The questions…….

My favorite part of public speaking is the Q&A section at the end. Its interesting to be challenged by people all the time, I especially like questions that start with “I know its personal but…..”. These questions are usually challenging to answer and I do enjoy that. While that may sound scary to be stood on stage while possibly thousands of people stare and wait for an answer, it always leads to interesting trains of thought.

Recently at an event for PWC I was asked the question “What is your biggest dream”. Now looking back and with time to think about it, while I answered the question honestly I didn’t feel I gave the justification as to why. It is after all the why that makes it interesting.

The question was – “What is your dream”. I responded with “to be VP of accessibility at a major tech company”, then went on to discuss my dreams within the realm of adventuring.

This doesn’t answer, why, I want to be VP at a major tech company. Well that is because of a dream.

Access to information is essential for the advancement of anyone, from learning to simple day to day news gathering. For someone with sight loss that is immensely difficult. I cant just pick up a book, or magazine or even go to a website and read the latest information. Essentially the majority of traditional forms of information are beyond what I am capable of accessing. This can make education incredibly difficult and place the visually impaired at a severe disadvantage.

While studying for my degree this lack of access to information became incredibly apparent. While, a facility did exist to make information accessible – in an audio format, there was a substantial time delay. To the point where it would mean if I stood any chance of finishing my degree I would have to complete essays in 2-3 weeks. My dissertation was completed in 8, that was not by choice, that was a constraint introduced by access to information. I will quickly add that I was 4 points off the highest possible mark however!

But it is precisely this access to information I want to change. The mobile is truly a revolution in access to information and that is where great change can take place. Android has the largest market share in terms of devices and could make an incredible global difference through accessibility. As the next billion people come online, imagine enabling a visually impaired person for the first time to access a book, the days news, or even a menu at a local restaurant. This is all possible by utilising screen reading technology and OCR through smartphone cameras.

What is needed is rapid improvement in accessibility features, vast improvements in universal design and a focussed concentration on inclusive user centric design.

And it is precisely all these reasons I desire a senior role at a tech company, to help instigate that change and enable learning to all.

There is a place for this within other organizations and was a topic of conversation with IBM, any company that has a large consulting role has a wonderful opportunity. An opportunity to touch hundreds if not thousands of companies throughout the world. To initiate these changes and work towards a more inclusive focus for technology and services.

So thats the why, I just didn’t condense it on stage on the day!

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