March 10, 2003 Vol. VII, No. 12

The annual Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference sponsored by CSUNıs Center on Disabilities is an international showcase for cutting-edge technologies to assist people with disabilities.

Northridge Disabilities Conference Draws World Attention

Thousands Expected to Attend Event Near LAX Showcasing Assistive Technologies for People with Disabilities

Thousands of people from around the country and the world will converge on Los Angeles next week for an international conference sponsored by Cal State Northridge and its Center on Disabilities showcasing how cutting-edge assistive technologies can help people with disabilities.

The 18th annual Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, scheduled from Monday, March 17 through Saturday, March 22 near Los Angeles International Airport, is the largest gathering of its kind in the world, said Bud Rizer, director of CSUNıs Center on Disabilities.

This yearıs conference features a keynote address on Wednesday, March 19 by inventor, entrepreneur and author Ray Kurzweil, who has developed a range of groundbreaking speech and character recognition products, and the international premiere later that day of a new IBM multimedia theater presentation on accessible technologies.

"We are the largest and we are the only university affiliated conference of this kind in the world," said Rizer. The conference is a showcase for presentations, displays and demonstrations of assistive technologies, those that can help people with disabilities (physical, sensory, communicative or cognitive) function better in their daily lives.

The event will begin Monday and Tuesday with 20 different pre-conference workshops, for which participants can receive continuing education units (CEUs). Then, the main part of the conference will be held from Wednesday through Saturday, with more than 300 different presentations scheduled.

Last yearıs event drew about 4,200 participants. This year, Rizer said conference registrations already have been booked from all 50 states and some 36 foreign countries, including more than 100 participants from Canada and more than 50 from Japan. The conference will be held at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport Hotel and the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel.

At Cal State Northridge, the Center on Disabilities provides support services to more than 800 CSUN students with disabilities, including translating textbooks into audio files or Braille format. But around the world among those interested in assistive technologies, the CSUN conference is the place to learn about and experience the latest and the greatest.

"Through the conference, we generate a tremendous amount of attention for the university and its range of excellent programs for people with disabilities," Rizer said. "Weıre also providing our students an opportunity to learn the best practices in this field, and we are bringing some of the best assistive technologies to campus for our students to use."

Conference attendees typically include representatives from state and federal government agencies, universities and school districts, and a range of private industries. Common participants include occupational and physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, special education teachers, engineers and program administrators.

As in past years, the conference this year has presentations covering a wide range of topics, including how people with disabilities can access the Internet, the use of assistive technologies in the school setting, making accommodations in the workplace, and the latest innovations for people who are blind or have vision impairments.

Specific topics include "The Next Generation of Mobility Aid," "Use of Assistive Listening Devices with Cochlear Implants," "Exploring Accessible Interface Strategies for Cell Phones," "Remote Braille Production Over a Network," "The Wearable Computer‹Technology Without Boundaries," and "Making the Business Workplace Accessible to Your Employees with Disabilities."

Spero Bowman, CSUNıs chief information officer, will provide welcoming remarks from the university on Wednesday morning prior to Kurzweilıs 7:30 a.m. keynote speech in the International Ballroom of the Hilton hotel. Rizer said Kurzweilıs presentation will include a live exchange between himself and his "cyber-self" projected on the stage.

Kurzweil, one of the worldıs leading inventors, has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and received the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton in 1999, the nationıs highest technology honor. He also invented the first CCD flatbed scanner, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, and the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind.

Later on Wednesday, technology giant IBM will unveil its half-hour theater presentation on how accessible technology can help people with disabilities master their work environments. The presentation, "Shape the Future: Information on Demand," combining a live show and multimedia elements, will be performed hourly during the remainder of the conference.

Many Cal State Northridge students also will be attending the conference as part of their classes, including more than 200 from the universityıs Special Education Department and the Communication Disorders and Sciences Department. Rizer said his center is covering the conference registration costs for those students.

In addition to the presentations and special events, the conference also will feature exhibit halls at both hotels from Wednesday through Saturday displaying products and services from more than 155 vendors. From Wednesday through Friday, the conference will host a "Web Playroom" equipped with accessible software at the Marriott hotel.

Rizer said he is particularly pleased this year with the conferenceıs expanding number of major corporate sponsors including IBM for the first time, America Online, Apple, HP, Microsoft, SAP software, SBC Communications, Sun Microsystems and Verizon. For more information, see the centerıs Web site at

@csun | February 10, 2003 issue
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