People with disabilities will tell you that just because something—a website, a building, healthcare, etc.—claims to be accessible doesn’t always mean that’s true. Where information is concerned, accessibility is a particularly tricky matter. As I like to say, “the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro is accessible on foot: you just have to walk two days to get there.”
Having had to walk the proverbial "two days" to access resources I needed, making the real and virtual worlds not just “accessible” but rather truly usable for people with disabilities, is a big part of my life. One of my first steps in this direction is that I co-developed one of the earliest systems to make books and other printed matter accessible to the reading challenged.
I was an early beta tester for outSPOKEN, the talking Macintosh Interface, which was the only screen reader for the Macintosh from early 1990 through 2004.
I also became a primary beta tester for the National Library of Medicine’s accessible interface for PubMed, its database of academic literature in the biomedical sciences. The accessible PubMed Interface was available from 1998 to 2011 when it was decided the regular interface for PubMed had become accessible.
More recently, I’ve worked with a home sharing company, helping them see how many properties marked accessible for people with disabilities on their site actually were not accessible to people with all kinds of disabilities.
I’ve helped colleges survey their websites for accessibility concerns for the visitor who uses a screen reader. I recently completed a contract with the National Institutes of Health that surveyed significant parts of the vast majority of their institutes’ websites for issues in accessibility and usability. Much of the NIH work focused on helping it better understand how to make the vast information and resources it has available to all easier for the visitor who uses a screen reader to find and explore than they are today. I anticipate working with a group focused on improving outcomes for people who are frequent users of healthcare resources on ensuring the website for their forthcoming virtual conference this fall is as easy to use for people who use screen readers as possible.
I’m also working to build experiential learning opportunities to help pre-health and health professions students see how patients who are older, disabled or chronically ill function—and often struggle to—outside of the clinical setting. I’ve been involved with helping pre-health and health professions students see the challenges people with chronic health concerns manage for more than thirty years. Many of my former volunteers report a significant impact on how they practice in various healthcare roles after having worked with me.
The universities, with which I’m beginning to collaborate, and I believe our ideas can improve patient outcomes, help people with chronic health challenges live more independently, save a great deal of money, and give pre-health and health professions students experiences and training they often don’t get now. Just as importantly, this experiential learning will help these health professions trainees see how everything from the logistics of getting to and from health appointments to the challenges associated with maintaining social networks and engaging in society make it hard for people with chronic health needs to live independently and well. In seeing these challenges, we are convinced that either the students, the patients, their caregivers, or others with whom they come in contact, will have ideas that will help make the world a better place than it is now for millions of older, disabled, and chronically ill people and their families, friends, neighbors, and the paid home health workers who are so important to many of us.
I also consult with, and speak for, health professions schools on how implicit and explicit bias in healthcare relative to people with chronic health needs and/or disabilities impacts our access to care, our well-being and overall outcomes. My work is focused on helping programs improve their students’ and faculties’ readiness to make healthcare more accessible to people with chronic health challenges. Here is a presentation I’ve already given. Here is that presentation in pdf form if that would be more convenient for you to review. I can give interested programs access to full video and other materials to facilitate discussions on contracts to speak for, or consult with, them as desired.
I’m always excited to work with new agencies, training programs, and companies on all of these issues. Helping you make your institution’s facilities and its presence on the web more usable and accessible for people with special needs, benefits you, people with disabilities, those managing chronic health concerns, and often regular visitors as well.
I negotiate fees on a case-by-case basis but usually start at around $150 an hour for consulting, $500 per presentation. I will sharply reduce fees for small organizations and some governmental agencies. Experimental projects may also see me reduce fees.
If you want me to present or consult in person, I will charge more per hour as well as travel costs for myself and a sighted guide.
If you’d like more information on some of the groups I’ve collaborated with, or references from whom you can learn more about my work, please feel free to contact me via my website.