Given the amount of technology available today that gives people with disabilities access to information that was previously unavailable to them, there’s no longer any excuse for people with disabilities to be unemployed, says John Williams of Assistive Technology News.

“Businesses should not fear assistive technology,” he says. “When hiring people without a disability, employers make sure that the employer has a computer, telephone and other technology so the person can work. Therefore, buying technology that enables a blind man, or an individual with a speech impediment, or a hearing impaired individual, or someone with a dexterity problem to work is no different than buying office equipment for an able-bodied individual.”

Over the past 30 years, John has become an authority on the assistive technology, building an audience of readers who seek out updates on the latest products, laws and user stories. While a recent illness has prevented him from updating his site as frequently, he still receives plenty of queries from people interested in information on these products.

Here he discusses his niche on the web and offers insight into how businesses can better embrace employees with disability.

Can you tell us about Assistive Technology News?

ATN started out as a newsletter in 1992 in response to thousands of e-mails I have received over the years from people looking for information on AT products, laws governing disability issues, people hungering for user stories in schools, on the job, etc.

In 1994, it went from a monthly 12-page newsletter to a bi-monthly 40-page tabloid newspaper. In 1997 after publishing 19 issues in 38 months, I stopped publishing because I lost my two top sales people and could not replace them. Also in 1997, I started writing a weekly column for Business Week On-Line magazine. It reached tens of thousands of people weekly. In October 2001, the column ceased publishing.

In 2007, I started ATECHNEWS.COM in response to thousands of e-mails from people looking for information on AT products, user stories, federal legislation and AT manufacturing leaders. I receive an average of 55 e-mails monthly from people looking for information on AT products and jobs.

I believe that most manufacturers of AT products have a difficult time marketing their products. They carve out a small niche market and they seem satisfied. Over three decades I have received thousands of e-mails, letters and phone calls from people looking for information on AT products. Scores and scores of times, the product is being manufactured in their city. However, the manufacturer has not marketed his product in his backyard.

Who should be reading it?

Employers, parents of disabled children, advocates, special education teachers and AT manufacturers and others interested in disability issues.

We hear you coined the phrase assistive technology? How did you come to be such an expert on the topic?

I have stuttered most of my life. Between 1978 and 1981 I was the director of communications for the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities. Included in my responsibilities was testifying on Capitol Hill. Because I stuttered severely, I had others testify in my place. In 1979, I was introduced to Dr. Jim Hillis, head of the Speech-Language Dept. at George Washington University. I took a speech therapy course from him for 18 months. The course produced a change in my speech. I went from 90 percent stuttering rate to 20 percent and often 0.

Dr. Hillls used a computer in his speech therapy. When I finished the course, I asked myself, “If a computer can change my life what can it do for people with severe disabilities?” I started looking around to find out what technology was on the market. I started writing articles about users of these products. Major newspapers picked up my articles.

In 1983, I was writing an article about a blind man using a talking terminal. I was trying to describe what the talking terminal did for him. For 90 minutes I wrote down many descriptive phrases. Finally, I settled on assistive technology. When the story was published, the editor left the phrase in. I kept using the phrase over and over.

What are some examples of assistive technology that we might come across?

Speech recognition, eye gaze, text-to-speech technology, advances in vision technology, using avatars to teach sign language and robotics.

What can businesses do to the websites to make them more accessible to people with disabilities?

Visit websites dealing with how to make your website accessible to people with disabilities, make your site accessible and then market your accessible features.

How have you been able to find and grow the audience for your site?

I Five years ago, I was putting information on my site daily. As a result, nearly 60,000 people visited me monthly. I have been sick the past three years and the amount of information dropped substantially. As a result, the number of people visiting me dropped dramatically. I intend to correct that decline and will begin adding relevant data daily,

What do you think makes for quality web content?

Reliable Information that is not readily available through other sources.