I’ve been with LCI Tech Services for less than 90 days, so I have to admit this is my first time ever learning about Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), and how much it is important to the technology world. Coming from a customer service background I’m not a stranger to accessibility, but I must admit I’m probably the least techie person on this team. Every day at work I sit at my desk navigating website after website finding different accessibility issues using a screen reader, and I can’t help to compare it to navigating the real world with a guide dog.
Over two-and-a-half years ago I graduated from Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) with my first guide dog Tracker. I had to go through an intense 2-week training at the Oregon campus where I learned how to clean, work, and even play with my new companion. Although cleaning and playing with your guide is very important, lets focus on the working aspect. A guide dog is train to assist you with maneuvering around, under, and over obstacles. Just like a screen reader, in order to use a guide dog properly you have to learn how to do so through some form of training. With a screen reader you have to learn proper keystrokes to navigate different applications on a computer, with a guide dog you have to learn the proper commands to give in order to get to your correct destination. For example, to go to the top of a page on the internet with a screen reader I use the command CTRL+Home, and if I want Tracker to move forward I have to tell him “forward”.
Tracker has successfully helped me navigate up and down flights of stairs, learn safe ways to travel to and from my working area, traveled with me all over the country, and kept me from walking in front of a forklift as well as a car. My screen reader has given me the ability to surf the web, communicate with people all over the world, and most importantly apply for jobs. With the help of Tracker and a screen reader I have the ability to come to work everyday safely, and be a successful member of my team. Tracker is trained to guide me around obstacles in the physical world just like a screen reader assists me with navigating in the technology world, and I cannot imagine how lost I’d be without both.