A creative approach to help bridge the employment gap: Project Starfish


On Wednesday, march 19th, 2014, at 1:50 PM, I will be presenting a session at the CSUN Conference on Disability entitled, “A Creative Approach to Help Bridge the Employment Gap: Project Starfish.” As a business advisor and the Director of Recruitment for the program, I have acted as a face of the organization since its inception. I invite you to attend the session, and learn how you can share my passion for facilitating employment opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired. If you’d like to indicate your interest in the session and save a seat, go here:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/361

The founder of Project Starfish, Subhashish Acharya, or “Subs,” as he is called, sat for an interview with me to introduce the program to anyone who might have a desire to gain entry to, or to re-enter, the workforce. If you have a business, and find the idea of helping to build a platform by which people with disabilities can learn, earn, and grow, read on, then join us.

LL: Please tell my blog readers about the inspiration behind Project Starfish.
Subs: The straight answer is the high unemployment rate. Seventy to eighty percent is too high a number, which is exceptionally concerning to a person like me who has been in the industry for nearly 16 years. Imagine what the unemployment rate is in other countries like India, China etc.

The biggest inspiration has been to try and use my own talent in business that I have acquired over the years, and find out if possibilities exist. Can we find a solution, has been the inspiration. I have come across many, many blind people, and everyone has some kind of talent. It will be a waste not to leverage that for someone who needs it. To put the talent to use, provide the right training and creating a unique model that creates social impact and business impact together, and bringing hope in businesses and the blind community has been my inspiration. Humanity is always under evolution. There are choices we all make, every day, whether we believe it or not. While earning a paycheck from a good job and keeping the self happy is really important, it is also critical for all of us to reach out and create opportunities for those who need it. Over the years, I’ve realized compassion, charity, sympathy do work sometimes, but doesn’t provide a solution. The only thing that provides a solution to problems , I believe is, cooperation. We can all work together, can’t we? The only thing we need to do is devote time and have a purpose. Creating a model where businesses, business leaders, and people who are blind work together in a cooperative environment is the pilot of human evolution. A model that creates an example of cooperation has been my inspiration. I am proud of my members, businesses and teachers who have walked the talk and made it possible. Truly, you can look up to humanity again and say, “yes, Possibilities exist, if we work together.” Isn’t that quite an inspiration for everyone, not just me alone.

LL: Please explain the origin of the Project Starfish name.
Subs: The answer is going to quite surprise you. Just like many, I was always inspired by the story of a young boy in the Starfish story. In brief , here it is for those who haven’t read about it:

An old man is walking along the ocean and
sees a beach on which thousands and thousands
of starfish have washed ashore. Further along
he sees a young man, walking slowly and
stooping often, picking up one starfish after
another and tossing each one gently into the
ocean.

“Why are you throwing starfish into the
ocean?” He asks.

“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out
and if I don’t throw them further in they will
die,” replies the boy.

The old man counters, “But, young man, don’t you realize there are miles
and miles of beach and starfish all along it?
You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even
save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you
work all day, your efforts won’t make any
difference at all.”

The young man listened calmly and then bent
down to pick up another starfish and threw it
into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

You see, eighty-three percent of small businesses or startups die every 5 years because of the lack of talent. Imagine when these businesses die it brings demise to the product, the inspiration, sometimes their livelihood as well. Imagine what a devastating impact it can create to people, their families, business and the economy of a country. They need a lot of hands to help, and sixty percent of the country’s economy depends upon them.

On the other side, eighty percent of the adult blind population are looking for opportunities to learn, earn, and prove themselves. Why cant we simply create a workforce that will help these businesses out, grow them, and earn their employment just by working together? The only thing we need is training, creation of opportunities and cooperation. The workforce of participants who are blind helping the businesses is exactly the Starfish story. Imagine the workforce of blind team members worldwide helping each starfish(business) get back to the ocean. While this makes a difference to the business, it also makes a difference to the worker who is blind, where they experience real mainstream work, learn, earn grow and become employable. The key is to make both sides work together. A social and business camaraderie.

That’s the reason we named the initiative Project Starfish. Project defines the exactness of the purpose to work together and get as many starfish back to the sea, resulting in millions of jobs, happier families, income for all involved and a better economy, where business impact creates social impact as well.

