ncedcloud Archive

Access 101: Universal Design in Universities

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”1
–Ron Mace, Founder, Center for Universal Design

Universal Design in Universities

Universal Design in Universities

Universal Design in Universities

What your college or disability services office will make available to students with disabilities often consists of accommodations specifically tailored to a particular individual or type of disability. Examples include a wheelchair-accessible computer desk or tactile information on lab instruments. But through your own efforts, you may be able to offer additional accommodations that, it is hoped, will have an impact on the entire class.

What follows is a brief introduction to the principles of Universal Design (UD) as they apply to common classroom technologies. Typically, at the university level, lecture-course equipment purchases for students with disabilities are made at the institute level. However, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses, instructors often specify equipment. Either way, knowing a little bit about universal design will help you work with your students with disabilities, and as we will see later, it may help you improve your teaching for all students.

Universal Design in Universities large keyboard

Mechanical Large Keyboard

Image 1. Large print keyboard for low-vision users that is also useful for students with normal vision who are not adept at using a keyboard. (Image courtesy of VisiKey)

Universal Design in the classroom allows you to provide adaptations that allow students with disabilities to complete coursework and receive an education equivalent to all other students – with some small, easy alterations to your normal lecture delivery.

Professors are often surprised to find all students interested in the accommodations, and benefiting from them in their coursework. Successful and well-designed adaptations may make coursework and labs more approachable and effective for all students, not only those with disabilities.

Potential for Truly Universal Benefits

To appreciate the potential for universally designed technologies of all kinds, one need look no further than the sidewalk.

In the U.S., the first curb cuts were constructed in California around 1970. By 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 mandated their use. The curb cut is a perfect example of universal design principles applied to public spaces. Curb cuts were originally designed to accommodate users of wheeled mobility devices such as wheelchairs. But curbs are as much a barrier to walkers with strollers or shopping carts as to users of wheeled mobility devices.

A curb cut resolves this problem for a wide range of people in a way that integrates the accommodation into the everyday architecture of the space. Assistive teaching methods can be similarly integrated into educational experiences, and we recommend following the principle of “design for all” in classroom accommodations to the extent possible.

Guidelines for Choosing Classroom Supplies

Understanding that it is nearly impossible for one product to solve all accessibility and usability problems, the following criteria should be used to determine whether a product follows the principals of universal design.

  • Equitable Use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  • Flexibility: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  • Simple and Intuitive: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  • Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
  • Tolerance of Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  • Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  • Size and Space for Approach and Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.2

Classroom Product Example

Image 3. Sanford® Expo® Dry-Eraser with Precision Point. Cost: ~$6

Image courtesy of Sanford, a Newell Rubbermaid Company

Image 4. Outline of Sanford® Eraser from Image 3 showing the narrow and wide ends of the products and how the eraser is inserted into the cradle.

A Sample Evaluation

How well does the eraser above meet these criteria?

  • Equitable Use: Product features extend usability to people with low vision, dexterity and mobility issues. (see Image 3)
  • Flexibility: Wide and narrow ends for erasing large or small areas. Accommodates both left and right-handed users. (See Image 4)
  • Simple and Intuitive: Finger grips make it easier to understand how the eraser is gripped in the hand. The shape of the cradle also indicates which direction the eraser goes in the cradle. (See Image 4)
  • Perceptible Information: Necessary information, such as which side goes on the board is obvious by the flatness of the eraser-side and the texture of the pad. Finger grips are indicated using a change in color and texture.
  • Tolerance of Error: The eraser is made of plastic which prevents injury from dropping the product. Pads are replaceable in case the pad gets completely used or somehow destroyed.
  • Low Physical Effort: The ergonomic design reduces the effort needed to grasp the eraser.
  • Size and Space for Approach and Use: The handle is sized to fit most hands and the pad is large enough to erase board in a small amount of time.

Science, Math and Test Anxiety, Breakthrough Learning Objectives

Dealing with Anxiety

Question: It’s 120 miles to Atlanta and you drive there at 60 miles per hour. How long will it take you to get to Atlanta?

Are you thinking about solving the problem or are you thinking, “Oh no? It’s one of those word problems?” If you are thinking “Oh no,” then you may be experiencing science and math anxiety.

Test Anxiety

Test Anxiety

BreakThru Learning Objectives

  • Explain why anxiety is described as a learned behavior.
  • Describe the relationship between anxiety and memory; give personal examples.
  • List the methods you have or wish to implement to reduce anxiety and improve your STEM performance.

