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Taking a Break With Robert Spangler

Robert Spangler is the disability services technical support specialist in the Office of Learning Resources. A UD employee for six years, Spangler enjoys practicing foreign languages, talking about current events, and exploring all downtown Dayton has to offer – by bus or on foot. 

What are some of your duties as a disability services technical support specialist?

I like to describe my position as twofold. I take care of all the technology in the Office of Learning Resources and I offer training for any student with a documented disability who needs assistive technology.

What types of assistive technology are available?

One of our most commonly utilized programs is alternative formats. A student with a print disability can request their textbook in an alternative format like a PDF instead of a hard copy and I teach them how to use it. Some students may have physical limitations where they can’t carry textbooks, or there might be someone like me who can't see print. Students who are dyslexic or have other learning disabilities can use assistive technology to read and hear the text at the same time, which gives them multiple pathways for the material to be absorbed. I also train students on dictation so they can talk to their computer just like sending a text on a phone. Technology has played a great role in expanding access for many students with disabilities. 

How do students find your services?

The students usually self-identify to the Office of Learning Resources and are referred to my office. There are about 900-1,000 students registered with the Office of Learning Resources for a documented disability and I work with about 100 each year who need tech services.  

Have you worked with any blind students at UD? 

I know every year we have a few who are low vision, but not enough to where we needed to offer resources in Braille. There was a blind student on campus when I first started working here and when I say blind that way, I’m using myself as an example  – I consider myself pretty blind. Other than that student, we haven’t had a blind student while I’ve been here that I know of. It would be kind of cool if we did, because I’d get to break out these embossers I haven't used at all since I've been here at UD. We’ve got one that can make tactile graphics and one that can do Braille.

Did you always see yourself working in technology?

I've always enjoyed technology, but didn’t major in that in college because math had always been challenging for me. I'd like to enhance my IT career at some point and go into something more specific like networking, which I find fascinating. I do have an A + certification through a company called CompTIA, which offers various IT certifications. A+ means you're kind of a jack of all trades when it comes to computer hardware and software. I know a little about Macs, I know a lot about PCs. I know about MacOS, iOS, Android, Windows — I can use pretty much any operating system even if I might not be a complete expert on all of them. Before coming to UD, I worked for United Way’s 2-1-1 service doing data entry. People call the service to ask about community resources, like food pantries, and I was in charge of maintaining the information and referral database, and keeping all information current.  

What was your original career goal since you didn’t study technology?

It’s interesting because I have an undergraduate degree in Spanish, and I double majored in Spanish and urban studies at the University of Toledo. That has nothing to do with what I do now, but I taught Spanish for about a semester before I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I still love foreign languages and continue to study Spanish. I picked urban planning because I've always had a fascination with cities, walkability and pedestrian issues. When I was in school, I had a class a couple times a week focused on teaching me how to navigate and travel. We did lessons on downtown, suburban and indoor spaces. I loved doing the downtown lessons because I could just walk to find everything I needed. 

What do you think of Dayton’s downtown?

I’m originally from Clayton and went to Northmont High School, so I’m very familiar with this area. I moved back to Dayton in 2015 and lived downtown with my sister, then had my own place in South Park for about 2 1/2 years. Right now I live in Linden Heights near Linden and Smithville and have to travel more by bus. I really liked living downtown because of the walkability and I loved living in South Park too. I used to have my dentist and doctor within walking distance at one point. I think things are getting a lot better downtown in terms of walkability; there's been major investment in recent years with new grocery stores and other cool stuff opening downtown. I think the Flyer RTA bus is also really cool because I can get downtown when I'm here at work. 

Do you have a favorite place to walk in Dayton? 

My mom and I will check out the old buildings downtown and she'll describe them to me. The library used to do walking tours of downtown and we would often do those together. I really enjoy going to Woodland Cemetery and taking those tours as well. They have a History, Mystery, Mayhem and Murder tour where you see the graves of people who were criminals in Dayton history. It's pretty interesting. 

What's been your experience as a staff member at UD?

I haven’t had a problem with any single individual here. Now the layout of the campus is a little challenging. There are a bunch of sidewalks that kind of go in all directions — you might have four sidewalks going to the same place. That’s not unique to UD — Toledo had that — but sometimes I have to figure out which way I'm facing and it can be difficult if I lose my orientation. For example, we have that big sidewalk that goes by St. Mary's toward Kennedy Union and it starts to slope down. One day, I made a slight wrong turn and somehow ended up by the set of steps that lead up to Stewart Street behind Miriam Hall. I retraced my steps the next day to figure out how I got there because I didn’t want this to happen twice. Stairs aren't really a problem for me, but you have to pay close attention because there are random places where there's a flight of stairs, like by St. Joe's going down towards Humanities. If you're not paying attention or not using your cane properly, you might find yourself stumbling down the steps. Overall I think most of the challenges I have here are just learning where things are. 

Other than urban exploration, what else do you like doing for fun?

I love hanging out with family and friends, going out to eat, cooking and going camping once a year. I spend a lot of time on the computer at home too – I'm one of those people who says that if I’m going to work, I want to do something I like doing, so essentially I'm on the computer at UD and at home. And, I'm one of those folks who loves talking about politics. I’m a super opinionated person and I'm passionate about some of these things. It's fascinating to me.

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