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Fascinating perspectives shared on Global Accessibility Awareness Day  

Graphic made up of text and icons. Text reads: Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Panel Discussion. 19th May 2022. Josh O'Connor, InterAcess. Peter Quinn, Goss Consulting, Michael Chamberlain, Lead Scotland. The main icon is a smartphone cable. Other icons are a thumbs up, a wifi symbol and a computer screen with the words 'digital inclusion'. Sight and Sound Technology logo is also included in the graphic.

By Stuart Lawler 

This week I had the pleasure of hosting a panel discussion on digital inclusion and accessibility for Global Accessibility Awareness Day. I was joined by our CEO Glenn Tookey, who has vast experience in assistive technology and by three other panelists who shared their views and experiences on a variety of themes on #GAAD. Our panelists were: 

  • Josh O’Connor, Founder and Director of InterAccess, Ireland’s leading accessibility agency.  
  • Pete Quinn, Digital and Well-being Lead at Goss Consultancy, a company who work with organisations to ensure they are as diverse, accessible and inclusive as possible in the way they employ people, develop policies and deliver services.  
  • Michael Chamberlain, Digital Accessibility Expert at Lead Scotland, a charity supporting disabled people and carers by providing personalised learning, befriending, advice and information services. 

As a blind person, I have direct, and unfortunately regular, experience of poor digital accessibility that often makes it impossible to access services or information. Things are improving but there is still work to be done.  

Our panelists are working on not only removing barriers in the digital environment, but also raising awareness of what the barriers are for companies and developers who may not be aware. It is this valuable work that is necessary to enable people to have full access to digital spaces, as we would expect in the physical environment, as Pete Quinn of Goss Consultancy pointed out.  

Of course, because technology and assistive technology has come such a long way in the last 10 years, we assume that everyone has access to the digital world. But Covid highlighted the inequities in access that exist for people with disabilities, older people and people on lower incomes. As Michael Chamberlain of Lead Scotland pointed out during our discussion, many of the people he is working with have been marginalised further by the move online. They are very far behind in terms of access to devices and are having to put 10 years of work in, in a very short time, to enable them to get up and running digitally.  

One of the most interesting discussion points for me was on the subject of including people with disabilities in decision making, product testing and feedback and in the work being done to create more accessible online spaces. People with disabilities can often be asked to participate in work like this free of charge, lending their expertise (experts by experience as Pete Quinn put it so well) but not having the value of their contribution recognised.  

Goss Consultancy pays their panel of experts by experience and believes that this can actually serve to incentivise companies to act on the advice or feedback they are being given – they are more likely to act on something they’ve had to pay for.  

And finally, I think Josh O’Connor hit the nail on the head when he said that accessibility needs to be up there with privacy and security on a company’s list of priorities and when we see that, we know that it’s core to every digital space being created.  

You can watch the panel discussion in full here: Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2022