Technology Innovations: Making the Online World More Accessible

Ross McLaughlin and Sandra Hermiston, CTV Vancouver
Published Wednesday, March 7, 2018

From wheelchair ramps to braille on ATMs, you can see the steps businesses are taking to make the physical world more accessible for people with disabilities. But what about when it comes to using computers or going online?

“Being able to use the computer and have things in an electronic format is really a life changer,” said Shawn Marsolais, executive director of Blind Beginnings who is living with visual impairment.

The average person now spends around five hours a day on their smartphone, but for people with mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive impairments that’s not always possible.

Ontario is the only province in Canada that has accessibility requirements for those working in the private sector, thanks to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

But the federal government is also working on legislation to set standards for accessibility, and some businesses are ahead of the curve, taking their own initiatives, to create helpful technology for their customers.

Central 1 Credit Union employs Janos Sitar to ensure the company’s online banking platforms are accessible to people with disabilities.

“The biggest component we need to know is research. We need to talk to people of different disabilities and discover what it is we can do to support them,” said Janos Sitar, Central 1 accessibility specialist.

“I’m not very comfortable with online banking. I still use telebanking with the phone,” said Marsolais.

Sitar meets with people like Marsolais to test out banking platforms and make sure the screen reader works efficiently.

For those with disabilities, the top priorities for access are areas of employment, facilities, transportation and program and services.

And even though most services are live on the internet, some websites still fall short on accessibility.

“Every new site that I go to I’m kind of crossing my fingers that it’s going to work for me and sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t,” said Marsolais.

Central 1 Credit Union is also working on voice command integration for those who can’t operate a key board but the most important thing they want to hear from community groups and the disabled for feedback about what they can do better to try to accommodate everyone.

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