Celebrating the ADA’s 28th Anniversary
July 26th, 2018
Aira's Co-Founder addresses a large group of Aira employees at a company meeting.
As Aira Co-Founder Suman Kanuganti says, “Accessibility is a community effort.” Essentially, it’s why Aira’s unique platform is built on data sourced from the very community it serves. It’s also a great reflection of the promise that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides: together we can make life more accessible for all.
Today marks the 28th anniversary of the ADA being signed into law, formally adopting legislative and regulatory policies that promise to deliver equal civil rights for those with disabilities. Authored by Tony Coelho, the ADA is considered to be the most important piece of civil rights legislation to come into effect in the past 30 years. Although progress in the disability civil rights arena has certainly been achieved during the last three decades, a lot still needs to be done before it can be said that the true spirit of the ADA has been fully realized.
You most likely already know this, but it’s worth reiterating anyway. The ADA is important not just because it protects the rights of people with disabilities in terms of employment; access to public services (such as transportation); and access to private establishments (such as restaurants, stores, and hotels). It’s also important because, by balancing previous inequalities, the ADA creates the opportunity for a more robust and secure socio-economic environment for all. When everyone can participate, everyone wins.
Room for Improvement
Despite the social, political, and economic strides that the ADA has encouraged, there is still room for improvement in areas such as employment; earned income; access to public accommodations, including the internet; and education.
So, what can be done?
Well, a lot actually.
Access to Visual Information
In the spirit of the ADA, we believe that everyone should have equal access to visual information, when and where they need it.
It’s this thinking that sits at the core of every initiative – of every innovation – that Aira creates. And it’s the reason we’re always looking for ways to minimize costs for our users (also known as Explorers). After all, it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure we live in a totally accessible world.
Access to Education
By collaborating with AT&T, we have managed to not only create secure and stable networks for our technology, but we have also created the Back to School program. This initiative grants blind and low vision students free access to Aira services and equipment, giving them an additional tool to help recognize their academic goals. And then there’s the Aira Campus Network, a growing group of schools and colleges across the country that provide free access to Aira on site.
Access to Careers
We created the Aira Employment Program to help counter the staggeringly high rate of unemployment in the blind and low vision community. This program ensures that anyone using the Aira service to complete a job-seeking task, like formatting a resume or traveling to an interview, will be free of charge. We have also partnered with a growing number or organizations to form the Aira Employer Network, which provides employees with free access to Aira while working for their employer on site. And, very recently, we struck a partnership with Intuit that will see all self-employed Aira Explorers able to use our service for free when completing work-related tasks.
Access to Transport
We’ve partnered with airports to create the rapidly expanding Aira Airport Network, meaning travelers can access Aira to enhance their efficiency and independence while navigating an airport. And by integrating Lyft and Uber rideshare accounts into the Aira app, it’s never been easier to organize, and keep track of, personal transport.
Access to the Internet
Many Aira Explorers already use our service to manage inaccessible online forms, websites, and Captchas. So, even if a website hasn’t done its due diligence to be accessible, you can still get to the information you need. When a screen reader may not function (for whatever reason), there is then a need for some support. Thanks to our partnership with VFO, all VFO products come with Aira Access – meaning that when using Aira to resolve an issue while using any VFO product, that session is free.
The Generation of New Accessibility
Aira’s goal is to create a network of Smart Cities, where everyone has free access to visual information – anywhere, anytime. We will make this a reality.
Suman says, “Aira will save time for everyone, thus saving money for everyone. Incremental investments today will yield larger positive developments for tomorrow. Potential developments include efficiency, higher education, more jobs, and more fun. Aira is just warming up, and we will not stop until the idea of inaccessibility becomes a thing of the past. Let’s welcome the generation of new accessibility, together.”
If you would like to learn more about how Aira is positively disrupting the Assistive Tech industry, and what we have planned for the future, watch Suman’s keynote at this year’s National Federation of the Blind’s National Convention.
Join the conversation about what New Accessibility means to you by providing your feedback at newaccessibility.io.