Benefits of Accessibility

A group of students with vision disabilities, participating in a summer enrichment program at the Carroll Center for the Blind, have been testing the Visus Visual Assist System by the Boston based Visus Technology. The Visus Visual Assist System is a wireless mobile system that takes advantage of the 4G LTE network and allows people who are blind and low vision to recognize faces, determine colors, and navigate their travel. It is expected to be ready for public use soon. Read more about students at Carroll Center for the Blind testing revolutionary technology.

I was interviewing the owner of a large web design firm on my radio show, Seacoast Business Connections and the topic of accessibility came up. As my guest was explaining to me that his firm makes a point of designing with accessibility in mind even if the client is not concerned with it, his twin boys, both of whom were born with cerebral palsy (CP), played in the lobby just on the other side of the studio’s large glass window.

Since I am a web accessibility analyst, I have the good fortune of being mobility impaired.  Of course, I only can say this regarding my work.  It is like being a veterinarian and not having pets.  Without the personal experience, you couldn’t empathize with the pets’ guardians.  You wouldn’t observe subtle, unique signs that a dog or cat is not feeling well.

Unemployment for people with disabilities rose slightly last month to 13.6% - up from 12.9%,  Shaun Heasley reported on June 7, 2013 in the online news, Disability Scoop

“The Labor Department began tracking employment among people with disabilities in October 2008. … Data on people with disabilities covers those over the age of 16 who do not live in institutions. The first employment report specific to this population was made available in February 2009. Now, reports are released monthly.” said Heasley.

Improved accessibility in electronic products, websites, documents and mobile applications can help close the unemployment rate gap between people with disabilities and the general population, which is now around 7.6%.   Betsy Beaumon, VP and General Manager of Global Literacy at Benetech shared some success stories on Huffington Post in May.

By improving accessibility, persons with disabilities have a better chance at education, employment and improved quality of life.

Where the ADA does not spell out specifics, legal leveraging is filling the gap on how schools must accommodate making course textbooks and materials accessible.  The recent settlement between the nonprofit group Disability Rights Advocates and UC Berkley sets a precedent which proponents hope other universities will follow.

Rebecca Williford, an attorney for the DRA, said, “Access to print material is an emerging issue.  We’re hopeful that the technology is going to get better and that the agreement with UC Berkeley will help to put students on a more equal playing field.”

The improvements Berkeley agreed to include:

  • providing digital versions of textbooks within 10 days,
  • providing  course readers within 17 days
  • encouraging instructors to identify course materials earlier,
  • providing scanning machines to allow students to self-scan materials.

The school will also implement a library print conversion system to enable students to request a specific book or journal from the library.  This system will make materials available in different formats in about 5 days.

Read more about this story at LA Times - Pact gives disabled UC Berkeley students more access to books.

The internet has transformed the way we do business, learn, research, communicate, and spend our free time.

For business, a dynamic, user-friendly, and appealing online presence is imperative. When users can efficiently and effectively use your site, your bottom line benefits. So you want to make it accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.

Users interact with websites in different ways.  Some users may have minor difficulties accessing the Web and others may have more severe disabilities such as blindness, deafness, and paralysis.  For example:

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