Recognizing Anxiety

Factors Influencing Anxiety

  • I am scared about using chemicals. What if I hurt myself?
  • I can’t stand to look at the internal organs of frogs. The smell is horrible.
  • When I look at a math problem, my mind goes blank. I feel stupid, and I can’t remember how to do the simplest problems.
  • I’ve never been successful in any math class. Some people can do the math, some can’t. I can’t.

These students are expressing science/math anxiety, a feeling of intense frustration or helplessness about the ability to perform science or math. Science/math anxiety is a common problem for many high school and college students. Anxiety affects more than taking tests. It can also impact the way you do your homework, study, or even choose your career. When you are worried and anxious about studying or performing in academic situations, you may not be able to demonstrate your actual level of knowledge and skills. Understanding and reducing your anxiety can have a positive impact on your science/math performance.

Causes of Test Anxiety

Bad experiences with science and math beginning in elementary school are the leading cause of academic anxiety. Check out these flashbacks:

  • Difficulty memorizing multiplication tables
  • Problem understanding chemistry symbols
  • Failure to complete a math problem at the blackboard
  • Classmates finishing problems faster than you
  • Teacher saying, “You’re just not good in science or math”
  • Being called stupid or punished for not understanding

These experiences can become deeply rooted and form the basis of anxiety. Every time you open a science or math book to do homework or sit for a test, you replay those memories and believe you are not good in the subject. If you believe that you are not good in science or math, you probably will not do well.

Positive Self-Talk

All of us have an internal dialogue or self-talk. What we say to ourselves in response to an event determines our feeling about the event. As an example, a student starts saying to himself that he is going to fail the math test and might as well turn in his paper and drop the class. The negative self-talk (fail the math test) leads to feelings of anxiety and hopelessness.

How do think this student will perform on the test? Students with science or math anxiety usually use negative self-talk which can increase the anxiety, reduce the ability of the working memory to process information, and result in poor grades.

BreakThru Learning Objectives

  • Explain why anxiety is described as a learned behavior.
  • Describe the relationship between anxiety and memory; give personal examples.
  • List the methods you have or wish to implement to reduce anxiety and improve your STEM performance.

Introduction: Adventures in STEM & Virtual Environments

Adventures in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) & Virtual Worlds

Why is the sky blue? Why can’t you see the wind? What’s the biggest number in the world?

Can you answer these questions? These are some of our earliest questions about STEM studies. We all are born curious, and the more we learn about the world and how it works, the more confident we feel. We become less afraid of the universe. The big question is, why do so many of us stop asking such questions?

Adventures in STEM & Virtual Environments

Adventures in STEM & Virtual Environments

Who needs STEM? Everyone, so don’t be STEM-phobic.

Try to go one day without using…

Science. Keep in mind that modern science was born the day we first used fire about 4 million years ago. It is our oldest discipline.
Technology. Maybe if you’re on a survivalist adventure, but you’d have to do without a knife, rope, compass as well.
Engineering. Our world is built by engineers. Maybe shipwrecked on a desert island, but you would quickly turn to engineer to save your life.
Math. Better yet, try to go one day without using any numbers.

STEM and People with Disabilities

Individuals with disabilities often face challenges in pursuing careers and degrees in STEM. They are underrepresented in STEM fields. This video by the DO-IT program out of the University of Washington is an overview of STEM and people with disabilities. DO-IT and BreakThru are National Science Foundation Alliance projects.

Schoolkids’ Bee Study Lands in Prestigious Journal

“A group of elementary schoolchildren in Devon, England recently made a study on how bees identify colors that is, well, groundbreaking. They may be kids, but for the editors of ‘Biology Letters’, their research was anything but child’s play — in fact, it’s being hailed as “a genuine advance in the field” — so much so, the prestigious journal has decided to publish it.” – Treehugger, a Discovery Company by Stephen Messenger, Porto Alegre, Brazil

Scientific Research for Everyone

Today, right now, anyone can do important research if you know how to design an experiment. Or you can accept one of the many opportunities to join existing research endeavors like those offered by NASA, the Discovery Channel, CEISMIC (Georgia Institute of Technology), and others all over the world. Bring enthusiasm.

Who takes STEM classes?

Spock was a STEM graduate, Captain Kirk was a STEM graduate; in fact, everyone on the starship Enterprise (2009) was a STEM graduate.

While that may sound like an exaggeration, on 21st Century Earth the study of STEM is more exciting than even a science-fiction movie.

