Making every effort to provide technology literacy for all students

On Wednesday, March 1, the West Campus Krege Plaza was bustling with both students and faculty huddled around the Accessibility Pop-Up event to learn about practical and accessible learning tools for all students in light of Disability Awareness week.

The pop-up was hosted by the Office of Innovation for Teaching and Technology (ITT), who partnered with the Learning Enrichment Center, the Braille Institute, and the Vet Net Ally program to put on the event. Each table at the event was filled with informational handouts, prizes and games, representing a different office where students and faculty could learn about how APU is tackling accessible learning.

Mike Truong, the executive director of the office of innovative teaching and technology (ITT), ran the first table. Truong created the pop-up in accordance with disability awareness week and focused his table on better improving Sakai usage.

“Our goal is to raise awareness for making learning accessible to all students. We want to improve what teachers can do on Sakai for students, and we are asking students to raise awareness in classes as well,” Truong said.

Truong and his team provided six specific and practical steps for teachers to use on Sakai in order to help students with visual and hearing disabilities better interact online.

The Learning Enrichment Center (LEC), a department with a long-standing relationship and partner to ITT, hosted the second table. Mary Santos, tutoring coordinator at the LEC, has been working with students with disabilities for over 20 years. Santos became passionate about working with students with disabilities after raising two children, now adults, who live with disabilities.

The LEC is dedicated to optimizing technology for all students on campus and provided students with hands on ways to get involved at their table. The LEC works closely with students with disabilities, specifically in the Tutoring and Supplemental Instruction Center. The LEC also provides 72 Supplemental Instruction sessions per week and over 100 tutoring sessions.

“When we found out ITT was doing this pop-up we were so excited to join in,” Santos said. “Technology can be used in so many different ways to level the playing field for all students.”

The third table at the event belonged to the Braille Institute in Los Angeles. Operating for 97 years, The Braille Institute provides free services to people of all ages who are visually impaired or suffer from hearing loss in anyway. They also are a distribution hub for audio books that have been translated and sent out by the Library of Congress for people with disabilities. The Institute mainly targets people above the age of 60 years old and assists them with services like orientation and mobility, independent living skills, professional development, youth programs and technology education. The former president of The Institute met Truong and decided to connect and join forces for this pop-up event.

Ben Pomeroy, the director of digital programs at The Institute, explained the reason for their attendance.

“We know APU is big on volunteering, so we wanted to give students an opportunity to hear about what we do and possibly get involved,” Pomeroy said.

The last table was hosted by the Office of APU Military and Veteran services. APU has a growing number of veteran students, with 486 enrolled in 2016. Everette Brooks, the executive director of Military and veteran services, brought Vet Net Ally, a program started at CSU Long Beach, and developed it to APU’s campus. The program provides resources, assistance and support for military personnel at APU, as well as aims to create allies and raise sensitivity awareness among non-veteran students.

“We are making allies among students and faculty so that APU can be aware of our presence and not have a view of veterans without actually talking to them,” Brooks, who was approached by ITT to join the pop-up event at a presentation he gave on how to be a veteran ally, said.

The Accessibility Pop-Up event was a timely effort to raise awareness of the students on our APU campus with disabilities and call to action both faculty and students to critically and practically maximize learning with the help of technology.

“Most people think, if they don’t have a disability, it doesn’t affect them,” Truong said. “But we are trying to change the message. We want the entire campus to realize it’s everybody’s job to raise awareness.”