A man with a white cane and a woman stand in front of an oversized smartphone that is translating text into speech

In the last several months, digital accessibility has become more of a priority for many industries as people have begun to socialize, shop, work, manage healthcare and banking, and much more from home due to the pandemic. The ability for end users to access everything on the web is more important than ever before. But for many developers and web designers, accessibility is a new and somewhat intimidating concept.

I’m Meaghan Roper, and I’m a Business Analyst here at Level Access. I’m also blind and use screen reading software on my laptop and iPhone. I wanted to find a way to make accessibility concepts understandable to those who may be new or inexperienced. There are tons of technical documents on the web about accessibility, but those can be scary to dive into when you’re new!

I decided that casual language and conversation was the most approachable way to introduce an audience to accessible web content and assistive technology. That is how this blog/podcast series was born.

I’m excited to share the conversations I’ve had with accessibility industry experts and I hope that these podcast episodes help you gain a better understanding of web accessibility.

What is “assistive technology” anyway?

The quick and easy definition: Assistive technology (or AT) is a tool that enables users to access something that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.

When people hear the word “technology,” they often associate it with electronics or applications, but AT is much more than software programs and cool tech devices.

AT includes things like:

  • wheelchairs,
  • canes,
  • magnifying glasses access ramps,
  • and even everyday eyeglasses for nearsighted or farsightedness.

All of these items are widely known and used by much of the general public on a daily basis.

AT closes the gap between what you can do and what you want or need to do.

I wanted to take a deep dive into some of the lesser known but still major-market assistive technologies used every day by users with disabilities when they access web content. In this series, we’ll be talking with expert users about the top screen readers, magnifying tools, dictation software, mobile assistive technology, and much more.

For this first episode, I sat down with Sarah Schaidt who is an Accessibility Services Manager at Level Access and one of my favorite experts to chat with about AT.

Sarah discussed some of the top software and hardware tools utilized by people with disabilities when accessing the world and the web.

She illustrated what accessing web content looks like from the perspective of keyboard-only users, screen reader users, screen magnifying software users, and switch users.

We chat about the ways that AT is used by people without disabilities – including Sarah’s “secret” to watching TV while cooking dinner.

Listen to Episode #001 here and read the transcript here.