Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day

On May 16, organizations around the world celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), and HSC was proud to be among them in spreading awareness about the mission to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion for people living with disabilities. Accessibility is a vital part of whole health and is one of the many ways we live our values.  

Every year, HSC’s Office of Disability Access (ODA), the Division of Academic Innovation (DAI) and the Gibson D. Lewis Library host a GAAD event to engage faculty, staff and students in all the ways HSC is making learning equitable and accessible for everyone.  

This year, DAI covered course accessibility features and tools, and demonstrated the National Eye Institute’s virtual eye disease simulation app that helps people experience what it’s like to see through eyes that have visual impairments like macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetes-induced challenges. ODA provided information on its services and how people can request academic accommodations for permanent or temporary disabilities impacting them in the educational environment. Lewis Library shared a variety of resources about accessibility, covering topics such as deaf and hard of hearing, mobility, neurodiversity, and visual impairment. Lewis Library’s PAWS therapy dog program exemplifies our commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. Our furry companions play a vital role in fostering a welcoming and supportive environment for individuals of all abilities. Whether offering much needed comfort during high testing or providing companionship to our visitors, the therapy dog program promotes emotional well-being. Accessibility goes beyond physical accommodations to encompass emotional support and connection. 

Accessible curriculum 

DAI leads HSC’s efforts in designing online learning, educational media creation, faculty and staff development in education and technology, and continuing education credit for health care providers. Certified braille transcriber and Digital Accessibility Specialist Vivian Seki, M.S.Ed, is responsible for ensuring all courses are accessible.  

“The whole point of accessibility is that it helps everyone at every stage of life,” said Seki. “We need to stop following the medical model and start following the social model which more people would be receptive to and can help eliminate the stigma people feel around disability. At some point in life, everyone will experience some level of disability, for example, reading glasses or mobility challenges as we age.” 

Accessible technology 

Representatives from Apple exhibited their mission to make technology customizable to the diverse needs of all its users by guiding visitors through the built-in accessibility features available on all their devices. They offer free webinars and have a YouTube Apple Accessibility Support playlist with 50 how-to videos. Check it out here 

[insert image of Mac Skills webinar series flyer and QR codes] 

Accessibility services 

ODA’s goal is to assist with the removal of barriers for students while maintaining the integrity and technical standards of each academic program. 

“We want to normalize disability and accessibility as a part of all our lives and how we show up at school, work and life. Over the past year, we’ve seen an increase in students registering for accommodations, and we hope to see more of that each year,” said Mariana Davies, M,Ed., Disability Access Coordinator for ODA. 

To learn more about the services that The Office of Disability Access provides, visit www.unthsc.edu/ODA. 

Accessible academic information 

Lewis Library embraces and promotes the democratization of access, leveraging efforts to ensure purchased materials are accessible to all. Library staff work closely with vendors to select the best possible resources that meet ADA compliance standards. Additionally, the Library team addresses their own documents, using software that enables them to check and correct internally created messaging and documents. 

“As a library, especially a health science library, it is important we create a welcoming environment that addresses the needs of everyone. Equitable access to e-resources and physical materials is priority for Lewis Library and is embedded in our processes and services,” said Ramona Holmes-Spayde, Director of Gibson D. Lewis Library 

Until next year 

Let’s live our values every day by holding each other accountable to fostering and normalizing inclusion and accessibility at HSC. If you need to request accommodations, please connect with our Office of Disability Access.