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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.



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


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.


Violence against the disabled raises its ugly head again

photo of snake head

Raising its ugly head

The topic of violence against persons with disabilities unfortunately popped up on the news again.  Seems that CNN caught hold of this British video clip of a disturbing attack on a wheelchair user. This topic seems to be hot and actually barely touches the surface of a level of hatred in humanity – the dark side.  The psychological idea that persons who are disabled are to be hidden away, removed from society, or placed in nursing homes seems prevalent in the world we live it.  Shame on humanity!

This brings us back to our earlier piece, Crimes Against Those who are Disabled.

What is further disgusting to me is the sexual violence perpetrated on women who have intellectual disabilities.  I remember years ago watching some film which feature a young woman with a developmental disability who was basically raped at home, and kept for that purpose.  Does that sicken you as well?

Related links:

Sexuality and Disability

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Journal of Contemporary Justice:  Article on abuse against the elderly


The Good from Evil

Painting featuring adam and eve

"Adam & Eve & Eve and Adam," 1999, acrylic and mixed media on wood, 24 x 24", $8400

This concept is often discussed in religious and atheistic circles.  The idea that God allows evil.  The one side argues that a good all knowing and omnipotent God would not allow evil, and therefore there is no God.  The other side argues that God allows the free will of man and nature. (See links at bottom) The point here is that the challenges of life, the trials and tribulations we all experience in live generate responses from us, and define our character.

If we all lived in the Garden of Eden, where we have abundant supply and resources, where we have eternity to live, and where we walk with God, then we would have little to challenge us to become better people, for everything would e perfect.  Can you picture that?  A place without struggle.

I realize, as millions before me, that, when dealing with the trials and tribulations of life, we must embrace them, wrestle with them, and learn from them for then we pave the way for healthy living.  You may not have a disability, but you have your challenges.  Everyone, including the rich with all the supply and resources available to them, have challenges too.  So look at your challenge – yes the one right in front of you – and you know what you have to do.  The target is sitting right in front of your nose.

That’s the first step in the living of life, grasping that the challenge is your destiny.  Every good story has an antagonist and a protagonist.  Where it gets hairy is when they both reside in your own soul.  You see when we allow the demons of the soul to enter and dominate, we then begin to see why Christians say everyone needs the savior.  I think the Batman film series and Star Wars draws upon this thematic archtype.  Can you see that Luke Skywalker and Darth are the same.  One gone to the dark side, the other nearly overcome by the insanity of his own hate.  But the love overcomes evil in the end, and Darth lets go of his hate, as the spark of love for Luke extinguishes his evil ways.

So why is there disability and illness?  What good is there in having limitation?  See it’s the challenge, the challenge to overcome evil with good.  That good can come from so many places.  So many great things are encapsulated in the process of standing again when you’ve lost your legs; when you see without sight, when you hear a world who no longer can be heard, or when you speak devoid of voice.  These are truly miraculous and amaze us all.

We may not be Jesus and can bring sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and purity to the lepers, but we are challenged to improve their lot and end their suffering.  When society has chosen to pick up these challenges and address them, society has reaped the benefit of their efforts.  So embrace your limitation.  It is your mountain to climb; and the difficulty, the pain, and the anguish are the grit, dirt and soil for the flowering beauty of Eden in our midst.

Selected Links:

Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen

Bane of Monothesism

Tall, Dark and Ruthless:  The Romantic Allure of Darth Vader

Jung’s Archetypes

How to understand that trials and tribulations are a part of our Christian faith


Just Tell Us “NO! You Can’t Do That”

picture of disabled=In 7th grade my PE teacher made me mad.  He said before my class, “You don’t need to climb the rope as you won’t be able to do it.”  That statement made me want to punch him; but instead, I climbed the rope in the allotted 3 minutes times, touching the ceiling and “shoving his words back into his mouth.”  Often well meaning able-bodied people  tell someone with a limitation what they can and cannot do.  Maybe the reason God let us have disabilities is to help the able bodied to know that they too can do more than they have realized they could do. My story is insignificant, but I thought you should be aware of the plight of Brian McKeever, a Canadian skier with a disability who had made the Olympic ski team and then never got the opportunity to compete.  According to an article in the Dailygleaner, online paper, there was quit the public out lash against the coaching staff for not giving him a chance to show his stuff.  In reality he probably was just too sick to complete on his event’s day.  I expect to see his name in the news again; at least he brought positive attention to the paralympics.   Do you think anyone told him he couldn’t compete?  Maybe he was driven by the fact that he was disabled.  He certainly made an impression on those who listened to his story. It is within each of us to take negative or condemning comments and turn them around for our good.  Sometimes anger and negative reactions to the limitations others place on us can actually fire us up. In our blog we mention Eric Weilhemayer’s Touch the Top of the World describes the world class mountain climber’s adventure and his tackling of Mt. Everest.

Linked Stories

Brian McKeever, first winter Olympic athlete, sees his dream come true


Picture of french horn

Sound the Horn

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