- Letter from the Editor
- Message from AHEAD President Mike Shuttic
- Professional Development. Take advantage of these upcoming events, conferences, and other opportunities to increase and share your knowledge.
- AHEAD of the ADA Access Curve
- AHEAD Members in the NEWS...
- REFRAMING DISABILITY: Thoughts on Course Substitution
- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE from the Autism Asperger Publishing Company (AAPC): Asperger Syndrome on College Campuses, A Guide for College Service Providers and Other Staff
- Testing the ADAAA : Thoughts on Kirk D. Jenkins v. National Board of Medical Examiners
- The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Impacts on Our Profession
- Northampton Community announces the release of the “ACT Now-Achieving College Transitions Now” (ACT Now press release)
- AHEAD Alert - Tracking US Students with Disabilities who Study Abroad
- HUMANWARE AND READHOWYOUWANT JOIN FORCES TO BRING BOOKS TO VISUALLY IMPAIRED READERS
- Free Download: Access Tool For Adobe Flash Web Video Player
- INCIGHT – Connecting Students to Education and Employment (INCIGHT)
- STUDENT SELF-ASSESSMENT AND FACT-SHEET HELPS STUDENTS CONNECT TO CAMPUS RESOURCES AND SUPPORT SERVICES
- International Connections and My Trip to Japan
This issue of the ALERT begins with an invitation to all members and future members
to attend the 32nd Annual AHEAD Conference, “Global Access: Opening a World
of Opportunity,” in Louisville, KY. Don’t miss out on what promises to be an
exciting and informative week!
Keep up on the latest by reading the 2nd in the series “AHEAD of the ADA Access Curve,” by Irene Bowen, on what to expect from the Department of Justice in terms of regulations and enforcement of pending changes, as well as a review by L. Scott Lissner of the sixth circuit court of appeals’ consideration of the definition of “substantial limitation” in the case Kirk D. Jenkins v. National Board of Medical Examiners.
Get the facts on how the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities impacts our profession and join us in congratulating several AHEAD members on outstanding contributions that have landed them in the news (way to go Eugene Chelberg!)….
IN addition to these and numerous other timely updates, opportunities and press releases, be sure to read the most recent in the Reframing Disability series, “Thoughts on Course Substitutions” and a fantastic account by AHEAD President-Elect Jim Marks of his recent trip to Japan to talk about post-secondary education…
I hope you enjoy this issue of ALERT, please keep sending articles and information on events and opportunities to email@example.com.
It is hard to ignore the current economic turmoil and impacting effects. Part of that impact is a potential increase in student enrollment whether for re-training, increased educational background, or continued educational pursuits in lieu of employment. It may also elicit a real or perceived sense of instability or stress. These, and other, factors underscore the importance of our roles on campus and how we can effectively address and influence both the campus environment and the needs of students.
The plural “roles” was used purposely as was the exclusion of “with disabilities” (regarding ‘students’). The needs of disabled and non-disabled students are not so different—access to classes, inclusion in activities, instruction in a manner conducive to learning, and understanding and navigation of bureaucracy. The “roles” extend beyond providing accommodations to students with documented disabilities in the classroom. Who monitors use of the automatic doors and elevators? When are audio versions of print information restricted? Why would a non-disabled person be kicked-out of the accessible bathroom stall? Everyone finds use in a setting that serves multiple needs. In a campus setting where departments and responsibilities may be isolated or narrow in scope, a voice that speaks to full inclusion is important. Such a perspective may seem askew since it proposes that all students are included in DS efforts.
Having a voice in areas that are less obvious to “disability” establishes rapport necessary in achieving greater tasks; acknowledges interest and value in other areas of campus; and emphasizes the importance of “campus responsibility” in addressing varied needs. It is also a means of utilizing the resources (money and people) that exist to be effective toward what should be a unified goal—recruitment, retention, and graduation of students. No one would argue with better use of resources, especially during difficult times. Once established, it is possible that such relationships, procedures, and policies may become institutionalized. A significant impact for one person over time with a sincere interest.
Professional Development. Take advantage of these upcoming events, conferences, and other opportunities to increase and share your knowledge.
Professional Development. Take advantage of these upcoming events, conferences, and other opportunities to increase and share your knowledge.
Universal Design Photo Contest – (Someone will win free 2010 Institutional Silver Membership!)
AHEAD is excited to remind you of a photo contest to document examples of campus/organizational environments that demonstrate inclusive or universal design. This contest offers AHEAD members and members of AHEAD Affiliates the opportunity to identify ways in which their campus thinks about and responds to disability and design in all types of environments (e.g. physical, service, learning environments).
For complete details about the contest, guidelines for submission of entries, and the online entry form, please visit http://ahead.org/photocontest/index. If you have any questions about this contest, please contact Gladys Loewen at firstname.lastname@example.org or Elizabeth Harrison at email@example.com.
We look forward to receiving your submissions by May 15th, and thank you in advance for participating in this important work!
Calls for Presentations and Articles:
ALERT submission and publication dates:
The ALERT is now being published every 2-3 months. Here is the schedule for
|Submissions Due:||Publication Date:|
|July 31, 2009
||August 7, 2009|
|October 16, 2009||October 30, 2009|
AHEAD and Affiliate Events:
April 28 and 29, 2009, The Ohio State University Columbus Campus
Determining Disability Under the ADA & ADAAA
The Ninth Annual Multiple Perspectives on Access, Inclusion & Disability: Change, Challenge, & Collaboration
This year’s theme “Change, Challenge & Collaboration” reflects the critical place in history we occupy. Since the last conference the United Nations has adopted the Convention on Disability; Congress passed the ADA Amendments Act, a new GI bill with significant support for disabled veterans and the Higher Education Opportunity Act which includes significant provisions on disability; the Access Board is proposing changes in Section 508, and the Department of Justice is in the final stages of a comprehensive review and update of the regulations for the ADA’s Titles II and III.
Conference information including updates and past programs can be found at: http://ada.osu.edu/conferences.htm
July 20 - 25, 2009 The Galt House, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
AHEAD 2009 GLOBAL ACCESS: OPENING A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITY
The 32nd Conference of the Association on Higher Education And Disability
For more information and to register, visit http://www.ahead.org/conferences/2009
June 17 – June 20, 2009, El Conquistador Resort, Tucson, Arizona
SOCIETY FOR DISABILITY STUDIES 2009 ANNUAL CONFERENCE
“It’s ‘Our’ Time: Pathways to and From Disability Studies—Past, Present, Future,”
For more information, please visit http://www.disstudies.org/conference/2009
November 15-17, 2009, Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC.
