Archive for the 'accessibility' Category


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.



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.


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


Internet Radio For the Blind?

Recently a small-sized survey was given to the patrons at the Braille Institute on Vermont Ave. in Los Angeles, with its limitations due to the reduced number of participants and the median age of the survey takers. Furthermore, also limited was the geographical and demographical data of the persons from which the survey was obtained.

The results seemed to indicate that those persons with vision impairment who benefit the most from Internet radio were the younger, computer literate, more financially stable or less dependent on limited sized or fixed incomes.

Would you agree with these findings, perhaps and why?

The reason this seemed to be the case from the answers given to the survey was the lack of interest in Internet radio by those who were otherwise computer illiterate perhaps due to their seniority or maybe the equipment simply was not available for them.

Maybe survey takers might have expressed that they had no interest in learning such new applications as were used to access Internet radio, but wanted to cooperate anyway in showing interest in the topic in general for a promise that maybe things will change for the better in the future…

 Another issue was that even if they finally got to it, the Internet radio features are not user-friendly towards persons with vision impairments except for some specific Web sites designed especially for persons with vision impairment, such as connecting the blind community with ACB Internet radio.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Is this a niche market that is neglected and can offer both the community with vision impairments and the potential advertiser who wishes to market products to a commercial Internet radio station some additional benefits?

Any other points you think might be of interest about this topic?

Many thanks for your comments!




Will Lopez address MTA abuse of aged riders

Williams writes in a comment on our blog

“The MTA needs to get their act together. Two weeks ago approximately 15 students including myself were stranded by the MTA while waiting for the bus after attending late night classes at CSULA. We were waiting for the Bus at the Freeway station (on the 10). The highway maintenance crews erected barriers and cut off the freeway going into downtown Los Angeles. This was at 10:10pm. We students some of whom are OSD students (students with disabilities) were forced to hike across the freeway to Ramona Boulevard and wait for MTA Bus #70 to ride into downtown. This is total lack of consideration for students who rely on public transportation. Many OSD students rely on public transportation.

On more than one ocassion the elevator connecting the station to the freeway bridge has been out of order. This happens on rainy days especially. The only alternative to getting to the bridge to walk over the freeway is about four flights of stairs. This is a strenuous walk. Some students who are senior citizens and OSD students are put at an extreme disadvantage by this. I have witnessed more than one elderly MTA passenger grasping their heart after walking up the stairs. I am afraid it will take a fatal heart attack by a passenger of some other type of serious mishap to get the MTA to improve their service to students at CSULA. The MTA needs to get their act together.”

Lopez covers celebrity trees, while the poor and elderly are left in the rain.  This topic should be brought forward, but our blog isn’t the Times.  However, when you need a cannon, Lopez is the captain of grapeshot; so why is he asleep at the helm.  Send a photographer to the tower of cardiac and see what we’re talking about.  MTA says they can’t do “nuttin.”  No amount of complaints for several years has produce a stable, safe elevator run.  Wheelchair users have to travel to El Monte and hope the other side of the freeway has a working elevator.

With LA dropping its own advocacy wing (see previous post) due to budget cuts, who will step forward and be the voice for the oppressed, the downtrodden and the disabled?  What the hell is journalism for?


“retard” circle-jerk; Selling Blame in Place of Claim

For those that haven’t followed the “retard” debate, it runs in brief as the following; the pejorative term recently surfaced in the movies within “Tropic Thunder” — and more recent according to a report from the Wall Street Journal

the White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was said to have remarked about the liberal camp resisting a proposed healthcare reform, “F—ing retarded.”  Since that time, a campaign has sprung up concerned with banning the word “retard” claiming that such a term, is hate speech.  In defense of Emanuel,  Christopher M. Fairman of the Washington Post sent a shot across the proverbial absolutist bow, the opine making clear that context counts and word bans, government legislated or other wise, are not in the best interest of a democracy, “Freedom of expression has come at a dear price, and it is not worth abridging [..]”

In that same publication, on the lasted front of the word battle comes Michael Gerson on Feb 14th 2010 with opine,

“Defending the word ‘retard’ is not heroic”

…his rant, is a useful example of the perils in confusing rhetoric with information.  If the left is to take on a degree of heat in the circle-jerk-homology proscriptions smelling of Marxism; that heat can be explained by looking at the Gerson, argument.

