WASHINGTON, DC (Sept. 8, 2022)AFB Talent Lab has announced that the first group of participants in its Intern and Registered Apprenticeship programs have completed the first term of educational requirements and will begin working on projects with corporate partners this fall.

Demand for inclusive digital products is rising, but tech designers, engineers, and project managers aren't being trained in accessibility skills. Employers struggle to find new hires with even basic knowledge and skills related to digital accessibility. AFB Talent Lab is a new education experience that looks to close the accessibility skills gap.

"We are transforming the future of digital inclusion by leveraging our skills to train the next generation of tech talent in inclusive design practices through a hands-on learning environment," said Matthew Janusauskas, head of AFB Talent Lab. "By meeting both the immediate and future needs of an increasingly diverse industry, we can encourage a more accessible and equitable digital world."

AFB Talent Lab helps participants build skills that will stand out to employers, help adults with disabilities build careers as accessibility project managers, and offer partner organizations guidance on how to achieve their accessibility goals.

The first group of participants to start the program this spring, included 11 interns and 5 registered apprentices. Curriculum to build greater understanding of, and skills in accessibility included, study of low and high tech assistive technologies (such as screen readers), how they affect people's quality of life and how to use and evaluate digital interfaces using these technologies, as well as design for visual accessibility, how to apply testing techniques for different pages and components, and how to recognize and report common accessibility issues.

"Many computer science and design students are just not learning the skills they need in order to make technology usable by everyone, while professionals in the workforce have not been able to find suitable accessibility training to expand their skillset," said Janusauskas. "AFB Talent Lab meets the needs of the tech industry – and millions of people living with disabilities – by creating expert curriculum and hands-on opportunities, backed by 20 years of AFB's proven accessibility consulting expertise."

While the lack of accessibility competency in today's tech workforce isn't new, the impact is clear. According to a report from the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), 63% of companies said their current staff lacks sufficient accessible technology skills, and 97.4% of the world's top one million websites don't offer full accessibility.

"The intern program not only helped me understand the meaning and reason behind the need for a digitally accessible world, but also taught me the foundational skills to help create one," said Ramya, an intern in the program. "I am truly grateful for the time, experiences, and resources that have been poured into this program."

Applications to join the AFB Talent Lab programs in Summer 2023 are expected to be available this winter. If you are interested in learning more, visit About Talent Lab.

If you are a company that would like to inquire on partnership opportunities for the AFB Talent Lab Intern and Apprenticeship programs, visit About Talent Lab or contact inclusivefuture@afb.org.

About the AFB Talent Lab

The AFB Talent Lab aims to meet the accessibility needs of the tech industry – and millions of people living with disabilities – through a unique combination of hands-on training, mentorship, and consulting services, created and developed by our own digital inclusion experts. AFB Talent Lab draws from 20 years of AFB accessibility consulting and digital inclusion expertise. To learn more about our internship and apprenticeship programs or our client services, visit Talent Lab

About the American Foundation for the Blind

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. Publisher of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness for over a century and counting, AFB is also proud to steward the accessible Helen Keller Archive, honoring the legacy of our most famous ambassador. AFB's mission is to expand pathways to leadership, education, inclusive technology, and career opportunities to create a world of no limits for people who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision. To learn more, visit [AFB.org] (www.afb.org)