STC Accessibility SIG Newsletter
May - July 2005
Volume 3, Number 2
- Editor's Column
- Accessibility SIG Launches Promotional Blitz At Seattle Conference
- Making the 2005 Conference Guide
- Newsletter Credits
- Accessibility on the International Scene
- Quantum Leaps in Seattle
- Starfish Chamber: Meet Jim Jones
- Assistive Technology, Disability, and Adventure Conference
- Accessibility SIG Captures Coveted Pacesetter Award!
- Accessibility SIG website Garners Two Awards
- Newsletter Credits
- Related Links
By Lisa Pappas, Senior Member, Carolina Chapter
In this issue of Achieve!
we focus on the STC Annual Conference in Seattle in May. The Accessibility SIG showed tremendous leadership, both in the number of presentations and the level of volunteer support. By raising awareness, community by community, we can make a difference for our colleagues with disabilities.
As I was completing the layout for this issue, I found myself struggling to position my mouse effectively and reverting to keyboard shortcuts to remain efficient. It struck me as just one more way that making products accessible benefits a broad user base, not just a minority. But don't take my word for it; there's legitimate research to support that claim.
Check out the Forrester Research commissioned by Microsoft, which found that a full 57 percent of adult computer users could benefit from assistive technology (www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2004/feb04/02-02aging.mspx) These compelling reports demonstrate that assistive technologies benefit mainstream citizens. With an aging workforce across the globe, and the recognition that the incidence of disability increases with age, accessibility becomes a mainstream workplace issue.
Accessibility SIG Launches Promotional Blitz At Seattle Conference
By Gail Lippincott, Las Vegas Conference Program Committee
The Accessibility SIG may be the Society's smallest SIG, but we were well represented and highly visible at the Seattle Conference. The 42 Accessibility SIG registrants earned us the highest conference representation of all SIGs-17.6 per cent of our membership, to be exact! As always, these members worked hard and celebrated often, making new friends and meeting up with old ones. Even before the conference officially kicked off, we celebrated with an impromptu gathering for dinner Saturday evening at the elegant Oceanaire Seafood Room.
On Sunday morning, as part of Leadership Day, a panel of Accessibility SIG members offered Society leaders an overview of how various disabilities affect the ability of technical communicators to practice our profession as well as the ability of end users to access the information products we create.
This session was followed by the Accessibility SIG business and planning meeting, where we charted our course for 2005-06 and beyond. Attendees gleefully put the discussion into action by organizing an assembly line. Several hours of laughter and conversation, punctuated by calls of "need more lollipops" or "more staples, please," produced 2,000 packets of newsletters, brochures, lollipops, and postcards, neatly boxed for willing hands to give out at Monday's opening session. We celebrated our hard work and new friendships at the Welcome Reception.
Bright and early Monday morning, Accessibility SIG members and Orlando chapter student members deployed like Special Forces, covering all entrances to the opening session ballroom. Fueled by coffee and Dan Voss's cheerleading and with Jen Selix at point intercepting everyone in her path, we made sure that every person had plenty of reading material, plus a lollipop to assuage the breakfast skippers. The promotional blitz included the special conference edition of Achieve! and a postcard, both highlighting the following accessibility-related sessions; and an updated version of the Accessibility SIG tri-fold brochure.
The first session was Monday morning, "Making Products and the World More Accessible" (PD2O). Prashant Natarajan "herded" a lively (read: talkative) panel of Accessibility SIG members who gave an overview of how various disabilities affect the ability of technical communicators to practice our profession, as well as the ability of end users to access information products we create. Panelists included Maureen Hogg (dual disability), Kathy Lopez (technical assistant and interpreter for Maureen), Andrew Malcolm (prelingual deafness), Helen Marty (emotional disabilities), Mike Murray (attention deficit disorder), Gloria Reece (visual disabilities), Fabien Vais (mobility restrictions), and Dan Voss (secondary disabilities).
The Monday Networking Lunch offered another opportunity to make new friends. First-time attendee Kathy Lopez said, "I enjoyed meeting Dr. Gloria Reece and having some informal time with her. I joined this table, because I wanted to get to know the people on the Accessibility SIG panel a little better. It was a good opportunity to do so."
