Boston Accessibility Conference shines a bright light on accessibility

The Boston Accessibility Conference was held on last Saturday October 27th at the Fidelity Offices in downtown Boston, MA. Vision-Aid co-sponsored the conference and hosted a panel “Making MOOCs more accessible to the visually impaired” and an information session on “The Vision-Aid Model”. Vision-Aid sincerely thanks our corporate sponsors Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare for their financial support which made this event possible. We are working on making the videos available soon. Please stay tuned!

Despite the raw and rough weather with a Nor’easter storm pounding Boston, the conference was rocking it inside. A wide range of topics were covered in the realm of disability and accessibility.

The conference opened with a lively keynote talk “User/Experts: No Substitute for Their Inefficient but Critically Valuable Engagement” by Valerie Fletcher, Executive Director, Institute for Human Centered Design. Valerie discussed the welcome and undeniable tilt toward inclusive design and pointed out that while holistic accessibility is well underway, challenges remain. The digital world leads in this and digital leaders are cutting a path through the woods. Valerie explored how, with direct engagement and a thoughtful application of universal design, we could continue making strides in all realms of accessibility – physical, service and digital.

Next, Vision-Aid presented a panel on accessibility challenges in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which are opening an exciting world of learning for many. While strides have been made in the area of accessibility, barriers remain which can make some of the content in MOOCs inaccessible to persons with disabilities. The panel explored different aspects of this subject. Vision-Aid President Syed Ali Rizvi and Vice President Revathy Ramakrishna introduced the panelists and invited the Panel Chair Dr. Chuck to kick off the panel discussion. 

The panel was dynamically led by Dr. Chuck whose energy and enthusiasm were palpable! Dr. Charles Severance (Dr. Chuck) is a legendary Coursera educator from the University of Michigan whose course “Programing for Everyone” taught via Coursera has over 1.6 million students and is used by Vision-Aid to teach programming to its visually impaired students. Dr. Chuck kept the panelists and audience members engaged through a series of lively, rapid-fire questions and thought-provoking talking points.

Keith W. Marion Director of Inclusion at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care (HPHC) spoke eloquently about why  making MOOCs accessible is important for not only persons with disabilities but for companies like HPHC which are constantly striving to create an inclusive culture and will reap the benefits from advanced training offered to persons with disabilities with MOOCs which can equip them with the skills to succeed in their career aspirations.

Kartik Sawhney, a software engineer at Microsoft working on the Cortana team and founder of I-Stem weighed in on the importance and relevance of MOOCs to students pursuing STEM learning and careers.

Aditi Shah, currently pursuing her master’s in cyber security at Georgia Institute of Technology outlined some of the challenges she had faced in learning from MOOCs as a visually impaired learner and suggested approaches which can mitigate them.

Ram Raju founder and volunteer executive director of Vision-Aid discussed the role of nonprofits like Vision-Aid and I-Stem in becoming the important links and catalysts between leaners and educators on MOOC platforms.During the afternoon session, Ram also presented the Vision-Aid model in a breakout session, which saw a lot of lively interactions and participation from the audience.

Brenda Cold from HPHC, presnted a token of appreciation to the panelists on behalf of Vision-Aid and HPHC.

Overall, the conference was a huge success and helped to shine a light on the important subject of making things accessible for the disabled.  

Vision-Aid India Relaunches its Website

The launch of this new website gives us renewed hope that India will see more lives of the visually impaired being transformed.

Vision-Aid Newsletter

Vision-Aid Course Catalog

Vision-Aid Model

A Digital Accessibility Testing Testimonial | Nibin Mathews

Nibin Mathews’ journey is a testament to resilience and determination. Despite facing

significant visual impairment challenges since birth, Nibin pursued education with unwavering determination. Losing sight in one eye due to a cricket ball stroke in 6th grade and later losing vision in the other eye to glaucoma didn’t deter him. He completed his Bachelor’s in English and even secured a job with Indian Railways. Yet, his thirst for knowledge led him to pursue computer programming, which he found through Vision-Aid. With their specialized training, he mastered coding and digital accessibility testing. With their financial support, he pursued a Master’s degree. Now, as the Accessibility Lead at Bosch Global Software Technologies, he’s excelling professionally. But Nibin’s achievements don’t stop there; he’s also an international tennis champion and a skilled violinist. He attributes much of his success to Vision-Aid, acknowledging their pivotal role in his journey. His story is not just one of personal triumph but also a testament to the impact of support systems in overcoming challenges and inspiring others.

