AccessComputing News - June 2022: All Articles

This page features all the articles from the AccessComputing News - June 2022 newsletter. This newsletter can also be viewed article by article on the AccessComputing News - June 2022 page.

SIGCSE 2022 Trip Report: Reunited

Amy Ko, AccessComputing Senior Personnel

Two years ago I was on a train to Portland, Oregon in an N-95 mask I had from an old painting project. My car was nearly empty, but a couple boarded in Olympia and sat in the seats next to me. I moved to the other side of the car, and they looked at me confused. I was frantically reviewing slides, as over the past week, more than a dozen colleagues had reached out to see if I was still going to SIGCSE 2020, and if so, if I’d be willing to present their work for them. I’d said yes, mostly out of a sense of duty: I had a lot to do at the conference and others were in more vulnerable positions, so I figured I would just take on the load and make the most of what was sure to be a strange week.

When I arrived, I saw the organizers in the lobby of the main conference hotel; they had dire looks on their faces. Everyone in the lobby seemed nervous and on edge. I continued to wear my mask, while I encountered old friends in the lobby. I went out to dinner with colleagues and had the strong sense that this was the last time I’d be in a restaurant for a while. The next morning, the conference was canceled and I took a train back home.

Nothing would ever be the same.

Two years later, I’m here on a flight to Boston, headed to the 2022 SIGCSE Technical Symposium. Many of the same feelings are at play: I’m a bit nervous, travelers on edge, and no one is quite sure what the conference is going to be like. But there is a sense that it will happen and that it will be safe. But also that it won’t be the same. Many in our community aren’t ready to take the risk and will be participating remotely. And who can actually attend—with travel approval, with sufficient funding, with the freedom to step away from teaching—is a very different group than those likely attending online. I don’t think anyone expects it to be a return to what SIGCSE looked like in 2019, rich and vibrant in cold Minneapolis. But I think all people are looking for is a small dose of social time with friends and some time away from the home office, while cases are on the decline, vaccinations hold, and war emerges in Eastern Europe.

The in-person part of our hybrid group, listening to 11 short presentations on teaching about accessibility in CS courses.

Wednesday Workshops

On Wednesday of SIGCSE, I co-organized two workshops, both hybrid. The first was the Computing Research Association Education (CRA-E) Teaching-Track Faculty Workshop, which was part of my studies as a board member of the CRA-E Committee. The goal of the workshop was to bring together teaching track faculty at research universities and to offer them community, mentorship, and guidance as they navigate supporting their institutions’ teaching missions amidst a research culture.

Immediately after the CRA-E workshop, I co-organized a Teaching Accessibility in Computing workshop, as part of my role on AccessComputing. Our goal with this workshop was to bring together faculty who teach about accessibility in computing education contexts, as well as faculty who are interested in doing so. We had more than 40 educators register and 13 presentations that spanned a broad range of integrations of accessibility and computer science topics. It was so impressive to see such expansive and creative ideas for integrating accessibility and disability justice into CS learning! (See the slides. Recordings of the presentation will be posted on the AccessComputing website this spring).

Read more of Amy’s SIGCSE 2022 Trip Report.

Disability:IN and Their Next Gen Program

By Brianna Blaser, AccessComputing Associate Director
Disability:IN logo

Last year, we were very excited when Disability:IN became an AccessComputing partner. Disability:IN is a non-profit organization that partners with a network of over 400 companies to work toward its vision of “an inclusive global economy where people with disabilities participate fully and meaningfully.” Many of our partners may benefit from becoming familiar with Disability:IN’s resources for companies as well as for people with disabilities themselves.

Disability:In’s Disability Equality Index serves as a benchmarking tool for companies that provides “a roadmap of measurable, tangible actions that they can take to achieve disability inclusion and equality.” People with disabilities may want to explore employers who are among the top-scoring companies. Through Inclusion Works, companies can consult on disability inclusion and connect with their peers. Disability:IN is also the home of the Neurodiversity @ Work Employer Roundtable, a collection of employers with neurodiversity-focused hiring programs.

Finally, through the NextGen Leaders program, Disability:IN works with college students and recent graduates. Students participate in mentoring, networking, and professional development opportunities. Many AccessComputing students have participated in the NextGen program over the years, and we’re excited to continue referring students there.

