Guest Blog – Making the Internet a more inclusive place with accessiBe by Sheldon Lewis.

Sheldon Lewis sitting in front of a computer screen wearing a light blue business shirt smiling at the camera

DIG is delighted to share a guest blog from Sheldon Lewis, Nonprofit Partnership Manager at accessiBe. Sheldon helped us install an accessibility tool to make DIG’s website even more accessible.

We love our partnership with accessiBe and are proud to have their AI widget installed on our website. If you click the blue circle icon in the bottom left corner of our website, you can explore all the accessibility features it offers – making DIG’s website easy for everyone to use and enjoy.

A huge thank you to Sheldon and accessiBe for providing this software for free to DIG, and to other disability focused non-profits exemplifying accessiBe’s collaboration and support of disabled communities. If you’re a business owner and/or would like to enhance accessibility for a website you work with, we encourage you to take a look at their amazing products, helping to make the internet a more inclusive place for everyone.

Sheldon’s story

My name is Sheldon Lewis. At 9 years old I was told I was slowly going blind, but I never let that stop me. During my career I owned a business and I have a strong background in business and relationship building. Ultimately in 2018, I had to close my business for many reasons, of which going blind was one.

I was hopeful and looking for a way to keep working, while also giving back to the community. When I found accessiBe’s website, it worked well with my screen reader, the assistive technology I use for my computer, so I called their team to learn more.

Today I am a Nonprofit Partnership Manager for the company and build relationships with the disability community to advance access and inclusion on the internet.

The impact for the disabled community

Our mission at accessiBe is to make the internet accessible for everyone. Websites are created every day, but the knowledge and skill level about web accessibility is really low in comparison.

The reality is that only 3% of websites are accessible to disabled people. accessiBe has products and solutions to help any business or developer make their website and resources accessible, so that everyone can use them.

This is important for the disability community because it helps fill that gap in a scalable way. For example, accessWidget which is our AI powered tool helps the user adjust the website to their unique preferences and then they can navigate the website with confidence and independence.

As I lost my vision, I had to learn a lot of new skills like how to use my computer with a screen reader, which reads out loud what is on the screen. This technology made my life easier, but not all websites are built with accessibility in mind and my screen reader cannot read specific fields or describe images.

It’s frustrating to not understand what is happening on my screen, because it means I cannot find what I am looking for or want to learn about. This is the reality for many people with disabilities who experience a variety of difficulties with websites that were not built with accessibility in mind.

Why we need to promote inclusion

Inclusion feels good for everyone, and exclusion doesn’t work – it keeps people away from doing what they might want to be doing or contributing to their families or society. Being inclusive can be so easy, like helping a person into a store or to find something in the store, and an accessible website is like the online version of that. If we can be more sensitive to people’s needs, even if they do not have a disability or a visible disability, it just makes everyone feel included.