CAS has announced that it will hold a National Symposium on "CAS Standards, Self-Assessment, and Student Learning Outcomes in Higher Education," November 15-17, 2009, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC. The goal of the national symposium is to strengthen the higher education community's understanding of the CAS standards and guidelines. For more information, please visit http://www.cas.edu/
A New Day for the ADA?
What to expect from the Department of Justice in regulations and enforcement
This is the second in a series of articles, “AHEAD of the ADA Access Curve,” to assist disability service providers, ADA Coordinators, and others in promoting compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, section 504, and the Fair Housing Act. This series approaches physical access and related issues as key to the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. It is intended to provide some helpful tools in a time of shifting requirements and shrinking resources.
In January, we wondered if the Department of Justice (DOJ) would issue final rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) before President Bush left office. As we approach the end of April 2009 -- and one hundred days into the Obama Administration – the rules are still pending. But there are signs that we will see final regulations before the end of the year, and it appears that DOJ is also stepping up enforcement.
Look for final ADA rules by the end of the year
In June 2008 DOJ proposed the first major regulatory changes under title II and title III of the ADA since the original 1991 regulations. As of the end of the year, a draft final rule was under review within the Administration and pending at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which must clear any proposed or final regulations before an agency publishes them.
The proposed rules are now undergoing renewed review within DOJ. On January 20, 2009 -- the day Barack Obama took office -- the White House directed that all regulations pending at OMB be returned to their agencies for consideration by his Administration.
In January, John Wodatch, who as Chief of the Disability Rights Section in DOJ’s Civil Rights Division oversaw the development of the proposed regulations, was named Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Speaking at the end of April to the National Association of ADA Coordinators, Mr. Wodatch predicted that a final rule could be issued by the end of the year. He said that a decision can be expected by the end of May about whether the Department will go forward with a final rule in light of the more than 4000 comments received on the June proposals.
The proposals affect all types of public and private entities, including colleges and universities, under both title II and title III of the ADA. They would require compliance with detailed accessibility standards that in many ways are more demanding than the current standards. They would also bring sweeping changes to some policy-related provisions of the rules. They have drawn significant attention from the business community and state and local governments -- including some suggestions that they are unnecessarily costly – and from people with disabilities. Some advocacy groups objected to the limited period for comment (60 days), “safe harbors” for public and private entities, limitations on what types of animals would be considered service animals, and what they saw as discriminatory limits on the program access requirements.
The Department must now decide whether it should
- publish a final rule based on the comments received
- open the proposal for further comment or
- revise the proposal and seek comment on a new version of the rule
Another alternative would be to publish a final rule and -- at the same time, or shortly after that -- to issue one or more additional notices of proposed rulemaking, addressing some of the areas not raised in the June proposals. These could include:
- emergency preparedness
- voting accessibility
- access to equipment and
- web sites and effective communication.
Expect other rulemaking proposals too
Mr. Wodatch said that DOJ will probably start other rulemaking this year:
- changes to the current regulations under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (applying to recipients of federal financial assistance) modifications to the definition of “disability” and related terms, to conform to the ADA Amendments Act, under title II and title III.
Prepare for changes to the existing requirements
We don’t know what the final rules will say, but if they track the ones that were proposed, they would have significant impacts on higher education. For example,
- Only common domesticated animals (dogs and cats) that perform specific tasks or do work for an individual with a disability would be considered “service animals” for ADA purposes.
- At colleges and universities, the standards that apply to hotels would specifically apply to residence halls and dormitories. Individual apartments and town houses would be treated as residential facilities, with different requirements.
- Direct access to stages from audience seating areas would be required.
- The regulations would impose more detailed and demanding policies concerning equity in ticketing for accessible stadium seating.
Overall, the new accessibility standards would be more extensive and more detailed, including requirements for
- A greater number of required accessible entrances, in some cases
- More accessible van spaces
- Lower limit on reach ranges for controls, elevator buttons, light switches, etc. (48” vs. the 54” now allowed in some cases)
- Specific accessibility features for play and recreation facilities, including swimming facilities and golf courses
- Accessible emergency notifications in stadiums seating more than 25,000.
But in some instances the new standards would reduce current accessibility requirements:
- Fewer assistive listening devices required in auditoriums (but more than one type required)
- Fewer wheelchair seating areas required for some assembly areas (such as stadiums and performing arts centers), but with more specifications as to specialty seating areas, dispersal, and viewing angles.
Anticipate stronger ADA enforcement
In the meantime, even without a confirmed Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, the Civil Rights Division has strengthened ADA enforcement. Although none of the announced efforts focus specifically on colleges and universities, they do indicate the general direction in which the Division may be going.
On April 16 the Division announced a settlement agreement with the City of Philadelphia aimed at accessibility improvements at the city’s 1200 polling places. In a press release announcing DOJ’s first settlement with a city focused solely on accessible polling places, Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General, said, "The Justice Department is committed to continued, vigorous enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act."
Since January 20, DOJ has also entered into at least five other settlement agreements, including with
- Hampton Inn Ann Arbor North, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, concerning physical access
- Marcus Amphitheater, an outdoor venue located on Milwaukee’s Summerfest grounds and primarily used for live music performances during the summer, also about physical accessibility
- Central DuPage Hospital in Illinois, about alleged denial of a sign language interpreter to a patient
- Dakota County, Minnesota, about its alleged failure to provide a TDD to an arrestee in its county jail and
- World Fresh Market in the Virgin Islands, which reportedly told a person with a service animal to leave its supermarket.
Also since that time, the Division has filed briefs in at least three ADA cases as amicus (friend of the court) – again, a sign of increased aggressiveness in implementing the Act:
- Ault v. Walt Disney World, objecting to a proposed agreement in a nationwide class action, partly because it would allow Disney’s policy of banning “Segways®” and instead offer visitors the “opportunity” to rent Disney’s own mobility devices, at a time when DOJ is finalizing its regulation in this area
- Long v. Benson, supporting a private right of action under title II to obtain integrated community-based services under the Supreme Court’s 1999 decision in Olmstead v. Zimring and
- Arizona v. Harkins Amusement Enterprises, arguing that providing closed captions and video descriptions as auxiliary aids does not fundamentally alter the nature of a movie theater’s services.
All these agreements and briefs are available on the Disability Rights Section’s web site, www.ada.gov, along with a notice reminding recipients of funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that they must comply with the ADA.
