In as much as technology keeps evolving and is becoming a necessity in our everyday lives, technology can also be central to the lives of the 285 million people in the world who are blind or visually impaired, as long as they know how to use it. So, Erin Lauridsen, who is the access technology director at LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, believes that they shouldn't be left out of it.
Lauriden does this by ensuring that people who are blind and visually impaired acquire adequate knowledge on how to access all the technology that they need in order to live their lives. This technology includes everything from simple computer literacy and the use of smart phones to the ability to use assistive technologies such as screen readers and magnification.
Lauridsen who works with technology companies like Google, Uber, Lyft, Uber, and Facebook around user testing said they want to ensure that “things that already exist and that are being created are as accessible as they can be to people who are blind and visually impaired".
70 percent of the legally blind people in the U.S. are unemployed, and this statistics hasn't been updated since the nineties. Lauriden said it is still high as the number of people who are blind or visually impaired in the technology industry is not still clear. This is so because tech companies do not usually report this data and this raises privacy concerns. Howbeit, they seem to be few and far between what is stipulated.
According to Lauriden, the major limitation to these blind people getting jobs is their literacy level. The literacy gap can occur quite early in their lives when they don't have access to brail and other accessible materials.
Lauridsen said “Once [blind] people have that education and move into the work world, a lot of it is awareness". She also added that “If you’re the first person with a disability a hiring manager has ever met and they spend the interview wondering how on earth you got here today and how you tie your shoes, they’re probably not going to be focusing on your skills, so part of it is an awareness problem.”
She also said that most of her blind friends who are amazing coders are limited by the inaccesibility of developer tools. Hence, they cannot undertake certain jobs and roles because the developer environments are not accessible to them. So, another problem is the accessibility of developer tools.
"I hope that tech companies will make accessibility more than this little compliance check box at the end of the process. I want accessibility to be integrated as a really key and useful part of development cycles of building things and making things because people with disabilities are hackers and innovators, and that’s what we do" Lauriden said.
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