Monday, August 20, 2007

Inspiration comes in many forms

I was interested in the below linked news article just because it pointed out the sharp downturn in the number of female computer science undergraduates at major research universities. (FYI, that figure cited in the article was down from 37% in 1985 to only 17% in 2006.) However, I grew much more interested in one young woman the article highlighted, as well as her mother and the project they have launched.

article is originally about
A camp, held at sponsor Microsoft Corporation’s Redmond, Washington campus, whose aim is to help interest girls in careers in the field of technology.

According to the article,” The goal of each of the camps is to educate and inspire girls by introducing them to the many opportunities and career choices available in the high-tech industry, and break down the stereotypes associated with these typically male-dominated careers.”

The goal of the camp is inspiring, given the dwindling numbers of females in the computer science programs. If the numbers are accurate, an implication involving young women with disabilities would mean that they are being further marginalized. Programs such as this camp need to be spurred along to encourage opportunities and also to allow the young women realize what opportunities truly exist for them.

The particular woman I refer to at the opening of this post is Logan Olson. She inspires me for many reasons.

Logan attended the camp managing her life after she sustained a brain injury after a 2001 heart attack when she was only 16 years old. She received CPR for roughly 20 minutes and was in a coma for three weeks. After coming out of the coma, she realized how much her life had changed when she had to relearn how to do many of the daily things most of us take for granted, such as walk, talk, eat, and drink.

In her search for resources to help her daughter’s progress, Logan’s mother Laurie Olson, found that there were no magazines specifically targeting the needs of girls with disabilities. Logan saw the need and went to work filling the void. Together, the Olsons have created
Logan Magazine,
Specifically to serve the niche population of young people with disabilities.

A one-year subscription to the magazine costs $14, netting the subscriber four issues. Payment options allow for both PayPal or by check. If you’re interested in subscribing, you can get information about this on the magazine web site.

While at the DigiGirlz camp, Logan toured the Microsoft Accessibility Lab and got to test drive the Windows Vista speech recognition program which was still being developed. This was one of the breakthroughs for both Microsoft and Logan. She provided them a qualified person who had a need for the technology and they had the technology to fill her need. Logan’s discovery of this technology is the subject of the next issue of the magazine.

Logan’s story illustrates how a program such as DigiGirlz, while not specifically targeting individuals with disabilities, can strongly benefit by inclusion of all. While I have borrowed some of the essential information about Logan in writing this post, please read the entire article to fully appreciate the growth that has occurred from her experience, not to mention a lot more information about DigiGirlz.

Finally, here is the
Wikipedia entry for Logan Magazine.


Assistive technology said...

Thank you for posting this. I think the computer science field needs people from every single walk of life that uses technology to be involved. The perspectives will bring changes to technology that can benefit many.

-Aaron Marks

Ron Graham said...


I agree with you about publicizing events such as this. I know first-hand what a difference a computer can mean for providing access to information to a person with a disability. It is the ultimate medium to provide access and a gateway to the world. We need to do whatever we can to encourage people to be interested in the field of computer science, as computers are such an integrated part of today's world.