DO-IT News November 2003

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Volume 11, Number 3

Below are the articles of the DO-IT News November 2003 newsletter. These articles can also be seen all on one page at the Full Newsletter option.

Director's Digressions

Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

DO-IT staff survived another Summer Study with more than fifty teens living in a campus dormitory. These energetic young people made at least one of us feel her age. They share some of their experiences with you in this issue of DO-IT NEWS.

Soon after the summer wound down, visiting scholar Mamoru Iwabuchi joined the DO-IT staff. He'll be with us in Seattle for one year. Welcome, Mamoru! I'll let you introduce yourself to our readers...

Picture of DO-IT visiting scholar Mamoru Iwabuchi
DO-IT visiting scholar, Mamoru Iwabuchi

Hello. My name is Mamoru Iwabuchi. I am a visiting Scholar at the University of Washington (UW), working at DO-IT for one year. Before I came to Seattle, I had two jobs at Hiroshima University in Japan. One job was working as a coordinator to support students with disabilities. This experience helped me learn things similar to what DO-IT also does. The other job, which I still have, is teaching computing and adaptive technology at the Faculty of Education. Many of the students there would like to be teachers one day. I believe that it is important to educate everyone in knowing useful techniques and technologies for people with disabilities in educational settings.

Before working at Hiroshima University, I was in Scotland for three years. During my stay, our team at the University of Dundee developed a symbol-based multilingual communication software program. Users could choose words on the system and build sentences in English. When finished, the message would be translated into another language, e.g., Japanese. The system design was based on the technologies of AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) and was useful for non-speaking people. The system could also be useful for speaking people in other situations with communication difficulties, such as traveling in a foreign country. You might need our software too if you went to the wonderful bagpipe country. Personally, I had communication difficulties in Scotland. However, would you believe that the main reason was not my English but their bonnie accent? I hope you find a wee bit of Scottish accent in mine.

My involvement with DO-IT began two years ago when Director Sheryl Burgstahler visited Japan. I was an interpreter for Sheryl as she gave a conference presentation on helpful supports for the success of students with disabilities in higher education. Since then, I have dreamed about working at DO-IT. How wonderful that I am here now! I am interested in learning about all of DO-IT's various projects, not only those related to my specialties in AAC and adaptive technology. I am also very interested in learning more about the people and culture of the United States. Sheryl and her family have already started their lessons on how to build a treehouse.

Spectacular Summer for DO-IT Interns!

Scott Bellman, DO-IT Staff

Although internships can happen year-round, summer is the most popular time for students with disabilities to seek internships through DO-IT. With an abundance of interested students and employers, this has been a landmark year for DO-IT work-based learning activities! This year, DO-IT internships included the following:

  • Web Developer at a web page development company
  • Technical Documentation Author at a non-profit organization
  • Technical Mapmaker at a non-profit organization
  • Web Content Editor at a web-based services company
  • Administrative Assistant in the medical technology field
  • Administrative Assistant at a non-profit organization
  • Technical Assistants at the UW Adaptive Technology Lab
  • Video/Graphic Editor at a non-profit organization
  • Program Staff Interns - eleven in all at DO-IT Summer Study 2003!
  • Technical Assistant at the UW Human Interface Technology Lab
  • Legal Consultant Intern at the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, DC
  • Administrative Assistant at the Federal Internship Program in Washington, DC
  • Weather Forecasting Intern at a Seattle area news station
  • Research Assistant at a biomedical health informatics company
  • Research Assistant in the computer science field
  • Software Developer at a large university
  • Computer Center Monitor at a non-profit organization

Feedback from supervisors has been overwhelmingly positive! Here are some comments we have received from DO-IT Intern supervisors:

"Her quality work was an asset to our company. Based on our experience, I would recommend DO-IT Interns to others."

"Our initial hesitancy about being able to support her physical limitations was totally unfounded. She was very articulate. Her forthright approach to her disability put people at ease and allowed us all to learn from her. Thanks to our DO-IT Intern, we now have a way to train new staff on complex database procedures and excellent technical documentation."

"It was fantastic to have him there to help us. If you are considering hiring a DO-IT Intern, stop considering. DO-IT! It will be a great opportunity for your business and for the Intern."