Exploring Computing and Information Sciences/Technology Research for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing

By Raja Kushalnagar, AccessComputing Co-PI

On April 19, 2022, deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduates in computing and technology fields came together for a virtual workshop about computing/technology research and applying to graduate school.

A slide from Raja's presentation showing his degrees and jobs.

I gave the first presentation of the workshop, A Journey to a Career in Computing, focusing on my career path through school and my career. We had a panel discussion with deaf graduate students and recent Ph.D. graduates, Daniel Seita (Carnegie Mellon), Alex Lu (Microsoft), Abraham Glasser (Rochester Institute of Technology - RIT), Brienna Herold (RIT), and Lizzie Codick (RIT). AccessComputing PI Richard Ladner shared about applying to graduate school and Sarah Augustine shared about internships with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

There were many interesting points raised throughout the workshop. The panelists discussed ways to regularly correspond with support services and get needed resources to navigate the rigors of graduate school. They attributed their success to working hard, paying attention, and asking questions when they didn’t understand something. The panelists also discussed the importance of setting aside time to correspond with the support services to arrange for interpreters, captioners or other support services. Universities that have a critical mass of deaf or hearing students have larger, more knowledgeable support services that can take on the time to arrange for interpreters and reduce the students’ burden. They talked about taking a holistic approach in adopting varying support services in communicating with their peers, advisors, and others and in building a strong network of friends and mentors for advice if there are any issues in providing opportunities for them to pursue during and after graduate school.

The 2022 IDEALS Workshop

By Richard Ladner and Stacy Branham, AccessComputing PI and Co-PI
AccessComputing participants, mentors, and friends from the 2022 IDEALs Workshop. Masks were worn, but removed for the photo.

AccessComputing was one of the sponsors of the 2022 Computing Research Association's Committee on Widening Participation in Computing Research (CRA-WP) Grad Cohort Workshop for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Leadership Skills (IDEALS) that was held March 24-26, 2022 in San Diego, CA. For many of us, it was the first workshop or conference we have attended in person for two years. There were strict protocols to protect everyone from exposure to the COVID-19 virus, including proof of vaccination, on-site testing, and mask wearing. Participants were assigned one to a hotel room, which meant the workshop was half its normal size. IDEALS focuses each year on career development and mentoring for computing graduate students from minoritized groups including students with disabilities. There were 82 students, including 27 who identified as having a disability, in attendance. Of the 27, five were already AccessComputing Team members. In addition, there were 25 mentors including AccessComputing leaders and partners Richard Ladner (University of Washington), Stacy Branham (University of California Irvine), Raja Kushalnagar (Gallaudet University), Susan Rodger (Duke University), and Dilma DaSilva (Texas A&M).

The program had three tracks for beginning, intermediate, and senior graduate students, as well as several plenary sessions that were attended by everyone. One of the plenary sessions was a panel discussion titled “Empowerment of People with Disabilities” that was moderated by AccessComputing student Ather Sharif (University of Washington) and featured panel members Richard Ladner, Raja Kushalnagar, and Susan Rodger. After brief introductions, Ather asked the panelists a number of questions—such as “Why is empowerment in higher education important for people with disabilities?” and “How can allies support and contribute towards the empowerment of people with disabilities?”—and allowed for audience questions afterward. Although the questions were about challenges that students with disabilities have in graduate school,

in most cases, the answers were applicable to students from other minoritized groups as well. Moving from disempowerment to empowerment can be a challenge for individuals from all these groups.

Other session topics included choosing a research topic, networking, career paths, communication skills, building professional personas, internships, master’s versus Ph.D., overcoming insufficient academic preparation: perceived or real, industry versus academic research positions, overcoming failure, strategies for human-human interaction, school-life balance, publishing your research, finding an advisor, and preparing a thesis proposal. There were also several sessions for individual mentoring, advising, and resume reviewing, with additional time for informal mentoring at meals and in the evening. Since last year’s workshop was online, it was wonderful to get to see everyone in person this year.

The CRA-WP, an AccessComputing Organizational Partner, also sponsors other career development workshops that have been attended by persons with disabilities. These include the Grad Cohort for Women and the Early & Mid-Career Mentoring Workshop.

