2002 Conference Proceedings

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Enablelink: Building a "Village" for Our Community on the Web

Stephanie Ball-Bassler
De Witt & Associates/ EnableLink.com
700 Godwin Avenue
Midland Park, NJ 07432
(201) 447-6500
E-mail: Stephanieb@dewittassociates.net

Two years ago, my colleagues and I at De Witt & Associates had what at the time seemed like a simple notion: What if we could build a "village" on the Internet for people with visual impairments, their families, friends and colleagues? Imagine, a place where our community could find and share information, have easy access to news and features, sell their goods, and shop for the widest possible range of products in a single location, open 24 hours a day, and accessible from home or office.

Like so many well-intentioned people armed with a desire to harness the Internet's power to serve their community, we launched EnableLink.com. At the time, we thought that the road from a simple notion to success would be simple.

In the two years since we first went "live," we've learned that building an Internet village, one that responds to the evolving needs of our community, isn't very different than building a "real" village-- It has to be done one brick, one person at a time.

Our approach is working. Despite the daily avalanche of reports of Internet failures, EnableLink has bucked the trend-we continue to grow and prosper.

Stephanie Ball-Bassler, VP and COO of Enablelink will discuss:

  1. How the site began and the evolution of the information it provides.
  2. Building in accessibility from the ground up.
    1. Adding tools and information to make navigation easier.
    2. Usability testing.
    3. Keeping up with changes in technology.
  3. Creating commerce on the web.
    1. Helping people with visual impairments to buy and sell on the Internet.
    2. Helping businesses and organizations leverage the Internet to reach a wider audience.
    3. How the Internet has changed since hundreds of start-up Internet companies have gone under.
    4. Surviving and growing in a hostile economic environment.
  4. Building Community one brick at a time.
    1. The challenge of finding an audience.
    2. Content - finding out what people want to read.
    3. Contributors - creating a pool of writers from all over the continent.
  5. Plans for the future.
    1. Creating partnerships with organizations, individuals and businesses that serve the visually impaired community.
    2. Adding capabilities that create a truly interactive community.

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