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Dear Fellow CUNY SPS Students,

I wanted to say thank you to all the wonderful students, faculty and staff who I’ve had the privilege to learn from and work with these last few years.  I owe much to this school and the relationships I’ve formed here.

I am also deeply honored to have been elected to and serve upon the first Student Association here at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.  Thank you for voting me into this position.  Indeed, I am grateful to have worked alongside my Student Association colleagues.  Being a member of the Student Association is an endeavor I hope all of you will get to experience.

While I am happy to be graduating at the end of this semester, I am sorry to be leaving this school and the many people who have supported me here.  This also means that I must leave the Student Association (along with my awesome colleagues; Linda Y., Misty G. and Jacqueline R. who are also graduating or otherwise ineligible to run).

However, there are three members of the association who are still eligible to run again and having witnessed their hard work and dedication to what we’ve begun; I would like to endorse the candidacies of Shakima Williams, Yvette Humphries and Leonard Blades.

It is my hope that their re-election will help to establish the Student Association as an inclusive and hardworking representation of the students at CUNY SPS and dedicated to supporting and helping as many students as is possible.  Indeed, I expect that many of the initiatives we’ve put into place and the initiatives that future SA representatives will put into place, will support the students of CUNY SPS for years to come.

Let me express my thanks to my classmates, my Student Association colleagues and the faculty and staff at CUNY SPS for their friendship and support as I finish this chapter of my life.


Daniel K. Chan

Daniel Chan is a belated student who took the 20+ year plan to get his Bachelor’s Degree. He recently received his M.A. in Disability Studies and is working on his M.S. in Disability Services in Higher Education. His proudest academic achievement is still his GED.

Last semester, I attended the CUNY IT Conference to learn about new innovations in Assistive Technology and Accessibility Information.  I was just waiting for some colleagues and looking at my nametag when there was this realization that I’ve done alright (amazing what a simple nametag can do).

The backstory is that I am a high school dropout and I had little direction for a long time, I was truly just wasting my life away (long story). That is until I found my calling working with people diagnosed with various disabilities.

Fast forward, I finally earned my bachelor’s degree in 2011 (the same year I got married), I like to say I took the 20+ year plan.  Now, today I’m working on my second master’s degree, and working as the Assistant Director of a Disability Service Office for a major New York City college.  I’ve also got great colleagues, great friends, great family and a great wife! I’ve done alright, indeed.

Sometimes in unsettled times, one has to remember how far one has come and just say, “I’ve done alright.”

Now tell me, have you done alright?

Daniel Chan is a belated student who took the 20+ year plan to get his Bachelor’s Degree. He recently received his M.A. in Disability Studies and is working on his M.S. in Disability Services in Higher Education. His proudest academic achievement is still his GED.

The election is over and we have a new President. Not the one I wanted admittedly (for several reasons), but the election is over and Mr. Trump won.

Now, unlike what President-elect Trump and what some of his supporters said in the run up to the election; I DO recognize the legitimacy of the electoral process. I do NOT advocate for armed rebellion because the candidate I supported did not win. I DO recognize that he is the President–elect and no, I do NOT hope for his “removal” by extrajudicial means.

I DO hope we can come back from all this and at least put on the veneer of civility but I admit that may be difficult because of some “words” that may have been said/typed in the heat of anger. Most importantly, I DO hope that President-Elect Trump means what he says when he says he will be a President for ALL Americans.

I DO hope his definition of Americans will include minorities, immigrants, and people of different faiths, people with disabilities and differing sexual orientations and identities.

Good luck President-elect Trump, we’ll all need it.


Daniel Chan is a belated student who took the 20+ year plan to get his Bachelor’s Degree. He recently received his M.A. in Disability Studies and is working on his M.S. in Disability Services in Higher Education. His proudest academic achievement is still his GED.

Part 5: Perceptible Information, the fourth principle of Universal Design
by Antonia Levy, Christopher Leydon & Chris Kchao

This month we discuss the fourth principle of Universal Design (UD), Perceptible Information, meaning that “the design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.”

Guidelines for adherence to this principle include:

  • Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) of presentation for essential information.
  • Provide adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings.
  • Maximize “legibility” of essential information.
  • Differentiate elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy to give instructions or directions).
  • Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations.

CUNY SPS Universal Design and Learning Accessible KeypadPractical examples for this principle are tactile features on numeric keypads for blind users, which usually include a dot on the 5 key, a tactile circle on the enter/confirm button and a tactile x on the cancel/clear button. Consumer devices such as thermostats or infrastructure such as pedestrian signals now employ a combination of tactile, visual, and audible cues to be accessible to all.

In education, this principle calls for providing essential information in a variety of modes (e.g., written, symbolic, tactile, verbal) thereby ensuring effective communication with all users regardless of their sensory abilities. This includes making all (online) instructional materials accessible to users of screen reading software as demonstrated in this video.

For an expert account of how screen readers, we turned to guest contributor Chris Kchao, who handles assistive technology in the Office of Student Disability Services here at CUNY SPS.

