A Letter from Noel Gunther
A letter from Noel Gunther, LD OnLine’s executive director, on the relaunch of LD OnLine.
Hi, again. It’s been 10 years since we launched LD OnLine – and 10 years since I wrote this piece letting the world know that we exist. At first, the world didn’t much care. The Internet was just starting to take hold and at times only 30 or 40 people would visit our site all day. But LD OnLine now embraces an enormous community of users around the world. Each month, we serve more than 250,000 people in more than 100 countries… and we hear from many of you every day.
One thing hasn’t changed in ten years. We still feel an enormous sense of responsibility: to find good information; to present it well; to respond when you contact us; and above all, to get things right.
Who we are
LD OnLine is produced by WETA, the PBS station in Washington, D.C. We are, emphatically, a nonprofit. And like the best shows on public TV, we take complicated topics and do our best to present them in a thoughtful, appealing way. Since launching LD OnLine back in 1996, we’ve introduced two sister sites: ReadingRockets.org (teaching young children to read) and ColorinColorado.org (a bilingual site for the parents and teachers of English language learners). Elizabeth Campbell, the founder of WETA, used to say that there are three great educational institutions in America: the public schools, the public libraries, and public broadcasting. We try to live up to that.
How we keep the site going
Like most nonprofits, we piece together funding from multiple sources. We’ve had a lot of foundation support. We’ve had generous corporate donors like Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes. We also rely increasingly on our online store and advertisements in our Yellow Pages. So when you buy a DVD from us, or place a Yellow Pages ad, you’re making a major contribution to supporting LD OnLine.
How we operate
We’re completely independent editorially. We don’t lobby or get involved in politics: we report on what’s happening, but we don’t try to influence the outcome. That’s up to you.
Who we serve
We seek to serve everyone who is interested in learning disabilities and ADHD. That means parents and teachers of children with LD plus teens and adults with learning disabilities, principals, tutors, school psychologists, speech pathologists, researchers, university students, and many others.
What we stand for
We try to be:
This is our primary goal. The questions we take on are critical in people’s lives: How to teach a student who’s struggling. How to help a child who feels isolated or rejected. How to obtain the services that a child or adolescent badly needs. And how to make a successful transition to the world of college or work. We aim to be accurate, up-to-date, and research-based.
We have a lot of long-time users: veteran teachers, knowledgeable principals, parents who have been with us for years. But this is not a private club. We try to make our site inviting to everyone – including the parent or first year teacher visiting the site for the first time who may not even know what a learning disability is.
Children with learning disabilities often struggle at school. And because learning disabilities can affect your social skills, kids with LD sometimes have difficulties making friends and keeping them. We try to be mindful of the social side of LD, as well as the academic side.
Louisa Moats once said: “Teaching reading IS rocket science.” Like her, I’m in awe of great teachers. You have to know a subject inside out, explain it well, connect with all kinds of children, and show up for work at 8:00 every morning ready to perform in front of a crowd. That’s a tough job.
Learning disabilities touch every corner of our society. Our site seeks to serve women and men; whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians; rich, middle class, and poor; people with disabilities – everyone.
Many users come to us frustrated or upset. Their children are struggling, or they are. We don’t have a magic pill. But we do our best to present proven, sensible ideas for making things better.
We aim to have simple navigation, appealing graphics, and to be especially open to text readers and other assistive technology. We’re committed to the idea of universal design, so that our site can serve the needs of people with visual impairments, hearing problems, and other disabilities as well. We value clear, jargon-free writing and video content that’s well-produced. Some nonprofit sites are worthy but dull. We try to be lively.
Open to all
Many sites serve only parents, or only teachers, or only principals. We try to serve everyone, and to pull back the curtain that often separates home and school. We’d like parents to see what teachers are doing, and teachers to understand what parents experience. We offer bulletin boards where a worried parent can post a question at midnight and find a helpful response fifteen minutes later. We offer a lot of first person material, too, from adults and children. Much of that content is very personal, and deeply moving. We’ve tried to create an environment where people can support each other.
Who’s helped out
From the beginning, LD OnLine has lived with soaring dreams and a modest budget. We’re deeply indebted to the many people who have contributed their ideas, energy, and expertise.
Candace Cortiella (1996-2000), Kathleen Ross-Kidder (2000-2003), and Karen Lange (2004-present) have managed the site with intelligence, passion and skill.
Rick Lavoie, Matt Cohen, Larry Silver, and Louise Spear-Swerling have generously contributed content and guidance over a long period of time.
Sally Bowles, Shirley Cramer, Laura Rogers, and Neil Sturomski are among the many people who have offered thoughtful suggestions and advice.
Pam McKeta adeptly managed our recent overhaul, with stellar contributions from Caron Baker, Kelly Deckert, Todd Holden Sun Kim, Karen Lange, Joanne Meier, Lia Salza, Stacey Schwartz, Jess Snyder, Anne Chesnut, and HZDG.
And we’ve had hundreds of people who have made a difference by writing articles for the site, including us in their newsletters, inviting us to their conferences, distributing flyers, and gently deflecting our weaker ideas and correcting our mistakes.
Finally, we are enormously grateful to Rayna Aylward, Nanci and Alison Bell, Laurie Bouchard, Sally Bowles, Suzanne and Jeffrey Citron, Sylvia Clark, Alexa Culwell, Laura Hobart, Stewart Hudson, Lois Mitchell, Peggy O’Brien, William Pease, Ian Portnoy, Steve Rossi, Jodell Seagrave, and Burton Tremaine, John Tremaine, and their extraordinary family for believing in us enough to underwrite our work. They, and their organizations, have made it possible for us to serve you.