Viv Mullan 00:00
Hello, I’m Viv and welcome to the last episode of season one of Remarkable Insights. And today also marks International Day of People with disability. This year, the United Nations is observing this date by exploring the role of innovation in fueling an accessible and equitable world which fits the theme of our podcast perfectly. To start today’s episode, we took the microphone around the remarkable community to ask those with lived experience what today means to them.
Katy Gaastra 00:55
My name is Katy Gaastra. And I have cerebral palsy. What’s so exciting to me about the theme for this year’s International Day of People with Disabilities is the fact that this community has deep roots in innovation. We’re an adaptive group. And we’re changing the way that the world understands things like accessibility, equity and inclusion through the power of technology and through the shift in language. And by harnessing the power of innovation and technology. We’re challenging expectations about what disabled people are truly capable of. My life has been completely transformed by mobility technology in the last six years. It’s allowed me to reimagine a better future for myself, but also to be a part of a better world where people with disabilities are really the ones leading the call for change.
Sophie Marmont 01:50
Hello, my name is Sophie Marmont and I have cerebral palsy. To me, International Day of people with disability is an important day, as it is the one that is internationally recognised by the UN. The day for me highlights the achievements of people with a disability and sometimes highlights that we have a long way to go in this space. To me the day is an opportunity to start the conversation that continues throughout the year.
Viv Mullan 02:39
This season, we traveled virtually across the globe to speak with some remarkable people who are harnessing the power of tech design and advocacy to shape a more accessible, inclusive and equitable world. For this season finale, we’re going to play some unheard moments from these conversations. First, let’s head to New York to hear from Forbes columnist Jonathan Kaufman about how the disability community has and continues to transform tech at large.
Jonathan Kaufman 03:04
A Metaverse has to be accessible, you know, the accessibility I think it’s such a big part of the technology now that we’re sort of pushing in. And so the idea is to say, we need to think about what we can learn from people with disabilities who’ve had to navigate the world for ages, I mean, throughout history, and realise that the world wasn’t designed for them. So we have to rethink how we design for this new environment for this new work environment. And that I think is important, but I also think they’re not doing this for nothing. I’m under no illusion that they’re doing this. Oh, because this is really wonderful. Yeah, there’s certainly some of that, but there’s a cost benefit to this. And it’s a cost benefit for people with disabilities who want to work, want to continue to work, or people who are aging for saying, okay, you know, what retirement is in for me, I want to sort of take the next step, but I’m dealing with health issues, but my brain works. And I can continue to work. That’s going to be a very interesting question. I think, as particularly baby boomers start to retire, or reimagine what’s the sort of next step beyond core of their lives and dealing with again, disabilities, and particularly those that are at the C suite are saying, You know what, maybe I don’t want to retire, maybe I want to do something else, and to reimagine what the world of work looks like. That in itself will have a trickle down effect.
Viv Mullan 04:43
Charli Skinner, an advocate and co-founder of Soda, a tech company, moving the dial on accessibility and inclusion explains why chronically ill and disabled people are natural entrepreneurs.
Charli Skinner 04:54
Disabled people are innovators. I almost even want to call them hustlers because they literally have to hustle their way through If, you know they’re hustling their way through creating alternative solutions that because they’re not being offered them, so, you know, disabled people are the people who are at the forefront of working, you know, multiple different interesting jobs not doing nine to fives, you know, everyone talks about oh, the nine to five working for the man, it’s awful, meanwhile, disabled people who realise that years ago, and are hustling their way through their lives. So there’s a lot to learn from us hustlers, I think. But yeah, I mean, there really is this really important space around enabling people into those environments. And, you know, for example, recognising that remote work actually is something that people can do productively tech can enable working processes as well. Employers can use tools to be able to stay in contact with their employees in a much more facilitated way, these days as well. And then I think there’s, you know, for me, I can use myself as a good example of someone who was on that middling ground and has managed to establish a place of balance with my work, it is a constant work in progress. But I actually made a shift from a really big shift. And it was a difficult decision to make from going from working from for a nine to five job to saying no, I actually need to work for myself, because the only way that I will be able to create the access environment that works for me is if I work for myself, but it’s also a huge negative because the fact that I was driven out of work because I couldn’t access work, and essentially actually was left with no other choice than to start my own thing in itself is a problem. So we, you know, we need to create the environments for people to be able to choose whether they want to do something that is a, you know, the equivalent of the nine to five or a part time role, or working for themselves, or working as a freelancer and being able to explore all those models with all the tools that are available to them without being forced to just assumed that it’s not possible for them to work.
