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After Chronicle Report, a Tech Company Improves Accessibility for Blind Users

A company that sells a social-networking application to colleges is improving the accessibility of its product after problems with the software were spotlighted in a Chronicle report on flawed technology that locks out blind users.

The December article described how Darrell Shandrow, a blind journalism student at Arizona State University, could not use virtual student-union software that ASU bought from the company Inigral because of problems navigating the Facebook-based application with his keyboard. The issue was one example of the many technology flaws that are increasingly locking blind students out of digital services in higher education.

But Inigral has now fixed the keyboard problem that blocked Mr. Shandrow, company officials said. And the company has also made other improvements to the software, such as updating images so they have text labels that can be read by the assistive software that blind people depend on to navigate the Web. Joseph Sofaer, Inigral’s co-founder and one of its lead developers, published a blog post this week detailing what he has learned researching accessibility.

“We met with the ASU Disability Resource Center, which was quite fun and helpful,” Mr. Sofaer said in an e-mail to The Chronicle. “I had never watched a blind person navigate the Web before, and I felt like I learned a lot. They went through our app in the meeting and gave us some advice … I’m going to keep working on improving the existing site, and we’ll also make sure to bring these lessons to the next version of the product that should be coming out in March. As always, I hope to hear from any students about usability issues they have.”

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