By: Dennis Walsh
After 17 years as a visually impaired practitioner, my firm migrated from a text-based operating system to Windows® in the 1990’s. The lack of attention to assistive screen-reader accessibility by software developers during this quickly evolving era, resulted in my temporary inability to perform most of my work independently.
While this unfortunate situation left me behind for a time, it also served as a catalyst to propel me into the most enjoyable and personally rewarding service of my career. My wife and I formed a family foundation, and I have since turned my focus to serving charitable entities with organizational development and financial management training, through pro bono consultations, financial workshops, the operation of an online helpdesk, and writing articles which have appeared in numerous publications including the Journal of Accountancy.
But I certainly didn’t achieve these accomplishments alone. Beyond the continuous support of my dear wife, I want to extend thanks for the wonderful support I’ve received from numerous Association colleagues over the years, and NCACPA’s staff in particular.
The Association has been responsive to meeting my adaptive needs such as obtaining advanced electronic copies of CPE materials, making sure that an electrical connection is available at events, and welcoming my wife to attend seminars and conferences with me for mobility needs.
I would also like to thank Chief Operating Officer, Sharon Bryson, and her staff for accessibility improvements to the Association website that have been implemented in 2014. These include:
- An improved database supporting the CPE catalog with form fields designed to provide better screen reader accessibility
- Attention to text descriptions accompanying webpage graphics necessary for screen reader recognition
- A product checkout function that is fully accessible
- Adding a new webinar viewer to facilitate improved screen reader interaction
As with good accessibility programming in general, most of these changes are not noticeable by a sighted user. But they make all the difference when attempting to access and navigate form fields and controls with assistive technology such as JAWS and Window Eyes. In addition to persons with visual impairments, this type of software is used to access a computer by those with reading and certain motor disabilities as well.
NCACPA is well on its way to being an exemplary leader in making its products and services fully accessible to members and to the public.
In an upcoming post, I’ll share more about IT accessibility and some tips from my experience for improving the accessibility environment for clients and employees with disabilities. Attention to a few key concepts will also strengthen your professional image and help reduce the risk of costly and disruptive disputes.
Through The Micah Project, Dennis Walsh, CPA, serves as a volunteer consultant to religious workers and exempt organizations, focusing on financial management, legal compliance, and organizational development. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, he completed the Duke University certificate program in nonprofit management. Dennis is the author of “Legal & Tax Issues for North Carolina Nonprofits” and has written for various nonprofit publications. He actively volunteers with the Guilford Nonprofit Consortium, the Not-for-Profit Committee of NCACPA, and for the accounting assistance program of the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits. He can be reached at [email protected].