Assistive Technology (AT) is experiencing amazing growth. An increasing aging population is creating new needs to address. Specialists are needed to identify user needs and connect them to the right AT. Assistive Technology used to focus on hearing, sight, or movement issues. Newer technologies are helping the way we learn and process information. These include:
Cognitive aids that help people with challenges in thinking skills
Recently, I learned about Assistive Technology programs at Tseng College. Tseng College is a part of California State University, Northridge (CSUN). Located in Los Angeles. One area that it specializes in is programs for mid-career adults. These programs are mostly online. This gives working people the ability to learn new skills on their own time. Instructors, classmates, and field experts create a supportive group environment.
Vision-Aid’s overall mission is to enable, educate, and empower people with vision impairment. Part of that commitment includes connecting their community to the expanding possibilities of the digital world. Vision-Aid has built a wide variety of training for its students. Classes are available both in-person and online through Vision-Aid Academy.
introduction to computers;
computer applications; and
assistive technologies for people with vision impairment.
Microsoft Office (including advanced Excel training);
Students can participate regardless of financial circumstances. Willing students have access to equipment and expert volunteers. Advanced students can develop their skills through additional projects. Real-world experience is available through Vision-Aid’s new Digital Accessibility Testing and Training Center.
The confidence gained from this experience has led to industry jobs. Vision-Aid’s hope is to continue building students’ confidence through more projects. I sincerely hope for Vision-Aid’s continued success. You can read more about Vision-Aid’s programs via its new brochure, “Vision-Aid at a Glance” or via the Vision-Aid Website.
In 2004, Ramakrishna (Ram) Raju, his wife, Co-Founder, and Vice President, Ravathy Ramakrishna, and a team of energetic volunteers created Vision-Aid. Their initial goal was to identify and address the many needs of people with vision impairment. But their larger mission was to provide a path for people in India with vision impairment to gain personal and professional independence.
Vision-Aid’s research and efforts produced a holistic, 16-element program. This program helps people with vision impairment through every stage of independence development. Vision-Aid’s offerings begin with assessment and training to navigate the challenges of everyday living:
orientation and mobility training
assistive aid and device training (includes braille readers for learning how to read Braille)
Vision-Aid continues to provide educational opportunities through online learning programs accessible through Vision-Aid Academy. They include:
basic computer skills (Microsoft Office, Internet, assistive technologies for people with vision impairment)
complex computer skills (Python, Digital Accessibility);
Vision-Aid’s Professional Development and Employment Assistance services help students connect their skills with industry jobs. This completes their path to independence. Services include:
soft skills training;
In addition, Vision-Aid has programs that help educate the public and create new prospects for their community. It has 12 centers across India helping underserved communities. With that broad picture of what Vision-Aid does, my next blog post will focus on how Vision-Aid connects people with vision impairment to the digital world.
Leading up to the launch, Ram, his team, and I spoke about a pilot program. The pilot would give Vision-Aid graduates the opportunity to work on their first paid project. During the program, 6 of Vision-Aid’s testers reviewed a Website for accessibility issues. Their performance was exceptional. They identified all accessibility issues and proposed real solutions. Ram and his team shared that this pilot was a huge confidence booster for Vision-Aid’s students. Testers were proud of doing productive work comparable to for-profit companies. Due to this experience, several testers proceeded to get industry jobs. Vision-Aid has a wonderful video of the students expressing their gratitude. It made me cry with happiness.
Building an independent life with a visual impairment can be challenging without support. Vision-Aid has created a path with support in all the right places. I am so happy to have been a part of this journey. In my next post, I will share more about Vision-Aid’s work.
Last Fall, I took part in a pilot program that meant the world to me. My team at UMass Medical School partnered with Vision-Aid, which helps people with visual impairment in India. India has the highest level of visual impairment in the world. Yet, many of them lack the resources they need to be productive members of society.
Created in 2004, Vision-Aid helps everyone from childhood to adulthood. Its mission is to help people with visual impairment gain independence and pride. The program is volunteer-run and funded by donors and project work. Most of Vision-Aid’s finances go to the communities of visually impaired that it serves. My team pilot-tested Vision-Aid’s new Digital Accessibility Testing and Training Center. The center is led by Vision-Aid Founder and Executive Director, Ramakrishna (Ram) Raju.
John Ripple, my MassVX Entrepreneurial Champion, has been working with me every week for months. His industry knowledge and sage advice are integral to the successful launch of EasyText.AI. I could not have asked for a better mentor than John.
Steven Munevar, Senior Business Development Manager/BRIDGE Fund, University of Massachusetts Medical School, my high regard for your mentorship of me, and for informing me about this wonderful program.