Technology aids disabled ‘middle college’ students

Technology is helping high school students with learning disabilities take college courses, writes Michael Yudin,acting assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

In the heart of Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara Unified School District and Mission College have created Mission Middle College to enable students to earn college credit while still in high school. High expectations  and e-literacy services build students’ confidence, said program coordinator Jennifer Lang-Jolliff. All students develop a postsecondary plan that includes attending community college or a university.

Students with visual impairments, physical disabilities and severe learning disabilities are helped to find the right assistive technology, computer software application or device to help them achieve academically. Students with reading problems can use Bookshare, a free and federally funded online library developed by Benetech, a Palo Alto company.

Bookshare provides timely access to curriculum in digital formats and offers a large collection of eBooks (currently over 190,000 books and growing) as well as reading technologies to enable students to experience multimodal learning—the ability to see and hear text read aloud.

Kate Finnerty, a high school senior with dyslexia, uses Bookshare to keep up with reading and research. She plans to study graphic design in college.

6’8″ transsexual plays women’s basketball

At 6 feet 8, Gabrielle Ludwig is the tallest player on the Mission College (California) women’s basketball team. She’s also the oldest, at 50. But she hasn’t been a woman for very long. Ludwig had a sex change operation in July.

As a young man, Ludwig briefly played at an East Coast community college and in pregame warm-ups before the Dec. 1 tournament championship game, she displayed a natural shooting touch.

“In time,” said Corey Cafferata, her coach, “she will be the most dangerous player in the state.”

Ludwig hopes her play will set an example “for the kids who are transgenders in high school, for the people who hate transgender people and for those learning to deal with transgenders, transsexuals.” A scientist, she is a Desert Storm veteran and a father.

Ludwig is not the first transsexual player to suit up in the athletic association.”Two years ago, a Cosumnes River College woman, formerly a man, played a season for the Sacramento-area women’s basketball team with little fanfare.”

Dale Murray, commissioner for the Coast Conference, which oversees Mission College and other South Bay community colleges, doesn’t see any controversy. ”She just happens to be a bit taller than everyone else,” he said. “What if she was born a female and 6-foot-5? She’s a little older than other community college players, so that’s probably to her disadvantage.”