Thousands of people from around the globe are expected to travel to San Diego next month to take part in the world’s largest event dedicated to presenting and exploring new ways technology can assist people with disabilities.
The 33rd Annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference — organized by California State University, Northridge’s Center on Disabilities — is scheduled to take place from March 19-23 at the Manchester Grant Hyatt Hotel in San Diego. Next year, the conference will be moving closer to home to a site in Anaheim, Calif.
“People with disabilities make up the largest group of conference attendees, and are the reason we all gather to push the research and challenge industry professionals to keep moving technology forward and tackle obstacles to everyone living their lives to the fullest,” said Sandy Plotin, managing director of the Center on Disabilities.
The “CSUN Conference,” as it is known in the industry, is the only one of its kind sponsored by a university. It provides a unique opportunity for people with disabilities to have direct input on the creation of or modifications to assistive technologies intended to make their lives easier, whether it is wheelchairs, interactive software or apps.
“Our conference brings together so many people from around the world — including scientists, practitioners, educators, government officials, tech industry executives, entrepreneurs, and, of course, end-users — all committed to driving innovation in assistive technology to promote inclusiveness,” Plotin said.
The conference explores all aspects of technology and disabilities, and it features a roster of internationally recognized speakers, more than 350 general session workshops and more than 100 exhibitors displaying the latest technologies for people with disabilities. This year’s sold-out exhibit floor includes a variety of new exhibitors displaying all facets of assistive technology and services. The CSUN Conference Exhibit Hall is open to the public, free of charge.
A sixth annual “Journal on Technology and People with Disabilities” will be published following the conference and will highlight the proceedings from the conference’s science/research track. The journal will be made available in a “draft form” for the convenience of the attendees at the presentations.
The conference’s keynote speaker this year is attorney Daniel Goldstein, an active champion of disability rights for almost 35 years. A longtime advocate for the National Federation of the Blind, Goldstein won agreements in 2000 to ensure that the websites of a number of high-profile businesses — including AOL, Amazon, Target, eBay, Ticketmaster, Travelocity, H&R Block and Scribd — were accessible. He also obtained an order directing the Secretary of State of Ohio to make sure that state’s election website was accessible.
Goldstein has secured court judgements requiring accessible voting machines and accessible online absentee-ballot marking tools, as well as agreements requiring accessible health care kiosks, ATMS and automated ordering devices at restaurants.
“Mr. Goldstein has been a leader in ensuring that the needs of those with disabilities are not overlooked,” Plotin said. “I am sure his address will definitely be something those attending the conference will not want to miss.”
Each year at the conference, CSUN’s Center on Disabilities recognizes a person who has made a major impact on education and research in the field of disability and technology. This year’s recipient of the Strache Leadership Award, named for a former CSUN vice president for student affairs and champion of the center, is Richard Ladner, professor emeritus in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science at the University of Washington.
Ladner’s research focus is in creating and evaluating technologies to help make the lives of people with disabilities better. He currently is working on the development of an accessible block-based programming language for touch-screen tablet computers, so that blind children can have early access to computer programming.
The Strache Leadership Award, along with the first Dr. Arthur I. Karshmer Award for best journal submission, will be presented at the keynote address the evening of March 20.