Photo by Travis Isaacs / CC BY-SA

A good friend is a is a 508 accessibility specialist and advocate. Business people unfamiliar with 508 accessibility  miss an opportunity to connect with prospects who are often overlooked. “Section 508, an amendment to the United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is a federal law mandating that all electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities.”– Accessibility initiatives shouldn’t be limited to federal government mandates; it should be available for everyone. Because when it isn’t everyone loses. So, can you hear that sign?

A Matter of Connecting 

My friend wants to create a 508 conference in Indianapolis because there’s nothing like it in the Midwest. There are 22 million potential clients in the USA who don’t have full accessibility to digital–web, mobile, PDF’s you name it. That’s 22 million potential customers and 285 million in the world! It’s not only the right thing to do–it’s good business. He wants to bring users to distributors. His goal is an Indy 508 event. I know I’d attend, wouldn’t you?

Blind to the Sign

The next time you’re in a mall close your eyes. Now imagine how difficult it would be to navigate without signage. We see kiosks with retailer’s location, maps showing “You Are Here”, and sales promoted on window clings. You’ve experienced a glimpse of what a sight impaired or language challenged person encounters every minute of every day. And that’s just the mall. So, can you fathom the challenge traveling without signs would be?

There’s an Answer 

It’s called RIAS (Remote Infrared Audible Signage). So, here’s how it works. “The RIAS system consists of permanently installed transmitters that emit signals by directional infrared light beams and handheld receivers that decode the signals into an audio message. By scanning the environment with the receiver, the user receives audible messages that label key features or provide directional information.”  FTA (Federal Transportation Administration)

It works because the messages work without interfering with other forms of communication. “…messages are structured and distinct, delivered in a natural spoken language, give landmark names and spatial direction information, and do not produce unwanted noise pollution. These auditory labels can substitute for visual cues unavailable to the blind traveler and should increase the ease of travel and the acquisition and accuracy of spatial knowledge.” —USCB.ed

Dr. William F. Crandell Jr., Ph.D. had this to say. “Remote infrared audible signs, or RIAS, allow people who are print disabled to directly know not only what, but where. Because just as non-disabled people visually scan the environment to acquire label and direction information, remote infrared signs directly orient disabled people to the labeled goal and constantly update them as to their progress to that goal. That is, unlike Braille, raised letters, or voice signs which passively label some location or give instructions to some goal…”

Can You Hear that Sign?

The sight and language impaired may makeup only a small part of the challenged spectrum, but it’s a segment where state of the art signage can make a difference. Because talking signs, developed at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, can help the sight impaired, find their way. So, if you’d like to learn more about 508 Accessibility go to