‘On equal terms:’ Lucy Greco, web accessibility evangelist

Lucy Greco kneels next to her retired service dog Frances on sproul plaza

Lucy Greco, UC Berkeley’s web accessibility evangelist, is one of 18 “unsung” women being recognized as part of the campus’s 150W celebration. (Photo by Jana Ašenbrennerová)

Women first were admitted to the University of California as students just two years after its founding in 1868. That’s notable, when you consider that many elite private universities across the country didn’t admit women until women had won the right to vote in 1920 through the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

This year, UC Berkeley is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the UC Board of Regents’ resolution to open the university’s doors to women — and “on equal terms” with men.

Beginning today, as part of Berkeley’s effort to recognize the countless women who have studied, worked and researched here, Berkeley News will host a series of Q&As featuring 18 unsung heroines on staff from all corners of the campus. The series will culminate on Aug. 18 with a special edition of Berkeley Campus Conversations, and the panelists will include:

  • Cruz Grimaldo, assistant vice chancellor and director of the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office
  • Sunny Lee, assistant vice chancellor and dean of students
  • Mia Settles-Tidwell, assistant vice chancellor in the Division of Equity and Inclusion
  • Charmin Smith, head coach of Cal women’s basketball

The first woman to be honored is Lucy Greco, UC Berkeley’s web accessibility evangelist.

You were nominated for being “an amazing accessibility and disability evangelist” at UC Berkeley. How have you done this?

Like any journey at UC Berkeley I did not achieve any of my success alone. When I first started here, I had many friends who taught me the ropes. Dianne Walker and Karen Eft were the two people who taught me how to understand campus politics. Karen taught me all about how policies work and how to create effective policies. Dianne introduced me to all the right people to get things done. I think most of my effectiveness was due to being friendly and passionate about my topic. It’s hard to deny how important accessibility is to the campus, so people gathered around me and my ever-growing core of friends to learn and become accessibility champions. Caroline Boyden has been an important partner since 2005 in helping to grow the accessibility community on this campus. She has always been as passionate about accessibility and helped me every step of the way, as we introduced accessibility to others and helped make the campus more inclusive.

What are some things staff of all genders can do to be successful at UC Berkeley?

I think the best way to become successful at Berkeley is to network, network, network! Find opportunities to participate in staff organizations as an active member. Be a speaker at meetings and find causes you want to work on. Make friends in other units and find ways for various units to work together. Many people at Berkeley stay in their own circle, but I’ve found that branching out across the organization typically produces better results for all!

Lucy Greco sits with her retired service dog Frances on a lawn outside California Hall on UC Berkeley's campus

Greco sits with her now-retired service dog Frances on a lawn near California Hall. (Photo by Jana Ašenbrennerová)

What obstacles have you faced based on your identities (if any) and how did you overcome them?

As a blind staff member, I am constantly faced with things that I just can’t do, such as filling in forms that are not accessible or using complex campus applications. Fortunately it’s my job to help make these things more accessible, so I never hesitate to speak up about the problems I face. My network of colleagues on campus helps me find the appropriate campus teams who can help fix accessibility issues. Again, this collaborative approach helps promote accessibility widely, and allows others to advocate for accessibility. My advice is: Even though it may be hard to speak up, particularly if you need to escalate issues, if you’re facing a problem you’re not alone. Others may also be experiencing the same difficulties, so the only way to begin addressing the problems is to speak up. Sometimes it may take a while, and navigating the course can be frustrating. But the benefits for our campus community have far outweighed the setbacks.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with other female staff on campus?

It can be hard being in an underrepresented minority group on campus and you’re going to face prejudice, but be ready to find allies who will help you feel better about yourself and how you can uniquely contribute to the campus community. I consider my many diverse friends at Berkeley as my safety net. It’s nice to have someone who can listen when you’re frustrated and just need to vent, but these friends will also be there for you through the hard times and help you become a stronger person and embrace your own self worth. Getting validation of your principles and ideas really helps you gain the courage to keep promoting diversity and inclusion efforts, even when the road is bumpy. Make lots of friends across many groups, and I’ve found that it will pay off every time!

What do you do for fun?

I love dogs, and I foster many, many dogs — my husband and I are foster care providers for guide dogs for the blind. I also love to cook and find the challenge of creating inclusive meals very rewarding. I love coming up with menus that fit every need. So if you’re a vegan who can’t eat beans or if you have celiacs and really want to eat a loaf of bread I will come up with the perfect meal. I also have a youtube channel where I cook and give tips and tricks for easy cooking.

What future aspirations do you have at UC Berkeley?

My UC Berkeley goals are to keep moving the ball forward when it comes to the campus becoming more digitally accessible to everyone!