Staff Profile: Eric Trekell

Eric Trekell

I’m Eric Trekell, and I’m the newest program operations specialist with DO‑IT. I’ll be working on multiple DO-IT programs, including AccessComputing, Neuroscience for Neurodiverse Learners (NNL), The Alliance of Students with Disabilities for Inclusion, Networking, and Transition Opportunities in STEM (TAPDINTO-STEM), and the Alliance for Identity-Inclusive Computing Education (AIICE) among others. I have an AA degree in political science from Northeastern Junior College and a BA with dual majors in government and history from Adams State University, both located in Colorado, where I grew up. I received an MS in educational administration from Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. Prior to joining DO-IT, I was the director of the Center for Disability Services at Everett Community College for four years and assistant director of Services for Students with Disabilities at Edmonds College for three years. 

I’ve spent most of my career thus far in higher education, a lot of it working in resource and retention services focused on underrepresented student populations. I began my career while in grad school at Texas A&M; while getting my master’s, I worked full-time as a student organization advisor in the Memorial Student Union Student Programs Office. Then I spent two years as assistant director for Student Services at Texas A&M’s former branch campus in Japan. Upon returning from Japan, I became a lecturer with the Academic Success Center, where I taught student success and first-year-experience courses, as well as coordinated supplemental instruction services for the pre-med and political science programs. After a rollerblading accident and two surgeries on my left ankle, I wanted to make sure I could still ski, so I left Texas to return to the mountains of Colorado. In that move, I also accepted the opportunity to work as the founding director of a new TRiO Student Support Services program at my alma mater, Adams State University. Eventually, I left Colorado again and spent seven years as an assistant dean of students and the first professional, full-time director of the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I met my husband.

Said husband is from Europe, so we left the U.S. in 2010, when he finished grad school and his visa expired. We married in Iceland and prior to relocating to Seattle in 2014, we lived first in Amsterdam, then in London. We loved being able to go to all the (free!) museums in London, but we also enjoy camping and hiking. For that reason, we always have both WA state and national annual parks passes with us when we travel in Washington or around the US.
 

What Makes a Virtual Event Accessible

By Richard Ladner, AccessComputing PI
A screenshot of Richard Ladner presenting with a slide that asks "Should a virtual meeting imitate an in-person meeting?" and shows a screenshot of the tool Gather Town.

In preparation for a CHI 2022 workshop titled “Social Presence in Virtual Event Spaces” held on May 1, 2022, there was a seminar series on this topic during early 2022. I gave one of the lectures in the seminar series, entitled “What Makes a Virtual Event Accessible.” This lecture was hosted by the virtual meeting platform Midspace and is available on YouTube. Midspace is an interesting company that has made accessibility central to their virtual and hybrid meeting platforms. For detailed information on how to make a virtual event accessible visit the excellent SIGACCESS webpage on this topic.

Recent Awards within the AccessComputing Community

By Richard Ladner, AccessComputing PI
Members of the AccessComputing team who have already received awards in 2022, including Co-PI Stacy Branham, senior staff Amy Ko, and partner Jennifer Mankoff.

Multiple members of the AccessComputing team have received awards already in 2022, including Co-PI Stacy Branham, senior staff Amy Ko, and partner Jennifer Mankoff.

AccessComputing Co-PI Stacy Branham has received two awards in 2022. She received the Celebration of Teaching, Digital Accessibility Innovator Award from the University of California, Irvine where she is an assistant professor. She also recently received the Virginia Tech Computer Science Early Career Alumni Award from her Ph.D. institution.

AccessComputing senior staff Amy Ko was chosen to join the SIGCHI Academy in 2022. The SIGCHI Academy is an honorary group of individuals who have made substantial contributions to the field of human-computer interaction.

AccessComputing partner Jennifer Mankoff, representing the Center for Research and Education on Accessible Technology and Experiences (CREATE), is the 2022 winner of the ACM SIGCHI Social Impact Award for promoting the application of human-computer interaction research to pressing social needs. This same award has been won previously by several others with AccessComputing connections, including Lillian Hayes, Jonathan Lazar, Jacob Wobbrock, and Richard Ladner.

Taulbee Survey Reports on Students with Disabilities

By Brianna Blaser, AccessComputing Staff
Computer Research Association logo

We are excited that the Computing Research Association's annual Taulbee Survey reported on the participation of students with disabilities in computing departments for the first time this year. After a feasibility study determined that a sufficient number of departments could report on the number of their students that receive accommodations, the questions were included and between one-third to one-half of the departments could offer information.

