Work Experience

Work Experience

This page showcases my work experience.


Braille It 4U: Opened Fall 2011, closed in 2015.

Braille it 4u was a local company I created because I want to help break down the barriers that exist for the legally blind or visually impaired. The purpose of Braille it 4u is to help businesses understand the importance of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and their role in compliance to make the world a better place. Something as simple as a Braille, accessible digital, or large print menu can make a big difference to someone who is visually impaired. It is an easy fix, and a win-win for everyone.

The story started at my grandpa’s funeral, when my Aunt and I were trying to figure out the best way to get braille equivalents of the obituary and other documents. We realized that although companies existed to produce braille, it still wasn’t readily available, and was quite expensive. We decided to create a local company to help encourage local businesses to provide braille for various products. We talked with local restaurants, and made menus for a restaurant, and a local pharmacy. One of the products that set us apart from other businesses in the braille space was an accessible digital menu service. While I was not as adept at technology then as I am now, I realized that a braille and large print menu or flyer only reached a small amount of the blind community. With helping small companies, and especially restaurants, I could make menus and other documents accessible; I could help improve the world for many blind and visually impaired people. While I closed the business in 2015, the business taught me a lot about how to run a business, and methods for pitching a product to other businesses. My aunt and I closed Braille It 4u because I didn’t have time to actively promote it during college.


Benetech: Summer 2016:

In the summer of 2016, I worked with Benetech on the diagrammer project, and helped them port code from web reader to Readium (An open source ebook reader). I mainly prototyped extensions to the Diagrammer project, adding things such as a settings page, buttons that could be toggled to show different descriptions, and other similar things. In doing this, I learned how to quickly work in javascript, and how to quickly design and implement a prototype of something. I also learned a great deal about how the corporate computer science world operates, and got a chance to talk and work with engineers every day. I was able to iterate on designs and learn about unexpected use cases of my work, give technical advice to management on problems to watch out for in the future, and work with issue tracking software used in industry. I also got some experience rapidly scripting an issue tracker so it would work better with my screen reader, and make working with it more efficient.

Another project I worked on was bringing open dyslexic font to Readium. The Readium ebook software is an ebook reading engine and viewer used by many ebook readers to render the book. It is designed to be used in applications as broad as android apps, IOS apps, websites, and desktop reading applications. The readium project has three components which I directly worked with. The lowest layer is the readium-shared-js component, which I added the ability to inject a custom font into an arbitrary book. This component is used by IOS, android, and web/chrome apps to render books. It renders them in an iframe, and does all of the magic of parsing and calculating how the book should be laid out, and manages all of the spine items. In particular, it has the ability to inject assets such as mathjax into the book, and manipulate settings that viewing applications want it to handle, such as font size, scrolling modes, and more. I added a setting to the shared js component allowing the author to specify a font by its url and font family. The ebook reader is then able to inject this font into every page of the ebook.

The next component I modified is the readium-js-viewer component, which is a web app and chrome app that allows reading systems to be implemented. I added a font picker to readium-js-viewer so that the user could pick one of any number of author specified fonts. I added the open dyslexic font, a font that helps dyslexic people read by making the bottoms of letters larger, into the viewer for Benetech, and it will be put into the readium code base.

The Benetech team wrote a blog featuring my internship on September 23, 2016, stating the following:

He was a joy to work with and impressed everyone on our team. Charles LaPierre, Technical Lead for DIAGRAM positively glowed about Derek saying, “I have worked with a number of interns over the years and this by far has been the most rewarding experience.”

Accessibility testing and consulting positions.

Website testing at the University of Colorado Boulder

Since the spring of 2015, I have worked with the University of Colorado at Boulder in the Accessibility and Usability Testing Lab (AUL) so that they can ensure their websites are compliant with the ADA, and other disability access laws. I have worked with them mainly on running screen reader tests with the NVDA screen reader on internal sites and products the university would like to ensure are usable. I am able to give feedback that other testers can’t give as easily, since I have worked in web apps in industry, and study computer science. Also, my volunteer work on the NVDA screen reader project gives me insights into how accessibility should work, and allows me to understand why screen readers respond in the way they do to certain things. I have also spent time studying WCAG2, WAI-ARIA, and other web technologies, so I can help diagnose accessibility problems, rather than simply say that the website has some issue. I can give feedback that saves programmers and web developers time while fixing a website.