Special Education Resources
University of Virginia
Curry School of Education

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A Little History

This is just an off-hand summary of how the office of special education came to be. Please don't take it too seriously. In fact, please be sure to note that we don't mean to confuse our work with the important work of the U.S. Government's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Service (OSERS) (note that we routinely use the lower case to refer to our little office).

Getting Started

In the spring and summer of 1994, I searched the internet for information relevant to special education and disabilities and began to build a list of resources for the use of students in my classes. As I found material, I became less and less impressed by the quality of what I saw. Mostly, I found gopher directories for a few colleges' and universities' offices for students with disabilities, a couple of organizations' early web pages (e.g., the Crotched Mtn. link), a few compilations of resources (e.g., the Cornucopia of Disability Information), and a few commercial pages (e.g, Evan Kemp's site). These resources, which were reasonably valuable, were intermixed with some items that probably should never have been let out of the kennel; I'll leave unidentified these last items.

I thought, "Sheeesh, things could be better." The internet could provide accurate, trustworthy, and useful information for teachers, parents, professionals, and others. As an initial effort to develop something that would meet those criteria, I asked students in one of my classes to prepare brief summaries of interventions that had been proven to be effective with students with disabilities. (With Joanne Heubusch's later help in organizing the initial set of interventions pages, these eventually became the first of the interventions pages.)

So, Kerri Martin, Sean Smith, and I began to develop a web site for special education and we put it up in the spring of 1995. We wanted it to provide links to the better resources such as the Cornucopia as well as materials that we would create for the web, such as the interventions pages. As we made way, we came upon the budding work of Kansas University site and talked with some of our colleagues there about the work they'd done.

The Office Theme

Initially, we chose as a theme the idea of an office. We also wanted to use images that would suggest solidity and UVa. So, Kerri and Sean wandered around the Grounds taking a few digital images we could use. In fact, our first public version of the materials we'd gathered had as a front page an image of a door with directions to knock. The door was mapped so that knocking (clicking one's mouse) in different places produced different results. We thought it was kind of playful to goof with the "office" theme, so we made the areas of the image that weren't the door lead one to a silly error page. Meanwhile, a knock on the door produced a subsequent GIF, an image of a table with signs on it, as shown here. [door image]


We'd originally wanted to have an animated image of the door, have it open, and have the next image show a room. Superimposed on this image of a room would be navigation arrows that would turn one to the left or right, or take one ahead, in the direction of another door, table, or file cabinet (each of which would be a link to a subsection of our web site). We even talked about animating the movement in the room, as if the person at the other end of the connection had stepped into an animated adventure game. We settled for the table with it's tents, because I exerted such a substantial a negative effect on our collective artistic ability that we probably wouldn't make the thing look good.

[table image]

We began with a structure that included, as shown on the tents in the image of the table, subdirectories for

Gradually, we added pages and links to the existing materials. Meanwhile, the web began to expand extremely rapidly. We had a grip on the anterior appendage of the proverbial large, striped feline. We were finding other materials that didn't fit the (nebulous) structure with which I'd stuck us.


Kerri moved away (physically, but not virtually) and left Sean and me to staff the office. Given Sean's overcommitment and my degree of indolence, we simply continued to make small modifications on the office for a half year. Then, in February of 1996, we made our first major revision in it. We shuffled materials into different sections, making the information section primarily materials developed at UVa, revising the resources section so that it primarily included links developed by others to provide extensive sets of materials, and continuing the professionals section. We added a section organized by category of special education, as we had received lots of mail from users who expressly asked about information about, for example, learning disabilities or attention deficit disorder.

We also modified the look of the office in that revision. We dropped the door and tables in favor of a set of banners organized, we hoped, so that users could tell where they were in the structure. We also added buttons to the top few levels of pages to facilitate navigation.

For fun, we wrote Perl scripts for the top two levels of pages (the initial home page and the home pages for each of the four main directories). We also made the top level of banners have variable images; each time that a browser loaded a page, the page would call one of about a dozen different banners, each of which had a combination of different images of individuals with disabilities and of the UVa Grounds. I'm not sure whether anyone has ever noticed this, though.

At about the same time as we completed this revision, the structure of the Curry School sever was modified and we had to change our url. That meant (and probably still means) that there are several folks who have links to our old location, rather than the new one. For a year, we sustained the old links, but substituted pages that redirected folks who browsed them. They're still taking hits, so we'll have to find the referrers and get them changed.

What's Next

As I write this, we are again revising the office. Rick Brigham has joined the team and I suspect that we'll have to get some more help, as Sean's indicating that he'd like to graduate and get out of here before he gets sucked into too much more work&emdash;but, he'll probably stay with us virtually (in fact, as of August 1997, Sean's at Bolling Green State University in Ohio).

Meanwhile, you can watch for the changes to come. I wrote this originally 6 January 1997, so you can use these notes with the current look to see how far we've gotten. Compare the dates at the bottoms of pages in the office to 6 January 1997 and you'll see how slovenly I am.

John Wills Lloyd

The Team of Contributors






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