Hi, everyone. And welcome to another episode of wizards talks. I am Brianna Walker, and I will be leading today's podcast today. We're here to talk about assistive technologies. And so I have Professor Timon Wind from Royal Holloway who is also a UNESCO Ciara Nicety for development Hello to Andi. I also have to Harbin holiday who is founder and CEO at few me. Hello, T Bo, Thank you for joining me today. Thank you Find So the first question I have you both is Can you tell us about your work on dhe? How this contributes to assistive technologies We'll start with
Okay, so I'm gonna start with my story first. Basically, when I was doing my master's, I faced a small problem at my lecture or school, which was sitting at the last seat in a conference. And there was a really good presenter who was presenting something on the screen, and I was unable to see the presentation, and because of that, I lost interest in the presentation and I lost the knowledge that was being shared. So I went out and I thought, Is it just me or is it a problem that is being challenged or face by other people at events and conferences. And I went to this different events and tried to sit at the last seed. And after they went, I talked with a lot of people and then found out that it's not me. It's a lot of people who have been facing this small problem off obstructed view off the presentation or the content. And because of that, I realized that it's a situation limit limitation that can happen to anyone. And it's regardless off the kind of disability they have, because people can have low vision. People can have face problem hearing the president or if they're sitting at the back seat. So I was like, How can I solve this problem or this challenge of situational limitation? And also I found out that there was very less participation off people with disabilities at these conferences and events. So I came up with this concept where we aim to globally impact the way presentations are conducted and consumed to ensure that the information and knowledge sharing is accessible, unusable for everyone.
Thank you to her and Tim.
Yeah, let me follow you and tell a little bit of my history and why I care so passionate about this because, well, I knew you were going to be asking that question. I thought, Yeah, how hard can best answer it, But I think it probably goes back to the dare I say, The mid seventies, when I was working in rural India on Guy Met lots of people with disabilities on Dhe. The work I was doing then very much set in my mind that my commitment was always going to be to reduce inequalities on that People with disabilities are amongst the most marginalized people in the world. And it's really annoyed my feminist friends cause though they were saying, you know, women are the most marginalized Yeah, but actually, you know, women haven't pretty good compared with people with disabilities. Of course, women with disabilities have. It was worth the wall. But I then in the early two thousands have the privilege to lead an initiative which was working in eight African countries about technology and education and partnerships. On working in several of those, I came to realize just how marginalized people with disabilities where everyone's talking about putting kids in schools. But almost nobody supporting people with disabilities, and I think two or three incidents really affected me. Then one was I was visiting a school for people with disabilities in an African country on this is a story to my detriment that I didn't understand. But I speak with the head teacher and he said, Tim's, you know what the biggest problem is? And I was thinking finance or not getting kids or set on. So I yes, it's those sorts of things on He said. No, it's the summer holidays and you're coming from a rich country. Summer holidays, a chance for parents to be with kids I didn't understand. I wonder how many people listening to us talking today would understand on Grimes was perplexed on Guy said, Why Aunt? He said, Well, many of the Children who we have when they go home in the summer holidays and put in the hole in the ground on left that because that parents don't want them to be visible because of the stigma around people with disabilities on, he said. So we have to come back, um, on startle over game when they come back to school. On that in a really set me thinking that, uh, we have to in this initiative that I was leading do something about it. And so we did. And we were supporting, you know, people with disabilities through technology. But that's stuck in my mind. And then I had the privilege to be center general of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization between 2011 and 2015 and I champion us is an organization that we would lead on that on Amazing things happen that the probably Do you remember the Paralympics in London Way had a first consul of ministers. I steam minister's conference around accessibility and disability on and try to get a set of high level policies in place and got ministers agreed That site, which we're approaching it from very different scales on DSO. It's great to have an opportunity to listen to what you're doing. I've tends to be a policy, but also very much a practice. Just a final thing. I think many of us working in disabilities, I believe passionately in nothing about us without us. But many of us in our lives have been touched by disability and that sensibility. When my son was young, I there's a single leg Perthes disease. When the blood supply to the stops on in the past, they used to treat it rather like that treated polio. I'm putting a brace or he couldn't walk 100 meters without screaming. I couldn't sleep a night, and there's a chance that he would have been permanently physically disabled. Unfortunately, the advice was that if a young person can can manage that on, not over stretching, the blood supply can come back and the hip bone can can regrow, which is what did happen. But I'll never forget going round to the age between primary to secondary school going to a secondary school because I was thinking that they're throughout his career, he might suffer. I didn't see any ramps or anything for people with physical disabilities. Last teacher I what arrangements do you have for people with disabilities on the teacher's showing, us around said. We don't have people with disabilities. Isn't that appalled? So that's a bit of history, sort out for hours on. This is way you God's talking about marriage, incredible things we don't. But I hope that gave
him something that's really great. Thank you, Tim, and it's great to have both of you from different perspectives, and you get a whole kind of conversation around the topic. So my next question for you both is picture. You will take it in turns to tell us about the challenges that you've encountered surrounding assistive technologies and any I see t solutions that you've helped to leverage that problem hotel.