While Monday afternoon's session "Your Career: From Student to Second Career" (TE4O) was not billed as accessibility-related, two of the presenters were Accessibility SIG members. Moderator Maureen Hogg, who is legally blind and deaf, illustrated the use of assistive technologies in her co-presentation with Dan Voss, an abled colleague.
A Tuesday progression, "Section 508 for Dummies Redux" (UID5A), gave participants practical advice on implementing Section 508 into various aspects of website design and testing. Moderator Allen W. Rotz kept time and order for table hosts Rick Ells, Richard Herring, Caroline Jarrett, Prashant Natarajan, and Sushil Oswal.
Another Tuesday session featured Nova Berkshires, who taught us what happens when "Aging Eyes Meet Shrinking Screens" (UID6G). Nova explained how after we turn 40, age-related physical changes affect our computer use, especially as mobile device screens keep shrinking and low resolution laptops replace desktops. She offered research-based design tips to maximize online usability.
The Tuesday SIG Networking Lunch, another opportunity for noshing and chatting, let Accessibility SIG leaders share issues and ideas in an informal working lunch.
The last Accessibility SIG session Tuesday afternoon drew a crowd, a direct result of our advertising blitz. As Dan Voss explains in a related article, Maureen Hogg and Kathy Lopez enthralled the audience as they demonstrated "Quantum Leaps: Electronic Access Technology" (UID7T). (See Quantum Leaps in Seattle
). Kathy deemed this session "a great success!" with high-top 10 percent, in fact-ratings, because "the audience was able to participate and see how Maureen Hogg used JAWS to perform her work. Her use of the telephone was also interactive with the audience."
The Tuesday evening Awards Banquet capped the Accessibility SIG's successes with a well-deserved SIG Pacesetter's Award (see Accessibility SIG Captures Coveted Pacesetter Award!
). Many glasses were raised in celebration of this and other honors, and a good time was had by all.
Wednesday morning started with a bang, with two accessibility-related sessions in the 8:30 time slot. In "How Websites Work for Older Users: A Study of 50 Sites" (UID9C), Janice C. (Ginny) Redish, Dana Chisnell, and Amy Lee presented their practical results from an AARP-funded study of 50 websites. These researchers used personas and scenarios for a task-based expert review of health, travel, financial, and news sites, among others.
At the same time, the workshop "Working to 508: Hands-on Techie Tips!" (UID9L) let those just getting started in accessibility delve into Section 508, the U.S. federal regulation governing computer accessibility. Mike Murray and Gloria Reece examined experience equity and universal access issues for people with diverse needs. They helped participants unravel the myths associated with the implementation guidelines in the W3C's WCAG (Web Content Authoring Guidelines) from the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative).
On Wednesday mid-morning, a panel of U.S. "e-gov" managers explained how they were "Making Federal Web Applications Usable, Useful, and Accessible" (UID10P). Janice R. Nall, Shawn Tafoya, Mark Tolson, and Cari Wolfson shared their successes and challenges in developing electronic services that are usable, useful, and accessible. They also discussed U.S. federal resources and tools that can improve online applications and make electronic products and services "citizen-centric."
The last chance to learn about "Creating Accessible Documents" (UID11L) was Wednesday afternoon. In this session, Richard Herring explained a process model for creating accessible documents. Sushil Oswal described an innovative use of OCR scanners: print document designers and technical communicators can use these scanners as an "audience" for blind users. To round out the discussion, Gloria Reece interpreted the results of her study of text legibility for people with low vision.
In addition to the wealth of information they provided in the technical sessions, the presenters on accessibility made a major contribution to the conference website, where 6 percent of the 265 postings of presentations, articles, and handouts are accessibility-related. Since accessibility-related sessions represented a much smaller percentage-approximately 3 percent of the total number of technical sessions at the conference, this statistic becomes even more significant.