"I believe that she provided an awareness to our team that we all have similarities and differences and that we all bring value to the workplace. I strongly recommend other businesses to team up with DO-IT to find qualified candidates and employ people with disabilities."

"He quickly picked up new concepts and delivered production on-time or earlier. He brought a great deal of enthusiasm and commitment to the job. Other companies should strongly consider hiring a DO-IT Intern. In my experience, the result was definitely win-win for us both!"

"Thanks to our DO-IT Intern's hard work and reliability, it was a piece of cake. Working through the various research assignments I gave him, I also learned to make my training style more effective. He prepared some research that has helped me greatly in my own work. I would not hesitate to take on another DO-IT Intern. In fact, I am actually excited to get started with someone new."

DO-IT staff would like to especially recognize all the hard work completed by DO-IT Interns during Summer Study 2003. These DO-IT Scholars helped the program run smoothly and provided excellent role models and mentors for the new Scholars. For information about work-based learning opportunities available through DO-IT, contact Scott Bellman at

Alliance Mini-Grants Awarded and New Round of Funding Planned

Valerie Sundby, DO-IT Staff

The Northwest Alliance mini-grant program for math and science teachers is now in full swing. Projects funded during the 2003 Spring review period have received their equipment and are up and running. One of the projects, based at Madison Elementary in Mt. Vernon, WA, received computers, assistive technology, and software that will be used to help kindergarten students with a variety of disabilities gain full access to math and science curriculum. Another project at Captain Strong Elementary in Battle Ground, WA received a computer, camera, and projection equipment that will allow graphs, lessons, student work, and 3D objects to be projected in larger size to give students with low vision and those who are visual learners full access to the curriculum.

DO-IT is gearing up for the 2004 Spring grant review period. Applications are due April 1, 2004. Information about how math and science educators in Washington, Alaska, Idaho, and Oregon can apply for grants to make their activities accessible to students with disabilities can be found at AccessStem. Funding for this program is provided by the National Science Foundation (Cooperative Agreement #HRD-022799).

Summer Study '03: What Do the Phase I Scholars Do?

DO-IT Phase I Scholars participate in a two-week, live-in Summer Study session on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, Washington. They learn about college life; surf the Internet; interact with peers, staff, and mentors; and have fun. Below, '03 Phase I Scholars share some of their experiences. Note that, reluctantly, some articles were edited by DO-IT staff to make them short enough to include in this publication. Additional articles by Scholars can be found in earlier newsletters at


by Scholars Crystal and Jamie G.

How do you get self-determination? Where does it come from? Why do some people have more than others? Thanks to DO-IT, we are now able to answer these questions. Self-determination comes from within yourself; no one else can make you achieve your dreams. Success, motivation, goals, and strategies are all key components in self-determination.

On our first day of Summer Study, we were introduced to this valuable lesson. We opened up the activity by defining self-determination. One of the best examples we heard was "having the will to reach your goals, regardless of the challenges or limitations you may face." Another excellent point made several times during the class was to recognize your weaknesses and focus on your strengths. When you are able to work through your weaknesses by doing something you excel at, then you have reached a major objective. We must not sit back and let others tell us what we want for ourselves; we have to take the initiative and speak up.

In order to have self-determination you have to believe in yourself, and you need others to have confidence in you. Don't give up on anything you dream for yourself. If you fail, at least you know you gave it everything you've got.

Picture of Phase I DO-IT scholars working at computers
'03 Scholars create web pages during Summer Study 2003

Computers for DO-IT Scholars

by Scholars Jamie V. and Zach

The DO-IT Scholars program at the University of Washington loans a laptop to each Scholar to use as long as they actively participate in DO-IT. How cool is that? This incredible gift helps every Scholar with school work, and allows everyone to communicate with other Scholars and disabled people around the world. DO-IT receives state, federal, and corporate support and also relies on generous people who donate time and money.

University of Washington technology specialist Doug Hayman provides training to new Scholars on how to use the computer, anti-virus software, and the Microsoft Windows Update site. This helps keep the laptop in great running condition.

Thanks to everyone who donates to DO-IT, as they changed the lives of 22 young Scholars in this year alone.

