AT Update Logo

ATU554 – ATIA 2022 with David Dikter

Play

AT Update Logo

Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Special Guest:

David Dikter – CEO – ATIA

www.atia.org

 

Find out more and register for ATIA here: www.atia.org

——————————
If you have an AT question, leave us a voice mail at: 317-721-7124 or email tech@eastersealscrossroads.org
Check out our web site: http://www.eastersealstech.com
Follow us on Twitter: @INDATAproject
Like us on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/INDATA

 

—– Transcript Starts Here —–

David Dikter:
Hi, this is David Dikter. I’m the CEO of the Assistive Technology Industry Association, otherwise known as ATIA, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.

Josh Anderson:
Hello, and welcome to your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology, designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs.

Josh Anderson:
I’m your host, Josh Anderson, with the Indata Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 554 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on January 7th, 2022.

Josh Anderson:
On today’s show, we start off the new year with an interview with David Dikter from ATIA on, to talk about the conference coming up here later this month. Let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
As I’ve told you before, one of my favorite events of the year is the ATIA Annual Conference. Every year, I look forward to meeting with a global community of folks, who use assistive technology to enhance their lives, or the lives of their families, friends, students, or clients.

Josh Anderson:
I’m especially excited about ATIA this year, because it’s going to be held back in-person in Orlando. That’s right, ATIA is coming back to the Caribe Royale in Orlando, Florida, on January 26th through the 29th of 2022. The team has put some exceptional safety measures in place to ensure that it’s a safe gathering for all. ATIA is all about broadening our AT community of consumers, families, practitioners, and professionals, so that we can collectively increase awareness, and build knowledge on how to best implement, and access assistive technology.

Josh Anderson:
The conferences focus on vision, and hearing technologies, communication technologies, technologies to access your world, or succeed in educational settings, or workplace settings is sure to offer something for everyone. This event is for everyone to learn about how technology can impact the lives of others, or our own.

Josh Anderson:
If you can’t make it to Orlando in January, which who wouldn’t want to go to Orlando in January, but ATIA has got you covered with a virtual event, happening January 27th and 28th with over 100 sessions recorded and available until late April. I will be attending the event virtually this year, and I really hope to see all of you there.

Josh Anderson:
You can learn more and register by visiting ATIA.org. Again, that’s ATIA.org. I hope to see many of you ATIA this January.

Josh Anderson:
Listeners, back in August of 2020, we were lucky enough to have David Dikter of ATIA on to talk about the conference in 2020 and how it was shifting to an online format for the year, due to COVID.

Josh Anderson:
Well, this year ATIA is back and offering in-person and online attendance, and we’re super excited to welcome David back to talk about the conference and the different ways that you can attend.

Josh Anderson:
David, welcome back to the show.

David Dikter:
Thanks so much, Josh. It’s great to be with you.

Josh Anderson:
It is great to have you today. Before we get into talking about ATIA, can you let our listeners know a little bit about yourself?

David Dikter:
Sure. I have been the CEO of ATIA for, I think, now over 20 years. I kind of stopped counting, and prior to that, I was as a teacher in special education, mostly in the Boston Public Schools, and I worked with young children with disabilities, and worked with a lot of assistive technology back in the day.

David Dikter:
Now, I work with ATIA, and have been for a long time, not only running this event, but doing some research, and surveys, and policy work, and trying to do what most people are trying to do, which is make the world a better place for folks who are disabled and need access to technology.

Josh Anderson:
For listeners who don’t know, what exactly is ATIA?

David Dikter:
ATIA stands for the Assistive Technology Industry Association. We are a not-for-profit membership organization of companies, mostly companies, some other nonprofits, who make, and manufacture, and distribute, and sell assistive technologies.

David Dikter:
It ranges from mainstream tech companies to multiple types of AT companies. We really talk a lot about across disability, across environments, so schools, and rehabilitation, and home, and work, and across the age group. Our member companies supply AT, really, to the world.

Josh Anderson:
The big annual conference is coming up here, later on this month.

Josh Anderson:
Can you tell us about the conference and maybe what someone could learn while attending the conference?

David Dikter:
We’ve been running the conference for many, many years, and I am really honored to be, really, the host of what has become an awesome community gathering of those folks, who are really dedicated and interested in assistive technology.

