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Celebrating Global Accessible Awareness Day

Bosma Enterprises - 5/20/2021 3:11:26 PM

Bosma Enterprises celebrates accessibility technology for people who are blind or visually impaired. By spreading the word on a global scale, we can help to break down barriers that prevent this population from living independent lives.

An employment opportunity - what 70% of unemployed Americans who are blind or vision impaired desire. However, many Human Resource professionals and hiring managers are misinformed and/or ignorant of this population’s abilities. This makes finding employment for those with vision loss, a daunting challenge. Thankfully, the general public is becoming much more aware of the new assistive technology for people who are blind, and doors to success are opening up for those who are disabled.

According to the World Health Organization, over a billion people (about 15% of the world’s population) have some form of disability and this is increasing due to population aging and a surge in chronic health conditions (WHO, 2018).

Assistive technologies are defined as hardware/software that enables people with different types of disabilities to break barriers and achieve better results in their employment and education goals. In honor of Global Accessible Awareness Day (GAAD), we are highlighting assistive technologies that are enhancing the lives of people in the blind community every day.

Thursday, May 20, 2021, marks the tenth anniversary of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). GAAD was originally inspired by a blog post written by a web developer named Joe Devon in 2011, when he encouraged developers to bridge the accessibility gap by raising awareness and global standards.

Assistive or adaptive technology has removed many access barriers that prevented those who are disabled to reach their full potential. Since the emergence of assistive technology, individuals living with blindness are able to carry out routine tasks at work and school so they can be more independent.

With OrCam MyEye, a device that communicates visual information audibly, people who are blind can read text, recognize faces, identify products, and more. Bosma Enterprises currently has several employees using OrCam, helping them be more proficient at their jobs.

Screen-readers have also played a pivotal role in the lives of the blind, enabling people with vision loss to write documents, browse the internet, send and receive emails, order groceries online, chat with friends on their favorite social media platforms, travel short distances, and work remotely.  Screen-reading and magnification software enables people with low vision to operate computers, smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices independently. Magnifying text increases the size of text and other objects on their screen, making it easier to read without straining their eyes. With this technology and an access app, people who are visually impaired can navigate buildings and move from one place to another independently.

At Bosma Enterprises, we have installed the access app, BlindSquare, in both of our locations, empowering our employees who are blind and visually impaired. We have strategically placed beacons throughout both of our buildings to help staff and clients with vision loss navigate unfamiliar territories independently.  Once downloaded to an IOS device, BlindSquare uses a BPS system to give the user step-by-step walking directions and information on potential hazard areas throughout the building. Another unique component of BlindSquare is the QR codes, placed outside of restrooms, offices, and menus, allowing those without sight access to printed information.

AIRA is another popular access app. AIRA is a paid service where a person who is blind or visually impaired (known as an explorer) uses their smartphone to connect to a live agent. The agents assist explorers with tasks. Anything from requesting assistance sorting mail to navigating an unfamiliar building to having an agent take photographs of people or things is possible with AIRA. AIRA is gaining in popularity and is available at many airports across the country and at stores like Meijer, Walgreens, and Target for free. Other free apps include AI and TapTapSee, which identify anything from money to documents.

Healthcare is another area where assistive technology is evolving. Devices like talking scales, clocks and watches, thermometers, and blood pressure monitors aid people who are visually impaired keep track of their health. 

With the help of assistive technology, simple tasks that once required help from someone sighted, can be accomplished independently by people with vision loss. And it is constantly evolving.

To learn how assistive technology can help you continue your education or employment or allow you to live independently, please contact us on the web at www.bosma.org.