DRES to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day


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The Disability Resources and Educational Services offers resources to those with disabilities at the University. On Thursday, DRES will host a series of events and activities to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

By Yanchao Zhao, Contributing Writer

On Wednesday, a ceremony will be held by the Disability Resources and Educational Services in Huff Hall and the Khan Annex to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Activities will include hands-on workshops, exhibits and assistive technology demonstrations.

GAAD is an awareness day focusing on accessibility, often emphasizing web accessibility. It is marked annually on the third Thursday of May.

Christy Blew, an IT accessibility specialist in training and outreach for DRES, said DRES started to celebrate GAAD two years ago.

“Last year, we had a small open house. We knew last year that we really want to do something bigger this year,” Blew said.

Blew emphasized the importance of educating people on technical accessibility.

“It’s an opportunity to bring awareness about accessibility and information technology. A lot of people think the world is accessible. They think of physical type things, like a ramp. But things for digital accessibility are still a little unfamiliar,” she said.

DRES will provide many activities with multiple ways to experience this education. For example, DRES will have representatives from Apple come in and talk about what the Mac system in computers can do with helping people with accessibility.

There will also be some sessions for accessibility on the Windows system.

“For Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, somebody will talk about how you can make a word document by using styles to build your heading structure when you want to make a heading instead of making a big board … So when somebody uses technology like a screen reader, then it will read them it’s a heading instead of just regular text,” Blew said.

These sessions and activities will not only focus on people with disabilities. People can also learn something from them to make their lives or people with disabilities lives easier.

“We don’t want to be to a specific audience; we want to be for everyone,” Blew said.

During lunch time, there will be an open house for participants to visit.

“For the open house, we have some people for demonstrating some different software people might use,” Blew said.

The presenters come from diversified areas. Some will be from outside of the University, like Illinois Radio Reader, where they do audio recordings of newspapers and magazines for free.

People from the Illinois Department of Revenue will also be there to talk about a program they have to help the disabled with their finances. In total, there will be 15 different stations.

Audio description experience may be the most popular activity. This is a new technology designed for somebody who is blind.

“Imagine you are watching a video and you close your eyes. Then, it will describe what is going on when people in the video are not talking,” Blew explained.

DRES is going to provide box lunches for people who registered. There will also be a shuttle bus service between locations for people who come late and need to be picked up. Free parking is also available and there will be volunteers to direct people and to give people help in classrooms.

“It’s an opportunity to share something about the accessibility; the opportunity for people aside from us to join in. We do a lot of teaching and training. But there are so many people on campus and in the community area that are unfamiliar with accessibility,” Blew said.

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