In July, we were thrilled to welcome Andrew Arch to our growing team at Intopia. Forever the optimist when it comes to accessibility and inclusive design, Andrew has been a part of W3C working groups for 16 years, and has spent the last six years working in the Australian government on accessibility, including as the Accessibility and Inclusivity Lead for the Digital Transformation Agency.

As a part of our grilling induction process for new team members (we’re kidding, we swear), we asked Andrew about his thoughts on accessibility and digital inclusion.

How do you feel about your new role at Intopia and what are you looking forward to working on with the organisation?

One aspect in particular I’m looking forward to is working directly with product teams to help them embed accessibility and inclusive design considerations into the design and build processes as second nature. Part of this will be engaging with people with disability for usability testing to ensure the final outcomes are usable by as wide an audience as possible.

What are the significant milestones/highlights of your time in the accessibility sector so far?

Two things come to mind:

  • the recognition that accessibility is important and not just a nice to have. While not everyone realises this yet, an increasing number of companies, government agencies and educational institutions do and are increasingly trying to be inclusive in their digital activities.
  • the recognition that accessibility is not a ‘checkbox’ activity but part of addressing broader usability issues, albeit it specifically for people with disability. As part of this recognition, incorporating accessibility considerations right from the start of a project or a products development seems to be increasingly the norm.

What’s next for achieving a world without digital barriers? What are the areas the accessibility sector need to focus on next to achieve this?

A world without digital barriers? I doubt we’ll reach that utopian scenario for a long time as technology evolves ever more rapidly, what we try and achieve with it changes just as fast, and our expectations try and keep up. What was acceptable last decade isn’t acceptable today, and definitely won’t be next year. That said, to move toward utopia, we need to get accessibility and inclusive design to become the way designers and developers work naturally. We can go along way by making sure that all design and IT courses, at all levels, incorporate accessibility and inclusivity considerations throughout the course and not as a special lecture if at all.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to anyone facing road blocks with implementing accessibility/digital inclusion into their work?

Two things:

  • Just do it by stealth initially – be the accessibility ninja in your organisation.
  • However, you also need to personalise it and have key people in the organisation empathise and understand the problems they have created and the impact it has on someone’s life as that usually wins people over. At the same time, some economic augments might assist the bottom line – 18% of the population has a disability, the likelihood increases with age, and the baby-boomers are all retiring (read aging) and expect to continue to participate in society and spend money (shop, holiday, eat out, bank, etc).

One fun random fact about yourself

I treat packing like a tetris game, which means loading the dishwasher or packing the car is always my job.