I joined CDA in 2015. I wear hearing aids - without which my husband and other males mumble terribly. I also have moderate scoliosis, which seems to limit my activities more as I get older.
I'm passionate about showing how assistive technology and accessibility can eliminate barriers to people with disabilities reaching their full potential. I didn't realize it at the time, but my cousin, aunt, and grandmother taught me about disability, assistive technology, advocacy, and perseverance. My cousin had polio as a baby and always used crutches and now a wheelchair for mobility. I know he was bullied in school and was able to move to another county where he was more accepted. He had a successful business and family and is now retired. My grandmother and aunt were legally blind and had full lives too. Grandma played piano by ear. My aunt ran a bookstore with the help of a CCTV and was politically active in the National Federation for the Blind. I volunteered in the special education classroom in high school and was appalled at how the teacher treated students. Maybe these early observations lead me to my career as a rehabilitation engineer.
Professionally, I've worked with people with disabilities, matching assistive technology to their needs, and teaching for over 30 years. My degrees are in biomedical and biomechanical engineering. I started my career as a rehabilitation engineer at CDD. Then, at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare I supervised the Mobile Outreach Clinic. Iowa recruited me back in 2014 to run the Iowa Center for Assistive Technology Education and Research. When ICATER closed in 2019, I was delighted to land with a wonderful team at Iowa's UCEDD, which is housed at the CDD - where my career started! While at Iowa I've had the opportunity to expand my work to include teaching and I'm surprised by how much I like it. Currently, I teach a graduate course Universal Design and Accessibility for Online Instruction and a freshman seminar on Neurodiversity. I'm also working on modifying the course Creating Accessible Digital Contentso people outside the University can take it.
My advice to colleagues and students with disabilities is to work with your departments, HR, Faculty and Staff Disability Services, and Student Disability Services if you need accommodations. Most accommodations cost less than $300, so don't be afraid to ask for assistance. For students, make sure your instructor knows your needs. Your instructor is not going to approach you - you need to advocate for yourself.
My favorite quote is by Lao Tzu:
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”