I'm a creative self-starter with a love of language and universal design. I started my career as an ESL teacher and educational writer. However, more recently I have combined a knack for clear communication with a passion for technology. As a soon-to-be MA in Professional and Technical Writing and CPACC (Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies), I'm looking to continue working as a technologist specializing in accessible, user-centered design.
Below you'll find my online portfolio. I designed and hand coded this site to align with WCAG 2.1 guidelines and to showcase principals of inclusivity and universal design. It's set in Tiresias, a font for people with low vision, and Sylexiad, a font for people with dyslexia. You can scroll through the projects below, or you can click on the menu items above to go straight to any section. I view accessible design as a process of communication, not a static goal. So, if you have any questions or comments about this site, please don't hesitate to contact me at the link below.
I started my career as a teacher of English as a Second Language. Although I enjoyed working with people from all over the world, after a decade of traveling and teaching I was ready for a change. In 2014, I began working as a freelance educational writer, and soon began to gravitate toward technical writing. As a self-starter with a love of language and a knack for explaining things to others, this was a natural fit for me.
In 2018, I began an MA in Professional and Technical Writing at Portland State University. I subsequently became a volunteer at Code4PDX, working on an app for the Clackamas Department of Health, Housing, and Human Services. Since 2019, I have worked in PSU’s Office of Information Technology as a Content Specialist under the IT Accessibility Coordinator.
Disability justice and accessibility are lifelong passions of mine. I learned early in life about the pride and power of Deaf culture: both of my mother’s sisters were deaf, and gatherings in my family were often bilingual, in spoken English and ASL. As an adult, the onset of multiple sclerosis in my immediate family brought me into contact with another tightly knit community of people living with disabilities, and reminded me that for many of us, being able-bodied is only a temporary state.
As a student in Professional and Technical Writing at PSU, I have focused on accessible design, with specializations in user research, UX design, and graphic design. I am scheduled to graduate in June, 2020. In addition, I am an IAAP (International Association of Accessibility Professionals) member and look forward to completing the CPACC (Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies) exam. I am also studying to pass the WAS (Web Accessibility Specialist) exam by the end of this year.
Project 1: Website Recommendation Report
Competencies: Research, Written & Visual Communication
Personal Characteristics: Independence, Creative Problem Solving
Tools: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, MS Excel
As part of a class on theories of technical communication, I researched and wrote a recommendation report on the web ecosystem for accessibility and disability service pages at pdx.edu using Portland Community College's web pages as a point of comparison. I found a number of areas for potential improvement in the PSU pages. I argue that the weaknesses in the PSU ecosystem attest to a medical / judicial model of disability rather than a social model.
Embodied Rhetoric and Accessible Design
A Recommendation Report for the pdx.edu Accessibility Pages
In my report, I examine the web ecosystems for Portland State University (PSU) and Portland Community College (PCC), focusing on the pages at each institution devoted to accessibility and disability services. I found inspiration for my approach in the work of Bruno Latour and his 1993 book Aramis, or the Love of Technology and Latour’s techniques of scientification and prosopopeia.
I start by noting that throughout the United States, universities and community colleges have come under increasing pressure to implement more rigorous accessibility standards, often in the form of resolutions of compliance with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). This is the case at Portland State University, which is currently party to a Resolution Agreement with the OCR.
I discuss two of the analytical frameworks that I used in this study: design and rhetoric. In seeking to consider the theoretical concepts that underlie design thinking, I looked to Don Norman’s model of the Seven Stages of Action. Norman’s model is useful because it provides a taxonomy of error types which can be helpful in remediating designs more efficiently. I also pointed out that the tenets of design thinking are infused in the way designers approach the web and are reflected in real-world accessibility standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
I then move to a discussion of rhetoric, noting that design theory and rhetoric have been viewed as interrelated fields by thinkers in the past. I give a brief overview of Aristotle’s schools of rhetoric, focusing in particular on forensic/judicial rhetoric and epideictic rhetoric. I also discuss the rhetorical framework behind the medical and social models of disability.
I continue with an examination of the PSU and PCC accessibility pages (see figures 1 and 2). I have diagramed the architecture of these sites and noted some of the idiosyncrasies of the PSU site, such as an inconsistency between link titles and link destinations, and prototype incongruities caused by links that lead to child pages and not parent pages. I also point out that the OAI pages have a distinct layout and navigation schema from the rest of the network and are insufficiently interlinked with other pages in the network.
