Assistive Technology: Gateway to Accessibility for All

#36498

Speaker(s)

  • Chris Parthemos, Senior Access Specialist, Virginia Commonwealth University

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference

Summary

Many students view AT through the lens of intensive supports, but do not consider the fact that the study skills app or habit tracker they use may be a form of AT. By broadening the discussion of AT on campus to include all students, we help create a stronger culture of accessibility.

In this presentation, we will discuss an initiative designed to build partnerships, increase awareness of our services, and shape the culture at our university towards accessibility.

Abstract

Assistive Technology is commonly considered through the lens of more intensive forms of support. Hardware like cctv or cochlear implants and software tools like advanced dictation can be life-altering, but are used by a small subset of people. When we discuss AT only in these terms, we can unintentionally create an idea of AT that isolates people with disabilities. At the university level, most students are either already using some form of small-scale AT or would benefit from doing so, but they may not recognize the app on their phone or laptop for what it is.

We designed the Assistive Technology Lab initiative with this exact idea in mind. Our basic philosophy is that AT is a resource that benefits every student at our university, and that as a dedicated resource on campus to house knowledge and resources for AT, we can support our whole campus rather than exclusively students registered with disability services. In doing so, we have the opportunity to forge stronger partnerships with other campus resources, increase awareness of our services, and help develop a culture of accessibility at our university.

This initiative currently engages in three main activities:

1. Direct support for campus partners through trainings, events, and resource sharing. 2. "Assistive Technology Stations" around campus sharing information about AT with all students. 3. Events across campus available to all students to demo and discuss AT

The goal of these actions, and of this initiative, is not to diminish the importance of traditional AT supporting those with higher need. Indeed, those resources are discussed alongside smaller resources like Grammarly which are used by a wide range of students. In doing so, our hope is that students will be more aware of those resources, and come to an understanding of AT as something important to all of us. This leads to a more accessible culture for all.

Keypoints

  1. Assistive Technology can be a vehicle to forming stronger campus partnerships.
  2. By educating all students about Assistive Technology, you can raise awareness of accessibility.
  3. Assistive Technology can be as simple as a better spellcheck, and helping students realize this is important.

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Administrative/Campus Policy, Assistive Technology, Faculty Development & Support, Other, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized, Universal Design for Learning

Speaker Bio(s)

Chris Parthemos

Chris Parthemos is the Senior Access Specialist at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity Office. In this role, he provides case management support to students, oversees the provision of dining accommodations, coordinates assistive technology, and leads the Assistive Technology Lab initiative. Chris is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst, and is pursuing a PHD in Educational Research, Assessment, and Evaluation.