As the January ALERT article emphasized, it’s important for AHEAD members to stay informed about what the federal government is doing with the ADA rules and to help your colleges or universities prepare for their impact. You can alert others on campus now to
- the pending changes
- the need to budget time and financial resources to comply and
- signs that the federal government will maintain – and likely strengthen – ADA enforcement.
Watch this space: the next ALERT article in this series will bring your more about where DOJ is headed with enforcement, and any news about how DOJ’s actions could affect you and your college or university.
This series of articles is provided as a member service by Irene Bowen, J.D., with ADA One, LLC. Until August 2008, Irene was Deputy Chief of DOJ’s Disability Rights Section. She is also former Deputy General Counsel of the Access Board. ADA One provides consulting, training, and alternative dispute resolution services related to the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar laws. You can contact Irene at IreneBowen@ADA-One.com or by phone at 301 879 4542. Her web site is http://ADA-One.com.
The content in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not and shall not be deemed to be legal advice or a legal opinion. You cannot rely on the content as applicable to a particular circumstance or fact pattern. If you need legal advice about a particular issue and particular facts, you should seek professional legal advice.
SF STATE ADMINISTRATOR EUGENE CHELBERG NAMED AN ACE FELLOW
Note: Gene Chelberg was the AHEAD conference program chair for 2006 and served as a member of the standing Committee on Professional Development and Training.
Associate vice president for student affairs selected for prestigious
leadership development program
SAN FRANCISCO, April 2, 2009 -- The American Council on Education (ACE) has announced the selection of Eugene Chelberg, associate vice president for student affairs at San Francisco State University, as a Fellow for the 2009-10 academic year. Chelberg is one of 38 promising higher education professionals selected this year for this prestigious leadership development program. He is the first ACE Fellow to be nominated while at SF State.
The ACE Fellows Program prepares college administrators for senior leadership positions in higher education. It condenses years of on-the-job experience into a year-long program that includes a placement at a host institution where Fellows focus on an issue of strategic importance to their home campus. Chelberg's fellowship will focus on two issues: re-envisioning the role of Student Affairs, exploring how it can support student retention and academic progress toward graduation, and strategic planning for how SF State can make more effective use of campus-based student fees.
"I hope to bring back to SF State a larger perspective on the national issues and challenges facing higher education today," Chelberg said. "The ACE program will help me develop an expanded skill set to serve the University better."
Chelberg joined SF State in 2001 as director of the Disability Programs and Resource Center and the campus' compliance officer for the Americans with Disabilities Act. Chelberg says his perspective as "a blind, gay senior administrator" helps him more fully understand the obstacles faced by students on campus. Since coming to SF State, he has built cross-campus partnerships to ensure people with disabilities have equal access to all aspects of campus life. He became associate vice president for Student Affairs in September 2007.
Previously, Chelberg was assistant director of Disability Services at his alma mater the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where he also spent time leading the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Programs Office. He holds an executive master's of management and disability services from the University of San Francisco.
"Gene Chelberg is an exceptional leader who stands to both benefit from and contribute to the ACE Fellows Program," said President Robert A. Corrigan. "His leadership and capacity to inspire others has forged a strong institutional commitment to universal access at SF State. The fellowship will give him an excellent opportunity to explore new ways that Student Affairs can support students' successful academic experience."
There have been more than 1,500 participants in the ACE Fellows Program since it was established in 1965, more than 300 of which have become chief executive officers and more than 1,000 have become provosts, vice presidents or deans.
ACE is the major coordinating body for U.S. higher education institutions, representing more than 1,600 college and university presidents and more than 200 related ssociations nationwide.
We hear ever increasing talk about universal design and social model thinking among disability resource professionals. Most of us now accept the premise that environments that are designed flexibly, with options, and in consideration of a wide variety of human characteristics are more usable in general. We understand how curb cuts, and their educational equivalents, not only benefit individuals with disabilities but also benefit a wide variety of other users. We recognize that good design can minimize the use of reasonable accommodations… for example, that posting a complete set of notes on a course Website for all students will often eliminate the need for note-taking as an accommodation. We move away from a medical focus on students’ disabilities and talk about things like ‘seamless access’ and ‘welcoming environments’ that do not locate problems of access within the individual. However, we also often struggle in moving from this intellectual appreciation to an active implementation of these ideas in our day-to-day processes.
Our view of our primary role on campus, assuring our institutions’ compliance with legal mandates and providing access for individual students, plays a large role in this struggle to evolve our practices. It often leads us to consider what must be done rather than what can be done and to concentrate our limited resources of time and energy on individual students and situations. However, many of us are also beginning to find ways to infuse our progressive thinking into the daily delivery of services to students and our campus communities. We’re modifying our practices to minimize the hoops students with disabilities must jump through in order to access accommodations, re-considering our documentation requirements, and increasing our collaborations across campus. As we work to change old patterns, many of us are surprised when we find ourselves falling back into established patterns despite our new recognitions. For example, we may offer a faculty development workshop that reinforces medical or negative messages about disability or create procedures that require numerous extra steps for disabled students to achieve the same access that is automatically available to their non-disabled peers. To avoid these missteps, many of us have found it helpful to discuss ideas with colleagues who are also grappling with operationalizing new thinking.
Recently, our peer network of support lead to a conversation about course substitutions. Substituting math and foreign language courses for students is one of the more challenging accommodations we consider: we traditionally require a higher level of documentation to establish it as ‘reasonable’, and it has a more significant impact on our institutions’ academic programs than many other accommodations might. Sometimes we can ‘see’ the likelihood of, for example, a learning disability in math concepts through a discrepancy in performance evidenced by transcripts and ACT scores, but we don’t have the specific psychoeducational documentation to be fully secure in recommending a substitution. The student may not be able to afford a full battery of tests to give us the strong documentation we have always required, yet it feels uncomfortable to allow one course to keep an otherwise successful student from graduating. As we seek a less “special”, individual approach in our work and re-think our approaches to documentation, what can we do to alleviate pressure around this issue?
As we discussed this issues, several of us concluded that course substitutions often speak more to the design of the course than they do to the characteristics of the student. In other words, while we know that there are disabilities that impact language and mathematical concept development, the way these courses are traditionally taught can be rigid and unwelcoming. Math courses often prevent a variety of students from pursuing majors that lead to higher prestige, more lucrative careers and/or graduation. Course substitution offers a solution… one that can be easier than questioning and changing underlying systems, such as entrenched teaching strategies. However, it also carries a secondary message that disabled students are weaker students who will never “make it in the real world”. With different instructional methods and assessment techniques, how many more disabled students might be successful in developing math and language proficiency? How many non-disabled students might also benefit? How might students with disabilities in math and language development modify their self-perceptions? What doors might open? What different message would we send about disability? As we work to reframe concepts of disability and re-think the source of barriers to access, questioning the use of course substitutions and pushing system change offers us an opportunity to work more closely with our academic colleagues in creating a more accessible academic environment for a wide variety of students.