Actually, many of the people who made the 2009 Star Trek movie have STEM backgrounds. Special effects, computer modeling, graphics, robotics, and storyline all come from STEM knowledge.

Can you write a story about time travel without some basis in science, physics, and math? Can you make a starship or its model without engineering, technology, and computers? But even if you don’t want to go where no one has gone before, if you want to do anything with your life, you will probably need STEM smarts to succeed.

  • Want to work in the music recording industry?
  • Think we can make solar power replace fossil fuels?
  • Want to take care of animals? Want to help heal people?
  • Got an idea for a new video game or social web site?
  • Do you want to invent a new kind of electric instrument?
  1. Want to help the victims of natural disasters rebuild?
  2. Want to predict the weather?
  3. Want to make a car that gets 100 miles per gallon?

Social Networking, the Internet, and Computer Games

  • Want to Tweet, Poke, Prod, share, follow, or friend? All brought to you by STEM scholars and graduates.
  • Youtube, Pandora, Google, and everything on or over the Internet were brought to you by STEM folk. Some of them even created their applications in their spare time (but they had STEM knowledge

NASA Quest Challenges

NASA Quest Challenges are Web-based, interactive explorations designed to engage students in authentic scientific and engineering processes. The solutions relate to issues encountered daily by NASA personnel. Why not take the challenge? Read more.

If the classroom is boring

Unfortunately, many schools have been forced to teach more and more students more and more quickly, and what is lost is the excitement that should be part of every subject, but especially the STEM classes.

We exist in a STEM relevant world and universe. We are controlled by the laws of nature, physics, and math. We use what we learn and invent to make the world better, safer, more fun. While much of what we accomplish may begin in the classroom, those who want more out of life never let it end there. Learning never stops, but our excitement about learning is up to us.

It’s up to you to be Learner-centric

If we’re really lucky we’ll have several teachers who inspire us and get us excited about learning. However, you can make learning fun and excite for yourself.

Take charge of your education; create your own classroom; do your own research; ask the big questions. With the Internet, you never have to be alone in your endeavors. With Mentoring and BreakThru, you will find more worlds and opportunities opening up for you.

BREAKTHRU is a Mentoring and Empowering Program

Too many students have been told that STEM is too hard or that they aren’t smart enough to do good work. STEM can be difficult, but it is made too difficult by poor or lazy or misguided teachers. STEM study is for everyone even if you don’t intend to pursue a career in one of the disciplines.

Too many students are not aware that they can do real science at any age, that they can do research on important issues, that they can help map the universe, that they can make a difference. And make a difference today, not four years from now, but today.

Mentoring can certainly help you with your classes, but more importantly, mentoring can help you apply what you have learned in STEM classes to the things, projects, and ideas that excite you.

BreakThru can help you gain the confidence that others have denied you. Numbers aren’t scary; science isn’t scary; computers and technology are scary, and a car or building isn’t scary. What’s scary are those who teach us to aim too low, to be afraid of the world around us, to be on the outside looking in. STEM is your doorway to new worlds both real and virtual, and BreakThru is your guide to those worlds.

BREAKTHRU: A Virtual and Real World Experience in STEM

Each student participating in BreakThru will have a mentor assigned. Students and mentors will have virtual face-to-face interaction for at least 1 hour/week. Mentors and students may also combine their time for larger group discussions or tutorials.

The mission of BreakThru is to empower students with disabilities to enroll and succeed in STEM classes or programs.

BreakThru is also working on a range of conversation topics meant to empower students in life as well as learning. Some of these conversations include “Mastering Testing Anxiety” “Acquiring Financial Aid” “Time and Project Management” “Study Skills” “Note Taking Strategies” and “Seeking Help from the Learning Institutions.” Mentors will also be completing BreakThru conversations, and teams can use the content to form the foundation of mentoring sessions each week.

Second Life – students, mentors, guest presenters, administrators, and others will meet on BreakThru Island. Second Life is a virtual world where users create their own avatars (representations of themselves) that move and interact with others and the environment. Besides serving as a mentoring platform, it will also enable communication among the BreakThru community. Everyone will be given training in using Second Life as an interactive learning environment.

Disability Self-Determination BreakThru Points

BreakThru Points

As a student with a disability, you face unique challenges as you plan for college. Students with disabilities that are successful in college demonstrate self-determination skills. Self-determination involves:

  1. Understanding your rights
  2. Understanding your disability and how it impacts your learning
  3. Setting goals
  4. Knowing how to communicate your disability and academic-related needs

Students who understand themselves and their disability and have the confidence to act in their own best interests can create a successful college experience.