Working with Sign Language Interpreters

by Scholars Norma and Theresa

How do people who are deaf communicate with hearing people, and what is the role of the interpreter? These questions are hard to answer. The interpreter uses sign language to communicate what teachers, students, and friends say to the deaf person. Deaf and hard-of-hearing people also write notes to communicate with hearing people when they don't have an interpreter. The interpreter plays an important role when communicating with a deaf person. Their vocabulary skills need to be really good. One thing that matters to deaf people is for the interpreter to match the effect of the hearing person's voice. Interpreters need to show effect, both in their signing and on their face.

Some hearing people think that people who are deaf cannot do anything, but that isn't true. Just because a person cannot hear does not mean he cannot think. Some deaf people can even answer the phone and drive a car. There are different ways that a deaf person knows whether to answer the phone or the doorbell. The phone flash is moderately slow, but the doorbell flash is fast. When either one goes off, a deaf person can tell which one it is. In conclusion, deaf people are awesome.

Picture of Phase I DO-IT scholars building a water tower out of foam squares, raw  spaghetti, and tape.
'03 Scholars Scott and Annemarie build water tower in an engineering lab during Summer Study 2003.

Engineering Basics

by Scholars Natasha and Annemarie

The DO-IT Phase I Scholars participated in a workshop explaining the various fields of engineering. They were honored to have one of the engineering professors from the University of Washington join them. After a brief discussion about what kinds of jobs engineers do, the professor led a hands-on activity to demonstrate a typical civil engineering project.

The Scholars were given two five-inch by five-inch foam squares, twenty sticks of raw spaghetti, and twenty-four inches of masking tape. With these materials, they were asked to build a water tower. Scholars worked in groups of three or four for about an hour. As a tip, the professor taught the four S's of engineering: strength, symmetry, stability, and simplicity. Once the towers were built, they were set on a scale with a cup acting as the water tank on top. Water was poured in the cup until the tower broke. The tower named The Beast, with diamond and triangle shaped bracing, took first place, holding over 800 grams of water. Enforced Public Art took second place with its design of triangles and X's, and it held over 300 grams.

The competition was enjoyed by all as the Scholars got a chance to display their engineering skills and explore some different fields of work.

What Mentors Can Do for You

by Scholars Vanessa and Matt

Mentors are important for everybody, especially teenagers. Mentors can give advice when you need it. Mentors have been through experiences that some young people are going through now. They can also be a good resource. DO-IT has a group of adults who mentor the Scholars.

The DO-IT Mentors answer questions that the Scholars have. They can answer these questions because they have been through similar situations with different types of disabilities and are now participating in college or careers. Some Mentors are pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and can answer questions in these areas. The Mentors answer a lot of the questions from the Scholars using email. Sometimes they meet Scholars in person.

Here are some questions that Scholars might ask Mentors to answer:

  • What challenges did you have to overcome to get into your career and where you are now?
  • What have you done to overcome the challenges associated with your disability?
  • What made you think that you wanted to be in this field instead of something else?
  • What do you like most about your career?
  • What do you not like about your career (if anything)?

Mentors are a big part of the support system in DO-IT.

Scholars Perform Heart Bypass Surgery

by Scholars Conrad and Patrick

Heart dissections may seem gross and unnecessary, but they can be quite interesting and informative. At Summer Study '03, Phase I Scholars had the opportunity to perform mock heart surgeries using real sheep hearts. The Scholars attempted two different kinds of heart surgery.

The first surgery was a bypass operation. To complete the bypass, Scholars used a razor blade to make two precise incisions, one above a mock blockage, and the other below the blockage. Scholars then inserted a rubber tube into each incision, thus bypassing the blockage.

After the Scholars finished the bypass surgery on the sheep heart, they then proceeded to the second surgery. In this surgery, they had to insert a piece of chalk into the right aorta. First, the Scholars started by making a large incision into the right aorta. Then they inserted the chalk in the incision. After the chalk was in place, each group of Scholars felt for the chalk to determine where it ended and how far they had got it in.

When that was all done, the Scholars had the opportunity to cut open the sheep heart and peek inside. Our group cut the heart open perfectly and we felt around. The inside felt basically the same as the outside, which was kind of rubbery and slippery. We also found the chalk that we had inserted.

We are not sure how this surgery would compare to the real thing, but it was a good, hands-on experience.

DO-IT Does the Zoo

by Scholar Justin

It was a beautiful Sunday morning, one in which everyone got up very late after a long Saturday. However, everyone who was there took the idea of the zoo as a mixed blessing. Half the Scholars just couldn't wait to go, while the other half (myself included) were rather hesitant. Anyway, at a quarter to ten, all of us left for the zoo.