In addition to considering and reinforcing improvements in teaching and learning, a second issue raised by course substitutions is one of equity. When we successfully advocate for a course substitution for an individual student, we have successfully challenged the institution’s perception of what essential skills and knowledge is necessary. The decision is made that having an understanding of a different culture and world view is equivalent to speaking another language or that developing estimation skills and the ability to approach questions logically and recognize patterns is equivalent to finding ‘X’ in a college level Algebra class. Equivalent, that is, for that student in that major. Equivalent (or at least sufficient) to represent the development of the skills and knowledge needed to pursue and graduate in the major. Under our current approach, this equivalence is available only to disabled students with detailed psychoeducational test results. However, if we purport that reasonable accommodations do not alter essential components of a program, have we not also established that the course is not essential… for anyone? How can courses that can be substituted for some students (those with disabilities) be essential for other students in the same academic program? If we consider this inconsistent logic, it is easy to understand how we might be sending a message that, indeed, disabled students are ‘special’ and that we have encouraged less rigor in their academic pursuits. We need to consider the unintended messages that substitutions send.
As our conversation wound down, we all acknowledged how resistant higher education can be to change. Having an impact on teaching is huge, and suggesting changes to academic requirements for all students (even when they are in place for a subset of students) can be seen as undermining the reputation of the institution or academic program.
hile there are notable exceptions, most faculty members don’t embrace the responsibility to alter their teaching strategies nearly as strongly as they emphasize the student’s responsibility to learn. Therefore, our legal foundation and the accommodations we can provide give us a means to respond to individual students. In other words, our system of course substitutions is an important tool in the short run while we work to transform instruction. However, as we embrace new philosophical beliefs and work to impact the depressing statistics on employment and poverty that persist in the disabled community, we should not settle for accommodation as a long-term solution. We must consider the secondary messages that ‘business as usual’ can send. It is not enough for us to value universal design and to reframe the construct of disability for ourselves if we do not also infuse those principles into our daily work.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE from the Autism Asperger Publishing Company (AAPC): Asperger Syndrome on College Campuses, A Guide for College Service Providers and Other Staff
For many students, the natural step after graduating from high school is college.
For students with autism spectrum disorders, getting admitted to college is
often the easy part. Surviving and succeeding can be quite another, as these
students transition into a system that is often unprepared to receive them.
Accommodating students whose disabilities very likely fall in social and self-regulatory areas is a new challenge for disability services providers who are not used to reaching out into so many areas of student life. The complex social world of college that students with Asperger Syndrome must navigate can be unforgiving and difficult when those around them do not understand the disorder.
Recognizing this difficulty, Lorraine E. Wolf, Ph.D., Jane Thierfeld Brown, Ed.D., and Ruth Bork, Ms .Ed., combined their extensive experiences to create Students with Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for College Personnel. This comprehensive book offers disability services professionals and other college staff and faculty practical strategies for accommodating and supporting students in all phases of college life and beyond.
In the following excerpt, the authors discuss where we have been and where we are going in relation to society as a whole and students with Asperger Syndrome, as well as why it is important for professionals at the college level to be aware of the increasing numbers of students with autism spectrum disorders entering college.
Where Have We Been?
For many years, most students with AS have been outcasts on college campuses, feeling like they did not belong and had no way of joining. Students prone to feeling alienated and alone were often left out of the environment that arguably could fit them best. Students, parents, and higher education professionals have recognized this unfair and damaging situation and have worked to begin changing the environ¬ment for students with AS in higher education.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Our work has only begun. We must educate clinicians, K-12 edu¬cators, faculty, staff, and other students. The authors began to pres¬ent individually and together on college campuses nearly a decade ago, and in that time we have seen growing understanding of how to work with students on the autism spectrum in higher educa¬tion. We have come a long way, but additional improvements are urgently needed. The numbers of students with AS reaching col¬lege age will continue to climb. Our understanding of this disorder must broaden to the world outside of academia to ensure gainful employment and a fulfilled life for college graduates with AS. Campuses must be educated, not just a few faculty and the Resi¬dence Life staff, but the entire campus – from Public Safety to the dining halls, student activities to the health center. Everyone must be educated even with a brief training on students with AS, their unique understanding of the world, and how these individuals add to the campus, if only we will allow their participation.
One college president has said that students with AS are our next great thinkers – the visionaries who will make great scientific discoveries, whose “outside the box” style will result in great works of art and music. How can we allow this group to go un¬der- or un-served?
The authors emphasize the importance of campus wide support of students with autism spectrum disorders and the need for training and continuing guidance. In other words, disability services specialists are but one, however, influential component of a much larger effort.
Major chapters address legal issues and academic accommodations; co-curricular needs and accommodations; housing and resident life; faculty issues; other partners on campus such as business affairs, academic affairs, campus police and public safety; employment issues; working with parents, and more. Checklists, forms and other tools help guide and structure the combined efforts to help students succeed.
To receive a copy of Students with Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for College Personnel or to set up an interview with Lorraine, Jane, or Ruth, please email Autism Asperger Publishing Company at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Authors
Lorraine Wolf, Ph.D., is director of Disability Services at Boston University, where she also holds faculty appointments in psychiatry and rehabilitation sciences. With over 20 years of experience working with children, adolescents, and adults with neurodevelopmental disorders, Dr. Wolf has published and presented extensively on issues related to students with attention and learning disorders, psychiatric disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders
Jane Thierfeld Brown, Ed.D., is director of Student Services at the University of Connecticut School of Law. She has worked in Disability Services for 27 years. She consults at many higher education institutions and is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences on Asperger Syndrome.
G. Ruth Kukiela Bork, M.Ed., is dean and director of the Disability Resource Center, Northeastern University. Dean Bork's professional involvement in disability affairs and advocacy spans 34 years. She is a founding member of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). Dean Bork has written and spoken on a wide range of disability-related topics.
Established in 1999, the mission of the Autism Asperger Publishing Company (AAPC) is to be the first source for practical solutions related to autism, Asperger Syndrome, and other pervasive developmental disorders. We are an independent publisher, targeting professionals and parents alike. We strive to offer publications at affordable prices so that important resources will not be off limits to anyone with an interest in the autism spectrum.
