Spring 2021 Accessibility Champions

The NC State IT Accessibility Office is honored to announce the recipients of the spring 2021 Accessibility Champion Award, which recognizes individuals who are committed to making the NC State digital environment a more inclusive and accessible place.  

Award recipients include:

  • Mary Estrada, lecturer, Foreign Languages and Literature 
    • Estrada and her team at DELTA received a Rapid Design grant for Linguistics for ESL Professionals. Embracing course redesign best practices, she created an online course that is inclusive of all students. She also received a Captioning Grant to ensure that all course videos met Quality Matters accessibility standards, which require captioning and transcription. Additionally, Estrada obtained an Accessibility in the Classroom certificate issued by the NC State IT Accessibility Office and the UNC System Office.
  • Jenn Fendrich, program specialist, Shelton Leadership Center 
    • Since joining the Shelton Leadership Center (SLC) last year, Fendrich has advocated to improve accessibility on the SLC website, social media platforms and digital materials. Fendrich’s assessment of the SLC website initiated a redesign that will occur this summer to fix accessibility issues. The SLC has also begun to use photo descriptions and alternative text on its social media platforms and will begin training its communications support staff on contrast awareness and on improving digital designs to be more accessible. Fendrich has also made sure that the SLC adds captions to all videos and are aware of font size and readability.
  • Jamie Lynn Gilbert, associate director, Student Media 
    • Gilbert has advocated for digital accessibility across Student Media. She ensures departmental publications, such as the rate card and annual report, meet accessibility standards for PDFs. Internal training documents for the student radio station, WKNC, are created with an accessible heading structure and regularly reviewed for compliance with the Grackle Docs accessibility checker. New DJ training classes are also live captioned. Gilbert lobbied for the purchase of an auto-transcription service to transcribe WKNC videos and podcasts. She also teaches the social media staff the importance of alternative text for images on Instagram and Twitter.
  • Debra Ireland, publications editor, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communication Services
    • Ireland updates the NC State Extension publications in a variety of ways, which includes ensuring they are accessible. She is thoughtful and resourceful in her work to produce publications that are inclusive.
  • Robert Lasson, director of creative services, Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering 
    • Lasson is committed to improving the accessibility of the Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) websites. Each website is crafted to have the best user experience and to meet accessibility standards. Last year, Lasson created a phenomenal structure, allowing his team to update pages and posts, remove inaccessible PDFs and tables, and make all remaining PDFs accessible. Most recently, Lasson created the Master of Engineering Management website, designing the pages with accessibility first. This site provides an informative and aesthetically pleasing design, while eliminating digital accessibility barriers. Lasson is an advocate for accessible design, constantly working to make ISE websites, PDFs, pamphlets, brochures, and other marketing materials accessibility compliant. He also reaches out at every opportunity to enhance his and his student workers’ knowledge of accessibility standards.
  • Caitlin McKeown, instructional designer, DELTA 
    • McKeown has been a strong contributor and advocate for accessibility at NC State and beyond. She recently received her doctoral degree from the University of South Florida where she completed her dissertation, “The Characteristics of Deaf Adult Learners Related to Online Learning Success.” She used this research to help her colleagues approach course design with accessibility in mind. 
  • Melissa Ramirez, Ph.D., associate teaching professor, Biological Sciences
    • Ramirez’s work is an exemplary example of how to create online courses that adhere to Quality Matters standards and that consider accessibility from the initial phase of design. Ramirez creates organized content, pays attention to alternative text and accessibility of tools and documents, and creates 3D printed tactile teaching tools to provide to students. Ramirez works tirelessly to innovate and create welcoming accessible environments for students. 
  • Dave Wynne, Geographic Information Systems project manager; Andy Belcher, Geographic Information Systems manager; Tom Skolnicki, university landscape architect; Dave Josephus, landscape architect; and Heath Huovinen, university surveyor. All are employees of the Office of University Architect and are members of the Campus Map Team.
    • The Office of the University Architect and other Facilities units were instrumental in completing a major update to the university’s accessible campus map. It is now incorporated into the online campus map as a layer that can be toggled on or off. A huge amount of work went into updating the features of the map and verifying information. The map can now be updated more frequently as changes are made on campus. 

Learn more about and nominate someone for the NC State Accessibility Champion Award.