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Jeffrey C. Senge, M.S.
Information & Computer Access Program Coordinator
California State University, Fullerton
Adaptive Technology Coordinator
California State University, Los Angeles
Disabled Student Services High Tech Center
California State University, Long Beach
This paper will present ten years of work by EASI members on three public university campuses in California. Universities to be discussed include, California State University, Fullerton, California State University, Long Beach, California State University, Los Angeles. Over the past ten years, members of EASI have been working to significantly improve access to information for disabled students, staff, and faculty at each of these universities. Although these three major public universities are located in the same geographic region, each has a different story to share. Each has blazed a different trail toward the same goal. The goal of providing equal access to information for all individuals to ensure their participation in the university's programs, services, and activities to the maximum extent of their abilities.
The three universities discussed have many things in common. They are all large public universities in the state of California. They are located within approximately a 50-mile radius of one another in the greater Los Angeles/Orange County area. And, they all serve diverse populations with each having an enrollment well in excess of 20,000 students. Finally, they are all campuses of the California State University System, the largest public university system in the nation.
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California State University, Fullerton
California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) is an urban campus centrally located in northern Orange County and one of the 23 campuses of the California State University system. The Fall 1999 CSUF full-time enrollment exceeded 26,000 students. Of this number, approximately 600 registered with the Office of Disabled Student Services. The percentage (2.3) of registered students with disabilities attending CSUF was slightly below the 3% national estimate for 1996-97 or 1997-98 reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (Reisberg, 1999).
The adaptive technology program at CSUF began in the late 1980s with a collaborative effort between four departments of the university. Each of these departments was awarded a $10,000 California State Lottery Grant which they combined to purchase the original $40,000 of adaptive computer technology used to establish the Computer Access Lab for Students with Disabilities. At that time, the program was developed around a segregated model where all the adaptive technology was located in a single facility and students who needed to use adaptive technologies to access computers had to go to that lab to do their work. This often is referred to as a centralized model because it puts the special technology in a separate facility rather than making computers accessible in the locations throughout the campus where standard technology is available to all students. Such a distribution of adaptive technology is referred to as a distributed model and has been adopted by some other post-secondary institutions.
Although much has happened during the past decade to improve access to computer technology at CSUF, the Computer Access Lab remains the core of the program. From its inception in 1989 through the first half of the 1990s, the Computer Access Lab grew steadily both in terms of technology and student use. At the same time, advancements were made to increase campus awareness of the issues related to access to information as well as computer technologies. EASI played a major role in this process. Students, faculty, staff, and administrators campus-wide were all being made more aware of issues related to the legal responsibility of the university to provide equal access to its programs, services, and activities for all its students regardless of disabling condition. An overall increased awareness that program accessibility went beyond ramps and curbcuts to include information and computers was taking place throughout the university for the first time.
With the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) responding to increased numbers of complaints being filed by college students with disabilities, OCR clearly articulated that program accessibility included access to information. The ADA requires that covered entities ensure that communications are as effective for persons with disabilities as they are for non-disabled individuals. In this context, OCR interpreted communications to include both oral and written forms of communication. This interpretation as well as an ongoing persistent advocacy effort led to the development of an Information and Computer Access Program at CSUF.
In 1995, after several years of advocacy, a full-time Information and Computer Access Program Coordinator was hired at CSUF. It is the responsibility of this individual to address issues related not only to computer access, but information access as well. Reporting to the Director of the Office of Disabled Student Services, the Information and Computer Access Program Coordinator works campus-wide both proactively and reactively responding to all types of situations involving information and computer accessibility for individuals with disabilities. These areas have grown to include: accessibility to on-line and web-based information, access to all types of print and oral information in alternative formats, and, access to computer technology throughout the university's programs, activities, and services.
No longer is the responsibility for providing access to the university's information and computers limited to the resources of the Computer Access Lab alone. While the Computer Access Lab continues to play a major role in the Information and Computer Access Program by providing evaluation, training, and document transcription services, program accessibility is finally beginning to be regarded as a holistic responsibility of the entire university. Examples of this increased awareness can be seen in such activities as the university's enrollment of four individuals from separate web development groups in EASI's "Barrier Free Web Design" workshop in the Fall of 1999. The campus has also shown an increased awareness of their responsibility to create accessible computer workstations in newly constructed and renovated computer labs and electronic classrooms. Both of these examples illustrate a broader awareness and understanding of information and computer accessibility issues by support staff and administrators at CSUF.
