It could be the next frontier for Americans with disabilities–access to digital content on par with those who have no disabilities–and the Olmsted Center for Sight in Buffalo is offering to help businesses with a new program, Web Accessibility Services.
For a person who is blind or visually impaired, braille is the key to reading and writing but you can’t get braille on a computer screen, and research shows 3 out of every 4 Americans with disabilities “walk away” from websites because they are inaccessible.
Ray Zylinski, an Olmsted employee, is blind, but uses software that enable him to “read” digital content on his laptop faster than most sighted people.
The software is JAWS, an acronym for Job Access With Speech, which interacts with websites that have the proper code to allow the reader to search, find what they are looking for and reads the text to Zylinski.
“JAWS has really opened up doors in my independent life because I don’t have to ask people, hey can you look up that movie time? Can you look up that concert time? When is so-and-so playing? Can you buy my tickets for me? I can do all that now online with JAWS.”
Advocates say this kind of technology can make it possible for workers like Ray who are blind, or visually impaired to perform jobs just as well–if not, better than–their sighted co-workers.
They say it is not just a dream, it is the law–a 2010 amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
Sheri Shaw, the Olmsted Center’s Vice President for Vision Rehabilitation said Olmsted has started a program to help businesses comply with the law.
It starts, Shaw said, with an assessment of a business’s accesibility, “Okay we cannot access this. Let them know what they would need to do with that. Prepare a package and say hey, if you want to make your website accessible, this is what you would need to do to do that.”