Teach Access: Creating Accessibility Professionals

Concurrent Session 2
Equity and Inclusion

Brief Abstract

Teach Access was created to address the shortage of employees in the technology industry with knowledge about accessibility. Working with higher education institutions and current students, hear about the progress that has been made and learn how to be a part of this initiative working to make technology inclusive.


Kate Sonka is the Assistant Director of Academic Technology at the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. She is interested in second language acquisition, the role of language in identity development, and the intersection of accessibility and experiential learning. Her instructional experience includes a first-year writing course for non-native English speakers; a study abroad on language acquisition and global English in China; a study away to Los Angeles for students to explore and meet leaders in the film and creative industries; and a study away to Silicon Valley for students to engage and build relationships with tech companies around accessibility. Kate is the Executive Director of Teach Access, 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.

Extended Abstract

Technology is integral to our culture, our society, and our workplaces, and should be usable by everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. While there has been progress in a variety of applications, standards, and regulations, accessibility is still not systemic in the development of new and emerging technologies. Today, knowledge of accessible development is limited to a handful of domain experts. To reach the goal of making technology accessible to everyone, we must broaden expertise across industry. Accessibility must become mainstream.


One of the greatest challenges to making accessible technology more ubiquitous is a lack of awareness and understanding of basic accessibility issues, concepts, and best practices. To address this need, Teach Access (teachaccess.org) was created to work toward building this foundation of knowledge in higher education, with enhanced training and collaborations with people with disabilities. Students in fields such as design, computer sciences, and human computer interaction must be better prepared to enter the workforce and create future technologies that are truly inclusive. Only then will technology reach its true potential for connecting and enabling everyone in the world.


Join members of Teach Access to discuss this collaboration between industry and higher education. This career forum roundtable is open to all faculty, instructors, and administrators interested in learning how to incorporate accessibility into their classrooms to better prepare students for employment opportunities.


The session will begin with a brief history of Teach Access and move into discussion of specific programs and efforts since the organization came together in 2016, including:

  • Faculty grants to create materials to teach accessibility

  • Study Away Silicon Valley 2018 program for students

  • Job description updates among industry hiring departments

  • Development of the Teach Access tutorial


The session will include plenty of time for Q&A, and attendees can expect to leave this session with an understanding of how Teach Access is directly impacting the development of current students, our future accessibility professionals, and how to get involved.