The COVID-19 pandemic shows that, for all of us to be safe and healthy, all of us need to understand reliable COVID-19 information published on the web by every country. Our new and exciting EasyCOVID-19 Project is simplifying COVID-19 information (text) and transforming COVID-19 infographics and charts to make COVID-19 info understandable by every country’s huge populations of:
- people with cognitive disabilities and/or low literacy;
- seniors and the Deaf; and
- non-native language speakers.
We have a wonderful, international team of passionate, highly skilled people from around the world.
We will regularly publish our progress and information about our efforts.
For more info, see our EasyCOVID-19 Website!
A few months ago, I was interviewed for a new podcast series: A is for Access-ibility. Created by Open Access Technologies, the series spotlights accessibility experts making technology more inclusive for people with disabilities.
Watching the series is a wonderful way to learn about accessibility, and about how I think artificial intelligence will play an important part in its future.
Join me and host, Portland Helmich, for their third installment of A is for Access-bility.
I thank Howard Berke for inviting me to be interviewed.
I am very pleased to announce the publication of:
“Making Content Usable for People with Cognitive and Learning Disabilities.”
It is the latest product from the W3C’s Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Task Force. It is a tour de force and literally years in the making!
I could not be more proud of our task force.
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);
- specialized software applications; and
- mobile technologies.
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
- life-skills 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);
- learning English; and
- professional skills.
(The new Digital Accessibility Testing and Training Center also gives students the chance to do professional-level projects with supervision)
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;
- resume writing;
- coaching/mentoring; and
- placement assistance.
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.
Ram and his team investigated building a Web accessibility program within Vision-Aid. It’s initial request for participants quickly produced 30 trainees. Then Vision-Aid turned to Deque University, a leader in digital accessibility training. Deque provides Scholarships for People with Disabilities. Vision-Aid trainees had free access to Deque University’s online program provided by Glenda Sims, Deque’s Team A11Y Lead. Over the next 4.5 months, trainees worked through Deque’s program with a team of expert volunteers. Graduates from the program received Deque University Certificates. The program was so successful that Vision-Aid trained a second round of students. In October 2020, Vision-Aid officially launched its Digital Accessibility Testing and Training Center.
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.
I had known Ram through our work with the Boston Accessibility Group. Three years ago, he started a Vision-Aid training program for HTML and CSS in partnership with Our Space Our Place and its Executive Director, Cheryl Cumings. I introduced the students to Web accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities.
On September 28, 2020, I presented at Maps for the Web. This was a workshop series created and hosted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).
Workshops’ Overall Goals
Bring together experts in:
- geographic standards and Web map data services,
- Web mapping client tools and applications, and
- Web platform standards and browser development
to explore the potential of maps for the Web.
Major Areas of Focus
- improving the usability and accessibility of maps
- encouraging the design of map-based experiences, and
- building easier ways for researchers to share content.
I served as a panelist with fellow W3C Accessibility Guidelines Working Group members David Fazio, and John Kirkwood. Our workshop was Web Maps for Cognitive Accessibility (COGA).
Web Maps for COGA Background Info
Register Now for the 2019 Boston Accessibility Conference!
Follow all the latest updates on @a11y_bos on Twitter.
- Saturday, November 2, 8:15 AM to 4:00 PM
- Fidelity Investments Corporate Headquarters
- 245 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02110
- Close to Boston’s South Station
This is a conference about making technology accessible, especially the web. It is an opportunity for programmers, designers, developers, students, usability professionals, accessibility experts, and end-users to share information and learn from each other.
Keynote Speaker: Jutta Treviranus, Inclusive Design Research Centre, Ontario College of Art and Design University
2019 sponsors include my own program, INDEX, which has free information about programs, providers, and services for people with disabilities in Massachusetts. See DisabilityInfo.org. We build accessible web applications and online courses. See INDEX Technical Services. We also develop mass-scale, artificial-intelligence-driven Web text simplification for people with cognitive disabilities. See EasyText.AI.
Register Now for the 2019 Boston Accessibility Conference!
I will soon present part of my AI-Driven Web Text Simplification research.
We tested if people with intellectual disabilities understand Web text simplified with plain-language standards. (Spoiler: They do!)
We are operationalizing plain-language standards essentially to develop:
- a reliable, easy-to-use method for human editors to create simple text; and
- algorithms for AI to recognize and to create simple text.