By L. Scott Lissner, 2/11/2009
On 2/11/2009 The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the District Court’s decision stating that it should be reconsidered under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (Pub. L. No. 110-325).
Jenkins, a third year medical student seeking 50% extended time on the United States Medical Licensing Examination as an ADA accommodation for a diagnosed reading disorder appealed the decision of the District Court that he was not substantially limited. The District Court’s Decision (Jenkins v. Nat’l Bd. of Med. Examiners, No. 3:07-CV-698-H, 2008 WL 410237, W.D. Ky. Feb. 12, 2008) relied heavily on Toyota v. Williams (534 U.S. 184, 2002) to determine if Jenkins’ impairment was substantially limiting.
The Sixth Circuit based its decision to remand the case for reconsideration under the ADA Amendments Act because the case was pending when the amendments became effective; Jenkins is not seeking damages for any past acts of discrimination by the National Board of Medical Examiners but prospective relief to ensure future accommodations. Citing Bradley v. Richmond (416 U.S.696, 711, 1974) the Court stated that it is well settled that a court applies “the law in effect at the time it renders its decision, unless doing so would result in manifest injustice or there is statutory direction or legislative history to the contrary.”
Highlighting the central issue on remand the Circuit court noted that “The district court found that the record contained evidence that Jenkins reads written language in a slow and labored fashion when compared to the general public.” …. “Jenkins’s status under the ADA therefore turns on the definition of ‘substantial limitation.’”
The District court will have to consider both language and legislative history in determining if “slow and labored” constitutes a substantial limitation as clarified by the ADA Amendments Act. While the court will have available more detailed information on the manner, duration and conditions under which Jenkins engages in reading their earlier summary description as “slow and labored” seems congruent with congress’ intent when it rejected the standard set in Toyota v. Williams in favor of restoring protections through broad construction.
Particularly relevant to the issues in Jenkins will be the colloquy between Representatives George Miller and Fortney Stark (Congressional Record 9/17/2008, Page: H8286) that reject the findings in Price v. National Board of Medical Examiners, Gonzalez v. National Board of Medical Examiners and Wong v. Regents of University of California and affirm the findings in Bartlett v. the New York State Board of Law Examiners. For a further discussion of the ADA Amendments and links to the relevant sections of the Congressional Record and case visit the Association on Higher Education And Disability’s web site at http://ahead.org/resources/government-relations
* The Court’s opinion in Kirk Jenkins v. National Board of Medical Examiners, Case Number 08-5371 filed on 2/11/2009 is available at http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/09a0117n-06.pdf
One of our responsibilities as disability service officers is to be aware of
disability rights legal issues. The most significant international disability
rights framework is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities (CRPD) which is the first UN treaty ever for persons with
The treaty became law on May 5, 2008 and although the United States was not a signing body, treaty statutes have moral and legal applicability for all nations regardless of which ones have or have not signed it. However, this point is moot because President-elect Barack Obama made a campaign promise to sign the treaty.
The UN CRPD is unique in its development. Civil society was involved in a way not previously seen with UN treaties. Numerous disability rights organizations, other non-governmental groups and professional associations took part in the consultative process which spanned over six years. A number of members of AHEAD were involved with this process through such affiliations.
The Convention covers numerous topics with those pertaining to accessibility, education and work and employment likely to be of significant interest to disability officers. The full text of the Convention is available on the following website: http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml.
On November 3, 2008 nations who signed the Convention, formally referred to as the Conference of States Parties on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, elected the first Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which will be in charge of monitoring the implementation of the CRPD. The Committee comprises seven men and five women, of which nine are persons with disabilities. Some members will serve four-year terms and others, two-year terms. They will review reports from member states about their progress, or lack thereof, of implementing treaty provisions. Most frequently, non-governmental reports are also submitted and are welcomed as providing further insight into the status of persons with disabilities in different countries.
If you would like to become further engaged with the Convention there are avenues such as the International Disability Alliance’s CRPD Forum: website of http://www.internationaldisabilityalliance.org/forum.html. As well, the Diversity Institute of AHEAD has a listserv and will be promoting dialogue about the Convention; to join the listserv please e-mail Bea Awoniyi, Board representative on the AHEAD Diversity Initiative Committee, e-mail email@example.com or Ruth Warick, Chair, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by Ruth Warick, Chair, AHEAD Diversity Initiative
Northampton Community announces the release of the “ACT Now-Achieving College Transitions Now” (ACT Now press release)
Press Release! Northampton Community College announces release of ACT Now – Achieving College Transitions Now” program
Northampton Community College is pleased to announce the release of the “ACT
Now-Achieving College Transitions Now” program. ACT Now was developed at Northampton
Community College as a demonstration project funded by a grant from FIPSE,
the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. ACT Now is designed
to be used by post-secondary disability services providers as well as high
school educators to support a successful transition from high school to college
for students with disabilities.
The components of ACT Now include templates for the creation of a Transition Skills Development Team, to facilitate a collaborative link between secondary and post-secondary partners, and the design of a Transition Expo, to expose students to transition information, along with a complete curriculum to assist students with disabilities make a successful transition from high school to post-secondary education by providing training materials for educators, students with disabilities, and their families.
The Transition Expo template provides an outline for the development of a one-day series of workshops run by a post-secondary institution to introduce the topic of post-secondary transition planning to high school students with disabilities who are considering a post-secondary experience.
The Student Curriculum prepares students for their transition to post-secondary education through a process of self discovery, knowledge, and self advocacy. The topics covered include transition planning, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, self identification and documentation, self advocacy and college readiness strategies. This six module curriculum may be delivered in partnership with local high schools or incorporated in to a freshman orientation program for students entering the post-secondary institution.
The Educator module is designed to provide essential information to educators working with high school students with disabilities and provide them with essential information to assist students and families with the transition to a post secondary experience. Through the Parent module, parents gain a better understanding of the student’s transition progress. They develop a necessary awareness of the realities of a post-secondary level experience and the requirements for accessing disability services at a post-secondary institution.
For more information, please email Actnow@northampton.edu
Did you know that over 1000 U.S. college students with disabilities studied abroad during the 2006-2007 school year according to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange 2008 survey? Last year’s survey was the first time a question was included about the numbers of students with disabilities studying abroad, and 12 percent of institutions answered. Not enough to make the reported 2.6 percent of education abroad students who have disabilities a national-level finding. If a greater number of responses are received this year, then it will provide a useful baseline to be able track participation rates each year.
