Global Accessibility Awareness Day: Challenging assumptions and celebrating ability

Posted on: May 18, 2017 by Neil Milliken

Improving accessibility and celebrating diversity in the workplace have always been issues which I’m passionate about. So, when I first came across Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on social media 5 years ago, I knew I wanted to get involved at first by attending events but for the last three years hosting events for GAAD.

GAAD is an internationally celebrated day encouraging developers to design with accessibility in mind. Atos is now celebrating the event for a second year running. According to the World Health Organization, more than a billion people in the world are living with some sort of disability. That’s one in seven of us, as Fast Company remarks. Co-Founder, and LA-based web developer, Joe Devon started the initiative seven years ago from a single blog post. GAAD’s inception and Atos’ involvement with this great initiative shows how individual engagement and the power of social media can be a strong driver for change.

On Thursday 18th May, GAAD will be hosted across seven countries globally, featuring a host of customer and guest speakers, innovative accessibility tech demos and a live stream from London. Raising awareness for GAAD and making the event bigger and better across multiple countries was one of three major objectives for Atos’ wider Group Diversity Program. This year, we’re fortunate enough to have guest speakers from Siemens, Channel 4 and SNCF as well as other leading organizations who share a passion for promoting inclusion and diversity.

Demonstrating new technology can change perceptions and urge developers to think differently when designing future workplace solutions. With our customers and partners, we’ll be showcasing a series of demos to explain what it can feel like to be disabled in today’s working world:

  • Hear2Pay Accessible POS card payments: People who are blind have no choice but to trust a cashier when they hand over their card for payment. This all changes with the introduction of voice feedback technology
  • A virtual reality immersive autism experience: Cambridge University has created a simulation kit to show how difficult it can be to use products when impaired
  • Simulation Glasses and Gloves: A solution that encourages developers to design with disability in mind using special impairment experience technology
  • An exciting project with the BBC: Atos and the BBC are working on a joint project to challenge unconscious bias, assumptions about race, gender and disability

Accessibility in the workplace is still a relatively immature issue at a global level and further work needs to be done to drive awareness. But populations are ageing, and as the workforce becomes older accessibility will soon become an even greater issue for employers so it’s vital to take steps towards greater inclusion now. For example, Atos has developed an accessibility apprenticeship scheme to grow its diversity programme. By investing in the accessibility professionals of tomorrow, businesses can work towards creating a more inclusive working environment for everyone. Buy-in from the board also goes a long way and we’re proud to have Adrian Gregory and Jean-Marie Simon CEOs of UK&I and France at Atos taking an active role in GAAD 2017.

If you’d like to get involved with this year’s GAAD, check to see if there’s any local events available in your area. Atos also has a live stream where you can see for yourself how with the right technology, innovation can overcome barriers and perception:

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About Neil Milliken
Head of Accessibility & Digital Inclusion and member of the Scientific Community
Neil Milliken is Global Head of Accessibility for Atos. His role is to deliver better technology for customers and employees, embedding inclusive practice into the processes of the organization, which has thousands of employees and an annual turnover of billions. Neil delivers strategy and services working with a wide range of clients helping them to develop policies, processes, and technology solutions to meet the needs of their staff and customers. He is the Atos representative on the Business Disability Forum Technology Task Force Neil is also an invited expert for the W3C Cognitive Accessibility Taskforce & member of the Atos Scientific Community & Atos Distinguished Expert . He is co-founder of AXSChat Europe’s largest twitter chat with a focus on Accessibility & Inclusion. Neil was named in the top ten of the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 list in 2018 and was named D&I practitioner of the year in the 2019 Disability Smart Awards.

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