The trip started out well enough; Phase II Scholars presented to us their year-long projects, and they did quite well. After pizza and a chance to see an owl, we were off to explore the zoo. To be honest, the zoo started rather slow. In fact, it is a theory of mine that we arrived there when it was "nap time" for the animals. However, by the time we reached the nightlife house, things started to pick up (though I wish to forget about the rain forest since it was very hard to breathe in there).

Going to Microsoft

by Scholar Patrick

I enjoyed going to Microsoft and would recommend it for all incoming DO-IT Scholars. At Microsoft, we saw many things. We learned about lots of new jobs and how movies are made. Also, getting a chance to shop at the store is neat because you can get some really good deals there. The tour could have been improved by visiting more areas, or other buildings. I also wanted to meet Bill Gates, which would have been fun, but maybe unrealistic.

The Pacific Science Center (and Many of Its Attractions)

by Scholars Shaun and Andrew

The Pacific Science Center was a fun and interesting experience. The Science Center is very overwhelming at first because of its immense size and multiple buildings. Some may find it just educational, which it is, but as we will explain in the following paragraphs, it is also fun.

The Minor Attractions

Some of the best minor attractions were the cone checkers, the giant chess set, and the dinosaur exhibit. The cone checkers were really different from a normal checker set. Featured were large construction cones painted red and black. The board was like a large throw rug, but standard rules still applied. The giant chess set was acutely true to its smaller counterpart, but we didn't play chess while at the Science Center. Lastly, the dinosaur exhibit was very informative and realistic looking. We expected the dinosaurs to jump out and attack us!

The Major Attractions

The IMAX Theater was very oversized compared to a standard theater. The screen was six stories high and eighty feet wide, which we might add is very intimidating to look at. The room it sat in was more of a huge concert hall than a theater. The speakers seemed to cover the walls. The theater itself is in a dome. The overall look of the theater seemed like a football stadium. The movie Ghosts of the Abyss was like being at the site of the wreck of the Titanic. It was awe-inspiring, and very creepy, looking at a site where so many people died. It was scary, yet interesting at the same time, to see the Titanic sitting in its underwater grave, just staring back at us through the screen.

The Laser Dome

The Laser Dome was a different kind of experience. It was really cool to see such a high quality laser show even though the music was a bit too "poppy." We think we should have come to the evening show which included music from Pink Floyd, ZZ Top, and Radiohead. The amazing colors, designs, and improv were awesome. The way the lights formed shapes, lines, and even people gave a feeling that is hard to explain.

Summer Study '03: What Do the Phase II Scholars Do?

Phase II Scholars return to the University of Washington campus for their second Summer Study. They meet the Phase I Scholars as they participate in their first Summer Study, learn about college life and career preparation, and participate in a one-week workshop with postsecondary instructors. The following articles summarize some of the experiences of the Phase II Scholars.

As the World Turns

by Phase II Scholars Ryan, Rebecca, Saroj, Jared, and Silvia, and Interns Amy and Israel

In this workshop we talked, learned, and explored our world. For example, we learned about why there are seasons, time zones, the features of mountains, the moon, and gravity.

On Monday, we made a globe using a conic map and labeled the seven continents, the five seas, the Equator, the IDL (International Date Line), and the Greenwich Meridian. On Tuesday, we talked about GPS (Global Positioned Satellite), and discovered that you need three satellites to find the position where you are. We used latitude and longitude to find different places on the map. We learned that seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth and the revolutions around the sun. On Wednesday, we worked with topographical maps by building playdough mountains. We learned that the closer the contour lines, the steeper the mountain. On Thursday, we talked about travel, spin, direction, the IDL, and biorhythms. We learned to tell the time difference from one point to another on the Earth. On Friday, we learned how gravity relates to all of the planets, including the moon and the sun. As the Earth rotates, the moon's gravity pulls the water on the Earth, causing the tides to fluctuate. Overall, we now have a better understanding of the world we live in and everything around us.

