PEAT recently spoke with Keith Bundy, a digital accessibility consultant and trainer at Siteimprove, about how the landscape of assistive and accessible technology in the workplace has changed over the past 30 years, what he expects for the future of work.
Keith Bundy is a digital accessibility consultant and trainer at Siteimprove, a software company that aims to simplify website management and make the web more inclusive in the process. Keith has a long history of employment and also happens to be blind. In his lifetime, he’s seen, and benefited from, the significant strides made in accessible and assistive technology development. He speaks regularly on the attitudes, challenges, and successes in his career and what drove his decision to work and advocate for his own skillset as a person with a disability.
PEAT recently spoke with Keith about how the landscape of assistive and accessible technology in the workplace has changed over the past 30 years, along with what he expects for the future of work.
PEAT: Tell us about the career path that led you to Siteimprove.
As an accessibility consultant and trainer for Siteimprove, I help our customers and staff to streamline the creation and management of reliable, accessible websites. That includes website monitoring in areas such as quality assurance, accessibility, and SEO. I also provide consulting and training as necessary. Our mission is to make the internet a better place, and it’s exciting to be part of that process.
Over the course of my career, I’ve held a variety of positions, from vocational rehabilitation counselor to assistant dean for student development and ADA coordinator on a university campus. I have been consecutively employed for 37 years, but it’s worth noting that I pursued a master’s degree primarily because I was unable to find a job with a bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, employers seemed more focused on my disability than on any abilities I might have. I heard a lot of responses along the lines of, “We don’t have anything that a blind person can do.”
PEAT: How have you worked with your employer to get the tools you’ve needed to succeed?
It’s great to be part of a company committed to ensuring that I have the tools I need to be productive. When I joined Siteimprove, they cautioned me from the beginning that some things would not be accessible, but that they would work toward accessibility with me. On the first day I was surprised and pleased to find that my screen reader was already set up and ready to go. Open communication is key, and they have worked with me to meet any challenges I have encountered.
PEAT: What changes in accessible technology have you experienced throughout your career?
Most barriers I have encountered in the past have been due to my inability to read regular print.
When I began my career back in 1981, I usually relied on my secretary or my wife to read printed material to me. I had an Optacon, which was a device used to help blind people read print. This device was very slow, with a maximum reading speed of 100 words per minute, but it was a great advancement for its time. I also used an electric typewriter and a Dictaphone.
Assistive and accessible technology has advanced wonderfully since 1981. Now I can read printed material by simply scanning it with my phone using an OCR app called KNFB Reader that instantly converts text to speech or Braille. At my workstation I have a computer set up with a screen reader and Braille display, and I also use an iPhone that includes a lot of built-in accessibility features. These technologies enable me to do work at an equal pace with my coworkers without requiring sighted assistance.
One new and revolutionary assistive technology that I’ve started recently using is Aira. Users wear smart glasses and a livestreaming phone connection to receive sighted assistance anytime we need it, and this has been transformative. Aira makes it possible for me to navigate airports without assistance, read printed and handwritten material that I cannot scan, and resolve computer issues when my screen reader is not functioning properly.
PEAT: In your view, what does the future hold for accessible technology in the workplace?
I see accessibility improving as a whole. While there are still sites that are far from being accessible and usable for those of us who have disabilities, concern for accessibility has increased over time. More and more companies, organizations, and institutions are striving for improved accessibility and usability of their sites. We at Siteimprove believe that as we continue to foster an environment that welcomes diversity in the workplace, more companies that produce mainstream technology will see the need to, and benefits of, marketing their products to a diverse workforce.
As people with disabilities face new and different challenges, assistive technologies will also continue to expand their capabilities. So, I believe that as more and more people with disabilities enter the workforce, assistive technology companies will continue to innovate in order to meet the needs of their customers. As a result, the use of assistive technology will become more widespread in the workplace.
PEAT: What’s one accessibility best practice or takeaway you would like to share with readers?
From a technical standpoint, I believe that proper semantic markup is the accessibility takeaway I would like to communicate. Ensuring that a web page is written with proper semantic code benefits people using assistive technologies by eliminating many accessibility barriers.
But in general, the key to improved accessibility is communication. I would like to challenge leadership in companies and organizations to meet people with disabilities and get to know them personally. Look at the person’s abilities rather than the disability when hiring, and keep the lines of communication open with employees.
Siteimprove is continually working to make all of its technology completely accessible, and they have also asked me to communicate accessibility challenges I find, which I think helps both me and their bottom-line. Knowing the needs of people is the best way to build a strong and diverse workforce, and also to increase the accessibility and usability of websites.