Leading an important shift to accessible tech

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Theresa Montano standing with her guide dog

The state is undergoing an important shift to include accessibility in all IT projects so that our services are accessible to Coloradans. Theresa Montano, Accessibility Solutions Architect, has spent four years at OIT educating teams and engaging agencies about IT accessibility. Given that new legislation makes it a state civil rights violation for a government agency to exclude people with disabilities from receiving services, she’s been busy helping agency teams navigate this new terrain.

As we engage with accessibility in our work, it can be easy to only think about compliance and forget about the people who are most affected. As Theresa pointed out, “The unemployment rate for blind people is around 77% and our efforts here at the state will improve that statistic. Theresa also shared a piece of her story with us during National Disability Awareness Month in October to highlight why accessibility is so important:

I have been blind for 35 years due to glaucoma and iritis, an autoimmune disease, and have been very fortunate on my journey to have support from family and friends to pursue my goals. I was the first blind person to pass the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam, but they would not allow me to use a screen reader, so they assigned a reader. It took seven hours to take the exam because the questions are very visual with flow charts, PERT charts and Gantt charts. My professors brainstormed methods to take the exam, and we figured out that working the resources and answers backward made the most sense. I was allowed to take my 1950 Perkins Brailler to take notes, so I would ask the reader to repeat and repeat until I could work my way back to an answer and then cross my fingers that my answer matched one of the choices!

I point this out to encourage you to think differently about blind people. I challenge you to lift whatever blinders you have on and educate and empower yourself to employ and interact with blind people just as you would with your sighted co-workers and friends. In this way, you will change the way you see and the way you live.

State agencies are accountable for integrating accessibility into their technology, processes and culture, and the OIT Technical Accessibility Program team is here to help. They will be reaching out to key stakeholders at each agency, but if you have questions in the meantime, please contact OIT_Accessibility@state.co.us.