[bct] Re: Making things cross disability accessible

  • From: "Debee Norling" <debee@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2006 20:01:04 -0800

I work with the learning disabled and our problem is often convincing these
young people to advocate for themselves. We blind people are so vocal about
it so I try to be a good role model for my students.

For example, many of them need an instructor to slow down, or they need
extra time on a test, or they need a test read to them. I read a lot of
tests to students because I've been reading Braille since I was six. Many
people think those with learning disabilities are stupid so we teach them to
overcome the public's prejudices and still be strong advocates.

For another example, many of my students won't grasp something if they see
it written or hear it spoken, but if they get the information through both
channels, they are fine. So they can take an exam with Kurzweil 3000 and get
a perfect score, but if they try to take the same exam without the
technology, they can't comprehend the questions.

One thing we teach them is when advocating they need to know their own
strengths and use that as a confidence base. For example, a student with
good social skills can take the lead in class discussions and help the shyer
students, so she has non-disabled friends to assist her.

A couple of years ago I took a series of courses in UML which is a very
visual language for spelling out algorithms in object oriented programming.
The instructor was all freaked out at first, but I'd planned ahead and had a
good collection of alternative techniques to tell him about. I ended up
coordinating a big study group and the instructor said that our group got
the highest scores anyone had ever gotten on his homework. I didn't do any
drawing of course, but I knew the names for the symbols and what had to be
drawn where.

With the instructors permission, I made MP3 recordings of the class which I
distributed to our group members to listen to on their commutes to work. I
kept lists of the points he discussed in class so we could talk about them
at our meetings. I procured a huge whiteboard, a comfortable room to meet,
snacks and a computer with lots of graphics software for us to do our UML
exercises on. I maintained a roster with all our phone and email contact
info so we could easily help each other. It turned out to be great fun and
our instructor won't have any hesitation now about hiring people with

So I think people who are "pity pushers" start from a place of low
self-esteme. They don't plan ahead, they don't think out of the box and they
don't have a firm belief in or knowledge of their strengths. This is why
their efforts to advocate make enemies instead of friendships.


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