Hello! We haven’t had the chance to properly introduce ourselves yet. We’re Intopia. We’re a group of people that want to make the world a better place. In our latest venture, we’re focusing in particular on making sure that the digital world is more inclusive.

We’ve all been part of the accessibility community for a while, whether it be operating our own business, promoting the cause as a part of a non-profit organisation, or being a part of a consultancy company. But with this being our first Global Accessibility Awareness Day working together as Intopia, we took the opportunity to reflect and ask ourselves ‘what does accessibility mean to me?’

Our Director of Accessibility Services, Sarah Pulis, wears many hats around this time of year. Some of you may know her as the co-founder of the A11y Bytes events, running for its fourth year in four cities in 2016.

I work with technology because I love it. For some people, the ever changing technological landscape leads to frustrations about keeping up with the latest framework or language or wearable device. I’m excited by the latest framework or language or wearable device (even the ones I don’t understand). I am also old enough to remember when we didn’t have computers or the internet and the changes these have brought to our lives.

So too is Ron McCallum. If you haven’t listening to his TED talk How technology allowed me to read then you definitely should today — it is the fifth Global Accessibility Awareness Day after all. Ron reminisces about his very first ‘blind computer’. A computer that allowed him to read back over the book he was writing instead of having to write it purely from memory. He also talks about the invention of the screen reader JAWS and how this technology is now available on his iPhone that he can take anywhere with him.

My joy in the ability to connect with people around the world, find out information about nearly any topic I want or help me get from A to B because my sense of direction sucks should be the same joy experienced by everyone. That’s why accessibility is important to me. That is why I do what I do and why I feel that digital accessibility is so much more than a job to me. It’s important that everyone can not only use technology, but experience that joy when they are using it.

Adem Cifcioglu, our Director of Accessible Technologies, has also been a part of accessibility from a grass roots level for many years. He’s also involved in the A11y Bytes and Camp events and runs the Melbourne Accessibility and Inclusive Design Meetup. For him, it’s about independence.

Accessibility is important to me, because it allows for independence. It’s the difference between someone being able to do something on their own or having to ask for help.

For people with disabilities in particular, accessibility could be the difference between someone being able to participate in an activity or being excluded from it.

Accessibility is about people, and as the ‘builders’ of our digital world, it’s up to us to make sure that the things we build are usable by all.

Our Accessibility Engagement Manager, Chris Pycroft, is incredibly passionate about equality, and thinks that no person should ever feel excluded, no matter the form.

Accessibility is important to me because it’s a fundamental human right. No person should be denied access to an essential service or information purely on the grounds of their ability.

In an era of rapid technological advancement, it’s so incredibly important to place user-centred design and user experience at the forefront of any and all development. Why create something, only to reduce your reach by literally millions of people on day one? It doesn’t make sense. Inclusion, digital or otherwise, is everyone’s responsibility.

Stewart Hay, our Managing Director, believes that incorporating accessibility into everything that you do improves efficiency and has significant benefits.

My interest has always been about helping organisations maximise the use of their information resources to improve how they operate. I believe access to and understanding of information is the key to success.

Usually this is an internally focused exercise focused on empowering and enabling staff. But as you broaden your perspective you begin to realise that this is an issue for everyone. Not just from the perspective of good customer service but as a way to allow everyone to be successful on a daily basis. Easy access to information can result in people making better and more informed decisions and fostering greater creativity and innovation.

In this Age of Information we should never have barriers to accessing information. It only limits our ability to grow and be successful as a society.

All of us know, the user should be at the centre of everything you do, but why it’s important is incredibly different for each of us. That’s what makes us… us.

If you’re keen to find out more about Global Accessibility Awareness Day, you can head to the Global Accessibility Awareness Day website. It’s so great to see that the list of events happening worldwide grows longer each year, and it’s something that we’re incredibly proud to be a part of.

Happy GAAD!

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is held on the third Thursday in May every year. The day was co-founded by two champions of accessibility, Joe Devon and Jennison Asuncion.