Today, we’re excited to introduce you to Veronica, a college student with low vision who uses accessibility capabilities in Microsoft Office 365 and Windows 10 to excel academically. Veronica is the third of six individuals featured in our Inclusion in Action series announced last month, highlighting how accessible technologies enable transformative change.
Here’s her story.
When you meet Veronica Lewis, it does not take long to figure out that this 21-year-old junior at George Mason University is going places. She plays clarinet in the school band, maintains high grades as an IT major and runs a blog called Veroniiiica – Veronica With Four Eyes that has captured the attention of some of our nation’s most powerful leaders.
When she was younger, Veronica’s mother often said she was “blazing a trail for other students in the future.” Little did Veronica know how true that would be.
Veronica has low vision, which she describes in simple terms: “I can’t see things smaller than size 22-point font, more than 15 feet away or more than about six inches on either side of me.”
When Veronica was younger, her school district did not have many resources for providing accessible materials.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m the dumbest kid in the room because I will look down at a paper and not be able to figure out what is on there at all.”
She and her family soon learned to advocate for her best interests, and during her junior year of high school, they transferred to a district with more resources. Her new school had a program allowing students to earn Microsoft Office Specialist Certifications, which Veronica eagerly embraced.
“I was able to receive my Word, Word Expert, Excel, Excel Expert, and PowerPoint certifications to become a Microsoft Office Master Specialist.”
Veronica mastered the use of Microsoft’s built-in accessibility tools and her grades skyrocketed. In 2015, she graduated from high school with a 3.8 grade point average. She’s continued this academic excellence in college and technology continues to play an important role in her life.
Veronica notes, “Technology just doesn’t make things easier for people with disabilities. It makes things possible.”
The ‘things’ she mentions include everything from homework to band practice to her blog. She makes her classwork accessible using Word. During class, she takes notes in OneNote. If she needs to read a blackboard or whiteboard, she can take a photograph of it. Together, Optical Character Recognition in Office Lens and OneNote enables her to search for text within the picture. To learn and practice her latest music assignments for band, she uses technology to enlarge her sheet music view to 225 percent.
One of her favorite features is Word’s built-in accessibility checker, which allows users to determine if a document is accessible and offers tips on how to improve accessibility.
“I’ve introduced that function to a lot of my professors when creating accessible materials, and showing them that it takes less than a minute to make a document accessible. Why wouldn’t you do it?”
Another tool that Veronica found especially empowering is Sway. It has an accessibility view, which is compatible with screen readers, and easily lets you add alt-text for people with low vision.
“Every presentation that I’ve created with Sway has gotten 100 percent. A lot of my professors are just amazed because they didn’t know this existed, and it’s so easy to use.”
Veronica also uses Sway for her blog. She says she created the blog as a resource for students, parents, teachers and professionals to show how easy it is to accommodate for low vision.
“I’ve been able to contribute to websites like Perkins School for the Blind’s Paths to Technology, and The Mighty, and it’s been amazing just to see how many people are relating to what I write about.”
As her audience has grown, so has the focus of her blog. She now addresses disability and accessibility issues, and uses the blog as a platform to advocate for disability rights.
“I was able to start my blog and really reach out to people all around the world and teach them all about low vision. I’ve also been able to talk to many U.S. Senators and members of Congress about issues related to healthcare and disability.”
Veronica plans to continue to leverage her studies in IT and Assistive Technology to spread her message.
“To any other students who are in the same position as me, just remember you’re not the only one who went through these experiences. You belong.”
Visit aka.ms/InclusionInAction to discover more stories of people pushing the boundaries of productivity and inclusion with Microsoft technologies.