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Designing Access Finalist in the U-M Envisioning an Anti-Racist World Challenge

April 15, 2021

On April 9, five MSW students, Sofie Aaron, Amy Belfer, Flavio Di Stefano, Hannah Lefton and Callie Torkelson, showcased Designing Access, a resource they created to promote the creation of events that are inclusive and welcoming to all. Their design was part of the Envisioning an Anti-Racist World Challenge, in partnership with the U-M Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Designing Access was one of seven presentations at the virtual showcase. Participants were able to create an avatar and enter virtual rooms to experience the presentations. The team was awarded $1,000 in recognition of their innovative approach to creating a future world that is anti-racist.

The team was initially brought together by Clinical Assistant Professor Katie Doyle. The original project idea started as a class project with the insight that someone developing an event could use the DEI Checklist as a tool for ensuring that any event was fully accessible. The website takes users through the entire event planning process and provides resources for them, right on the website, to help them tackle the relevant planning questions.

Hannah Lefton, a Designing Access team member, remarked, “A big challenge of using technology to increase accessibility is that technology is not always accessible. There are a lot of pitfalls one can hit when trying to make a website (or any technology) accessible. But, our team also thinks technology can be used intentionally to make resources much more accessible. It's just a matter of putting in the time and effort to make it that way. As social work students, the Designing Access team was happy to put in that time and energy, because we know that creating more accessible spaces is an important goal.”

The team worked hard to create an online toolkit that can be used by anyone. They hope it will become a resource for event planners, teachers, administrators, nonprofits, small businesses, for-profit enterprises and even individuals who are interested in making casual social gatherings more accessible.

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