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Fall 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Barbara J. Madrigal, Assistant Commissioner, Division for Blind Services

Abstract: this article describes Microsoft’s DigiGirlz High Tech Camp for girls where Assistant Commissioner Barbara J. Madrigal, Employment Assistance Services Manager Susan Hunter, and Special Assistant Bill Agnell served as coaches.

Key Words: blind, visually impaired, disability, DARS Division for Blind Services, Digi-Girlz High Tech Camp, Microsoft, accessibility

This summer, several staff and consum-technology and business roles, thought-proers had the exciting privilege of participat-voking exercises, and interesting Microsoft ing in summer camp. Not just any summer product demonstrations. By participating camp—there was no horseback riding or in the Microsoft DigiGirlz Day, young womtarget practice and we didn’t need any sun-en can find out about the variety of opporscreen. This was the DigiGirlz High Tech tunities available in the high-tech industry Camp for girls, sponsored by Microsoft. and can explore future career paths. The Microsoft DigiGirlz High Tech Camp DARS Division for Blind Services sponfor girls was established in 2000. It aims sored three campers who attended the Di

to dispel stereotypes giGirlz camp in Dallas of the high-tech indusalong with Employment try and seeks to pro-Assistance Specialist vide young people a chance to experience, firsthand, what it’s like Freda Striplin. Transition Counselor Kevin Markel reported that DBS purto develop cutting-edge chased transportation technology. There are DigiGirlz camps across the United States. and Orientation and Mobility services to assist a consumer from Fort Worth in attending During students Microsoft the camp, interact with employees the camp, and Micro-soft purchased JAWS for the student’s camp and managers to gain computer. Ms. Strip-exposure to careers in business and technology and to get an inside lin met the consumer the day before camp to help familiarize her with look at what it’s like to the environment. She work at Microsoft. For observed that this very four days, participants experience tours, quiet and shy consumer was almost afraid discussion groups, seminars, job shadow-to get out of the cab—she didn’t know anying, networking, and many other activities. one and was unfamiliar with the surround-This exciting event provides girls with ca-ings. After one day of camp, however, she reer planning assistance, information about was chattering with her new friends and told Ms. Striplin, “Look, I’m okay. You don’t need to hover!” Both Ms. Striplin and Mr. Markel noted significant gains in confidence as she became more independent in her travel as well as her technology skills.

The camp was so successful that Micro-soft indicated they plan to ask for consumer and staff involvement in planning the camp for next year. All reported that they had “lots of fun” and are looking forward to attending next year.

I also had the privilege of attending camp along with my colleagues, Special Assistant Bill Agnell and Employment Assistance Services Manager Susan Hunter. We attended the DigiGirlz camp at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington, where we served as coaches to the young women participating in the camp. We were each assigned to a group of students and accompanied them as they moved from one class to another.

We observed students as they learned to write SQL (a programming language used for developing databases), toured the Microsoft campus to learn about the variety of jobs in the high tech field, used the Microsoft Robotics SDK to program a robot, learned how to market technology, and designed and created their own super girl character! Oh, the things we learned!

One of the “funnest” events was the “Shoutout Board” where coaches or campers would post compliments whenever they noticed something outstanding. Once a day, all the campers and coaches would congregate at the Shoutout Board to cheer the shoutout recipients. For example, campers were recognized for actively participating in groups, for presenting a different or unique point of view, or for an accomplishment in a workshop. It was great to see these young women develop pride and confidence in their unique skills and abilities.

During our time in Washington, we had the opportunity to meet with Daniel Hub-bell, Microsoft Technical Evangelist, or head of the Microsoft accessibility program. Mr. Hubbell was very passionate about promoting accessibility, and he was very receptive as we shared information about blindness and visual impairment. In fact, he knows most of the DARS-DBS vendors, as our vendors have attended week-long vendor conferences at Microsoft to ensure that they are knowledgeable about and familiar with new Microsoft products. Mr. Hubbell emphasized the importance to Microsoft of having a diverse workforce and finds that employment of people with disabilities provides a valuable resource in helping to ensure that Microsoft products meet customer’s needs.

And that concludes my report on summer camp! I also had “lots of fun” and learned so much about technology, which is really equalizing the playing field for people with disabilities. DBS is looking forward to Digi-Girlz 2010!