In addition, the Accessibility SIG website will shortly be posting these materials as well, augmenting an already rich database of materials from previous conferences (see stc-access.org/conference-session-materials/
The accessibility-related sessions benefited from the Accessibility SIG's aggressive promotional campaign. Even if conference goers did not get to attend any Accessibility SIG sessions, they certainly learned about the offerings and about our organization. We succeeded in raising awareness of accessibility issues, and next year more people will be looking to attend a session or two sponsored by the Accessibility SIG.
Don't leave accessibility to chance. Get your proposals in now for the Las Vegas conference. The deadline is looming - August 15th!
Making the 2005 Conference Guide
By Fabien Vais, Co-Manager, Accessibility SIG
The fourth annual Accessibility Guide was published in April 2005 for the 52nd STC annual conference in Seattle. Its purpose was to describe as carefully as possible the true accessibility of the whole conference site for potential attendees, and if need be, to prepare people with various disabilities or special needs for some obstacles to contend with-and overcome!-at the conference.
This year's guide was 85 pages long, with a superb color cover. The production of such a guide requires a whole team of people, and for this last edition I was extremely fortunate to count on the services of more volunteers than ever before. These true heroes were scattered across North America and even in Europe.
I hereby want to formally and publicly thank every one of my helpers. I could not have done it without you.
To Laura Ramsey, from Seattle, who got the ball rolling with some information on the conference site back in the summer of 2004. Laura had to have some surgery, and had to pass the baton to others, but she was a pioneer in this guide.
To Kelly Malleck, last year's Puget Sound (Seattle) chapter president, and her fantastic team of volunteers who tirelessly explored, described, and reported raw information to me. I had asked Kelly to be my eyes and ears in Seattle. She and her team definitely accomplished this splendidly.
To Mel Haughton and her graphic designer friend Oscar, who designed a superb color cover for the guide, the best cover ever.
To Jen Selix and Peggy Bivins of the University of Central Florida and the Orlando chapter, without whose immeasurable writing and editing skills, we would simply never have had a guide. Jen and Peggy sorted the raw information I bombarded them with, then organized, wrote, designed, and published the guide. I owe them the most, without any doubt. For good measure, Jen also updated the Accessibility SIG's brochure for distribution at the conference.
To our Accessibility SIG steering team, for having edited and critiqued the final draft so diligently and professionally.
To Cynthia Lockley, our Web Diva, for posting the guide on both our SIG website and on the Society site, on very short notice.
To Brenda Huettner, who generously offered to print 155 copies of the guide pro bono, including the beautiful color cover, and to ship these guides to me in Seattle.
Last, but certainly not the least, to the many volunteers who helped drop off small piles of the guide throughout the conference site.
To all these people, I owe a great deal. I will be much blessed if the new team I am currently trying to assemble for the 2006 conference is as devoted and passionate as the one I worked with last year. I trust that it will be.
Thank you all again for making the fourth annual Accessibility Guide a resounding success.
Accessibility on the International Scene: Technical Communication & Accessibility in India
Editor's Note: Achieve!
interviewed two members of the India chapter, Mak Pandit and Prasharant Natarajan, to get a sense of how the cause of accessibility stands in that nation. This is a new column in the newsletter. It will be a regular feature, taking a look at accessibility around the world.
Question #1: How is the topic of accessibility viewed in India? Is there general public awareness of the challenges faced by people with disabilities or is it a hidden problem?
This issue is not being taken as seriously as it should be. Because of this, a small and talented part of the society is not being utilized to its full potential. General awareness is increasing now; for example, new building construction takes disabled users into account.
At present, the topic of accessibility does not appear to be a critical issue in India. Unfortunately, the challenges faced by people with disabilities remain hidden and do not get the attention they deserve. For example, even simple aids like wheelchair ramps and Braille signs are encountered only rarely in buildings in the country. However, the topic of access has started receiving prominence in the media and in the IT sector. I think we will continue to see greater attention and increased public awareness in the near future.
Question #2: How can technical communicators in India promote the need for accessibility - in India, in the world?
