Graphic: The Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement

John Velton

Audio transcript: On dealing with skepticism about the costs and benefits of the Computer Training Project
Date: January 9, 1997
Interviewer: Sharon Bonney

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

Why did DR look at it as an expensive program? You were serving some of the most severely disabled people in the state, and it had a 90 percent success rate in terms of people being placed and getting jobs, which is the ultimate goal of all of DR, and it was only a nine-month program. So even if it was very expensive for one person for that nine months, why didn't DR consider that a really good deal knowing that 90 percent of the people that went through it would be employed in good jobs—or could be if they had the potential to do that—from then on?

There was always skepticism. In Fred Collignon's case, he went to the state legislators, and they just blew the whole thing out of the water, but it was kind of a dangerous thing to do because it was doing an end run around the bureaucracy. And there was always a skepticism; at different times they'd say, "You aren't placing these people," and you'd have to come up with reports and show them that you were placing people. There were other factors which worked against it, I suppose, because this resulted in their counting this cost from time to time, off and on, in the costs of the Oakland district. So the Oakland district was always one of the most expensive districts in the state. Some people, without looking at the results necessarily, would simply say, "This is the most expensive; why are you so expensive? Why are you this expensive on a per-client basis or any other basis?" Some other time someone came through from Washington, D.C., or somewhere else, and they would brag about the program and then forget about the costs. It was sort of an ambivalence about the program.

I don't know, maybe I was never that able to come up with an adequate answer in their terms or anyone else's. It just always seemed to be that way even though they would acknowledge CTP's value and be proud of the fact that we had this very active business advisory committee. Maybe it was jealousy in some other districts that they didn't have a program like this, and they had to send clients there. I could think of various motives, but it seemed like we were never completely free of this skepticism about high cost.

Then later on, even though we had initially tried to establish a program here at the community college, they did succeed in establishing a program in southern California through a community college. That program incidentally had the same problem that the placement program had, but they sort of looked the other way.

It was mainly that you're spending money, but either the community college had to bend the rules or the department had to bend the rules because not all of the money that was spent on the program by the department could be spent exclusively on DR clients, or the community college was shutting out people who wanted to be in the program, and they were not clients of the department so they couldn't be in the program. But that was a question which they overlooked. It would be ideal to have the program supported by the community college and have it funded in some other way. But we were never able to find a way of doing that up here which would fully meet all the needs of the disabled clients.

It wasn't just a matter of teaching them computer programming; it was all of the supportive aspect of independent living and helping this person to move from someone who perhaps in some cases lacked full independence to someone who was able to go to work every day as a computer programmer when they graduated. It was quite a stretch for some of them to grow that fast in that period of time. I guess it makes me wish I had been brighter and more gifted in selling the program [laughter]. But anyway, it has persisted and has survived and that's what counts.

End of transcript

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