LCI is one of the largest employers of Americans who are blind and visually impaired, currently employing over 350 individuals that are blind or low vision. LCI creates over 2,000 products and distributes thousands more through manufacturing, retail, nationwide distribution and e-commerce channels. LCI Tech is LCI’s technology service division working to improve digital accessibility capabilities to its clients. Equal Entry and LCI Tech are both committed to accessibility, inclusivity, and improving the user experience for people of all abilities. Both organizations also understand and appreciate the importance of achieving accessibility efficiently and using people to do so. As such, the partnership is a natural fit for advancing the cause of digital accessibility.
LCI Tech offers testing by professionals with disabilities– people who use assistive technology on a daily basis to navigate digital content. Given that visual disabilities range from people who are blind, using screen readers such as JAWS, to people with low vision that need the text or the screen to be enlarged using screen magnification software like ZoomText, LCI Tech delivers value by being able to provide testers across the visual spectrum. By working with LCI, Equal Entry is able to validate the validity and severity of issues found while testing to accessibility standards (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) or US Section 508).
The benefits of usability testing are well documented, but including individuals with disabilities does add additional complexity. Individuals with disabilities may need more help with transportation to a testing location. Not all individuals with disabilities use technology on a regular basis. To get good data we feel that it’s important to work with professionals and allow them to use the tools they are most comfortable with. Providing a computer or assistive technology for a user might result in more time on setup than testing, compared to the general population.
Equal Entry and LCI Tech have found a way to work together remotely, allowing the LCI Tech team members to use their own computers and assistive technologies. Using video conferencing technology the LCI Tech tester shares both their screen and computer sound. This provides a full view of what the tester is experiencing. While we have found a solution for JAWS, NVDA, Narrator, VoiceOver and Magnifier, we are still looking for the right technology to allow for the remote testing experience with ZoomText. The current software pairing hides the tester’s use of ZoomText. While we love that the general ZoomText user can present without disclosing their need for an assistive technology, it does prevent our usage model.
“It’s one thing to know that something is a technical violation of a standard, but to watch someone unable to complete a task because of an accessibility issue, it’s just so much more motivating to get it fixed!”
Since the success of the Equal Entry “Office Hour,” LCI Tech has since started to provide similar testing services to other organizations, most recently Transloc, a subsidiary of Ford Smart Mobility. LCI Tech’s testers have provided user feedback on the mobile application, while the Transloc development team has been able to experience first hand the severity of the accessibility issues, on actual users.
“In some cases we are helping organizations go deeper and understand the true impact that the accessibility issue has on the user experience for people with disabilities. At the same time we are also providing an opportunity for folks who are new to accessibility to learn more about why they should care about it, because they can see how it impacts us first-hand. The Equal Entry partnership has proven that we can make accessibility experience testing attainable for all organizations, no matter where you are in your accessibility life-cycle.”
Seventy percent of Americans who are blind or visually impaired are currently unemployed, but with the right support and the right partnerships, that number doesn’t have to be so high. The Equal Entry collaboration is one way that LCI Tech is tackling the high unemployment rate, and achieving its mission of creating meaningful careers in technology services for people who are blind and visually impaired. Clients improving their digital content to be more accessible empowers more individuals with disabilities, further reducing the unemployment rate.
Benefits for all:
- Clients gain insight into how individuals with disabilities actually interact with their applications;
- Equal Entry gains access to testers that use assistive technology on a daily basis;
- LCI Tech gets to employ more individuals with vision impairments.
We all get to contribute to a more accessible world!