A Poor Settlement at UC Berkeley?

alternative media 2I work for one of the poorest universities in California. We have little in way of endowment or research funding. Our campus is small and utilitarian. Our AT program is poorly funded and experiences continued resentment by administration and staff. We have no advocacy student group and nearly no support from faculty. No champions here. In the past we had a director who funded off campus training and conferences, but now those funds may dry up, as the civil rights steam has let out from an apathetic (pathetic) populace.

In what may be my last appearance at a conference for a while, I was able to sit in on a session featuring the results of an Initiative at UC Berkeley – this at CSUN in San Diego. The Berkeley’s desire to comply with just an initiative and not a full-blown OCR or civil legal settlement is magnificent and contrasts starkly against my school’s OCR for failure to provide alternative formats in a timely manner a few years ago. I’m not ashamed. I warned the administration here and the turned a deaf ear. They only accused me of loosing the dogs on them, and thereafter cut any conference funding I requested as punishment.

Platinum schools, first-level, high-tiered educational institutions like Berkeley and Stanford are leaders in providing students with accessibility. Our claim to fame would have to be in having a long-standing resistance movement against the principalities and forces of justice standing atop the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA and any other laws that have to do with access to education for the disabled. The irony, acrid in my mouth, is that we are a leading teacher’s college and have a well-known rehabilitation program training leaders in education to know about those very laws, while our university has consistently and deliberately ignored them.

Educational Monopoly Game

Educational Monopoly Game

Back to the “shocking” UC Berkeley results, which are to be the model for educational institutions in the United States: The presenter who apparently was the lead alt media specialist at the school, reports that they now have like 7 full-time workers creating thousands of pieces of alt media a term. Like this is the model??? Model for what? the affluent? Can you be real! Seven staff, endless resources for producing work, for how many students? Who many blind students are you servicing? I think my campus alone has more blind students than the entire UC system does.

Being that I’m at a school that has one alt media staffer, and a mere 3 part time student workers making around 125 new books and possible another 200 short materials, on taped wings, and no funding set for another year of Kurzweil UC_Berkeley3000 secure, we aren’t comparing apples to oranges; more like BMW to Kia, Mercedes to Hyundai. The caliber of the students between our schools may also be represented by this comparison. The UC Berkeley have’s have don’t competitively compare with the Cal State have knots, who try to untie themselves from their foundations of uneducated parents and low social economic standing – America for my students is and inherently competitive and unfair society. But the end result is also fundamentally equally adrift. The have’s get better jobs, send their kids to have schools, while the have knot’s struggle to keep their kids out of gangs let alone pay for their kids to go to any college.

So sincerely what lessons can you really learn from the “landmark settlement?” None that I can think of. The absurdly overdone effort to better their students only makes all the other schools in the country pale. I can only say, “good for them.” But to the DRA who promoted this joke, I say, you really messed up. You should have investigated a small school funded by the government who still refuses to acknowledge federal and state law. What about Dominguez Hills for God’s sake? Just look at the disability enrollment figures of the poorer schools and you can immediately tell which ones the common disabled student knows not to attend. But, what you’ve done, DRA, is to build ivory_toweran accessible ivory tower above the clouds and the common man, when only a trickle of disabled people ever attend your campus (and the rest of the UCs). The 3rd rate and second rate schools whose administrations hide their low class services to the disabled behind vulgar lying policies and procedures but who in effect provide poor services, you never even set foot on their campuses. The truly oppressed have no voice and are not heard, a far cry from Berkeley’s polished elite students who know who to be heard.

Tell me how is the model supposed to proliferate to other campuses nationally. Who is going to look at it and not say, “this is ridiculous, so glad they didn’t evaluate our program.” Many providers already say that about section 508. They say things like “Caption all the video content, absurd!” They said the same thing about the implementation of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA years past.

