UC Davis participated in the third annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on May 15. According to event coordinator Joe Devon, the day was started as an effort to enlighten tech companies and web developers on ways they could make their websites more accessible for people with disabilities.
Devon, who is a Los Angeles-based web developer, said that when he found out about the accessibility equipment available, he was blown away.
“I’d seen a video from the accessibility director at Yahoo,” Devon said. “You could have web pages spoken to you through screen readers and I thought that more developers should know about it.”
Devon said he started the event through making a blog post about how websites should increase their accessibility. The event took off when an accessibility professional and now GAAD co-director Jennison Asuncion saw the post.
“Jennison saw the post on Twitter and said it was a great idea,” Devon said. “We picked a date and had one event in LA and one in Toronto.”
After the first date in 2011, the event grew globally. Companies all over the world participate in GAAD today.
UC Davis participated in the event through hosting presentations and breakout sessions throughout the day that showed how to use accessible technology. Presentations included those on video captioning, using the assistive technologies that UC Davis offers and designing courses to help a diverse range of students learn.
Tim Kerbavaz, a special event support technical director at Academic Technology Services (ATS), is also the chairperson of the captioning subgroup on campus.
“We meet once a month and talk about ways with people from all over campus to come up with a campuswide solution for captioning,” Kerbavaz said. “It would be plugging in a video and have it get automatically captioned.”
Kerbavaz said that captioning will benefit everyone. An example he used was that if a student was in the CoHo while it was noisy and trying to watch an online lecture, the student would be able to get the full access to the video.
Josh Hori, an assistive technology analyst for the Student Disability Center (SDC), said that there are many opportunities for using accessible technologies on campus but that the resources are not always utilized.
“People need to be aware of what’s available to them,” Hori said.
Hori said that the development of GAAD has helped bring awareness to the different accessibility technologies. He said the event has become acknowledged globally, and it has also helped spread awareness around the UC Davis campus.
“It’s growing more and more,” Hori said. “We’re collaborating and becoming a campus commitment.”
Hori said the collaborations include the SDC with other campus organizations, such as ATS, Information and Educational Technology (IET) and Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). These services also offer access to all students who are interested in learning or gaining more accessibility on campus.
Cara Harwood, a faculty developer for CETL, works with faculty on making their classes more accessible to all students. She educates many instructors on ways they can use digital accessibility to make their classes more accessible for everyone.
“We create and distribute materials to help instructors learn how they can make their courses have a universal design and meet the needs of diverse learners,” Harwood said. “If you design your class with the needs of all diverse learners in your class in mind, it’s benefitting everybody.”
Hoby Wedler, a blind Ph.D. student studying organic chemistry, said that accessible technologies such as 3-D printing has helped him feel models of molecules.
“I don’t like to do any innovating of a new method that wouldn’t help everyone,” Wedler said. “My classmates are realizing that these printouts are accessible to all of us. It’s such a strong, powerful way to make it accessible to everyone.”
MELISSA DITTRICH can be reached at email@example.com.