Yeah. So I'm gonna just a quart of fact that, um, one in every five people in this world have some sort off or some form of disability
contra I statistics. Eventually, I tend to use the one in 10. I mean, it depends only to find this.
Yeah, but yes. Because I'm also talking about some of the disabilities that 70% off maybe waited our assistant technologies. And out of those one in 10 or 15 70% off, those are invisible with disabilities to the presenter organizer in a presentation setting. So it's always hard to understand your audience, and it's also important to create awareness to these organizations and to this presenters about that, Yes, you have 500 or 200 people showing up. But you don't. You need to understand that the challenges that they might face because, yes, there are people with location. But then there are also people who fit who have permanent disabilities. How do you ensure their participation? I interviewed people, one of the person who was blind, and I asked him, Why don't you go to these daily events that are happening all around the city? And he was like Because I only go to events where I know that it's about accessibility and the presentation or the event is accessible to me. So it was really side hearing this, that a lot off or a portion of the society is just excluded from participation. So how are we basically, uh, trying to solve this challenge? So it's basically the problem is about awareness letting people know Organizing organizations know that, yes, when you're talking about accessibility and inclusive conclusion. But when you held these small events, conferences, internal events or conferences, how accessible Order was, even if it's just one person in 200 it has to be inclusive. It has to be accessible and no
tip. Yeah, I know. Build a little bit on the story. I told you. Give me that. I'll take another example. I I know I just feel deep down inside that this kid is so powerful on it should be available to benefit everybody and I for a long time help me that those of us who have more, we will have a disability. So those of us who have more disabilities have far more to gain from my CDs than those with fewer disabilities. They could literally enable a blind to see and the deaf to hear. Andi. That's effectively, I think, a moral kind of argument on. Until the early two thousands, I was arguing these things very much around the moral that is right. It should be in leathers, the declaration of human rights. That's there's There's all the the U. N paraphernalia around people with disabilities and the rights that they should have. But I learned over the years that actually, that argument didn't work, and I give you one example of talking with an African education minister. This was probably around about 3 4004 on Guy was using that kind of moral arc it on, he said. But I only have limited resources. Surely I should be giving those to the education of those who are best able to help my country, Casey, you yet you're giving to the those. You only have a small amount you can spend on niceties that sometimes enable the best people to get even better so they will make a difference. The country on that set me thinking I didn't have the immediate answer to it, but I thought quickly or by feet and came back right. But therefore it makes more sense to use that limited money to support people with disabilities than anybody else. Why? Because in many societies they're seen as a burden on society in the richer countries, the world welfare costs. If you can turn that into enabling people with disabilities to have gainful employment, they will actually be contributing to the economy. So so we have to. I still believe in the moral argument, but we have to use economic argued because because for ministers on dhe, senior people in government that that will hit home so you can turn a drain into an asset on that links into what so many people disabilities tell me that they don't want charity. They want to be able to fulfill active lives on that means gaining employment. So that that, I think, is one challenge it. I could talk about hundreds of challenges, and if you'd like to spend longer way, could do that. So what have we tried to do in practice? Let me just give you an example of one piece of work we're doing, but it's I I I've come to discover that there are many good strategies and policies and practices in place, but but they tend to be in writing, not in reality. So we've started running in different parts of the world a number of workshops with multi stakeholders to discover how they think in their region. In their context. All right, only the best practices that are also good practice could be adapted to local context what they can do to turn rhetoric into reality. So with the Inter Islamic network on I