First and foremost, we need to make people aware of this issue. The issue needs to be taken up at various government levels and social platforms. We tried this by inviting Ms. Sakina Bedi to deliver a lecture on "Communicating with the blind" at the 2003 STC India's Pune Conference. Ms. Bedi is an active volunteer working for the visually impaired. She is associated with a school for underprivileged blind girls in Alandi, a small village near Pune. Her presentation, "Communicating with the Blind," was very well received, and she even demonstrated how the visually challenged people work. After her presentation, a small group of volunteers, including myself, began working with her to create "Devnagari Text-to-Speech." Devnagari is script used to write the Hindi language. This has already started delivering good results.
Secondly, we also need to make product designers aware of the needs of disabled people and provide them with guidelines for meeting these needs. Perhaps we need to set aside our communicator hats and get involved in product designing to some extent. This would be an interesting experience for us as well.
Technical communicators in India are already playing a role in promoting accessibility. The awareness of the challenges faced by the disabled appears to be higher among technical communicators in the IT sector (as opposed to the general population). In our twin roles as end-user educators and corporate communicators, technical communicators can do much to bring this issue to the attention of people (within and outside an organization). Additionally, technical communicators can act as accessibility advocates both in the organization and in society.
Question #3: What are educational opportunities like for people with disabilities in India? Does a lot depend on where you live and your economic situation? Is there governmental assistance of any kind?
There are many educational opportunities available. We have a good network of non-profit entities working for this cause. Many are taking their share in contributing to educational facilities while some are contributing to health-care and medical aid. I need to mention here that I am not an expert in this field and have started working in this area very recently. I feel that there is a good network of organizations acting for the visually challenged. But the same cannot be said about groups of people affected by other disabilities.
Despite a relative paucity of resources, social and not-for-profit organizations have been active in developing educational opportunities for the disabled. However, these opportunities are not uniform throughout the country and vary based on location and economic situation (as you rightly mention). Unlike Europe or North America, India does not have government social welfare programs or monetary assistance schemes for the poor or the elderly. Though I hesitate to make predictions, I think increased (and equal) educational opportunities will follow public awareness and economic prosperity.
Question #4: There must be a challenge in India with not just different languages, but different writing systems. How can technology (from anywhere) handle that challenge, and what role can technical communicators in India play in dealing with these challenges?
Indians speak different types of languages which use altogether different scripts. Thanks to the advancements in computers, it is now possible to develop computer-based tools for communication and character recognition. Much work is being done at the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) and many other universities and institutes. We have almost completed the Devnagari TTS that will help people who are proficient in Hindi, Marathi, and other languages that use Devnagari script. The next logical step will be to develop Optical Character Recognition (OCR) systems. Similar work needs to be done in other languages as well. As it is, the level of education in rural parts of India is considerably less. Add to that the fact that not everyone is educated in English. Therefore, using tools developed by others (English speaking nations) may not be a solution to our problems. We need to develop a lot of this technology indigenously. But this applies only to the visually challenged. What about others?
There is considerable scope for holding hands globally. If our foreign counterparts can help us to use technology without paying a premium cost, it can really help. We can, in turn, pass on the information about the lessons learned while implementing this technology. Thus, it could be a mutually beneficial relationship.
Technical communicators need to understand and address the communication requirements of the challenged people. The rest will happen. Many of these minds are actually much better and sharper than ours.
Indians speak many languages and use a variety of native scripts. Not surprisingly, Indian software developers have been very active in creating native Indian language software for many years now. I do not see the multiplicity of languages as a real problem because most Indians are multilingual. Additionally, the Indian software industry's global expertise may actually help in the design and development of tailored solutions for the diverse local market.
Question #5: Technology can provide solutions to problems in the area of accessibility. Where do you see these technology initiatives coming from: Entrepreneurs and the grassroots, or from the government, laws, and financial necessity? And, again, where do technical communicators stand in this picture?