Based on this data, less than 1% of both master's and Ph.D. students received accommodations and 4.1% of undergraduate majors received disability-related accommodations. This information was pulled from the table on page 80 of the report.

AccessComputing Partners with the Last Mile Education Fund

Richard Ladner, AccessComputing PI
Last Mile Education Fund logo

AccessComputing has partnered with the Last Mile Education Fund (LMEF), a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to computing students who are low-income and underrepresented within four semesters of graduation. One of the founders of the fund is Sarah Lee, an AccessComputing partner representing Southern Mississippi State University. As an affiliate partner of LMEF, AccessComputing refers its students to the fund and generally supports the mission of the organization. Since the founding of the organization in 2020, the Fund has provided more than $1.3 million to computing students in need, the majority being students of color and approximately 13% having a disability. The average amount given to students is about $1,200 for a wide range of needs. Several AccessComputing Team members have been recipients of funding, including Talia Tomarchio who graduated with a computer science major from Rowan University in 2021. 

“Last Mile Education Fund has always been there for me. In my last semester of college, I found out that I was one requirement short of graduation and had to take a Summer course. I applied for an emergency grant with the LMEF, and they reached out and offered to pay for the entire course. I can honestly say I couldn’t have graduated without them! I am so grateful that they believe in me."
– Talia Tomarchio

If you are a student or know a student who might need financial assistance please consider the Last Mile Education Fund.

Calling Prospective Industry Partners

By Co-PI Stacy Branham, AccessComputing Co-PI
A list of current Industry Partners. To read about them, go to uw.edu/accesscomputing/about/industry-partners.

AccessComputing is host to a highly engaged institutional partners community, comprising academics and advocacy organizations, with the goal of paving the way through computing degree programs for students with disabilities. But, how can we support disabled students in the crucial transition to industry employment? This is one of the key questions we are now addressing under the recent 3-year extension of our project.

This month, we are kicking off a revamped Industry Partner program. In the past, we have worked to connect our eight partners––Galois, Lyft, LLNL, Microsoft, Salesforce, Uber, Wandke Consulting, and Yahoo!––to our students in computing degree programs and resources on disability inclusion through monthly partner meetings and mailing lists. Based on input from our current partners, we will continue to offer these services, as well as expand our offerings to include new opportunities:

  • a student panel to address questions on how to be an inclusive recruiter
  • partner socials to bring together professionals interested in disability inclusion
  • a partner panel to connect prospective employers to AccessComputing students
  • new industry-focused resources, like our new Accessible and Inclusive Hiring Guide

We have an ambitious goal to grow our industry partner network from 8 to 25 partners by Fall 2023, and we need your help. We invite you to share this call widely, and for those of you in industry, consider joining today. Reach out to accesscomp@uw.edu if you have any questions.

AccessComputing Student Profile: Nayha Auradkar

Nayha Auradkar

Hi! My name is Nayha Auradkar (she/her), and I am a master’s student in computer science at the University of Washington. My research focuses on neural engineering and machine learning. After my master’s degree, I plan to either go into industry or pursue my Ph.D.

I have had a speech disability called stuttering for my entire life. When I joined college as an undergrad, I found presentation-based classes and career events that required networking difficult to navigate because it was hard for me to communicate fluently. This contributed to a sense of imposter syndrome—I felt like I could not achieve as much as my peers in terms of academics and career goals. I was frustrated because I knew I was smart enough, but I felt like my stutter would hold me back forever because I could not “cure” my disability.

My mindset about my disability changed throughout my undergrad as I got more involved in student organizations and research labs. I joined an accessibility technology lab in my department called the Make4All lab, which shifted my mindset about disability. Make4All advocated for the approach that instead of trying to “cure” disability, we should instead develop technology to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities.

This new mindset made me feel more confident about my identity—I didn’t feel as if my disability was something bad that I needed to get rid of. I wanted to use my experiences as a person with a disability to empower others through accessibility. I formed two clubs on campus to support students with disabilities. The first one was called “Huskies Who Stutter,” a discussion and support group for students at UW who stutter. I also started a club in my department called “Ability”—we host events to build a strong disability community in tech and spread awareness about accessibility. I appreciated the support I received from Brianna Blaser and Richard Ladner from AccessComputing in participating in our events.

