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The Invisible Work of Accessibility: How Blind Employees Manage Accessibility in Mixed-Ability Workplaces

Stacy Branham and Shaun Kane

The 17th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS 2015)
Lisbon, Portugal, October 26-28, 2015


Over the past century, people who are blind and their allies have developed successful public policies and technologies in support of creating more accessible workplaces. However, simply creating accessible technologies does not guarantee that these will be available or adopted. Because much work occurs within shared workspaces, decisions about assistive technology use may be mediated by social interactions with, and expectations of, sighted coworkers. We present findings from a qualitative field study of five workplaces from the perspective of blind employees. Although all participants were effective employees, they expressed that working in a predominantly sighted office environment can produce impediments to a blind person’s independence and integration as an equal coworker. We describe strategies employed by our participants to create and maintain an accessible workplace and present suggestions for future technology that better supports blind workers as equal peers in the workplace.

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