I do not consider myself knowledgeable enough to answer this question. However, here is what I feel. I think this responsibility is not that of the government or the entrepreneurs. It is a moral and social responsibility of all of us. I think each one of us (or at least those who are aware and can afford to) should spend at least 50 professional hours every year for the cause of accessibility. This in itself will be a great contribution. Spending money is not required. Spending quality time will be worth much more than money. We (technical communicators, trainers, programmers) can contribute our skills for this cause and within two years there could be a considerable difference in the world around us. We can:
- Increase awareness in the society
- Write articles about these issues
- Conduct training sessions for people affected or for the volunteers working for this cause
- Help develop better products by passing on our ideas to product designers
- Build a network to bring people together (across nations if possible)
I try to do this myself and I get tremendous satisfaction while doing so.
The Indian IT industry has developed into a leading segment of the economy in spite of government, not because of it. The success of the Indian IT industry can be attributed to individuals like Narayan Moorthy (Infosys) and Aseem Premji (Wipro) who saw the global potential of Indian software developers and management professionals in the mid-1980s. These individuals contributed to the creation of a new industrial sector despite rigid socialist control of the economy and notorious bureaucratic red tape.
In my opinion, future accessibility solutions based on technology will be driven primarily by entrepreneurs and grassroots non-government organizations. Their success, coupled with a laissez-faire attitude by the government, may automatically ensure a change in attitudes, and, by extension, the law.
Question #6: Telecommuting could be one way that technical communicators with disabilities can continue to be active in the job market. What is the attitude to telecommuting in India? The sheer size of the country must make it an attractive option for anyone!
Telecommuting is becoming popular in India. Actually, many people here are doing such assignments for clients in UK, Japan and the USA. I know many people who are interested in telecommuting, as it offers good earning potential. I know a few people who are physically challenged and are using this as an option effectively.
Telecommuting is popular in India; Indian telecommuters are also an important part of global software development and management. Improved access to technology in rural areas will contribute to improved opportunities for professionals with disabilities. Companies like NIIT (with its acclaimed "Hole in the Wall" project) demonstrate the power of technology as an opportunity enabler.
Question #7: Do you have any good accessibility resources that you can share, such as the Disability India Network (www.disabilityindia.org).
Here are two resources we have found valuable:
Prashant Natarajan is a technical communicator and a usability consultant. At present, he is a PhD student at Texas Tech University. Prashant was the membership manager of the India chapter of STC from 2001 to 2003.
For more information about NIIT's "Hole in the Wall," see: www.hole-in-the-wall.com
Interview conducted by Karen Mardahl, Co-Manager, Accessibility SIG.
Quantum Leaps in Seattle: Maureen Hogg Holds Audience Spellbound With Demonstration of Assistive Technology
By Dan Voss, Past Manager, Accessibility SIG
It was a proud moment for the Accessibility SIG as Maureen Hogg and Kathy Lopez put on an amazing demonstration of the electronic access technologies that have enabled Maureen to overcome a dual disability, earn a degree in historiography at the University of Northern Colorado, and go on to a highly successful 27-year career as a technical writer at Ball Aerospace.
Maureen, who has been legally blind and deaf since the age of 15, presented in three sessions at the 52nd annual STC international conference in Seattle, WA, May 9-10.
Assisted by electronic publishing expert and colleague Kathy Lopez, who also served as Maureen's personal escort and interpreter during the conference, Maureen moderated and co-presented in Session TE40, "Your Career: From Student to Second Career;" was one of eight Accessibility SIG presenters in Session PD2O, a panel discussion entitled "Making Products-and the World-More Accessible;" and explained and demonstrated the assistive technologies she uses in Session UID7T, "Quantum Leaps."
In TE4O, Maureen and Dan Voss co-presented "Same Methods, Different Disciplines: The Historian and the Linguist as Technical Communicators," showing how she, as a history major, and he, as an English major, were both able to parlay skills mastered in a liberal arts major into successful careers in technical communication.
In addition to presenting half of that briefing, Maureen served as session moderator for TE40, introducing herself, Dan, and the third presenter, Dr. Don Samson of Radford University in Virginia, who spoke on college/industry internships. Both presentations were well received by a young and enthusiastic audience.