First, a qualification noted by Fairman “While the N-word endures as an insult, it is so stigmatized that its use is no longer tolerated in public discourse.  This is a positive step for us all [..]” and goes on to caution that word ‘containment’ however can have blow-back, fine. Somehow as clear as that point was, out comes the narrow-minded, need-to-see-it-absolutist response, as this is how Gerson interprets Fairman, ” He argues that the r-word must be rescued from the terrible fate of the f-word.  Even the n-word has “varied and evolving uses. […] The comparison between the r-word and the n-word, according to Fairman, is “overblown.”   It may not be the most popular position, and it may not even be “heroic” to assert some common sense in this matter, but Fairman did and he was fair.  The Gersons out there, on the other hand, are as I see it, the real enemies, and I will even include Timothy Shriver on that bandwagon of distracting babblers.  It isn’t that Gerson just twisted the context of Fairman, nor that Shriver’s position fielded on the same day in the Washington Post, “The bigotry behind the word ‘retard’” as well just pitched the circle-jerk of facts;

..that has me keyboard tapping away with sorting semantics;  it’s what’s at stake, issues that matter, that become left in the dark with the likes of people, claiming to be advocates for change — that keeps me up.  “We are fighting a word because it represents one of the most stubborn and persistent stigmas in history”  Shriver remarked of Fairman.  Really?  I was under the impression, sex inequality propagated through words by Freire, for example, a more “persistent” stigma — college (CSULA at least) can’t seem to get enough of Freire’s take.  Further, I was under the impression, racial, economic, and religious stigmas were far, far, more “stubborn” than the graces of mental and physical impairments.   A lot is going on, and screaming victim-hood, like Marxism, rather than adding to self-reflection, just adds to distraction, and worse — considers the madness of FURTHER limits to our freedom of speech.  The White House Chief of Staff was out of line, way way out, and I think that is not in dispute.  The term, “retard” has a negative connotation — again, not in dispute.  Over-blowing an incident, intentionally misrepresenting a perspective, pushing screed into college text, screaming bloody murder — it’s what makes the left look bad.  We got enough equivocation to spin blinding circles around the most axiomatic belief, and if there should be some word ban, let it be a ban on the absolutist rhetoric.   College is tough for anyone, even more so difficult for the student with disabilities.  How about that mind-blowing long staircase linking campus housing to classrooms at CSULA; not an access ramp in sight.  Funding cuts, etc; the list is long people!!  Sure would be something for these advocates to import any number of real issues.  Signing some nonsense pledge amounts to nothing but momentary relief from that Hollywood NOS syndrome.  What is needed, now and again, is issue clarity — not more babble.  How about it?  Are the victim-crats done, and real voices coming into that discourse fold?  Hit me up, and tell me what’s up with this crazy world.


Is Education Going YOUTUBE?

The latest challenge for making an education accessible is working with the use of video lectures.  For those who aren’t aware, folks who are deaf or hard of hearing don’t get much from uncaptioned video.  But, because of the shift toward many institutions of higher learning to use these products that capture the faculty’s lecture, I expect we will be hearing from them!

In many ways, capturing lectures has positives.  First, you can replay the class and study from the lecture – taking notes again.  You can add extra education tools that develop or enhance content in the lecture using these tools. 

As long as you aren’t deaf, this is cool.


With adding captions (synched hopefully) gives the content to the deaf and hard of hearing.  I did watch a youtube with Stephen Hawking’s digital voice out of synch with the captioning – made for a bad video – I don’t been cool.

Better yet is a transcription – but transcription is expensive.  Tools exist for captioning materials for the web in Flash, Camtasia and Captivate.  I suggest folks in education use them.

Caveat: Recently I posted links to some video that was not captioned.  So the deaf were left out – but that shows how easily we forget our brothers and sisters who can’t hear. See…rom-disability/


picture of lecture online

Sample Lectures

Captioned (you will need to turn on captioning (far right button on bottom)

Earth the Common Heritage

Speech on Race


Dietrich  Bonheffer on Truth and Politics (1 hour)

Darwin’s Legacy (1 Hour)


Picture of french horn

Sound the Horn

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