Steps to Building an Accessible Future
Over the course of the first several years in operation, Teach Access experienced success towards achieving its long-term goals, (see Play 7 of the Playbook: “Getting to Work”) and members have met regularly to discuss progress being made in each taskforce to determine next steps in their efforts. (See Play 8 of the Playbook: “Evaluate Your Impact.”) Projects and activities executed since the launch of the Initiative include:
- The Accessible Technology Skills Gap Assessment: As mentioned above, in 2018, PEAT partnered with Teach Access to ask companies about the accessible technology skills of their employees and job candidates.
- Study Away: In 2018, Teach Access held its first annual weeklong Study Away Silicon Valley program, which continues today. It enables college students to work with industry partners to gain an understanding of the work being done at each company to address accessible technology. Small teams of students work together to solve an accessibility challenge and receive feedback from industry partners each day. On the final day of the program, student teams present their work to their fellow participants, as well as representatives from Teach Access member companies.
- Accreditation: In 2018, Teach Access developed a Fundamental Concepts and Skills (CS) document, which outlines the concepts and skills necessary to understand and implement inclusive design and development of technology for people with disabilities. The Initiative continues to pursue endorsement of these concepts and skills from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). The goal is for ACM to endorse them as part of the CS curricula recommendations that they submit to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) in the hope that ABET will include them in their formal accreditation criteria.
- Faculty Grants: 2018 was also the first year Teach Access offered its Faculty Grants program, which provides direct awards of $5,000 to college and university faculty to accelerate the creation and delivery of accessibility-infused college curricula. As of Fall 2020, Teach Access has awarded grants to 29 faculty across the United States.
- Course Materials: Teach Access faculty grant award winners are required to share with Teach Access the course materials they developed using the grant funds. Teach Access has collected over 120-course materials (including sample curricula, lectures, assignments, exams, activities, and more) that they have made available as an open educational resource (OER) for any faculty to use for teaching accessibility to their students.
- Hiring an Executive Director: In 2019, Teach Access brought on Kate Sonka as their Executive Director to drive the Initiative’s progress, scale, and continued success.
Teach Access has always taken great care to share the news of its progress and accomplishments among its members as well as interested parties outside of the Initiative. (See Play 9 of the Playbook: “Communicating Your Progress.”) Teach Access maintains a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, attends and speaks at annual conferences, publishes regular newsletters, and posts news to its website: www.teachaccess.org.
 Kate Sonka is also the Assistant Director of Academic Technology at the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. She has consulted with the U.S. Department of Labor on accessible hiring practices and is the founder and Director of the Accessible Learning Conference at Michigan State University.