2007 Focus Award Recipients

Faculty: Karen D. Donah

Ms. Karen D. Donah is a Continuing Lecturer in American Sign Language. Ms. Donah was first employed by Purdue North Central from 1991 to 1997 in Information Services. She returned to the University in January 2006 as a Visiting Assistant Professor to teach American Sign Language (ASL) classes after having done so for several years as a Limited Term Lecturer. In August of 2006, Ms. Donah was hired as a Continuing Term Lecturer to not only teach ASL, but begin to develop recommendations for curriculum in ASL and Interpreting. Ms. Donah supported and encouraged the use of technology in developing accommodations for students with disabilities while she was employed in Information Systems, but her real impact occurred while she was teaching American Sign Language. She, among other innovations, instituted a "Silent Lunch" program where ASL students and others join Ms. Donah for lunch conversing only in ASL. Another very popular innovation had been the PNC American Sign Language Game Night. This event was open to students, the deaf community, and other interested members of the public. Nina Coyer, Ms. Donah's sister, who is a deaf ASL interpreter professor at Eastern Kentucky University and Roger Coyer, a deaf retired teacher and football coach at Kentucky School for the Deaf have been on campus at Ms. Donah's invitation to relate their experiences as deaf individuals growing up in a hearing world. Ms. Donah continues to develop and provide opportunities for her students, for the deaf community in northwest Indiana, and for the general public to grow and learn individually and together. Not stopping there, Ms. Donah has also significantly contributed to building awareness and sensitivity to issues specifically related to the deaf and by extension to all individuals with disabilities within the administration and faculty.

Staff: Shawn M. Rice

When Mr. Shawn M. Rice was awarded the Focus Award, he worked in the Birck Nanotechnology Center and was focusing his attention on the nanoHUB, a highly specialized nanotechnology site that is carving a unique niche in nanotechnology experimentation online. The nanoHUB is a web-based initiative spearheaded by the National Science Foundation-funded Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN). The NCN has a vision to pioneer the development of nanotechnology from science to manufacturing through innovative theory, exploratory simulation, and novel cyber infrastructure. Mr. Rice was the web developer for the Birck Nanotechnology Center and he followed the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These guidelines are used to assist web developers in creating web sites that are accessible to people with varying disabilities ranging from sensory impairments to learning disabilities. For example, Mr. Rice's sites can be accessed using JAWS for Windows, a screen-reading program used by individuals who are blind. Mr. Rice says, "Non-standard web sites have messy code, cumbersome code [allowing] little to no accessibility to disabled users." Navigating sites that do not conform to the W3C guidelines is a pet peeve of his. He is a great advocate for people with disabilities because of his commitment to ensure web sites are accessible. Mr. Rice has been at Purdue for a number of years. Before working at Birck, he earned both his bachelor's degree in computer science and his master's degree in information technology from Purdue University.  Mr. Rice is now a Senior Web Application Programmer in ITaP Academic Technologies. 

Student: Joseph A. Humbert

Mr. Joseph A. Humbert was a 2nd year graduate student in Special Education when he received the Focus Award. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Graphics Technology from Purdue University. Mr. Humbert was an assistant to Mr. David Schwarte, Assistive Technology Specialist, in the Assistive Technology Center formerly Adaptive Learning Programs Laboratory (ALPs Lab) for several years. Along with his assigned standard duties (i.e. training, technical assistance, research of new products), Mr. Humbert frequently went above and beyond the defined range of his job when working at the lab. For example, he enjoyed assisting students who have special needs with specific issues regarding their personal equipment. In one instance, he went to the home of a visually impaired student on his own time to help that student set up his internet access. Mr. Humbert has also made numerous attempts to bring up the issue of web accessibility and its importance in his various classes. He was making a sincere effort to improve communication and to explain the importance of web accessibility in the educational process. To this end and beyond his classroom activity, Mr. Humbert participated in extra work with Macromedia and with other vendors so that he might better understand accessibility issues related to their products and might also hopefully convince these vendors to improve their products. It has always been Mr. Humbert's desire to ensure that the Purdue students with disabilities are able to understand how to use available technology, and not just the assistive technology of the ALPs lab Assistive Technology Center. Mr. Humbert was also very desirous in ensuring that all of Purdue's information technology services were made accessible to the entirety of the university's students, faculty, and staff.

Organization: Hoosier ADAPT

Hoosier ADAPT is a student organization at Purdue University Calumet dedicated to advocating for students with disabilities and promoting inclusion. The student organization is active in various campus activities which include participation from students, faculty, and staff both with and without a disability. The group is instrumental in bringing about change on the Purdue University Calumet campus. The organization collaborates with the Coordinator of Services for Students with Disabilities office regarding disability awareness and accessibility for persons with disabilities. Hoosier ADAPT has organized events on the Purdue University Calumet campus to promote inclusion and awareness of people with disabilities. The group has helped promote Don't (Dis) My Art, an exhibit showing art created by individuals who have physical disabilities limiting mobility. Dante Ventresca, Director of Theatre of Inclusion, made a special appearance for this event. Hoosier ADAPT also showed the video, "My Left Foot." The film is about the life of Christy Brown, a man born with cerebral palsy who learned to paint and write with his only controllable limb - his left foot. The organization had an open discussion forum afterwards. Hoosier ADAPT also coordinated "Walking in my Shoes," an event that allowed people (with the assistance of others) to experience what it would be like to have a disability, including using a wheelchair and hearing and visual impairments. The event was open to faculty, staff, and other professionals and Purdue University Calumet's former Vice Chancellor, Leo Bryant, participated in it.