When we think of disability, we often think of limitation. It’s what can’t be done rather than what can be done.
In her The Importance of Access and Inclusion session at the ACCESS At Home online conference hosted by 3 Play Media, Emily Yates discussed access and inclusion as she shared her personal story and experience as a wheelchair user, journalist, and accessibility consultant.
Yates captured my interest as she shared personal stories of scuba diving at 16 years old, climbing a sand dune, exploring the Sinai Desert on a camel, living with a Bedouin tribe, sleeping under the stars and her experiences as an accessibility consultant.
In 2012, Yates volunteered for the London 2021 Olympic and Paralympic games.
She described her volunteer work as a really wonderful experience and that the paralympics helped disabled people realize their capabilities and not focus on limitations as disabled people.
the games had lifted the cloud of limitation was quoted in the closing ceremony.
Which helped launch her work as an accessibility consultant.
Yates has worked with multiple organizations, including the BBC, University of York, and The Guardian.
Her work as an accessibility consultant in Rio de Janeiro for two years resulted in accessibility improvements to Metro Rio transport stations before the Rio Olympic games in 2016.
Here are my notes from her presentation.
The Importance of Access and Inclusion
- Often when we think of disabilities, we think of someone in a wheelchair. And the importance of ramps, lower desks, automatic doorways, etc. All are vital tools to make sure people can navigate and access areas in society.
- However, Yates explains it’s also important for disabled people to be treated well, that the perception of disability is positive. She describes it as “social access.”
- Physical access won’t mean as much to a disabled person when they’re treated lesser by others
- Yates recommends organizations/businesses consider hiring a professional to provide disability awareness training or give a presentation on how to implement standards/policies to create a positive perception and mind set around access and inclusion
- At your business, take steps to make sure your recruitment and hiring process is inclusive
- It’s society’s responsibility to remove barriers and to encourage access and inclusion. When that happens, it’s suddenly a lot easier for disabled people to realize their potential and capabilities.
- Access and inclusion aren’t only kind and ethical things for businesses and organizations to do. It’s a profitable business model.
- Disabled people are loyal customers to businesses providing services/products that are accessible. Don’t ignore the spending power of disabled households.
- Engaging disabled people with lived experiences at the start of your project, including them on your team, will help you design and build accessible products and services
- It’s not only making your products and services accessible to disabled people. You also want to make sure your policies/guidelines encourage disabled people to work at your business.
- What lessons can we learn from other countries on how to create a more inclusive society? Yates explained some countries excel at physical access (like curb cuts), while others excel at social access (easy conversation with people). For example, London has good physical access, Rio de Janeiro has good social access.
- If you’re working in accessibility and inclusion, share your knowledge, experience, and pearls of wisdom. You’re creating something good for society as a whole.