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 Funded by the United States Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

Accessibility in the Modern Workplace

Principal Investigator: William Reuschel, wreuschel@afb.net

One of the most important aspects of helping individuals with blindness or low vision return to the workplace is making sure they have the technology they need to succeed. Modern advances in technology allow workers with blindness or low vision to be productive members of the workforce, but challenges still remain in the technology used in many offices. The vast majority of modern offices rely on multifunctional document centers (MDCs) for all their printing, scanning, and copying needs. However, since MDCs often use touchscreens, and lack speech output, MDCs can be difficult for workers with blindness or low vision to access.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication systems have also gained ground in the modern workplace, as companies rely on such systems to conduct phone conferences, webinars, and conference calls. VoIP systems use a gateway to connect to phone lines through the internet to allow users to speak with each other. Due to their mainly vision-only formats, VoIP systems present serious challenges for would-be users with blindness or low vision.

In order to address issues of technology accessibility in the workplace, the National Research and Training Center (NRTC) on Blindness and Low Vision partnered with American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Tech. The goal of this project was to discover which MDCs and VoIP systems can be most easily and effectively accessed by users with blindness or low vision.

AFB Tech surveyed workers with blindness or low vision and asked which MDC models and VoIP systems are most commonly used in their workplaces. Once a list of common MDCs and VoIP systems was obtained, AFB Tech conducted extensive accessibility testing and a usability analysis with actual users to determine which models worked best for users with blindness or low vision.

A total of four MDCs underwent testing. The top-performing MDC was the Lexmark XS658de, which provided users with blindness or low vision broad access to its features. One particular highlight of this model is its web-based interface, which allows users to access it using their smartphones or tablets. Five VoIP systems were also tested. Both the Accessaphone, by Tenacity, and the VTGO-508, by IP blue, emerged as top VoIP options, and both are accessible for users with blindness or low vision.

With testing and the usability analysis completed, AFB Tech is in the process of adding listings of MDCs and VoIP systems that are accessible for users with blindness or low vision to the AFB Product Database.

Project Outputs

Upcoming Project Outputs

  • Addition of MDCs and VoIP systems to AFB’s online database of accessible products
  • Fact Sheet: Top Characteristics to Consider when Purchasing Accessible Technology for the Workplace