Over the past five years, measurable progress has been made in the number of computer accessibility accommodations made for students with disabilities at CSUF. In addition, an increase in the level of general awareness of the responsibility to provide access to information has been evidenced throughout the campus. Unfortunately, like most universities, CSUF has only begun the long process of retrofitting their information and computer infrastructures for universal access. It will be many years before the goal will be achieved but the important thing to realize is significant progress has been made and will continue to be made in this regard.
Such things as facility space, funding, and administrative support are still not sufficient at CSUF or most other post-secondary institutions to say the job is done. There is still a long way to go but the important thing to remember is how far we have come over the past ten years. We have made progress and EASI has been a major contributor toward that progress nation-wide and throughout the world. EASI persists in its mission to provide Equal Access to Software and Information. EASI's not fast or flashy, but it is made up of solid people who share a common vision and are committed to going the distance.
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California State University, Los Angeles.
CSULA is an inner city campus in East Los Angeles. The campuses is dominated by students from local area communities. Most of these students are Asian or Hispanic. The campus draws a great deal of disabled students because of its location and also due to access to public transit. The school is on a Metrolink Train line and LA's metro bus system.
The campus has only about 800 housing units, so most of the students commute, and most students work while attending classes. CSULA has some excellent academic programs. It also offers special educational and vocational rehabilitation training programs. Many of the disabled students who attend CSULA are involved in these programs. The school also has a strong teacher certification program. Currently there are about 20,000 students at CSULA. Approximately 350 students have learning disabilities and 300 have mobility or sensory disabilities. Out of these, 12 students are blind and approximately another 25 are legally blind.
In 1997 CSULA received an OCR complaint from a blind student. The student desired to have access to the internet and library databases. At the time, no specific office was in charge of adaptive computing. Those in charge of the campus computing, the library staff and the Office for Students with Disabilities had no one in charge of adaptive technology needs.
Adaptive technologies were available to students in the eighties and early nineties, but students themselves had to maintain them. One former student told of a time in the late eighties when a student group for disabled students actually had an office in the student union that had two computers with adaptive computer technologies, including a Braille printer. This office did not survive and the group disbanded, probably due to student apathy and attrition.
It was not until late of 1998 when I was hired that the university actually made an effort to oversee the administration of adaptive technologies on campus. At that time, the whole of the campus had moved from Windows 3.1 to Windows NT. Except for one computer located in the library, a Windows 95 machine, none of the campus computing resources were accessible. The one machine was being maintained by a student with a visual impairment who worked as a student assistant. It seems that this had been the precedent to have the students themselves involved in the administration of adaptive
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Technology services and equipment at CSULA.
After the lawsuit, the university decided to form a committee to address the complaint. The committee consisted of staff from a variety of offices, including academic affairs, office for students with disabilities, libraries, and academic computing. Four main issues were evaluated: (a) access to library and research materials, including the Internet and on-line databases, (b) access to standard public computing labs, (c) access to classroom computing labs, (d) disabled student training on adaptive technology. The committee met to discuss how to coordinate an effort to comply with the findings of the lawsuit. They discovered the obvious need to have someone to be in charge of adaptive technology issues.
After the committee researched what other campuses had done to provide such services, they decided to follow the advice given them. Jeff Senge from Cal State Fullerton was able to give a lot of input, including the idea of having a percentage of the academic computing budget set aside for paying for accessibility on campus. The university determined they would set aside yearly five percent of their computing budget based on the previous year's computing purchases (or lease programs) for funding adaptive technology purchases. Funding for the position was divided, but the main source of funds was through the Office for Students with Disabilities.
Although there was initially some dispute about how the adaptive technology administration would be addressed, the university committed to supporting adaptive technology services. The budget remained a percentage of computing purchases, and coordination between offices improved overnight. At this point CSULA is continuing to move into the fast track of providing effective AT services and with the purchasing and budgeting for new adaptive technology equipment.