David Dikter:
It includes consumers and folks who use assistive technology, but it also includes practitioners, and professionals, and families, and caregivers, and companies, and technologists, and developers. I’m really just always in awe of a group of people that come together in Orlando every year since the organization started, it’s been held in Orlando, and through COVID, it’s been a little bit awkward, in that we’ve had our virtual event last year, but really, the core pieces of the event are about learning.

David Dikter:
You can learn just about any topic, and touch on any topic, and learn about implementation, to how to use some of the technology. Our companies do some training and some sessions on what’s new with their latest technology offerings. We also have practitioners and professionals, who are sharing how they implement the use of, let’s just say, augmented communication devices, and technologies, or how folks are teaching students with vision impairments, and using some of the technologies that are available to that population, as well.

David Dikter:
You can learn an incredible amount. I think some of the best learning actually happens, because people get to meet each other, and network, and see folks who are kind of been around for a long time. You can also meet folks, who are doing some incredible work in their local education district, the local school system, and the local programs, and just really get to pick brains and say, “Wow, I got an adult I’m working with, with this profile. This person had great answers for me.” That’s where I think so much incredible things happen at the event.

Josh Anderson:
I couldn’t agree with you more, like you said, actually getting to learn from other practitioners, but also the people that make the assistive technology. I feel like it’s probably invaluable to them to get to talk to the folks, they use it, and implement it, and maybe get their feedback. As well as, I’ve seen a lot of smaller assistive technology companies that are kind of bringing new stuff to market, and it’s a great way for them to get that word out, and actually, again, let people kind of try it.

Josh Anderson:
I mean, those of us, in our field, maybe it’s a little bit easier to picture in your mind what someone’s talking about, when they’re telling you about assistive technology, but until you can really touch it, see it grasp it, see how it actually works, it’s just kind of hard to get it in your head. I do appreciate it, and yeah, like you said, there’s so much learning that happens.

David Dikter:
It’s so difficult to keep up with all the changes in technology, but you bring up a really interesting part about the conference that is so powerful, and that is, because it’s hard to keep up, because folks are busy using what they know, and don’t have time, just in terms of if they’re doing direct service model work, schools or agencies, they don’t have time to keep up.

David Dikter:
But being there with the companies, understanding what’s being developed, talking about the future of what’s needed, what they experience and say, “Why hasn’t somebody created X, Y, and Z,” which is what I used to love about going to conferences back when I was teaching, because I could say, “I love this, but it would be even better if it did this, and this, and this, these other things,” and that is where our member companies get so much important feedback.

David Dikter:
It’s also, generally, that dialogue. It’s a back-an-forth, and it’s powerful to watch it, as a event organizer for this purpose, but it’s also what feeds us to keep moving forward, to think that we have a say in kind of where things are going.

David Dikter:
When you mentioned the new, kind of the younger startup companies, and the smaller companies, we do a lot to encourage those companies to come and showcase what they’re doing. We always have a large number of brand new companies there that we don’t even know that they existed, until they step up and come to us.

David Dikter:
We’ve always found that’s just such an important part of event platforms, in general, that the startup companies need a place to come, and show the world that they’ve created something new and different.

Josh Anderson:
Well, David, this year, you’re offering in-person and online attendance.

Josh Anderson:
Can you tell me some of the differences and similarities between these two ways of attending ATIA?

David Dikter:
Sure, so we ran a fully virtual event in 2021 last year, and it covered many, many days, and we kind of broke the content up. One of the things that we learned about virtual events, is that they are more purely education and professional development focused.

David Dikter:
It’s really, really hard to create the exhibit hall hands-on experience in the virtual environment. I think the event space, in general, has kind of learned that these virtual booths, it’s a webpage, and yet you can have Zoom rooms attached, but it doesn’t necessarily work as well.

David Dikter:
We focused on the fact that our virtual event for this year should be very strong in the educational program. What we did was, we said, “Okay, we are going to go back to in-person, and we want to simultaneously use the content from our in-person event as part of our virtual event. Some of it will be live stream,” which is a major undertaking I find out, after I agreed to do it all this way. We are going to have video stream of the speakers who have been selected for live streaming.

David Dikter:
Here’s the important part. Those sessions were selected by our trend advisor committees. This was not just pick names out of a hat. These were sessions that were looked at and said, “These would be the best quality, and, hopefully, most informative, and interesting content that we can provide to the virtual online world.” We record it all.