The support I received from my peers in Huskies Who Stutter and Ability made me feel empowered in my career. Additionally, I received a scholarship from AccessComputing to attend the Tapia conference, which allowed me to network with recruiters alongside other students with disabilities who supported me throughout the process. This experience helped me feel more comfortable disclosing my disability to recruiters and interviewers, which helped ease the pressure I was putting on myself to hide my disability. This reduced the anxiety I had during interviews, so I was able to focus solely on demonstrating my technical skills. So far, I have received software engineering job offers from Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, LinkedIn, JP Morgan, and several other prestigious companies.

If you ever feel like a part of your identity is holding you back, think of the positive ways you can use that identity to empower you and others. I’ll be honest, stuttering is hard most of the time. However, my stutter motivated me to get involved in accessibility research and meet amazing individuals in the disability communities that I founded on campus. I’m excited for the future as I continue to embrace my identity.

College and University Disability Services Staff: A Panel Q&A

By Eric W. Trekell, DO-IT Staff
Disability Resources for Students offices can provide a wide variety of options, but sometimes both students and faculty may need advice on the best way to access these resources.

This panel featured disability support staff and was moderated by AccessComputing staff member Eric Trekell, who is also the former director of disability services (DS) at Everett Community College. It was held on Thursday, February 24th, from 4:30-5:30 online, and features questions around student accommodations, advice for students talking to faculty, documentation, and a variety of other topics.

Panelists:

  • Wendy Holden, Director, Disability Services, Central Washington University;
  • Megan Jasurda, Director, Disability Support Services, Clark College;
  • Adiam Tesfay, Director, Disability Resource Center, University of Washington;
  • Kim Thompson, Senior Director, Disability Services, Seattle University.

What do you wish students knew about asking for accommodations? Does that advice differ based on their disability?

  • An “interactive process” for accommodations is required by law; it’s that first meeting but it’s also an ongoing dialogue that happens the entire length of your post-K-12 life, in higher ed and work settings. Understanding that is important.
  • Accommodations happen in context. The accommodations you had in high school will be different from what you have at a 2-year college, maybe different from the ones you have at a 4-year college or grad school, and different at work. It depends on your disability, your major and your classes. What you need in a lecture class may be different than in a lab class or at work. It’s flexible.

What do you think are good practices for students in how to approach their faculty to talk about their disability and their accommodations?

  • Faculty have a singular focus on their subject and they love their subject so much. Approach them with this idea: “I want to learn this great subject that you love so much, but normal academia creates these barriers for me with my disability. What is the best way to use my accommodations to help me learn from you?”
  • You don’t have to disclose your disability but talk about how it affects you.

What approach does your institution take with respect to documentation of a disability?

  • The law allows variation among campuses. A list of desired documentation may be on the DS website. Call and ask!
  • We can work with a student and find out if the documentation they have is sufficient. Sometimes we can help them to get the documentation they need from a medical or counseling clinic. Sometimes we can take a student’s self-report, where a student talks to us about their experiences, including their health barriers and how those barriers result in academic challenges. A self-report also includes their past experience with accommodations, if any.

If a student is considering applying at your institution, can they meet or call to talk with disability office staff to find out what type of accommodations they might receive?

  • Whether or not you can meet before being admitted varies between campuses. We’re required by law to have an official meeting with you to set your accommodations. Most of our offices don’t have the staffing capacity to have “pre-meetings”. It’s really a “whole process” and it needs to take place after you’re admitted and preferably when you’re enrolled for your first classes.
  • If a prospective student really wants, most of us will have a brief “informational” meeting but we’ll never promise specific accommodations at that meeting.

Can a student have an advocate or service provider at the meeting with DS staff?

  • Yes! A student can bring any person to any meeting at any point. But so can we; our goal is a positive, supportive relationship with you, but if you bring a lawyer to the meeting without telling us in advance we may reschedule the meeting so a campus lawyer can attend, too.
  • Because of FERPA, it can be a problem if a parent or advocate wants to email or call or meet and make decisions without you. You, the student, are responsible for your accommodations process, not your parent. This is totally different from your high school experience.
  • If a parent or service provider starts to overstep a little, then we have to have a conversation explaining that the student is in charge, not the parent.

Do you have any advice for students who may feel that their DS office might not be helpful?

