Department: Campus Computing
"CENTERS OF ENERGY:" A MAJOR STUDY OF DISABILITY AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ACCESS IN POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION IS NOW READILY AVAILABLE
To provide equal access to academic opportunity, colleges and universities everywhere must establish adaptive computing technology support services for their students with disabilities. This challenge raises a host of questions: How should we go about doing this, and how can we avoid reinventing the wheel? Where can we get solid information on how other campuses with innovative and successful programs have done this? Our campus is different than your campus, maybe we need a different model? We already have a support program, but how have other schools done it so we can learn from their experience and encourage our administration to support our efforts?
A major report commissioned by the National Council on Disability provides a wealth of information to help us address these important questions. Released in 1991, "The Impact and Influence of Exemplary Programs Offering Technology Support to Students with Disabilities" is the most comprehensive study available on how a wide variety of adaptive computing technology support programs became "Centers of Energy," impacting accessibility both on and off-campus. The study's author and our guest contributor, Dr. Harry Murphy, here outlines some of the study's many useful findings.
The report is now readily available through the National Clearing House for Rehabilitation Training Materials (NCHRTM), Order Number 214.012. It is available in print ($6.50 U.S., including shipping), computer diskette ($5.00), and via BBS (tel: 405-624-3156). It will be made available in the near future over the Internet via World Wide Web and Gopher. The original draft of the report, which I highly recommend to practitioners, offers more nuts and bolts detail than the final report, and will be made available shortly though the NCHRTM. Contact the NCHRTM at Oklahoma State University, 816 West 6th Street, Stillwater, Oklahoma 74078. Phone orders:
AN OVERVIEW OF CENTERS OF ENERGY
by Harry J. Murphy, Ed. D., Founder and Director, Center on Disabilities, California State University, Northridge firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1991 I had the good fortune to conduct a study for the National Council on Disability, "The Impact of Exemplary Technology-Support Programs on Students with Disabilities," a study of electronic access to equipment and information on the part of students with disabilities. The following campuses are included in the report: Gallaudet University, Baruch College, University of Michigan, University of Wyoming, Michigan State University, California Community Colleges, University of Minnesota, UCLA, University of Washington, University of Nebraska, University of Missouri, University of New Orleans, El Centro College (TX), Southern Connecticut State University, Grossmont Community College, and CSUN.
My major findings were these: campuses dealing with technology and persons with disabilities became "Centers of Energy" that influenced many others on and off-campus. They energized others to become involved in technology. They assisted others in starting programs. I also found that campuses tended to deal with one of two models: a "centralized" model, typified by technological services within an Office of Disabled Student Services. The other is the "distributed" model, typified by services rendered by a Computer Center.
The centralized model is helpful for training students on computers and access devices but it tends to group all students with disabilities into just one area of campus -- an inhibition to true electronic mainstreaming.
The distributed model is based upon the assumption that electronic services for all students, including students with disabilities, is a function of Academic Computing, Computer Center, or similarly named organizational units. Usually there is a specialist within this Center who takes responsibility for identifying appropriate software and assistive devices, training, and campus-wide deployment of assistive technology support for students with disabilities. At least one effort that began under a centralized model turned all of its equipment and service needs over to a distributed source on campus.
Finally, one of the strongest findings was how administrators creatively used 504/ADA issues of equal access to justify the creation of new technology programs within an institution. There were some exciting trends such as encouraging students to use telecommunications, placing accessible computers in housing areas, grants to purchase equipment and initiate training programs, creating tuition-driven entrepreneurial ventures that covered training costs, and involving many on-campus areas in the delivery of services to students with disabilities. Those participating in the funding freely shared information about their funding history and each offered tips to someone wishing to start a new program.
A series of recommendations were made concerning the establishment of electronic services, funding, and research. The Report supports EASI's efforts to stimulate greater access to electronic equipment and information on campuses across America.