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AT Program News
News for and from the State AT Act Programs, the Alternative Financing Programs, and their community partners

November/December 2010 "School Transition"
In This Issue
Georgia's High School/High Tech Tackles Transition
Students Lead Virginia's College Bound
PIAT Workshop: You Can Take it With You
More Transition Workshops at ATIA Orlando
Idaho Transition Conference Jumpstarts Independence
Virtual Worlds to Support Transition in Georgia
Nifty Product: DAISYtoEPUB
8 Online Transition Resources
7 Common Transition Planning Errors (from QIAT)
Chairman Miller asks GAO to Examine Secondary Transition Programs
Georgia's High School/High Tech Tackles Transition

HS/HT logo with figures wearing mortar boards and a computer monitorProbably it's what most high school students need: comprehensive and holistic transition planning to complete high school and execute post-secondary and vocational goals.  After all, nationally roughly a third of students entering high school do not complete, and without a diploma, their lifetime earnings are substantially lower compared with those who do.

For students with disabilities, however, the issue is more critical. Employment statistics for people with disabilities are poor, just 26% were employed in 2008 (according to the Cornell University Employment and Disability Institute); and for a myriad of reasons, students who leave high school without an effective transition plan risk not only entrenched joblessness, but also social isolation.

To tackle these issues, Georgia has created a transition initiative that is now serving as a national model. High School/High Tech (HS/HT) is a year-round program serving motivated youth with disabilities between 14 and 22 years old.  High School/High Tech prepares students with disabilities for careers in science, technology and technical fields, and serves students at risk of dropping out of school because of their disabilities.

The program is a partnership among schools, the Georgia Department of Labor Vocational Rehabilitation program, Tools for Life (Georgia's AT Act Program), numerous community members, students and their families. Together these collaborators provide academic and career development experiences that lead to further education and/or high-tech jobs.

Program Nuts and Bolts:

Each HS/HT site follows 5 guideposts the program considers essential for student success:

1. School-based preparatory experiences

2. Career preparatory and work-based learning experiences

3. Youth development and leadership

4. Connecting activities (including AT, job shadowing, industry tours, mentoring, transportation)

5. Family involvement and supports

At present, 45 schools participate across Georgia, each  providing Career Tech instruction integrated with Special Education, regular education, and Vocation Rehabilitation services. How the program is offered, however, may vary from one location to another. Some sites offer HS/HT as a school elective or a club or after-school program; elsewhere HS/HT may be a multi-school site coordinated by the Vocational Rehabilitation program. In 2009, HS/HT had 454 active student participants (25% of whom were VR clients).

Like any responsible transition program, HS/HT puts a heavy emphasis on developing a student's self-determination and self-advocacy skills. Unique to this program, however, is the level of community involvement integrated into the curricula. HS/HT students have the opportunity to create valuable community relationships through:

  • employer site visits
  • job shadowing
  • guest speakers
  • summer work experiences
  • post secondary education tours
  • service learning

HS/HT activities also include financial aid trainings for parents, and student workshops on resume writing and effective interviewing strategies.

Individualized Computer Technology Training

HS/HT seniors who are transitioning to new environments also receive computer and AT training thanks to Tech-Able, an AT Regional Center in the Georgia Tools for Life (AT Act) program network. The program provides seniors individualized training on refurbished laptops with AT software specific to their needs. The students then apply competitively for their own laptops by securing recommendations, and writing essays to explain how the laptop and AT would benefit them with post-secondary education or employment. The laptops are funded through local grants or the Vocational Rehabilitation Program and are refurbished for a nominal fee by ReBoot, another Georgia Tools for Life program.

The computer training program has seen impressive success. In 2008 over 95% of HS/HT seniors who received this training graduated; and over 90% credited the training program for being "extremely helpful" with meeting their goals.  In recent years, more than 200 students have received refurbished laptops. This year VR is providing $35K for 100 high-end refurbished laptops and carrying cases. 

Coming Soon: Virtual Worlds Mentoring Island

HS/HT is also looking forward to collaborating with a new project funded by the National Science Foundation through Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. The project will bring together students and teachers in a creative virtual world for mentoring and learning. (Read about it in the sidebar article: "Virtual Worlds to Support Transition in Georgia," this issue).