LL: Tell us about your short term goals for Project Starfish.
Subs: We are 6 months into the journey. Our goal at the start was 10 blind professionals working with 10 businesses, at least fifty percent of whom were earning an income. Currently we have 25 people, working with 22 businesses, 20% of the businesses are international. It seems we can now be a little ambitious, I guess. Our short term goal by the end of 2014 is to have 100 blind professionals, 60% in the USA and 40% in India, Australia and UK. We will work with 100 companies, eighty percent of our professionals making an income. We have already started in Australia. Now we are looking to hire blind veterans as well.

LL: What do you see for the program five years from now?
Subs: We see 1000 blind professionals, becoming a huge change maker in helping startups across the world, and Project Starfish becoming a business research powerhouse for just-in-time, information as a service platform for corporations and small businesses.

LL: Can anyone join the team, or is it strictly for people who are blind?
Subs: We welcome anyone to interview with us, if they have a passion to succeed, ambition and want to make money. Seventy percent of those we interview have joined us and we put a lot of labor into revamping their skills so as to be relevant to businesses. Currently, we are focused on professionals who are blind, and we will slowly lead with people in different categories of disability.

You can follow Project Starfish via @ProjectSTARF1SH on Twitter.

More about the Project Starfish founders:
Founders Soumita and Subhashish ( a.k.a. Subs are a husband and wife team. Soumita is a filmmaker and owns 3 accessible films. Subs is a Director at Oracle America, managing the worlds largest management consulting company. Subs has over 15 years of business experience with technology and business. Subs was a programmer, a design artist, a multimedia expert at a different lifetime. He has phenomenal experience with business, processes, six sigma, sales, business development, innovative business strategies, management consulting, business operations and is an avid networker. They are passionate about serving the blind community, and both are advocates for people with disabilities.

During my presentation at the CSUN Conference on Disability, I will be speaking to two different audiences simultaneously. My aim is to attract both potential candidates for employment as well as the businesses that might employ them. Please plan to attend my session, and I will be available all week during the conference to answer questions and further elaborate on Project Starfish details.

About Laura Legendary:
Laura Legendary is a speaker, author, educator and entrepreneur, specializing in disability awareness, advocacy, accessibility, and assistive technology. She has developed and delivered curricula for the State of Washington Aging and Disability services for use in the continuing education program for independent in-home health care providers. To book Laura for your next corporate, community, or caregiver training, go to her flagship site, Eloquent Insights (www.eloquentinsights.com), or email l.legendary@eloquentinsights.com. Laura’s latest venture, Elegant Insights Braille Creations, showcases her distinctive collection of Braille embossed jewelry and accessories. Follow Laura @Accessible_Info or @ElegantInsights on Twitter, or for information about job opportunities for accessible web development, testing, accessible mobile, and other access and assistive technology professionals, follow @Accessible_Jobs on Twitter.

To indicate your interest in attending the session, go to:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/361

I look forward to seeing you. Don’t forget to use hashtag #CSUN14 when tweeting about the event.

LL

Advantages and disadvantages of automated web accessibility testing tools: Chetan Bakhru at CSUN 2014


Whether you are an independent web developer or you work for a consulting firm interested in web accessibility, a veteran in the accessibility industry, a tester or a novice, you’ll want to be sure to attend Chetan Bakhru’s presentation outlining the advantages and disadvantages of automated web site accessibility testing tools. Use of these tools, while thought by some to be a labor saving shortcut, when used by someone without thorough knowledge of accessibility, can paint a misleading picture of web access compliance. For example, an automated tool cannot make a determination as to how descriptive alt text may or may not be, as it cannot interpret what is contextually relevant or considered to be descriptive enough. Chetan generously granted my request for an interview, and explained for my readers what they can expect when they attend his session at the CSUN Conference on Disability.

LL: Please describe for the readers of the AI Blog the goals for your presentation.
CB: The goal of my presentation is to educate individuals and organizations on what the advantages and disadvantages of using automated accessibility testing tools to verify the accessibility of websites are, what the characteristics of good automated testing tools are, and why the use of other methods of testing for accessibility is essential.

LL: Who is the target audience for your talk?
CB: The target audience includes testers, developers, QA engineers, and/or anyone else interested in learning more about how to properly test for accessibility.

