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Virginia Tech Accessibility Awareness Week

The inaugural Virginia Tech Accessibility Awareness Week is scheduled for March 18 to 22, 2024. Modeled after Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the goal of this week is to provide learning opportunities and resources that engage the campus community to think, discuss, learn, and take action regarding digital and physical accessibility. 

There is no charge to participate. However, some sessions require registration as noted in the schedule below. 

Accessibility Awareness Week is sponsored by the Office for Equity and Accessibility, Campus Accessibility Working Group, and Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Amber Hagan at 540-231-2010 or during regular business hours at least 10 business days prior to the event.

Schedule of Events

March 18

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Open House
Location: 310 Lavery Hall, 430 Old Turner St, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Online/Self-paced: Neurodiversity in the Classroom
Enrollment Required

The term, neurodiversity, first used by sociologist Judy Singer in the 1990s, refers to neurological differences —like autism, ADHD, or dyslexia—that should be normalized and respected in learners. This course introduces the concept in relation to the social model of disability, and explores how we can go beyond accommodations to make the academic classroom more inclusive of and hospitable to neurodivergent learners. Participants who complete the course earn 3 computer refresh credits + the digital badge, Neurodiversity in the Classroom.

March 19: A Day with Eve Hill

Noted expert on disability law and partner at Brown Goldstein & Levy. Ms. Hill is a sought-after speaker who has provided testimony to the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging, delivering information on the discrimination and inaccessibility to vital services, employment, and education experienced by individuals with disabilities. She will provide insight into the legal landscape surrounding disability and accessibility. 

Eve Hill, noted expert on disability law and partner at Brown Goldstein & Levy.

9:30-11:30 a.m. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Disability Discrimination and the Americans with Disabilities Act But Were Afraid to Ask
Location: TLOS Classroom, 801 University City Blvd, Suite 21, Room 2104 and Zoom
Registration Required

A 2007 study found that "[p]reference for people without disability compared to people with disabilities was among the strongest implicit and explicit effects across the social group domains." 76 percent of people showed an implicit preference for people without disabilities, compared to 9 percent for people with disabilities. Disability rights expert Eve Hill will explore our often incorrect assumptions about disabilities and how to overcome them. And she will discuss the basic requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including those for the built and digital environments, as they apply to businesses. 

2-4 p.m. Disability Rights, Disability Justice, and Disability Inclusion
Location: TLOS Classroom, 801 University City Blvd, Suite 21, Room 2104 and Zoom
Registration Required

Students with disabilities are about 19 percent of the undergraduate student population, but many more students with disabilities leave college without completing a degree than their nondisabled peers. Students with disabilities report a lower sense of belonging and more negative experiences in college than their nondisabled peers. Disability rights expert Eve Hill will discuss the latest developments in disability rights law, cutting-edge issues in higher education and disability, and best practices for including disability in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. 

6:30-7:30 p.m. Accessible Technology Speaker Series with Dr. Gracanin
Location: Zoom/New Classroom Building 210

Learn about Dr. Gracanin's work in making VT/AR spaces more accessible. Light refreshments will be provided. Dr. Denis Gracanin is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Virginia Tech where he researches virtual reality, simulations, and other aspects of human-computer interactions.

March 20

9-10 a.m. Accessibility Network Meeting
Location: Zoom 
Join the Accessibility Network listserv to receive a meeting invitation.

The Accessibility Network at Virginia Tech is a community of practice that brings together Hokies who share a common vision for enhancing digital accessibility across campus. The network provides information, community, and training to support a wide variety of activities including advancing web accessibility, incorporating universal design practices, utilizing assistive technologies, and choosing accessible learning materials. The Accessibility Network is open to all interested faculty, staff, and students. Meetings are hosted virtually through Zoom on a quarterly basis and generally take place from 9 - 10:30 a.m. 

10 a.m.-2 p.m. Office for Equity and Accessibility Open House
Location: Suite 5200, Gilbert Place, 220 Gilbert Street, Blacksburg, VA 24061

The Office for Equity and Accessibility will be hosting an open house. Students, faculty, and staff are invited to meet the Equity and Accessibility team, learn a little about what we do, and take a tour of the new office space. Refreshments will be served. 

10 a.m.-1 p.m. SAFE (Supporting Autism Friendly Environments) 
Location: Suite 5200, Gilbert Place, 220 Gilbert Street, Blacksburg, VA 24061

The SAFE (Supporting Autism Friendly Environments) program provides greater access for individuals on the autism spectrum to attend local venues and participate in community activities. True to Virginia Tech’s land-grant mission, this outreach initiative provides enrichment activities to enhance the quality of life for individuals in our community.  Visit our information table to learn more!

2-2:30 p.m. Creating Accessible Environment for Fostering Inclusive Events
Facilitators: Raksha Sharma and Pam Vickers
Registration Required

The session will focus on practical strategies for disability inclusion with a special emphasis on meetings, events, and related communication. Discover practical accessibility solutions that ensure everyone, regardless of ability, can fully engage and participate. 

3 p.m. A Brief History of the ADA and Accessibility Standards
Facilitator: Joe Cooley
Registration Required

A presentation on the Civil Rights Movement and Accessibility in the built environment.

4 p.m. Focus on Ability: Recruiting and Retaining Professionals with Disabilities
Facilitators: Anita Jenious and Jasmine Tucker
Registration Required

People with disabilities face an unemployment gap much greater than their nondisabled counterparts. In fact, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities hovers near 7.6 percent, while remaining only 3.5 percent for their peers without disabilities, per a 2022 report from the U.S. Department of Labor. This session will focus on ways to to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce.

