For many people with disabilities, accessibility doesn't necessarily equal accommodation. When it comes to using the internet, for instance, computers aren't usually tailored for people with certain disabilities, like severe visual impairment or upper-body paralysis. But eSSENTIAL Accessibility, a resource that allows people with disabilities (PWD) to use the web with ease so that they can go about their daily lives and focus on more important things, is hoping to change all that. "A lot of folks out there can't get access to the technology they need to get online. It's expensive, they can't find, they can't be bothered," Simon Dermer, managing director at eSSENTIAL Accessibility, tells Bustle.
eSSENTIAL Accessibility, which first launched six years ago, provides all sorts of disability-friendly tools, including a voice-activated keyboard and the ability to move cursors with head movements. The site licenses a variety of assistive technologies to universities and major corporations to make their customer experiences more inclusive for the disability community. (It's free for consumers). The company also does consulting for businesses on how to help make their services and overall company culture more disability-inclusive. It's part of an overall approach to ensuring that companies are web accessibility-compliant and are making accessibility a part of their overall strategy as a business.
Companies that don't adopt assistive technology may find that they're missing entire markets. Consider the facts that people with disabilities comprise a fifth of the world's population and make up the largest minority group. This includes people with both visible and invisible disabilities. (By the way, did I mention that March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month?). Thus, eSSENTIAL Accessibility and other tools like it are crucial for helping to integrate people with disabilities into society more smoothly.
Here's what the website for eSSENTIAL Accessibility looks like:
In addition to listing out the assistive technology tools they have available, the site outlines reasons why it's important to be inclusive at work. Disability inclusivity is not just a technicality, but a mindset, Dermer says. Employers can tap into even more ways in which their disabled employees can contribute to the company's bottom line without making assumptions too quickly about what an employee can and can't do. Additionally, nobody should have to experience hiring discrimination or technological challenges just because they have a disability.
It's worth noting that there are thousands of different types of disabilities that might make access to the internet difficult for people with them. While eSSENTIAL Accessibility meets the needs for people who can't read, who are paralyzed or who have difficulty using their hands or individual fingers, it's not all-encompassing. "It's a silver bullet for certain disabilities, but it doesn't solve every problem," Dermer says.
The resource also offers a downloadable web application for people with disabilities who use Windows as well as a free mobile app for Android users. The web app has all sorts of keyboard and mouse alternatives, from a hands-free mouse to voice commands. You can request for website text and links to be read out loud, and you can also automatically record speech as text. Similarly, the mobile app allows you to use your mobile phone hands-free and has different options like auto switch-off.
Of course, business impact isn't the only reason why companies should do everything they can to integrate their disabled employees into the workplace. People with disabilities deserve to be treated fairly and equally, and resources like eSSENTIAL Accessibility do just that. Ultimately, disability accessibility and accommodations aren't just required by law. They're a human right.