Accessibility by Example

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In my last post I discussed five reasons on why technology organizations should strongly consider making products and services accessible for persons with disabilities, based on my learnings from United Nation’s Conference for State Parties. I received an overwhelming response, supporting how this is the right thing to do. A big thanks to everyone who read my post, and shared feedback through various channels.

Dell’s philosophy—the Power To Do More—also extends to its customers and employees with disabilities. Dell is very sensitive to, and active in, designing accessible products for our customers with disabilities. A variety of Dell products have been evaluated for conformance with U.S. Section 508 standards. Many of our products are enriched with accessible features and functionalities and are indicated within the detailed, product-specific Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPATs).

man at desk using keyboard in front of Dell monitor

We also maintain a strategic alliance with Electronic Vision Access Solutions (EVAS), an industry-leading provider of accessible plug-and-play computers. These systems are functional right out of the box, with application software, peripherals and assistive technology installed and configured.

Dell has collaborated with Swedish eye tracking technology company – Tobii Technology to incorporate Tobii EyeMobile eye tracking technology onto our tablets. This revolutionary eye-tracking technology allows users to have hands-free access to tablet functions, apps, the Internet, e-books, and social media; all through movement of the eyes. This technology makes the Dell platform accessible to people with severe physical disabilities.

And Dell is not alone in these efforts.

Here are some examples of other technology organizations who have done exceptional work in designing products and services for persons with disabilities. These organizations are household names, and have demonstrated how to make their mainstream products usable by as many people as possible:

  • Microsoft: A Dell’s partner for long, Microsoft has been developing accessible solutions. Most popular Microsoft products, such as Windows, Office, and Internet Explorer, are compatible with a wide range of assistive technology products. These include screen readers, magnifiers, and specialty devices, such as braille PDA, head mice, and input switches. Microsoft also has a dedicated Customer Support desk that serves customers who have disabilities.
  • Google: The Google accessibility page provides an exhaustive resource on the accessibility features of all Google products. Google is working hard to ensure that all Google products across all platforms (including IOS) are accessible. Similarly, Google has made it easy to add subtitles and closed captions to YouTube videos; an immensely useful feature for hearing-impaired people. Accessibility is also featured in their annual developer forum, and their website provides several resources and guides for developers to build accessible products.
  • Apple: Apple products, including Macs, iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches, come with advanced accessibility features usable by most persons with disabilities. Apple products are not only accessible out of the box, but also give a consistent experience across their product range. The company also works extensively with the developer community to encourage the addition of support for Voiceover, Switch Control, automation and other assistive-technology clients. Apple also lists third-party resources, through an online community  that encourages end-users to review applications for accessibility.
  • Amazon: Amazon also has a commitment to making their platform accessible for customers with disabilities. Kindle, their electronic book reading applications, is now accessible across platforms. At the same time, Audible.com, owned by Amazon, has been successful in mainstreaming the use of audio books for people with and without disabilities. The latest Kindle Fire phones and tablets also have basic accessibility features.

The list above by no means is exhaustive, nor the state of perfection and complete access. Nevertheless, these organizations are ahead of the curve, and are have established process to address concerns and needs of persons with disabilities. Organizations including Facebook, Twitter, Uber, and many more, are increasingly designing their technology products with the needs of customers with disabilities in mind. However, this the tip of the iceberg, and we require many more organizations to be sensitive to the needs of persons with disabilities and create more accessible products.

Do you know of any organization that is also doing some good work in making their products accessible? If so, please comment about them below.

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  • maishapool

    Eyetracking is really interesting! I´ve heard that researchers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) are developing various communication systems that use eye-tracking technologies that will help people with locked in syndrome communicate using the tiny movements they can make only with their eyes.

    Locked in syndrome is a medical condition that can occur after a stroke that damages part of the brainstem, leading to the paralysis of the facial and body muscles but somehow leaving the eyes unaffected. Patients with locked in syndrome usually remain conscious of their surroundings but cannot move their bodies to or express themselves through facial expressions. Many of them can only communicate with the limited movements they can make with their eyes. A group of graduate and undergraduate students at the UCSD’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering, under the leadership of research scientist Nadir Weibel, are working on technologies that can possibly translate a patient’s eye movements into different functionalities. Pretty awesome / Maisha