1.Understand Your Rights

In order for you to have an equal opportunity for success, you need to know what you need to do and what the college is required to do.

Laws

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • Statute entitles children (kindergarten – 12th grade) with disabilities the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education.
  • School is responsible for identifying students with disabilities
  • School is responsible to evaluate the child at no cost to the family
  • School is responsible to arrange and implement accommodations and special education services
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • Civil rights legislation to prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities under any entity that receives Federal funds.
  • Law requires colleges to make reasonable and appropriate accommodation to provide access to the college programs and activities.
Americans with Disabilities Act
  • The purpose of this law is to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
  • The ADA applies to all institutions of higher education regardless of receipt of Federal funds.

If you believe your rights have been violated, colleges have informal and formal methods to resolve the issue.

  • The disability provider at the college can assist you in resolving disability complaints informally by acting as a liaison between you and the college.
  • If the issue cannot be resolved informally, you can access a formal Tabela to have grievance procedures related to discrimination.
  • You also have the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

2. Understanding Your Disability

Being self-determined in high school will help you succeed in college. You have to know about your disability so you can ask for assistance in college. These practices will help you learn about yourself and practice self-determination skills:

Review Your High School File. Meet with your Individual Education Plan (IEP) team and your parents to discuss your disability and learning strategies. Ask the following questions:
  • What is my disability?
  • How does it affect my learning?
  • What is my learning style?
  • What accommodations and strategies help me learn the best?
  • Can I have copies of my IEP and evaluation reports?

Activity # 1: Disability Worksheet. Complete the Understanding Your Disability Worksheet to help you better understand your disability and how it affects your learning

Meet With Your Evaluator
  • Ask the same questions above so that you get a complete and clear understanding of your disability.
Take An Active Role In Your IEP Meetings
  • Participate in discussions to practice communicating your disability-related needs.
  • Learn about your strengths and limitations.
  • Gain valuable knowledge that can influence your services in high school and those you request in college.

3. Communicating Your Needs Through Self-Advocacy

An essential component of self-advocacy is communicating your needs so that you acquire can the necessary accommodations and supports to be successful. The ability to talk about your disability and academic accommodations is important in the college environment where faculty are unaware of your learning needs. Practice communicating about your disability begins in high school with taking an active part in your IEP meetings.

The following communication tips will assist you in taking the lead in your IEP meetings:

  • Complete Understanding Your Disability Worksheet to the IEP meeting as a way to remind you of your talking points
  • Listen to the discussion
  • Express your desires and goals
  • Ask questions
  • Actively pursue your goals in the meeting

4. Activity: Practice Requesting Accommodations

Pair up with another avatar (your mentor or a member of your peer mentor group) and role-play requesting accommodations and using your script. Reverse roles so that you play the part of the student and the teacher.

Becoming a student who is self-determined can improve the transition from high school to college and improve success in college. When teachers and faculty are fully informed, they will be more helpful in anticipating issues, accommodating requests, and making modifications to tests and instruction methods.

Taking Quality Notes & Note-Taking Techniques

Taking Quality Notes

Listening and note-taking go hand-in-hand. Mastery of these skills can help you earn higher grades. Taking an active role in your classes – asking questions and participating in discussions- will help you listen better and take more meaningful notes.

Listening exercise

Ever wonder why it is easier to learn the words of a song yet you may find it difficult to remember the important ideas from a class lecture? We remember songs more easily because they follow a rhythm. Class instruction generally is not set to music. Most forgetting takes place within 24 hours after you see or hear something, so how can you enhance your ability to retain class information? Follow these steps before class preparation, during class, and after class review.

Before class preparation

Take these active learning steps to make your listening and note-taking more successful.

  • DO the assigned reading – Completing the assigned reading will help you better understand and listen to the lecture. Your notes will also be more organized because you already have the background information.
  • Conduct a pre-class review – review prior notes and read the chapter summaries of the required reading assignments. Look for sections you have highlighted as well as main headings.

During class

Be ready for the message and keep an open mind.

  1. Listen to main concepts, not just to figures and facts.
  2. Listen to new ideas.
  3. Minimize distractions. Sit in front of the class, away from doors and windows.
  4. Decide if the concept is not important, important, or very important. If the concept is not important, don’t write it down, if the concept is very important, write down and put a star or other symbol to designate importance.
  5. Ask questions.
  6. Be alert to repetition.
  7. Watch the board or overheads.