Lessons Learned

According to Joy Kniskern, AT Programs Manager at Georgia Dept. of Labor (among other roles), HS/HT has learned some important lessons since its founding in 1997. In an email to ATPN she observes:

  • Most successful local HS/HT programs have equal participation from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), school staff, and the business community.
  • Buy-in from the VR program at the highest level is crucial to securing VR support on the local levels.
  • Employer Awareness events are good opportunities for awarding laptops to students and, thereby, marketing HS/HT program successes. They can help garner support from VR, the business community, and schools. 
  • VR can offer incentives for schools to participate in HS/HT, such as allocating funds to cover the cost of bus transportation and snacks for field trips.
  • Strong programs diversify their local funding support by working with Community Foundations. The Augusta, GA HS/HT program secured an additional $20K to support the laptop refurbishing initiative in their area.
  • Exploring collaboration with your local Workforce Investment Board is another a good idea. The Augusta, GA program also secured an additional $50K this year to support career exploration training for HS/HT students

Interested in starting a HS/HT program?

Today Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio, Michigan, South Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, Colorado, and Texas have or are creating their own versions of HS/HT.

If you are interested in starting a HS/HT program and wish to learn more, contact:

Karen Royston

High School/High Tech Program Coordinator

GDOL/Vocational Rehabilitation

1700 Century Circle, Suite 300

Atlanta, GA  30345


Students Lead Virginia's College Bound

In Virginia, thirty high school students with disabilities, plus parents, educators, and VR counselors all go to college together for three days at the end of June. The event is College Bound, a transition conference that has taken place on the campus of Virginia Tech since 1999. The program offers impressive separate and overlapping learning tracks on transition skills and strategies for students, parents, and professionals. What distinguishes the program most, however, is the way it models transition success; the program relies heavily on college students with disabilities to help run the show.

Planning for each conference begins nine months earlier when college student leaders are interviewed and selected to participate in the following summer's program. College students are chosen who have a strong interest in serving as role models for high school students and who have distinguished themselves as self-advocates, leaders, and learners. They must also demonstrate competency and experience making use of campus resources. Between ten and twelve leaders are selected each year, a mix of undergraduate and graduate students drawn from a half-dozen Virginia colleges and universities. Most leaders are identified as having learning disabilities and/or attention deficit disorder, but others have included individuals with physical, psychiatric, and sensory disabilities.

College student leaders help plan, design, and implement the College Bound program, and to do so they undertake several days of training on information and strategies they will need to work with young people with disabilities, parents and professionals. Their roles are, indeed, diverse: a blend of responsibilities common to summer camp counselors, advisory committee members, orientation leaders, and program instructors. Trainings they attend cover a range of topics from "Ice breakers and team building" to "Using Blackboard for course integration" and "Goal setting and decision-making."

At the start of each College Bound program, participating high school students are divided into small group teams, each led by a college student leader. Leaders begin the session by sharing with their students how their disability impacts their college life. Throughout the College Bound program college leaders share with their students how they secure and use accommodations to be successful learners. Teams create smaller social environments to encourage sharing and socializing, and they're also fun. College Bound uses team competitions to boost enthusiasm and confidence throughout the three days.

Students and parents rate their time with college student leaders highly on their program evaluations. In general, students report that College Bound improves their confidence to be a college student, comfort level talking about their disability, ability to describe their own strengths and weaknesses, among other more specific transition and AT related skills.

Here are some College Bound program nuts and bolts:


College Bound began as a one-day event in 1999 as a college recruitment tool for high school students with disabilities interested in higher education (sponsored by New River Community College and the Southwest Transition Center at Virginia Tech).

Who funds it today?

  • Virginia Dept. of Rehabilitation Services
  • Virginia Dept. of Education Training and Technical Assistance Center-Radford University
  • Southwest Virginia Assistive Technology System (Virginia's AT Act program)
  • PEP Net-South
  • Student participants pay a small fee to supplement other funds but this is often funded by VR
  • More than 35 volunteers support with their time, expertise, and resources
Who attends?

  • High school juniors and seniors and rising college freshman with disabilities
  • Parents
  • Educators
  • VR counselors
What topics are covered for students?

Workshops and activities cover transition-relevant subject matter including: self-advocacy, goal setting, ADA rights/responsibilities, AT for learning, getting help, college supports (health, social, career, academic, fitness), college expectations, organization and study skills, and balancing life and school, visits to career services and research labs.

What topics are covered for parents?

Parent sessions include information on the difference between the IEP and an accommodation plan under the ADA, changing roles for parents, financial aid, accessing AT, student perspectives, college disability services offices, resources for organization and study skills.

What topics are covered for educators and rehabilitation counselors?

