Las Vegas, NV, an internationally renowned major resort city, and mecca for Elvis impersonators, where everything is twice as big… no, three times as big, as anywhere else in the world. The size and scale of the city was reflected in the size and scale of the exhibition stands at UBTech 2018.

UBTech is an annual conference on higher education technology leadership and brings together established and emerging leaders in a forum which highlights trends in IT and AV technologies and their applications across campus to improve institutional and student outcomes. 

It was great to see so many big companies committed to accessibility in the exhibition hall at The Mirage Convention Center however, listening to delegates highlighted to us what a gamble it can be for a person with disability in higher education.

During conversations with delegates, a number of educational institutions revealed the lengths to which they are struggling with both the numbers of students presenting for accommodations and the ever-present threat of legislation if they are not compliant under the ADA. Many had already fallen foul of the legislation by simply not moving quickly enough on the road to compliance.

The first port of call for compliance officers is the university or college website and it seems that that’s where the requirement for compliance has made the most inroads. Websites are becoming increasingly more accessible, and materials in alternate formats are becoming more readily available. Most people we spoke to acknowledge that there is still much to do. Many universities and colleges reported that they had backlogs of videos in their libraries which need to be made accessible but stated that accommodating individual needs for students with disabilities was paramount. 

There were several big brand companies in the exhibition hall offering the latest in technology aimed either at making life easier for the institutions or for individual students. Conversations and ideas were flowing on a range of subjects – from new ways which universities and colleges can store and utilize data, to how teaching can be enhanced by new developments in interactive screen technologies and devices such as hover decks which display and magnify content with precision and in incredible detail.

Affordability was recurring theme and there was consensus that services such as Described Video (or Audio Description) remain out of reach for many universities and colleges, who often operate in environments where budgets are restrained. Some companies were taking creative approaches by looking to partner with educational institutions to tailor and provide services within the parameters of whatever funding is available. 

Improvements, adaptations and evolution of existing technologies seems to be high on the agenda for many of the big players, who were well represented at the event.

As the event drew to a close, the vibe was palpable, and it was one of pride and co-operation, a willingness to share, in order maximize trends and advances in technologies and services for the benefit of many.

Eileen Hopkins wearing a striped shirt

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