LL: What do you hope attendees take away from your presentation?
CB: The takeaway from this presentation is that automated testing has an important place in a tester’s toolset. The use of a good automated accessibility testing tool can result in increased productivity, efficiency and in the accuracy of results. However, there are many issues that these tools are unable to check for, and users of such tools must not rely on the tool to be the final determining factor in whether their site is accessible. Anyone using these tools should be well trained on their use, how to interpret their results, and have a good knowledge of accessibility.

More about Chetan Bakhru:
Chetan Bakhru is an IT consultant, web developer, technology trainer and accessibility advocate. He obtained his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Information Technology specializing in Software Engineering from the University of Phoenix in 2009, and his Master’s degree in Software Engineering from Penn State University in 2013. Over the past several years, Chetan has worked for many organizations providing technical support to customers, training users on the use of computers and assistive technology, developing websites, and helping make existing websites, desktop applications, and mobile apps accessible to people with disabilities. He is originally from southern California, currently works in the DC metro area as an Assistive Technology Tester at SSB Bart Group, and intends to relocate back to the west coast sometime soon. On the side, he also runs a website called Blind Planet (http://blind-planet.com), a site which labels itself as “Your one-stop resource for anything blindness related” and which contains a wealth of technology-related material. Blind Planet also provides web development, assistive technology, and general computer training services to those who are blind or low vision at a nominal cost. Some of the websites Chetan has either developed or helped make accessible include http://www.nib.org, http://www.worldaccessfortheblind.org, http://www.nonvisualdevelopment.org, and http://www.colorfascination.com

To learn more about Chetan, or to follow his work, here are his contact details:
Twitter Handle: @cbakhru
Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/cbakhru
LinkedIn Page: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/chetan-bakhru-pmp/2a/663/15a
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/chetan.bakhru
Google+ Profile: https://plus.google.com/112898281638210974817
Website: http://blind-planet.com
Email: chetan@bakhru.net or webmaster@blind-planet.com
Phone: 714-816-4105

Don’t forget to click on the link to indicate your interest in this session, and save yourself a seat. Go to the CSUN Conference session details page:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/173

Be sure to use hashtag CSUN14 when tweeting about the event.

See you there!

LL

29th Annual CSUN Conference on Disability news and info


It’s time to roll out my annual series of posts pertaining to the CSUN Conference on Disability. Each year I post news and information about the conference, showcase a few of the conference presenters, provide notes about special events and write a post-conference wrap-up. If you would like to add your own information as to your presentation, exhibitor booth number, or other relevant info about the conference, feel free to add your comments.

Registration is open for the 29th Annual CSUN Conference on Disability. Go to the main conference web site page:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/website_pages/view/1

You can either register as an attendee for the educational sessions as well as the exhibit hall, or you can register for the exhibit hall only. Both links are available on the main registration page, above. There is no cost to be admitted into the exhibit hall if you register for the exhibit hall only. To see a directory of vendors who will be showing their latest products and services at the conference, go here:

https://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/rebooking/index.php/public/exhibitors/

Check out the roster of presenters and topics that the Center on Disabilities at CSUN is offering this year. Add a Pre-Conference Workshop to your registration to enrich your knowledge and conference experience.

There are numerous special events to attend each year. I pulled this list right from the special events page on the conference web site:

The Fred Strache Leadership Award:
Location
Harbor Ballroom, 2nd Floor
Date
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Time
5:30 PM to 7:00 PM at Keynote Address.

Featured Presentations:

Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy
Location
Harbor Ballroom C, 2nd Floor
Date
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Time
12:00 pm

Copyrights and Third Party Captioning: Challenges and Solutions
Location
Harbor Ballroom C, 2nd Floor
Date
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Time
4:20 pm
Presenter and Author of the Report:
Blake Reid, Assistant Clinical Professor, Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law & Policy Clinic, Colorado Law
Moderator:
Axel Leblois, President & Executive Director, Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict)
The proliferation of inaccessible video contents of the Internet creates the need for third party captioning via automated or human processes, including via crowd sourced solutions. However, while those solutions provide the required accessibility to videos for deaf persons or those living with hearing loss, they can infringe on the copyrights of the owners of audio-visual contents, creating a conflict between disability and copyright laws. After conducting an in depth research on this topic with legal experts, industry and disability advocates, G3ict will publicly release at CSUN 2014 the report which will serve as the foundation for a global dialogue on solutions that could be adopted in the U.S. and internationally to solve those issues. The presentation will include perspectives from stakeholders. Audience participation (questions and answers) will be welcomed if time permits.

