On October 2nd, the Family Online Safety Institute hosted a panel discussion on Inclusion, Accessibility and Tech. The panel was moderated by Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI, and featured expert speakers Kate Brunick of Zero to Three; Michael Phillips of AARP; Gerard Williams of the Federal Communications Commission, and Terry Jackson of the Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.
Kate Brunick opened the discussion, speaking about the changes to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ screen time recommendations, and how families can utilize adaptive technology to enhance the lives of children with disabilities and improve offline personal interactions. Brunick discussed the use of technology in accurately assessing child developmental benchmarks, and particularly highlighted the benefits of accessibility in gaming, which allows all children to have age-typical social interactions that they may have previously been excluded from.
Michael Phillips discussed how technology helps the elderly population overall, but highlighted the barriers to access that seniors and their caretakers face when interacting with technology into daily life, such as the confidence to use technology without worry, and general comprehension of complex devices. Phillips also spoke to the benefits that many seniors experience when using devices to counter social isolation and mobility issues, as well as the pros of improving telehealth resources. Phillips noted the increasing importance of trust, awareness, and education that is necessary when encouraging seniors’ use of IOT home devices, AI, and health-related technologies.
Gerard Williams explained the FCC requirement for telecommunication devices to be “accessible, usable, and compatible” for people with disabilities. Williams highlighted the need for user customization in order to adapt products or services to best meet a specific individual’s needs. Williams provided a variety of examples and challenges of accessible and adaptive technology from his personal experience within a bilingual (ASL and English) family.
Terry Jackson discussed the ways the Department of Education is increasing educational technology for students with disabilities, particularly with accessible books and digital content. Jackson also spoke about schools who are pulling technology out of the classroom and instead how districts can tailor their technology to sustain and fit the individual needs of teachers and students.
The panelists explained their reactions to the technology backlash paradox, coming to the overall conclusion that stronger and better awareness is needed for the beneficial and inclusive use of technology. They discussed the need for companies to prioritize accessibility and inclusion by design when creating new products and services at an initial level. The panel concluded with reflections about how industry can improve user experience for all types of people and levels of ability - such as conducting focus testing for users with disabilities, thinking about design with different audiences in mind, opening products to all user markets, and including uncomplicated engineering that is not only accessible, but intuitive and usable.
Founder & CEO
Family Online Safety Institute
For the past 30 years, Stephen Balkam has had a wide range of leadership roles in the nonprofit sector in both the US and UK. He is currently the Founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), an international, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, DC. FOSI’s mission is to make the online world safer for kids and their families. FOSI convenes the top thinkers and practitioners in government, industry and the nonprofit sectors to collaborate and innovate and to create a “culture of responsibility” in the online world.
Prior to FOSI, Stephen was the Founder and CEO of the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) and led a team which developed the world’s leading content labeling system on the web. While with ICRA, Stephen served on the US Child Online Protection Commission (COPA) in 2000 and was named one of the Top 50 UK Movers and Shakers, Internet Magazine, 2001.
In 1994, Stephen was named the first Executive Director of the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) which created a unique self-labeling system for computer games and then, in 1996, Stephen launched RSACi – a forerunner to the ICRA website labeling system. For his efforts in online safety, Stephen was given the 1998 Carl Bertelsmann Prize in Gutersloh, Germany, for innovation and responsibility in the Information Society and was invited to the first and subsequent White House Internet Summits during the Clinton Administration.
Stephen’s other positions include the Executive Director of the National Stepfamily Association (UK); General Secretary of the Islington Voluntary Action Council; Executive Director of Camden Community Transport as well as management positions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) and Inter-Action. Stephen’s first job was with Burroughs Machines (now Unisys) and he had a spell working for West Nally Ltd – a sports sponsorship PR company.
Stephen received a BA, magna cum laude, in Psychology from University College, Cardiff, Wales in 1977. A native of Washington, DC, Stephen spent many years in the UK and is now has dual citizenship. He writes regularly for the Huffington Post, appears often on TV and has appeared on nationally syndicated TV and radio programs such as MSNBC, CNN, NPR and the BBC and has been interviewed by leading newspapers such as the Washington Post, New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, radio and in the mainstream press. He has given presentations and spoken in 15 countries on 4 continents.
