New Beginnings with Vision-Aid (Part 3)

Vision-Aid 16 part Service ModelIn 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.

New Beginnings with Vision-Aid (Part 2)

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.

New Beginnings with Vision-Aid (Part 1)

Vision-Aid Logo

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.

W3C & OGC Web Maps for Cognitive Accessibility

Maps for the Web LogoOn 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

Notes

W3C Logo

2019 Boston Accessibility Conference – 11/2 – Register Now!


Register Now for the 2019 Boston Accessibility Conference!

Follow all the latest updates on @a11y_bos on Twitter.

When

  • Saturday, November 2, 8:15 AM to 4:00 PM

Where

  • Fidelity Investments Corporate Headquarters
  • 245 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02110
  • Close to Boston’s South Station

What

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.

Who

Keynote Speaker: Jutta TreviranusInclusive Design Research CentreOntario College of Art and Design University

Organizers

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!

AI Web Text Simplification: CSUN 2019

I will soon present part of my AI-Driven Web Text SiCSUN Center on Disabilitiesmplification research.

My talk:

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.

 

 

 

 

AI Web Text Simplification: Partners

For my AI-Driven Web Text Simplification research, I lead a coalition of corporate and academic partners. They include:

AI-Driven Web Text Simplification: Intro

Research Goal

Make Web text so simple people understand it the first time they read it.

Background

Text comprises the vast majority of Web content. Poor reading comprehension presents significant challenges to many populations, including people with cognitive disabilities, non‐native speakers, and people with low literacy.

Text simplification aims to reduce text complexity while retaining its meaning. Manual text simplification research has been ongoing for decades. Yet no significant effort has been made to automate text simplification except as a preprocessor for natural-language processing tasks such as machine translation and summarization.

Short-Term Approach

In the short term, my partners and I are improving manual text simplification by creating effective, replicable methods for humans to produce it. We use national and international plain language standards. We conduct pilot studies to see if people comprehend our human-curated, simplified Web text better than typical Web text.

Long-Term Approach

In the long term, my partners and I are developing artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to produce simple Web text on a mass scale. We are training AI with enormous sets of aligned sentence pairs (typical/simple). We will soon start crowd-sourcing the generation of training data.

I will provide details in future blog posts.

2018 Boston Accessibility Conference – 10/27 – Register Now!

Register Now for the 2018 Boston Accessibility Conference!

When

  • Saturday, October 27, 2018, 8:15 AM to 4:00 PM

Where

  • Fidelity Investments Corporate Headquarters
  • 245 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02110
  • Close to Boston’s South Station

What

This is a conference about making technology accessible, especially the Web. It is an opportunity for programmers, designers, developers, usability professionals, accessibility experts, and end users to share information and learn from each other.

Who

Keynote Speaker:

Organizers:

2018 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.

Register Now for the 2018 Boston Accessibility Conference!

2016 Boston Accessibility Conference – 10/1 – Register Now!

Register Now for the 2016 Boston Accessibility Conference!

When

  • Saturday, October 1, 2010, 9 AM to 5 PM

Where

What

This is a conference about making technology accessible, especially the web, but also mobile, games, and much more. It is an opportunity for designers, developers, usability professionals, accessibility experts, and end users to share information and learn from each other.

Who

Keynote Speaker:

Organizers include:

2016 sponsors include my own program, INDEX, which has free information about programs, providers, and services for people with disabilities in Massachusetts. We also build accessible web applications and online courses.

Register Now for the 2016 Boston Accessibility Conference!