A woman from Kitchener-Waterloo is leading the way when it comes to making the internet more accessible for people living with disabilities.
Samantha Estoesta is a project manager of social innovation specialization at TD, working out of Communitech in Kitchener.
Estoesta suffers from chronic migraines and describes them as debilitating. It’s not uncommon for her to have to take medication just to make it through the workday.
“There’s some days where I would need a sick day because it was just too painful,” Estoesta said.
She spends much of her time at work in front of a screen, and certain websites act as a significant barrier between her symptoms and some relief.
“Over 90 per cent of the internet is traditionally inaccessible,” she said.
She wanted to change that.
“Is there something we can do so that you have a seamless experience that really allows you to customize your own digital preferences and accessibility needs?” Estoesta asked herself.
The answer is yes. Estoesta and her team originally created the TD Accessibility Adapter
for their colleagues with disabilities. But after seeing a widespread need, they’ve now made it available to anyone in Canada or the U.S. for free.
It allows users to personalize every webpage they visit and automatically make them accessible for disabilities like ADHD, dyslexia and epilepsy. Once the settings are saved, it works on any website as long as you’re using the Chrome browser.
It allows users to personalize every webpage they visit and automatically make them accessible for disabilities like ADHD, dyslexia and epilepsy. (CTV News/Spencer Turcotte)For example, an ADHD mode blacks out everything on the screen except the single sentence being read to help with concentration.
The dyslexia mode replaces all the font online with one that spaces out every letter and makes them more identifiable.
Low-saturation colours can also be used as a way to eliminate seizure triggers.
Estoesta uses lower light settings on her screen to help significantly minimize the symptoms of her migraines.
“I haven’t taken a sick day yet for headaches since I started using them in March,” she said.
An added benefit of the web extension is it doesn’t require manager’s approval to install. It gives employees more power in deciding whether they wish to disclose their disability.
“We’re trying to change the day one accommodations conversations,” Estoesta said.