When everyone has access, everyone benefits

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Ryne Raffaelle is vice president for research and associate provost at RIT.

You can’t turn on the TV or read a newspaper or periodical that is not engaged in a conversation about access. It could be about access to the Internet or affordable health care or safe drinking water or quality education or free and fair elections—just to name a few. No one wants to be left out or left behind.

Ensuring access for those amongst us who may have sensory, mobility or cognitive issues can be quite challenging. Sometimes what is needed is as simple as an automatic door and wheelchair ramp, but in the fast-paced society in which we live, more often what is needed requires a bit more sophistication. For example, increasingly important technologies like voice recognition systems or eye-trackers help people use computers. Often people are faced with multiple challenges, which are especially frequent amongst our growing elderly and returning veteran populations.

The good news is that we live in an unparalleled time of discovery in the realm of access technology. People are inventing new ways of connecting people and providing independence through the development of new technologies or the adaptation of those that already exist. I’m very proud to say that RIT has been at the forefront in many of these areas. From advanced robotics to new technologies for hearing or visual impairment to the use of social and interactive media, RIT researchers are developing remarkable new pathways to inclusion.

Since 2006, RIT faculty and students have completed more than 50 capstone engineering design projects aimed at helping people by developing assistive devices, workplace adaptations or rehabilitation aids for individuals and organizations in the Greater Rochester area. Currently, RIT has more than 60 ongoing projects totaling almost $16 million related to access technology. Of course we haven’t just done this by ourselves. This work has been done in collaboration with a large number of local organizations such as the Al Sigl Community of Agencies, ARC of Monroe County, Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Nazareth College Physical Therapy Clinic and the Veterans Administration.

RIT fully embraces the ideal of “Making Excellence Inclusive.” It’s the guiding principle for access, student success and high-quality learning put forth by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Our work on access technology is just one way that we make this principle manifest. One way you can engage in this important effort is to attend our conference in June on effective access technology. You’ll learn more about the issues, challenges and tremendous technological advancements. Be part of the conversation— it’s your way to make sure we all benefit.

More about Effective Access Technology

The second annual Effective Access Technology conference will be held June 17-18 at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. It’s open to the public and will feature keynote speakers, poster presentations, exhibits, plenary sessions and a dinner. For more information or to register, go to www.rit.edu/access.

Among the conference’s highlighted speakers are Will Gunn, general counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs; Christian Vogler, director of the Technology Access program at Gallaudet University; Mike Haynie, executive director and founder of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University; Jon Schull, creator of e-Nable, an online community that designs, customizes and fabricates affordable 3D-printed prosthetic hands for children and adults; and Bruce Darling, co-founder and CEO of The Center for Disability Rights.

Registration is $50 to attend the conference sessions and dinner. There is a student rate of $40.

Video Extra

To see some of the proejcts RIT researchers have in development, many of which will be on exhibit at the conference, go to http://bit.ly/RITAccessTech.

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