Professionals attend sessions with students and parents in addition to their own workshops covering topics such as: creating a positive post-school vision, involving students in the IEP process, accessing AT, curricula to support transition self-determination, rights and responsibilities under IDEA vs ADA.


A 2007 study of College Bound outcomes found participants developed new leadership skills, built self-confidence, increased responsibilities and independent living skills, and felt more positive about attending college. After attending College Bound students contacted college disability services on campus, talked with successful college students and confidentially applied for colleges.

College Bound has inspired other college transition conferences, including Virginia's Say Yes to College at Old Dominion University Campus. Learn more about Say Yes to College. Learn more at the College Bound Web site.

College Bound contact:
Dr. Susan Asselin

PIAT Workshop: You CAN Take it With You--Transition and SGD Users

Institute on Disabilities, Temple University, College of EducationAmy Goldman, Program Director of Pennsylvania's Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT), says the need for this workshop has been emerging for a long time. For several years the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University (which houses PIAT) has been hearing from parents in a panic when they learn their students will soon lose services and even their communication equipment. "We're seeing huge gaps for students who should be preparing for adult services," Goldman acknowledges, "and for parents, the clock is ticking."

Indeed, careful transition planning for life after high school is critical for students with speech disabilities. Without it, the speech generating devices (SGDs) students have come to rely on frequently remain the property of their schools. Goldman reports, too, that even when a device does come home, it often ends up in a closet because its programmed vocabulary and communication strategies are no longer relevant to the young adult's life. Students, in effect, graduate to the couch.

PIAT created this workshop to provide families and professionals with strategies for effective transition planning, and to create awareness of transition barriers. "I'm an SLP [Speech Language Pathologist] by training," Goldman explains. "So I've sort of embraced this as a challenge for the profession."

PIAT's workshop, Goldman emphasizes, is for everyone: bottom up to top down. Here AAC users, family members, advocates, administrators, practitioners, and counselors will learn the importance of:
  • supporting users to build communication skills for success;
  • establishing productive cross-agency relationships for transition (including clearly defined roles and responsibilities);
  • incorporating how students use AAC into existing goals (spelled out in educational , vocational, and independent living plans);
  • documenting, building, and conveying each student's communication profile (for what works and what doesn't);
  • nurturing users' self-determination, operational competence with technology, and skills for self-advocacy;
  • continuously evaluating and updating users' communication inventories (to adapt new strategies, tools, and vocabulary for new environments).
In addition, attendees will come away with a transition planning tool to help guide discussion with students and service providers and help ensure accountability.

Ultimately, Goldman's message for this workshop is positive: AAC users ARE successfully attending college, obtaining employment, living independently, managing personal assistance, enjoying recreation, and developing meaningful relationships. But to do so users, family members, practitioners, school administrators and VR counselors must team up and coordinate services, information, and goals.

Interested? PIAT's workshop will take place on Thursday, January 27th, 2011 at ATIA Orlando. Learn about registration and additional transition-related workshops at ATIA Orlando in the article below.

More Transition Workshops at ATIA Orlando

ATIA Orlando logo with Click Here to Learn More

ATIA, the Assistive Technology Industry Association, is holding its annual Orlando conference January 26th-29th, 2011. The conference features more than 100 exhibitors of the latest products and services as well as valuable educational programs strands.

Here are some transition-related highlights:

Thursday, January 27th:

1276  Learning to Living: AT Transition Strategies for Secondary Low-Incidence Students

Speakers: Beverley Greene, Assistive Technology Specialist, Norfolk City Public Schools, Jennifer Vevoda, Occupational Therapist/L, Norfolk City Public Schools, Kristen Schulte, Speech Pathologist, Norfolk City Public
Schools, Anita Lorea, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant/L, Norfolk City Public Schools 

1386   You CAN Take it with You: Transition and SGD Users

Speaker : Amy Goldman, Associate Director, Institute on Disabilities, Temple University

1059   Transition Assessments and Curriculum 

Speaker : Mike Schmitz, Product Development, The Conover Company 

Friday, January 28th:

1010    Everyday Technology: Enabling Kids With Autism (Preparing Middle Schoolers for Occupation Success)

Speaker : Inga Smith, Parent & PhD Candidate (Exceptional Student Education)

1077   Transition Programming for Students with Significant Disabilities
Speaker : Karen Leugers, Educator, Mercer County ESC

1096    Punch-In! A New Employment Resource for Young Adults with Disabilities
Speaker : Janet Peters, Project Coordinator, DBTAC: Great Lakes ADA Center

Saturday, January 29th:

1255   Transitioning Youths with Speech Disorders: Reasonable Accommodation Situations and Solutions

Speaker : Teresa Goddard, JAN Consultant, Job Accommodation Network

1129   Supporting AT Throughout the Seasons
Speakers: Amanda Peters, Assistive Technology Product Manager, AT Collaborations, Gayl Bowser, Consultant, AT Collaborations

To receive a $30.00 discount on the cost of registration for Orlando use discount code: APCH when you register.