Disability service providers on U.S. campuses can play a part by encouraging study abroad colleagues to fill out this question for the June 5, 2009, survey deadline. At first glance, calculating how many students with disabilities participated in education abroad in any given year may seem difficult. What many don't realize is it can be quite easy; and institutions may already be collecting it. A recent article by the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange in the International Educator magazine (March/April 2009 issue) explains how to gather this data.
Longueuil, Quebec, March 10, 2009 -- HumanWare, the leader in assistive technologies
for people with print disability, and digital publishing innovator ReadHowYouWant
are partnering to help visually impaired readers discover the book reading
device, and the format that's right for their reading needs.
ReadHowYouWant offers thousands of books in accessible formats, including 24 pt. large print, Braille, and DAISY files at www.readhowyouwant.com. HumanWare provides playback devices for readers who are blind or have low vision to use with Braille and DAISY files at www.humanware.com. "From the moment it appeared on the market, the Victor Reader Stream has proven itself to be the greatest portable DAISY book reading device ever. Today we are proud to team up with Read How You Want. We invite all readers to take a look at the selection of books they have to offer. Reading should always be an enjoyable experience. We hope that our customers will regularly visit our new website where they will be able to check out new DAISY book releases. Pass the word around!" says HumanWare CEO Gilles Pepin.
Beginning in April, readers will be able to go to the HumanWare website to download free, first chapters of 20 bestselling ReadHowYouWant titles each month as part of the "Free Chapter Download Program." The free, first chapters come from popular books from a variety of well-known publishers of adult and young adult books, including Wiley, Random House Australia, Murdoch Books, and Weekly Reader. The first month's selected titles will include such best sellers as, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle (New World Library), "Praise Song for the Day," the inauguration poem by Elizabeth Alexander (Graywolf Press), and Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute (Berrett-Kohler), as well as children's and young adult titles to include, How to Take the GRRRR Out of Anger by Marjorie Lisovskis and Elizabeth Verdick (Free Spirit Publishing), and Extreme Habitats: Mountain Survival by Susie Hodge (Weekly Reader). After enjoying the complimentary first chapter, readers may visit ReadHowYouWant's website at www.readhowyouwant.com to purchase the entire file.
ReadHowYouWant will be demoing HumanWare's devices at book industry events such as the Frankfurt Book Fair, the London Book Fair, and Book Expo America. Similarly, HumanWare will present Braille and DAISY files from ReadHowYouWant's collection on their players at technology industry shows, including CSUN and ATIA (Assistive Technologies Industry Association) conferences.
ReadHowYouWant produces Grade 2 contracted Braille files, and has developed a house style that supports automated transcription while maintaining accuracy. These files may be read with a refreshable electronic Braille display such as the Humanware Braillenote or Brailliant or embossed to make traditional Braille books. Words are not split at line ends to make reading easier, particularly for newer Braille readers.
HumanWare is the global leader in assistive technologies for vision, including products for the blind and visually impaired. HumanWare's products include BrailleNote, the leading productivity device for blind people in education, in business and in their personal lives; the Victor Reader product line, the world's leading digital talking book players; and myReader2, the new version of HumanWare's unique "auto-reader" for people with low vision. For more information visit www.humanware.com
ReadHowYouWant Pty Ltd and its R&D parent company, Accessible Publishing Systems Pty Ltd are both Sydney, Australia-based privately held companies founded in 2004 by electronic publishing pioneers Christopher Stephen and Greg Duncan. When Chris's sister, who suffers from MS, developed difficulty reading, they began experimenting to determine whether people with reading difficulties could benefit from changing the text format.
After more than four years of testing, ReadHowYouWant has successfully developed award-winning conversion technology that reformats existing books into the widest selection of on-demand, alternative format editions on the market today. Each edition has been optimized for maximum readability. The company's goals are to make reading easier and more enjoyable by delivering formats that suit the reader and to give people with reading difficulties access to books in the formats of their choice-at an affordable price, and as soon as the book is published. For more information visit www.readhowyouwant.com.
Bradi Grebien-Samkow: email@example.com
Julien Larose: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ohio State University’s Web Accessibility Center has developed a set of highly accessible controls that "wrap" the popular JW FLV Player Flash web video player. It enhances the functionality of the player by providing a high-contrast area for displaying captions and a set of keyboard and screen reader accessible buttons that work across most platforms and browsers.
We chose the JW FLV Player (http://www.longtailvideo.com/), the most popular open source Flash video player, for a number of reasons. First, the player has the ability to display captions and play audio descriptions. This is unique among open source players. Second, it uses Adobe Flash for video content. Flash is the most pervasive software platform on the web. Adobe claims that 99% of all Internet-enabled desktops in the major markets have Flash. So, it is highly likely end users will not have to install any software to use the player. Third, the player is able to be controlled by external scripts that can be called from anywhere in a web page. This made it possible for us to create easily accessible controls. This was crucial, since Flash applications can present difficulties to keyboard and screen reader usage. And fourth, licensing of the player allows for redistribution for non-commercial purposes, enabling developers to deploy the player within universities, non-profits, and government organizations.
We believe JW Player Controls provides an accessible solution for web publication of video content, for units within the university and beyond. Web developers will have little problem deploying it for all of their Flash-based video, and it provides an easy path for including captions and audio descriptions--at any time: Captions and audio description are not a requirement for using the player. It simply offers a relatively low-effort means for including them and making them fully accessible.
The JW Player Controls, important information for users and developers (including information on browser, keyboard, and screen reader compatibility), along with pointers on creating captions and audio description can be found at: http://wac.osu.edu/examples/jwplayercontrols/.
Ken Petri, Director
Web Accessibility Center, The Ohio State University, Phone: (614) 292-1760; email@example.com
INCIGHT – Connecting Students to Education and Employment
Incight is excited to become one of the newest AHEAD members. Let us tell you a bit about ourselves. We were founded in 2004 with mission of educating and employing people with disabilities. Our concern has been to change two statistics: increase the current 16% college attendance rate and decrease the 75% unemployment rate facing this population. We feel this type of change leads to a vision where all with disability can actively participate and contribute to society without limitations. How do we do it? Incight achieves this mission through several innovative programs and activities: college scholarships, mentoring, internship and job placements, job coaching, college partnerships, transitional workshops and guidance for education professionals.
Important to fellow AHEAD members, Incight is strategically partnering with colleges and universities to increase the resources, access and completion rate of those with disabilities in higher education as well as their employment rate after graduation. Our first step has been to leverage our grant resources for students at 17 colleges and universities through their participation in our Scholar Match Program. These partnerships maximize education dollars through 1-1 matches of Incight scholarships which doubles our awards. We see continued “buy-in” from higher education institutions as essential for helping this population complete their degrees, pursue educational opportunities through internships and ultimately achieve full time, self-supporting employment. We would love to continue the reach of these partnerships at campuses around the country.
