Three Huntington organizations working to make technology more accessible for the visually impaired

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HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – Big changes are in the works for a Huntington based app.

Three forces in Huntington are working to make technology more accessible for the visually impaired.

Aaron Preece has a big passion!

“I’m a history guy,” said Preece with American Foundation for the Blind.

You’ll often find him walking around Huntington with his guide-dog, Dunsmuir, checking out the historical landmarks across the city of Huntington using a history app called “Clio.”

“History resonates because of the power of stories, because of the power of narrative and narrative is not limited to just one platform,” David Trowbridge, Clio founder, said.

Clio connects thousands of people to historic and cultural sites around the United States.
But it all started right here in Huntington.

Marshall University Associate Professor David Trowbridge created the app as part of a class project back in 2013.

Since then, it’s grown to include more than 30,000 entries and more than 600 walking tours across the country.

“I really started thinking about how ‘Clio’ might be more accessible and how we might use the technology of our time to reach people where they stand,” Trowbridge said.

Now, thanks to a nearly $100,000 grant, Trowbridge and Clio will be able to do just that.

The money, from the National Endowment for the Humanities, will be used to make the app more accessible by the visually impaired. The project will be part of a collaboration with the “American Foundation for the Blind”.

“Disability, if you want to call it that, is part of diversity and to have this opportunity to have Clio be accessible to those that are visually impaired and for them to be able to independently access information is fantastic and really it is a life-changing experience,” Lee Huffman, with the American Foundation for the Blind, said.

And Aaron is directly involved in improving the app to help those who are visually impaired – like him! Providing feedback and information for those at “strictly business”, the Huntington-based software company, responsible for the tech side of things.

“As we design software its important that we will be able to incorporate the empathy and the understanding and the recognition that we ought to be looking beyond what is right in front of us,” President Mike Owens, of Strictly Business.

The three parties – Marshall, the American Foundation for the Blind and Strictly Business – will review each aspect of the app for accessibility. Adding things like voice narrations and memos.

But more importantly, Aaron said, making the app more accessible creates a better sense of community for all.

“It goes beyond accessing the app,” Preece said. “By making Clio more accessible, you give blind people the access to contribute to the community in that way, in addition to just providing the information to them.”

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