The Road To Freedom  bus pulled into Orlando from Tallahassee in the midst of some unusually cold weather in Florida. First stop is the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) 2007 Conference — “Showcasing Excellence in Assistive Technology.”  The bus was parked in front of the conference center of the Caribe Royale and our exhibit was prominently featured in the main hall. With hundreds of participants, exhibitors and corporate representatives, the conference is an ideal event to introduce — or strengthen — understanding of the history of disability civil rights and the ADA among technology professionals.  Many thanks to ATIA president, David Moffet, David Dickter, Caroline Van Howe, and all the staff of ATIA.  We will be working with ATIA to coordinate AT demonstrations at upcoming Road To Freedom bus stops.

Road To Freedom sponsors were among the conference speakers and participants and included Lee Schultz of our lead nonprofit sponsor organization, Independence First, as well as Tom Wlodkowski of AOL. Tom is AOL’s Director of Accessibility — the position previously held by the Road To Freedom’s Debbie Fletter Ward.

AT 101: Acording to ATIA, “Assistive Technology, or AT, is any item, piece of equipment, product or system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. The mission of ATIA is to serve as the collective voice fo the Assistive Technology industry so that the best products and services are delivered to people with disabilities.”

The event kicked-off with ATIA “Triumph Stories” — a series of stories about “how assistive technologies help individuals with disabilities learn, work, and live independent and successful lives.” On-stage participants sharing their stories included Paul Schroeder of the American Foundation for the Blind, as well as Gregory Anderson, Rick Hohn, Kate May, Ray Peloquin, Michael Phillips, Sarah Pyska, Tasha Shoffner, and Faye Warren.

The Road To Freedom applauds the fact that ATIA is not content with addressing only the AT successes.  ATIA leadership and conference participants discussed ongoing efforts to tackle the issue of affordability of AT devices, “Digital Divide” issues, unemployment of people with disabilities, and the need to make AT more accessible to poor people with disabilities.