[Athen] Screen readers/other software

Kelmer, Susan M. SKelmer at stlcc.edu
Tue Apr 15 12:51:07 PDT 2008

Since you asked, Jim, and I'm just in that kind of mood right now (don't
ask me what kind of day I'm having), the truth is, I'm defending all the
"good" institutions out there that are doing the right thing. It NEVER
occurred to me when I took this job nearly 8 years ago that we would
offer only what we could get away with. I came in this job and cleaned
house. I completely rehabbed the lab I was handed, which was woefully
understaffed, underequipped, underutilized, and misunderstood. I spent
$400,00 the first year replacing computers, printers, networking
equipment, adaptive software, furniture, you name it. It never occurred
to me to find out what would barely meet the needs of the students I
serve. I bought what they needed and I never once bowed my head and
begged the Dean.

You see, my background is not academic or nonprofit. When I came in
here, I came in with a business attitude; I came in with facts and
figures and risks and advantages. When I spent $5000 to buy new
licenses for Zoomtext and Jaws, no one blinked. When I spent $35,000 on
sound-reduced enclosed rooms for students to use Dragon, no one blinked.
When I sat my network technician down a week after I arrived and showed
him the schematics for rewiring the entire network in my lab at a cost
of about $30,000, he didn't blink either. Two years later when I
started our fledgling alternate format initiative and made a demand for
equipment and staff, no one blinked. We just did what needed to be
done. The risks for not doing what needed to be done were far costlier
than doing the right thing to begin with.

I do not, in my heart or in my experience, believe that many other
campuses are taking the attitude of "budget first," when it comes to
adaptive technology. What I see are campuses making a choice to provide
what is needed for the students, from high end to low end. I see
campuses making cuts when they have to, and finding alternatives when
they have to, but these alternatives are rarely at the cost of removing
higher-end solutions that are already there. And certainly on this
list, and others that I'm on, I do not see people trying to "dumb down"
the system and use what is cheap. In fact, I've never seen a single one
of the requests for information about lower-end products that hit this
list say "we're going to replace Kurzweil 3000 with Premier Software's
Scan and Read." I don't see that in their messages. I assume they are
looking for alternatives because they've heard that there are
alternatives, and they want to know what's out there. I am not making
the assumption that they are trying to cheap out, and I think that is
what bothers me so much about your posts. That is the first thing you
assume about them, and respond accordingly. It is unprofessional and
counterproductive, in my opinion, to be taking that stance with every
post about Premier that hits this list.

In the case of my campus, and in the case of many other campuses out
there, access does not follow advocacy. Advocacy has no place in it at
all; we provide access regardless of the demand, and regardless of the
cost. We provide a complete working environment for our students and
our potential students. There is, truly, no other way to do it.

Susan Kelmer

Adaptive Technology Specialist

Coordinator, Campus Labs and Classrooms/IAL

Technology and Educational Support Services/

Campus Technology Support Services

St. Louis Community College at Meramec


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