  • Every DS office is required to have a “complaint process,” and they should provide you with that information at the first meeting, or let you know where to find it. There may be an “informal” process and a “formal” process.
  • If the DS office is large enough to have a director and other staff, and you have a complaint about a staff member, then making that complaint to the director is always the first step. In a DS office of one person, their supervisor would be the first step in an informal complaint process.
  • The formal process usually starts outside the DS office; again, this process varies, but it should be posted on the DS web page and in the student handbook. It could be a campus ADA or Title IX coordinator. If you can’t find that information easily, it’s ok to ask someone else. A staff member at the Diversity office, or an academic advisor are good places to ask for that advice and guidance.
  • There’s also an off-campus formal process all students have access to: the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has a complaint form on their website. It’s usually best to try the formal campus process first, because OCR will want to know if you tried resolving the issue on campus.

What advice would you give to a student who is heading into a research internship, either on their campus or on a different campus?

  • That varies on campuses; a paid internship can mean you’re an employee and now it is a workplace modification for human resources (HR). An unpaid, graded internship is probably a student accommodation with the DS office. Probably!
  • Whether the internship is on your campus or another campus it’s ok to start by contacting the DS office, explaining the internship and asking. They’ll know the process and will refer you to HR if appropriate.
  • Regardless, you’ll probably meet with someone to provide information, maybe documentation and discuss: What is the actual work? Are accommodations needed in that research space? Does the internship supervisor need to know?

What about when I’m looking for a job? Should I specify my disability right away? Do you advise that a job applicant reveal their disability on the application form?

  • That’s a personal decision. Some applicants are very up front and reveal immediately in their cover letter: “This is my disability and this is what I need.” Sometimes an employer will appreciate that and know what to expect if they hire you. But, while it’s illegal discrimination, you could be “screened out” if you reveal in your cover letter. No one would be able to prove that discrimination occurred.
  • Most application forms now ask if you have a disability; it’s usually ok to disclose that on the application, because that response is only collected by the HR office for demographic reporting data, which is not supposed to be shared with the people who screen and interview applicants.
  • If you need an accommodation for the application process, you need to ask for that accommodation; again, that’s usually part of the application form and should only be seen by HR, and would be arranged by HR, not whoever would be your supervisor. If you can get through an application process without an accommodation then it’s appropriate to wait to disclose your accommodation needs to the HR office after you’ve been hired. 

June 2022 AccessAdvice

Elaine Schaertl Short, AccessComputing Co-PI
AccessAdvice with Elaine Schaertl Short

Welcome to “AccessAdvice”, a new advice column on accessibility and disability issues written by Elaine Schaertl Short, an AccessComputing co-PI. Before we start, some important disclaimers: everything I say represents only my opinion as an individual, not the opinion of any organization or funder, and I am not a lawyer or medical professional and none of the following should be construed as medical or legal advice. If you’d like to ask a question, email accesscomp@uw.edu with the subject line “AccessAdvice.”

I am currently taking a semester of medical leave and am actively interviewing for internships. Is it okay not to disclose the fact that I’m on medical leave during my interviews? I never lie, and my graduation date is still the same, but I do not feel comfortable informing my interviewers of this. Any advice on how to proceed going forward? – I Never Lie

Dear I Never Lie,

First of all, your instinct not to lie is definitely correct: an interviewer only has a limited amount of time to make a judgment on you as a candidate, and you don’t want to raise questions in their mind about your integrity, even if this is an exceptional circumstance. You don’t have to bring it up, but make sure you have a good answer ready if you’re asked a question about something like your current classes. My recommendation is to aim for an answer with three characteristics: a matter-of-fact tone, minimal information, and a pivot to a new topic. The phrases “medical stuff”, “family issues”, and “a family emergency” are pretty standard in the adult world to mean “something that is personal that I don’t want to talk about”, and most people won’t ask follow-up questions. You can also say things like “I’d prefer not to get into it” if they express concern or ask questions – just use a friendly tone and most people will leave it alone, especially if you then change the topic by turning the conversation back to something relevant to the position. Feel free to use one or more of these examples (adjust to fit your situation):

  • I’m actually on leave this semester to deal with some medical stuff but I’m looking forward to taking algorithms in the spring—I’ve really been enjoying my math classes!
  • I’ve had to take this semester off from classes to deal with some family issues, but I’ve been working on learning to use PyTorch. I recently got a system set up to recognize my handwriting, which I’m very excited about.
  • Oh, I’d prefer not to get into the details, as I’m sure you can imagine they’re not very pleasant, but everything will be under control by the summer. Could you tell me more about the database system you’re using? I’m really interested in getting more backend experience.

