AM PWD), commented on the issue of non-disabled actors portraying disabled characters stating: "There is no substitute for the lived experience of disability. It is not a technical skill that can be easily turned on and off. Disabled actors bring with them a lifetime of unique experiences that allow them to present authentic, nuanced portrayals that add not only to the rich, diverse fabric of our country, but create a greater understanding about the society in which we live."

Second, if we value diversity as a society, we must prove it. Diversity must be a priority, because if it is not, we end up with writing rooms filled with white men. What harm does this do? It allows for the neglect of diverse perspectives. It allows for white, upper class, and able-bodied characters to be the norm, and anything that is different as a deviation of this norm. In a world where the histories of minorities have been ignored or written by the groups in power, we need to understand that when people with disabilities and other minorities are in positions of authority such as writer/producer/actor, we are allowing for those perspectives to be brought to the forefront.

Third, television and movies influence the way people think. If portrayals exhibit negative stereotypes, this will effect how we see groups of people as a whole. George Gerbner's cultivation theory says that recurring "television exposures can be the basis for acquiring opinions, attitudes and beliefs" (Gerbner, 1998). Berger & Luckmann (1967) have also studied how media messages effect how consumers "construct reality." Negative stereotypes are so prevalent in our society; maybe the best way to combat that is through the media.

So, where are the actors with disabilities? In my last article I talked about Switched at Birth, which features actors with hearing impairments. The cast includes one of my favorite actresses Marlee Matlin, the only deaf performer to win an Academy Award for Best Lead Actress. Another show I enjoy is called My Gimpy Life, a web series that features Teal, an actress in LA who uses a wheelchair. We see her experiences getting and going to auditions, dating, and dealing with accessibility issues. The show is meant to be humorous, and because Teal herself wrote the script, it's even more enjoyable because it is a first-hand account. Peter Dinklage, a phenomenal, successful, and prolific actor who plays Tyrion on Game of Thrones. In the upcoming X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, Dinklage plays a character that is not disabled in the comic books. This pleasantly surprised me, since most of the time writers/producers will not cast disabled actors unless the character calls for it. I want Hollywood to go further. Even if a character doesn't have an explicit disability, hire an actor with a disability. If you have a character with a disability, give them a chance to develop beyond their disability. Make them as multifaceted as the non-disabled characters. This will make strides towards better disability representation, and break down stereotypes.

The idea of disability is a complex and diverse set of experiences and cultures, and many people without disabilities don't understand this. Having actors with disabilities portraying characters with disabilities brings an important perspective into the creation and presentation of stories. We can't be reduced to inspirational fodder or comic relief. If we are the storytellers, the audience will see the diverse set of experiences that shape our characters. More importantly, we will write our own histories.

The next installment of Ms. Brown's multi-part series will appear in the next issue of DO-IT News.

DO-IT NEWS, January, 2014, Volume 22, Number 1

One Stop Shopping to Find Out If Your Vulnerable Applications are Up-To-Date

By Doug Hayman, DO-IT Staff

Photo of DO-IT Scholar Cody Hinkley using a laptop computer in his wheelchair
DO-IT Scholars use their computers daily for school, work, and networking. Keeping computers free of viruses prevents thrm from crashing when the Scholar needs it most.

Wouldn't it be great if there was an application that would scan your Windows computer to see which versions of your software were most vulnerable to attack? And what if that software allowed you to then update programs that were a few versions behind the most current one?

I asked about such software recently after attending a computer security talk on campus and was introduced to a tool called Secunia Personal Security Inspector (PSI). This is a free download for personal use available at

Once installed, you can run the program and choose to "scan now." It takes a few moments. Once your system has been scanned you'll be presented with a window containing, in most cases, a lower area of icons for your up-to-date applications. Up above, you'll see icons representing applications in need of a software update to lower the risk of a security intrusion.

In that upper panel, you can click on an outdated application and it will either update behind the scenes then drop that icon into the lower panel of up-to-date applications, or it will launch that application's updater tool to let you complete the update manually.

This is a great addition to those tools DO-IT Scholars learn about during their Phase I Summer Session experience to keep their machines free of malware and viruses.

DO-IT NEWS, January, 2014, Volume 22, Number 1

Call For Articles

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

Thumbnail image of book cover of Universal Design in Higher Education

Articles should include specific ways practitioners and researchers have applied universal design in postsecondary settings along with evidence of success. Articles will be peer-reviewed by members of the Universal Design in Higher Education Community of Practice (, and if accepted, edited by DO-IT Founder and Director Sheryl Burgstahler. Articles selected for the online resource will be available free on our website. Authors will agree to these conditions while retaining copyrights to their individual contributions.

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

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DO-IT NEWS, January, 2014, Volume 22, Number 1