February 20, 2015 marked the 4th Annual Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) retreat for the APAcT cohort. APAcT, known as the Alliance for Person-Centered Accessible Technologies, is a collaborative unit of individuals, including both graduate students and faculty, from Arizona State University (ASU) and California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). This year the event took place in the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 4. CSULB visited the ASU Tempe campus to take part in the day’s events.
APAcT members from both ASU and CSULB work across multiple disciplines to address important issues about assistive technology and individuals with disabilities. These issues span from expanding assistive technology research and development to implementing new policies necessary to get these technologies into the hands of individuals who need them.
With such a diverse group, it is difficult to stay up to date with the work of other members of the program. For that reason, graduate fellows and faculty collaborators come together once a year to share their academic endeavors. This sharing of information is the heart of collaborative research, and having these great minds together to discuss important topics related to assistive technology and person-centered is one of the many values that drives the program’s continued success.
The retreat centered upon the graduate fellows themselves. Each student gave a talk to outline their ongoing research, and their plans for future work. In addition, they each presented a poster to complement their research talk, as well as to facilitate open discussion with students and faculty during breaks throughout the day.
Beyond formal presentations, the attendees also broke into groups throughout the day to engage in small-group discussions. Topics included important tutorials for helping graduate students advance through academic-related milestones, as well as unique faculty-led discussions overviewing their experiences in their own professional careers.
One of the main themes of the day was the generalizability of the APAcT goals. Faculty and fellows aren’t working to advance technology and social values only for people with disabilities. The progress is common to all people. Ultimately, we all have difficulties in our personal, professional, or social circles that we strive to improve upon. As a fellowship group, we’re working together to understand the way that people interact with technology, and how we can improve these interactions to help maximize inclusion and person-centeredness.