It’s fair to say that this year has been like no other. Just like many other annual days, this year’s International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD) acknowledges the current times, but also the opportunities for major improvements to digital accessibility and inclusion. It’s a case that many have continually argued for, but with the sudden shifts to how technology is used as a result of Covid-19, there has never been such a greater opportunity for positive change. It’s why this year’s UN theme is Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post Covid-19 World.

For this year’s IDPWD, we wanted to share the thoughts of some of our friends and colleagues, many of whom are pioneers in this space – making sure the digital world is as accessible and inclusive as possible.

Melanie Tran

Product Designer, Hireup

Today is the day where we stand with and by people with disability from all corners of the world. It is a day for us to reflect on how far we have come with inclusion and diversity, and yet how far we still have to go. It is a day where we acknowledge the ongoing battles that we fight every day because we live in a world that was not built for inclusion. It is a day where we celebrate the talent and unique perspectives that force innovation and drive social change.

Let’s share our stories today – the good and the bad. Because this is precisely what we need in order for our voices to be heard, valued and respected, and our talent to be recognised.

Christina Ryan

CEO, Disability Leadership Institute

Inclusion is part of equality and the fight for disability equality is far from over. Taking inclusion to the top echelons of government and wider society through boards, executives and recognised expertise is about shifting the dial to recognise disability leadership, and to ensure disability leadership is in decision making rooms. There are still so few disabled people recognised as leaders and experts.

IDay gives me time to celebrate what we have done, acknowledge where we are now, and to take stock on what is still needed in our long journey to equality. I’ll be celebrating the day by applauding those recognised at the National Awards for Disability Leadership. Outstanding disability leaders are everywhere and that is something to stop and celebrate.

Amanda Lawrie-Jones

Disability Inclusion Consultant

This year more than any, has brought about opportunities for awareness of people with disability with the worldwide pandemic of Covid-19. The way we do things has prompted significant change – and this allows for these changes to be ‘built back better’. People with disability have been long forgotten when we make changes to our society – whether they are great or small – and we can now ensure we have a voice to sustain the new way of living moving forward.

Just like history before us, different movements across the world have changed our society and it has become the ‘norm’ to now call out things such as ‘racism’, ‘sexism’, ‘ageism’ and ‘sexual orientation’ (to name a few). To make the sustainable change we need for people with disability, we need to start calling out ‘ableism’. As the whole world shifts towards different ways of doing things, the perspectives of people with disability and how these changes impact them is a long overdue opportunity.

Inclusion for me is to have everyone, not just people with disability, take responsibility for their actions and become more aware on how the decisions they make impacts others – especially people with disability. Our society can and will be ‘built back better’ for people with disability if we all learn to understand and involve people with disability in the way we improve our society for all. Together, we can make a difference.

Sean Murphy

Digital Accessibility Consultant

The International Day for People with Disabilities (PWD) is a time where we should rejoice the uniqueness of everyone. In all demographics there is going to be a person with a disability which could be visible or not. Society worldwide needs to initiate a move to the left where they see the person first and the disability last. So we truly embrace the difference of all. This leads to touching on the current state of technology as I see it.

Someone who has lived with a disability all their life and working towards making products usable by people with disabilities. There has been some excellent progress. On the other hand there have been some extremely disturbing trends which Covid-19 has highlighted in many areas for PWD where technology is not accessible.

Such technology areas are:

  • Communication collaboration software
  • Virtual collaboration white boards technology
  • Large range of business software
  • Development tools to create skills for voice virtual assistant technology or mobile apps
  • Streaming service technology user interface or accessing the content
  • Online services via the web or apps
  • Domestic technology
  • Information Kiosks, and far more

Some of these technologies have a degree of accessibility to being fully in-accessible. There are too many examples where companies have demonstrated accessibility is possible and does not impact the organisation bottom line. In fact, does the opposite.

As a person who lives with a disability, I want to be able to have equivalent access to technology in my job and outside. This is not yet the case and there is to many products which do not provide the same or similar experience. Each time I come across a piece of technology which accessibility and the usability of the technology has only been partly considered towards not. These organisations are continually increasing my frustration, eroding my mental health and confidence.

These are artificial barriers introduced by organisations and society because they are not being inclusive or considering the full market of 1.9 trillion dollars per annum for the world disability disposable community income. These barriers are preventing the disability community being fully part of society; reducing dependency on government support and making a truly inclusive world.

I will leave you with this question which speaks volume on the level of the state of inclusivity in today’s society: Whenever someone talks about Inclusion and Diversity, what is missing from their conversation? It is disability and accessibility.

You can join the discussion and find our more about events happening on International Day of People with a Disability on the hashtag #IDPWD.

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