Lead, OSEP Technology Program
U.S. Department of Education
Terry Jackson, Ed.D. is is Lead for the Office of Special Education (OSEP) Technology Program investments at the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Jackson has worked at the Department for 12 years overseeing OSEPs Technology program investments that support activities that use current and emerging technologies to improve access to the content of educational materials and outcomes for students with disabilities. In addition to overseeing the technology program, Dr. Jackson manages Personnel Development grants and the development and implementation of Unified Champion Schools, a national project at Special Olympics Inc. in Washington, D.C. that focus on the "social inclusion" of students with and without intellectual disabilities in over 7,000 schools in 48 States and the District of Columbia.
Dr. Jackson has also worked for five years as a Program Specialist with the IDEA Partnership at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE). He has also spent over 15 years as a child and family therapist working with children and adolescents in therapeutic foster care, community-based counseling services, and as a group counselor providing outdoor experiential therapy. Dr. Jackson has a B.A. in Psychology, a M.Ed. in Counseling and earned his Ed.D. from George Washington University.
Director of Technology Strategy Integration
Michael Phillips is the Director of Technology Strategy Integration at AARP and is dedicated to supporting AARP’s important social mission through technology. Michael has led internal and external technology initiatives at AARP for over 15 years, including technology industry partnerships, community programs, IT strategy, and championing innovation. Prior to AARP, Michael managed large-scale telephony projects for France Telecom and SATO Travel. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Auburn University and Change Leadership Certification from Cornell University. He is passionate about empowering adults with emerging technology such as virtual reality, digital health tools and education programs so everyone can take full advantage of these amazing times and advocating for all generations within the technology industry.
Senior Research Analyst
Zero to Three
Kate Brunick is a research scientist whose work has focused on children’s perception and low-level statistical features of children’s media. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Cornell University where she explored how design features of children’s media interface with children’s perceptual development. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Children’s Digital Media Center at Georgetown University where she studied how children’s attachments to media characters impact their educational effectiveness. Kate is currently the Senior Research Analyst for the National Center for Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning at ZERO TO THREE National Center for Infants and Toddlers.
Section 504 Compliance Officer
Federal Communication Commissionn
Gerard Williams is the Section 504 Compliance Officer at the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and a certified professional American Sign Language interpreter. As the 504 Compliance officer he is responsible for ensuring that people with disabilities have access to the programs and activities of the FCC through policy, accommodation provision, and consultation with stakeholders. A graduate of the George Washington University’s Theatre Arts Department with a Master’s Degree in Interpretation from Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, he moved to the FCC in 2014 from successful private practice as an ASL interpreter. As a father of two in a bilingual household (ASL and English), he is passionate about the intersection of technology, accessibility, and family.
Entertainment Software Rating Board*
As president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), Ms. Vance leads the non-profit, self-regulatory body for the video game industry in the United States, which includes the assignment of age ratings to video games and mobile apps, enforcement of marketing guidelines adopted by the video game industry and operating Privacy Certified, an FTC-sanctioned COPPA Safe Harbor privacy seal certification program. Ms. Vance is also the chairperson of the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC), a ground-breaking global rating and age classification system for digitally delivered games and apps that reflects the unique cultural differences among nations and regions.
Ms. Vance also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences and was appointed to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Online Safety and Technology Working Group (OSTWG), which was established by Congress to make recommendations on the protection of children on the Internet through education, labeling and parental control technology.
Prior to joining the ESRB in 2002, Ms. Vance spent 18 years at Disney/ABC, with responsibility for the development of a broad range of new media and market initiatives. As Senior Vice President, General Manager of the ABC Internet Group, she oversaw the operations and strategic development of ABC-branded news and entertainment related web sites, and was also responsible for launching and/or managing several interactive entertainment and educational software publishing ventures, the direct response marketing of ABC programming and ABC's in-flight entertainment business.
Ms. Vance holds a B.A. in International Relations/Russian from Washington University in St. Louis, is the mother of two daughters and lives in New York, NY.