Exhibit Hall Opening & Reception:
Location
Grand Hall, 1st Floor
Date
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Time
12:00 PM to 7:00 PM
The Exhibit Hall in the Grand Hall will open on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 from 12:00 – 7:00 PM. There will be an opening reception at 12:30 pm. This will be your preview into the latest and greatest array of AT products and services that will keep you coming back over the next 3 days!

Sponsor News & Events:
Comcast
Location
Harbor Ballroom C, 2nd Floor
Date
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Time
6:00 PM
With your input, Comcast Accessibility is working hard to enable all customers to easily access and fully experience a range of products. Attend an evening of cocktails, light fare and demos of the latest accessible Comcast products, such as the talking TV interface. Discover the improved self-help and customer support resources and learn about their inclusive hiring practices and how to apply.

Amazon Kindle
Location
Cortez Hills A
Date
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Time
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Amazon Kindle invites you to “Play with Kindle Fire”. Come by the Cortez Hill A session room anytime between 8 am-5 pm on Thursday on March 20 to get hands-on with the all-new Kindle Fire tablets. Representatives from the Kindle Accessibility team will be on hand to listen to your feedback and answer questions about Kindle Fire’s new and improved accessibility tools. Short demonstrations will be given throughout the day and start times correspond with conference general sessions.

CSUN Cyber Café
Location
2nd floor, near Registration
The CSUN Cyber Café, sponsored by The Paciello Group, is located on the 2nd floor adjacent to Registration. It’s the perfect place to check your e-mail, follow conference sponsors and presenters on Facebook & Twitter, review the website for session changes or just surf to see what else is happening at the Conference.

CSUN Tweet-Up 2014
Location
Harbor Ballroom, 2nd Floor
Date
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Time
6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
The 6th Annual CSUN Tweet-Up is taking place Thursday, March 20 from 6:30-8:30 pm in the Harbor Ballroom. Join the group and spread the word about your conference experience. Visit the web site, http://csuntweetup.com/ to RSVP and make sure you’re connected to the other plans and participation options the tweet-up sponsors have in store for you!

WebAble TV
WebAble TV is the official conference webcaster. The WebAble TV team will be conducting interviews with sponsors, exhibitors and featured presenters, as well as recording several general sessions. For more information please visit the WebAble TV website.
Student Poster Session
Several groups of graduate students will be presenting their work on assistive technology projects on Friday at noon in a student poster session outside the Exhibit Hall in the Grand Hall Foyer. This year the poster session will feature student projects from San Diego State University, St. Augustine University’s Occupational Therapy Program and Grossmont College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program.

SS12 Code for a Cause Finals – Project:Possibility
Location
Harbor Ballroom, 2nd Floor
Date
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Time
9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Once again the Final Competition for Project:Possibility’s SS12 Code for a Cause will be held at this year’s conference. This exciting event will host the innovative open source projects the top teams from CSUN, UCLA and USC have created. A continental breakfast will be served following the presentations and judging, prior to the announcement of the First Place Team. We encourage you to mark your calendars for this important occasion to support the student teams and the time and work they have invested. Saturday, March 2 from 9-11 am in the Harbor Ballroom.

Accommodations:

While the conference group rate has now expired, you can still reserve a room at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. For more information, go to:

http://www.manchestergrand.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html

You can also follow the Manchester Grand Hyatt on twitter: @ManchGrandHyatt

There are a number of other hotels near the conference venue, many of which are easily accessible, as well as affordable. If you have stayed at one of the other nearby hotels, please feel free to add a comment as to the best way to navigate to the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Transportation:

As I recall, cab fare from the airport to the Manchester Grand Hyatt was around $15. There is also a Super Shuttle Service you can reserve in advance for airport to hotel transit. Follow: @SuperShuttle on Twitter. They often tweet out discount codes and relevant info in advance of the conference.

