Highlights TechShare Pro 2019: Disabled people mean business

There’s a sense of excitement at TechShare Pro 2019 as accessibility leaders call on business to embrace Inclusive Design, innovation and cultural change.

Picture of Caroline Casey at TechShare Pro 2019Opening TechShare Pro 2019 Caroline Casey said she “doesn’t believe in a la carte diversity.” The founder of The Valuable 500 has a mission to get inclusivity on the business agenda at board level.

She has been travelling the globe to get people to join her global movement.

While 90% of companies claim to have a diversity agenda, but only 4% consider disability Casey believes that “Something feels like it’s changing.”

She told delegates at Google’s St Pancras offices “When a human need meets a business opportunity that’s the potency and that’s where technology and inclusive design is so important,” she said.

“It has given us visibility. Hear the voices. 53% of consumers; are you kidding you don’t want to talk with us. Listen, these are our voices; we are here.”

She added “Valuable 500 is a revolution. I don’t want any more for businesses to be on the side lines. I have lived the experience that what will trigger the change.”

Tech companies embracing inclusivity

Haben Girma at TechShare Pro 2019Tech companies are already embracing inclusive design as a means of innovating for all. Haben Girma, is the first Accessibility and Inclusion Advisor for Lenovo, as well as the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School.

“Throughout history many organisations have ignored disability and I want to shift the dominant story that we are a burden on society…to seeing disability as an opportunity for innovation,” she said

Joining her on stage Paul Walsh Lenovo’s Chief Digital Officer said the company wants to “ensure we are building solutions, and a better human experience, for all.”

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Apple’s Director of Global Accessibility Policy & Initiatives, Sarah Herrlinger, agrees. She says companies need to: “stop approaching accessibility as a compliance issue, and start looking at it as an innovation challenge [to] make a better product for everyone.”

Paul Smyth, Head of Digital Accessibility for Barclays says there’s been a subtle shift in last 2-3 years whereby business is “no longer creating products for disabled folks but by and with.” 

Elsewhere, Scope told delegates how business ignores the power of the purple pound at its peril. Research supporting The Big Hack revealed that 75% of disabled people think that business is missing out because it is not embracing the purple pound.

Driving inclusion from the inside

It’s also vital that businesses include disabled people as part of the workforce. As Haben told delegates: “Start by hiring more people with disabilities. We’re talented, we are customers designers, engineers and advisors and so include us in all aspects of the organisation.”

“If there is ableism that becomes a barrier,” said Haben who has authored her memoirs, Haben, the Deafblind woman who conquered Harvard Law. “I wrote those stories because they teach us about ableism; we’re not a barrier but society thinks we are.”

Having conquered Harvard she says with Paul Walsh’s help she is going to conquer Lenovo.

Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie, couldn’t agree more, urging businesses to “To see disability differently; it is a talent – we vehemently know that.

"How you nurture group of people with disabilities is incredibly important. Leveraging talents is the biggest step-difference you can make. Embed it into your system and your business.”

“We need passionate people who are empowered to change and to improve things by working with the disability community,” said Paul from Barclays. And things are changing. “Over the last year there’s been this tectonic shift where business leaders are waking up and signing up.”

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TechShare Procast logoAbout TechShare Pro

Now in its third year, TechShare Pro 2019 is hosted by Google and supported by some of the biggest technology names on the planet. The conference offers two days to connect, learn and share with people from all over the world who are building a more accessible and inclusive digital world.

Panelists and workshop hosts include Apple, Google, the International Association of Accessibility Professionals, Barclays, RNIB, Uber, Disability Rights Advocate (USA), Disability Rights UK, European Disability Forum, Aira, BBC, Sony, Scope, Fraunhofer, Verizon Media, Amazon, Netflix and Channel 4.