Learn more about ATIA 2011 Orlando

Idaho Transition Conference Jumpstarts Independence
Young man in wheelchair smiling with arms outstretched at a park and others in background
Youth Leadership Forum attendees

Each year for the last six, Idaho's IATP (AT Act program) has held a Tools for Life Secondary Transition and Technology Fair to showcase AT, AT services, and transition activities that help students access higher education, employment, and community living. The conference began as the dream of the Idaho Interagency Council on Secondary Transition organized by Jacque Hyatt of the Idaho State Department of Education. Today it has grown from one to two full days (and an evening); involves numerous partners; includes workshops for families, educators, and advocates; and has either spawned or re-energized several statewide student leadership and empowerment initiatives.

"We bring 250 students with disabilities to the conference from across the state," reports IATP's  Training Coordinator Nora Jehn. "It's always a daunting task--we charter two buses--but it's always worth it because of all the extra learning that goes on."

Indeed, as a two day event, the Tools for Life Fair is often a student's first time staying in a hotel, going to a restaurant, or getting away from home--essential transition groundwork. "Also choosing what sessions to attend," Jehn emphasizes since the conference includes eight break-out sessions, and attendees design their own experience. Parent workshops are also organized to coincide with a student pizza social, "So the kids get their social time."

The conference is clearly a good time for young attendees. And it's remarkable how different a person can feel about their life when they connect with like-minded peers, begin to spread their wings, and gain the tools they need to set their own direction.

Which is why, at the Tools for Life Fair, young leaders emerge. Youth leadership initiatives ignited by Tools for Life now include:

-Idaho Youth Leadership Forum. The event had gone dormant until Tools for Life gave it a new spark. Up and running again for the last three years, the YLF is now an impressive five-day leadership, citizenship, and career development program for young people with disabilities. There is also a Youth Leadership Network that has been re-invigorated for slightly older young adults.

-Idaho Self-Advocate Leadership Network (SALN). SALN is entirely organized and run by adults with disabilities, many of whom have recently outgrown the Tools for Life Fair. SALN has just put on their first SALN conference.

-Disability Mentoring Day. These activities were only happening in one region of Idaho's 7-region state.  This past October, however, six regions participated in Disability Mentoring Day. The day matches high school students with community members for job shadowing and networking in each student's employment area of interest.

To learn everything you ever wanted to know about Idaho's Tools for Life Fair, read their impressive (and
attractive!) 2010 Post-Conference Report.

Register/learn about Idaho's 7th Annual Tools for Life Fair, March 7th and 8th, 2011 in Idaho Falls
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Virtual Worlds to Support Transition in Georgia

The National Science Foundation has awarded researchers at Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia (UGA) $1.47 M for an exciting new program to benefit students studying science, technology engineering, and math (STEM). The 5-year grant funds the Georgia STEM Accessibility Alliance to build a 3-D virtual learning environment for high school and college students with disabilities as well as STEM faculty and teachers.

"The influence of digital media has changed the way young people learn, play and socialize," notes Robert Todd, principal investigator for Georgia Tech. "The grant will allow us to take advantage of the these new spaces and engage young people in a way that is fun, empowering, and effective."

Todd, along with Noel Gregg and Michael Hannafin of UGA, plans to build a one-of-a-kind virtual Mentoring Island where students meet and interact with mentors to address their STEM education needs. Participants will include students from Georgia Perimeter College, and the school systems of Georgia's Greene, Clarke, and Gwinnett counties. Georgia's Tools for Life (AT Act program) is a collaborating partner.

"There is terrific potential for this program model to integrate with our High School/High Tech curriculum and supports," notes AT Programs Manager Joy Kniskern of Georgia's Dept. of Labor. "We're excited to provide yet another avenue for mentorship and to help channel motivated students to this new virtual environment" (see HS/HT in this newsletter).

So what, exactly, is a Mentoring Island?

