It is always a thrill for me to attend the annual California State University at Northridge’s Center on Disabilities’ Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference. This year’s 23rd annual conference was another winner. The more than 130 exhibitors’ various assistive technology products showed their empowering opportunities to the attendees. The scores and scores of sessions mostly focused on improving communications between the technology being demonstrated and the end-user.
Some of the sessions centered on: Evaluation of a Learning Technology for People with Vision Loss; Writing Accessible Accessibility Tools; Wired for Business: Refreshable Braille in an Employment Setting; Captioning Solutions for Handheld Media and Mobile Devices: Accessible OnLine Learning: A Hands on Lab Experience Using the Universal eLearner; Mathematics and Dyslexia: A Possible Software Solution; Audio/Touch Arithmetic for Children; and DAISY Track: The Most Widely Access Reading Technology in History.
How valuable were these sessions to the attendees?
A parent of two children with disabilities told me, “I am learning so much that I do not know where start. This conference is wonderful.” He has a nine-year-old blind daughter and a 12-year-old son with autism.
An adult with both and intellectual and visual disability said to me, “I learn more and more ways to utilize technology to deal with my dual disabilities every time I come here.”
While people found the sessions of enormous value, the assistive technologies were a treasure.
“I have been here all day. I have seen a treasure of products that can help many students with disabilities,” Kerstin Scott told me.
I followed Kerstin to half a dozen different booths. She was an inquisitor. Her rapid fire questions stunned the exhibitors. She asked, “What does this product do?” “How much does it cost?” “How many people are using it?” “Is there a discount?” “How long does training take?” Her endless questions told me she was there to learn. I watched her struggle with four bags of materials as she left the Marriott Hotel.
First time visitor and inventor Aaron Lema visited exhibits in both hotels and told me, “I am more than awed by these products that help people who are blind, speech challenged, hard of hearing and have other disabilities that I know.”
Spain’s Gorka Eizmendi was flabbergasted by the number of exhibitors and the versatility of their products. “We could never assemble this many exhibitors at a conference in Spain or throughout Europe,” he said.
Austrian Klaus Miesenberger and Frenchman Raoul Parienti agreed with Eizmendi’s comments.
One of the emerging issues that CSUN’s exhibitors, speakers and the attendees will focus on next year is the impact of assistive technology in the lives of senior citizens.
About 4,400 people registered for the conference. They were educators, government officials, medical doctors, parents of people with disabilities, end-users, occupational therapists, physical therapists, engineers, nurses, exhibitors, adults with disabilities and others.
Among the many companies with a presence at CSUN were Canon USA In., Cyrano Communicator, Microsoft Corporation, IBM Human Ability & Accessibility Center, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Fatronik, Deque Systems, Dolphin Computer Access, Enhanced Vision, Humanware, Freedom Scientific, K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc., Laureate Learning Systems, Madentec, Mayer Johnson, sComm Inc., Serotek Corp. and Zygo Industries.