Remarkable Insights: Professor Sébastien Jodoin


[00:00 – 00:25]

Remarkable acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands on which we are gathered today, and we pay respects to the elders past, present and emerging for they hold the traditions, the culture and hopes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the nation. And we would also like to acknowledge the advocates who played a role in advancing the rights of people with disabilities, leading to addressing the inequalities faced by people with disabilities.

[00:25 – 01:03] Viv

When you think of climate change do you think of the disability community? In the following episode we are joined by Professor Sébastien Jodoin, director of the Disability-Inclusive Climate Action Research Programme to talk about how his life in academia and law, combined with his experience of Multiple sclerosis has inspired his passion for researching the intersection between climate change and disability. We’ll discuss why people with disabilities aren’t considered in climate change justice conversations, and why this needs to change as we look to the future of a truly innovative, accessible and inclusive approach to tackling climate change, from both a tech and policy perspective.

[01:03 – 01:16] Viv

So lovely to have you with us today to start these conversations. What we like to do because this will also be a video podcast is invite our guests to do a visual description of themselves.

[01:16 – 01:30] Sébastien

Sure, I’m a white man. I have no hair. I’ve just turned 40 and I am standing in my living room because it’s in the evening here in Montreal, so I’m home.

[01:31 – 01:54] Viv

Again a big thanks for coming on the show and you’ve got a pretty impressive resume and career to date and I’m not even gonna try and summarize all the things you’ve done but if you wouldn’t mind giving that a go and just sharing a bit about what it is that you currently do and and if you’re comfortable how exactly that’s been shaped by your experience of MS?

[01:54 – 04:27] Sébastien

I’m a law professor at McGill University in Canada. Prior to that I worked as a human rights lawyer and was also active in the field of climate change. I started working on disability and climate change a few years ago and that was really tied to my experience of having multiple sclerosis. So I was diagnosed with MS in October 2015 and I had pretty aggressive case in terms of the onset so I was lucky actually because I was diagnosed right away in the emergency room in the hospital and I remember after they gave me the diagnosis I turned to my wife and the first thing I said was okay this is going to be a beautiful challenge and I had no idea what that meant I didn’t know anything about this illness or how to manage it but I had this idea of like knowing who I am, I was like all right I’m gonna put my all everything into this I’ll end up working on health care or disability and whatever so that’s that was sort of my my early sort of bounce back internal resilience in that in that context and in the summer I realized that I was basically intolerant to heat so 65 of people with Ms will have these various symptoms when it’s really hot outside in fact they used to diagnose people with MS by putting them in hot baths to see would trigger some of those symptoms so basically before MRIs that’s what they did they used hot baths and what it does is it triggers a number of things can make you more tired it can blur your vision and you can also feel these like tiny little electric shocks along the side of your like back of your head along your spine they’re not like painful but they’re a sign of like your nervous system is not you know functioning properly. So anyway I’m sort of in July in Montreal where it’s very hot and humid and you can describe it as a hot bath and I’m like thinking to myself okay so this problem that I’ve been working on for my whole adult life climate change I suddenly am affected by it in a different way than others and basically from there it was just much easier to start thinking about how I could bring my work work to disabling climate change but for the most part I ended up sort of moving my research towards the field of disability and climate change.

[04:28 – 04:44] Viv

When we look at climate change and we hear numbers about slight increases and decreases to the temperature of the climate and the atmosphere, although they’re smaller it might be one degree up one degree down. What is the impact of just that one degree when we’re talking about disability?