According to Todd, the Mentoring Island will be an online 3-D virtual world where students, teachers and faculty enter and interact through the use of avatars.  (To get a feel for this technology, check out Second Life.)

And what is an avatar?

Avatars are animated characters. Each participant chooses an avatar to represent his/her physical self. Entering a virtual world is a bit like entering a Pixar movie. It's fun, appealing, and entirely in each participant's control. For example, on the Mentoring Island a student or teacher who uses a wheelchair in real life can continue to use a chair online, or s/he might choose to be someone entirely different, even fantastical.

How will the Mentoring Island teach?

Avatars will interact with one another in virtual classroom spaces designed to exemplify the best of universal design in the real world. In these fantasy learning environments, student participants will obtain real assistance:  mentoring and teaching, social networking, academic support, transition assistance, and research participation. In addition, participating teachers and faculty will be able to virtually access training modules on universal design and evidence-based teaching strategies for their virtual and real-world classrooms and labs.

What are the GSAA's goals?

The project will serve as a pipeline between secondary and postsecondary institutions to strengthen students with disabilities' capacities to access and succeed in STEM programs across critical junctures: high school, two-year college, four-year college, graduate school. The program seeks to increase the number of students with disabilities enrolling in STEM classes and majors; increase their retention and graduation rates; and increase their rate of entry into STEM graduate programs.  The researchers are excited that the model has potential to build a large user community of students and teachers who would not otherwise reach each other. They also see a potential broader application for the media to build national and international communities among STEM stakeholders.

Congratulations Georgia!

Nifty Product: DAISYtoEPUB  

Did you know that those NIMAS, DAISY
and Bookshare digital text files don't work on iPad, Nook, Sony Reader or Android devices? Yet these are the devices many students depend on. Recently Don Johnston, Inc. has
released a text converter solution to this dilemma.  DAISYtoEPUB
converts NIMAS, DAISY, and Bookshare files to ePub, the format most used by mainstream ebook readers (and Kindle 2 users can use a Kindle converter with the ePub format).


As of this writing, Don Johnson is offering this converter to individuals (for a single hard drive installation) for $99.00, and marketing it to school districts for between $999 and $6,999 (depending on the number of sites).


Learn more at 


Read Brian Friedlander's review at this AssistiveTek post.


Disclaimer: AT Program News makes no endorsement, representation, or warranty expressed or implied for any product, device, or information set forth in this newsletter. AT Program News has not examined, reviewed, or tested any product or device referred to in this electronic newsletter or at

8 Online Transition Resources
PDF download from the Wisconsin AT Initiative (WATI)

2. Student Resource Guide on Transition

PDF download, also from WATI

3. Questions to Ask Colleges about AT Resources
LD Online Web page

3. Preparing for College: An Online Tutorial (for students with disabilities)

DO-IT Web page

4. Healthy and Ready to Work National Resource Center
Transition to work resources

5. Family Information Guide to Assistive Technology and Transition
Family Center on Technology and Disability Web page

6. Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology Transition
QIAT Web page

7. Students: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
US DOE Office of Civil Rights Web page for students with disabilities preparing for postsecondary education

7 Common Transition  Planning Errors
  1. Lack of self-determination, self-awareness and self-advocacy on part of the individual with a disability (and/or advocate).
  2. Lack of adequate long range planning on part of sending and receiving agencies (timelines).
  3. Inadequate communication and coordination.
  4. Failure to address funding responsibility.
  5. Inadequate evaluation (documentation, data, communication, valued across settings) process.
  6. Philosophical differences between sending and receiving agencies.
  7. Lack of understanding of the law and their own responsibilities.
(Thanks to Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology [QIAT] for these reminders.)
Chairman Miller asks GAO to Examine Effectiveness
 of Federally-funded Secondary Transition Programs

September 14, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC-- U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, today asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine the effectiveness of federal programs that exist to help students with disabilities transition from high school to college or the workforce [....]

"Currently, educators across the United States are striving to ensure that all public school students are college and career ready to enable their success in this global economy," Miller wrote. "However, students with disabilities often face academic, physical, social, and economic challenges when transitioning from high school to postsecondary education or the workforce. As a result, they are less likely than other students to make this transition successfully.

"The federal government plays a significant role in supporting students with disabilities through a variety of programs. I remain concerned about whether federal efforts adequately provide a comprehensive, coordinated approach to transition services for youth with disabilities," Miller said in the letter.

Read the full text of the letter at this Committee on Education and Labor Web page

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