The content below is taken from an article published in Information
Technology and Disabilities August 2004
CELEBRATE EASI? THAT'S EASY!
Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph. D.
University of Washington
BENEFITS TO PARTICIPANTS: SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
I thought it would be fun to end this article
with comments from individuals who have benefited in specific ways from their
association with EASI. I posted a request for comments on the EASI listserv
and received an immediate and enthusiastic response. I'm sorry that I don't
have space to include them all. Clearly, as documented in the following sample
responses, EASI has benefited its associates and their associates for many years,
in many different ways, and in many different countries.
- I have taken six of the EASI courses ... I
have learned so much about adaptive/assistive technology, which has given
me the confidence to... pass on accessibility information in any venue I can-for
example I belong to a Web Enthusiasts Association and have given them numerous
links for ways in which they can make their websites accessible.
- Since first subscribing to the EASI list almost three years
ago, I have sought and received some very helpful and worthwhile support,
suggestions and resources which, in my capacity as an education adviser in
assistive technology, have been of benefit not only to me but to many teachers
and students whom I support. For example, I needed information on math, science
and graphing for blind students, an area in which I have very little expertise;
the contacts gained and the information generously imparted were most welcome.
- I was one of the first people in [Israel] to be concerned
about accessibility, and definitely the first English teacher to be using
assistive technology in classes with blind, visually impaired, and learning
disabled students. What isolation! What insecurity! EASI was one of the organizations
that I turned to for answers, colleagues, support and advice. Since that time,
I became one of the people who could share information about accessibility,
and advocate for this in Israel and was in fact the person who pushed for
our Internet society to tackle this issue. In addition, I am the forerunner
in teaching students AT, as well as training teachers on how to use it at
our teacher's college. I thoroughly enjoy the open forums where I can get
online with colleagues around the world and learn about new technology, programs
and ideas. EASI... has made a difference in how far Israel has advanced in
the areas of assistive technology and accessibility!
- EASI was my introduction in England to adaptive technology
hardware and software, aided by personal advice from Professor Coombs. It
resulted in successful bids for grants from the European Social Fund totaling
about 2M pounds (three and a half million dollars at that time) for two universities
in England, teaching adults with disabilities in outreach disadvantaged communities.
The projects became self-sustaining and still continue.
- EASI..., literally, changed my life. I enrolled in my first
course, "Accessible Web Design," without being sure what was really
the course going to be about. Web accessibility? What for?... I never imagined
at that moment how that experience [was] going to change my life... It was
a big surprise for me, when in our first assignment we had to write something
about us, I found out that my teachers were blind. How can that be possible?
How can a blind person operate a computer? Every lesson was an exciting experience.
I kept on studying until I finished not just the 5 courses required to earn
the Accessible Information certificate, but 6. [Learning] that my peers, some
of them also with disabilities, had jobs in different colleges and institutions
and were independent people even being quadriplegic, empowered me to motivate
other people here in Mexico to study about accessibility too... [I started]
a nonprofit organization dedicated to promote accessible information technologies.
We have translated the accessible technologies workshop into Spanish and are
giving it online. We have been giving presentations [at] different universities.
- It was thanks to EASI that I met you both [Norm and Sheryl]
and was able to map out an entire Winston Churchill Traveling Fellowship journey
around the USA in 1995 and enjoy your courses. Since that date I have made
many more friends and learned an enormous amount about assistive technology
thanks to the list.
- When I began trying to identify methods for making Microsoft
Office files accessible, it was more like being on the "hemorrhaging
edge" than the "bleeding edge." I was fortunate enough to find
and complete EASI's Certificate of Accessible Information Technology courses...
They gave me the solid fundamentals to create the guidelines. I could not
possibly have accomplished my goals without the EASI training and support.
I continue to be an active participant in EASI's Alumni group and they continue
to help me find new and innovative solutions for accessibility issues.