Human Interface Technology and the Center for Environmental Visualization

by Phase II Scholars Chris, Gimmie, Dale, Angela, and Andrew, and Interns Jacob and Brandon

This workshop took place in the UW HIT (Human Interfacing Technology) Lab. On Monday, we were introduced to Bruce Campbell, who gave us a background about the project we were going to be doing and how it related to real projects such as the Neptune Project. The goal of the Neptune Project is to wire the Juan de Fuca Plate so that real-time data about volcanic activity and sea life can be received from the ocean floor.

The Neptune Project lacks one thing — the support of the younger generation. So, in addition to making a MagicBook, a program that projects 3D images into a real environment, we worked on a game. The purpose of the game was to use real data from the ocean floor to provide entertainment. We created our own submarines and incorporated them into the MagicBook. The submarines were placed into a gaming environment and rules were added to the game.

Web Accessibility Workshop

by Phase II Scholars Leon, Amy, Carson, Rima, and James, and Interns Sarah and Caleb

Accessing the web is important for any disabled individual, whether they are blind, deaf, learning disabled, or physically impaired. Web accessibility is critical because everyone with access to the Internet should be able to view or listen to any web page in a clear and simple manner. The majority of web pages do not have a logical reading order, or do not have sufficient alternative text that can be read by people who are blind and use speech output systems to read the content on the screen. The project that our group undertook was to check to see if the main Amazon and Boeing web pages were accessible to people with disabilities.

Evaluating a web page can be frustrating and monotonous because it is difficult to find the errors when they are not on the page in plain sight. A program called Wave was used to check the two pages for alternative text, and formatting and readability errors. One of the tasks that the Wave software program performs is to check to see if there is any alternative text that is hidden or missing on a web page. While we were evaluating the selected websites with Wave™, we discovered that the Amazon page had text-based errors. The Boeing page had errors with their Flash menus. For example, Amazon had problems with including alternative text, while Boeing had trouble with using abbreviations.

Missing alternative text and using Flash menus create accessibility problems for some people. A color blind person cannot change the color contrast on a Flash menu, which has the site's main links. This prevents him from understanding what to do or where to go on the site. Text, reading order, and image errors can affect web accessibility; if the sidebars or images on a page do not have alternative text, then an individual who is blind cannot understand the page. In these instances, the screen reader would only read the word image instead of the actual title of the sidebar.

After the group evaluated the web pages and tallied the errors, the consensus was that the Boeing web page was more accessible than the Amazon page. The group learned valuable lessons from the project. We learned how to use the Wave program, and that web accessibility needs to be increased to give as many people as possible the chance to access the web in a manner that conforms to their disability.

The Game of Life™ and Image Processing: Phase II Workshop

by Phase II Scholars Alexandra, Ian, Caleb, and Scott

In this workshop, we altered the coding that dictates Conway's Game of Life™, a preexisting Java program. We used newly acquired knowledge of basic Java commands, a few references, and Dr. Java™ (a Java editor). One of our instructors, who has a visual impairment, also uses Jaws™, a screen reader. Depending on interest and aptitude, Scholars created new rules to control life functions, develop self-reproducing patterns, or process image properties, colors, and actions. All agreed that the greatest difficulty was comprehending what to modify in order to cause what you want to happen. For example, to make an object appear to move to the right, the program is written to copy the color in the left neighboring space. Overall, the Game of Life™ workshop was a challenging and entertaining experience.

DO-IT Profiles

Picture of DO-IT Scholar Jamie
DO-IT Scholar Jamie

DO-IT Scholar Profile

by Jamie

My name is Jamie. I am a senior at Quincy High School in Washington. I have two older brothers and one sister. I like to read, ride my 4-wheeler, work on the computer, and go to youth group.

I have cerebral palsy and have a hard time writing. I also get tired if I walk too much. Using an AlphaSmart has been very helpful in my high school classes. I would like to get a degree in web design or be a computer network administrator. Having the Internet has helped me with homework and learning about many different careers. DO-IT has helped me see what college is like and how I can be more independent.

DO-IT Ambassador Profile

by Ryan

Photo portrait of DO-IT Ambassador Ryan
DO-IT Ambassador Ryan

My name is Ryan. I am in my sophomore year at the University of Washington (UW). I graduated from Sumner High School in Washington, but am originally from Bonney Lake. There, I lived with my mother Linda and younger sister Becky. In the Summer of 2002, I was a DO-IT Intern. This experience helped me gain people skills, as well as learn how to multi-task.

