Disability Archive

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 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.

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.

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 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.

Understanding Your Disability & Your Rights

Understand 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.

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.
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