The Tech Council had a great turnout for its July 19th meeting on Technology and People with Disabilities: Access, Advancements and Opportunities at the SF Public Library. Following a wide-ranging panel presentation, attendees viewed the Patient No More: People with Disabilities Securing Civil Rights exhibit at the Library and enjoyed the Council’s popular wine and cheese reception.
Three local technology and disability experts served as panel members: Marti Goddard, Access Services Manager at the Library; Erin Lauridsen, Director of Access Technology at LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired; and Nicole Bohn, Director of the Mayor’s Office on Disability. Emily Beitiks, Associate Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University, provided an inspiring “inside look” at how and why the Patient No More exhibit was created.
Marti Goddard’s mantra is “No patron is denied access.” Marti focused on the vast array of old and new assistive technology services and tools available to library users managing vision and hearing limitations, learning difficulties, and muscular coordination challenges. Those needing assistance will find help with reading, writing, highlighting text, and having materials read to them. Tools the library provides include: real-time and closed captioning; screen readers and magnification; a private video phone; interpreter service; assisted living devices for public rooms; pocket talkers with amplification; adjustable tables and keyboard trays; laptops with assistive technologies at the branch libraries; and wheelchair lifts on bookmobiles.
Erin Lauridsen’s passion is technology design; as she says, finding “stuff that helps me do stuff.” In addition to design, she focuses on ensuring that technology tools really work for people with disabilities and understanding how people access technology. LightHouse programs that encourage innovation and design include monthly MADLabs meetings and the LightHouse Labs think-tank, providing conversation and design space for tech innovators to collaborate with blind engineers, scientists, power users and advocates. In addition, LightHouse helps Silicon Valley and other Bay Area companies with user testing and helps people with disabilities figure out what technologies they need, both in individual and group settings. LightHouse is an SF Connected Partner and works with several public and nonprofit programs in San Francisco.
Nicole Bohn’s mission is ensuring that San Francisco is compliant with city accessibility policy in areas such as disaster planning, the City’s technology infrastructure and website design, transportation, and voting accessibility. Nicole works closely with the City’s compliance reviewer on these initiatives and is eager to also pursue accessible smart cities. Nicole noted the Mayor will issue a press release on July 26th recognizing the 40th anniversary year of the 1977 Section 504 occupation and the 27th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
All three panelists stressed that designing for disability works for everyone. Access to technology needs to be seen as a civil right – no one today can thrive without technology for work, healthcare, transportation, communication, entertainment and other daily needs.
The panelists suggested the following resources for learning more about technology and disability:
- The California State University Northridge (CSUN) Assistive Technology Conference
- Raising the Floor, book by Andy Stern
The next meeting of the Tech Council is Wednesday, August 16, 2017, from 4:00-6:00 at the Twitter Neighborhood Nest office, 95 Hayes St. The meeting will be followed by a wine and cheese networking reception.