AAPD Intern to Entrepreneur
June 6, 2019
AbiliTrek / Access Travel LLC
My name is Daman Wandke, and I am an accessible technology consultant, national disability advocate, and the founder and Chief Executive Officer of AbiliTrek, an accessibility consulting company. You might ask, what led me to starting AbiliTrek?
I studied Management Information Systems at Western Washington University. During my time as an undergrad student, I was extremely active on campus, especially regarding disability advocacy. Within my first week on campus, I started the first disability-oriented club and continued to make accessibility changes as well as spread disability awareness. However, my advocacy work did not stop on campus.
I received an internship through the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). During my internship, I learned a lot about web accessibility such as learning how to make PDFs Section 508 compliant. Section 508 is an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act that requires electronic documents and communication technology to be accessible to people with disabilities.
My summer internship turned into a long-term virtual internship where I continued to work remotely for the USDA from school for the next three years. I also continued to gain career support from my AAPD mentor, Matthew McCollough who is the Director of the DC Office of Disability Rights. During this time, I refined my skills in making PDFs accessible. I also had the opportunity to learn about project management and team leadership. This internship introduced me to my career.
I took the foundation that I learned at the USDA and broadened my web accessibility skills in my next two jobs. I worked at the Federal Housing Finance Agency coordinating 508 compliance agency-wide and then as an Accessibility Analyst at SSB BART Group (now Level Access), consulting large organizations on how to make their websites and other Information Technology (IT), accessible.
I then began on a path of entrepreneurship is where my path led. Over time, I built up a diverse amount of experience that became my foundation and leverage for my company. I used all of my experience to create AbiliTrek. AbiliTrek assists businesses via a plethora of disability advocacy and awareness services, including our Search and Review Platform, speaking engagements as well as providing IT accessibility consulting.
Our Platform allows people to innovatively search and review locations based on their personal accessibility needs, reflecting that accessibility is not “one-size-fits-all”. We desire for our platform to indicate where your items are–and are not–accessible to everyone as well as bring awareness to the growing accessibility needs.
Regarding consulting, AbiliTrek provides technical and functional web testing as well as web development to ensure access to all via assistive technology compatibility. If websites and apps are not compatible with assistive technology then those assistive Technologies are rendered useless.
Overall, AbiliTrek strives to create an inclusive environment so everyone has access to equal opportunities.