John Robinson | When I started Our Ability, Inc., almost 10 years ago, it was always my intention to create a web portal for people with disabilities to assist one another. This quickly turned into Our Ability Connect, a system where individuals sign in, fill out the form fields and find their talent. Over the past few years, it became obvious to me that we needed to upgrade this technology and do so in a more intelligent manner.
Since the spring of 2019, Our Ability has worked with Syracuse University, BlueGranite, Inc., and Zammo Inc. to create a new profile system called Jobs Ability. We built the software with Microsoft Azure, with an assist from Microsoft’s AI for Good program, establishing an accessible chatbot with voice and text technology. In addition, the portal simultaneously uses matching services to find open positions that fit one’s ability. The job openings come from our corporate partners and are publicly posted at ourability.jobs.
To develop the portal, we partnered with Syracuse University iSchool. We engaged with multiple students and asked them to think about best practices, a proper buildout and the ultimate design. Then, we met with BlueGranite, who took our designs and began to construct the portal. To have the AI-driven online portal was essential. From there, we engaged with Zammo to create the voice integration for Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
Jobs Ability’s individual profile is built by answering a series of questions from our chatbot— ‘Abi’. The questions ‘Abi’ asks pertain to one’s ideal job, education, work history, accommodation needs and, most importantly, his or her capabilities. The capability questions followed months of work around multiple skills asked in both the disability and employment communities.
These skilling questions ultimately become the differentiator in one’s ability to do the job. Our ultimate goal is to create a virtual job coach, constantly asking questions and continuously looking at open positions. Furthermore, we hope to build a career path for those with disabilities pointing toward companies that are inclusive. Whether a person with a disability is sitting in their living room talking with their Amazon Alexa or utilizing their web browser, they can connect with ‘Abi’ and begin to build their career path with Jobs Ability.
In the next few months, Our Ability, Inc., will continue to partner with multiple like-minded disability organizations around the world to get our chatbot, portal and numerous employment opportunities out to as many individuals with disabilities as possible.
My dream for Our Ability was to help individuals with disabilities find employment. I wish we had this 30 years ago when I graduated from Syracuse University and immediately struggled to find my first position. I understand the realities of unemployment for individuals with disabilities. Today, the unemployment rate is still at nearly 70% for individuals with disabilities in the United States alone. With Jobs Ability, we fully believe we can lower the unemployment rate for any individual with a disability, and help them get started on their away to pursuing their desired career path.
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We firmly believe that the internet should be available and accessible to anyone, and are committed to providing a website that is accessible to the widest possible audience, regardless of circumstance and ability.
To fulfill this, we aim to adhere as strictly as possible to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1) at the AA level. These guidelines explain how to make web content accessible to people with a wide array of disabilities. Complying with those guidelines helps us ensure that the website is accessible to all people: blind people, people with motor impairments, visual impairment, cognitive disabilities, and more.
This website utilizes various technologies that are meant to make it as accessible as possible at all times. We utilize an accessibility interface that allows persons with specific disabilities to adjust the website’s UI (user interface) and design it to their personal needs.
Additionally, the website utilizes an AI-based application that runs in the background and optimizes its accessibility level constantly. This application remediates the website’s HTML, adapts Its functionality and behavior for screen-readers used by the blind users, and for keyboard functions used by individuals with motor impairments.
If you’ve found a malfunction or have ideas for improvement, we’ll be happy to hear from you. You can reach out to the website’s operators by using the following email
Our website implements the ARIA attributes (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) technique, alongside various different behavioral changes, to ensure blind users visiting with screen-readers are able to read, comprehend, and enjoy the website’s functions. As soon as a user with a screen-reader enters your site, they immediately receive a prompt to enter the Screen-Reader Profile so they can browse and operate your site effectively. Here’s how our website covers some of the most important screen-reader requirements, alongside console screenshots of code examples:
Screen-reader optimization: we run a background process that learns the website’s components from top to bottom, to ensure ongoing compliance even when updating the website. In this process, we provide screen-readers with meaningful data using the ARIA set of attributes. For example, we provide accurate form labels; descriptions for actionable icons (social media icons, search icons, cart icons, etc.); validation guidance for form inputs; element roles such as buttons, menus, modal dialogues (popups), and others. Additionally, the background process scans all of the website’s images and provides an accurate and meaningful image-object-recognition-based description as an ALT (alternate text) tag for images that are not described. It will also extract texts that are embedded within the image, using an OCR (optical character recognition) technology. To turn on screen-reader adjustments at any time, users need only to press the Alt+1 keyboard combination. Screen-reader users also get automatic announcements to turn the Screen-reader mode on as soon as they enter the website.
These adjustments are compatible with all popular screen readers, including JAWS and NVDA.
Users can also use shortcuts such as “M” (menus), “H” (headings), “F” (forms), “B” (buttons), and “G” (graphics) to jump to specific elements.
We aim to support the widest array of browsers and assistive technologies as possible, so our users can choose the best fitting tools for them, with as few limitations as possible. Therefore, we have worked very hard to be able to support all major systems that comprise over 95% of the user market share including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Opera and Microsoft Edge, JAWS and NVDA (screen readers), both for Windows and for MAC users.
Despite our very best efforts to allow anybody to adjust the website to their needs, there may still be pages or sections that are not fully accessible, are in the process of becoming accessible, or are lacking an adequate technological solution to make them accessible. Still, we are continually improving our accessibility, adding, updating and improving its options and features, and developing and adopting new technologies. All this is meant to reach the optimal level of accessibility, following technological advancements. For any assistance, please reach out to