In PD20, Maureen and Kathy kicked off the panel discussion with a brief overview of how she has used assistive technologies to overcome a dual disability. Other topics in the session included deafness (Andy Malcolm), visual impairment (Gloria Reece), mobility restrictions (Fabien Vais), mental/emotional disabilities (Helen Marty), attention deficit disorder (Mike Murray), and secondary disabilities (Dan Voss).
Under the steady hand of moderator Prashant Natarajan of Auburn University, the Accessibility SIG presenters compressed oodles of substantive information into pithy 6- to 7-minute presentations that filled the 60-minute slot and kept several fascinated attendees lingering beyond the appointed time with follow-up questions.
It was in UID7T, that Maureen had her strongest impact. "Quantum Leaps" was a truly awesome demonstration. Not only did Maureen and Kathy provide a compelling explanation and demonstration, they overcame two vexing computer lock-ups by a cantankerous JAWS program that saw its opportunity to wreak havoc in a public forum and pounced.
Indeed, Maureen, unfazed by the predictable intervention of Murphy's Law as it applies to Braille devices, nimbly turned the glitches to her advantage by demonstrating in real time the patient and painstaking approach she uses to overcome technical challenges and produce the quality information products that have earned her 15 writing awards in her career.
Best of all, she drew upon the blazing wit that has so endeared her to her friends and colleagues. When she made a typo in keystroking, she commented dryly, "Well, Braille only duplicates what you put in. It does not correct for operator error!"
And when she was asked by an attendee why she referred to the Braille computer and JAWS as a "he," she dead-panned, "We always use male terminology because the tools are hard to communicate with and very difficult to work with." Needless to say, that brought down the house, which was comprised predominantly of female communicators!
Touché, Maureen! And hats off - you did us proud!
Starfish Chamber: Meet Jim Jones
Reprinted by permission from Byline, bi-monthly publication of the Chicago Chapter of STC, May/June 2005, Volume 47, Number 5.
interviewed Jim Jones, STC member, freelance writer, and chairman of the Chicago chapter workshop committee. While Jim has a disability called ataxia, he doesn't let this stop him from being active in his profession and his professional organization.
Question (Q): Tell me about your background.
Jim Jones (JJ): I went to college at the University of Chicago, where I learned Mandarin Chinese and German. I started out a physics major but switched to linguistics. I found that I was very good in Chinese and when I was near the end of college I began looking for a full time Chinese translation job. It was not until much later (9 years) that I would get into technical writing by taking a correspondence course in technical writing from UC Berkeley.
Q: How did you become interested in Technical Writing?
JJ: I was always a good writer and liked expressing myself in written form. Of course I became much better when I applied myself to the question of what makes writing good. My severe disability (ataxia) came on in 1993. It effectively preempted any attempt by me to work. In 1995 I joined STC. Today I am chairman of the workshop committee, finding locations and setting up dates and times.
Q: What do you enjoy about technical writing?
JJ: Technical writing is supposed to inform while being easy to read, but that doesn't mean it can't be entertaining. For example, the manner in which it is presented - it should be attractive, the writing itself should be good, fact-filled and informative.
Q: What are your goals and current projects?
JJ: I am focused on getting more clients and growing my business. I am also concentrating on finishing and marketing some of my short publications and technical publications such as MS Word Tutorial, Cartoon and Chinese Characters Collection. I'm currently working on a rush job - editing and formatting an applied math paper for a university in China.
Q: Do you have any advice for a would-be freelance technical writer?
JJ: Part of technical communication is understanding about human communication and its problems. Part of it is understanding about how technical things are supposed to work. The good technical communicator does his or her craft by putting these two things together well. And remember, if freelancing were easy everyone would do it.
Assistive Technology, Disability, and Adventure Conference
By Lori Gillen, Boston Chapter
On Friday, May 6, 2005, I visited a world where accessibility for people with disabilities was on the forefront of everyone's mind-inventors, software designers, educators, athletes, parents, and children. I was at "Assistive Technology, Disability & Adventure," Hampshire College's seventh annual forum in assistive technology. The conference was presented by the Lemelson Assistive Technology Development Center (LATDC) and the School for Interdisciplinary Arts of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Changing the Image of the Disabled
The overall message from this one-day event was for disability advocates to change the perception of how the mainstream world views people with disabilities. The disabled can no longer be seen as helpless, needy, dependent, and relegated to the sidelines. People with disabilities are kayaking, skiing, mountain climbing, and participating in Olympic sports. These examples were heavily portrayed throughout the conference.