Screen readers, sometimes referred to by the general term screen access programs, allow blind or visually impaired users to gain access to written information on electronic devices. Text is typically either read aloud by a synthetic voice or output to a refreshable Braille display. The function of a screen reader is not simply to render any text available on screen, but to facilitate interaction between the person and the user interface. In practical terms, the screen reader doesn’t just voice the text, but also provides contextual information about the item being read (whether it’s a menu, button, checkbox, link, etc). For instance, here’s the output from the NVDA screen reader when a user presses the Windows start key:

Windows 7 Start MenuStart menu, Search Box, edit: Search programs and files.

By way of these prompts, a user is informed not only of what the screen says, but also how to proceed. Among other things, we’re told that a menu is present, and that we’re focused on an edit field in which we may begin entering text.

When a screen reader encounters a document embedded on a website or posted in a Blackboard course site and the user opens it, that document also needs to be accessible to the screen reading software in order for a visually impaired person to access the content. PDF documents, for example, are only accessible when text contained in them is searchable. They should include other “hidden” features, called tags that are added for accessibility purposes only and have no visible effect on the PDF. Such tags include descriptive text for images (called Alt Text) or structure tags (called headings) added to titles, subtitles, etc.

Note that most PDFs created using a scanner are considered inaccessible because they are simply images of the page, which means that a screen reader cannot recognize any of the text. For various ways to make PDF documents accessible to all, see our quick guide or video tutorial with detailed instructions.

PDFs may also be created by conversion from another type of file, such as Word or PowerPoint. If you follow accessibility guidelines when creating those source documents, and then “save  as” a PDF, the accessibility features such as headings or Alt Text for images will carry over into your PDF document. See our Accessibility Resources Site for additional tutorials explaining how to create accessible Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents as well adding captions to your YouTube videos.

Classroom Accessibility (Crippin)

This article is part of an ongoing series introducing the concept of Universal Design (UD) as it applies to the context of higher education and to our work at CUNY SPS. Each installment covers one of the seven principles of UD with practical examples for both faculty and staff, including things you might not immediately associate with accessibility—or inaccessibility. Catch you next time!

Questions or feedback? Email Antonia Levy or Christopher Leydon.

There are few professions (or callings) that are as dichotomous (my college education at work) in the American conscious as disability service. Almost all of us who is or has worked in disability service have heard some variation of “you’re such a good person,” or “god will reward you for your work.” We may indeed be good people and divine reward (which is always in some undefined future date) is appreciated, but we disability service providers do live in the here and now.

Here in lies the dichotomy (Professor Hamm would be proud!); the general public seems to feel (or express their) gratitude for the work that we do (sometimes in the most awkward way). After all, we provide services and support for some of the most vulnerable and powerless groups in the United States (perhaps a loved one or someone you know is a member of this group). We have cared for and taught (and learned from) these individuals. We have shared incredible triumphs and sometimes devastating loss both with and because of these folks. Indeed, I recall a “tough as nails” colleague shedding (more than a few) tears at a funeral for a resident of a home I worked at. Working in this field, I’ve also done things I would never have imagined. Indeed, one of my proudest moments (admittedly, I didn’t think so at the time) is when I became a full-fledged member of the PSC guild (NOT Professional Staff Congress but Professional SH*T Cleaner). That experience changes a person and for the better (though it takes a bit of time to recognize that).

Yet despite this, Direct Support Professionals (those who work directly with individuals with an intellectual/developmental disability) only earn about $12 an hour in NYC. This can be confirmed by a causal perusal (I may as well get some use out of my education) of employment websites. Let us use that figure of $12 an hour and say 7 hours a day for 5 days a week. That comes to $420 a week and I’m guessing $330 after taxes (where are the accounting majors?). This in turn comes to about $1320 or so a month for what is (truly) difficult physical and emotional work in one of the most expensive cities in the world. This poor pay forced many of my colleagues to work multiple jobs to keep ends in sight of each other (getting ends to meet usually meant someone was on vacation or sick and you got their hours). This of course not only impacts on job efficiency and job appreciation but it impacts directly upon the health of those we count on to ensure the good health of people with disabilities.

Admittedly, things get better as one climbs the ladder, but one should be under no illusion that wage equality exists. In general a person with an equivalent education, experience, and title will make less in disability service then in other fields.  According to the Pay Scale website, an executive director makes about $71,000 a year and mid-level manager around $40,000 a year. For a good cry, contrast with other industries to see the disparity.  The question is then why do people who care for people, are praised for the kind of work they do, then get the short end of the stick when it comes to being paid a decent wage?

Having said all this, I still love this field. Along with my wife (Hi babe!) and family, this field gave me direction when I had none. It gave me a purpose or as some would say; a calling. I’ve also been fortunate in that my work was noted by various supervisors (not all, unfortunately) and I’ve been promoted a few times with commiserate raises in wages. The field also largely funded my undergraduate and graduate educations. I’ve managed to stay in the field while changing focus. I recently left non-profit disability service and entered into the world of higher education disability service. The environment and the populations I work for (and with) are different but “the calling” remains the same.

Working in disability services can sometimes be difficult and often challenging (physically and emotionally) but all in all, it is an honorable field that one can be proud to be a part of. What I hope for is that one day; it can also be a field which yields wages where one will not have to work multiple jobs to support themselves or their families.

Daniel Chan is a belated student who took the 20+ year plan to get his Bachelor’s Degree. He recently received his M.A. in Disability Studies and is working on his M.S. in Disability Services in Higher Education. His proudest academic achievement is still his GED.