Note-Taking Techniques

he format and structure of your notes is more important than how fast you write. The following techniques can improve the effectiveness of your notes.

Cornell Method

  • Draw a line down the length of your note-taking paper 1 ½ inches from the left edge.
  • Write your notes on the right side of the line.
  • Write key terms, concepts, and questions on the left side of the line.

Outline Method

  • Use a standard Roman numeral outline form to categorize and organize notes.
  • Illustrates points and supporting ideas.

Styles (Helpful When…)

  • Outline Style- each point has a separate number or letter
    • The presented information is organized well
    • Information flows from main ideas to support detail
  • Phrase Style- jot down key phrases
    • Lecture presented like storytelling
    • The lecture is verbal with little written information or images
  • Vocabulary Style- focus on new vocabulary
    • There are several new terms in each lecture (as with many introductory courses)
    • New vocabulary needs to be integrated with key concepts or information presented in the textbook
  • Drawing Style- include rough sketches in your notes with a written description
    • Courses include diagrams, formulas/ problems/ graphs, drawings or charts
    • Don’t skip over these images! These representations are most important because they condense and summarize information that is difficult to write out!

Note-taking Tips

  1. Start each lecture on a new page.
  2. Write down the main points and concepts rather than trying to copy down everything that is said.
  3. Use pictures and diagrams
    • Make relationships visual
    • Copy all diagrams
  4. Use a three-ring binder
    • Pages can be removed, spread out for study, and organized.
    • Insert handouts.
    • Insert notes taken from the book.
    • Insert notes from classmates.
  5. Use only one side of the paper.
  6. Label and date notes
  7. Use graphic signals
    • Stars (*) and underlining indicate the importance
      • “You will see this again”
      • “This could be on the test”
      • “Going back to this topic from yesterday’s class”
    • Arrows connect ideas
    • Question marks indicate confusing points and areas for follow-up.
  8. Use indentations and spacing to help organize information
    • Write lists down the page, not across
    • Indentations can be used to separate examples from concepts
  9. Pay special attention at the end of the lecture.
    • A lot of information may be given in the last 5-10 minutes
    • If there is a review of the material presented that day, this is information that will likely appear on the test

After Class

  1. Re-write notes the same day as the class.
    • Assists in learning the information
    • Organizes material
  2. Fill in gaps in notes
    • Consult classmates notes
    • Ask instructor
    • Look in book
  3. Review the previous class notes just before the next class session.
    • Puts you in the right mind-set.
    • Links old material to new.

Time Management – Making a Weekly Schedule That Works

Creating a Weekly Schedule – this one skill can turn your college life around faster than almost anything else you may try.

A full time Job:

College is now your full-time job; act accordingly and responsibly. If you think 40 hours a week to commit to your school work is too much, think about your working parents. Most working adults work 40 hours each week and still have time off every evening and every weekend.

Many college freshmen feel like they’re studying every hour they can and every weekend. That their life is nothing but work, work, work. The reality is more likely that they have mismanaged their time or wasted great chunks of time without even realizing it.

Instructions:

Paper or electronic? For this first schedule do not use an electronic scheduling software because you will spend more time learning the software and not the time management skills. Later, you can switch to a more sophisticated calendar if it is one that you will use and update everyday for a couple of minutes. Most smart phones, gmail, iPad, Google, all have good electronic calendars that may work for you after you have learned how to make a good schedule that you can easily update as your week changes with unexpected events or when you have not given enough time for particular projects.

You can do this first schedule using the blank form to print out of using Excel with the template to only fill in the boxes for the hours each day. If you are not familiar with Excel, then print the form and use paper; later you can be shown how to do it in Excel without having to really learn the software other than enough to complete your schedule.

