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Davis, California

Friday, October 22, 2021

New center provides accessible technology for people with disabilities

UC Davis now has a place on campus where anyone can use assistive technology to help them with school and research.

The grand opening of the Center for Accessible Technology (CAT) took place last week in honor of October being National Disability Awareness Month. The center includes several electronic and ergonomic resources that assist disabled students, staff and faculty.

“(CAT) offers more information about people with disabilities and how they use their products with computers, as well as give (them) access to what everyone already has access to on campus,” said Joshua Hori, co-chair of the Student Disability Center’s Electronic Accessibility Leadership Team.

Dave Ritz, a counselor with Disability Management Services, emphasized that the center is not just for disabled students.

“We tried to make a lab where everybody could go. There is no distinction if you’re faculty, staff or student. You can use the technology on this campus to do your homework or research,” Ritz said.

CAT is located in Shields Library room 163 next to the reserves desk. It is staffed Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We have a room that is really accessible to everyone,” said Alyssa Ng, a junior managerial economics major who works in the center. “We have a lot of software as well.”

Software programs available in the center include Job Access With Speech (JAWS), a text-to-voice software that assists visually disabled people with navigating the computer, and Dragon Naturally Speaking, a software that converts spoken words into written text.

In addition to the learning programs, the center provides large-screen adjustable monitors, adjustable tables and chairs and various styles of keyboards and mice. The variety of resources allows people with disabilities the opportunity to readily access the technology that is available for everyone on campus.

“It’s a spot where, even if you have no disability, you can learn to use some of this stuff because it’s pretty amazing,” Ritz said.

“It can be fun to learn about assistive technology and learn about things that people do to operate differently in an electronic environment,” said Cathy Kudlick, history professor who chairs the Electronic Accessibility Committee.

The Electronic Accessibility Committee brought about the initiative to create a more accessible computing center. The committee aimed to share resources from different departments and make them available in one location.

Departments that contributed to the center include the Student Disabilities Center, Academic Technology and Services Department, Shields Library, Human Resources and Environmental Health and Safety.

The technology available in the center is fairly limited and not a lot of people know about it. The center brings all these different resources together and teaches people what’s out there, Kudlick said.

More information about the center is available at cat.ucdavis.edu.

MICHELLE MURPHY can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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