Name: Courtney Ritz
Title: Information Technology Specialist
Organization: Code 750, Enterprise Solutions Division, Information Technology and Communications Directorate
In her next life, Information Technology (IT) Specialist Courtney Ritz wants to be an astronaut, but until then she’ll settle for annual visits to Space Camp.
What do you do and what is most interesting about your role here at Goddard? How do you help support Goddard’s mission?
My primary job is to help ensure that Goddard is compliant with Sec. 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires that the federal government’s IT products are accessible to people with disabilities. I test websites and web applications developed by our division to make sure that they are compliant. In testing, I go through a federally-mandated checklist and then work with the developer to resolve any problems.
I am an individual who is blind. I use assistive technology including screen-reading software, which speaks computer text aloud so that I can hear the text on the screen. I use a regular keyboard to type, but there is also assistive technology that will convert the spoken word into written text.
My job is not a flashy one, but I feel that I make a difference. If I do my job right, then no one besides my boss will ever know what I did. I help employees with disabilities get their jobs done as quickly and efficiently as anyone else. And we must remain compliant, even as technology changes.
Is there something surprising about you, your hobbies, interests or activities outside of work that people do not generally know?
I have been a member of the ensemble in several Music and Drama Club productions. In 2003, I met my husband Scott Ritz while rehearsing for the MAD production “Barnum.” He had a small role in the musical. He still works at Goddard and is a scientist with the Global Change Master Directory. We married in 2007. We both continue to be active in MAD, but now I work with sound boards and Scott does stage managing. I always watch out for the next show and hope to get back into acting soon.
Do you have a favorite book, magazine, movie or TV show? [image-78]
I’m a huge “Star Trek” fan and love the TV shows and movies. My favorite actor is Patrick Stewart, who plays Captain Picard on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” I love his British accent.
If you could invite seven people, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would they be?
My husband of course. Definitely Patrick Stewart, who would be seated next to me with my husband on the other side. I would include Sally Ride; Bob Moog, who invented the Moog synthesizer; Jon Anderson, who was the lead singer of the band “Yes;” Stephen Hawking; and Stevie Wonder. I can’t fit everybody at one dinner! I already met Jon Anderson once after a show and I also met Stephen Hawking after he gave a talk at George Washington University for NASA’s 50th anniversary. I’d love to talk more with both of them.
Are you an armchair astronaut?
I was always interested in space. In another life, I’d like to be an astronaut. Until then, for the past ten years, I have gone to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. They have Braille materials and speech-output on some of their computers so I can hear what the screen displays. My favorite part is doing simulated space walks. We are not in zero gravity, but we pretend. We ride something like a cherry picker about 30 feet up into the air to “work” on a “satellite” hanging from the ceiling. Space Camp is perfect for me because it combines my interest in space and in acting!
If you could take a long vacation, where would you go other than to Space Camp?
The next time my husband and I take a long vacation, we would like to go to London. We’d go to a play every night. Maybe Patrick Stewart would even be performing then. He is a British Shakespearean actor after all.