Here are some key takeaways from The Accessible World's inaugural year - Generocity Philly

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May 3, 2016 12:53 pm

Here are some key takeaways from The Accessible World’s inaugural year

The conference was a reminder that we should all have an inherent interest in universal accessible design.

Ather Sharif welcomes attendees.

(Photo by Tony Abraham)

Earlier this year, EvoXLabs founder (and soon to be Comcast software engineer) Ather Sharif announced the launch of The Accessible World (TAW) conference, a local two-day event hoping to aggregate some best practices in accessibility.

Last week, Sharif welcomed attendees to the inaugural conference at the Free Library, explaining that the motive for the event was to bring attention to a modern lack of universal design across disciplines. The conference itself was split up into a number of different tracks including technology, education and public policy.

“The most interesting part is the audience is still the same for each track,” Sharif said. “The idea behind all that is to bring people together under one roof” to share best practices and raise awareness across disciplines. 

Sharif’s welcome address was followed by a keynote from FCC Chief of Disability Rights Gregory Hlibok, who explained he “wasn’t born into an accessible world,” but was born into a “barrier-free” one.

Hlibok was born deaf. Access wasn’t a concern until new technologies were introduced, he said before reminiscing on caption-free television.

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“Accessiblity can break down anywhere,” said entrepreneur and accessible design practitioner Kel Smith. “I think I know how to fix it: Don’t treat accessibility as an afterthought. Think of accessibility as an opportunity — an opportunity to advance your space.” 

Smith recalled seeing a prototype of a Higi — a machine that measures health vitals in grocery stores — in Austin, Texas.

“Some places had a special room for it. It was workable,” he said. “There were other places that weren’t so workable,” pointing to an image on a slide of a Higi in a tight grocery store corner, blocked off by a number of carts. 

The major takeaway from the inaugural Accessible World conference? There’s a lot of work to be done in advocating, educating and advancing toward universal accessible design.

And it’s a fight we should all have an inherent interest in.

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