[bct] Re: Making things cross disability accessible

  • From: "Neal Ewers" <neal.ewers@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2006 10:08:35 -0600

Debee, What you did and how you thought about it was very profound and,
I am sure, very helpful both to the professor and to the students.  Too
bad there are not a few carbon copies of you out in the world.

You're right about people mostly not understanding people with learning
disabilities and the disabled person's unwillingness to come forth with
requests for accommodation. Part of the problem is that it is not a
black and white issue.  Where is the thin line of difference between
someone who simply doesn't apply himself or herself and the student who
tries like crazy but has one particular mental block that makes the task
harder?  I believe that too often people simply assume that people with
learning disabilities just don't take the time to try to learn.  I have
worked with many people who are likely much smarter than I am but they,
for example, have an amazing amount of test anxiety.  Well, sure, we all
have that, but not to the same extent that some people do.  I have also
worked with people who need both a visual and audio stimulus in order to
understand what they are reading.  If I tried to categorize types of
learning disabilities, I would still be writing this message tomorrow.
There is no one answer that works for everyone.  While what I am about
to say sounds trite, it is quite true.  What we need is people like
yourself who has an understanding of the problem and a willingness to
help even when you are not asked to do so.  Thank you for this and thank
you for making your experience a part of this list.


-----Original Message-----
From: blindcooltech-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:blindcooltech-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Debee Norling
Sent: Sunday, February 26, 2006 10:01 PM
To: blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [bct] Re: Making things cross disability accessible

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

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 disabilities.

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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