A Job Coaching for Banking and other exams Testimonial | Gautam Gulati

Meet Gautam, a remarkable individual based in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, whose life story is a testament to resilience, determination, and the transformative power of organizations like Vision-Aid India.

Gautam’s life commenced with the diagnosis of Retinist Pigmentosa. Despite experiencing a 40% loss of sight, he persevered through attending a regular school, successfully completing his education and earning a B Com degree. His world took an unexpected turn after graduation, when, he had the major sight loss. Faced with the challenges of navigating everyday activities like driving, reading, writing print, and mobility etc. Yet, rather than allowing these obstacles to define him, he chose a path of resilience and determination. Undeterred by his circumstances, Gautam turned to technology, becoming dependent on tools designed for visually impaired individuals, including screen readers. His quest for independence led him to explore new technologies with the support of various NGOs. Through his social networks, Gautam discovered Vision-Aid India, an organization dedicated to empowering the visually impaired. Recognizing the potential for growth, he enrolled in Vision-Aid’s IBPS banking crash course, specifically tailored for visually impaired individuals, in April 2022.

Determined to enhance his skills further, Gautam pursued an additional course in mobile technology. This commitment to personal and professional growth showcased his unwavering spirit and determination.

Armed with newfound knowledge, Gautam faced the Bank of India Credit Officer exam after completing the IBPS crash course. His hard work, coupled with the right guidance from Vision-Aid, resulted in success. In 2023, Gautam proudly joined Bank of India as a Credit Officer, marking a significant milestone in his journey.

Gautam attributes his success and newfound independence to Vision-Aid India. With deep gratitude, he acknowledges the organization’s role in providing IBPS coaching and shaping his path towards independence.

A Python Testimonial

Tejas

Tejas, born with visual impairment in Mumbai, pursued his education at a Blind School. After school, he graduated from St. Xavier’s College in 2007. His quest for technology education led him to NIIT Bangalore, but job challenges followed. He worked as an HR Recruiter at Thomson Reuters but continued his search for software engineering opportunities. Tejas found his path at Vision-Aid India, where he gained certifications in JavaScript, CSS, HTML, Python, and Digital Accessibility Testing. Vision-Aid then helped him secure a role as an Associate Software Engineer at Pristine InfoTech Inc. He’s deeply grateful to Vision-Aid for enabling visually impaired individuals to learn software languages and work independently as software engineers.

Bindhu Sri

Meet Bindu, from Hyderabad. Who began her life with the gift of perfect vision? She embarked on her educational journey in a conventional school, but at the tender age of 9, her world dimmed as Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) impacted her sight. Loosing major of her vision with lot of challenges she still could complete her graduate degree in 2020 and her post-graduate degree in 2022. Being interested to pursue her career in computer programming she discovered Vision-Aid India, a beacon of hope and opportunity. Enrolling in their online certification programs, Bindu successfully completed both Python and SQL languages. Armed with these newfound skills, she opened doors to her career, securing a position as a Data Engineer at RX Data Science, a renowned company.

“All of this was made possible through the invaluable support and guidance provided by Vision-Aid India” She Says.

A HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and ARIA Fundamentals for Accessible Web Development Testimonial

Tejas

Tejas, born with visual impairment in Mumbai, pursued his education at a Blind School. After school, he graduated from St. Xavier’s College in 2007. His quest for technology education led him to NIIT Bangalore, but job challenges followed. He worked as an HR Recruiter at Thomson Reuters but continued his search for software engineering opportunities. Tejas found his path at Vision-Aid India, where he gained certifications in JavaScript, CSS, HTML, Python, and Digital Accessibility Testing. Vision-Aid then helped him secure a role as an Associate Software Engineer at Pristine InfoTech Inc. He’s deeply grateful to Vision-Aid for enabling visually impaired individuals to learn software languages and work independently as software engineers.