Twenty-five students, including three AccessComputing Team members, from seven different universities, traveled to Silicon Valley from May 20 – 24, 2019, to participate in the Teach Access program Study Away Silicon Valley (SASV). The participants visited the accessibility teams at Walmart, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Verizon Media Group, and Facebook where they learned how each company makes their products and services more accessible and usable. AccessComputing collaborators and partner representatives Kendra Walther and Rob Parke from the University of Southern California, Paul Ruvolo from Olin College of Engineering, and Li Liu from California State University, Northridge joined me as faculty mentors. In addition, there were faculty mentors from Michigan State University and University of Colorado.
Each of the participating companies also provided mentors. One of the mentors from Apple was Jordyn Castor, former student at Michigan State. In her presentation she recalled her first programming experience as a 14-year-old at the National Federation Blind Youth Slam where she programmed chatbots in a workshop sponsored by AccessComputing. She said that this experience led to her excitement about computing and to becoming a computer science major in college.
The students also participated in a week-long design activity where they were divided into six groups with mixed backgrounds (computer science and UX design) and different levels of knowledge about accessibility (little to extensive). Each group met for an hour or two per day to develop an accessibility solution. The week ended with each group giving a presentation about their design. It was very clear that students learned a lot about accessibility during the week.