One important issue of the Adaptive Technology Program at CSULA is the fact that the university does not have an adaptive technology lab. The university is focused on providing access in the classroom, library, and open computing labs. We have a training center which is very small, and students have complained about the size of this space, but at least access is provided as students request in areas which are sometimes overlooked. Running a lab requires staffing, and our budget does not offer much support service monies. Our focus is to make accommodations where staff already provide services. Training can take place more effectively in an one-to-one tutorial environment. If space is provided for a center, the focus will continue to be training. Students who attend CSULA often are better off securing workstations for their home or dorm use since most are commuting.
We have also provided adaptive technology evaluations for the department of rehabilitation when requested. We have made a commitment to create adaptive hard drives for a new laptop rental program the Associated Students, Inc. has created. Laptops rent for $15 per week, and disabled students are able to rent laptops for two weeks.
Overall the Adaptive Technology Program at CSULA is being given the proper environment to grow into, and we expect positive results.
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California State University, Long Beach
The California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) High Tech Center (HTC) is an adjunct service of the Disabled Student Services within the Student Support Services Division. The Center was initially funded with funds from a Community College/Department of Rehabilitation grant in 1988. The High Tech Center Training Unit staff provided the selection equipment, software, and adaptive devices most commonly used in the Community College High Tech Centers. At CSULB, we quickly found that many of the software titles were not applicable for use in our campus environment. Our students needed production applications and, over the years we have managed to maintain capability with the software used by the open access and instructional labs
on our campus.
The burden of funding our acquisitions has been left to the efforts of grantsmanship. No budget for software, adaptive devices, or computer hardware upgrades is allocated from our Student Support Services budget. Due to the monetary limitations this presents to the coordinator, communication with campus departments becomes imperative so that the timing of upgrades in the HTC are in place when the campus upgrades are made.
When the HTC was first established, we designed an access center for the few students who did not have access anywhere on our campus. This was to be a small program to serve about 100 students. By 1990, we met that goal. By 1994, the HTC provided direct services to over 300 students for test accommodations, writing assistance, grammar and language skills coaching, and instruction and training on production software applications
and assistive devices. During the fall 1998 semester, we began to transcribe course syllabi and class handouts for students who read Braille. By May, 1999, we had produced approximately 5,000 Braille pages of course materials. Since classes began this fall, we have already produced approximately 700 Braille pages of course materials for three of our students.
Our DSS requests surged with 1,300 students in 1997/98. More than 40 legally blind students received services as well as some 450 students with learning disabilities. Two hundred and fifty students had mobility disabilities and more than 40 students with hearing loss received in-class services.
In 1998, the CSU Chancellor's Office began to wrap up its campaign to build a partnership between GTE and MicroSoft to help the campuses build out their computer technology infrastructures. Meetings were held on our campus to build support for this project, but there was no mention of how the CSU planned to build access for students with disabilities into this project. After a telephone call to the Chancellor's office, and many emails to DSP/DSS directors and CSU HTC coordinator's about what language needed to go into any CSU policy, our IT VP, who was co-chairman of the ITT committee, requested I write the policy for access that students with disabilities would require. Based on my discussions from other DSP/DSS coordinators within the CSU system, we had a written statement readied for publication.
The CETI partnership between industry and the CSU failed due to faculty pressure. Further, campuses did not rush forward with plans or budgets to include access in their technology acquisitions as funds set aside by the Chancellor's office became available for hardware purchases. To compensate for the lack of response, I wrote a proposal for funds from the Baseline Allocation for Technology funds that the Chancellor's office had appropriated toward the CETI partnership and which were waiting to be spent. From our campus share, the proposal was awarded $50,000 to procure a sample of adaptive devices for the campus academic supported labs.
Our HTC saw none of these funds. The goal was to introduce adaptive technology into the campus labs so our students with disabilities could begin working within the departments' labs instead of the HTC. I wrote a second proposal for Lottery funds to procure additional adaptive technology and was awarded $64,000 of the $360,000 I requested. These funds will be used to procure an upgrade to the JAWS screen reader I ordered with funds from the BATS proposal, as well as additional adaptive devices the departments believe will help them increase access for students with more severe disabilities.
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