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How a Denver digital engineer is using his disability to help others

Ethan Holliger is a digital engineer with CVS Health. His job enhances the experience of assistive technologies for people with disabilities.

DENVER — Ethan Holliger didn't know "accessibility" was a field to get into until he entered college.

“Having accessible experiences allows individuals with disabilities to do things that they may not have been able to do before," he said.

Holliger has optic nerve atrophy, which can cause vision problems, including blindness.

Holliger said he has some usable vision, but uses a screen reader that plays audio of what's on a computer screen, and has a guide dog named Brandon. 

“Having a supportive family and peers to look up to was valuable to help me realize that I could do anything that I want to do," he said.

After graduating in 2017 from the University of Toledo, Holliger enrolled in the Blind Institute of Technology Academy in Denver.

Now, he's a digital engineer at CVS Health, based in Denver. He specifically works on the Accessibility Engineering Solutions Team.

Credit: Luis de Leon
Ethan Holliger is a digital engineer with CVS Health and is based in Denver.

“I work with engineers as they develop user experiences," he said. "I work with the engineers to test with the assistive technology to ensure that the experiences are accessible and provide recommendations on code changes."

The position allows Holliger to ensure the digital experiences work with assistive technologies that people with disabilities may use.

“Some of those digital experiences may include purchasing items from the retail store online or scheduling COVID vaccines or refilling pharmacy prescriptions," he said. 

Some of the assistive technology is what he's used for years, including screen readers.

Credit: Luis de Leon
Ethan Holliger sits at his desk in Denver.

“I use this technology every day and understand the inner workings of this software, and I feel like sharing that knowledge with somebody else who may not have much exposure or much experience with it – is beneficial to help make a good user experience," he said.

Holliger said the pandemic has shed light on the need for digital experiences to be accessible not only to people with disabilities, but everyone.

“People with disabilities are no different than anyone else. They can accomplish as much as everyone else," he said. "The need for accessible experiences I think will grow – especially as technology advances into more than smartphones and computers."

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