What’s in a name? The name Incight comes from a hybrid of Incite, to spark a passion, and Insight, to possess intimate knowledge of a topic or situation. This hybrid describes Incight’s founders, both affected by disability - Vail Horton, born without legs and improper bone growth in his arms, and Scott Hatley, born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Incight has experienced tremendous success, dynamic growth to fulfill unmet needs, and overwhelming community support. Our success is measured by the $1.5 million raised, 253 awarded scholarships, 35 e-mentoring relationships, 42 internships, 17 scholarship match partnerships at area universities and community colleges and over 800 youth served through Incight Events. Please come visit us at www.incight.org.
STUDENT SELF-ASSESSMENT AND FACT-SHEET HELPS STUDENTS CONNECT TO CAMPUS RESOURCES AND SUPPORT SERVICES
Gerald D. Klein, Ph.D.
In the summer of last year I developed a self-assessment questionnaire and associated fact sheet concerned with disability for use in my classrooms at course start-up. The self-assessment has thirty-four questions, requires “Yes” or “No” responses, and can suggest the presence of up to nine disabilities: learning disabilities; ADD and ADHD; a health problem or impairment; social anxiety disorder; Asperger’s Syndrome; clinical depression; bipolar disorder or bipolar depression; and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The fact-sheet offers information on each disability and encourages students, depending on their answers on the self-assessment, to have informal discussion with and evaluation by professional members of the campus disability office. The telephone extensions for these staff are provided. The course syllabus has their names, campus location, telephone extensions, and e-mail addresses.
The primary purpose of the questionnaire and fact sheet is to link more students to the array of support services for students that are available at the university. In my experience, there are students every semester that would benefit from such affiliation, including students who may have an undiagnosed disability and students who are struggling to cope with a known disability on their own. It was hoped that the questionnaire and fact sheet would prompt more students to schedule a meeting and informal assessment with staff at Rider’s Services for Students with Disabilities. Also, I extensively use experiential methods in the classroom and hoped that the questionnaire would prompt early and valuable discussion between students with a disability and me that would indicate how I could help provide a course experience that was comfortable and successful. The questionnaire and fact sheet are intended to be helpful and is a proactive response to the increasing number of students on college and university campuses with a disability.
The questionnaire and fact sheet were developed using materials prepared by the disability services office, including materials used in campus presentations; scholarly and field reports discovered in preparation of past scholarly work; and information from WebMD.com, information created in close collaboration with the world-renown Cleveland Clinic. The questionnaire and fact sheet was reviewed, refined, and approved by disability services professional staff, who supported its classroom administration.
Students complete and retain the questionnaire and fact sheet. To preserve privacy, the questionnaire is not collected and students are not required to share their answers with other students or with me. I administered the questionnaire for the first time in Fall 2008, and spoke about it briefly after its administration.
The self-assessment questionnaire and fact sheet was prepared for classroom administration but it certainly would be valuable to administer in other campus settings, as well, such as a university new-student orientation program. The questionnaire and fact sheet could also be used at the secondary (high school) level, and could be distributed as an instructional handout in, for example, a teacher training program or diversity course. The questionnaire and fact sheet are available for review and copies can be ordered from the author. If an institution wishes to purchase copies the narrative that precedes the descriptions of disabilities will have to be altered slightly to make it institution-specific. I am willing to collaborate on these changes in order to produce a customized instrument. The per copy cost is $1.00 and a minimum order of ten copies is required. Payment for postage, at actual cost, is also required.
By Jim Marks
After wrapping up the first part of my presentation on disability rights in higher education, I settled myself back into the comfortable upholstered chair at the posh setting of the auditorium of the National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities (NRCPD) in Tokorozawa, Japan. My wife, Kathy, leaned over and asked, “How is Mr. Ohama??? Going to get up on the stage?”
“I don’t know,” I whispered. “Maybe he will speak from the audience floor.”
Then Makoto Ohama’s turn to speak arrived. Ohama, Chairman of the Japan Spinal Cord Foundation, uses a motorized wheelchair because he injured his spine in a Rugby accident. The stage was not equipped with a ramp, and there appeared to be no access to the stage other than its steps. As Ohama approached the stage, a large section silently and smoothly dropped. Ohama rolled on the lift, a marvel of Japanese engineering, and he quickly glided to the stage.
My presentation discussed disability rights in post-secondary education in the United States. Ohama and I were part of a panel of speakers. The language barriers were eliminated by means of Japanese-English simultaneous translators and a gadget like an Assistive Listening Device used to amplify speech for those who are hard of hearing. I chuckled about the translators’ reaction when they learned I would deliver my presentation without the aid of notes or multi-media. In the preparation before the event, one of the translators smiled and asked, “Mr. Marks, you draft in your mind? I smiled back and said, “It’s easy to speak from the heart about a topic that is so much a part of my life.”
Organizers of the event warned me not to expect many questions. They told me that Japanese people tend not to ask many questions in public, and they cautioned me not to be concerned if the audience would respond with silence. Instead, following the honest and gritty presentations, we could hardly shut audience members up. They were hungry to talk about the right of people with disabilities to thrive in the world. I knew then that disability issues in Japan are much like they are in the United States or, for that matter, anywhere in the industrialized world.
My job was to present, to listen to the other presentations, and then to generate a conversation. My fellow panelists consisted of Ohama, a parent of a college student with a disability, a dean of a Japanese college, a researcher from the Japanese Student Services Organization, and a disability services coordinator from Tokyo University.
The first question I asked, following my summary of what had been presented, was “If you could change one thing to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Japan, what would it be?”
Ohama answered by saying there were too many things to change to mention just a single choice. He laid out about six changes that mirrored what any disability rights advocate would say in the United States. The parent of a college student echoed Ohama’s comments. Next came the dean. He said he wished college professors could get more information and tools on how to educate students with disabilities. Then the researcher said that he did not understand the question from a research point of view, but that he agreed change was necessary. The disability service coordinator said much was already being done. He outlined some of the services Tokyo University provides to illustrate the change. Lastly, the audience weighed in with unexpected enthusiasm.
