President’s Staff Award for Excellence: Kristi O’Neil-Gonzalez

Teaching and Learning Innovations is so proud to share that one of our own—Kristi-O’Neil-Gonzalez, Instructional Technologist-Accessibility Lead and FIT Studio Coordinator—was named this year’s recipient of the President’s Staff Award for Excellence. Kristi’s expertise and dedicated efforts toward accessibility and inclusion helped TLi articulate this set of values as one of our four core areas during our recent strategic planning process, and she designed and facilitated TLi’s summer Accessibility and Inclusive Design (A.I.D.) course that helped 120 faculty carry forward the wealth of digital content they created and continue to create for virtual aspects of teaching and learning.

In a separate, student-serving unit from TLi, CSUCI is fortunate to have support for students with disabilities through Disability Accommodations and Support Services (DASS). When a student registers to receive accommodations through DASS, instructors are notified and supported in providing accommodations, such as alternative text formats (e.g., Braille), additional time on exams, etc. 

From a learning design perspective, instructional materials and learning pathways can be designed from the beginning to remove unintended learning barriers for students with disabilities, but to the benefit of all students in the class. For example, providing a reading that can be converted to an audio format with our Canvas Ally tool gives the option of interacting with the information visually or auditorily. Avoiding serif fonts and making careful use of text formatting can remove unintended barriers for people with dyslexia.  

This is where Kristi comes in: She teaches people how to design with accessibility and inclusion in mind, and has been making an impact on our campus much deserving of the President’s recognition if we do say so ourselves! She is also co-author of two articles on inclusive learning design: “A Taxonomy of Inclusive Design” and “Moving a Taxonomy of Inclusive Design from Theory to Practice.”

Kristi has graciously agreed to allow us to publish the speech she delivered at Convocation on August 20, 2021, so please join TLi in congratulating our colleague and celebrating her commitment to our community through accessibility and inclusion.

President’s Staff Award for Excellence: Kristi O’Neil-Gonzalez Video Clip

Speech Transcript

Thank you Dr. Yao for that introduction…

First and foremost, I’d like to say thank you to those that nominated me and for the committee that selected me. I am honored to have my work recognized in this way. 

I have to be honest when President Yao called I thought he was inviting me to a committee. I never expected he’d be calling to congratulate me.

I’m a lifelong accessibility advocate who’s passionate about inclusion and ensuring disability is included in the discourse around DEI. 

My passion for ensuring disability is represented can be traced back to my childhood experiences with my grandmother, who herself had several disabilities, and in large part, I served as her eyes long before I was aware of accessibility. I didn’t think of her as disabled, she was just my grandma, but our time together instilled in me the importance of taking action to help others.

As many of you may know, I am prone to action when I see an opportunity for inclusion, which is precisely how I happened to get involved with our campus’s Inclusive Excellence Action Plan (IEAP) with Dr. Kaia Tollefson and Dr. LaSonya Davis. The process may have been stressful, but I’m so glad I was able to offer my skills for this important effort.

As a member of the Teaching and Learning Innovations team, I am proud to lead our Accessibility and Inclusive Design efforts. The Inclusive Design Centre in Toronto defines inclusive design as, “design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age, and other forms of human difference.” 

At the heart of inclusive design is recognizing that we, as learners, all experience situations differently and understanding the importance of removing unintended barriers to learning. It goes beyond our legal responsibility to provide accessible learning environments. Inclusive design celebrates differences and makes way for diversity to thrive.

I believe to achieve inclusive excellence we must consider these unintended barriers that impact student agency, flexibility, and choice.

My views align with Tobin and Behling, authors of Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone, who say that

options are essential to learning, because no single way of presenting information, no single way of responding to information, and no single way of engaging students will work across the diversity of students that populate our classrooms. Alternatives reduce barriers to learning for students with disabilities while enhancing learning opportunities for everyone. 

I will continue my efforts to empower faculty and support inclusive design across the CI campus through continued partnerships with all of you. 

In closing, I’d like to end with a quote by Maya Angelou that speaks to where I see myself on my personal and professional journey, “My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style ”

Thank you and Go Dolphins!

16 thoughts on “President’s Staff Award for Excellence: Kristi O’Neil-Gonzalez

  1. Congratulations, Kristi! Your work is so important — and your spirit of doing it generously and graciously is much appreciated.

  2. Well deserved Kristi!! Loved seeing you get the award at Convocation:-) Thank you for the wonderful gift of insight, intelligence and leadership you bring to CSUCI. You have enriched my teaching tremendously!

  3. CI is blessed to have you on our campus team. Your insight and guidance is immensely important and enrich us all. Thank you and congratulations!!

  4. It is with great joy that I say, Congratulations Kristi…. a well deserved honor !! I am so proud of you !!! God blessed me the day you were born and now you are using your gifts and abilities to bless and help others… I couldn’t be more thankful and proud. Love, Mom

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