Renzi Guarin is an AV Support Specialist through the IT Services Department at OCAD University.
SITE-SPECIFIC: Tell us about what you do here at OCAD University.
RENZI GUARIN: Our office deals with the circulation of audio and visual equipment for faculty, administrative staff and students. We ensure that the faculty have the technology to help them teach effectively in our classrooms and that admin staff are properly prepared with tools to aid them with hosting meetings, seminars and in carrying out the day to day operations of the University. For students, we offer a variety of equipment and services to facilitate their creative projects and curriculum work throughout the year.
Part of my job is to oversee the audio-visual and technology aspects of special events for OCAD University. In the past couple of years, we’ve worked on various events providing AV support where accessible technology is involved. Most recently, OCAD U hosted the 3rd Accessibility Camp Toronto conference, an event centered on assistive technology with workshops and seminars regarding the landscape of inclusive and accessible design.
” Whether it is a guest speaker, an exhibition opening, a town hall meeting or even a lecture in a classroom; If everyone is able to come away with the opportunity to become inspired, informed or educated then I think we’ve done our job.”
S: Some people differentiate between accessible media and all other media. You seem to work from the premise that all media is accessible with some ingenuity. Can you comment?
G: Whether it is a Guest speaker, an exhibition opening, a town hall meeting or even a lecture in a classroom; If everyone is able to come away with the opportunity to become inspired, informed or educated then I think we’ve done our job. Ultimately it should be the goal of anyone who organizes an event on campus to see accessibility included in the initial planning stages of the event rather than an after thought or on a case by case basis. For event organizers, there might be hesitation when thinking about the complications that might arise when including things like ASL interpreters or captioning services, but I think that it is up to us to take that challenge head on and just find a way to be able to provide appropriate alternatives for any setup that is required or asked for.
S: What led you to learning about accessible/inclusive media and events?
G: On most events, we’ve worked closely with the Inclusive Design Research Centre down at our South Campus at 205 Richmond. Bert Shire, the Assistive Technologist for the IDRC, is the real reason we’ve been able to successfully adapt our AV support to one that includes assistive technology and accessible types of setups.
For AV, providing these services such as Remote Real-time Captioning was brought about out of necessity. The need was always there and to some extent the technology, but there was still a gap between having the means to provide the service and actually understanding how it works. With the help of our friends down at the IDRC we were able to pin down the nuances of delivering an audio visual presentation setup that was accessible for everyone. Keeping in mind things like screen placement, accessible microphone and audio set ups, captioning options and ASL interpreters now have become second nature when planning out the needs for an event.
“Ultimately it should be the goal of anyone who organizes an event on campus to see accessibility included in the initial planning stages of the event rather than an after thought or on a case by case basis.”
S: What are some of the technical aspects behind creating inclusive media and events on campus? How do you think inclusive media and events advance equity?
G: As with many other event details, planning an event that includes some aspects of accessible media or assistive technology is always a challenge. I think we’ve become better at dealing with those challenges when we ask the right questions during the planning stages of the events. Is the space capable of providing the audio setup needed and if it isn’t, how can we make it so? Do we have enough room to provide additional screens? Is there adequate light in the space?
Really, It goes beyond the scope of AV when planning out these events. Is the route to the event accessible? Do the guests have accessible restrooms nearby? Have you considered mobility devices when planning out seating?
Providing an event that is inclusive and allows everyone the opportunity to experience it proves to us that the event was successful. It takes the entire OCAD U community to pull off these events and that alone speaks miles about equity and inclusivity on campus.
S: What is the role of creativity in advancing equity?
“Breaking the mold” & “Thinking outside the box” are both clichés when speaking about creativity but I truly believe that being able to adapt to change and to embrace new ideas is essential when dealing with roadblocks towards creating an inclusive campus.