[Athen] Screen readers/other software

Kelmer, Susan M. SKelmer at stlcc.edu
Wed Apr 16 06:44:24 PDT 2008

Jim Said:

"So you say there is a risk. In your opinion, what exactly is that
risk? I am genuinely interested in your saying more about the
motivational factors involved. I am especially interested in your
saying more about the perceived disconnect between the risk and the

My comments:

Risks: Things we want to avoid. Like lawsuits, OCR complaints, and the
local consumer reporter showing up on our campus to grill us about why
we aren't providing equal access. I never once took the attitude that
"I can't" or "we can't" when it came to adaptive technology. I didn't
need to wait for advocacy from a student/parent/counselor to get the lab
up and running. I just took it upon myself to do it right to begin
with. When I say that advocacy had nothing to do with it, I mean in a
literal sense. I didn't wait to be told/asked/cajoled/forced. I just
came in and did it to begin with. There is, in my opinion, absolutely
no excuse for saying no when it comes to adaptive technology. A few
hundred dollars for a piece of software or hardware beats a hundred
thousand dollars for an OCR complaint defense.

What motivated me to do what I did when I came here? I have three
disabled children. One has a learning disability, one has seizure
disorder, and all three have some form of ADD/ADHD. I have a ton of
friends who are disabled, both online friends and real life friends.
When one of my blind friends found out I was coming to work here, he sat
me down and explained to me his biggest issues. He worked for, at the
time, Blazie Engineering, and I picked his brain until we were both
bloody. It was worth every minute, because I came here knowing what
needed to be done, despite the fact that I'd never worked in adaptive
technology or disability services. I took one look at the sad state of
this computer lab, and accommodations being offered, and rolled up my
sleeves. I have never looked back.

My background is in corporate training and management. I use many of
those skills here to assess risk and find solutions to problems that may
not even exist yet. For me, being ahead of the curve is a whole lot
better than being run over by the freight train that is barreling down
the tracks behind me.

One distinct advantage for me is that I do not have a background that
was cramped by budget considerations or can't-do attitudes. I do hear
this quite a bit when I'm at conferences and even on my own campus. "We
don't have that in our budget," or "How do you find the money?" My
answer always is that the money is there. Don't be afraid to ask.
Don't be afraid to push the issue. Under no circumstances should you go
begging, hat in hand, to a dean or vice president or CIO for money.
Stand up, be firm, make a demand, not a request. Be ready to list the
risks of not meeting the demand, but ONLY if you are asked. Do not make
excuses or explanations or apologies. If you act like a second-class
citizen, you will be treated like one.

I realize that for some of our colleagues, this attitude is a radical
shift from how they do business. Their campus culture has inured them
to an attitude of subservience and meekness. I refuse to have that
attitude; I've been here almost eight years and have still not bought
into that campus culture. This doesn't mean I don't treat campus
management with respect; on the contrary, I'm extremely respectful, but
I am not meek. I state our needs clearly and with an attitude that they
can't say no.

When I die, inscribed on my tombstone will be my boss' favorite phrase
regarding me. "I have never won an argument with this woman." I
consider that a compliment. I do not accept the word "no" when it
comes to accommodating our students. None of us should.

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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