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Keen to build a career in the area of Accessibility… where to start and how to grow?

I think it’s people who encourage me to write a few posts and this time a former colleague from HCL Technologies. He is a visual designer and his question to me via Twitter is:

Hello Srinivasu, How’s work at Deque Systems? I’m a visual designer and wants to specialize in Accessibility. Your guidance is appreciated on where to start.

Thought writing a post would not only helps this friend but may be of help to many.

Accessibility is an unique and respectable profession in industry. Uniqueness of Accessibility career is that it’s not only fulfill responsibility of a professional duty but also creates social impact. Here are a few pre-requisites to make career in the area of accessibility.

  1. Passion
  2. Patience – growth in accessibility career or business would certainly take time but brings a lot of satisfaction and success one day
  3. Ability to think from diverse user prospective
  4. Ability to think both as tester and developer

Here is my story how I began my journey in the area of accessibility.

In 2003, when I was working for The National Association for the Blind, Karnataka Branch, with the help of a few volunteers, we have developed a website for the organization (First snapshot of the website on Internet Archive). Website has a great design, used HTML and tons of JavaScript (you can guess website have a lot of layout tables!). We were passionate to use drop down menus and images. After building the whole website, we have realized that we were building a website that caters to the needs of people with vision impairment, which includes imparting training in information technology. Interestingly we have also realized that website we have developed does not work when browsing with assistive technologies! That’s then we started thinking of alternatives.

In 2005, a good friend and teacher Shilpi Kapoorasked me if I would want to make a career in the accessibility and I have accepted her offer. So that’s my start in the area of accessibility at Net Systems Informatics India Pvt. Ltd (Now BarrierBreak Solutions Private Limited.

To begin career in the area of accessibility, first one needs to decide in what area would they be keen to bring in change.Some of the areas that needs attention from accessibility prospective are:

  1. Physical infrastructure (buildings, transport, environment etc.,)
  2. Web Accessibility
  3. Documents accessibility
  4. Accessibility of education
  5. Electronics Accessibility
  6. Accessibility training (need to choose area of interest)

… and much more!

Sadly (or luckily) there are not many formal training offerings in the area of Accessibility. Reason I say lucky is because self learning is much powerful than class room learning. One can learn to the extent of what he or she would want.

Here are some resources to get started on Accessibility. Note that since I primarily work in the area of web accessibility, below list may not have enough resources on other areas of accessibility.

I was almost began to list several resources but to luck touched me through Rakesh Paladugula, who shared an excellent resource Web design resource from University of Minnesota Duluth.

This post would follow a series with advice and resources in specific areas.

Good luck to build a career in the area of accessibility.

International White Cane Day – 15th October

A white cane is used by many people who are blind. It helps as a mobility tool and comes in different varieties such as a long cane, foldable cane. 75% of the cane is painted with white and 25% is painted with Red colour.

15th October is marked as White Cane Safety Day. This observation has started in the year 1963 by the United States of America and then recognized in several countries. Objective of this day is to raise awareness on mobility and independent living of people with blindness.

History of White Cane

Blind people have used canes as mobility tools for centuries,[3] but it was not until after World War I that the white cane was introduced.

In 1921 James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol who became blind after an accident and was uncomfortable with the amount of traffic around his home, painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible.[citation needed]

In 1931 in France, Guilly d’Herbemont launched a national white stick movement for blind people. On February 7, 1931, Guilly d’Herbemont symbolically gave the first two white canes to blind people, in the presence of several French ministers. 5,000 more white canes were later sent to blind French veterans from World War I and blind civilians.[4]

In the United States, the introduction of the white cane is attributed to George A. Bonham of the Lions Clubs International.[5] In 1930, a Lions Club member watched as a man who was blind attempted to cross the street with a black cane that was barely visible to motorists against the dark pavement. The Lions decided to paint the cane white to make it more visible. In 1931, Lions Clubs International began a program promoting the use of white canes for people who are blind.

The first special white cane ordinance was passed in December 1930 in Peoria, Illinois granting blind pedestrians protections and the right-of-way while carrying a white cane.[citation needed]

The long cane was improved upon by World War II veterans rehabilitation specialist, Richard E. Hoover, at Valley Forge Army Hospital.[6] In 1944, he took the Lions Club white cane (originally made of wood) and went around the hospital blindfolded for a week. During this time he developed what is now the standard method of “long cane” training or the Hoover Method. He is now called the “Father of the Lightweight Long Cane Technique.” The basic technique is to swing the cane from the center of the body back and forth before the feet. The cane should be swept before the rear foot as the person steps. Before he taught other rehabilitators, or “orientors,” his new technique he had a special commission to have light weight, long white canes made for the veterans of the European fronts.[7]

On October 6, 1964, a joint resolution of the Congress, HR 753, was signed into law authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as “White Cane Safety Day”. President Lyndon Johnson was the first to make this proclamation.
Source: History of White Cane on Wikipedia

If you see a person with blindness, though your intention is to help them, it’s not a good practice to grab their hand and take along. It’s important you approach, ask and then assist. There was an incident where a blind man was waiting on a roadside having his white cane, suddenly someone took his hand and made him cross the road without asking or listening to him. After crossing the road, stranger asked him where he would want to go and reply was “I was waiting for a friend and didn’t want to cross the road” 🙂
Resource: Tips to assist people who are blind and visually impaired from Vision Australia


Accessible India Campaign, ATAG 2.0 and more… 2nd October, 2015 – Accessibility Round-up