Sunday, March 03, 2024

Enabling access

by Megan Snodgrass/North Idaho College
| May 5, 2022 1:00 AM

New parents with sleeping babies might not think their lives could be impacted by devices made for people with hearing disabilities, but Bryan Eiting does.

Eiting, the father of a 16-month-old son and North Idaho College employee who volunteered at NIC’s Pave the Way to Global Accessibility Awareness Day, demonstrated the power of a type of immersive wearable sound device, a collar of small, targeted speakers that isolate sound to the wearer’s earshot only.

“With this wearable sound device, I can play video games or watch a movie in the same room as my sleeping 16-month-old without waking him up,” Eiting said. “You hear everything happening in the game or movie, but anyone around you can’t hear a thing and can go about their business without being disturbed by whatever you’re listening to.”

NIC hosted its third annual Pave the Way to Global Accessibility Awareness Day on April 20 in the Edminster Student Union Building.

The event featured NIC volunteers and community organizations hosting exhibits that displayed and demonstrated tools and resources for accessibility, including a braille embossing machine, STEM circuit kits, talking books and sound devices.

Barbara Brambila-Smith, outreach coordinator at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library, had large-print books, braille books, audiobooks, a talking book device and a speech generating device called Ubi Duo on hand — resources she called invaluable.

“Accessibility is a pretty big deal for the Coeur d’Alene library,” Brambila-Smith said. “If we had to turn someone away, even just one person, it would be devastating, not just for that individual but for our library as a whole.”

Jackie Stallings and Tyler Kuisti of the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired said the event also provides an important venue for groups throughout the region to network and collaborate.

“Sometimes there can be a disconnect between groups or organizations that really are trying to do the same thing, so events and outreach like this help us keep informed about what our partner groups are doing and about how we can help our clients,” Stallings said. “It helps us avoid different organizations duplicating efforts and services.”

“The tighter the net, the more we catch,” Kuisti said.

This event is one of several accessibility events hosted by NIC. The college community also celebrates Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on the third Thursday in May each year and hosts a two-day symposium called Accessibility Camp Coeur d’Alene each summer.

NIC Accessibility Coordinator Jeremy Seda, who is the driving force behind NIC’s accessibility events, started the local programs after helping a colleague across the world set up the Accessibility for a Bolder Learning Experience (ABLE) Summit at the American University of Beirut.

Seda said he offered ABLE Summit founder Maha Zouwayhed help via email while she was planning the first event, and Zouwayhed asked Seda to present during the inaugural two-day event in 2019. Seda went to Lebanon in 2019 and again in 2022 after the summit was canceled in 2020 and 2021 during COVID-19 shut downs.

Through the connections he made and the resources he gathered at the ABLE Summit, Seda was able to found the three programs on NIC’s campus, even bringing the founders of GAAD to campus for the Accessibility Camp Coeur d’Alene.

“Accessibility is a hugely important resource for anyone who uses the internet, reads a book or exists in society, whether that person has a disability or not,” Seda said. “I don’t think anyone purposefully excludes people with disabilities in the content we are creating every day, but that is often the result. It’s important that anyone creating content does so keeping accessibility in mind, because it is not only the right thing to do but also the legal thing to do, and it will ultimately help everyone gain a better understanding of that content.”

NIC student Elisa Osborn attended the event and said she learned about tools and resources that could serve her in the future.

“I wear contacts now, and my eyes aren’t terrible but it’s nice to know that if my eyes get really bad when I’m older, there are things out there that can help,” Osborn said.


North Idaho College student Jaselyn Jones discusses the difference between braille paper and swell touch paper with Christan Seda at the third annual Pave the Way to Global Accessibility Awareness Day on April 20 at the Edminster Student Union Building. Photo courtesy of Megan Snodgrass/North Idaho College