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Demystifying Disability with the Cape Chamber of Commerce

LoisDon’t get me wrong – I love sharing my story and inspiring audiences to see their lives and their challenges in a different way as an inspirational speaker. It’s always a privilege to be given the opportunity to do so. But equally important to me is the opportunity of speaking to business audiences about the capabilities of people who are so often marginalised in the job market because of the misperceptions about disability.

Which is why I was so delighted to tackle the topics of the barriers faced by people living with disabilities at the Cape Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast event a fortnight ago. Being able to address a subject that is so close to my heart with my ideal audience was like receiving a gift!

Speaking to the members of the Cape Chamber of Commerce was a great experience –the group of over 50 people were clearly engaged with the information I was sharing and I received some great questions afterwards.

The most exciting aspect for me was how interested people seemed in making their products and services inclusive to those with disabilities, whether it be in making their websites more accessible to visually impaired customers, or in understanding how to make their workplaces accessible to those with a mobility impairment. And we touched on a related topic that’s very close to my heart – that of increasing employment of persons with disabilities.

My hope is that I’ll have the opportunity of engaging more with members of the Cape Chamber, either as a group or in their individual capacities, whether it’s to give them information on the accessibility of their websites, facilitate an assessment of the physical accessibility of their workspace, or to come and speak (formally or informally) to their teams about disability, diversity and inclusion.

My thanks to Bruce Wade and Linda Roopen for giving me the opportunity of speaking to members of the Cape Chamber of Commerce. I certainly hope it won’t be the last time I do so! XXXXX

Insights on Digital Accessibility for the Blind

Recently I was invited to present to the Old Mutual Digital Garage on the subject of how assistive technology enables me to live a productive life as a blind person in a mostly sighted virtual world. Those of you who have read my book, A Different Way of Seeing, and know about my (somewhat ambivalent) attitude to technology will understand why I was a little… shall we say anxious… about speaking to a largely tech-oriented group. At least I could reassure myself that I probably knew more about the topic than any of my audience did.

Here is a link to the video of my presentation at Old Mutual:

I didn’t expect to capture the interest of the 100 or so attendees as completely as I did. Sure, I realized some of them would be curious about how I engage with technology and the impact it’s had on my life – they’re techies, after all. But the interest clearly went deeper than that, as was indicated by the questions I was asked afterwards.

Often we hear stories of how oblivious companies are when it comes to the question of accessibility, and website accessibility in particular. My experience of speaking to the Digital Garage was rather that people don’t know enough about how we navigate websites without sight and that they would be willing to incorporate accessible design on their sites once being made aware that it can be a challenge for us.

What I learned from the whole experience is that people are curious about how I accomplish the tasks I do without sight. More importantly, they realize that the information I share with them can have business implications that could make their products/services more accessible to a market group they had inadvertently been excluding.

That realization has given me a new sense of purpose to continue the work I’m doing.

And Now what Do You Expect Me To Do?

So, what’s the quickest way to annoy me? Ask me to sign up for a mailing list and then add a sight-dependent verification process that I can’t access!

To be fair, that’s probably not the quickest way to annoy me, but annoy me it does.

It happened to me again today, on a site for indie authors which, as you can imagine, could be of real value to me in promoting my new book.

I totally get that mailing lists want to protect themselves against bots and non-human interference. That’s pretty sensible. The question I ask myself is whether it’s really all that hard to make an accessible form of that process?

In fact, I know the answer to that question – no, it’s not hard to do… it’s not hard at all!

Oh well, maybe I’m just not meant to get onto that mailing list… I’m sure there are other sites that will give me the same information that actually wat me to subscribe…

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