T. We've been working in five Islamic countries Tunisia, Jordan, Qatar, Pakistan, Malaysia to actually work with different stakeholder groups to see what a good practices that we can then share elsewhere in the Muslim world. And that's that's really exciting. Also, I've been working around. Maybe this was a question you're gonna ask later. But let me bring it in here in case you don't. But the difference between inclusion on assistive on It's amazing how most people don't get this because unless a technology is just designed and manufactured and created to be universal on dhe inclusive, it will automatically marginalize people, right? So that's why I tried to weigh, have tohave inclusive universal design so that imagine if everyone, the world who designed a bit of kit did it so that it was accessible to everybody, but particularly people, just a range of disabilities. Okay, on dhe, what's tender toe happen is people with disabilities has been seen as requiring assistive technologies, but that costs money. The people who designed the assistant technologies have to pay okay, whether systems that the government can subsidize that that works. But in most poor context, there's no money to subsidize that. So people with disabilities have to pay Maur to buy assistive technologies, which enables them to use the technologies that are available. Now that is a good business opportunity, and so many governments are actually keeping that mentality in mind to support private sector, build assistive technologies. I completely accept that in in in in in some context that there are very specific disabilities that will require assistive technologies. But I think if we could get an idea that A LL technology is designed to be inclusive for the majority of people with disabilities, rather than relying on the creation of assistant Technologies, then we would make a phenomenal difference that let's be fair Apple with it. Some universal access did did fantastic things early on, but very, very few people who have a Mac know about it's It's inclusive things on much softer than the other big operating system is has caught up and is now doing good things as well. So I think in the brief answer to your question, Sorry, I've Bean like, but what one is around there turning rhetoric into reality in the ground? And so people really do benefit on the other? Is this this emphasis on inclusive technologies? But if you like some more challenges and what we're feeling up very appetizing to respond
question I have for you both actually do feel leading on from your point. Do you feel that governments do enough for assist people who are making assistive technologies for companies now do you think they help them enough?
Yeah. I mean, I think there's a huge There are lots of factors causing it, not not just accessibility disability, but there is huge emphasis on the APP economy through the idea that APS are going to make the world a better place on. Actually, you encourage young people to develop app so they'll make lots of money on that will build the economy. I profoundly disagree without all the evidence shows just a tiny percentage that developers make most of money out of most up developers don't so their issues around this but many countries are are supporting app development for people with disabilities. But one of the challenges cause at least overlap duplication replication on. We need more coordination. I might. My feeling is that thank goodness the world is waking up to these issues. Many countries are putting in place mechanism, often through the regulator. In, in in in Pakistan, for example, the former telecom regulator was very supportive in behind the scene, trying to shape things, putting on initiatives, and he ran a set of competitions rap development for people with disabilities. Andi, I think the momentum is gaining, but it it's it's wonderful that you're having a one on one of these open discussions that that is focusing on this week, raising awareness not both among people with disabilities for what kit is available for them. But I don't really agree, but perhaps more importantly, in the wider community. We had a workshop yesterday and one of the things I haven't shame on me thought about enough is. But, you know, maybe in someone's it in every degree course it should be compulsory. For students to have something about accessibility on disability would not be amazing. On DSO, I think another processes. I was semi joking about my assistive technology. But the world is an aging population as people get older. Don't I know it? You know we we become or disabled in inverted comments on so the assistant technologies that are developed for people displaced. Actually, there is a much, much wider market is in amongst the boring old people like May.