March 21

11 a.m.-12 p.m.  David Kutch from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights
Registration Required

David Kutch, a member of the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights' (OCR) National Digital Access Team, will share how OCR investigates and resolves complaints of discrimination and compliance reviews for public-facing websites and behind-the-password online learning apps, course content, and learning management systems. A key part of this presentation will be a demonstration of how you can identify barriers to access for people with disabilities using manual, validated testing techniques with free and widely-available tools. Whether you are a webmaster, an LMS vendor, or someone involved in online instruction, this is a “can’t miss” session that will help increase your understanding of how the Federal government enforces disability rights laws in the digital space – and how you can help build a community within your organization to support digital accessibility. The presentation will also highlight upcoming changes to the legal landscape, including upcoming amendments to the implementing regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

1-2 p.m. AI and Accessibility: Professional Development Network workshop
Facilitators: Pearl Xie, Rob Fentress, and Mark Nichols

Artificial intelligence (AI) offers innovative opportunities to improve course accessibility as well as new challenges. In this session, we will explore how AI can cater to diverse learning needs in close harmony with Universal Design for Learning principles. Uncover how AI-powered technologies already employed at Virginia Tech can help dismantle barriers to teaching and learning. Also, we will discuss AI related equity and access challenges to support teaching and learning.

4 – 5:30 p.m. - My Disability Roadmap Screening and Discussion (CC and Audio Descriptions available)
Location: Community Assembly, CID LLC, 185 Kent St., Blacksburg, VA 24060
Registration Required

In the Emmy Award winning documentary short, Samuel Habib, 21, wants to date, leave home, go to college. But he drives a 350-pound wheelchair, uses a communication device, and can have a seizure at any moment. Determined to find his path forward, he seeks out guidance from America’s most rebellious disability activists. Will they empower him to launch the bold adult life he craves?  A post-viewing discussion will be facilitated by Elizabeth McLain, instructor of Musicology and the interim co-director of the Disability Studies minor at Virginia Tech. 

March 22

8:30- 9:30 a.m. ICAT Playdate- Access, Equity, and Community Engagement in Tabletop Roleplaying Games
Location: Community Assembly, Creativity and Innovation District LLC, 185 Kent St., Blacksburg, VA 24060
Enrollment Required

Play is a human right, and Open the Gates Gaming (OtG) empowers everyone to tell their stories through the medium of tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs). We develop open-access tools so everyone can play together without altering the rules of the game, adding flexibility to make systems like Fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons more accessible. The adventures we write represent creative arts-based research on opera that does not merely witness or reenact one author’s story, but instead allows players to inhabit the operas, wrestle with exclusionary narratives, and craft their own hero’s journey.

10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Accessible Technologies Open House
Location: 2020 Torgersen Hall, 620 Drillfield Dr., Blacksburg, VA 24061

Join members of the Accessible Technologies team and dive into the world of digital accessibility with interactive stations featuring various assistive technologies.  Control a computer with your eyes, explore Braille technology, discover built-in accessibility features within Mac and Windows, and learn about assistive software tools available to all faculty and students.  Don’t miss out on obtaining support with implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL), accessible procurement strategies, and more!  Drop your name into our swag jar for a chance to win some cool prizes. And yes, there will be candy and beverages to keep the energy up!

3-4 p.m. Road Show: An overview of Campus Accessibility Working Group (CAWG) projects
Registration Required

The Campus Accessibility Working Group (CAWG) is an operational committee reporting to the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. CAWG was founded in 2018 to bring together institutional entities and resources to collaborate and address issues and opportunities related to campus accessibility. Our group includes subject matter experts in accessibility, finance, capital projects, planning, architecture and information technology, to name a few. 

3- 5 p.m. Opera & Dragons: Playing D&D with Open the Gates Gaming
Location: 2020 Torgersen Hall, 620 Drillfield Dr, Blacksburg VA 24061

Join us on an adventure! Open the Gates Gaming welcomes you to the table for a collaborative storytelling game using Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition. Seasoned veterans and those new to tabletop roleplaying games can try our prototype cognitive access tools, including our decision guide, character sheets, and spell cards. We'll enter the world of Puccini's Tosca, supporting you as you explore the themes, setting, and characters of the opera. Our character creator tool allows you to jump into the story immediately, and you will learn the rules as you go and need them. If you have any access needs or concerns, please contact Elizabeth McLain at We will have everything you need to play (dice, dice trays, minis, character sheets for all 12 standard classes in D&D 5e), but you are welcome to bring your own for this third-level adventure. If you have played with us before (Humanities Week, for example), we will be playing a different part of Tosca, so it will be a new chapter of the story!

Facilitated by: Elizabeth McLain, Christopher Campo-Bowen, and Alice Rogers

Elizabeth McLain ("The Mastermind") is a musicologist who leads disability studies at Virginia Tech. She is the primary organizer and strategist for Open the Gates. As an autistic and disabled gamer, she likes to play, DM, write adventures (especially mysteries and puzzles!), and build communities where everyone can adventure together. Alice Rogers ("The Support Caster") is Manager of Studios Media and Lending Services at Virginia Tech University Libraries. She supports tool development and logistics for Open the Gates. Alice revels in voicing her characters in unique and sometimes silly ways, and figuring out what information she most needs at the game table. Christopher Campo-Bowen ("The Storyteller") is an assistant professor of musicology at Virginia Tech whose research and teaching largely centers around opera. He is the storytelling and writing lead for Open the Gates, as well as the resident forever-DM. Chris enjoys painting minis, making maps, and finding esoteric stat blocks with which to terrify/challenge his players.