David Dikter:
I think we’re going to have, in the end, about 100 sessions, a little over 100 sessions, that will be finally recorded, and made available until the end of April.

Josh Anderson:
Nice.

David Dikter:
For 2022. That’s a big difference. When you go to an event, typically, you get 10, 12, 15 sessions that you can actually attend, out of, in our case, over 220, 250, I think, sessions in total, including poster sessions, and all this other stuff. You get to kind of do some of it. You get to go into the exhibit hall, which is really an important part, but typically, that’s it, that’s what you get. If you are looking for continuing education credits, that’s what you get.

David Dikter:
When you add on, either as an in-person, you add on the virtual, or you attend the virtual only, you get access to all the sessions that we’re recording, which is over 100, and you can really have a much wider range of content to choose from.

David Dikter:
We are not saying one is better than the other. As a matter of fact, I would actually argue that being in-person is better, because there’s a whole another piece that you can’t capture in the virtual part of that, like the collegiality, and the networking, and kind of learning from each other as much. You can do some of that, but not anywhere near what you can, when you’re all hanging out in the hallway in the lobby, waiting for a door to open, and you say, “Oh, you’re so and so. Hey, I read your paper on this.”

David Dikter:
Those are some big differences, but what we’ve tried to do, as we’ve always tried to do, is put our educational content first and foremost, that we’ve tried to select a very high quality of speakers. We have an enormous program, again, although it is a smaller program than in years past, partly because what we’ve done is since you’ve been to the conference, we have increased the size of every meeting room.

David Dikter:
We’ll talk a little bit about COVID, but what we’ve done is we kind of scaled back the total number of rooms we can host sessions in, so that we can increase size, and give more space, and have more room for everybody to have a lot more comfort in the facilities in-person.

Josh Anderson:
Very nice. You brought up enough points that I could probably fill a whole show there, but yeah, I will say that going to ATIA in-person it’s like going to, I guess a music festival, “Of why are all the bands I want to see playing at the same time, or why are all the presentations, and trainings that I want happening at the same darn time?”

David Dikter:
We really try to not make that happen, but when you have 20 concurrent sessions, there’s just no way to make it perfect-

Josh Anderson:
Oh, most definitely, so many people have so many varied backgrounds and things they want to learn about. Yeah, you definitely can’t please everybody, but having that extra kind of component, where I can go back, and learn those other things is great.

Josh Anderson:
The other thing of being able to stretch it out a little bit, maybe doing it in-person, and then doing the online component as an extra, or doing the online component is that, whenever I go to ATIA in-person, and it’s not the walking, but I’m worn out by the end.

Josh Anderson:
I’m worn out from learning, from actually sitting there, and collaborating, and all the stuff that I’ve stuffed into my mind, that it’s kind of nice to maybe be able to stretch that out a little bit, or go back and see some stuff.

David Dikter:
We all get a little brain fatigue, because it’s a short, compressed period of time. We also have pre-conferences with are awesome. This year, we’ve had lots of people registering for those, which are only in-person. We didn’t do the pre-cons as part of the virtual event, and so I think that it’s interesting.

David Dikter:
You walk away from the event. It’s not a vacation, you’re exhausted, you’re working, but everybody’s trying to absorb as much as they can. What we’ve done, we’ve done the add-on virtual event for the in-person attendee. For the in-person attendee for $149, they can add on the entire virtual event content to watch all the way through the end of April.

David Dikter:
We think that the value point of that is really important, because you brought it up. You can never see everything you really want to see. There’s a speaker you’ve been trying to listen to, trying to get to for a year. You heard about some of the stuff they’re doing, or the work they’re doing, you want to hear them, but there was something else you had to do and cover. This allows you, hopefully, to be able to capture that.

David Dikter:
We made it clear, which sessions are going to be recorded and which sessions are not, and that’ll all be, actually, when we launch the mobile app after the first of the year, it’ll all be delineated inside of the mobile app. When you search for a session, and look at a session, it’ll say, “This is going to be recorded.”

Josh Anderson:
Maybe you kind of started talking about this a little bit, but we can dig a little bit deeper.

Josh Anderson:
What kinds of safety measures are being taken to ensure that all the participants feel safe during the in-person conference?