    1. This is not surprising since freshmen suddenly find themselves having to do all the things they did in high school plus all the things their parents and family did for them as well. Try creating a schedule and following it, correcting it when you need to shift events, and doing it again the following week. A schedule is only effective if you prepare it and improve it each week until you master this skill which may take a several weeks. Use your Mentor to assist in preparing Look over the following example of a weekly schedule. You can click on the following link to see a full size version of the table below for easier reading. Notice that every hour is accounted for as is almost every activity; dark gray is sleep time, white is free (unscheduled) time
    2. Print a blank copy and either complete it for yourself on paper, or you may fill in your electronic schedule/calendar it is much easier and quicker to update each week. Carry your schedule with you, and update it daily as things change or unexpected things come up (even fun things).
    3. Anticipate a 40-hour work-week. This means if you are taking 15 academic hours, you should be putting in 25 hours outside of class at a minimum.
    4. Differentiate the time slots for study, homework, group study, reading, research, lab reports, and any other academic time including tutoring and office visits with instructors.
    5. Include sleep time, meal times, un-scheduled time (can be shifted to make up work later or deal with unexpected changes or unexpected invitations to have fun. Unscheduled time should not automatically be given over to fun unless all other work is up-to-date first.
    6. Do not schedule study times that exceed 1 hour per subject or for multiple subjects but break out each subject separately. Putting a 2 to 4 hour study block generally leads to massive amounts of procrastination. Instead, label each hour by subject and activity – “Read history chapters” “Complete Chem Lab Report” “Work Calc homework problems.”Don’t forget how short your attention span really is.
  1. Put in any tests or assignment due dates and make sure that you have plenty of time the day before to have completed the work, reviewed it, and studied for the exam without staying up all night.
  2. Make sure that every hour of every day in the week is accounted for. Do this for an upcoming week.
  3. Total (add up) the number of hours devoted to school, study, and other academic effort. If you do not have 40 hours scheduled, consider that your commitment to college may not be as strong as you think.
  4. When someone asks you out or to go do something fun, check your schedule first to make sure you aren’t forgetting an assignment, test, or a meeting.
  5. Never assume that your sleep time (aim for 9 hours/night) is free time for making up for poor time management. Notice that most adults work 40+ hours and still manage to have time for fun, family, and household responsibilities.
  6. Each week write a short reflection that you can share with another person of how your time management went, if it succeeded or failed and why. If you underestimated the time required for various activities, try to be more accurate for the next week.

This weekly reflection on your developing time management skills should ideally be shared with another person who values your skill development attempts.

Access 101: Low Vision and Blindness

Low Vision and Blindness

Blindness and low vision are more common in the student population than one might think. The lack of recognition of the problem is due in part to the fact that many
students with vision problems do not identify themselves as such or do not wish to bring attention to their disability for one

Low Vision and Blindness

Low Vision and Blindness

Reason or another. One student described her experience with partial sightedness:

“Hi, my name is [Amanda] and I’m 15. I am a ‘partial’ who is totally blind in one eye and partial in the other eye. I have much difficulty seeing the board in class and reading what is on the projectors. I really hate talking to teachers about my eyesight issues because they always give me pity after I do so and I don’t want their charity. What do you think I should do?? I get good grades (my GPA this last quarter was a 3.67 and I’m taking an honors [English] class) and am not worried about falling behind.

It’s just that there is so much strain put between the teacher and me because of my eyesight (or lack thereof). Even if I did talk to them, what would I say? ‘Hi, my name is Amanda…I’m a partial …I may need some help with stuff…but I really don’t want help with EVERYTHING because I know that’s what you’ll do now because I told you… ’ That’d go great!”1 ~ Amanda

Rate of Occurrence

Students with partial blindness or low vision like Amanda aren’t all that rare. A 1998 survey of college freshmen indicated that about 1.1% percent of them say they are either partially sighted or blind. Among the population of college freshmen with disabilities, about 13% of the disabilities are visual impairments. Often, the cause of blindness is diabetes.2

Classroom Success Rates

Unfortunately, only about 45% of people with severe visual impairment or blindness are able to complete high school, compared to a graduate rate of about 80% for the normally sighted. Visually impaired students, at least at the high school level, perform poorly in standardized tests for reading, although they perform almost as well as their sighted peers on math and problem-solving tests.

The data from high school students suggests that it will be difficult for these students to gain admission to universities, but those who do may find that their disabilities are an even greater barrier in an intensified academic atmosphere.2

Level of Need

There are many types of visual impairments and therefore many levels of need. In fact, students with minor impairments and those who prefer to work independently may require little or no help.

Tasks that students with visual impairments may find difficult

  • Reading and writing on chalkboards, dry-erase boards, bulletin boards, and posters.
  • Reading and completing written assignments
  • Giving presentations
  • Watching videos
  • Finding items in the classroom or lab
  • Moving around the classroom or lab

Many of these problems can be corrected by providing the material in a different format such as large print, Braille, or electronic files. The solution may also include moving the student to a better position in the classroom or providing assistive technology. We will discuss these options and more in the accommodations section.

1″Visual Impairments.” Jan 2004. National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities 31 Oct 2007.

