The following article was written by Paul Sanchez.
On May 18, 2023, Oleb Media, a digital inclusion firm based out of Minneapolis, released a new book, “Managing Digital Inclusion: A Case Study.” The publication date was chosen because May 18 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Dr. Belo Miguel Cipriani, the author of the book, knows quite a bit about digital inclusion, as Cipriani is blind. Oleb Media is his company. Its purpose is to help companies make their websites more accessible to people with disabilities. “Managing Digital Inclusion” was published under the imprint of Oleb Books, the book publishing division of Oleb Media. Oleb Books only publishes works by authors with disabilities.
Cipriani wasn’t always blind. Born in 1980, he was fully sighted until 2007, when he was brutally assaulted in the Castro, San Francisco’s LGBT neighborhood. Cipriani was kicked in the head so many times that his retinas detached, leading to his blindness.
“Losing my vision was very challenging,” Cipriani said. “It tested me in so many ways. And for a while, I was angry. But as I met other blind people and learned to do things in the dark, life became exciting again.”
With training, Cipriani learned how to walk with a cane, how to interact with a guide dog, and how to use assistive software for the blind. But finding employment as a blind man was another story.
“I had no problem landing jobs,” he said. “I had a strong resumé. It was keeping the job that was the issue for me. Many of the software tools my employers used were inaccessible to my assistive tech. So, after many failed attempts to try and make things work for me, I was let go. I must have gone through four jobs in 2009 alone.”
After losing his sight, Cipriani developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A therapist encouraged him to journal, an activity that pushed his life in a new direction. He began to share the pieces he was writing with friends and family members, and the responses were so positive he enrolled in a master’s degree program in creative writing. In 2011 his first book “Blind: A Memoir” was published. The book, which chronicles the first two years after his assault, was very well received, going on to win awards. The book sold quite well.
Cipriani soon found himself lecturing at Yale, at the University of San Francisco, Holy Names University, and the University of Minnesota. He wrote columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and Bay Area Reporter and was a correspondent on the Ed Baxter Show on Clear Channel Radio. But an old problem continued to plague him. He kept having problems with his assistive tech, and once again, he found his work contracts not being extended. Tired of being pushed out of the workforce by accessibility issues, Cipriani decided to become part of the solution.
Cipriani founded Oleb Media, a company he runs with his husband James Kirwin, who is also blind, specifically to serve companies who wish to make their websites accessible to the disabled. How would you feel if you couldn’t scroll down to read a message that came in, or even to see the message at all? How would you feel if you went to YouTube to watch a video and were unable to hear the soundtrack? According to Cipriani, there are more than one billion people with disabilities or impairments that make accessing technology hard.
In his book “Managing Digital Inclusion,” Dr. Belo Miguel Cipriani provides case studies on companies that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure they are providing the best access possible to people with disabilities. The book also examines the misconceptions other companies have about the true meaning of digital inclusion, the barriers some small companies face when it comes to wanting to comply with the law, and provides recommendations for small business owners, technology companies, designers, policymakers, and research institutions on how to do a better job serving people with disabilities.
The book was researched and the information and the information in it was compiled while Cipriani was working on his dissertation for his EdD in organizational leadership. He is now Dr. Cipriani, earning his degree from the University of the Pacific’s Benerd College in Sacramento, California.
Cipriani also owns Oleb Academy, a learning division of Oleb Media. Oleb Academy, which can be found on the Oleb Media website, offers online, self-paced courses which students can take that will teach them how to make online content more inclusive to the disabled.
“During the pandemic, while everyone was taking courses online, I could not because they were not accessible to me,” Cipriani said. “This motivated me to create courses to help content creators make online courses more accessible to people with disabilities.”
To inquire about Oleb Media services or Oleb Academy courses, please visit: