Michigan State University is set to host the 5th Annual Accessible Learning Conference (ALC) November 21-22 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. This year’s conference theme, “Storytelling,” is inspired by an increased awareness of accessibility here at MSU and in workplaces across the country. As interest in accessibility in both higher education and other industries increases, the ALC Planning Committee hopes to embrace and harness such trends at this year’s conference.
“Prior to the establishment of the ALC, there were a lot of people on campus who weren’t sure what accessibility is, what they needed to be doing, and what it meant for their jobs for a variety of teaching and learning environments,” said Kate Sonka, founder and director of the yearly conference. “It has been interesting to watch that transition over these past five years and have more people who know what accessibility is and are excited to present and be part of the conference because they have something to offer.”
As with previous years, the 2019 ALC will feature learning opportunities and presentations that will vary in length and engagement levels to make the conference itself more accessible to attendees. Presentations will follow two tracks – scholarship and research and teaching and learning – and range from passive poster presentations to high-engagement collaborative work.
It isn’t just the coders and the developers who need to care about this or do this work, but I think it’ll be a pretty great talk for people to be able to relate to because not everyone in the audience is a developer, so it’s good to get a full picture.KATE SONKA, ALC FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR
This year’s keynote speaker is Shell Little, a Digital Accessibility Specialist who oversees the internal aspects of accessibility for Wells Fargo. Little’s presentation, entitled Accessible Products: It Takes a Village, will highlight angles of accessibility pertaining to “neurodiversity,” which is the concept of neurological differences (e.g. Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism, Tourette Syndrome, and many others) being recognized and regarded in the same fashion as more perceptible disabilities.
“[Little] will be talking a lot about how code and development are important to accessibility and making digital content,” Sonka said. “It isn’t just the coders and the developers who need to care about this or do this work, but I think it’ll be a pretty great talk for people to be able to relate to because not everyone in the audience is a developer, so it’s good to get a full picture.”
Little, who graduated from MSU in 2016 with a degree in Experience Architecture, also will offer a workshop during the conference for Experience Architecture students who are interested in accessibility work.
The Accessible Learning Conference will include an Engagement Fair on Friday, November 22, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. This portion of the conference is a fun and relaxed open house-style event where attendees can stroll through and engage with various accessibility stations, featuring information and resources on topics such as assistive and accessibility technologies, document and web accessibility, accessible gaming, social media, and others.
The ALC hosts individuals from outside the MSU community to contribute to the conversation as well. ALC attendees and speakers come from different universities, governmental offices, and advocacy organizations each year.
Registration for the conference is open until Wednesday, November 15. The cost to attend the two-day conference is $150, or you may attend just one day at a cost of $100. Registration includes breakfast, lunch, refreshments, and parking passes for the Kellogg Center.