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Senior Member

The technical community needs to be deliberate about accessibility, ethics and inclusion if it wants to progress in equality and diversity.

 

This is the message of Australian MVPs Larene Legassick and Greg Alchin, and Korean MVP Jaesok Lee, as they continue to rally for the development of more inclusive technology-based solutions.

 

Accessibility in tech is an essential issue for each of the MVPs. Larene’s father is blind, and she has “grown up watching how the digital world has forgotten and excluded him and other disabled friends and family.” Greg, meanwhile, has a visual impairment, and Jaesok has worked closely with the hearing impaired in working toward “AI democratization.”

 

Unfortunately, accessibility continues to be an afterthought in the way technology solutions are designed. The trio says a lack of awareness and training results in tech creators who are usually not aware of what accessibility is and why it is important.

 

“Adding accessibility later takes much longer than building it in from the start, yet it should still be done,” Larene says. “It's not ‘over-engineering’ or a nice-to-have, it's a basic requirement.”

 

Greg concurs: “In my experience, most post-design accessibility checks are done in a rush near the end,” he says. “Then, when the design flaws are presented, the usual responses are ‘we don’t have the time or money now and will pick them up in version two.’ Nine times out of ten it doesn’t happen. So people are excluded by ignorance and omission. The product fails to reach the widest possible audience and the product owner is put at risk.”

 

Jaesok, meanwhile, notes the lack of accessibility for the hearing impaired in the remote age. “Hearing-impaired people have more difficulties in practising and implementing new technologies than ordinary people,” he says. “Although many AI technologies are being introduced and services for the hearing impaired are emerging, I think it is important to help them create the services they need and want for themselves.”

 

While there remain barriers surrounding inclusive design, those barriers are beginning to fall, the trio says. More dev tools support the creation of inclusive products and Microsoft “has done a lot to support developers to adopt methodology through the inclusive design resources they have developed,” Greg says. Further, the MVP community is proving willing and able to amplify the importance of accessibility.

 

“Once there's awareness, people usually go learn and champion accessibility passionately,” Larene says.

 

“Being a member of the MVP community has provided multiple opportunities to connect with individual members and Microsoft staff to present at events and share articles,” Greg says. “Each connection and opportunity to promote inclusion through design is a perpetual ripple in the pond.”

 

“Accessibility is about affording all users the dignity of equal access,” Greg says. “And equal access enables the full and effective participation and inclusion of all citizens in a society.”