Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Technological Barriers in the Workplace

by Donna J. Jodhan

It is probably never going to go away but the truth is; disabled employees may always have to face some sort of technological barrier in the workplace. Why is this? Because the evolution of technology is moving at a much faster rate than the development of access technology for disabled users. This is a chronic challenge that disabled persons will probably always have to deal with both at home and in the workplace and it includes both hardware and software as well as access to information. This should not come as a shocker or shaker to anyone who has knowledge of this topic. I will focus my attention on three types of technological barriers: Hardware, software, and access to information.

In the case of hardware: The technological barriers may be a bit less in that keyboards are fairly user friendly to disabled persons but when it comes to using such things as touch screen technology and dealing with flashing indicators on phones for example, then these problems will continue to exist unless there are other hard coded ways to deal with them. Strides continue to be made in this area but as I mentioned above, three steps forward for mainstream technology computes into at best one step forward for access or adaptive technology for the disabled. If we're talking about the workplace, then the hardware to consider would range from computer keyboards to scanners, and from phones to PDAs. If I have missed out on mentioning of any other piece of hardware, then my apologies.

In the case of software: Many of the operating systems that are used today are for the most part accessible to persons with disabilities but the real challenge comes when so-called add-ons are included. Disabled persons, in particular blind and visually impaired persons, often run into problems because of incompatibility between the mainstream software in question and their access or adaptive software. This is mainly due to the graphical interfaces that mainstream software is made up of and the inability of screen reading software to decipher graphical interfaces.

An example would be: A piece of mainstream software that needs to be installed and the installation process is made up of a graphical interface. Another example would be when the disabled user tries to use the piece of mainstream software itself and the software is not very user friendly because of icons that need to be clicked on. Blind and visually impaired users are unable to use a mouse to click. Many employees in the workplace are often called upon to install or download software either from the Internet or from CDs. One thing that comes to mind for me is the difficulty that blind and visually impaired persons continue to face in environments that require them to communicate with screens that contain a lot of graphical information. Typically, in help desk and banking types of environments.

Access to information: In the case of blind and visually impaired users and the print disabled as a whole, The problem often occurs when they are unable to access information on the Internet. Some of the primary offenders of this situation come as a result of the following: Websites that are not user friendly or accessible, access or adaptive software that is unable to decipher website content that includes forms and downloads, and websites that do not provide information in alternate formats. I will note here that information provided in PDF format is not considered to be an alternate format.

To summarize: Disabled employees in the workplace will continue to face technological barriers for as long as access or adaptive technology is unable to keep up with evolution of mainstream technology. Technological barriers include access to hardware, software, and access to information. The print disabled in particular blind and visually impaired employees are the most affected.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell the world that yes indeed! Blind persons can certainly enjoy things by using their sense of touch. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

No comments:

Subscribe to receive posts via email

* indicates required

Browse Articles by Subject

Follow us on Twitter


Write for us

Your input and support in the evolution of Fred's Head are invaluable! Contact us about contributing original writing or for suggestions for updating existing articles. Email us at


The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

The products produced by the American Printing House for the Blind are instructional/teaching materials and are intended to be used by trained professionals, parents, and other adults with children who are blind and visually impaired. These materials are not intended as toys for use by children in unstructured play or in an unsupervised environment.

The information and techniques contained in Fred's Head are provided without legal consideration (free-of-charge) and are not warranted by APH to be safe or effective. All users of this service assume the risk of any injury or damage that may result from the use of the information provided.

Information in Fred's Head is not intended as a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Consult your physician before utilizing information regarding your health that may be presented on this site. Consult other professionals as appropriate for legal, financial, and related advice.

Fred's Head articles may contain links to other websites. APH is not responsible for the content of these sites.

Fred's Head articles created by APH staff are (C) copyright American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. You must request permission from APH to reprint these articles. Email to request permission.

Any submissions to Fred's Head should be free of copyright restrictions and should be the intellectual property of the submitter. By submitting information to Fred's Head, you are granting APH permission to publish this information.

Fair Use Notice: This website may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright holder(s). This site is operated on the assumption that using this information constitutes 'fair use' of said copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law.

Opinions appearing in Fred's Head records are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Printing House for the Blind.