Viv Mullan 06:52
Professor Sébastien Jodoin, director of the disability inclusive climate action research programme shines a light on the intersection between disability and climate change.
Sébastien Jodoin 07:03
We are doing the first empirical study on the climate resilience of people with disabilities in a region of India, and looking at sort of how climate change there affects people with disabilities, but also like what tools, what strategies have they developed to be resilient? What lessons can we learn? And I have to tell you, one of the reasons we chose India actually, was that they had done a better job of protecting people in heat waves than many Western countries have. They had these heat waves that were quite deadly many years ago. And more recently, honestly, they’ve had fewer deaths from heat waves in India than we’ve had in Canada. So why? So we have a few hypotheses, but that’s why we’re doing the research, right. And also actually here in my hometown, as Montreal is sort of trying to address its largest share of carbon emissions. So in the transportation sector, there’s all these things happening, right. So introducing rapid bike lanes, electrifying vehicles, car sharing programmes, of course, expanding the transit system. And this is the thing that we’re recently doing is trying to figure out, okay, well, how many of these solutions are accessible? Like how many of these solutions are perhaps even creating new barriers for people with disability? So we just don’t know. And that’s why we’re doing this research. But one of the things that we’ve learned, for instance, is that these rapid bike lanes, they have not been designed in ways to think about like, how does a blind person cross the street? If this, like rapid die claim is like designed for the bikes to basically never stop? So again, it’s sort of no one thought about that barrier. And no one thought about how you could design it in an inclusive way. And I like to say that disability inclusive design is just, it’s just good design, right? It’s just figuring out how to build something that’s going to benefit as many people as possible.
Viv Mullan 09:04
Matt Pierri, CEO, and co founder of sociability has built an app designed to empower people to understand the social and economic advantages of accessibility
Matt Pierri 09:14
Technology for lots of people, particularly non disabled people, has given them back brain space, right. So you can type into Google Maps, point A and point B. And it just tells you how to get there. And you don’t really need to think anymore. You don’t need to read a map, you’re not looking at the stars, you don’t have a compass, right, it just tells you when to get on the bus or the tube or the taxi, and you just get there. You have all these things at your fingertips. And we live in a world of so much information. A lot of these sites just help you pass that and kind of get to the things you need. And then take away that need to sort of use your brain to figure out a bunch of that stuff. for disabled people that doesn’t work. Disabled people are still working to do all those things. And often, you know, two or three, four or five times harder than non disabled people. And that takes energy and time. So for me to book a restaurant or to meet a book or Hotel takes much longer than somebody who doesn’t have a disability who can just go online and click the price and location and pick something they like. So sociability, our mission is really to organise the world’s accessibility information in a way that removes this anxiety and the stress and his time and his effort for all these tasks that still exist for disabled people today, because the platforms and technologies that we’ve built don’t have the right information. So you know, I can’t use Google Maps to readily find a way to get from point A to B, because it doesn’t know which forms of transport are accessible to me, if we can help them unlock that. That means that for disabled people, transport is much easier. And we don’t need to build a navigation platform or, you know, a booking site, or whatever it is, the goal really is to help unlock all these other existing platforms and services. And to really be in some sense, that idea of like a layer of the internet that can help, you know, facilitate and empower, to sell people to access all these other services and platforms that exist, and to give them back their brand space to give them back that time to give them back that you know, kind of confidence, peace of mind that they don’t have, but that other people have and take for granted.