Navigation:

Don’t let your concerns about ease of navigation keep you from participating in the events. The staff at the Manchester Grand Hyatt has been hosting the CSUN Conference for a few years now, and they are well staffed and trained to assist anyone who needs it. There are also many volunteers, some of whom lend their time to the CSUN conference every year, who will ensure your safe and comfortable travels from point A to B throughout the week. I have found that I am seldom able to wander too far afield before someone is at my side, asking if they may be of assistance. There is also an orientation and mobility lesson available for anyone who wishes to familiarize themselves with the vast hotel property. The lesson will be Wednesday morning, march 19th, and you will be asked to express your interest in attending the training during the registration process. You will be in good hands, thanks to the excellent customer service provided by the team at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Finally, follow @CSUNCOD on Twitter for the latest announcements, and use hashtag #CSUN14 when tweeting about the event. Please return here to the Accessible Insights Blog for more information about a few presenters I’ll be featuring in an effort to showcase their work. If you haven’t already, make plans now to attend the 29th annual CSUN conference on Disability.

I look forward to seeing you in San Diego!

LL

Novel approaches to icon-based AAC presented by Karl Wiegand


One can easily argue that few are as keenly interested in the well-being of a person with a disability as is a parent. Expanding from that core of support one can also include siblings, guardians, educators, social workers and health care professionals. One can further include advocates, friends, spouses and co-workers, all of whom are concerned about quality of life. That covers just about everyone, and just about everyone should be in attendance at Karl Wiegand’s presentation at this year’s Conference on Disability, hosted by CSUN.

Mr. Wiegand is presenting some astonishing work in the field of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). His presentation, entitled “Novel Approaches to Icon-Based AAC,” will explore two different methodologies for message construction and input. These two approaches can elevate the quality of communication for a person who has locked in syndrome. “Locked in syndrome” is an umbrella term that describes people who may have paralysis to the degree that the individual is unable to move any major body parts, except for above the neck. Even a person who may be in a full body cast is an example of someone who may have near complete lack of motor function, albeit temporarily.

The choices in alternative and augmentative communication devices now commonly involve the use of mouth sticks, switches or eye gaze input devices that can be cumbersome and fatiguing for the user. The current systems were designed based on an assumption that the user can press a button, make repetitious movements, or is able to maintain movement or body position for extended periods, so as to select letters or short words or phrases from choices on a menu. Using letter-based systems can be time consuming, because a letter-based system is more generative than the icon-based system that some users prefer in face-to-face or real time communication situations.

The challenge for Wiegand and his colleagues was to answer the questions: How can you redesign a screen such that you can display a large number of icons, but not all at once, which can be cognitively burdensome? How can icon-based systems be redesigned for faster and more efficient communication, as well as to accommodate users with upper limb motor impairments?

Together with his advisor and colleagues at Northeastern University, Wiegand is working on initial designs of two new approaches to icon-based
AAC: one using continuous motion and one using a brain-computer interface (BCI). The continuous motion system, called Symbol Path, consists of 120 screen icons of semantically salient words. “Continuous motion” means that a user can touch a word to begin a sentence, and without breaking contact from the screen, swipe or drag from icon to icon, ultimately completing a sentence.

His second approach makes use of a practice borrowed from the field of psychology. It is a system that shows icons to a user that represents a word or small phrase, in a serial fashion. It’s called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation. It allows for more efficient sentence construction, rather than presenting the user with a screen full of icons that must be made small in order to offer the user a full compliment of choices, which may be overwhelming.

This method of presenting information in rapid-fire fashion has been used before. If it sounds familiar, you may have once used this same technique if you’ve ever tried to tackle “speed reading.”

“My goal is to build a star trek computer.” Wiegand declares. He went on to explain. “A computer like the one in the program Star Trek, that can understand anybody, and will do it’s best to fill a person’s desires or needs.”

Karl was gracious enough to patiently explain what essential elements of communication would be required in order to make a “Star Trek computer” possible. First, a computer would have to be capable of parsing, which senses for context and speech recognition. Another element would include learning contexts, whereby a computer would understand how people interact with systems and expected responses from users. Finally, artificial intelligence would have to be achieved, enabling problem-solving with incomplete information, and natural language processing.

Until the point at which Mr. Wiegand has utterly changed our lives, and I do not doubt for a moment that he will, Wiegand says he’d like to work on Siri. To achieve his ultimate ends, Karl has worked in a number of other fields that have led him to this research. “I like AAC.” Wiegand continues. “It is a very focused area that is actually a vertex for four or five other fields.”

At CSUN, Karl will demonstrate the SymbolPath system, a prototype version of which is currently available for free on the Android app store (search for “SymbolPath”), show the BCI system, explain how both systems work, and talk about future directions for both. Wiegand hopes to have a system in place at his CSUN session so that attendees who interact with AAC users, friends or loved ones of AAC users, or AAC users themselves, can help create a corpus — a data set that shows what certain users want in certain times or settings or situations.

“We have revised both approaches based on initial testing and user feedback, and we are currently conducting several iterations of user-assisted design and revision before proceeding to full user testing.” Wiegand notes.

Attendees can help build this database by contributing realistic text, utterances, or phrases that AAC users like to say. If you attend the session, or find Karl throughout the week, you can contribute to the database or ask questions. In exchange, Karl will give you a copy of Symbol Path.

Karl will be presenting on Friday, March 1st at 3:10 pm in the Ford AB room, third floor.
Here is the link to the session page:

http://bit.ly/15yOOND

More about Karl Wiegand:

Karl Wiegand is a Ph.D. student in computer science at
Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. He works in the
Communication Analysis and Design Laboratory (CadLab) under the
advisement of Dr. Rupal Patel. Since joining the CadLab in 2009, Karl
has been working on alternative methods of communication for users
with neurological
impairments and severely limited mobility. His research includes
aspects of interface design, artificial intelligence, and language
theory.

Here are more ways to contact Karl, and help with his corpus gathering project:

Karl Wiegand’s homepage: http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/wiegand/
Karl’s lab: http://www.cadlab.neu.edu/
Link to Karl on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karlwiegand/

Finally, if you know or love an AAC user, you can help get the ball rolling on data-gathering here:

http://www.cadlab.neu.edu/corpus/

Don’t forget to use hashtag #CSUN13 when tweeting about the event. See you in San Diego!

LL

Sina Bahram to present an accessible, gesture-based approach to controlling classroom technology


There are any number of reasons one might attend a particular session at the upcoming 28th annual International Assistive Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference. You might want to learn more about a ground-breaking awareness project, you might want to learn a new skill, you might want to find fresh inspiration for your own work. One reason to attend Sina Bahram’s session is that he has helped to solve a problem that has affected educators, lecturers, or corporate presenters who are blind or visually impaired, as well as people who use tech automation in the workplace. He will discuss an accessible, gesture-based approach to controlling the technology in either a classroom or corporate setting.

Sina Bahram is a technical consultant and accessibility researcher pursuing his PhD in the Department of Computer Science at North Carolina State University. His field of research is Human Computer Interaction (HCI) with a focus on the use of innovative environments and multi-modal approaches to facilitate eyes-free exploration of highly graphical information. Combining artificial intelligence, intelligent user interfaces (IUI), and HCI, Sina devises innovative and user-centered solutions to difficult real-world problems.

Bahram’s session will show you how an instructor who is blind can independently give a presentation. typically, when using the technology available to a sighted presenter, there are barriers imposed by the device that is used to control the projector, the microphone, document camera, and other input devices. This controller, usually either a Crestron or AMX technology box, allows for many inputs that can be managed by way of a touch screen. This touch screen interface is inaccessible to blind instructors, and presents numerous difficulties for a speaker or educator with low or no vision. For example, without sighted assistance, there is no way to know the state of readiness of the technology being used. There is no feedback alerting the presenter as to whether the projector is warmed up, or how he or she might adjust the volume level of the audio. Bahram will discuss and demonstrate how this approach to an embedded system allows blind or vision-impaired instructors to control classroom technology.

The project is a collaboration between North Carolina State University, Bahram, Ron Jailall, who works in control systems programming and classroom design, and Greg Kraus, who is Coordinator of Campus Accessibility. They have devised an approach whereby simple gestures, swipe up, down, and to the right, are used to move about various screen elements. Further, computer-generated speech is used to provide menu and status information.

