September 15, 2014

UNI hosts Disability Awareness Summit

The Americans with Disabilities Act helped to make the country’s buildings more accessible to millions of people with various disabilities, but much more work needs to be done to open doors. The University of Northern Iowa is hosting a Disability Awareness Summit today.

Ashley Brickley, U.N.I.’s coordinator for student disability services, explains the goals of the event. “We are trying to promote disability awareness and understanding and inclusion,” Brickley says.

“Our summit has an emphasis on inclusive environments and on access to technology and the role technology plays in creating accessibility and inclusion in those environments.” While most of us are familiar with A.D.A. requirements that buildings have ramps or elevators and doorways wide enough to accommodate people in wheelchairs, Brickley says this summit will also focus on making schools and technology itself more accessible.

“We’re looking at the designs of websites and classrooms in order to make sure we’re eliminating as many barriers as possible,” Brickley says. “How can you design a website so it’s accessible to an individual using a screen reader? How can you design your classroom in order to remove or reduce the need for academic accommodations or retrofitting of that classroom for individuals with disabilities?”

The summit will feature several national and regional speakers that should appeal to the diverse audience. “We have different breakout sessions regarding universal design and learning, employee wellness, accessible technology, website design and accessibility,” Brickley says.

“At the end, we’ll allow all of those individuals to do their own mini-breakout sessions and talk about how they’re using things they learned at the conference or what they’ve been doing at their own organizations to make an inclusive environment for all.”

The summit runs from 9 A.M. to 3:30 P.M. in the U.N.I. Commons.