The University Faculty Senate Committee on Disabilities Issues
The City University of New York

Enabling Access to Excellence

Brooklyn College Article in CUNY Matters,
WInter 1998

BROOKLYN’S GOLDSTEIN CENTER: Assistive Resources For Disabled Students
by Roberta Adelman

"I had to get back to school, but I didn’t know how,” recalls Cheryl Spear, who lost her sight several years ago. But in the end—with the help of Jaws, a Dragon, Sticky Keys, and other exotic learning aids—she found her way not only to campus but to a degree. Cheryl graduates from Brooklyn College next month with a major in psychology. 

Easing Cheryl’s journey diploma-wards was a remarkable array of devices on the cutting edge of assistive technology. These allowed her to do a statistics problem in 30 minutes instead of the seven hours it used to take. With a professor’s hand-outs entered on a disk, special software enabled Cheryl’s computer to read them aloud to her. She was able to pursue research projects with very little help from others— scanning journal articles, for example, with the Reading Edge, loading them on a disk,and using voice output to cut and paste her materials into draft form. Only then is a reader needed to help her edit.

Cheryl is one of many students with a disability who enjoys the rapidly expanding array of assistive technology now available at the College’s Mamie and Frank Goldstein Resource Center. Last October, she was among the speakers at a special event sponsored by the Center that was attended by Brooklyn College President Vernon E. Lattin, Public Schools Chancellor Rudolph F. Crew, and the Center’s most enthusiastic supporter, Stanley Goldstein. A highlight of the day-long event was a tour of the adaptive machines now available at the Goldstein Center, as well as at the Library and Computer Lab. Guests saw in operation, for instance, one of two screen magnification software systems available at the Center, Zoom Text. This enlarges text and graphics up to 16 times actual printed size, and text can be viewed a portion at a time and read at different speeds.

Goldstein Center students also have a choice of keyboards. One has large keys with raised Braille; another is flat and only requires a soft touch (Intellikeys). There is even a special keyboard (Sticky Keys) that stores computer commands and allows the user to hit one key in order to activate several commands.

The visitors were impressed with the screen readers and immediately saw how they could be used by students with different disabilities, including visually impaired and those with learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder.

The Kurzweil Reading Edge is a reading machine that translates printed text into speech. Books of any size can be scanned and read by the machine. It uses the DECtalk voice synthesizer, which can be asked to speak in one of nine voices: four male, four female, and one child’s voice. In addition to seeing computers “speak,” the group also saw that the Center’s computers can take dictation from what a student says. This is done with voice recognition software called Dragon Dictate, which prints words onto the computer screen as the student speaks into a microphone.

Among the Center’s other remarkable learning aids is the Tactile Image Enhancer, a device that generates raised documents such as maps, illustrations, or charts and can be felt by visually impaired students. There is also software—Jaws and PW Web Speak—that allows these same students to browse the Web by reading the text aloud.

Thus, students with different disabilities were able to demonstrate how the Goldstein Center’s technology enhances their studies. One student has carpel tunnel syndrome, another injured his hand in a work-related accident, and yet another has a learning disability: they all use Dragon Dictate to help them write their papers. One student, like many others with limited hand coordination, uses the special flat keyboard that only requires a soft touch. A partially sighted student does not need a reader to do her tests; she simply reads them using Zoom Text.

The Center is administered by the College’s Services for Students with Disabilities Program and currently serves about 250 students.
While there is now  technology throughout Brooklyn College, the Center has the largest concentration of assistive technology and is the prototype for the campus as well as the CUNY system.

[Picture -
Dr. Gregory Kuhlman, Director of the Brooklyn College Personal Counseling and Career Services Center, with a student at one of the Goldstein Center’s Zoom Text computers. Photo, Steve Jordan. ]

The Center was renovated in 1994 as a result of a gift from two alumni, Stanley Goldstein and Edith Goldstein Isaacs, in honor of their parents. It was Stanley Goldstein who made the October celebration possible, and it was his idea to reach out to New York City’s public schools to inform prospective matriculants with disabilities about the assistive support they will enjoy on campus.

[Picture - Longtime Brooklyn College supporter Stanley Goldstein]

Goldstein graduated from Brooklyn College in 1959 with a B.S. in accounting. He was a C.P.A. for most of his professional life and was a founder of the firm of Goldstein, Golub, and Kessler—all three, incidentally, are Brooklyn College graduates. For the last 18 years he has been a private investor for small firms. An Alumni Association president for two years, he has just celebrated his silver anniversary as a board member of the Brooklyn College Foundation. He also provided outstanding service to the University as Co-Chairperson of the Higher Education Task Force on Student Activity Fees in the mid-1970s.

Goldstein traces his interest in helping students with disabilities to two life experiences. When he was an undergraduate he came to know a fellow student who was blind. He was profoundly impressed by this individual, who overcame his obstacles, graduated, and succeeded in life. Goldstein explains, “To help students with disabilities is a great satisfaction to me for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that I still believe in the old-fashioned concept of selfhelp. No people exemplify the virtues of selfhelp more than those who suffered disabilities and yet persevere and attend college.”

His other motivation is more personal. His son, who is dyslexic, went to a college that had a very good program for students with disabilities, but he didn’t make use of these services because he felt a stigma was attached. Goldstein has been eager and delighted to help make available—without stigma—a core of disability programs, services, and assistive technology that will level the playing field for collegiate students with disabilities. “They are demonstrating that the human spirit has enormous and enduring power.”

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