2C. Henderson, Update on College Freshmen with Disabilities. Washington, DC: American Council on Education; HEATH Resource Center, 1999,

STEM Reading Skills & Summary of Reading Strategies

Reading Strategies for Math & Science Based Courses

  • Your textbook is a resource and not a burden
  • Science and math textbooks have different reading approaches
  • Math and science or both may be required for your major or profession.
  • Reading and studying math, science, engineering and technology require different skills from other disciplines .
  • Practicing the reading skills that follow improves comprehension, mastery, and amount of study time.
  • Taking notes about, in, and on the reading material is time well spent

Mathematics and science are required for an ever growing number of majors and occupations. In fact, most college majors require not only college algebra but also higher level math such as calculus..

Math and science are “doing” subjects, not “reading” subjects like some of the humanities and social sciences. The chart below is a simple example of the complexities you will find in your math and science readings.

Mathematically-based subjects require a progressive step-by-step learning of fundamentals called scaffolding that allows you to build each new skill upon a prior skill or concept already mastered. This progression of learning demands subject mastery and comprehension not memorization.

It is a certainty that math or science – or both – will be a part of your undergraduate program. Therefore, you need to start practicing the strategies in this section if you want to find success in your math and science courses and get more out of your reading and studying time.

Summary of Reading Strategies

  1. eading strategies take practice. In the beginning employing these strategies may seem to extend your reading time, but you will make it up when it comes to test preparation and concept mastery.
  2. Math and Science textbooks use different strategies.
  3. Taking shortcuts with your reading will negatively impact your education.
  4. STEM professions do even more reading than STEM students to keep up with the research in their fields. Learn how to read STEM materials now.
  5. Studying more or longer doesn’t mean studying well. Take advantage of the strategies in this and other modules to improve your learning and give you more time to enjoy college.
  6. Use all the resources available to you when something is confusing including re-reading the text, any graphs, charts, or tables, the publisher’s web site for the textbook, study partners, your study group, a tutor, the TA for your class, and obviously, the instructor (that’s part of why they offer office hours).
  7. Always complete your assigned readings before each class.
  8. Learn to manage your time effectively (see module on Time Management). If you can’t complete your readings on time before class, you might need some Time Management skills.
 

STEM and People with Disabilities

Individuals with disabilities often face challenges in pursuing careers and degrees in STEM. They are underrepresented in STEM fields. This video by the DO-IT program out of the University of Washington is an overview of STEM and people with disabilities. DO-IT and BreakThru are National Science Foundation Alliance projects. Instead of creating barriers think that STEM helps to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Why earn STEM degrees or take STEM classes?

We live in a STEM universe. We are controlled by the laws of nature, physics, and math. It is almost impossible to graduate with any kind of a degree without taking STEM courses. That may sound like an exaggeration, but here on 21st Century Earth the study of STEM is more exciting and important than ever.

Even a science-fiction movie could not be made without STEM experts. Special effects, computer modeling, graphics, robotics, and the sci-fi storyline ideas all come from and require STEM knowledge.

There are very few professions that not only benefit from STEM smarts but require them if you want to succeed.

  • Want to work in the music recording industry?
  • Do you believe we can make solar power to replace fossil fuels?
  • Want to take care of animals? Want to help heal people?
  • Got an idea for a new video game or social web site?
  • Do you want to invent a new kind of electric instrument?
  • Want to help the victims of natural disasters rebuild?
  • Want to predict the weather?
  • Want to make a car that gets 100 miles per gallon?
  • Want to invent a new video game?
  • Do you have the next big Internet idea?

These all require STEM. We use what we learn and invent to make the world better, safer, more fun. While much of what we accomplish may begin in the classroom, those who want more out of life never let it end there. Learning never stops, but our excitement about learning is up to us.

It’s up to you to be Learner-centric

If we’re really lucky we’ll have several teachers who inspire us and get us excited about learning. However, you can make learning fun and exciting for yourself. Take charge of your education; create your own classroom; do your own research; ask the big questions. With the Internet you never have to be alone in your endeavors. With Mentoring and BreakThru you will find more worlds and opportunities opening up for you.

BREAKTHRU is a Mentoring and Empowering Program

Too many students have been told that STEM is too hard or that they aren’t smart enough to do good work. STEM can be difficult, but it is made too difficult by poor or lazy or misguided teachers. STEM study is for everyone even if you don’t intend to pursue a career in one of the disciplines.

Too many students are not aware that they can do real science at any age, that they can do research on important issues, that they can help map the universe, that they can make a difference. And make a difference today, not four years from now, but today.