David Dikter:
In going back to an in-person conference, way back last May, when we decided to do the in-person of the hybrid, the in-person of the virtual, we started talking about the API Board of Directors, API staff, myself, and our community of folks that we work with, so talking to folks who are in this community saying, “What is it that you want, as well?”

David Dikter:
First and foremost, we have a vaccine requirement for the in-person attendee. When folks show up at the event, through the registration, they already said, “I’m vaccinated. I’m going to be vaccinated. I’m going to have my proof with me, and I’m going to show it when I get on-site.”

David Dikter:
When they get on-site, they’re going to have to show their vaccine card, or facsimile of it, some type photo of it, and it’s going to have to match their name, and that’s how they’ll get their badge. If we don’t see it, we don’t give them a badge. If they don’t have a badge, they can’t come into the program. Simple as that, and we have zero exceptions. There just are not going to be exceptions.

David Dikter:
That’s the best we can do around vaccines. We know a lot about how this virus spreads, and we know about health and safety, and we know that our attendees want the vaccine requirement to be part of it, because it just keeps everybody safer. It’s not perfect. As we already know from COVID, there are breakthrough cases.

David Dikter:
We actually said early on, “We’re going to follow CDC rules and around masking,” and at this point in time, we will have a mask requirement for all indoor activity sessions, and exhibit hall, and everyone will be required to wear a mask. We think that’s really important to help everybody keep themselves safe and to keep other people safe.

David Dikter:
We can’t turn the virus off, as we all know, but we can do our best to keep everybody healthy and safe. We’ll have hand sanitizing stations, we’ll have masks for anybody that loses one or drops one, and we are actually just to put in some health and safety protocols for folks, once they’re on site.

David Dikter:
If somebody needs to get a COVID test, we want to make sure they know exactly where to go, how to get it, how to be safe, how to check for themselves whether or not they should come into the convention facility if they’ve been exposed, or they think they’ve been exposed. We’re going to have all that stuff clearly delineated.

David Dikter:
We’re going to really do our best to make sure that our meeting rooms are spread out and spacious enough that people can have the type of social distance that’s most comfortable for them. A room that might hold 300 people, may only have 100 to 120 seats in it, and they may be spread out. Typically, if we set up a room in a classroom-style way, we are going to do half of that. Instead of three chairs next to each other, there might be two chairs at a table, with lots of room from front to back between all of those rows. In the slightly smaller rooms, we’re taking out lots of chairs. The goal here is to really help people have social distancing and help people not overfill rooms.

David Dikter:
Josh, if you remember, there were some sessions, always many sessions, that were overflowing with people. People would be sitting on the floor, they’d be sitting in the aisle way of the room. They’d be kind of hovering on the entryway to a room. This year, that is not going to be happening.

David Dikter:
We’re not going to permit that, because, number one, it’s not really conducive to our whole COVID [inaudible 00:19:47]. Our goal is to make everyone feel comfortable, so by having a rule that says, “Sorry, this room is full,” as by eyeing it and saying, “Hey, this room is filling up too much. Let’s ask people to go to a different session.” We have more than enough content everybody can go to. It could be that some rooms, to give the nature of content and speaker, might be a little more full than others. I think that that’s just the policy we have to implement this year, for sure.

David Dikter:
I have one other thing I forgot to mention. I was at ASHA, the American Speech and Hearing event, right before Thanksgiving. They did something I thought was a great idea. They had this bright orange ribbon that you could put on your badge, and they had a sign right there where they set up that said, “If somebody’s wearing this ribbon, they don’t want to be hugged. They want you to maintain social distance from them. They are that concerned.”

David Dikter:
The problem with what they did, was most people didn’t know that’s what that meant. There wasn’t enough [inaudible 00:20:52]. We’re actually going to do something similar and let folks be able to say, “Hey, keep your distance.”

David Dikter:
We think that’s really important, because our goal is to help everyone feel comfortable, and not just kind of placate the policies of whatever, but to kind of say, “Here’s a range of things that helps everyone.”

Josh Anderson:
Kind of just along those same lines, last year, you had the conference fully remote.

Josh Anderson:
What were some things that you learned from having a fully remote conference last year?

David Dikter:
The best thing that I learned from attending our own virtual event, is that in spite of this environment of Zoom, we were in Zoom meeting room. We were in this virtual meeting room. People found ways to connect, and it was impressive to watch. We did not use Zoom Webinar. We used the Zoom Meeting System, and it allowed everybody to see everybody in the room, and privately chat with people in the room, and publicly chat with people in the room.

