Cal Poly Launches New Tecnology Initiative

By Jeanne Nelson

Federal and state law has made it possible for California State
Universities to take the initiative to improve educational
resources for individuals with disabilities.

Cal Poly Pomona is one of the 23 CSU campuses, which received a
memo from the Chancellor’s Office on Feb. 9, 2007 addressed to the
all CSU presidents outlining the Accessible Technology
Initiative.

ATI plans to provide instructional materials, improve Web
accessibility and electronic and information technology
procurement. So far, Cal Poly’s 35 most visited Web sites have
already been improved to meet the new federal requirements and more
sites will eventually be upgraded in time.

Although updating the technology for individuals with
disabilities will take more than just accommodating Internet sites,
it will involve the collaboration of disability resource centers,
bookstores, academic departments and students and faculty.

One interesting and very helpful aid that students will be able
to use is the alternate media. The alternate media consists of
converting your common textbooks, lab manuals, class handouts and
tests into some form of multimedia. This is when e-text comes into
play, which is an alternate media that can be used through a
computer. By doing so, students can utilize computer programs to
get a better understanding of the material.

However, to have a textbook be made into e-text, faculty members
need to submit the required books by the deadline to the bookstore
because it takes approximately four to six weeks for the material
to be transferred into media form.

First, faculty decides what material they want to convert, then
the bookstore requests e-text from the publishers, text gets
changed to a Portable Document Format, then to a kurzweil, and
lastly the student can choose from getting it in a CD or MP3 audio
format.

Before the improvements were made the Disability Resource Center
used the assistance of interpreters by having them attend lectures
and help students. Now students will not need to rely on them as
much as they had before.

“Students will now be able to watch video lectures with
captions,” said Catherine Schmitt Whitaker, director of DRC.

For students who would watch videos online, they can also access
real time captioning by simply selecting the caption option on
their computers. This feature has been helpful for Kevin Willis, a
hearing impaired student who attends Irvine Valley College.

“Students might be completely deaf and rely heavily on sign
language interpreting, or others might need more ‘direct’
information (i.e. real time captioning) without the interpreter
sort of ‘paraphrasing’ what the teacher is saying,” said
Willis.

Out of 16 volunteer faculty members only eight were selected to
participate and take the training courses on the new improvements
the CSU’s have been presented with. The goal is to have some
classes adopt the new improvements by spring of 2008, but have all
courses have the accessibilities to individuals with disabilities
by fall 2012.

Cal Poly is striving to provide the opportunity for all students
to make the most of the enhancements presented by the federal and
state laws.

These laws will provide the “opportunity to make a difference on
campus,” said Whitaker. “To grow and improve.”

Jeanne Nelson can be reached by e-mail at news@thepolypost.com
or by phone at (909) 869-3747.

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