National Industries for the Blind (NIB) called for websites and information services to become more accessible to people who are blind, noting this will broaden employment opportunities for a community that experiences 70 percent unemployment nationwide.
Thomas Panek, Vice President of Relationship Management at NIB and a person who is blind, offered expert testimony at a public hearing convened by the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., on Proposed Revisions to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
"As the largest employer of people who are blind, NIB and its associated agencies have demonstrated that with the necessary levels of accessibility and training, people who are blind are more than capable of succeeding in high-skill careers," said Panek. "Anything that employers and business owners can do to increase access to websites and information services will not only create more jobs, but also help people who are blind to live more independent lives."
"As technology rapidly develops, so must our solutions to improving access for people who are blind," said Kevin A. Lynch, President and CEO of NIB. "NIB looks forward to working with the federal government and private sector businesses to identify ways to not only increase access, but to also leverage technology and the Internet to create career opportunities for people who are blind."
During his testimony, Panek noted NIB would like to act as a partner and a resource to the federal government for developing a workable framework for website access for people who are blind.
In particular, Panek detailed NIB's support for enhancing website accessibility for people who are blind, while recognizing that regulation should only be enacted where self-regulation is insufficient.
Specific recommendations supported by NIB and offered by Panek include:
Business owners must work with members of the blind community to identify what access areas could be improved upon, and the potential solutions that exist.
To the extent that it is possible, and reasonable, the public and private sector should use the latest accessibility standards.
The Department should adopt requirements that revise the ADA Title II regulation to establish accessibility requirements for making the services, programs, or activities offered by state and local governments to the public via the Internet accessible.
The Department should adopt the technical standard of WCAG 2.0 double A standard for website accessibility for public accommodations, namely entities covered by Titles II and III of the ADA.
The Department should maintain and provide a list of resources for technical assistance to assist public entities in complying with proposed rules.
NIB believes these recommendations will help increase website accessibility and career opportunities for people who are blind.
"Seven out of 10 persons who are blind are unemployed. Every step we take to improve accessibility is a step toward lowering that unemployment rate," Panek concluded. "As NIB has clearly demonstrated, with the necessary technology and training resources in place, people who are blind are capable of completing the job."
About National Industries for the Blind -At National Industries for the Blind (NIB), it is our mission to enhance the opportunities for economic and personal independence of persons who are blind, primarily through creating, sustaining and improving employment. NIB and 89 associated agencies serve as the largest employer for people who are blind by the sale of SKILCRAFT® products and services through the AbilityOne Program, established by the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act. www.nib.org