CES 2024: The tech of universal design should include understanding accessibility

Executive Director Kate Sonka of Teach Access joined WorkingNation at CES 2024 to share her thoughts on the potential impact of tech on the way we work and live

Faculty need to teach about accessibility, so their students consider inclusive design in their future work, according to Kate Sonka, executive director, Teach Access.

She says there is a difference between teaching accessibly and teaching accessibility. Teaching accessibly includes, for example, making the syllabus accessible to students – while teaching accessibility means ensuring students understand the need for accessibility in the work they create.

The nonprofit supports faculty by providing curriculum on accessibility in numerous ways – online, virtual, synchronous, asynchronous, hybrid. Sonka says that, in the organization’s work, they see students get excited about being able to have positive impact as their awareness raised.

Sonka joined WorkingNation’s editor-in-chief Ramona Schindelheim for WorkingNation Overheard at CES 2024 in Las Vegas to discuss how the technology of universal design needs to be mindful of accessibility.

After attending CES multiple years, she says, “I feel like with each year, not only do I see a lot more products that are specifically assistive technology, but I feel like there’s just a general air of greater awareness around it.”

Sonka says, “One of the things as we’re thinking about universal design or inclusive design is really paying attention to who’s in the room or at the table and who isn’t. We find that it’s not that people are purposely trying to create inaccessible products. It’s just there’s not an awareness around it because maybe they don’t know that they have someone on their team who has a disability.

“What ends up happening then, of course, is we create the products based on the people around us as we’re thinking through that or who’s involved in the design process. And so that would be one thing that I’d really encourage people to consider is how are you inviting the disability community in to be with you every step.”

Learn more about Teach Access.
Learn more about CES 2024.

Funding for WorkingNation Overheard at CES 2024 was provided, in part, by Walmart.