No this settlement is in fact the DRA’s piece of publicity for itself, and really will have no impact on the other 4,000 or so schools nationwide still barely keeping up with their student’s needs. It only benefits a couple students at Berkley, but the rest of the country’s disabled are still unable to take STEM courses using Braille, have captioned videos in the classroom, and at some schools even having adequate access to computers on campus except for a couple designated workstations segregating them from the rest of the campus computing resources. Almost no college in California, except the Elite Stanford and Berkley can handle a blind student majoring in STEM. Who can afford it too? or has everything neatly in place?


Quote from the DRA website:

Nationwide, college students with print disabilities – individuals who can­not read standard print because of vision, physical, developmental, or learning disabilities –  face major barriers and disparities to academic success because colleges and universities fail to provide these students with text books, course readers, and library research materials in alternative formats they can read. These formats include Braille, large print, audio, and digital text that is compatible with various types of assistive technology software.

To address this critical issue, DRA worked with the University of California, Berkeley for one year in a collaborative structured negotiations process that resulted in a new set of policies and practices to ensure that print disabled students have access to all of the written instructional materials needed to succeed in a university setting.



Reelabilities: Film Festival

reelability logoInitiated by The JCC in Manhattan in 2007, ReelAbilities presents award-winning films made by and about people with different disabilities—from autism to bipolar disorder, from cerebral palsy to blindness. Through film, ReelAbilities also reaches beyond the disability community and manages to bridge gaps by engaging film lovers and audiences from all walks of life.

The festival is part of a movement to bring awareness and enlightenment about people living and thriving with disabilities—building on the cultural shift that is no longer keeps disability behind Hollywood’s glittering lights. Michael J. Fox, a beloved actor with Parkinson’s disease, is acting in his own primetime network show; Showtime’s critically acclaimed hit show “Homeland” features Carrie, a CIA agent played brilliantly by Claire Danes, whose bipolar disorder offers her gifts and struggles; and more feature films than ever before, like those featured in ReelAbilities, explore how our differences make us strong.

Read More>>>>>>>

 Slate of Films

A WHOLE LOTT MORE / Victor Buhler, Documentary, 83 min, USA, 2013

BIPOLARIZED / Rita Kotzia, Documentary, 76 min, USA, 2013

CINEMABILITY / Jenni Gold, Documentary, 98 min, USA, 2013

DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE? / Dani Wasserman, Documentary, 50 min, Israel, 2013

FIXED: THE SCIENCE/FICTION OF HUMAN ENHANCEMENT / Regan Brashear, Documentary, 60 mins, USA, 2013

GABRIELLE / Louise Archambault, Narrative, 104 min, Canada, 2013

HERE ONE DAY / Kathy Leichter, Documentary, 76 min, USA, 2013

INVITATION TO DANCE / Simi Linton & Christian Von Tippelskirch, Documentary, 75 min,

IT’S ALL ABOUT FRIENDS / Lena Koppel, Narrative, 91 min, Sweden, 2013reel

LITTLE WORLD / Marcel Barrena, Documentary, 83 min, Spain, 2013

LOST AND SOUND / Lindsey Dryden, Documentary, 76 min, UK, 2012

RUN & JUMP / Steph Green, Narrative, 105 mins, USA/Ireland, 2013

STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS / Sam Fleischner, Narrative, 107 min, USA, 2013

TOUCH OF THE LIGHT / Rong-ji Chang, Narrative, 110 min, Taiwan, 2013

Note: ReelAbilities Traveling Program is presented with the support of The Saul Schottenstein Foundation B


Disability News Today — 3 items

1.  Disney reforms disability access policybarred

Disneyland and Disney World have been having abuses to their disability policy, and now they have made a change.  Read more>>>>

2.  Disability Film Festival
From November 17-20, the 3rd International Disability Film Festival “Breaking Down Barriers” was held in Moscow at the movie theater Salyut, still one of the most accessible movie theaters in town. More than 1,500 people attended the four day event.  Viewers included teachers, social protection officials, students of film and social work, special educators, disability activists and other members of the community.