Mentoring can certainly help you with your classes, but more importantly, mentoring can help you apply what you have learned in STEM classes to the things, projects, and ideas that excite you.

BreakThru can help you gain the confidence that others have denied you. Numbers aren’t scary; science isn’t scary; computers and technology aren’t scary; and a car or building aren’t scary. What’s scary are those who teach us to aim too low, to be afraid of the world around us, to be on the outside looking in. STEM is your doorway to new worlds both real and virtual, and BreakThru is your guide to those worlds.

BREAKTHRU: A Virtual and Real World Experience in STEM

Each student participating in BreakThru will have a mentor assigned. Students and mentors will have virtual face-to-face interaction at least 1 hour/week. Mentors and students may also combine their time for larger group discussions or tutorials.

Part of the mission of BreakThru is to empower students with disabilities to enroll and succeed in STEM classes or programs.

BreakThru is also working on a range of conversation topics meant to empower students in life as well as learning. Some of these conversations include Test Anxiety, Procuring Financial Aid, STEM Study Skills and Taking Quality Notes. Mentors will also be completing BreakThru conversations, and teams can use the content to guide discussions during mentoring sessions each week.

Second Life – students, mentors, guest presenters, administrators and others will meet on the BreakThru Island. Second Life is a virtual world where users create their own avatars (representations of themselves) that move and interact with others and the environment. Besides serving as a mentoring platform, it will also enable communication among the BreakThru community. Everyone will be given training in using Second Life as an interactive learning environment.

The top 25 degrees and median salaries are listed below. this is Very Old Data*

DegreeStarting Median Salary
Aerospace Engineering$59,600
Chemical Engineering$65,700
Computer Engineering$61,700
Electrical Engineering$60,200
Economics$50,200
Physics$51,100
Mechanical Engineering$58,900
Computer Science$56,400
Industrial Engineering$57,100
Environmental Engineering$53,400
Statistics$48,600
Biochemistry$41,700
Mathematics$47,000
Civil Engineering$55,100
Construction Management$53,400
Finance$48,500
Management of Information Systems$51,900
Computing and Information Systems$50,900
Geology$45,100
Chemistry$42,900
Marketing$41,500
International Relations$41,400
Industrial Technology$49,500
Environmental Science$43,900
Architecture$42,900

Even a quick glance will show that these are all STEM degrees. You can search the Internet and find other lists that include one or two non-STEM degrees, but overwhelmingly, to be employed with a bachelor’s degree, your best choice is a STEM discipline.

There are exceptions to everything, but if you are undecided about the future, think seriously about majoring in STEM.

Flexibility of Career:

A STEM degree does not lock you into only one future path. Professionals with STEM degrees find it easier than those with degrees in humanities to switch careers. Professionals in STEM can become teachers/professors, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, research, authors, environmentalists. But even professionals in the arts need or use STEM to create everything from cave paintings to laser shows and virtual worlds.

Three Quick Exercises to Improve Your Mentoring

Exercise One:

Describe a mentoring experience in your past. It should be one in which an adult singled you out for positive attention. Attention that moved you forward in your life, toward your goals, or even changed your life’s direction. Write it down so that you can bring it up when you meet your mentee.

Exercise Two:

Let’s examine more closely your ideas about mentoring. Complete the next two questions, then click the link to reveal your answers as well as some ideas from the authors of this module.

Select the qualities from the list below that you feel make a good mentor. Rely on your own experience and/or readings (freely adapted from the National Mentoring Partnership)

  • Always seems to be rushed.
  • Can usually only give one explanation when explaining a concept.
  • Demonstrates empathy.
  • Doesn’t need to prepare for sessions.
  • Has a particular way for doing everything without exception.
  • Interrupts frequently.
  • Is an active listener.
  • Is impatient with most people.
  • Looks for solutions and opportunities.
  • Shows respect for young people.
  • Talks too much about him/herself.
  • Tries to be flexible and open.

Exercise Three:

Relating Personal Experience:

Since BreakThru deals specifically with students who have a disability, tell us a little about your experience in this field by completing the questions below.

There are no right or wrong answers; but being able to describe your experience both good and bad could help model for your mentee on how to talk about their experiences and especially about their disability.

  1. Describe briefly your experience in working with a disabled person (young or old).
  2. Have you had any training on how to assist people with disabilities?
  3. Are you aware of the issues in your subject field that affect students with disabilities? Think about students with physical and learning disabilities as you describe any issues.
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