DO-IT Does It with Technology

Carrie Hendrickson
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DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology) is a broadly supported and increasingly influential program administered by the University of Washington. With grants and honors from around the United States, DO-IT started in 1992 and continues to provide programs throughout the U.S. Created as a project to help students with disabilities successfully complete college and enter the marketplace, DO-IT offers a variety of supporting programs. These programs range from camps, mentoring projects, online support groups, instructor training seminars, internships, and career preparation. At this point you might wonder what this inspiring program has to do with technical communication. The answer: 

Three things 

First. . .

 Americans with disabilities are raising their sights when they look at the educational and employment landscape of America. To assist them in achieving their goals, the creation and use of adaptive technology (specialized software and equipment to enable people with disabilities to use computers and other equipment) is vital. 

DO-IT provides valuable assistance in the area of adaptive technology and offers several staff mentors who serve as technology specialists. They provide information about adaptive technology and assist with various technical problems. This growing field of technology will need writers and technical communicators in the future. 

Second. . . 

DO-IT specifically focuses on increasing the number of students with disabilities in the fields of math, science, engineering, and technology. The presence of persons with disabilities in these fields will change how technical communicators need to think and write. For example, technical communicators must now create documents with the idea that visually and physically impaired persons will access the information. The use of a head manipulated mouse, voice activated software, and visual keyboards will require a visual change in document design. With this new shift in technology, persons with disabilities will no longer be on the sidelines. They will be the engineers, scientists, and others working with the technology for which technical communicators write documentation. 

Third. . . 

DO-IT offers summer study programs in technical communication. The students enrolled in some of DO-IT’s summer programs learned to incorporate videos into Web pages and used Adobe PageMaker in many aspects of desktop publishing and production. With the career exploration and support that DO-IT offers to persons with disabilities, their numbers among technical communicators will increase. Theywill no longer be a group we will be writing about; they will be some of us — the technical communicators doing the writing.   

DO-IT has received numerous awards over the past years. It received national recognition with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mentoring. DO-IT also received the National Information Infrastructure Award “for those whose achievements demonstrate what is possible when the powerful forces of human creativity and technologies are combined.” By providing a worldwide electronic community, DO-IT brings youths with disabilities and mentors together. DO-IT also provides. 

professional development programs to faculty across the country. DO-IT’s broad outreach and significant results involving persons with disabilities exemplifies the kinds of changes currently shaping the landscape of technical communication. These shifts in the future work force are as important a change as upcoming shifts in technology. Whether you are an interested reader, a person with disabilities looking for assistance, or a potential employer, check out the DO-IT Web site (www.washington.edu/doit) for more information on the programs that DO-IT provides. You will be amazed at what this award-winning program has to offer.  

 
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