Right now, I am living in a dorm on the UW campus. I am working on the prerequisites for my computer science major. In the Winter of 2004, I will be able to apply to the computer science department and then I can begin taking the courses that I really like— the more in-depth stuff. I plan to earn a degree in computer science, and then hopefully work at Microsoft.

DO-IT Mentor Profile

by Karen Braitmayer

My name is Karen Braitmayer. I am an architect by profession, a person with osteogenesis imperfecta, a wheelchair user for mobility, and a wife and mom. I love my work and am always happy to share practical tips or suggestions of what has worked for me in terms of how to enter Architecture or related career paths with DO-IT friends.

I attended Rice University for my B.A. in behavioral science, and then worked for a year in the medical research field. My dad wasn't convinced that behavioral science was a great degree for job-preparedness, so he suggested I go to a career aptitude testing service. They identified that I might be well suited for a career like architecture or engineering. The best piece of information they gave me was that I could go back to school for a master's and get a first professional degree in architecture. I was tempted to give it a try, so I entered the University of Houston for a master's of architecture degree. I fell in love with architecture and worked harder than I ever had in college.

Upon graduation, I worked in both medium and large-sized firms as I gathered lots of practical knowledge about practicing in the field. After about 9 years in the field, a friend from grad school and I joined to open our own firm, Studio Pacifica, Ltd. (

I focus on accessible design in my practice and have served on many public and governmental panels to review significant civic projects in our region for accessibility for all. I want to give back to the community to be sure that all the folks who come after me can enjoy our city equally.

I am married and have a six-year-old daughter who keeps her parents on their toes. She is a 'chair user as well, so hopefully she will be a part of DO-IT when she is old enough! As a family, we enjoy boating, going to parks, and visiting with friends. We are all avid readers, so if you drop by unexpectedly you might find one or all of us with our noses in books!

Tech Tips: Low- and No-Cost Computer Access Technology

Dan Comden, DO-IT Staff

By taking advantage of built-in features of common operating systems and software, as well as using free versions of some software, providing access for computer users with disabilities may not be as expensive as you think!

Keyboard/Mouse Access

Windows™ 95 and Newer

In the Accessibility Options Control Panel:

  • StickyKeys allows sequential strokes instead of simultaneous key presses.
  • MouseKeys provides a mouse alternative.
  • FilterKeys prevents unwanted keystrokes.

Apple™ OS 9 and Older

The Easy Access Control Panel may need to be installed. Features similar to the Windows™ options described above can be found there.

Apple™ OS X

Use the Universal Access System Preferences tool to enable the features listed above. The Keyboard System Preferences module enables increased keyboard access to programs and the operating system.

Increase Visibility

Reducing the screen resolution via the Display Control Panel may be sufficient for someone with low vision.

Windows™ 98 and Newer

In the Accessibility Options Control Panel:

  • Turning on High Contrast offers enlargement and other features that may be useful.
  • Use the Accessibility Wizard in the Accessibility Options Control Panel to turn on the Magnifier.

Apple™ OS 9 and Older

The CloseView Control Panel provides rudimentary enlargement and inverse colors.

Apple™ OS X

The Universal Access System Preferences Tool allows enlargement and color switching with the Zoom tool.

Text to Speech

ReadPlease™ ( is a free text-to-speech reader that will speak items copied from the Clipboard for Windows-based computers.

Windows™ 2000 and Newer

The Narrator tool is accessed via the Accessibility Wizard (WindowsKey + U).

Apple™ OS 9 and Older

The SimpleText editor has the ability to speak highlighted text. Cut and paste text from other applications to have it spoken. Many other programs may have the option to speak selected text as well, via the Edit menu.

Apple™ OS X

Within the Speech System Preferences module is a control to turn on text-to-speech. This will also announce some dialog boxes and any selected text. You can define the key to activate this feature as well. You can enable the system to speak any text the mouse goes over in this control, as well as have it announce errors or system popups.

DO-IT's Videos Spice Up Presentations

DO-IT's collection of videotapes continues to grow. We now have 24 videos for sale. They are great for presentations on a variety of topics, including assistive technology, accessible web page and distance learning design, helping students with disabilities prepare for college and careers, and universal design of technology and learning. They can be purchased from DO-IT at low cost. Most can also be accessed for free online. Follow the DO-IT Videotaped Presentations link at

The Thread - Networking for Jobs

Sheryl Burgstahler, DO-IT Director

A DO-IT Scholar recently posed the following question in our Internet discussion forum. I will share with you some of the responses so that you can get a flavor of the many rich conversations the DO-IT community has online.

