He slowly lost 85% of his vision. Now an Indy father of 2 is spreading message of digital inclusion

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Global Accessibility Awareness Day lands on the third Thursday in May every year.

But with more people staying home and on their screens during the pandemic, this year is even more of an opportunity to understand how difficult it can be for people with disabilities to use technology like cell phones and laptops.

“I stay home a lot because I don’t drive and I don’t take public transportation. I don’t just run to the grocery store or down to McDonald’s, so people being home a lot now at least it lets them know, ‘oh that’s how that feels,’” said Derek Daniel, who suffers from vision loss.

Daniel began to lose his sight at 18-years-old due to a rare genetic condition that left him about 85% blind.

Daniel calls himself an eternal optimist and despite life becoming more challenging, this father of two turned to technology and became an advocate for others needing assistive technology.

“Accessibility has gotten a lot easier over the years because it’s now built into systems. I used to have all this third party equipment and now my house looks like the house of a non-visually impaired person,” added Daniel.

Daniel uses the services of Easterseals Crossroads, which is an Indianapolis organization that promotes independence for people with disabilities.

Brian Norton is the director of assistive technology for the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads.

“The INDATA Project is the state’s federally funded act used to increase awareness of assistive technology and what it is,” said Norton.

Norton and Daniel both say they hope the pandemic teaches customers and providers, such as store owners, to think a little differently.

“They need to figure out how to provide things online and in doing so, they’ve got to make sure their technology, whatever they’re doing, is accessible and can be done and read with a screen reader or that a person can read and navigate the menu,” said Norton.

Daniel encourages everyone to try using assistive technology for just an hour out of the day.

“I think it can teach people to be more empathetic and patient,” said Daniel.

Some options to explore assistive tech are to go mouseless, enlarge your fonts, use the internet with a screen reader or try different accessibility features on your favorite app.