One of the issues I am most passionate about is accessibility. Whether it's talking to organizations, large or small, about web accessibility, giving motivational speeches on overcoming obstacles to the blind, or simply presenting on my current research and how it can help people with disabilities, I love engaging with audiences all over the world on this topic.
I have several talks that audiences have found either extremely moving or quite useful and conducive to achieving their goals. If you would like me to speak on one of these topics, please contact me.
General Web Accessibility
This speech sprung out of a need to convince a very diverse audience consisting of web programmers to deans, IT Managers to department heads, and professors/faculty to other content creators about the importance of accessibility on the web. I cover WCAG guidelines, but in a practical way (no recitation of subsections, sorry). I examine a few definitions and how they can be applied to our current discussion in the context of universal design, and present a few methodologies by which someone with a vision impairment accesses technology; namely the web. The majority of the talk is then spent in a live demo in which I walk the audience through the navigation of two visually identical, but very different, websites.
I have learned that when individuals in the audience have the interesting and memorable experience of listening to and watching me use a screen reader in front of them, this completely changes how they think about, relate to, and implement universal design principles, web accessibility policies, and even general user interface issues. This talk is open to any caliber of questions from beginning to end, with a Q&A session proceeding it as well.
Web Accessibility For Developers
I discuss web accessibility issues that arise when a screen reader user navigates a website. The majority of this talk consists of an interactive live demo. The demo spans academic and corporate websites. Furthermore, the audience determines the direction based on technical queries about one specific topic over another.
I have found that web developers come away from this talk in amazement and with much gratitude for a real world pragmatic example of why they do the things that they do. For example, several developers have told me that automated checkers that prompt them about images not being labeled no longer bothers them. By providing developers and content creators with a living relatable reason for why standards and universal design practices are important, I have been able to motivate accessibility changes in institutions where traditional top down approaches have failed.
This talk engages an institution's policy makers, content creators, and developers to promote systemic accessibility. One off approaches do not guarantee systemic institution wide accessibility. I present real world examples to motivate adoption of universal design concepts across the organization. Many strategies exist for convincing a myriad of different stakeholders of the importance of systemic accessibility, and I present these strategies tailored for the specific organization.
Institutions sometimes have one or a few individuals who advocate for system wide accessibility. This talk allows those folks' efforts to be magnified across the institution. Furthermore, I've found that once policy makers engage with me and see real world benefits of implementing these practices, there is a world of difference in the support that accessibility advocates receive internally.
I've been legally blind for basically my entire life. To me, it is not constantly noticeable. Most people forget I am blind within about three minutes of meeting me, until of course they ask me to look at something they've drawn on the board! Throughout my life, I have had many goals, and I've relished the challenge of addressing the obstacles that have arisen in pursuit of these goals head on. My story, I feel, is not unique because I know there are so many others who struggle with problems that, just like how blindness seems like a big deal to my acquaintances, their problems seem like a big deal to me.
Nevertheless, I have been able to take heart and laugh at many of life's various obstacles, and I share these stories with the audience. I think different people receive different messages from this talk. Unlike my various technical presentations, there is no bulleted list or right or wrong answer. There is only my story about being blind and how this effected and shaped my receiving an education, working for various high-tech companies, teaching myself programming, and pursuing a doctoral degree in computer science.
More on the way
As I become better about updating this page, I will post more of the talks I am asked to give regularly here. Please do not ever hesitate to contact me and ask about any of them, or something altogether new. I love talking with audiences of all sizes about various topics!