Inside Outside-IN: a free program tailored to the needs of individuals with invisible and episodic disabilities

By Jessica Geboers

The Outside-IN project was a 1-year initiative designed to support youths, aged 15-29, who self-identify as having an invisible or episodic disability, develop skills that are currently in demand in the workplace. Participants had access to free, moderated online courses and mentorships where they had opportunities to learn about creating accessible word documents, PDFs, closed captioning, and conducting website audits. The Outside-IN courses still run online unmoderated, learn more here:

How did you come to join the Outside-IN project?

I was one of the first people to join the Outside-IN project after a mutual friend of Sam Welsh, the creator of Outside-IN, and I posted a link on Facebook, recruiting interested members of the disabled community. Although the modules were not yet available, I was intrigued by the project and keen to check it out ASAP because, not only was I a young adult with moderate Cerebral Palsy who felt accessibility was essential, but I was also a recent graduate of the Ryerson School of Journalism looking for work. Who better to help make media accessible?

Prior to participating in the project, what was your understanding of technology-related accessibility?

Prior to Outside-IN, I was quite familiar with technology-related accessibility, as I, and several people I know in the disabled community, rely on it to help bridge the inaccessible gaps in my everyday life.

I’ve used Word Q and Dragon from a relatively young age, to help compensate for struggles caused by both my learning and physical disabilities – essentially to help me get my ideas to paper a little faster than my brain and body will allow at times.

In recent years though, I’ve grown more reliant on the accessibility features available on my MacBook Air (chosen predominantly for it reasonable size and lightweight), iPhone and iPad (because it is even lighter than my MacBook Air). On my laptop, I can turn the screen reader on and off as necessary, because, while I don’t need it for every little bit of text, I often understand more complicated text when I hear it out loud. Although it is not officially an accessibility feature, I also rely on the integration of all my devices with iCloud. I can write something on my iPhone or iPad while I’m out and it’ll be on my laptop when I get home, ready for me to continue. This, as well as apps such as Files, iBook, iCalendar, and AirDrop, make it possible for me to carry my computer in my pocket, rather than having to always lug my laptop around in a backpack everywhere I go.

Accessible technology is important to my life in several ways. I’m not sure I could be a journalist without it.

How did learning about making documents and web pages accessible help shape your outlook or career plans?

Learning about how to make documents and web pages accessible helped me to realize just how achievable it is for organizations to create accessible content. It made me hope that all that was holding some back from doing so was a lack of awareness.

How have you applied the skills you learned from the workshop?

It got me thinking that not only could this be something that I worked into my career goals, but I could also lead by example by doing my best to ensure that any content I create or am involved in creating is as accessible as possible. I particularly enjoyed and benefited in this respect from the Video Captioning course.

How did Outside-IN help you to better understand your own access needs and preferences?

Outside-In helped me to better understand my own access needs and preferences by making me more directly aware of what accessible technologies were available and how to use them in my work, as well as my daily life in general. As I stated above, I’ve been using such technologies for a long time. But in rediscovering how some of these technologies can be helpful to me, even if it was not intended for my type of disability, I realized just how beneficial accessibility, such as video captioning, can be useful to many everyone, regardless of disability. Therefore, the benefits of creating accessible web pages and documents are endless.

Can you share any insights you got from the workshops?

One of the big insights was a clearer understanding of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. While I felt it important that all web content be accessible, I assumed it was complicated to achieve and found the idea of taking it into my own hands to be quite overwhelming. But through the Web Accessibility course, I quickly learned it wasn’t so difficult.

For me, this is the main message of the Outside-IN program – accessibility is important, achievable and, universally beneficial. In addition to the course content, the program hits this point home by ensuring the courses are free and accessible online anywhere, anytime. There is really no reason for young job seekers with disabilities and business owners alike to investigate and learn from this valuable resource.

The program has grown since I completed the Video Captioning. I now look forward to learning more about Appreciative Inquiry, 3D Printing, and Laser Cutting. I would love to see Outside-IN continue to grow with ever-changing technology and the advancements that brings to accessibility.

Outside-IN website:

Web Accessibility:

Redefining Disability, Inclusion, and Access:

May 2018