Conference to Feature Latest Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities

Thousands of people attended the CSUN Conference to explore new ways technology can assist people with disabilities. Photo courtesy of CSUN's Center on Disabilities.

Thousands of people attended the CSUN Conference to explore new ways technology can assist people with disabilities. Photo courtesy of CSUN’s Center on Disabilities.

Assistive technology — whether it’s a mobile app or a modified wheelchair — can transform the lives of people with disabilities. The latest in the field of assistive technology will be the focus of the world’s largest gathering of people who develop or use assistive technology, taking place later this month in San Diego.

California State University, Northridge’s 31st Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference is dedicated to presenting and exploring new ways technology can assist people with disabilities. It is scheduled to take place March 21-26 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel.

People with disabilities make up the largest group of attendees and “are the reason we all gather to push the research and challenge industry professionals to keep moving technology forward and to tackle new challenges,” said Sandy Plotin, managing director of CSUN’s Center on Disabilities, which organizes the conference each year.

The “CSUN Conference,” as it is known in the industry, is the only one of its kind sponsored by a university. It provides a unique opportunity for people with disabilities to have direct input on the creation of or modifications to assistive technologies intended to make their lives easier.

“Our conference brings together thousands of people from around the world — including scientists, practitioners, educators, government officials, the industry executives and entrepreneurs — all committed to driving innovation in assistive technology to promote inclusiveness for people with disabilities,” Plotin said.

The conference explores all aspects of technology and disabilities, and it features a faculty of internationally recognized speakers, more than 350 general session workshops and more than 130 exhibitors displaying the latest technologies for people with disabilities. This year’s exhibit floor has added several new exhibitors from all facets of assistive technology and services. The CSUN Conference Exhibit Hall is free and open to the public.

The conference’s keynote address will be given by Christopher P. Lu, deputy secretary of labor for the U.S. Department of Labor. He was sworn into office in April 2014, after being confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate. He serves as the chief operating officer of a 17,000-employee organization that works to create greater opportunities for all Americans.

Lu will discuss the critical role technology plays in the modern workplace, and the adoption of accessible workplace technology by America’s employers. In his travels around the country, he often visits employers who are doing all they can to ensure that America’s workforce is “fielding a full team.” Lu will talk about these experiences, highlighting ways to foster change and better empower a full workforce through assistive technology, inclusion and fairness. Lu also will share agency initiatives related to accessible technology and employment, including the Department of Labor-funded Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology, and its recent work to improve the accessibility of online job applications and other recruiting tools.

Conference organizers are working once again with WebAble TV, an Internet TV channel for people with disabilities on the TV Worldwide Network which will serve as the conference’s official webcaster.

“In past years, we have been able to provide some coverage of the conference to non-attending participants through WebAble TV’s live interviews with sponsors, exhibitors, and VIPs, and through a recording of the keynote address,” Plotin said. “This year, we’re selecting sessions from the law and policy track to record and make available for a small fee to download post-conference. We’re hoping that this helps expand the conference experience for those people who are unable to attend, and we’re excited to announce that we’ll be live-streaming the keynote address again this year.”

Conference organizers will present this year’s Strache Leadership Award to Catherine S. Fichten. She is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Dawson College and an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University. Her research interests include factors affecting the success of college and university students with various disabilities, with a focus on information and communication technologies.

For more information about the conference or how to register, visit CSUN’s Center on Disabilities website at or call the center at (818) 677-2578 V/TTY.

California State University, Northridge has a long history of involvement in many aspects of assisting people with disabilities dating back to 1961, when the university was known as San Fernando Valley State College. This precedes Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. In 1983, university officials created the Center on Disabilities to directly assist students in realizing their academic and career goals. To that end, the technology and persons with disabilities conference was launched.

Over the years, the conference has grown to about 5,000 participants, with presenters and exhibitors sharing technology devices, services and programs. Participants come from all 50 states, numerous territories and more than 35 countries. It has an international reputation for expanding the knowledge base of professionals and introducing newcomers to the field.

Serving more than 40,000 students each year, CSUN is one of the largest universities in the United States, and it has an impact to match its size. CSUN’s 171 academic programs and engaged centers enjoy international recognition for excellence. CSUN partners with more than 100 institutions of higher education in 22 countries around the globe and attracts the largest international student population of any U.S. master’s=level institution. Situated on a 356-acre park-like setting in the heart of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, the campus features modern educational buildings and world-class LEED Gold-certified performing arts and recreational facilities recognized as among the best in the country. CSUN is a welcoming university that champions accessibility, academic excellence and student success.

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