DO-IT Does the UW Computer Fair

Eric, DO-IT Ambassador

I had heard a lot about the annual UW Computer Fair in the past, but I did not have the opportunity to attend until this year. I decided to attend because I like to give technical advice and I wanted to see several of my peers again. I am blind and from Oregon. This is the first long trip I've taken alone.

Prior to the event, Kristin Otis, DO-IT Counselor/Coordinator, and I made arrangements to alleviate any confusions. Before the event started, I saw several people I knew. I saw Ambassador Lloyd, a DO-IT Ambassador who was working for the Adaptive Technology Lab. I got to meet Darin Stageberg, another DO-IT Counselor/Coordinator, for the first time and he and I talked a lot about career planning and internships. At the Computer Fair, my duties included giving technical advice and telling people about the DO-IT program. At first, there were not many people at the booth, but later on, I had so many people to talk to that I thought I was going to lose my voice. At 4:00, I got to take part in a presentation that Dan was giving on the different kinds of adaptive technology. I had taken public speaking in college and that gave me practice for this presentation. I talked about the adaptive technology I use and how it helps me.

Everyone liked the presentation and several people came to me with questions. I went back to my hotel at around 5:30 that evening. A couple of my relatives in Seattle picked me up and took me to their home for dinner. They were very curious about the technology I use. I got back in time to rest up for the next day.

I arrived at the HUB (Husky Union Building) at 9:00 on the next day. I had some rather interesting situations that day. First, I had someone come to me for advice about selecting a computer. He was not able to type very fast and he wanted to be able to type faster. One person came to me and wanted to learn about the program as well as different types of adaptive technology. She had never heard of a speech synthesizer, scanner, or Braille printer and she sounded surprised when I told her about them.

In addition to meeting several people, I helped with another presentation. Beth, a DO-IT staff member, talked about accessible Web pages and I talked about how to make the page usable to persons with visual impairments. The audience liked our presentation.

I had arranged to be picked up at 7 p.m. to return to the hotel. This gave me a chance to participate in the dinner they held for those helping with the DO-IT booth in the UW Computer Fair. This also gave me an extra opportunity to visit with the students and new staff members.

I learned some good lessons when going on this trip. First of all, if you have access to shuttle services you should use them whenever you can. These services are cheaper than cab companies and the drivers are very service oriented. If you have an access card that functions as a charge account, you should use it for making large purchases such as hotel rooms, airline reservations, and any other large purchases. The most important lesson I learned was about communication. Communication is the key to a successful mission no matter what kind of disability you have. As long as you can tell people what you need, your trip is likely to be successful.