As the year comes to an end, it is time to reflect on the journey I have had as the Accessibility Intern on the Digital Scholarship team at Carleton College. I came into the year knowing virtually nothing about accessibility but being excited to learn about the field. This year I have had the opportunity to learn about a fascinating variety of topics related to accessibility in tech, ethics, as well as information security.
In the Fall, I built foundational knowledge in internet accessibility. I gained this knowledge through investigating and evaluating off-the-shelf accessibility tools such as WAVE as well as parsing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Combining this exploration with discussions with my supervisor Celeste Sharpe cemented my understanding of the issues that are plaguing this field as well as what some of the potential solutions are. To cap off the term, our intern cohort used the knowledge we had attained throughout the term to create a detailed comparison between Content Management Systems and Static Site Generators. This exercise gave me a sneak peak of what practical use of accessibility principles looks like in real world systems.
As Winter rolled around I transitioned from less of a research role to more of an application role. I worked on two big projects this term: exploring MediaKron and evaluating 21st Century Artivism. The MediaKron project was in collaboration with Boston College and gave me the chance to see more advanced uses of accessibility within content management systems. I also learned about some of the trade offs associated with building software with a small team and how the best decision is often times not the decision that gets made for any number of reasons (money, time, resources, etc…). With the 21st Century Artivism project, Chris Padilla and I were able to evaluate a current web project on campus and give suggestions for how to improve accessibility and usability.
In the Spring, I was in charge of my own project to explore the differences between AR experiences on wearable devices (Hololens) vs tablet devices. As part of this project, I spent a lot of time programming within Unity trying to build experiences. While I was not able to accomplish my goal, I learned a lot about the difficulties of using proprietary software and some of the downfalls with the current workflow used to develop AR projects for Microsoft Hololens.
I learned so many interesting and valuable things this year. Lessons that I will take with me from Carleton and use professionally in my life after Carleton. I’ve learned so much about the ethical issues that come with this industry and because of this internship I feel prepared to try and solve them in my future endeavors.