That's really interesting because I read an article yesterday on they were saying in the UK that was the first day that there are more people over 65 like for every person under five. So it's definitely aging.
I'm not there yet. I love to hear more about what you
think. I think the problem it want. The problem that I see is that the problems out there, either they're too expensive or they're too complex or just focusing on one particular disability, they're not universally. I mean, they're not designed in a way. And I feel that this is where it if I feel that's my personal feeling, it is a discrimination because think if I see from a presentation setting and I see that there are 10 participants and then someone is using some assistive technology, someone is using something else and then some of them are just facing challenges. So I feel that the people stand out or they you can see those people that they are still struggling with something. The solution that we want to provide is something that's low friction, low cost and he's a fuse and it's designed in a way that every person again consumed the content the way they weren't in different modalities and in a presentation setting way. We're trying to provide the solution on on their personal mobile phones. So in a presentation. You can just access the presentation directly on your phone while you're sitting in the audience and every person can have a different experience. For example, a person who is hard of hearing can enable the separatists. A person who has language issues can just translate those supplies in a different language. A person who is has low vision. He's already seen the content on his screen. So it's basically a person sitting next to me are all same, right? We should not kind of feel that we're having some kind of challenges. But the goal should be that the knowledge that has been shared is being consumed equally among all the participants. It's also that when I talked, so I'm a designer, right and I have been running designed, springs, prototyping something. And my approach is not just to focus one particular disability, but rather see a holistic approach. What's the problem? And then solve it for each one off each one of them, and then see if it's always if it solves for this particular disability isn't solving for this also because I don't want to explode someone. If I solve it for someone I don't want to exclude the other. At the same time, I want to solve it for all of these participants. So I think it's Ah, it's challenging on. And then when you talked about regulatory, yes, it's ah, it's super important for the government to also have some laws, strong laws regarding accessibility that should be in place to ensure that organizations also realize that, yes, we have to do this like, for example, this event. It's It's a good example off how anyone should be right because anyone can participate. Yesterday I had a talk with shoddy, and then he has. He was on a region, so we had a ramp at the second hole. Not every space is designed like that. But imagine if we I think this from now on for next 20 years. We make this that every state should have. Aram, then the next donation won't ever think about that. It's something. The ramp is just for someone who's on Beecher. They're gonna just say it's a ram. It's part of the state. So it's kind of mentality total, uh, kind of how we have to shift the way we think and how we see people basically
kick. It can just throw out full of that exam. And I think it was really I was moderating a session on higher education, Uh, yesterday morning on DDE in it that there was something about way have to move away from the traditional Lecture theatre and enable all students to learn through the modality that they think suits them best. Now, I mean, what a market opportunity for you that that basically, although you came from this disability approach, that same logic and design, like design logic actually applies across the higher education on on school system. So So I think now offered on happens that that's something that is designed around accessibility becomes broader. So I think maybe you should market it into the wider education sector. Yes, on dhe. But let me tell again, another story at my expense on this also happened yesterday in our accessibility session. So we were using a particular software start being good. I'm not I'm not marking, but we'll use in particular suite of software on. I was moderating it because I was doing a mind map on it, so I couldn't see it was sharing my screen, so I couldn't see the normal chat screen, which which had when people did chats and I was relying on somebody else in room him to look at the chats and tell me when something came through. I wonder if you could, or anyone out that can see where this story is going. Because somebody with autism who didn't feel able to speak wrote something in the chat and was using the chat, and I couldn't see that because the software we were using I could just see my screen on nobody else in the room who was looking at the chats that will exit. It was so That was a way in which, actually, the kit we were using didn't enable me to do what I wanted to do, which was involved everybody. So this person wrote to me last night quite crossed that we were inaccessibility session that I hadn't enabled him. It was for him to contribute. I felt really, really sad on Bond. Uh, I'm not sure what I wrote late last night would have satisfied him, but well, at least include his comments in our thoughts. So that's the way that unintended Lee technology can marginalize people
talking about marginalized, um, communities with festive technologies. And I'm talking about specifically modern assistive technologies. Do you feel like older people are actually a lot more marginalized in this sense? Because it will take a lot longer for them to become a CZ You say become used to using assistive technology because they might think, Oh, what's wrong with my walking stick? Or you know what's wrong with what I have? These actual modern assistive technologies are a lot more harder for older people to start using, right? Do you think that's a fair?
I actually, there's a lot of good evidence that Thea argument that old people can't use technologies capturing completely rubbish that that many old people can and do use technology where they see a need for it on Go. I won't get us all to move away from this year. That's only the young who could use technology because that that increasing particularly, let's say, and more developed societies. I hate that term, but even in the poorest society is I think they're older people who camp. But I if what you're saying is correct, that's actually the fault of the designers that we should be designing technology that is usable by its use it on DDE that we shouldn't be designing for them on this. I'm sure you'd agree with this, but it's part about co creation. We need help people with disabilities designing our kit. No people who have fewer that's built is designing it. Four people in this book, actually, if we involve them in the design presses, they will get the money, they will get an income. So so ifit's a virtuous sir, thank you.
I also feel yeah, when he said, Go create, it's super important because also, the way we are doing is that we are including the people who have hard of hearing where death interview blind people, because I don't want to create a product where I see there is a need. But I want to create a product that's created by people for them. Um, so basically, it's very important to understand what you're creating, what you're designing, and sometimes this gets lost while designing. Yes, people have a really good challenge that they're trying to solve, but then they don't include the real users. They don't actually, or maybe they included for just one part and then it's like, Okay, let's keep building on it and then they just are off the off the track. So, uh, I would say that, um from this from day one, we should also see that, uh, we should talk to people. We should make sure that we are running test pilots with them and then ensuring that their feedback is value it rather than the company's goals. Basically, because in the end, we are Ah, we're trying to make a change, right? Trying to make an impact on It's not, I don't feel it's about, ah again. So it's not about money. It's about making enabling this these people. Basically
I can phrase at the slightly different wakes. What you say is so important. We don't want company's exploiting people with disabilities, which actually I think does happen that that they have a lot of h. C. I isn't really about involving them right people, the the users from the very beginning. You get them into a focus group or whatever and see whether that stuff you design actually satisfies them on. But you should be paying them huge amounts for that anyway, so I can't have another points of just just eye on challenges. One of the biggest chance the gate came from our work with the interest limit network on I T. Is that many of the spokespeople on it builds on the question. You, you just you asked before major spokespeople of groups with people with disabilities on. Actually, many of those who access technology
do so from a
privileged position. So it's It's usually people with disabilities from middle class or upper class people who engage in the dialogues on dhe who represent those communities on. I have, Ah, a sneaking worry that we're not really exploring the poorest in the most marginalized people with disabilities, exploring how we can use technology to support them. And I think it's really important. Somehow we we develop mechanisms for engaging with them. Uh, because otherwise that that's what we're going to get left further behind. That the privilege People with disabilities will have benefits. Yes, but But you know, they're the ones who can pay for these assistive technologies. So we need to get in place, eh? On. That's part of my my life commitment, I think always to serving the needs of the poorest of the most marginalized on dhe. Yeah, I would like to encourage people out there to try and find ways of doing that. Um A But perhaps that's my biggest challenge in the moment.
So I guess also big question for me is how to be make something from a concept that we said, How do we turn it from concept to mainstream uses? Just
design everything in university inclusively from the beginning on Also ensure that it's low cost, low friction and a piece of you. So everyone
envies of uses your side.
