Alumni in the News

Mr. Sachin D. Pavithran – B.A., Business Information Systems, 1999; B.S., Marketing, 2000; M.C., Rehabilitation Counseling, 2008

Obama appoints blind USU director Sachin Pavithran to position on federal disabilities board.
Herald Journal -- December 05, 2012

An employee at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities has been appointed by President Barack Obama to a top federal government board charged with writing technical standards for policies for disabled persons. Sachin Dev Pavithran, the program director of the Utah Assistive Technology Program at the center, was appointed to the U.S. Access Board on Tuesday, according to the board’s website. Pavithran was recommended through his connections with other organizations, including the National Federation for the Blind, and has gone through a rigorous vetting process with the White House since April. “I’m very excited; it’s an opportunity to make a difference,” Pavithran said. The Access Board is an independent federal agency that provides guidance in accessible design under the ADA and other laws. Its governing board is structured to function as a coordinating body among federal agencies and to directly represent the public, particularly people with disabilities. The board is comprised of 13 members from the public appointed by the president and representatives from 12 federal departments. Pavithran is assigned to a four-year term on the board. Martin Blair, associate director with the Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education, has worked with Pavithran. “It’s not very common; I don’t know how many have had that opportunity from USU, but he’s gaining a great reputation nationally with policy,” Blair said. “It’s not just recognition he brings to this appointment, but a great deal of expertise and passion for helping people with disabilities be as independent as they can be. I was pleased and gratified by this appointment.” Before even attending a meeting, which is held every two months in Washington, D.C., Pavithran has ideas about what he’d like to see as a member of the board. “One issue I’m interested in is ... making websites accessible to people with disabilities,” Pavithran said. “There are certain criteria that web designers have to follow so that they can interact well with the technology used by people with disabilities. There are already a lot of standards, but things have evolved and changed. We need the criteria to meet up with the new technology.” The USU student, who is blind, said the board has done “good work,” but he sees ways he can help it improve. “I want to have emphasis with more disabilities, look at issues that haven’t been focused on much. I know there’s been a lot of emphasis with wheelchair users,” Pavithran said. “We need to reach out. ... For people with disabilities, there’s a lot of work to be done and it’s hard to prioritize.” Pavithran was born in India, but grew up in Dubai, which is in the United Arab Emirates. He came to the United States at the age of 17 to start his college career in Logan. Pavithran has received undergraduate and graduate degrees from USU. He is set to earn a Ph.D. in disability disciplines with a specialization in rehabilitation counseling in May 2015. Pavithran has more than 12 years of experience as a consultant on disability policy and developing and training users of assistive technology and accessible websites. He serves on the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs National Board, the Utah State Rehabilitation Council, the Research and Development Committee of the National Federation of the Blind, and the National Multicultural Council of the Association of University Centers for Disabilities.