The festival showcased nearly 100 films from Canada, France, South Africa, Georgia, Russia, the U.S., Italy, Mexico, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland, the UK, Austria, Mexico, Germany, and India.  Films were short and long features, documentaries, animation, films for children, about children, public service announcements, and more.  The films from 20 countries competed for 11 awards.  The awards were selected by a distinguished jury of Russian film-makers, chaired by the famous Russian director, writer, producer and actor, Aleksander Mitta, who graduated from the well-known All-Russian Cinema Institute in 1960.  He is also a recipient of the distinguished Russian Film Award, 2001, TEFI. In 2004 he was awarded the title “Most Popular Artist of Russia.” At the start of the festival, Mr. Mitta was interviewed by national Russian TV.  On National TV Mr Mitta remarked: “These are films about disabled people, but they are not for them, they’re for us.  You get such a sense of fullness from them …And it’s all true.”Read more about the Moscow Film Festival…

  1. Scholarships for Folks with Disabilities

Detail: The MassMutual Scholars program is a national scholarship program for eligible students interested in careers in the insurance and financial services industry.

This year, MassMutual awarded $2,500 and $5,000 scholarships to 31 high achieving college students to help them pursue their higher education dreams. Student applicants were evaluated on their academic performance, commitment to education, and financial need, as well as a personal essay in which many shared poignant stories about their desires to achieve a degree and their need for assistance.

Read More>>>>>


Sick Sick World — the facts

One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability.  The results are staggering.  The facts are saddening.  The pain is maddening.  This piece is really only to introduce you all to the world as a whole and how disability affects everyone everywhere.

Facts on Disability World Wide    mad mad world

  • According to UNICEF, 30 per cent of street youths are disabled.disabilities
  • In most OECD countries, women report higher incidents of disability than men.
  • Around 10 per cent of the world’s population, or 650 million people, live with a disability. They are the world’s largest minority.
  • Eighty per cent of persons with disabilities live in developing countries, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
  • Comparative studies on disability legislation shows that only 45 countries have anti-discrimination and other disability-specific laws.
  • mad world smokingWomen with disabilities are recognized to be multiply disadvantaged, experiencing exclusion on account of their gender and their disability.
  • This figure is increasing through population growth, medical advances and the ageing process, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • In countries with life expectancies over 70 years, individuals spend on average about 8 years, or 11.5 per cent of their life span, living with disabilities.
  • The World Bank estimates that 20 per cent of the world’s poorest people are disabled, and tend to be regarded in their own communities as the most disadvantaged.
  • In the United Kingdom, 75 per cent of the companies of the FTSE 100 Index on the London Stock Exchange do not meet basic levels of web accessibility, thus missing out on more than $147 million in revenue.
  • Mortality for children with disabilities may be as high as 80 per cent in countries where under-five mortality as a whole has decreased below 20 per cent, says the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, adding that in some cases it seems as if children are being “weeded out”.
  • Women and girls with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to abuse. A small 2004 survey inmad world Orissa, India, found that virtually all of the women and girls with disabilities were beaten at home, 25 per cent of women with intellectual disabilities had been raped and 6 per cent of disabled women had been forcibly sterilized.
  • Disability rates are significantly higher among groups with lower educational attainment in the countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), says the OECD Secretariat. On average, 19 per cent of less educated people have disabilities, compared to 11 per cent among the better educated.
  • Disabled child of warFor every child killed in warfare, three are injured and permanently disabled.
  • In some countries, up to a quarter of disabilities result from injuries and violence, says WHO.
  • Research indicates that violence against children with disabilities occurs at annual rates at least 1.7 times greater than for their non-disabled peers.
  • Persons with disabilities are more likely to be victims of violence or rape, according to a 2004 British study, and less likely to obtain police intervention, legal protection or preventive care.

