Say 'Hello' to A Few New Faces!

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Summer’s been the season of growth for the Knowbility offices. With seven new staff members, our team has doubled in size over the last three months, bringing a pretty amazing level of new skills, perspectives, and experience to the table. We can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with going forward.  Now, without further ado, meet, well, everyone!

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Bobby Brooks, Web Accessibility Specialist

Bobby is an expert in technology solutions for digital marketing, social media strategy, management consulting, new business development, account management, customer relationships. He is highly proficient in HTML5, CSS and WordPress and has been trained in accessibility by Knowbility’s senior staff. Bobby has a Bachelor of Science degree in Corporate Finance from San Diego State University-California State University. His interest in accessible technology came from more than 15 years’ experience in marketing, business development and contracts management for major corporations like BAE Systems and SAIC.

How did you first come to work within the field of accessibility?

I have a very dear friend whose son became blind through an accident as a child. This was my first experience with a blind person and it illustrated for me the things I take for granted in my work and play.

What’s your favorite piece of accessible technology? Can be an app, product, site, etc.

My favorite tool is Tota11y. It’s a bookmarklet developed by the Kahn Academy that puts a JavaScript overlay on the screen in the browser so you can highlight elements of the design from an accessibility perspective, including page structure, alt text, contrast etc.

What’s a skill (tech-related or not) of yours that you’d like to do a little shameless bragging about?

Patterns and connections between various systems and processes come alive in my mind, I can quickly see multiple solutions to complex issues I’m able to relate them to others in an easy to digest format. This makes me keen for developing strategy and solving problems. I also CrossFit 6 days a week and can do 51 pull-ups without coming off the bar.

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Brooks Newton, Senior Web Accessibility Consultant

Brooks has worked for over 20 years as a Web design & development consultant, including 15 years experience assisting government, public school, small business and Fortune 100 organizations enhance their Web content for use by the disability community. He has a Master of Arts Degree in English from the University of Kansas and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance from the University of Oklahoma.

What has been your proudest moment with accessibility so far?

I’m probably most proud of the work I performed at AT&T to get the digital accessibility ball rolling company-wide.  Before my arrival at AT&T, there were champions of accessibility scattered throughout the organization.  Working within their own silos, these early adopters of Universal Design took on heroic challenges with their individual efforts to better serve the disability community.  I believe that my greatest contribution to AT&T and their customers was to help make digital accessibility oversight an enterprise-wide priority. I had a hand in making accessibility a part of “business as usual” at AT&T, and that’s something for which I’ll always be proud.

What’s your favorite piece of accessible technology? Can be an app, product, site, etc.

As an accessibility geek, I have to say I spend a lot of time perusing the WCAG 2.0 Quick Reference site that is hosted and maintained by the W3C.  The W3C has done a great job in putting together the resources required for folks to make their sites, mobile applications, browsers and content authoring systems accessible to people with disabilities.  I’m really looking forward to a day when most types of digital content will have a standard, documented implementation approach to accessibility.  The W3C has done a great job of leading in that effort. here is the URL to the WCAG 2.0 Quick Reference site – https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/

What’s a skill (tech-related or not) of yours that you’d like to do a little shameless bragging about?

I can play guitar and sing until the sun rises up above the Cookson Hills here in Northeastern Oklahoma.  I’ve been a singer/songwriter/musician for 35 years.  I find that after looking at code all day long, there’s nothing better than breaking out the six string and celebrating the end of the day by singing a song and playing guitar.  Good stuff!

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Buddy Brannan, Development and AT Specialist

Buddy is a native screen reader user who’s been working in IT since 1994. Buddy is an alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin with extensive experience in customer service and support. In that role, he’s worked for large regional Internet service providers conducting software testing and providing troubleshooting and analysis support across multiple platforms. Most recently, from 2009 to 2014, he worked for a provider of software and online services for people who are blind. He sincerely believes that information technology (technology of all sorts) can not only provide educational and employment opportunities for everyone regardless of ability or disability but can make our world smaller and eliminate barriers to full inclusion in all aspects of society.

What challenge in the accessibility world are you most excited to take on?

There’s so much that needs doing. More accessible information and cheaper, more reliable ways of getting at it would be great, and we’re already seeing that. More of that, please.

What’s your favorite piece of accessible technology? Can be an app, product, site, etc.

The iPhone, period amen.

What’s a skill (tech-related or not) of yours that you’d like to do a little shameless bragging about?

Shameless bragging? I don’t know. However, one unusual skill that some might not consider very useful: I know (and actively use) morse code. Had to learn it when I first got my ham radio license in 1987. No one has to learn it anymore, and my 30 words per minute is pretty fast these days :-).

