Hello, I am Alan Sleat, I’m a Screen Reader Assessor at Shaw Trust Accessibility Services. When I lost my sight in 1999, work was the last thing on my mind. I had previously had a career in the equine industry, and people said that I could not work with horses again. Just a note here as this is not strictly true. In the summer of 2000, I won the RDA championship in dressage where I was back riding as normal along with winning able-bodied competitors. Anyway, back to getting a job.
So all I was thinking about was making a cup of tea and perhaps a slice of toast myself, whereas the first time I met my social worker they suggested going to college to learn how to touch type. I was not happy with that advice, although looking back, it was the best advice I have ever had.
Meeting the Team at Shaw Trust Accessibility Services
Jumping forward 11 years I got married and had moved to Wales. I had no idea where I was in relation to getting around, as I did when I was back home, which helped when I lost my sight. After 6 months in my new home, I was introduced to the work of Shaw Trust. While being shown around the Disability Action Centre, I was introduced to the Accessibility Services team. The work they were doing in assessing websites for accessibility interested me.
It was only a few days after my visit I discovered there was a vacancy for a Screen Reader Assessor. However, the closing date was the next day. I quickly put my application in and went for my first interview as a blind person, but I got the job.
How We’re Influencing and Improving Web Accessibility
Ten years on, I can’t believe the difference in how people are now focusing on making websites accessible for all. I know that I am helping people in a similar situation to me with little or no sight. On the reverse, I am still amazed at how many sites are still not accessible to all.
Since I started at Accessibility Services, the team has grown. We have new team members that use different types of assistive technologies as well as those with knowledge about different website accessibility issues.
It is not just about earning money for me, it is about having a sense of purpose, being part of a team and learning so much more than I thought I could.
With every website assessed, and every client who makes changes to enable their sites to become more accessible, I realise that many more people can now use the internet to their advantage, and not feel excluded.
Are you Looking for a Career in Digital Accessibility?
If helping to improve website accessibility sounds interesting and you are seeking a purpose and a career, please contact us. We are always looking to expand the team so we can assess more websites. We also have a number of volunteer positions available. You can send an enquiry using our form. Or view our job portal on the government website.