I believe that the best way to further inclusion of persons with disabilities is to tell the stories of the organizations and leaders that are making a difference. Progress is being made all over the world and I want to highlight efforts coming out of Atlanta, Georgia. I have had the pleasure to collaborate with Dr. Christopher Lee and his team at AMAC Accessibility Solutions and Research Center (AMAC). AMAC is part of the Georgia Institute of Technology located in the College of Architecture.
Dr. Christopher Lee has been an advocate and pioneer in promoting social entrepreneurship to benefit humankind and further strive for sustainable social change in the field of disabilities.
Why does Dr. Lee care about the community of persons with disabilities? He is part of the community and was diagnosed with a cognitive deficit disorder in the second grade. He was placed in special education and speech classes.
Dr. Lee describes his dyslexia in this way: “Nothing I hear seems to stick with me and nothing I say seems to come out right. It is as though I am in a world where the air is packed with floating symbols. I watch as everyone swallows the symbols, digesting them to produce something that everyone else understands, but I can only swallow bits and pieces. Choking, I remain hungry in my struggle to find a way to communicate and comprehend effectively.”
He recalls being a student and standing in front of the classroom, he did his best to recall the ways to spell, to read and to say the right words and phrases. He understood that he needed to recall and use the words and phrases in the correct order to be able to connect and communicate with his peers and teachers.
He spent hours organizing his thoughts and preparing for presentations in front of his classmates. He tried to find ways to help him get his thoughts across to his peers and teachers. The efforts left him feeling very alone and frustrated, and in his mind and heart he longed to decipher the code of language.
Dr. Lee has built a lot of character and drive to make the world a better place for individuals with learning disabilities and other disabilities. He admits to being a perfectionist and he worked very hard to fit in and succeed in a world that is not set up for his “twisted perception of language.”
He was determined to go to college and scored low scores on his SAT due to his severe visual and audio process disorders. He had to work his way through developmental studies before he was mainstreamed at the University of Georgia (UGA).
“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” Wayne W. Dyer
He notes that his story is not unique from the high percentage of people in the United States and all over the world who are also dealing with learning disabilities. This story is experienced by parents and teachers globally. Many “experts” expected him to fail, but he worked hard and decided to become a success story and a beacon of hope for others with learning disabilities.
His motivation to become a collegiate swimmer athlete at UGA drove him hard to create his own academic action plan which included strategies, tools like assistive technology, and most importantly, a strong tutoring and mentoring network.
He also developed a communication strategy that included the use of role-playing activities where he perfected how to disclose his learning disabilities. He became an expert in and promoting his strengths and managing his weaknesses.
Today he holds multiple college degrees including a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Speech Communication from University of Georgia. He also earned a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Social Psychology from Union Institute and University.
His work has centered on the innovation of new models and techniques to support accessible electronic information in corporate, governmental and nonprofit entities. Dr. Lee is an internationally recognized advocate, author, speaker, principal investigator and leader in the fields of learning disabilities and assistive technology.
In1992, at age twenty-three Christopher wrote his first book, Faking It: A Look into the Mind of a Creative Learning. This book can be purchased on Amazon by following this link: http://ow.ly/Avs8V
In 2003, he was highlighted in Microsoft “Accessible Technology for Everyone”, a Microsoft video and publication. http://www.microsoft.com/enable/
In 2007, he was featured in the PBS series “A Chance to Read”, hosted by Molly Ringwald, which highlights new strategies driven by emerging research that shows what’s happening across the country to help children with disabilities find success. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us8-tG6R024
Today Dr. Christopher Lee is the Founder, Director and Department Head of the AMAC Accessibility Solutions and Research Center (AMAC), located in the College of Architecture of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. AMAC is committed to promoting technological innovation and developing effective user-centered products and services for individuals with disabilities.
AMAC’s mission is to address unmet accessibility needs in government, non-profits, and corporations by providing products that benefit those with physical or cognitive impairments. AMAC has pioneered a cost-effective, replicable, scalable, full service center for alternative, digital and captioned media for college students with disabilities, along with the downloadable assistive technology software. AMAC receives baseline operational funds from the University System of Georgia (USG).
AMAC services and costs vary depending on the annual membership status of its 2,287 participating institutions. AMAC offers a variety of services to meet the individual needs of students with print-related disabilities and post-secondary institutions.
Christopher has been recognized for his advocacy and leadership many times and most recently was awarded a “Campus Technology Innovators Award for 2014”. AMAC was also awarded a coveted “Zero Project Award 2013” from The World Future Council and the European Foundation Centre.
To learn more about Dr. Christopher Lee’s work, please visit AMAC at http://www.amacusg.org/
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