About 100 people attended the event, which was sponsored by the Assistive Technology Development Organization (ATDO). Dr. Yayoi Kitamura, who attended the 2008 conference of the Association on Higher Education And Disability (AHEAD), coordinated the event. My trip was funded through an ATDO grant from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. The questions were more like testimonials, statements of a people segregated and excluded from higher education and other aspects of Japanese life.
After the question and answer session concluded, we gathered for an informal reception fueled by Japanese hors d’oeuvres, beer, and wine. A crowd of professionals and students with disabilities gathered around me, and we chatted about how people with disabilities can live with respect and inclusion. They excitedly told me many stories about their lives and their dreams.
One conversation remains fixed in my memory. A professor from a private college in Tokyo told me the biggest barrier to promoting equal access in higher education in Japan was that people with disabilities felt a deep cultural shame about disability. The shame, she said, holds people back. “If only students with disabilities would identify themselves as equals”, she said. “Our universities could do a much better job of including people with disabilities in our educational system.”
She explained more. “Students with disabilities in the elementary and secondary schools often hide their disabilities because identifying oneself as being disabled often leads to a shattering of one’s goals.,” she said, adding that “College in Japan often presents the first real opportunity to disclose a disability and to ask for accommodations.” In other words, as in the United States, what happens to children with disabilities heavily impacts what occurs in post-secondary education. The Japanese education system tracks students into studies relevant to their abilities. Education in the United States does not use a tracking system because we prefer a free and appropriate education in K-12 and equal opportunity in both K-12 and post-secondary education. While the United States frequently falls short of delivering on educational opportunities for everyone, Japanese students face much more rigid challenges than American students do.
According to the research data presented at the event, students with disabilities comprise only 1 percent of college student bodies in Japan. Most of the Japanese I met seemed acutely aware that students with disabilities make up about 11 percent of post-secondary education enrollment in the United States. Even if one sets aside skepticism about such statistics, it is clear that the disability rights movement fares better in the United States than it does in Japan. Still, the issues are very much the same.
Hiroshi Kawamura, a Japanese disability rights leader, is the man behind my trip to Japan. Kawamura is the President of the Daisy Consortium and works for ATDO and NRCPD. Formerly, he worked for 23 years as a librarian at Tokyo University where he assisted students with disabilities. The best way to describe Kawamura is to say that he is a force of nature in a Japanese way. He relentlessly pushes for equal access and inclusion of people with disabilities in a strong and gracious manner. Ripples of positive change follow Kawamura where ever he goes.
Kawamura invited me to come to Japan for several events. He knew of my work through the efforts of two other Missoulians as well as through my role as AHEAD’s President Elect. George Kerscher, General Secretary of the Daisy Consortium, is a close friend, mentor, and colleague of mine. Kerscher leads the international group called the Daisy Consortium in its efforts to make information accessible by people with disabilities throughout the world. Mika Watanabe-Taylor, a Disability Services Coordinator in the office I administer at the University of Montana, is a Japanese national. She is working with AHEAD President Mike Shuttic to build bridges between Japan and AHEAD. Watanabe-Taylor previously traveled to Japan to begin building the ties between nations for the benefit of disability access in post-secondary education at the international level. In addition, Kawamura and several members of his staff came to Missoula, Montana in August 2008 on a fact finding tour of disability programs in the community where Kerscher, Watanabe-Taylor, and I live. Besides learning about disability programs within the University of Montana, Kawamura’s group met with vocational rehabilitation, developmental disability, mental health, and other local disability providers.
The schedule for my February 2009 Japanese trip was grueling. Kawamura invited me to observe the board meeting of the Daisy Consortium. I listened to the international meeting and acquired a new appreciation for Daisy’s global efforts to improve equal access to information. Daisy members are extremely committed and effective in making information accessible. Daisy sponsored a seminar on accessible textbooks following the board meeting. Next, I gave the keynote speech at the International Symposium for the right to access information. Representatives from 17 nations participated in the Symposium, which covered all forms of media access by people with print disabilities. The board meeting, textbook seminar, and the symposium occurred in Kyoto. Then I traveled to Tokyo for two presentations by way of the famous Japanese bullet train. The first was the NRCPD panel mentioned earlier followed by another panel presentation at Tokyo University on college accessibility. Later, Kerscher, Watanabe-Taylor, and the rest of our group drove to Ueda to tour the factory of Plextor, the division of Shinano Kenshi Corporation, which makes talking book players such as the Pocket and the machines soon to be used by the National Library Services of the Library of Congress. We talked with the engineers who develop the technology and made suggestions on how to improve the products and marketing of Plextor’s amazing devices. Finally, we wrapped up our tour with a presentation at Shinshu University in Nagano where we met with graduate students in electrical engineering. The students demonstrated their class projects which included a computer game for the blind and an innovative switch design for media players. I will not forget how the gloves for the computer game would not fit on my over-sized and well fed North American hands. Undaunted for long, the graduate students whipped out the electrical tape and fashioned on the spot an adjustment to the gloves so they would work for me.
Japan is a stunningly beautiful nation filled with brilliant, polite, and hard working people. The food was nothing short of amazing, and I acquired a taste for sticky rice and warm Sake. In Ueda, Kathy and I stayed in a traditional ryokan complete with the tatami mats and hot baths. The western style hotels included Japanese features, such as the gorgeous garden and bird watching trail on the mountain behind our Kyoto hotel. Even the toilets were made of the stuff of science fiction with their heated seats, variable spray bidets, camouflaging sounds, and deodorizers. I can’t wait to return to Japan and to act on what I learned while a guest of this great nation. And I can’t wait until we renew and strengthen international ties to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
We can start by joining the 50 nations who already adopted the United Nations Convention on People with Disabilities. Japan signed the treaty in 2007 and is currently working on ratifying the treaty. The United States has yet to sign or ratify the treaty. When we do --- President Obama promised he will sign and honor the treaty --- industrial countries such as ours will make it possible to act on disability rights as global human rights.
As mentioned earlier, AHEAD is working to build a global focus. Since AHEAD is a membership driven organization, we need members who will contribute their global perceptions. AHEAD should move away from a United States centric focus in which we spend far too much time debating legal issues and a hyper-focus on disability documentation. Our organization needs big ideas and local actions that reframe disability as a characteristic that is ordinary and respectable. I sincerely hope other AHEAD members and disability rights leaders reach out to international partners. Connections are necessary, inevitable, and underway. If you meet an international member of AHEAD at this summer’s conference in Louisville, Kentucky or elsewhere on your travels, take the time to get to know one another. Everyone benefits from such endeavors.
Jim Marks works as the Director of Disability Services at the University of Montana. He serves as the President Elect of the Association on Higher Education And Disability.