Viv Mullan 11:12
Creator of NFTY collective Giselle Mota is on a mission to bring disability inclusion and representation into web three and the metaverse.
Giselle Mota 11:20
We’re working with an individual who has muscular dystrophy. And he is an artist and actually based in Singapore and an amazing rapper, super talented young man. And we he, you know, he lives with the reality that he just, he doesn’t know because he has a degenerative disease, and what I’m really aiming to do as well. And I don’t want to get emotional here. But what I am aiming to do is also give people a chance to see themselves in an experience. That’s so cool, and so forward thinking that they could say I was a part of that during my lifetime, I was a part of this experience. And so those are the kinds of doors that open up as well. And now we are being invited to create games and inclusive art galleries with some of our characters and learning and development experiences for organisations. And some people have asked us Can we use your characters to, you know, add on to our products, so that we can, if we do have a little character in our product somewhere, it can be someone with a disability. So there’s so many different opportunities that are coming up, and the sky’s the limit.
Viv Mullan 12:23
Bernard Chiira, founder of Innovate Now is on a mission to raise the business profile of investing in assistive tech startups in Africa.
Giselle Mota 12:31
Assistive Technology has not proven itself, you know, as a high return sector, yet, we are trying to take it there. But many investors, you know who our commercial investors are, who are looking at it from especially the metrics of just the return on investment, they need to see that there’s potential, they need to see that building an assistive tech business can be equally rewarding as being a FinTech, for example. And this is very difficult to do when you don’t have, you know, cash for r&d. And some of these innovations, they do require, you know, significant amounts of capital, especially when you have things like hardware involved, or new disruptive technologies, you know, involved. And so what we strongly believe in is that we need to work with impact investors who can see the potential of these businesses at a very early stage and give them access to early stage capital, that then goes ahead to make them ready and investable for your traditional investors down the line. And I think that’s why some of the amazing initiatives we’re seeing coming up, make a significant step towards saying how do we address this gap? How do we link disability innovators to capital and set them up on a path to become investable and sustainable? And I think this should be the mindset of every accelerator or programme that supporting entrepreneurs in this space. We all know that there’s been proven ways of helping companies that are changing the world today. Succeed and we need to bring that mindset we need to bring that talent we need to bring that capital to the disabilities.
Viv Mullan 14:27
Andrew Gurza, Chief Disability Officer at Bump’n provides a unique glimpse into sex tech and disability.
Andrew Gurza 14:34
We made up that role for me, I said to Heather, you know, we never have disabled people in power. And companies. We never have a CEO with a disability. We never have a CFO with a disability. And she was like, Well, what would you want to do in this role? And I was like, I want to make sure everything is accessible. And we’re talking about disability as often as we can. And she was like, Well, what if we just made him a role, Chief disability officer, so that you can be in the room and look over all of our stuff and make sure it’s all the way you want it to be, before we do anything. And to the, from the beginning of anything to the end of any part of the project, there’s a disabled person looking over, it’s been really, really powerful to say that I do that. And I think we’re the first in the world to ever do something like that. And it makes me really proud to be like, see, disabled people can innovate and make change, and be in positions of power. Like, it’s really it’s to me, it’s so important. And also, it was using both Heather in my expertise, she’s got 10 plus years in marketing, and she’s really, really good as an ad person. I have 10 plus years, being a public figure in the disability space. So we were like, Let’s do this together and some more so then, you know, starting that conversation, it was about reigniting conversation around sex. It’s always been everywhere to have the right to have and saying, This toy doesn’t have to be about masturbation. It’s not always about Yeah, you gotta get off. It’s about liking the intimacy you can have with the toy. And so I love that it’s able to do both those things.
Viv Mullan 16:02
Wow, what a year. It’s been so many amazing moments, talented, insightful guests and topics to the full unedited interviews, please subscribe to our YouTube remarkable tech. I’m Viv Mullan. And this has been the remarkable insights podcast. At Remarkable we’re committed to developing tech startups that positively impact people with disability and amplify human potential for those who want to join the remarkable family applications for our 2023 accelerator program open now. So head to our website to learn more
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