Kara G.

Sr. Web Accessibility Analyst, Digital Inclusion Officer — ISC Application & Information Services
Kara G. portrait photo

ISC service(s) or programs/projects: Owner, Web Compliance Officer group; Pilot Pantheon/Drupal development service for campus clients; Steering Committee, Accessibility & Learning Technologies Group

Length of time in ISC:  Joined ISC and Penn in 2020

Previous work experience:  For most of my career I’ve been a contractor or consultant in product strategies for the higher-ed and education technology markets. My work at a mobile app startup for developing English-language skills as well as an ed-tech company that developed digital literacy curriculum for students with cognitive disabilities led to a focus on accessibility. My most recent position was as a front-end developer and accessibility lead for Message Agency.

Tell us about a challenge at Penn that made you proud to be part of ISC.

We learned that the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) was using Penn in their training as a model of effective response on Accessibility requirements. Being able to work with the Penn community to reach a closure that made OCR so confident in us was really rewarding. The best and smartest people across campus stepped up and worked together toward that goal, and we passed with flying colors. Now we just have to maintain the momentum – we can’t let down our guard!

What do you like best about working with clients?

The expertise at Penn is so unique and varied, with such a diverse client set, that I learn something about subject areas and technical challenges with each engagement. I don’t have to explain why accessibility is important! People are receptive and open. That eagerness to learn is my favorite thing about Penn clients.

How has the pandemic changed the way you think approach your role?

Well, out of necessity the pandemic has accelerated progress in our online accessibility. There were more conversations about the topic, and more empathy, because we saw these incredibly committed international students who maybe had to drive miles to get an Internet connection. Poor accessibility is a real blocker in those conditions. One client had a student show their math work by writing equations in the sand and taking a photo with a satellite phone to show the instructor! The pandemic highlighted significant need, and we were able to get captioning vendors and others to respond more quickly.

What are you passionate about in your free time?

I try to stay active and engaged in my communities, especially about mental health awareness and animal rights issues. I also contribute to an online community that is focused on supporting and encouraging women, trans men, and non-binary adults in their tech journeys. Outside of that, I’ve been an avid Pokémon player for the last 25 years, and have a near-completed Pokédex! And of course, concerts and music festivals, when COVID-safe.

What else would you like to share with people at Penn?

While I’m very communicative and outspoken, I’m actually a natural introvert. I enjoy my “me time”. I’ll often take a weekend to unplug and turn off my phone. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever been known to turn down an invitation to a cocktail or live music!