David Dikter:
They didn’t use their mics so much, because there were speakers speaking, but they could share what they knew, even as a speaker was speaking. I describe it like this; you’re in a meeting room, and somebody’s presenting, and whoever’s next to you, sometimes, I’m one of these people I’ll whisper, and say, “Oh, that’s such a cool idea. Have you ever seen this,” to whoever’s next to me like, “Wow,” and it’s a whisper, right? You’re not being rude. You’re kind of just saying, “Wow,” and sharing something.

David Dikter:
Those little things happen in the chat rooms of virtual events all the time, constantly. People are sharing resources non-stop in a virtual room, as they’re hearing the speaker speak. I thought it was just intense and amazing, that it’s kind of a different way to share everything, and get more resources out for the people who happen to be in that session.

David Dikter:
I also was really impressed how many people, we had our virtual event for eight days, mostly three to four-hour blocks of time, how many people actually attended live every single day. We did some gaming stuff, where we gave lots of prizes away, and I did a morning welcome. I had a different corporate shirt on every day, and I announced in the morning what color it was.

David Dikter:
By the end of the second week, if you knew what all those colored shirts I wore each day, which is a different one every day, then you could win a prize. We just had so much fun doing that kind of stuff and finding some ways to just have a good time.

Josh Anderson:
What are you looking most forward to with this year’s conference?

David Dikter:
The thing that I’m looking most forward to about the in-person event, is we are doing a celebration of Joy Zabala, Dr. Joy Zabala’s life, who passed away back in July. I don’t know how many of your listeners knew or know Joy Zabala, but I worked with joy for a very long time.

David Dikter:
She was a pillar of our AT community. She led, and her knowledge, her sharing, and bringing people together, there was no one, and probably won’t be anyone quite like Joy. We’re going to celebrate Joy on Wednesday evening, as we open our exhibit hall, with some special activities, and some of her family members will be there. We’re really excited to be able to do that, as well.

Josh Anderson:
Nice. That’ll be awesome.

Josh Anderson:
Well, David, if our listeners want to find out more about ATIA, or register for the conference, what’s the best way for them to do that?

David Dikter:
ATIA.org, O-R-G. Yeah, just go to the website. There’s a whole section on the conference for attendees register. If you hit the register button somewhere on any of those pages, it’ll bring you to register, either for the virtual, or for the in-person event, add-on things, get your professional development credits. However, you want to do it. There are group rates on both events. If you have a group of folks in your organization, or that you want to kind of get together with, there’s ways to get some discounts there.

David Dikter:
If you want to learn about our Learning Center, which is our whole online learning program, where we take tons of content over 150 past sessions and webinars that we’ve posted, you can look at all that content. It’s an amazing catalog of professional development. A lot of it, there’s a whole bunch of free stuff in there, it’s not all for money, so there’s free stuff in there, as well.

David Dikter:
For the virtual event, all of our member sponsored content will be free, so you don’t have to register. You just have to go and click on some of those recorded pieces of content after the event, when we post it all, and you’ll be able to go and watch it all, and learn about whatever the companies are doing.

Josh Anderson:
Well, David, thank you so much for coming on today, telling us all about ATIA, all about the conference this year, and I’ll look forward to seeing you here in a couple weeks.

David Dikter:
Thanks so much. I’m really looking forward to it, and I appreciate you taking some time to talk with me today.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on an Assistive Technology Update? If so, call our listener line at (317) 721-7124, send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org, or shoot us a note on Twitter @indataproject.

Josh Anderson:
Our captions and transcripts for the show are sponsored by the Indiana Telephone Relay Access Corporation or INTRAC. You can find out more about INTRAC at relayindiana.com.

Josh Anderson:
A special thanks to Nicole Preto for scheduling our amazing guests and making a mess of my schedule. Today’s show was produced, edited, hosted, and fraught over by yours truly. The opinions expressed by our guest are their own, and may or may not reflect those of the Indata Project, Easterseals Crossroads, our supporting partners, or this host.

Josh Anderson:
This was your Assistive Technology Update, and I’m Josh Anderson with the Indata Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. We look forward to seeing you next time. Bye, bye.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.