As I alluded to above, there are a couple somewhat more valid reasons an interviewer might have follow-up questions: first, they may be concerned about whether you will actually be available when the internship starts, and some internship programs may require that you be a current student at the time of the internship. It’s really up to you whether you want to head off these concerns by addressing them directly (I’ve included one example above), or wait until you’re asked directly. At most universities, you’re considered a current student over the summer if you’re enrolled for the spring before and fall after but you’d want to check in directly with your university to confirm.

If you won’t be a current student at the time of the internship, I would probably recommend you mention that you are on leave (but not why) once you have an offer—if the internship does have a requirement that you be a currently-enrolled student, you don’t want to find that out on your first day while filling out new-hire paperwork. You don’t have to make a big deal of it or reveal any details, just say something like “I wanted to mention that I am on leave from the university to deal with [some medical stuff/a family emergency/family stuff]. Things will be fine by summer, but because of how leave works at my university, I won’t be a currently-enrolled student again until fall. Is that going to be a problem on your end?” If they do require that you be considered a current student in order to start the internship, then I would get in touch with an advisor or the person managing your medical leave as soon as possible; there may be a way to enroll part-time in internship or co-op credits so that you count as a student.

Whatever scripts you decide to go with, you’ll probably want to practice them like you’d practice any other interview question. You’re aiming for a relatively light tone; remember that most working adults have had to take some time off work for some reason or another, so this is a pretty normal exchange to have during an interview. Except to confirm that you will to be available and whether or not you’ll be considered a currently-enrolled student, any additional questioning on the topic should be met with polite deflections (the last bullet above is an example). If you get the sense that they are just being nosy or trying to get you to disclose a disability, just say “I’d prefer not to discuss it. Do you have any more questions related to the interview?”

It’s unlikely to come to that though, so just stay calm, have some answers prepared, and I’m sure you’ll do great. Good luck in your interviews!

Check out the Knowledge Base!

By Sheryl Burgstahler, AccessComputing Co-PI
A student works using assistive technology on his computer.

Looking for answers to specific questions, case studies, and promising practices related to topics associated with making computing courses and careers more accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities and incorporating content related to disability as well as accessible and universal design in computing and IT course curriculum? AccessComputing continues to grow an online searchable Knowledge Base of more than six hundred articles in these three categories. On the AccessComputing website, select the “Knowledge Base” link to search through and read a variety of related articles, including the following:

AccessComputing PI Elected to CSTA Board of Directors

By Elizabeth Woolner, AccessComputing Staff
Computer Science - Teachers Association logo

AccessComputing PI Richard Ladner has been elected to serve as the College/University Representative to the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Board of Directors. The Board of Directors are elected directly by the CSTA community and are chosen based on their prior experience, professional reputation, overall experience, leadership skills, prior contributions to CSTA, alignment of their prior work to CSTA's mission, and their understanding of the core issues in CS education.

CSTA is an organization that is focused around K-12 computer science teachers, with leadership coming directly from teachers themselves. CSTA especially focuses on equity and inclusion for all students, as well as educators, and creates a community that is open to sharing best practices, local connections, professional development, and a variety of resources on these topics.

Richard's selection as a board member reflects his wealth of experience and background in computer science education and diversity inclusion. As he stated in his platform statement, "My goal in joining the board would be to help the organization learn about accessible educational technology and pedagogy in the computer science space. Also, I would like to help the organization move beyond DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] to DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility)."

Richard's work will help bring disability and accessibility to the forefront of CSTA's mission on inclusion. To learn more about Richard’s background and his goals as a member of the CSTA Board of Directors, visit the Meet the Candidate's page.

About AccessComputing

Led by the Department of Computer Science & Engineering and DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) at the University of Washington, AccessComputing is supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant No. CNS-0540615, CNS-0837508, and CNS-1042260). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. For further information, to be placed on the mailing list or to request materials in an alternate format, contact:

University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
accesscomp@uw.edu
www.uw.edu/accesscomputing
206-221-4171 (Fax)
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (toll free voice/TTY)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane