Breaking barriers: Introducing RWS's journey towards inclusivity

12 Mar 2024 8 mins
4 individuals stand in a close-knit circle, their backs turned towards the camera as they embrace one another, captivated by a mountain panorama
As Trados marks its 40th anniversary this year, having been established in 1984, it stands as a testament to the revolutionary impact of computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools in the translation industry. Over the decades, companies and professional translators alike have reaped the benefits of these technologies, witnessing significant productivity gains and efficiencies in their translation processes. However, this technological advancement has presented a stark contrast in accessibility for blind translators. While CAT tools like Trados have been a boon for many, they have simultaneously erected barriers for blind individuals, turning what should have been a gateway into the profession into an insurmountable wall. For 40 years, the issue of accessibility in mainstream CAT tools has remained largely unaddressed, leaving a segment of talented professionals on the sidelines. 
This blog introduces the Accessibility Initiative, a groundbreaking effort supported by the RWS Foundation, designed to dismantle these barriers. Our aim with this project is to transform Trados Studio into a fully accessible CAT tool, thereby opening doors for blind translators who have been denied the opportunity to participate fully in the profession. By focusing on enhancing the accessibility of Trados Studio, we are committed to empowering this overlooked community, ensuring they can contribute to and thrive within the translation industry. This initiative is not just about software improvement; it’s a step towards inclusivity, aligning with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth. Through this effort, we aspire to create a more inclusive, equitable, and productive future for all translators, regardless of their physical abilities.

Digital accessibility

Digital accessibility stands as a pressing global issue, with over 1.1 billion people facing vision loss and an estimated economic impact of $411 billion annually due to productivity losses. In Europe, over 30 million individuals experience sight loss, facing significant employment challenges. This highlights a critical need for action to enhance digital inclusivity, ensuring that digital services cater to all, particularly the blind and visually impaired.
Advancements in technology, including screen readers and voice recognition software, offer the potential for significant empowerment, enabling these individuals to actively participate in digital communities, pursue careers, and engage more fully in society. However, the realization of this potential relies heavily on the accessibility and usability of digital platforms.
Recent developments, such as the release of WCAG 2.2 and the impending European Accessibility Act (EAA), signal a move towards closing the gap between mere compliance and actual usability. WCAG 2.2 introduces criteria aimed at improving access for users with cognitive disabilities, low vision, and limited motor skills, addressing a broader spectrum of user needs. The EAA, set for implementation in 2025, broadens this scope further, mandating digital products and services to be accessible, including ensuring compatibility with assistive technologies and accessibility of electronic communications.
These initiatives underscore a pivotal moment in the pursuit of digital inclusivity, emphasizing the importance of creating digital environments that are not only compliant but genuinely usable for all. This context lays the groundwork for introducing the contributions of companies like RWS, and in particular the RWS Foundation, which is actively working to improve digital accessibility by leveraging the skills and insights of individuals with disabilities, such as the employment of a blind translator to spearhead accessibility initiatives. This initiative not only enriches our service offerings but also embodies the RWS Foundation's ethos of breaking down language barriers and enhancing global understanding, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through empowering blind translators with accessible Trados Studio, we champion economic independence and contribute to a more inclusive translation world, in alignment with our dedication to sustainability and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, notably fostering decent work and economic growth for all.

