The “Who Is That?” series gives you a peek into the good folks behind (some of) the machines here on campus. We ask a variety of tough questions, some of which they answer.
Wrapping up: From our last post with Oliver Hollocher-Small, he lied to us about being able to perform a backflip.
Today we sit down with Corrine Schoeb (CS), Technology Accessibility Coordinator.
Interviewer [I]: So your first name is actually Karen, and you go by your middle name, Corrine…right? Is this a Corrine, Corrina reference or … ?
CS: Funny — no, Corrine is not my middle name. I got it as a joke! When I was in my early twenties some friends and I decided to go to a notorious hole in the wall establishment. Before we entered we all agreed we would take on personas for the evening. My grandmother spent her childhood in Georgia and though she lost her accent after she married a “damn yankee [no, not one of the Damn Yankees]” she could turn it back on at will. I loved the lilt, the charm, and the endearing expressions. So I became Corrine O’Grady from Atlanta, Georgia (say it with a heavy drawl and it rolls off the tongue very nicely). I must have fit the part because from that day forward my friends called me Corrine.
I: [Reels in disbelief]
I: Not sure how we follow that one. We’ll settle for this. Your title reads “Technology Accessibility Coordinator” — how would you describe what you do?
CS: Technically, I guide and manage projects which involve increasing access to all our electronic materials including our main website, videos we create, course documents, and employment documents, to name a few.
I’m interested in figuring out how technology and electronic communication can work in an empowering way. For example, did you know you can dictate to Google Docs or Word using your phone or computer? Or that PDFs can be read out loud if they are scanned properly? Or that you can easily use your phone as a magnifier (very useful for reading instructions or ingredients on labels with teeny tiny text)?
I: Would you describe your job in haiku? Could you write so the syllables jive — in phrases of five, seven, and five?
CS: I sadly missed poetry in my travels as a foreign service kid. I also missed learning about dinosaurs — though I don’t feel quite so sad about that — except when having conversations with my 6-10 year old nieces and nephews who are so into them. Then I really really wish I had learned more.
I: Got it. [Notes weaknesses in areas of haiku and dinosaurs].
I: We just ran the stats and we haven’t seen that [such a low] level of haiku attempt since Mark Davis “tried.” Our Writing Center is located in Trotter 120, just one building away. It’s not too late to consider a haiku poetry career.
I: What would you say are the biggest challenges in your job, and what are some ways you approach them?
CS: Most of us don’t think a lot about how people who are different from ourselves might need to interact with something we create — I think about it all the time. My experience as a foreign service child probably helps. I was exposed to many different cultures, and many different ways of interacting with the people and environment around me. I’m very curious about the differences in how we perceive our world and how we can bridge those differences, particularly when we are trying share information. Most barriers to access are created very unintentionally — more from a lack of knowledge or understanding than conscious intent or indifference.
CS: We will make mistakes in attempts to bridge the gap. I make them all the time. I think it is important to not be afraid to make those mistakes. It’s hard to admit you don’t know something. In my opinion, this is part of the human condition and part of how we learn. Our own mistakes and those we observe others making help us gain better understanding. Forgiveness of self, and others is so important in life and in this field. The real key is to work to avoid making the same mistakes over and over and over. But I think I’m digressing from the question.
I: Preach more!
CS: I think the biggest challenge we are facing involves a paradigm shift. As an institution, we, and others like us, desperately need to move away from a model of isolated accommodation (though that does have its place) and towards one of inclusive learning. It’s a real challenge. There are so many different ways we humans process information. By presenting information in only one way we leave out an amazing number of talented students, staff and faculty whose only fault is they can’t process the information in the way you have chosen to present it. Sometimes all it takes is a small tweak and suddenly a whole world can open up. Other times it is more challenging and requires more exploration, understanding, and practice.
I: Take us home, Corrine!
CS: Swarthmore is already making huge positive strives in this direction: we have departments who are dedicating student employee hours to get training and work on remediating course materials; we have a tool in Moodle that can inform faculty how much of their readings are accessible or inaccessible; we have staff creating email newsletters which are readable by folks of all abilities; students creating posters which are designed with high contrast between foreground and background; and our libraries have implemented a new software system that is much better for access than the old.
I: That is all amazing. Thank you for what you have done, are doing, and will continue to do!
I: Some would say that designing a document to be accessible makes it less graphically beautiful. Would you agree? Is there a happy medium?
CS: It doesn’t have to be less beautiful at all. On the print side, there are some great examples created by the Intercultural Center and Career Services where information is shared in a visually captivating way while maintaining readability. The creators used strong contrast ratios, fonts that are friendly, and letter spacing to lower or remove barriers to the information contained in the poster.
On the web side, our new website redesign is dynamic, graphically friendly and very accessible for our prospective students, campus visitors, and the rest of us.
I: Do you have a couple tips and tricks for folks to make their work more accessible?
- Add structure to your documents – use built-in headers, bullets and numbered lists.
- When scanning a document scan one page at a time — avoid scanning 2 pages of a book to one page.
- When the document is scanned, double-check that it can be copied and pasted — this means it’s text and not a picture of text.
- If you find a course document difficult to read because the text is blurry, the text in the margins runs off the page, the text gets skewed in the book folds, or anything else that makes it hard for you to read the material, let someone know. You are not the only one who is having trouble. email@example.com
I: Please list two truths and a lie (not in that order!) below — we’ll reveal the answer on the next blog post.
- You, the reader, are unlikely to be affected by a disability.
- In a class of 20 students, odds are that four of those students have a disability. One in 4 U.S. adults — 61 million Americans — have a disability that impacts major life activities.
- People with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at a rate seven times higher than those without disabilities.
- When I was a child my hair was blond, almost white-blond.
I: We’ll ask folks to do their best. But you put them at a disadvantage in two ways:
- You gave us three truths and a lie, which makes things almost 10% more difficult to guess, from our limited recall of probability.
- Your photo — er, um, ahm, this is awkward…we’re not sure we know who you are from that.
I: Please write and answer a question you wish we had asked below!
CS: When you are not at Swarthmore, how do you like to spend your time?
CS: I enjoy going for long rides on my electric bike, especially just before the sun comes up. Sunrises and sunsets are among my favorite times of day. There is something magical about the sun gracefully lifting itself up over a body of water or land, with the mist gently hugging the earth. I’d love to try bikepacking and this past summer started dabbling with fly fishing, which was surprisingly incredibly enjoyable!
I: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Corrine!
Level up your knowledge of accessibility by exploring our other posts.