The CPD Honors Diogenes Hernandez, 2012 student of the year

May 23, 2012 by JoLynne Lyon

Diogenes HernandezThe CPD Student of the Year for 2012 has literally come a long way to receive the honor.

Diogenes Hernandez came to the CPD from the Dominican Republic, via Utah State University. He’d already started freelancing in web design before he came to USU to finish his two bachelor’s degrees in computer science and mathematics. (He has since earned them and nearly completed work on a masters in business administration.)

When the time came to look for a job, he applied for one at the CPD’s WebAIM project, which was developing a version of the WAVE tool. (If you haven’t checked WAVE out, you should. It gives instant feedback on a web page’s accessibility.) He got the job. Since then, in addition to working on WebAIM he has also worked on projects for the Interdisciplinary Disability and Service Learning class and the Utah Regional Leadership in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities project.

“When I got here and I started… the people at WebAIM showed me a whole new world about why you do certain things,” he said. His focus as a freelancer had been about making websites look pretty. When he talked to the CPD’s Sachin Pavithran and learned how assistive technology helps people with disabilities navigate the web, he understood the need for the accessible web design that made it possible.

As a working student he has enjoyed the advantages and trials of work and study in the same field. “Experience wise it’s excellent because whatever I learned at school I could apply to the job,” he said. But it got hard sometimes to leave a day of study only to do the exact same things at work. WebAIM has always worked with him to make it possible for him to meet coursework deadlines.

Along the way he has gained some rich work experience. He has presented three times at CSUN (an annual international technology and persons with disabilities conference). He is primarily a programmer, but Diogenes also was involved in translation for the Spanish version of the WAVE tool. (He speaks French, too—and English, of course.)

“This is the kind of stuff that people do not see normally in jobs,” he said. “We’re actually trying to make difference, make a change, for people with disabilities and technology.”

He is succeeding. “You have made tremendous contributions to the development of software tools and resources that help make the world accessible for all people,” CPD Director Bryce Fifield wrote in a letter notifying Diogenes of his award. “Thank you for sharing your creativity and passion.  Equally important to us is also the way you have embraced the ideals of inclusion and self-determination that are important to the CPD.”

Diogenes said has enjoyed the support of his family and friends as he continues to study and work so far from home.

“My family has always been there for me. I call them and they support me in everything,” he said. “Without my friends I wouldn’t be here also.”