The keynote speaker was Mark Wellman, a mountaineer and avid outdoorsman, who suffered a mountain-climbing accident in 1982 that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Mark talked about how he has been able to continue his passion for mountain-climbing with the help of his climbing partner, Mike Corbett. Mark talked about several of his adventures which included his 1989 climb of the 3,000 foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Mark wrote an autobiography called Climbing Back, and he documented several videos showing physically disabled people enjoying outdoor activities, and the equipment they use to help them do so.
Patrick Miller, a Hampshire alumnus with CP who is currently studying public policy at the University of Massachusetts, briefly discussed his experiences on a canoe trip, explaining that he pushed his own physical limits to enjoy the trip and emerged as a much stronger and happier individual as a result.
A panel of Olympic athletes discussed the Olympics and the role of the Paralympic Games within this movement. The panel as a whole suggested that the "disability image" can be shifted by publicizing people with disabilities performing accomplishments that break barriers. They discussed the need to give the Paralympic Games the same media coverage that is given to the core Olympics, possibly by combining the two events in the same venue, and running them at the same time.
This adaptive cycle allows people with lower-body disabilities to "pedal" with their hands. It was one of many such accessibility-enabling inventions showcased at "Assistive Technology, Disability, and Adventure," the seventh annual forum on assistive technology at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA.
Panel members included Dr. Ted Fay, an Associate Professor of the Sports Management Program of SUNY-Cortland, who has an extensive background in international sports and the Olympic and Paralympic movements; Jon McCullough, a member of United States Paralympic Soccer Team since 1996 and an advocate for promoting sporting opportunities for people with disabilities; Artemis Joukowsky, III, co-author of the book Raising the Bar: New Horizons in Disability Sport, which features the words and portraits of athletes with disabilities, and which last month was on display at the United Nations (Artemis trained for the Paralympics in table tennis, and has been active in disability sport for years); and Eli Wolff, the program director of the Disability in Sports Program at Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society (Eli competed on the United States Soccer Team during the 1996 and 2004 Paralympic Games).
Creating Assistive Technology to Break Barriers
The other strong conference "take-away" message was that with the right tools and technology, people with disabilities can accomplish as much as their able-bodied counterparts. Hampshire College paves the road to accessibility through the Lemelson Assistive Technology Development Center where students are trained to design their inventions with humanity as their main focus. This conference exemplified how Hampshire College is responding to the needs of the disabled with a showcase of student inventions.
Participants visited individual tables where students were on hand to demonstrate their inventions. Projects included a hands-free book holder, a prosthetic arm for frisbee, a canoe footrest to improve the posture and increase the stability of users with lower body disabilities, and a wheelchair trailer. For other student inventions, go to http://www.hampshire.edu/academics/2475.htm
Vendors and program leaders conducted one-hour workshops on the equipment they provide to allow people with disabilities to enjoy outdoor activities. Participants were able to attend two workshops. I attended a presentation by Bill Allen, owner of Forever Young Treehouses, who showed us samples of accessible treehouses he has designed for personal and commercial use. Then I attended a demonstration of adaptive cycles for the disabled. I tried out one foot-pedal tricycle designed for people who do not have the energy level needed to ride a two-wheeler, and then two cycles that were pedaled by hand. Presenters for the cycle exposition included Mike Augsperger from One-Off Titanium, Bill Darby of Special Purpose Vehicles, Marcy Marchello from Massachusetts DCR Universal Access Program, and Megan Briggs from All Out Adventures. Other workshops included Real Windsurfing and Accessible Setups for All, Adaptive Scuba Diving, Inclusive Flat-Water Kayaking, and Adaptive Climbing.
