Laura Legendary, the founder and owner of of Eloquent Insights, is our featured entrepreneur and guest author this week. She gives us a look into her life and accessibility issues on the web.

You spend your days as maestro of carefully controlled chaos. Conducting conference calls, contacting clients, closing contracts. You email, tweet, blog, post profiles, and tap out text messages. eloquent-insightsYou rehearse your elevator pitch, tune up your marketing plan and attend industry conferences. For relaxation, you consume every classic business book and must-read relevant weblog just to keep current.

Now, do it all with your eyes closed.

What makes me an unlikely entrepreneur is that I am a business owner who is blind. My success as an entrepreneur with a disability has less to do with how I feel about it, and more to do with how well I manage it.

One of the ways I've learned to manage the demands of my work day is to become meticulously well-organized. Another is to rely on the ingenious assistive technologies that enable me to accomplish daily tasks.

Genuine accessibility, whether it is attained through the use of technology or realized by way of excellent customer service, is what makes the difference between achievement and aggravation.

Assistive Technology

You may not have ever heard the term 'assistive technology' before.

Wikipedia defines assistive technology (AT) as 'A generic term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them.'

Assistive technology makes what I do over the course of a work day possible. I use many of the same tools that you use -- computer, cell phone, digital voice recorder -- but my tools talk to me.

Without a doubt, the single most important AT product I use is a screen reader. Simply put, a screen reader is a software program that speaks aloud everything that happens on the computer screen that a sighted person would see. Menus, documents, dialogue boxes, error messages, tool tips, email, icons and web site content is all read aloud by the software.

Additionally, all navigation and features of a web site or software program can be accomplished by using keyboard commands. People who are blind generally do not use a mouse. If the web designer or software programmer have done their job well, I have access to every feature and function available to a sighted PC user.

A Good Example is

The critical functionality of the web site is screen reader accessible. I am able to easily move around on the web site, checking out the videos, registering for service, choosing my service package. Best of all, it is great customer service that makes for a truly barrier-free experience.

In my view, accessibility means more than high tech gadgets, wheelchair ramps and Braille dots. It is as much about attitude as it is about architecture. After all, what difference does it make to have access to an establishment if we are ignored once we’re there? We may as well conduct our business shouting from the sidewalk.

True accessibility is more than a mandate, it’s a mind set.

So, while you are vigorously conducting your own concerto of chaos, think of ways to add some sweet notes of accessibility to your enterprise. While there are plenty of experts to help you achieve the web usability compliance standards as set forth by the W3C, you can also improve upon customer service standards to allow for new ways to make accommodations for customers with disabilities. This will not only increase customer loyalty, it can also enhance your brand by imparting the rich overtones of trust and goodwill.

That's why Grasshopper has in me a customer for life!


Laura Legendary is a speaker, author and educator specializing in disability awareness, advocacy, accessibility and assistive technology.. She is the owner of Legendary Insights, which consists of several sites devoted to different aspects of disability and in-home health care. Contact Laura at Eloquent Insights, In-Home Insights or Accessible Insights. She is also on Twitter @Insightsempire.