Use of the Internet in DO-IT

Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

Computer and network technologies have become indispensable tools in virtually all post-secondary academic programs. The Internet network provides a rich environment for electronic communication and information access. Networking services create new options for independent and convenient access to on-line library catalogs, books, journals, encyclopedias, dictionaries, newspapers, and other information resources for individuals with disabilities who have computer systems, adaptive technology, and network access.

The Internet is a collection of networks that use the same protocol suite in order to function as a single, giant network. It joins a wide variety of devices from laptop computers to supercomputers and connects more than ten million people around the world. Many people connect to the Internet through colleges, universities, corporations, and other organizations. In addition, some commercial service providers allow individuals to purchase accounts. These services usually charge an initial setup fee and an hourly fee.

Access to computers and the Internet is an integral part of the DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) project at the University of Washington. The goal of DO-IT is to increase the participation of individuals with disabilities in science, engineering, and mathematics academic programs and careers. DO-IT Scholars are high school students with disabilities who have an interest and aptitude in science and mathematics. They are loaned computer systems and appropriate adaptive technology. DO-IT Scholars are provided with Internet connections and matched with Mentors. Mentors are practicing engineers, scientists, and post-secondary students in science, engineering, and mathematics; most have disabilities themselves. DO-IT Scholars attend two summer programs at the University of Washington where they are introduced to college life and to disciplines in science, engineering, and mathematics.

How do DO-IT Scholars access the Internet?

DO-IT Scholars use a variety of adaptive computer technologies. For example, those who are blind use voice and Braille output. Individuals with mobility impairments use alternative keyboards. Individuals with low vision use enlarged characters displayed on large monitors. Standard computers, modems, and communications software are used for Internet access once the appropriate adaptive technology is acquired. Most DO-IT Scholars access the Internet from home using standard telephone lines.

The following creative means for providing dial-up Internet access from DO-IT Scholar homes are employed:

  • DO-IT Scholars who are within local phone calling distance from the University of Washington are given dial-up access through the UW modem pool to the DO-IT host computer, hawking (a DECstation 5000).
  • Other colleges and universities become DO-IT Partners by providing local pass-through accounts to some of the DO-IT Scholars. Scholars dial local numbers, log on pass-through computers, and telnet to hawking at the University of Washington.
  • Corporations have provided dialup Internet access through their computer systems for some DO-IT Scholars.
  • The Washington State Information Processing Consortium, the state-wide data processing consortium for K-12 schools, provides modem access into their network and a pathway to hawking.
  • Organizations that provide Internet services for an hourly fee (e.g., Advanced Network Services and Washington Library Network) have waived hourly fees for a fixed number of hours of access as a contribution to the project. Beyond the granted hours, DO-IT pays the hourly charge.

For what purposes do DO-IT Scholars use the Internet?

Once appropriate methods are found to operate computers, the Internet provides many options for electronic communication and information access. For example, DO-IT Scholars who have visual impairments can access materials electronically and their adaptive technologies provide voice, Braille, and large print output. Individuals who cannot remove materials from shelves, hold newspapers, or turn pages in a book can use their adaptive devices to access materials to read and manipulate independently on their screens.

DO-IT Scholars also use the Internet to:

  • communicate with mentors and other participants;
  • communicate with individuals and groups around the world who have common interests in science, engineering, mathematics, disabilities, and/or post-secondary education;
  • participate in projects that involve electronic communication and technical work;
  • access information, including on-line
    • college catalogs,
    • journals,
    • newspapers,
    • dictionaries,
    • government documents,
    • databases; and
  • maintain a central site of electronic resources for those interested in disability-related issues and science, engineering, and mathematics academic programs and careers.

Electronic tools used by DO-IT participants include:

  • PINE electronic mail,
  • LISTSERV, LISTPROC discussion lists,
  • Chat,
  • UWIN (University of Washington Information Navigator), CWIS,
  • Gopher, Veronica,
  • Telnet,
  • File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Archie,
  • WAIS

How can others interact electronically with DO-IT?

  • To contact staff or request project information, send electronic mail to
  • To send a message to all DO-IT Scholars or Mentors, send electronic mail to one of the following addresses: or
  • To discuss issues pertaining to individuals with disabilities and their pursuit of science, engineering, and mathematics (sem) academic programs and careers, and to obtain electronic versions of the bi-monthly DO-IT newsletter, DO-IT News, and other project information, subscribe to the doitsem discussion list at
  • To receive the electronic version of DO-IT News and other project publications, without being involved in the full doitsem discussion, request a subscription to DO-IT News by sending electronic mail to
  • For information resources related to DO-IT, disabilities, adaptive technology, science, engineering, mathematics, and post-secondary education, access the DO-IT gopher by typing at your host system prompt "gopher".

Additional Information

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) serves to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs such as those in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. Primary funding for DO-IT is provided by the National Science Foundation, the State of Washington, and the U.S. Department of Education. DO-IT is a collaboration of UW Information Technology and the Colleges of Engineering and Education at the University of Washington.

Grants and gifts fund DO-IT publications, videos, and programs to support the academic and career success of people with disabilities. Contribute today by sending a check to DO-IT, Box 354842, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-4842.

Your gift is tax deductible as specified in IRS regulations. Pursuant to RCW 19.09, the University of Washington is registered as a charitable organization with the Secretary of State, state of Washington. For more information call the Office of the Secretary of State, 1-800-322-4483.

To order free publications or newsletters use the DO-IT Publications Order Form; to order videos and training materials use the Videos, Books and Comprehensive Training Materials Order Form.

For further information, to be placed on the DO-IT mailing list, request materials in an alternate format, or to make comments or suggestions about DO-IT publications or web pages contact:

University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842

206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
206-221-4171 (fax)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane

Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

DO-IT Funding and Partners