I conduct a cognitive walkthrough of these sites, with nine tasks to test the sites’ architectures, as well as their navigation and wayfinding systems which I diagram in table form (see figures 3 and 4). I also provide a narrative corrolary to this table. I discovered little difference between the length of successful wayfinding routes on both networks, but a large difference with regard to unsuccessful attempts on the PSU site; in other words, users are more likely to get lost on the PSU site, particularly when traversing between the OIT and OAI pages for accessibility.
I then examine the rhetoric of the respective landing pages for accessibility at PSU and PCC. I note the legalistic rhetoric of the PSU page (see figure 5), which I link to Aristotle’s judicial rhetoric and the medical model of disability. I compare this to PCC’s accessibility page, which I present in Latourian fashion with relevant quotes from Kaela Parks, Director of Disability Services at PCC (see figure 6). In its design we can see the human experiences of disability (students and teachers) elevated and supported by tools, and by social organizations (the school’s various working groups), which are visibilized here. The design of the site invites us not to learn about disability by reading about it, but through social involvement. Finally, I imagine what a similar site architecture might look like at PSU, and offer a preliminary schema (see figure 7).
I conclude by pointing out that the old pdx.edu site is in the process of migrating to a new CMS and that its look and struture may change substantially. However, it is my hope that the site owners will consider implementing the following recommendations.
- The PSU Accessibility page should be more consciously configured as a centralized nexus point for information related to accessibility and disability with care given to centralizing and clarifying the navigational framework.
- The PSU Accessibility page and its subpages should be reconfigured to convey a community-centered rhetoric in line with the social model of disability. Text-heavy pages should be edited to reduce cognitive load.
- To the extent that such coordination is possible, site administrators throughout the pdx.edu network, and in particular those sites related to accessibility and disability, should attempt to harmonize navigation layouts, and improve interlinking between sites.
- Administrators of PSU of pages related to accessibility and disability should recommit to user testing. These tests need to involve members of the disability community, must test wider user journeys that encompass multiples sites (OIT and OAI, for example), and should be conducted regularly.
Project 2: Online Course Accessibility Audit
Competencies: Accessible Design Principles, Usability Heuristics, Assistive Technology
Personal Characteristics: Attention to Detail
Tools: WCAG 2.0 Checklist, WC3 Cognitive Accessibility Guidelines, NVDA, Color Contrast Tools, Adobe Acrobat
As an independent study project at Portland State University, I conducted an accessibility review of a professor's online course materials and made recommendations for possible improvements.Download an Accessible Word Version of the Accessibility Audit
Project 3: Help Article on PDF Remediation
Competencies: Creating tutorials, translating complex tasks
Personal Characteristics: Clarity
Tools: Adobe Acrobat, Confluence, Jira
While working under the IT Accessibility Coordinator in the Office of Information Technology at Portland State University, I created a help article in Confluence with detailed instructions on how to remediate a PDF for accessibility.Download an Accessible Word Version of the Help Article
Project 4: Blog Article on Accessibility
Competencies: Accessible Design Principles
Personal Characteristics: Persuasiveness
Tools: Google Docs
While working on the Content Team in the Office of Information Technology at Portland State University, I wrote a post for the OIT blog with information on basic accessible design principles and some helpful tips to keep in mind when creating content.Download an Accessible Word Version of the Blog Post
Project 5: Wiki Article on Readability Formulas
Competencies: Research, Written Communication
Personal Characteristics: Curiosity
Tools: Local Wiki
For a class on Advanced Technical Writing at Portland State University, I researched and wrote a 6-page article on readability formulas, including the Flesch-Kincaid formula, which is currently used by Microsoft Word to determine reading level. The article was posted to the university Technical Communication Wiki.Download an Accessible PDF of the Wiki Article
Project 6: Magazine Item on Accessible Kitchens
Competencies: Interviewing, Editing
Personal Characteristics: Observant
Tools: MS Word
As an assignment for a class on magazine writing, I researched and wrote a short magazine item on the accessible kitchen at the Seven Corners Community Collaborative Building in Portland, OR. I am currently pitching the piece to home cooking journals and local weeklies.Download an Accessible Word Version of the Magazine Item
Project 7: Speech on Accessible Housing (Newspaper Report)
Competencies: Public Speaking
Personal Characteristics: Advocacy
In October, 2019, I was invited to join a group of friends from Real Choice Initiative, an accessible housing rights organization, who were speaking in front of Portland City Council. I have mixed feelings about this article. On the one hand, I'm disappointed that the Oregonian chose to quote me, the only able-bodied speaker that day. On the other hand, I'm proud to have been a part of this effort, and glad that we secured some of the funding we sought for a survey of accessible housing in the Portland Metro region.Read a Newspaper Account of the Effort to Secure Funding