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Marine Menier, Marketing and Sales Associate

Since July 2016, Marine has been working for Knowbility in the marketing and community program department. She is currently working on centralizing all of Knowbility’s contacts and program information on Salesforce. Marine is French and has a Master of Business Development & Strategic Marketing from Paris Dauphine. She worked in asset management and also for Air France as a project manager. After graduating, she came to Texas and started working for Knowbility as a volunteer! She loves traveling. She studied one year in Cordoba, Argentina. She loves learning new things especially languages and new technologies. She speaks French, Spanish, English and she is starting to learn Chinese.

How did you first come to work within the field of accessibility?

After graduating, I came to Texas to improve my English. At the same time, I wanted to work for a company. I found Knowbility, talked to Jessica and started working as a volunteer! Having the opportunity to work for Knowbility is something very exciting for me because my objective is to make people’s lives easier and more accessible.

What has been your proudest moment with accessibility so far?

When I went to SXSW and presented Knowbility at the booth. I felt so happy to see that so many people were asking questions about accessibility. I realized that accessibility is still a big challenge for a lot of companies and schools/universities but people seem to be putting in the effort to improve the situation. At this moment I felt proud to work for Knowbility. 

What challenge in the accessibility world are you most excited to take on?

I am very excited to work on the educational part of it! For me, working on ATSTAR is something that is so rewarding because education impacts the future of our country. Everybody should have equal access to education  in our world.

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Anthony Vasquez, Assistive Technology Specialist

Anthony is a native screen reader user and Research Assistant at the University Of Southern California US-China Institute, Los Angeles, CA. Anthony has an MA in East Asian Studies from Stanford University. He graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Journalism from California State University Long Beach. At CSU Long Beach, Anthony used Braille and specialized computer software to learn Chinese. He now speaks Mandarin as well as Spanish and English.

 What has been your proudest moment with accessibility so far?
In general, I feel very fortunate being the first blind American—to my knowledge—to have studied Mandarin Chinese at the college level. I started in the fall of 2006 at Cal State Long Beach. Working with Disabled Student Services at Long Beach we pioneered a workflow that enabled me to learn Chinese braille, study abroad, and become proficient in the language.

Regarding my time with Knowbility, I am proud of playing a role in
improving the high-stakes English and math test experience on
Pearson’s TestNav platform. When images have accessible alt text and passages have a logical heading structure, students can stop worrying about the testing environment and put more effort to studying for these important exams.

What challenge in the accessibility world are you most excited to take on?

I am interested in improving mobile accessibility. Though Apple’s
screen reader VoiceOver is great on iOS devices, many third-party apps are still inaccessible.

What’s your favorite piece of accessible technology? 

I recently purchased a Braille Edge 40 by Hims Inc. It is a
refreshable braille display and note taker that pairs with
smartphones, tablets, and computers. With this, I can read incoming
text messages, lyrics from a streaming music service, or edit
documents. I retain information better if I read it in braille, and
giving presentations is much easier when reading from a braille copy
than echoing what I hear from my headphones.


 

Akash Singh, Web Accessibility Specialist

I am a Computer Science graduate student at California State University Long Beach. I am presently residing in Long Beach, California and working as a remote employee for Knowbility. I have completed my schooling and undergraduate studies in India. I got my bachelors in Electronics and Telecommunication from Symbiosis University, Pune. I have previously worked at Nvidia & Mitsubishi Electric. I also spent some time developing a game for the Android mobile OS that I successfully published on the Play Store.

How did you first come to work within the field of accessibility?

My first job as a research assistant on an ongoing project with Dr. Wayne Dick and Dr. Alvaro Monge at CSULB. The goal of this project was to build a web-based solution for people who suffer from Low Vision.

What’s your favorite piece of accessible technology? Can be an app, product, site, etc.

VoiceOver on iOS. My appreciation of this technology grows with my understanding and knowledge of accommodation requirements for people with disabilities.

What’s a skill (tech-related or not) of yours that you’d like to do a little shameless bragging about?

When I am not programming I am usually spending my time with my guitar. Even though I wouldn’t say I am very good at it, it sure is one of my favorite skills.


 

Eden Akins, Intern

I went to CSULB and graduated this year in spring. Before Knowbility I worked on a research project at my school (which I still work on) that is meant to show the disadvantages of horizontal scrolling on webpages (that is also how I got into accessibility).

What challenge in the accessibility world are you most excited to take on?

Creating usable and accessible websites.

What’s a skill (tech-related or not) of yours that you’d like to do a little shameless bragging about?

I’m a programmer who works on web pages & android applications in my free time.

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