March 12, 2001 Vol. V, No. 12

University to Host Technology and Disabilities Conference

Annual Assistive Technologies Event by Center on Disabilities is Largest of its Kind in the World

About 4,000 people from around the country and the globe are expected next week to attend Cal State Northridge's 16th annual "Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference"-the university's largest annual conference and the largest event of its kind in the world.

The major six-day gathering March 1924, presented by CSUN's Center on Disabilities, will feature more than 350 speakers, 140 exhibitors and a keynote speech by Dateline NBC correspondent John Hockenberry. The sessions will occupy all of two large hotels near Los Angeles International Airport.

The annual topic, how various kinds of assistive technologies can help people with many different types of disabilities, draws a diverse audience including people with disabilities, educators and researchers, and government and corporate officials.

"Through the history of this conference, Cal State Northridge has become synonymous with the field of assistive technology," said Harry (Bud) Rizer, the new director of CSUN's Center on Disabilities (above). "The conference is international, it's large, and it has been a very successful learning experience for those involved."

"What we do each year is the largest event of its kind in this field," added Rizer, who inherited CSUN's center and its annual conference from former director Harry Murphy, who retired last year. "Probably the best thing that happens is people learn where to look or whom to ask for information." Rizer said.

In a field that is constantly advancing, Rizer said those with disabilities or those responsible for ensuring legally required access for persons with disabilities in schools and colleges, government agencies and corporations could spend years searching out the information that the CSUN conference gathers together in one place.

Among the 350 conference speakers, topics include "Making Educational Multimedia Accessible," "There's a Mouse Out There for Everyone," "The Future of Braille and Speech Technology," "When Public Agencies Must Provide Technology as a Reasonable Accommodation" and "Developing an Accessible Postsecondary Campus."

In particular, this year's conference will have an increased emphasis on making the Internet accessible to people with disabilities, including a "Web Playroom" with special accessible software. The sub-theme of the conference is "Where Assistive Technology Meets the Information Age."

The conference will have special "tracks" of presentations on other interest segments such as workplace accommodation, postsecondary education, and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). The conference also will have a special sessions track and printed guide for those new to assistive technologies (AT).

The conference will be held at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport Hotel and the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel. An expanded array of extra-cost, pre-conference workshops will be offered Monday and Tuesday, March 1920, followed by regular conference sessions Wednesday to Saturday, March 2124.

The keynote speech by Hockenberry - who overcame a spinal cord injury from a college car accident to become an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning broadcast journalist - will begin at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 21, in the International Ballroom of the Hilton hotel.

Because the conference deals with disabilities, special accommodations have become the norm. The entire conference program booklet is available in audio form, as printed Braille and in large print type. Sign language interpreters and real-time captioning can be requested by the deaf and hearing-impaired.

CSUN's Center on Disabilities, founded in 1993, provides assistive technology services to CSUN students, offers seminars around the country and hosts the annual conference.

Three of the center's 30 staff members - Sonya Hernandez, Wendy Sacks and Marina Sanchez - work the conference year-round.

Opportunities to attend the conference, or portions of it, are still available. The CSUN Center on Disabilities will accept e-mailed and faxed registration forms to its office through Thursday, March 15. After that, on-site registration will be available at both conference hotels.

More information about the conference, including registration forms, is available at the Center on Disabilities web site: For submitting registration forms, the center's fax number is (818) 677-4929, and its e-mail address is

Rizer said CSUN faculty, staff and students qualify for a special 50 percent discount off the normal conference rates. Special opportunities also are available for university offices or departments that lack training funds. For additional information, contact the center at (818) 677-2578.

Free passes to the conference exhibit halls only also are available through the center for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This year's conference sponsors include the two hosting hotels, Ai Squared, Apple Computer, Sun Microsystems, ViewPlus Technologies and COMPAQ Computer.

@csun | March 12, 2001 issue
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