- Three years ago, I started working at the public library
as the assistive technology instructor. There was no one at the library [who]
could provide training so when I happened upon the EASI website, the library
encouraged me to participate in the program. I proudly display my Certificate
in Accessible Information Technology in my office. EASI has been invaluable
to me and indirectly to the patrons that I serve. I have utilized the listserv
and asked questions when I needed help.
- I first subscribed to the EASI list when I [became] Special
Advisor on Disability Issues for the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced
Education in 1995. I was a very new user of the Windows operating system and
I remember getting some good tips from members of the list. I also learned
about disabilities other than blindness and became more knowledgeable about
the technology needs of people with other disabilities... a year ago... I
took an EASI online learning course... I value this program and what it is
doing for educators and consumers with disabilities. The free clinics and
on-line broadcasts are very interesting and worthwhile.
- EASI provided me with validation when I needed it the most.
In 1999 I returned to my career after two years of disability caused by a
workplace injury. It was an intense and anxious time for me. In fact, by undertaking
the EASI courses, I was [recognized] as an Adaptive Computer Technology technician.
It also sent a message that using technology to provide accessibility and
to modify my working tools was NOT strange or uncommon. EASI courses combined
with the full support and further studies through my employer at our Environment
Canada Adaptive Computer Technology Center gave me an awareness and skill
set which I now use throughout my daily life.
- As an "early retiree" in Australia, I am very
involved with seniors computing, principally through the Australian Seniors
Computer Clubs Association. In 2003, I undertook five courses with EASI, earning
the Certificate in Accessible Information Technology. Accessible web design
is critical for older people, since many have low vision or find it difficult
to use a mouse. I recently put my newly gained skills and knowledge to good
effect in developing a website for my local Computer Pals for Seniors.
- I undertook the EASI certificate program during its first
year of operation, at a time when there were no comparable training programs
available in Australia. The flexible nature of the program enabled me to study
online and then to pass on this valuable information to my own undergraduate
multimedia students studying locally in Australia and off-shore in Singapore.
As a result of undertaking the EASI program I have introduced the principles
of accessible design into modules undertaken by our computer science and multimedia
design students, and for the first time this year, we have been also able
to offer our final year students [an] advanced course in accessible design...The
EASI program therefore has not only provided me with invaluable skills in
accessible design, but perhaps most importantly, has enabled me to foster
the development of these skills in our future programmers and designers.
- I believe EASI has done a wonderful job of increasing awareness
of adaptive technologies within both educational and business settings. Thanks
to EASI, we have a more informed population about the shortcomings of our
current technology and how we, as technology employees, can improve the technology
to bring about positive change.
Reading the many responses to my question regarding
how EASI has benefited others made me reflect on the value of EASI in my own
life. With EASI folks, I found a family whose members bring different skills
and experiences to the table but share a vision of a world where advanced technologies
benefit everyone, not just a privileged few. We saw the potential for technology,
if designed accessibly and used wisely, to truly change the lives of people
with disabilities. Associating with EASI folks shaped my dissertation topic
and gave me confidence and insight to literally define my own position by securing
state, federal, private, and corporate funds to create the DO-IT Center at the
University of Washington ( As reported by others, my associations developed
through EASI influence what I have done, do now, and will continue to do in
One contributor to my request for testimonials
said that his favorite EASI email was from Norm about "the kiss"-the
deaf student kissing the blind professor for helping her over the Internet,
the moral of the story being "On the Internet, your disability is no barrier
to communication and friendship." I checked this story out with Norm, but
he claims it was just a hug and (maybe) a head on the shoulder (very briefly,
if at all). "No more than THAT!" We'll have to leave resolving these
differences for another day-maybe we could discuss the incident more fully on
the EASI discussion list.
What more can I say? Since it began, the EASI
network has brought together a great group of people interested in making this
world a more accessible place. Its members have learned together and then trained
thousands of people in assistive technology and accessible technology design
through online courses, presentations, and resources; conference presentations
and special interest groups; and a professional journal. Under Norm's leadership,
EASI will continue to move forward in making this world a better place for all
of us and in helping each of us find ways to contribute to a worthy cause. Think
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