People who are blind or visually impaired want to work, shop and look up information like everyone else. That’s why the Perkins Access team works to make sure websites, mobile applications, electronic documents and more can be easily navigated and understood by users with visual impairment and other disabilities. In this “What I do” blog, accessibility consultant Akira Fujita explains how he provides trainings and other services to make digital media more inclusive. This story was compiled and edited by Karen Shih.
Here at Perkins Access, we’re helping businesses, government agencies, educational institutions and more with accessibility in their digital spaces. It feels good to be able to know that we are impacting a wide range of users who otherwise may not be able to access important information, whether that’s shared documents at work or health-care forms online.
Often, companies or organizations reach out to us for services. Ideally, they’re doing this to get ahead of the curve. But in reality, they may be involved in litigation. The best scenario is when they work with us during the development stage, because remediation is a lot more difficult than creating accessibility from the beginning. If you forgot an ingredient in a cake, you can’t unbake it. You have to whip it up again – so it’s best to get it in the batter the first time.
I first became interested in accessibility when I worked at Apple, where I was a trainer for 11 years. Early on, a coworker introduced me to a woman who was both a pianist and a composer who used VoiceOver to do her work. I became her instructor and learned so much about how people with visual impairment use technology from that experience. About five years ago, I started working with the Perkins Solutions team on some training, and when I decided I wanted to do even more with accessibility, Perkins seemed like the natural fit.
We all have our strengths on the Perkins Access team. Mine is education and audio-visual production, particularly producing video tutorials, and developing trainings on a variety of accessibility topics for people of all skill levels. Right now, I’m designing a suite of self-paced online courses that cover a variety of digital accessibility topics, including “How to Create Accessible Documents in MS Office” and “How to Use the Native Accessibility Features of Apple and Windows Operating Systems.” Our online courses will incorporate accessible videos, educational materials and quizzes – it’s interactive. We’ve also created “how-to” documents and checklists for clients to distribute within their organizations. We are supporting their efforts to create a more accessible digital working environment.
What’s unique about our team is that we’re versatile enough that even if we don’t know something right away, we can apply what we know about accessibility to create a new curriculum. For example, we had a client who wanted to learn how to access the accessibility options within Adobe InDesign. I downloaded the software and learned the accessibility techniques of the application and how to implement them. Drawing upon my knowledge of digital accessibility, I created a customized curriculum on how to create accessible PDF files in Adobe InDesign.
I’m really proud of my team and feel a lot of support from them as well as the larger Perkins community. Even though I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time with the students on campus, it’s great to know that what we’re working on could have a positive impact on their lives in significant ways even after graduation.