What is the best way to find a job?

Mentor: In my opinion, networking is definitely the best way to find a job. Not only does this provide you with access to jobs that aren't always listed in public forums, but having an insider help you out will also give you insight on what the position will really be like.

Ambassador: When you talk about networking, what exactly do you mean? From what I understand, networking involves visiting the business you want to apply to in order to learn about the jobs they offer. I would like to be able to do this, but the problem is that I don't know the town really well and have issues getting to businesses that require crossing busy intersections. I do, however, have people who assist me with applying for jobs. Those include a counselor at the state commission for the blind and a job counselor at our local career center. Let me know if my understanding about networking is correct. Thanks.

Mentor: I should have been more specific! Thanks for asking your questions. :) My perception of networking involves increasing the use of your own personal network. This would include asking your friends, colleagues, teachers, etc. about job leads; or trying to identify job leads yourself and then investigating to see if you have any inner-connection to that company.

For example, let's say I want to work at Bank X. I know someone who works there, but I'm not comfortable with asking him to identify a position that he thinks would work for me. Instead, I look at the listings of available jobs at that company, pick out a few I am interested in, and give my resume and the list of jobs to him. He then passes my information on to a recruiter, and I am called to come in for an interview. Depending on how well you know the person, they may be willing to do more or less. Hope this helps!

Mentor: That's a good example. I have several friends working at Microsoft who got their jobs by networking with acquaintances. Quite often, it's not just what you know, but WHO you know.

Another way to network is to schedule informational interviews with prospective employers. An informational interview should be an integral part of your networking and job-hunting plan. It involves talking with people who are currently working in the field to gain a better understanding of an occupation or industry-and to build a network of contacts in that field. You gain invaluable interviewing experience, as well as visibility.

You can find some helpful hints on informational interviewing at[Editor's Note: Link no longer available.]

Mentor: Networking is always an excellent idea to start. In addition, your career center at your school should have additional resources for you. Many times, a college will receive job leads which the student can obtain. Internships often lead to a possible position. My first job was the result of an internship I had at a lightning research company. Volunteering is another good avenue to explore. I obtained another job after volunteering for a year.

Ambassador: Those are very valid points. However, most of the businesses I apply to do not have employees whom I have contact with, though there are a few exceptions. For example, I have applied to the University of Washington where I know several employees there; some of whom I have known since I started attending Summer Study. In addition, I put in an application to Portland Community College (PCC). I have been training a visually impaired student who attends PCC and she and some other staff know about me. Hopefully, I will hear from one of these organizations.

If I know the towns well enough and can get everywhere I need to go using city transit, I would visit some potential employers and get to know some of the people who work there. This would make networking easier and increase my chances of finding a job. I welcome comments from others on the list.

Ambassador: My biggest success for finding work has been with job placement services at my college and others, such as the Vocational Rehabilitation and Training Implement Consortium. These kinds of organizations may not be the best option for everybody, but I find them useful because of the large network of connections and information that you can tap into through them. Also, they are a big help in filling out paperwork, finding transportation to and from work, and so forth. This is particularly important for me because I live in an area where if you don't know your options, you will never find them out on your own. Employers don't necessarily trust disabled people; they like to know you are backed up. I think all employers are like that.

P.S. The Internet is a good tool; you just have to be careful of which job search sites you trust. Make sure they are well-known and that they check their clients.

Ambassador: One thing I recently realized about Vocational Rehab and other service providers is that the employers are more likely to help somebody if the individual expresses his own interests, instead of having parents or caseworkers do it. For example, if Suzie's mom does all of the talking for Suzie but she does not show any interest herself, a caseworker who has multiple clients [won't] be likely to invest a great amount of time on the case either. I know this is what happened in my own situation, especially when my dad was around; sometimes he'd forget that he wasn't speaking for my own interests. From watching other parents of people with disabilities, this is the most common mistake I see.

Mentor: That's a really good point! I've noticed the same thing with my experiences at Vocational Rehab.

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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.

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

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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.

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