The Lemelson Assistive Technology Development Center was founded by an inventor by the name of Jerome Lemelson. The mission of the center is to provide students with an experiential education in applied design, invention, and entrepreneurship through engagement in assistive technology and universal design problem-solving. LATDC achieves this mission through a combination of courses, activities, internships, collaborations with business and non-profit organizations; and through teams of students who design, develop, and make equipment available for people with disabilities worldwide.
The cover of the conference brochure reads "Push Limits. Create Access. Break Barriers." The world that I entered when I attended this conference portrays people with disabilities as those who can do anything given the appropriate assistive tools and equipment. Hampshire is a leader in teaching future generations of designers and inventors the importance of providing this equipment and designing for humanity.
Accessibility SIG Captures Coveted Pacesetter Award!
By Mike Murray, Co-Manager, Accessibility SIG
Once again STC's Accessibility SIG has set the pace for others to follow. At the Society's May 10 Awards Banquet in Seattle, Washington, Society Virtual Communities Manager Dana Chisnell proudly proclaimed that the Accessibility SIG had won one of only two SIG Pacesetter awards.
The award was presented in recognition of the outstanding work done by our members, led by Fabien Vais, for the past four years on the conference Accessibility Guide, our highly accessible website, and our outreach to STC members with special needs. The award citation reads:
For reaching out to STC members with special needs and disabilities; for supporting those members by developing an excellent Accessibility Guide for the annual conference in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005; for setting an example for all STC communities by creating a highly accessible SIG website; and for contributing to the accessibility of the Society's website.
While we are the smallest SIG, with 262 members as of June 30, the Accessibility SIG is certainly one of the most active of all 21 of the Society's Special Interest Groups. The second Pacesetter award went to the Management SIG with a membership of 1,396.
The SIG Pacesetter award, which recognizes SIGs for outstandingly innovative and successful activities, is designed as a one-time celebration of excellence in the specific activity for which the SIG is nominated. A SIG may be nominated for a Pacesetter award only by the SIG advocate on the board of directors and only for an activity or event. A SIG may be selected for a Pacesetter award only by a two-thirds vote of the board of directors. The SIG advocate may nominate any number of SIGs for the award; however, the board bestows only a maximum of two SIG Pacesetter awards in any given year.
Accessibility SIG website Garners Two Awards
By Lisa Pappas, Carolina Chapter
In June and July of 2005, the Accessibility SIG website received two prestigious awards:
- American Association of Webmasters Gold Award
- 2005 APEX Award for Publication Excellence
In the American Association of Webmasters, Gold Award, judges noted the "clean design and layout...with quality content and informative information for your visitors." The American Association of Webmasters' monthly awards recognize Webmasters and designers who show outstanding achievement in Web design, content and creativity.
The annual APEX awards recognize excellence in graphic design, editorial content, and the success of the entry in achieving overall communications effectiveness and excellence.
Of the 4,942 entries evaluated, 100 APEX Grand Awards were presented in 11 major categories. In the category of One to Two Person-Produced Web & Intranet Sites, the STC Accessibility SIG website received an Award for Publication Excellence.
Kudos to our Web Divas, Cynthia Lockley and Leslie Reed. To learn more, visit the trophy room at stc-access.org/sig-awards/
is published for members of the STC Accessibility Special Interest Group. Please submit articles, graphics, and letters of opinion for publication to the editor. Note: By submitting an item for publication, you implicitly grant a license to Achieve! to publish the material and for any other STC publications to reprint it without permission. Copyright is held by the writer. Please inform the editor if a submitted item was published elsewhere and if it has been submitted for consideration to other publications. Permission to reprint any material herein is granted provided that credit is given and a copy of the issue is sent to the editor. Achieve!
is also available online at stc-access.org/newsletter/
. Select the "Newsletter" link.
Editor: Lisa Pappas
Copy editors: Kim McConnell, Karen Mardahl, Mike Murray, and Dan Voss
Contributors: Lori Gillen, Gail Lippincott, Karen Mardahl, Mike Murray, Fabien Vais, Dan Voss