In the third installment of our 30-Second Interview series leading up to the 2012 John Slatin AccessU, instructor Jennison Asuncion talks about jazz music, a stockpile of one dollar coins, and why he’s passionate about making accessibility accessible to developers.
Who are you?
I am an accessibility professional, if you will. I work in the field of accessibility. I’ve been doing it for about 10 years now, mainly in the financial services industry, and I also happen to be a screen reader user. I’m a big fan of jazz music, live comedy, and cross-country skiing, and I’m really into social media – big on twitter, and things like that.
What will you be doing at AccessU?
I’m coming to AccessU to teach an introductory course for designers and developers on how to use a screen reader, both NVDA and JAWS, and how to use that as part of an approach to testing for accessibility. I’m excited because it’s a great opportunity for people to have hands-on experience playing with the screen readers and to ask questions of an actual screen reader user. There are myths about accessibility and screen readers that some people are too polite to ask – I’m a casual person, very open. And because I work in the field of accessibility, I can answer questions from both that perspective and the perspective of an end user.
Why do you care about accessibility?
It matters to me because technology is being used so much now in so many different areas, at school, employment, the way we live and participate in society. As a person with a disability, I feel very fortunate with where I am, working, and having had the chance to go to school and all that – I want to make such opportunities are accessible to other people.
I am passionate about making accessibility accessible to developers and designers and other IT folks – it can be a complicated issue and can seem like a daunting effort. I want to make sure they are comfortable with it and can ask questions and get the information they need to make things accessible.
People think because I have a disability, I’m going to be a huge advocate for people with disabilities, and don’t get me wrong, I am. But I know that developers are interested in accessibility and want to do the right thing, but they’re stymied and don’t know where to start. We have to talk to them, get in front of them, be approachable, and make accessibility approachable for people. If I can use the fact that I’m blind to hammer home certain points, I’ll do it. It often helps to hear someone with a disability talking about the impact when technology is not accessible to them.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned recently?
I’m always learning stuff, but when you’re asked for one key nugget…give me a second here. I just learned recently on NPR that in the US there is a stock-pile of dollar coins that are not being used. There’s just a stockpile. We have a dollar coin in Canada, but we use it. In the US, the Federal Reserve has them, they’re just piled up somewhere.
Last question. What would you tell people who don’t think accessibility should be a priority?
I want them to think about what it would be like if they had someone they cared about who wasn’t able to take a course, or work, or vote, or shop online because the website wasn’t available to them in an accessible way. That’s it.
This is my second year coming to AccessU, and really it is a great opportunity to get into the classroom. In previous lives, I’d had that experience with training people. It’s great to meet up with people who are just getting into accessibility and to network with them. I’m big into networking.
That’s one thing I’d tell people: Make sure to bring your business cards – we can trade them, and expect an invite on LinkedIn!