Graphic: The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement

David Konkel

Audio transcript: On developing a model of the UC Berkeley campus to help blind students get around, as part of work with the Physically Disabled Students' Program, 1970s
Date: April 21, 2002
Interviewer: Fred Pelka

Note: Transcripts have been lightly edited; therefore there may be slight discrepancies with audio clips.

You were talking about getting to the Berkeley campus and there not being the sound, the sound echoes that you could use to orient yourself in this open space and all.

So you could get really lost on there. I sure as heck got fouled up plenty. What we ended up doing, and I honestly can't remember whose idea it was; I'd like to claim it was my idea, but I simply draw a blank. But, it ended up being quite a big project. We got a company called Architectural Models, Inc., to build a scale model of the Berkeley campus. There was a room in one of the libraries, or a suite, I guess you would say, that blind students used. There were maybe, I don't know, six or eight offices, individual offices, and you could go in there and use a desk or whatever. In kind of the main room, we ended up with this architectural model. Let's see, it was much bigger than a 4 X 8 [foot] piece of plywood. It was maybe 6 X 10 feet, and it was tilted against the wall. So, the bottom part was out a few feet and it had these plastic blocks, and it had all the contours of the hills.

The Berkeley campus is perched up in the Berkeley hills, and so you had—and Braille names for the different buildings, and you had pathways, and the whole bit. So, whenever I'd get new classes, I'd spend a lot of time with this scale model to try to figure out, okay, Dwinelle Hall is here, and so forth. Basically, it helped just immeasurably in terms of getting around on that campus.

I know what I was going to say. One big activity for a blind student is getting books recorded on tape. But that was easy to do. You had to do it. You had to contact your professors in advance, and they were very happy to give you a, sort of a notional list of reading, and then you'd hire readers, and have them do it. That was something that you needed to do, but was really pretty easy to do. But this mobility part was a real challenge, and this model helped very much. That's really the only specific thing I remember doing that benefited blind students on the campus.

When you say, "we did it," you mean the Physically Disabled Students' Program did it?

Yes, that was PDSP.

End of transcript

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