Read Whole Article>>>>>>>


Mental Heath and Homelessness

It’s about time that our country does something with mental health issues and homelessness.  This is a plague on America. Every day I go downtown, as I work in Los Angeles, I’m confronted with the menagerie of around 100 homeless individuals floating through Union Station.  It sickens me.  LA county has approximately 65,000 people living on the streets.  They come in and use the public restrooms, take space on the benches that line the bus connection area.  They bum money off everyone possible – those are usually the sane ones however.

There is the mother of trouble preaching the word of God (very amplified twisted version).  She comes through yelling at the sinners (everyone), and though she must be the cleanest homeless person in the place (must have something to do with holiness, holy water or a holy homeless shelter), she is the largest plague on everyone’s sense of hearing.

homeless at union station

My God it took civilized men centuries of finding ways to treat mental illness, and only in our day of greedy rich pompous politicians have we abandoned the call to keep America sane.  Yes, it’s crazy to have all these people plugging up our public spaces with their filth and dysfunctional lives.

The functioning folks should realize that mental illness which reportedly creates 65% of these folks, instead of giving free health care to illegal immigrants; couldn’t we use that money to get these people into institutions where they can be taken care of?

I’m tired of hearing about this problem specifically.  I want some results.  But when I search for anything related to politicians addressing this issue, mum is the word.  Even searching news sites finds no content on how our leaders in government are going to address this health care crisis.  Can you believe that the world has turned it’s ear from the cries of the insane?  But they better listen to rest of us.  But, no, they are cold hearted and leave these poor individuals to rummage through our trash bins, to beg on our intersections, and to wander or are carried into our emergency rooms after they are attacked.

Books and Articles of interest:

Donald Burns:  His book “A Nation in Denial: The Truth about Homelessness

Kim Hopper:  Her book “Reckoning with Homelessness” (Anthropology)

National Coalition for the Homeless:  Mental Illness and Homelessness


Portable Quick Reading Solutions for Low Vision

Are you looking for a reading solution that is simple to use and easy to set up?  I’ve been asked for a low vision solution for a student, one which lets the student read the materials on a screen while listening to the material.  At our school the process is less than completely independent for students, and we do not check out equipment like this, but as the student is most likely to soon be a client of the state department of rehabilitation, I thought I’d look at some of the available products on the market.

Side Note:  This review is non-conclusive at this moment, as I was not able to hands-on test the equipment to see how they handled curvature from book bindings or other more difficult to scan materials. Many issues are involved with converting text including font styles, clarity of the material being scanned, curved gutters, and book layouts and design.

  1. Picture of the Ai Squared ImageReader unitZoomtext Image Reader

ImageReader is a software and camera solution that makes printed text accessible to people who are visually impaired, including books, magazines business documents and more. Put the printed item underneath the included HD document camera, snap a picture, and a few seconds later the text appears in large, high-contrast fonts and is read aloud in natural-sounding voices.

In addition to printed text, ImageReader can also capture and read text from image files, the Windows Clipboard or right off of your computer screen; great when reading graphical text from electronic documents and webpages.

ImageReader comes with a choice of two different document cameras, one for capturing letter-sized pages and another for legal-sized materials.  These cameras are slim and lightweight and mount above a mat that lets the user know how large an area will be captured, so the cameras limited on the size of materials you can read.  Video Demonstration>>>>>>>

The cost of this unit is listed at $795 for the smaller unit and $849 for the larger.   This includes the software.  Owners of Zoomtext 10 save $250 when buying the unit.  The software for the unit also runs off the Zoomtext toolbar.  The large unit can capture many two page books each snap.

More technical issues:

The smaller unit is very light to carry, weighs 1.8 pounds (800 grams), has a 5.0 megapixel camera.  The interface is USB 2.0.  The larger weighs in at 2.65 pounds (1200 grams).

Picture of the Pearl book reader2.  Pearl Reading Solution for Freedom Scientific

Pearl USB less than two pounds.  Allows for a split view on the laptop screen.  12 by 9 inch reading space – the same as the ImageReader smaller unit.  The price is also $795 for this unit. They do not offer a large scanning placement like the ImageReader, so large materials would be more difficult to read. Openbook software is what drives the reading.  The software traces the word as it is reading.  It can also show you the picture of the material it is reading, and highlights on the page, but it doesn’t enlarge in this layout. The product is not like ImageReader in that it doesn’t work with Freedom Scientific’s enlargement product, open book.  But the text can be enlarged inside openbook.

