Random Notes by Ron Hicks, March, 25 2011

Fair is Fair: For those of you who haven’t kept up…After 20 years, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has made a prudent and cautious gesture toward realizing the “ADA´s promise to provide an equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in and benefit from all aspects of American civic and economic life.” In a July 23, 2010 paper, DOJ offered that, while the “internet has been governed by a variety of voluntary standards or structures [and those] standards have generally proved to be sufficient where obvious business incentives align… There has not, however, been equal success in the area of accessibility.”

The long and short of this is that DOJ is asserting what we all know to be fair, just and self-evident, i.e. that accommodations for equal access to web services should be no less than those for “bricks and mortar” shops.

By the way, for a government paper, probably torturously composed by committee, the July DOJ paper is quite good. If you are a disability advocate and need to pull quotes, you could do a lot worse. There’s a great synopsis of the history and legal foundations of web and accessibility, and a very succinct and sympathetic description of common barriers to persons using assistive tech. Good job Legal Dudes!

March Sanity: The LDs may have had a hand in this one, too, and it’s about time. Parents and teachers have been screaming their bloody heads off for years (figuratively speaking, of course, actually everyone’s been perfectly civil – maybe that’s why justice is so slow).  At any rate, on March 15, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his cohorts must’ve heard the hubbub and stepped away from the Washington pack in a real way, advocating for kids with disabilities. He’s having his ED people put $200 million in the 2012 Budget for students with disabilities. The emphasis is on protecting “critical programs serving students with disabilities, including preschool grants, national activity funds, vocational rehabilitation programs, national dissemination and research grants, and supports for institutions serving students with disabilities.”

Protecting critical programs, like protecting our civil rights, should be lauded and Arne, babe, you’ve got my support. 60% of students with disabilities spend 80% of their time in the regular school environment and they deserve AT just like I deserve my trifocals.  Let’s make sure to make sure that our representatives in congress don't digress on this one. Now, if we can just get past that knotty little problem of allowing students with disabilities to use AT in test taking; right now it’s considered an unfair advantage. No Ma’m, I’m not cheating, I took off my glasses.  Read Arne’s speech .

If You Feel the Shakes Coming On: My Great Uncle Augie (Augusto Feo de los Ojos Pensandos), who among other things is a future philologist, discovered a definition in the New Dictionary of Internet Slang: “Tweetch”: A spasmodic reflex associated with diminished capacity for coherent linguistic expression; a cognitive deficit in word/symbol recognition, characterized by compulsive use of a key pad; Tweetching is believed to be symptomatic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (now a cultural norm) and the ill-founded conceit that one actually has something of significance to impart to a large audience. Inverse of apostrophe.

About Our Name: Augie says Knowbility is a good name for an organization that strives to embrace and include everyone. He points out (he’s forever pointing out) that the prefix “dis” is a Latin prefix meaning “apart,” “asunder,” “away,” “utterly,” or having a privative, negative, or reversing force ( see de-, un-2 ). Well, Augie-the-Curmudgeon gave us a rare compliment for substituting “know” for “dis”. Thanks Unc…Knowbility is about inclusion. Ain’t no “asunder” or “away” round here.

As I Write from the Corporate Jet: Just to make sure everyone knows, Knowbility is a nonprofit organization. The essential difference between for-profit and non-profit is (this from a Cum Laude CPA with 30 years experience): Non-profits are expense-driven. Very simple. In other words, we use our revenues to deliver services; we don’t get big salaries, big bonuses or perks; there are no stock holder dividends. We don’t gather revenues to fund community programs. We are the community programs. To generate revenue, Knowbility depends on your support, earning our keep through services and the support of grant-making entities.