The Carroll Center for the Blind, a rehabilitation training facility that in 1984 offered the country’s first computer classes for individuals who are blind, is now helping businesses, government agencies and educational institutions improve the accessibility of their websites and products for persons with disabilities.
“Today, access technology can provide breakthroughs comparable to the introduction of Braille in the 19th century, or the long white cane in the 20th century,” according to the Carroll Center Accessibility Services Coordinator Bruce Howell, a former banking executive and Carroll Center graduate. “Technology opens doors to knowledge, communication, and simple human interaction to young and old alike; it can connect people to people, and its power and prevalence can make it the great equalizer for the blind, but only if technology is accessible.”
The Carroll Center’s Accessibility Services team provides businesses, colleges, and government agencies with a comprehensive website evaluation to identify accessibility issues such as a lack of text descriptions for images and graphics. The team then makes recommendations for correcting and improving page construction, and identifies key elements to make navigation easier for disabled, blind and vision impaired customers.
In addition to website evaluation, the Accessibility Services team also provides product testing. Their latest product-testing project gave them an opportunity to work with Samsung Smart TV.
Samsung contracted with The Carroll Center to perform important usability testing for a new product still in development. The Carroll Center thoroughly tested the products and provided feedback about the accessibility features Samsung plans to incorporate into some television and remote models for 2014 and 2015. The two organizations worked together to test audible menu access, screen contrast and magnification options, and voice recognition functions that Samsung engineers have developed for inclusion in Samsung televisions, as well as tactile improvements recommended for their television remotes.
Samsung has already made vast contributions to accessible technology and improved communication. Samsung’s voice guide feature verbally communicates the channel name, broadcast name and EPG, volume control, TV menu options, and Internet and Smart Hub content. The models also have screen magnification and high contrast UI for those with low vision.
Brian Charlson, Director of Technology for The Carroll Center complimented Samsung for the work they are doing. “The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) will require equal access to televisions for blind and low vision users by 2015, so we are very pleased to see what actions Samsung is taking towards this goal. The Carroll Center’s Accessibility Services team was delighted to be chosen as the testing partner for Samsung.”
The Carroll Center President Joseph F. Abely noted that for the past 76 years the mission of the Carroll Center has been to enable those with vision loss to be independent and productive members of their community.
“Although we teach our clients the skills they need to navigate the Internet, their ability to fully interact with online content and effectively use electronic devices at home, school, and work is often hampered by the inaccessibility of websites and devices that don’t provide the same sort of equal access as physical stores and buildings are required to provide under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),” Abely said. “Inaccessibility is a deterrent for potential consumers. It just makes good business sense to have websites and devices that every consumer can use.”