Yes, and it's easy to adopt and easy to scale basically, so that, yes, it becomes not just for one some rich country, but it's also can
give you an example. Yes, you have been about smart cards, smart cards and so smart cars again, yourself driving everything so we could use that technology if we have the will for smart people. In other words, blind people or people with disabilities that you no longer need the white cane troubles. This would make them invisible often so goes back to Genoa. But why aren't we using all the technology around smart cars to enable people with disabilities to be smart and explore cities. I know. So you can have Amazing. I am busy. If a smart person and I was with all the kit it was walking along and wanted to cross the road way could set up the system so it automatically turns the lights to red. So cars have to stop so that they are prioritized. So if they're on a crossing and the car's going too fast, the car is automatically diverted around. I think they're ethical issues about yeah, the way surveillance. We're all surveyed anyway. But I that that is sort of applying one technology that huge on money has been invested in. But it could be transferred for free. Two people with disabilities if we have the will to do that.
Thank you. Sorry. So my last question would be for both of you. How do you see the missus process on di city from general shaping the field of assistive technologies in the future? I
would say that what we're doing is very strongly aligned with the action lines of WCS, which is the sea to information and communication infrastructure for inclusive information society and see three, which is access to information and knowledge, and I think it's It's It's a global platform to talk about such issues and also to bring out some solutions that can be adopted on and spread out to the partners to be adopted by them also. And I think that again, the W s eyes with this platform, we should be working on a solution that's ah, accessible and usable rather than profitably.
That's a very difficult question to answer. I think I think you've done a much better job than I'm baked into it. Hard, sweet, I quite well known for being hugely critical of the whole STD process the STDs have failed already on. I want us to move away completely from that, however I but that that's important in in the West. I think this particular wishes on the 10th anniversary of the first day dedicated to accessibility was a huge achievement that is fantastic on dhe. So I think that is raising awareness, but still that just isn't sufficient awareness around that. So we need to do a lot more. I think the work that get on jolly and team here in the i t you do. It's the 10th Thank the first Wises. That forum was 300. We now have 3000 so there's
a huge number of
people out there we can be influencing. I think I think one of the great things about Wises. It brings together the various different U N. Agencies in ah, supporting their own interest. Maybe, but But in trying to deliver joined up solutions on this has to be done in a joined up way. It's not the remit of anyone U N agency or any one sector on. I've always been a great believer in multi sector partnerships are bringing government private sector civil Start started together on on dhe, you know, having different U. N. Agencies focusing on their own mandate on bringing money into them. We have to work across the U. N. System as a whole on whistles. Pride's a mechanism for doing that, so I think it's awareness raising, sitting together, talking about how we do it. But I've got very fed up with many of these global forms of confidence. But I have to say, this year here I've been so much more excited and motivated, partly because it gets a jolly in the team and enduring a CZ focused on accessibility, really in a big way for the first time. It's a small beginning, but together you know people with disabilities can help us understand what their needs are and how we can work to support them. I see I'm an academic background, but I see academic should be the servants off society. All too often we're not. We think we're somehow brilliance and all the rest of it where we need to become much, much more humble on DDE work with people with disabilities to involve them in everything we do on to enable them above all others, to benefit from this incredible kit that people like you were designing making. And it's just so wonderful.
Thank you. Well, uh, can I just basically, I also believe that the first just dedicated to accessibility was such a great move because I have bean trying to conduct some workshops where I talk about inclusive presentations. And then I thought, uh, I What I tell you these organizations is that you have to take just one small step. It's not bringing up a whole new thing is just take one step and then also enable other organizations take one step, and then it's basically then everyone is sailing in that direction. So I think, um, this was a really, really great thing by the breast size, the team getting chilly and everyone and I'm really happy that they have focused on accessibility. Make sure that everyone realizes how important this is. And we should do this even at other conferences and events. Also.
Thank you. Thank you. The heart and thank you to him. Thank you both for joining us on today's podcast. It's been really interesting discussion on It's a long time coming, having the access pretty date went. So we're glad it's gonna be an annual feature here Now. Thanks very much like a huge thank you to all of our listeners on. Make sure you check out the rest of the witches talk podcast. Thank you.