Empowering voices

Building on our commitment to inclusivity, the many teams at RWS have extended the original initiative to beyond Trados Studio, tackling not just other products and websites, but also what is required to support blind users we engage with. Our commitment to inclusivity has led us to launch an unparalleled initiative within the industry: our aim is to identify 1,000 visually impaired translators and provide them with Trados Studio free of charge. This initiative is not about expanding our direct workforce but a testament to our belief in the untapped potential and the unique perspectives these individuals bring to the translation industry. By equipping them with Trados Studio, we are enabling these talented linguists to become self-sustaining, empowered to secure work in this field and contribute meaningfully to our global dialogue. This effort underlines our dedication to creating opportunities for visually impaired translators to thrive professionally and highlights our commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive translation community. 
Fuelled by the support and vision of the RWS Foundation, we've set ourselves the challenge of developing the most accessible professional translation software in the world through our flagship product, Trados Studio. Our aim is clear – to dismantle barriers and open up the world of professional translation to thousands of visually impaired linguists. This initiative represents a significant step towards creating a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable professional landscape for linguists around the globe. 
Central to this initiative is Anna Rita, a blind translator who has been championing the needs of this community for many years. With a strong academic background in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Trieste, and a master's degree from UNINT, specializing in French, Spanish, and Turkish, Anna Rita brings a wealth of knowledge in localization and translation. Her work with Humanware, localizing software and manuals for the BrailleNote Touch+ device, underscores her commitment to accessible technology.
Anna Rita's involvement in the visually impaired community extends beyond her professional achievements. Her experience with VIEWS International and the Italian Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted (UICI) highlights her active role in advocating for accessibility and equal opportunities. Recently, she has been advancing her dedication through a PhD research project aimed at enhancing Trados Studio's accessibility for screen reader users. This work not only exemplifies her commitment to the visually impaired community but also aligns with RWS's mission to foster a more inclusive and diverse translation industry. Through her efforts, Anna Rita embodies the spirit of our initiative, showcasing the significant impact that focused, knowledgeable, and passionate individuals can have in driving forward the accessibility agenda.

Insights to action

Since welcoming Anna Rita to our team in August 2023, RWS has embarked on a profound learning journey that has been educational, eye-opening, and ultimately inspiring. Her arrival spotlighted the significant accessibility challenges within our onboarding processes and training courses, revealing that they were not fully accessible to blind employees without additional assistance.
We also discovered that our products and websites, though compliant with previous WCAG standards, fell short in terms of actual usability for visually impaired users; a revelation that has propelled us to actively seek improvements. Furthermore, we recognized that our development processes were not inherently designed with accessibility and usability in mind, prompting a revaluation of our approach.
The most remarkable lesson, however, has been witnessing the collective dedication of our RWS team. Every member has shown a genuine concern for addressing these issues, with many going above and beyond their regular duties to contribute to a more inclusive and accommodating workplace. This shared commitment has not only fuelled our efforts to enhance accessibility across the board but also strengthened our resolve to make RWS an exemplary employer in this respect.
Two standout examples that encapsulate our commitment — and which I am eager to share more about in the future — involve the revamping of our onboarding process and significant enhancements to the Trados Studio Editor. Mirka Murguova, our Training and Development Manager, dedicated countless hours to support Anna Rita through our comprehensive new employee training program. Simultaneously, Mirka meticulously recorded every accessibility shortfall, providing detailed feedback to both our third-party vendors and internal teams to pinpoint areas needing improvement.
Equally impressive was the initiative taken by Bogdan Costisor, a Senior Developer on the Trados Studio team. Bogdan undertook the substantial task of updating the editor's components to address existing technical debt, making them more modern and accessible. His collaboration with the providers of JAWS (Job Access With Speech), a prevalent screen reader among blind users, was instrumental in understanding the unique interactions between visually impaired users and technology. This concerted effort led to a significant milestone: our first beta release received unprecedented praise from the JAWS team, who told us it was the most accomplished accessibility development they had encountered in such complex software at the first attempt. These examples not only highlight the tangible steps we're taking towards greater inclusivity but also reflect the deep commitment and solidarity across RWS in creating a more accessible future.
Looking ahead, we're eager for you to experience a video diary from Anna Rita, detailing her experiences and reflections over the recent months at RWS. This diary will illuminate the strides we've made in enhancing digital accessibility, the obstacles encountered along the way, and our collective achievements. It's an invaluable opportunity to gain perspective on our journey toward inclusivity through Anna Rita's narratives. Keep an eye out for this insightful diary, which promises to be both enlightening and inspiring.
Paul Filkin

Paul Filkin

Senior Customer Enablement Director
Paul is a Senior Customer Enablement Director for RWS where he has worked since the end of 2006.  These days he works with several teams who are all focused on the customer and what can be done to improve their experience, particularly but not exclusively, when using translation technology. He has a Masters Degree in Business Administration, an HNC in Civil Engineering, is an ECQA Certified Terminology Manager (Advanced) and recently completed a TCLoc (Technical Communication and Localization) Masters degree… all reflecting a working career over the last 40 years which nicely support the challenges of working in the culturally and professionally diverse environment we see in the translation industry today. He also regularly maintains a personal blog addressing many of the practical issues faced by translators and translation companies in using technology for their work (
All from Paul Filkin