Web Accessibility Training Leads to a Guide Dog
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Published on March 23, 2017
In recognition of National Puppy Day, we're happy to share how our teaching web accessibility courses led to a guide dog puppy that you'll find in our Boston area offices. While we've been teaching UX (user experience) design, and HTML classes for more than a decade, the type of teaching we do with our puppy is unique and rewarding. As an organization, we are known for helping governmental agencies and businesses comply with accessibility regulations, whether by evaluating existing websites and content, or helping individuals to learn web accessibility through our courses and workshops. Although thousands of individuals and organizations are familiar with our educational offerings, many clients find a type of volunteer teaching that we conduct in the area of accessibility to more interesting than any classes we teach. This interest likely relates to the “students” of the other training programs we conduct. These students come from New York and spend a full year in Boston with us, learning to help a future companion with accessibility in a very different way, and you may encounter our guide dog puppy if you attend a course or workshop at American Graphics Institute.
Our work in the field of web accessibility led us to become involved in the raising and training of guide dogs for visually impaired individuals. If you attend a web accessibility course or UX workshop at American Graphics Institute, it is common to find a future seeing-eye dog in the classroom with you, or at the feet of an administrator at the school. While we work to help make websites and apps accessible to all, our efforts with raising a guide dog help to make the world at large more accessible to the visually impaired. The Guide Dog Foundation provides these service animals to the visually impaired at no cost to those who need them. Recipients of a guide dog also receive several weeks of training and a trip to and from their suburban New York City headquarters, also without any cost. Our efforts help us to better understand the needs of visually impaired individuals, and also provide visually impaired individuals with a trusted helper that can assist with the navigation of sidewalks, buildings, events, stores and anyplace in the outside world they may wish to visit.
While our future guide dogs tend to sleep through discussions of HTML and CSS or exercises in improving UX design and web accessibility, they are learning important traits. They become socialized to office meetings, classrooms, new people, elevators, and many things that they will eventually experience when they become the eyes for an individual who needs their assistance. A future guide dog is a great addition to the office, and a wonderful way to help others.
About the author
Jennifer Smith is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.
Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.