Charles Hill, a certified rehabilitation counselor with DHHS’ Division of Services for the Blind, shares his story about the importance of accessibility for people with visual impairments, as NCDHHS celebrates the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In this age of technology and information, accessibility is critical for all people – especially those with visual impairments and blindness. As a person who is blind and grew up in the 1970s and 80s, I was dependent on the availability of people to read for me to access information in print and on the computer.
I would record the information in braille, or electronically, and remember it. My first introduction to computers at the community college involved having a sighted student sit with me while I typed on the computer. They would read what I wrote so I’d know what needed to be corrected.
In the late 80s, I was introduced to a digital screen reading program called Jaws. It allowed me to have full access to the computer and programs such as email, the internet and word processing while significantly decreasing my need for assistance. My typing speed improved, and I obtained more access to information and communication, which further increased my independence.
Nearly 33 years ago, on July 26, 1990, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required that all government agencies, employers and schools become accessible to persons with disabilities. The ADA created limitless opportunities in education, socialization, and employment for people with disabilities. It helped me to successfully complete two undergraduate degrees and two postgraduate degrees, which allowed me to gain employment as a certified rehabilitation counselor in NCDHHS’ Division of Services for the Blind, and develop skills that are invaluable to the division, society and the rehabilitation profession.
Last fall, DSB partnered with Ablr Works to develop a “first-of-its-kind” workforce development program to train people who are blind or visually impaired to become digital accessibility testers. This program will help find opportunities for training, upskilling and recruitment for people who are considered both an underserved and underemployed population. Read more about this effort, in a WRAL article.
If you are looking for services to help people who are visually impaired, blind and deaf-blind to help them reach their goals of independence and employment, go to NCDHHS’ DSB website.