My Experience at ATIA 2019

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the ATIA 2019 Conference in Orlando, Florida. I was able to find out about the latest and greatest emerging technologies in the field of accessibility and vision impairment, test out new devices, and get lots of great post ideas. Here is a recap of my experience at ATIA 2019 as a college student with low vision.

What is ATIA?

The Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) is an organization for manufacturers, sellers, and providers of assistive technology. Every January, ATIA holds a conference in Orlando, Florida that connects members of the assistive technology community- companies, consumers, teachers specialists, and more. The conference allows attendees to learn about emerging technologies, test out devices and tools, further their education, network, and more. Since I am a college student, I received half-priced registration for ATIA 2019.

Related links

Getting there

I was incredibly fortunate to get an awesome deal for my flight to Orlando from JetBlue. However, a massive snowstorm was forecast for the day I was supposed to leave. I ended up getting a last-minute flight on Frontier Airlines for about $40. I left for Orlando a day earlier than planned and was happy to escape the snow.

Related links

Day 1

Exhibit Hall

The ATIA 2019 Exhibit Hall opened on Wednesday night, so I stopped by the registration desk and got my badge. Two of my friends who came to visit also got free badges so that they could walk around the Exhibit Hall with me. This was an exciting experience, because they were able to see lots of cool assistive technology devices and learn about how assistive technology can be used.

One of my friends said their favorite device was a stabilizing spoon that can be used by people with Parkinson's Disease, and the other friend was fascinated with the accessibility tools for people that are deaf/hard of hearing. It was helpful for me to walk around the Exhibit Hall and see which vendors were there, so I could make a note of which ones to visit.

Sessions I attended

  • N/A

After the conference

My friends and I went to dinner at a nearby restaurant, but none of us can remember what it was called. If my friends weren't there, I would have used DoorDash to get food delivered to my hotel like I did at the Grace Hopper Celebration.

Related links

Day 2

Exhibit Hall

I was able to make it through about half of the Exhibit Hall and learn about many interesting high-tech devices for students with vision impairments. It helped for me to walk around the Exhibit Hall the night before and figure out the layout of the conference center and locations of the different booths.

My favorite booths of the day were for Microsoft and Google because I got to give feedback on my favorite products and give suggestions for how they can be improved.

Sessions I attended

  • "Functional Vision: Will You Know It When They See It" featured Dr. Cathy Stern, an optometrist who talked about understanding how to support students with low vision and fluctuating vision. My favorite point she made was that someone's vision should not be measured solely based on their ability to read the eye chart on the wall.
  • "Transition: Town Hall Discussion" featured professionals that focused on helping students with disabilities make the transition to higher education. I learned a lot about how to help students set goals and learned more about what students need help with when preparing for transition.
  • "Inclusive Beginning Coding for Students With Vision Impairments" featured Li Zhou, a project leader from American Printinghouse for the Blind. He demonstrated the new Code Jumper device, which was created in collaboration with Microsoft, and showed how it can be used to teach kids how to code. It's a great way to learn the basics!

After the conference

After the conference, I attended a brief reunion for alumni of the George Mason University Assistive Technology Program, where I am currently a student. It was really cool to learn about the different graduates of the program and learn how they are helping others. A few of us also went to Downtown Disney for dinner and then took a walk around the property.

Related links

Day 3

Exhibit Hall

I went through the rest of the Exhibit Hall and talked to a lot of mid-tech and no-tech companies. This was not intentional, that's just how things worked out. Some of the companies gave me devices that I can review for my website. I'm excited to share those devices in the coming months as I learn how to use them.

My favorite booths of the day were from the Neil Squire Society, which focuses on assistive technology that can be 3D-printed, and the National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies, which does research on how people can communicate with their brain.

Sessions I attended

  • "Digital Literacy Through Video Production" featured Randi Mitchell from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. As someone who participated in many video projects and the school news program, I thought the presentation was awesome and I learned a lot about how to teach students how to use a camera and produce their own content.
  • "10 Technologies Changing Lives (And How To Live With Them)" was my favorite session of the entire conference. David Barnes is a super cool assistive technology expert and encouraged attendees to think about how things such as robotics, artificial intelligence, smart homes, and similar can be used to help people with disabilities.
  • "Chromebook Accessibility Features and Functionalities" featured Laura Allen, a project manager from Google. She talked about how to use Chromebook with vision impairment and other disabilities. I thought it was really interesting because she also has low vision, and Chromebooks are very popular in many schools

After the conference

After the conference, I met up with the George Mason University alumni again. We went to dinner at Siro Urban Italian Kitchen at the nearby Mariott. The brussel sprouts and gnocchi were amazing!

Related links

Day 4

Exhibit Hall

The last day of ATIA 2019 was a "Maker Day." There were booths and tables all around the Exhibit Hall showcasing low-cost, DIY assistive technology solutions. It was interesting to learn about how many assistive technology tools can be easily created, such as modified grips, switches, and more.

I don't have a favorite booth from this day since everything was at different tables. However, my favorite item that I created was a key grip  to open a door.

Sessions I attended

  • N/A

After the conference

After ATIA 2019 concluded, I ended up taking a long, well-deserved nap in my hotel room. Since my flight left at 6 am the next morning, I didn't go out or do anything exciting.

Related links

Final thoughts

I had so much fun at the ATIA 2019 Conference and am grateful for the opportunity to have met so many interesting people and companies. Assistive technology is becoming more relevant than ever due to the aging population and early identification programs, so it's great to see that there are many innovations being done in the field every day. I'll definitely be back at ATIA next year, and hopefully the year after that too!

 

Read more about: Assistive Technology