“We have an underrepresentation of persons with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM),” says Bahram. “In particular, people who are blind or visually impaired. This is one of the approaches that can help address this problem, in a small way, without having to depend upon a teaching assistant or student to assist. Now, a blind instructor can manage classroom technology independently.”

No matter the context in which you give presentations, craft accessibility policy or purchase tech for employees or students who are blind, this session is for you. No special skill level is required to attend. All are welcome. Sina will be available for questions, demonstrations, and further discussion, at any time you can catch him throughout the conference week.

More about Sina Bahram:
In 2012, Sina was recognized as one of President Barack Obama’s Champions of Change for his work in enabling users with disabilities to succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. You can read more about Sina and his research on his website, www.SinaBahram.com, or follow him on Twitter via @SinaBahram.

Be sure to check out the links below for more information.

For further ways to contact Sina, see his contact page at:

http://www.SinaBahram.com/contact.php

Read Bahram’s blog here:

http://blog.SinaBahram.com

Discussion of an Eyes-Free Approach to Controlling Classroom Tech:

Demonstration of an Eyes-Free Approach to Controlling Classroom Tech:

For more videos on other topics, Sina’s YouTube channel is at:

http://www.YouTube.com/sbahram

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #CSUN13 when tweeting about the event.

LL

The 2013 Assistive Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference


If you are a person who has a disability, or if you know or love someone who does, you will soon have an opportunity to attend what could be a life-changing event. If you have never before attended the International Conference on Disability, presented by California State University, Northridge, I am going to work hard over the next few weeks to give you some compelling reasons to attend. This annual conference is the largest of its kind, and each year showcases the very latest assistive technologies, teaching techniques and best practices for web and mobile accessibility development, as well as the latest in disability-related policy news and legislation. You’ll hear inspiring words from thought leaders and educators, and you can experience the camaraderie and fellowship of others who may be living with a disability similar to your own. If you can only attend one event this year, this is the one to attend. There is truly something educational, fun and uplifting here for everyone.

Start with this link, below. It will take you to the main page, where you will find all the info you need. Attendee registration is now open, so make your plans soon.

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2013/sessions/index.php

If you want to explore the full list of educational sessions, click this link:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2013/sessions/index.php/public/conf_sessions/

You will be amazed at the range of topics, and the depth to which they can be explored. If you are not a technology fanatic, don’t worry. There are sessions on just about every aspect of disability awareness, accessibility and advocacy. All levels of expertise are addressed at many sessions, so don’t let intimidation or feelings of technical illiteracy keep you away.

There are also some social events you can attend. For example, The Paciello Group, WebAIM, Infoaxia, PayPal, The Center on Disabilities at CSUN, EZFire, OpenDirective, and CA Technologies will coordinate and sponsor a tweetup at the CSUN Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference. The tweetup will be held Thursday, February 28th at 6:00pm at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, San Diego. Additional details will be coming soon. The tweetup is open to all Twitter users, but attendees are asked to RSVP.

http://csuntweetup.com/

Finally, be sure to use the hashtag #CSUN13 when tweeting about the conference. Check back here throughout February, as I will be showcasing a few of the presenters you can look forward to seeing at the conference. Make your travel arrangements early, and I look forward to seeing you there. You can follow me at @Accessible_Info on Twitter, so tweet me up so we can meet!

LL

Press release on free events and exhibit hall at CSUN 2012


Waiting until midweek to attend the free events at the CSUN 2012 Assistive Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference?  If so, you will be met by thousands also flocking to get a look at the latest assistive devices on display in the exhibit hall at the Manchester Gran Hyatt.  Below is the latest info on the tweetup event, and other information on free events scheduled for the week.  See you there!

 

San Diego to Host 27th Annual International

Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference

Geri Jewell to Keynote Largest Tech Conference For People with Disabilities;

CSUN 2012 Exhibit and Several Forums Will be Open to the Public


San Diego, CA—February 23, 2012—California State University, Northridge (CSUN) announced today highlights for the upcoming 27th Annual International Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference including the free exhibit and several forums that will be open to the public. The world’s largest and only university-sponsored tech event dedicated to people with disabilities will again take place at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego, February 27-March 3, 2012. CSUN is also proud to announce that actor, comedienne, speaker and advocate, Geri Jewell, will keynote the 2012 conference.

