GHC News: Accessibility at Grace Hopper
by Brianna Blaser
As a part of the Women of Underrepresented Groups (WURG) Track, there have been many conversations about how to make this year’s GHC welcoming and accessible to participants with disabilities. This includes making arrangement for participants with hearing impairments to ensure they have access to sign language interpreters and considering the needs of individuals who use wheelchairs when thinking about room layout.
Universal design, or the idea that environments should be designed to be usable by everyone without the need for adaptations or accommodations can make a presentation, conference, or setting more welcoming to people with disabilities. This might include using multiple modes of delivery during a presentation to engage all types of learners, ensuring videos are captioned and webpages are in compliance with accessibility standards, and repeating questions asked by the audience. These sorts of considerations can also make an environment more welcoming to people who don’t have disabilities, including non-native English speakers or individuals with different learning preferences. For more information on universal design, visit the Center for Universal Design in Education.
Tips to remember:
- Wait for someone to ask for assistance before you step in to help.
- When talking with someone using an interpreter, speak directly to the person and make eye contact with them rather than with the interpreter.
- If you’re giving a presentation, be sure to read any words on your slides and describe any images to ensure that individuals with visual impairments don’t miss out. Face the audience while speaking so anyone who may be lip reading can see you.
- Use “people first language” for example, saying “people with disabilities” instead of “disabled people”, to support the idea that people with disabilities are people first.
- Remember that many disabilities are invisible – this includes learning disabilities, attention deficits, and autism spectrum disorders, among others.
- Be patient.
- Relax and be yourself.
Author information: Brianna Blaser, PhD is a program coordinator/counselor for AccessComputing at the University of Washington. AccessComputing serves to increase the participation of people with disabilities in computing fields. Find more information at http://www.washington.edu/accesscomputing/
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