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Disability, technology symposium set for April 6 at Emory

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Author Michael Chorost will be part of the keynote presentation. Photo by Anne Kelley Looney.

Assistive technology has changed what it means to live with disabilities, and an upcoming symposium at Emory University will explore these changes and the opportunities and challenges they pose to people with disabilities.

Emory's Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC) will host a Symposium on Disability and Technology Friday, April 6, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Research Commons, located on Level 3 of the Robert W. Woodruff Library.

The symposium will look at universal access, the construction of spaces, teaching practices and web environments that enable everyone to participate equally. Sessions also will address how culture and technology relate to one another and affect society as a whole.

Admission is free, but registration is required. Check the DiSC homepage for updated information. The Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University is located at 540 S. Asbury Cir., Atlanta, GA 30322.

"Digital humanities scholars talk about access, but rarely do they really question how technology impacts the social and cultural lives of people with disabilities. We've invited people who work with technology to talk with scholars who specialize in disability studies, or the study of the cultural and historical aspects of disability," says Roger Whitson, a Mellon postdoctoral fellow with DiSC who is organizing the event.

The symposium will include discussion on the effects of various innovations in technology on disabled and able-bodied people. For example, curb cuts, originally designed to help facilitate mobility for people with disabilities, have had a great impact on cyclists and all individuals who use the space.

Two keynote addresses and three panels are planned for the symposium schedule. Visitors are encouraged to stay for the duration of the symposium in order to benefit from the full experience. Keynote speakers are Michael Chorost, an award-winning author and technologist, and Emory professor Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, known for her work in the field of humanities and disability studies. Chorost's personal experience using a cochlear implant inspired his research into cybernetic technologies and the impact they have on people.

Panels will focus on real world applications of disability studies to the lived experience of people with physical impairments. The first will include a discussion of how digital technology impacts those with autism and mental disabilities. The second panel concerns disabilities in a classroom setting and will address different methods that every teacher can implement in order to create a classroom environment that is universally accessible. The third panel will focus on assistive technology developed at Georgia Tech and the complexities of developing such technologies. Panelists include Katy Crowther, Margaret Price, Leanne West, George H. Williams and Melanie Yergeau.

The Research Commons, where DiSC is located, is a space where faculty members and Emory students can work on and receive help with various multidisciplinary projects. Digital scholarship is intended to contribute to research and inspire projects that combine humanities with technology. DiSC defines digital humanities, or digital scholarship, as the process of using computation to help identify patterns in humanities materials. After identifying the patterns, researchers continue to draw on their knowledge of the field to provide interpretation of those patterns and why they matter for the field as a whole.

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