“Our conference is very unique to the industry and brings together thousands from around the world including scientists, influencers, government officials, visionary tech execs and entrepreneurs, all committed to driving innovation in assistive technology to promote inclusiveness for people with disabilities—our largest group of attendees and the reason we all gather to push the research and industry forward each year,” said Sandy Plotin, managing director of CSUN’s Center on Disabilities.

Actor, comedienne, speaker and advocate for people with disabilities, Geri Jewell, will keynote the 2012 conference. Jewell, who brought national attention to cerebral palsy and ability awareness in her role as “cousin Geri” in the 80’s TV series, The Facts of Life, uses humor to facilitate attitude changes. Jewell remains a leading force in disabilities advocacy and continues her acting career as seen on the award-winning HBO series, Deadwood, and in the new FOX series, Alcatraz.

“We are thrilled to have Geri Jewell as our keynote this year. By sharing her disability as her greatest blessing, she transforms the focus of her motivational appearances and training sessions from disabilities to a true celebration of ability. She’ll undoubtedly inspire and empower conference attendees, which is our ultimate goal,” added Plotin.

CSUN 2012 will include two days of engaging pre-conference events and 350 general sessions led by experts, all focused on promoting accessibility through technology innovation and policy change. Also, there will be over 130 exhibitors demonstrating the latest in assistive technology from software and social media apps to robotics. The exhibit hall and several forums will be open to the public and free of charge.

FREE EXHIBIT HALL HOURS (OPEN TO THE PUBLIC):

  • Wednesday, February 29, 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM
  • Thursday, March 1, 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Friday, March 2, 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM

FREE EXHIBITS & FORUMS (OPEN TO THE PUBLIC):

Microsoft, Online Event – Follow Microsoft on its “Road to CSUN”, an eight-day road trip from Seattle to San Diego that will explore and share the world of accessibility discovered on the way to the conference. See regular updates and video on Microsoft’s Accessibility Blog, http://aka.ms/EnableBlog and Twitter (@MSFTEnable or #Road2CSUN), February 20 – 28th.

Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities – Reps from FEMA and other agencies will discuss emerging hazards, new communication technologies and maximizing wireless device readiness (mobile, smart phone, tablet). Explore Apps, cloud storage, social media readiness, alternative power options for essential communication and independence, and other key preparedness. – Thursday, March 1, 10:00 a.m-12:00 p.m. PT (Elizabeth Ballrooms “D” & “E”)

Department of Labor, Featured Presentation – Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy, will speak about the agency’s efforts to promote the development and adoption of accessible workplace technology by America’s employers, which is essential to advancing the employment of people with disabilities. – Thursday, March 1, 12:00-12:30 p.m. (Elizabeth Ballrooms “D” & “E”)

U.S. Access Board – The Board recently conducted a public hearing on a revised draft of updated requirements for information and comm. technology (ICT) covered by Section 508 of the Rehab. Act and Section 255 of the Telecom. Act. The next Public Hearing on the Draft ICT Rule will be held at CSUN 2012. – Thursday, March 1, 1:00-3:00 p.m. PT (Elizabeth Ballrooms “D” & “E”)

Department of Transportation – Representatives of the DOT and Amtrak will discuss the rights of people with disabilities when in transport by land, air and sea, and the importance of designing a livable and accessible community. This session will also include a discussion of recent DOT rulemaking, enforcement and outreach activities to make our travel system more fully accessible as well as a video presentation on evacuating people with disabilities during emergencies. – Friday, March 2, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. PT (Elizabeth Ballrooms “D” & “E”)

For more information about the conference including how to register for pre-conference workshops and other closed-session events, visit the Center on Disabilities’ website at <http://www.csun.edu/cod> or call (818) 677-2578.

About CSUN
California State University, Northridge has more than 35,000 full- and part-time students and offers 66 bachelor’s and 53 master’s degrees as well as 28 teaching credential programs. Founded in 1958, CSUN is among the largest single-campus universities in the nation and the only four-year public university in the San Fernando Valley. The university serves as the intellectual, economic and cultural heart of the Valley and beyond. http://www.csun.edu

###

 

Don’t forget to use the #CSUN12 hashtag when tweeting about the event.

LL