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World Usability Day on campus

Accessible design is focus of conference

On Thursday, Nov. 3, Dartmouth will participate in World Usability Day, a global series of events organized by the Usability Professionals Association to promote ease of use in design. Over 50 conferences and seminars will take place on six continents, including Dartmouth's World Usability Day New England, which is co-sponsored by Landmark College, a Putney, Vt., school organized exclusively for students with dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other learning disabilities.

"The focus of our local conference is to promote universal usability as it is applied to teaching and learning," said Sarah Horton, Instructional Technology Specialist in Academic Computing and a conference organizer. "A principle called universal design is a key to this. Universal design strives to make products and environments as usable as possible by all people regardless of age, ability or situation. By applying this concept to education, we can look at how new technologies can be beneficial to educators and talk about designing physical spaces and other tools that will help promote learning."

Cathy Trueba, Director of Student Disability Services, will be helping to demonstrate one of these new pieces of technology during the day. "My office traditionally represents a community that uses technology for access, but it is interesting to think about who else can benefit from the same technology. Every day people watch captioned broadcasts in large or crowded spaces, like airports or bars, where it is impractical to have the volume too high. Applying this to the classroom, a technology developed to assist people who are hard of hearing could be helpful to students trying to hear their professor in large, noisy lecture halls, or also to students who speak English as a second language."

Dartmouth is pleased to be partnering with Landmark College for this event. "It is a real benefit to be working with them," said Malcolm Brown, Director of Academic Computing. "Because of their academic mission, the Landmark staff has extensive experience wrestling with usability issues. I expect that this event will help us to accelerate our thinking and find ways to better address the needs of teaching and learning."

World Usability Day New England takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Baker-Berry Library. Due to limited seating, the event is already filled to capacity. Participants include representatives from Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Landmark College, Middlebury College and Connecticut College, as well as a teleconference participant from Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla in Mexico.

By JOEL AALBERTS

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 12/17/08