Video Demonstration>>>>>>>

Other Solutions

Other combinations of software can create a reading environment for someone with low vision.  The problem is whether or not that solution meets all the needs of someone – it depends a lot of what vision they have.  Openbook is great for people who are blind, and has been a reading solution for those who are blind for many years.  Kurzweil 1000 is another product that can be used.  You need a scanner to work with them usually.  Pearl gives one the ability to have a camera as we have already covered.

If you have a computer and a reading solution already, you might check to see if your product has been develop to use a camera like ImageReader and pearl.

Some folks with the right level of vision can make use of standard ocr software such as abbyy fine reader or Omnipage to do the scanning, but they still need a text to speech component.  Students here can use Kurzweil 3000 and/or ReadNWrite gold for both scanning and reading.  The options offered our student allow them to cut the cost.  But for independence student often want to have the ability to scan their own materials.  That’s why these camera units are so valuable.

My preference was for the ImageReader because of one simple fact, it worked directly with Zoomtext enlargement software and had a feature to automatically convert and read materials as you go.  I did like the click feature the Pearl had – announcing when to change the page by making the electronic click noise.  Both seemed quite easy to carry, and would easily be accommodated in a backpack, rollerbag or large purse.

If you know about other reading solutions for those with low vision that are portable, please let me know by adding a comment.  If this post is helpful to you, please “like” it above.


NOTE:  We are not associated with any of the product vendors in any of the reviews we do on assistive or adaptive technology.


Finals Time: Murphy’s Law of Computing

When you absolutely need to turn in your file for an assignment, you will lose all your work.  The more important and valuable the work, the higher the likelihood of complete failure.

Primarily my work consists of training college students on computer applications.  The young and old all need tech support.  However, the number one problem that is causing students to fail in their use of computers is simply backing up their critical files, papers and completed assignments.

How often do I have to repeat this advice?  How often do you need to hear how important the simple act of saving your work, and backing up that work.  Most recently a student completed a 3.5 hour final exam, saving it only on a flash drive.  They did not email it to someone, nor did they print out their work.  The whole time they did not back up the file either.  Shortly after pulling the drive from the usb port, they dropped it on the floor and ran over it with their 5-wheeled office chair while getting up.  “Crunch!”  Murphy citation.

Flash Drive, Network Drive or email.

If you are working on anything that takes longer to write than an email, you should be using a backup procedure.  You do have to option of creating backups to your memory device, but I suggest you periodically save the file in a separate drive – give that a little more time – but within 30 minutes you can create a sizable file.  At most colleges, you should have access to a server hard drive for storing a small about of materials (generally 10 megabytes or more).  Now that is enough for foiling Murphy.

All of us older computer users, hackers and nerds have been burned at least once.  We wrote Murphy’s law of computing, and we received our lessons in humility.  I once composed a 150 page training guide – which fortunately was printed in mass before my computer hard drive took a dive, and I lost the whole thing (representing 3 weeks of hard work).  I could elaborate further in expletives about how that stung, but all I will say is that I was chagrined.

In a world that over trusts in technology, you will see that you need to understand there are inherent risks in using technology.   The consequences, the fines and the punishments for disobeying Murphy are known to all.  Backup or when you are in a rush, have to turn in the final paper, and feel as frayed mentally as possible, and you might as well be prepared to have FAIL stamped on your output.   Damaged hard drives, flash drives and failed uploads to learning management systems, equal Fs.   Faculty have no choice, and even write in their syllabus how these excuses are not valid.

Take it a step further.  How would losing a precious work-related file affect you in the workplace?  College is the place to learn to backup or be burned, not the office.



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Sound the Horn

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