[04:45 – 07:02] Sébastien

I mean the one degree is sort of a global average and really what it represents actually and what it leads to is it’s actually that you’ll have these severe weather events right you’ll have more cyclones they’ll be more powerful you’ll have more droughts you’ll have more heat waves the way in which people with disabilities are affected by sensitivity so like what in your body might you make you more sensitive to different types of impacts people with schizophrenia are very heat intolerant and they typically are the people who die at the highest rate actually in heat waves around the world so they have actually the highest death rate per proportion of what their share of the population is and then finally there’s a deck of capacity that’s the personal connections the family the community your access to Services the assets that you have all of the things that you need to cope with climate impacts and here what we can see is number one that sort of people with disabilities face a number of barriers in society and that diminishes through adaptive capacity so if you’re you know living in poverty you might have less access to say air conditioning in the context of a heat wave but I think most importantly and most distressing what we see actually is a failure on the part of governments to have accessible responses to ensure that people with disabilities are resilient in the context of impacts of climate change so if I’m thinking of something in Australia that we saw where the bush fires last year and there were reports of a lack of evacuation to move people who were wheelchair users or who had like complex medical needs like requiring continuous medical equipment there was nothing in place to move these people the shelters were inaccessible ultimately the vulnerability of people with disabilities to climate impacts is not something that’s natural it’s actually the result of failure to include them in these policies these programs and a broader broader failure to address all the barriers that they face in society.

[07:02 – 07:07] Viv

What are some of the exciting things coming out of this space that Disability Advocates are driving?

[06:39 – 08:56] Sébastien

Right I would say the the people on the ground who are really pushing for basically inclusive responses are the first people that were sort of that when I was reaching out to people in the disability community these were the first people who were like yeah okay I get it like we’ve been working on this but from a different angle but then on the flip side right we’re talking about like how do you cope with climate risks? On the flip side of this, when we’re looking at efforts to actually reduce carbon emissions and make our societies more sustainable there’s a lot of experience and know-how in the disability Community about how to do this in an accessible way. So I actually always like to say that the disability activists that have been pushing for like transit systems to be accessible are climate activists they perhaps sometimes don’t think of themselves in this way but I think if you’re trying to make it easier for people to say to use a Transit System you’re making it possible to reduce our reliance on cars that run on fossil fuels. When we’re designing these systems in an accessible way it not only benefits wheelchair users it benefits a huge group of users right if you are for instance installing elevators in your subway system this will benefit the elderly which are a growing share of the population. In the west it will benefit people who maybe are injured that week. It will make it way easier for parents with strollers to use that system. So anytime that you’re making things more accessible for a group based perhaps on their impairments and their experience with disability you’re actually also creating all sorts of opportunities for other users to benefit from those designs.

[08:56 – 09:08] Viv

When you talk about going to these policy makers with this hard evidence with the work you’ve already done, are you seeing the urgent response that you are hoping for?

[09:09 – 11:03] Sébastien

I guess I should say I speak to both policy makers but also climate activists. So there is a lot of ableism in the climate movement itself and I I have to say I understand because honestly before I had MS it never occurred to me that linkages between disability climate change. It never occurred to me two three hour demonstration walking through the streets of the city might not be accessible to a whole bunch of people. I was one of those people who would ride their bike to work and I would look at the people driving and think my God these people are misguided and they’re just they’re just part of the problem and then my first year with MS actually I had difficulty walking so I had to drive to work and that experience actually was transformative for me because I was kind of thinking like okay so I need a car to get around right now and I had to come to terms with that but it brought me to a space of empathy to basically be like okay so maybe these other people, what do I know about these people’s lives? What structures? What pressures are they facing? What impairments do they have? You know so it actually brought me into a place of empathy and which I then later discovered is really important in the literature on inclusive design as well. So trying to understand how people use something and why and putting yourself in their shoes. So I think that there’s still a lot of work to be done in the climate movement around sort of you know the people who are the typical people climate activists, there are still a lot of things that they don’t know about disability even though there is more and more sort of disabled people who are climate activists as well.

[11:04 – 11:50] Viv

I work in the disability Tech space and so I’m constantly surrounded by this excited energy but I also know that when I step out of my work bubble and I chat with people that aren’t working in this space they’re kind of like wow that’s great what a what a niche I never knew that existed and I go well your phone exists your laptop exists the internet exists and that started from this really cool place of people with lived experience of disability innovating and designing and creating solutions that are part of everybody’s day-to-day life which is what you talk about when you say inclusive design is better for everyone if we’re thinking big and bold here when we look to the future of climate change and how that really involves people with disabilities what are some of the things that you think technology could help with if we’re dreaming big?

[11:50 – 15:49] Sébastien

If you don’t mind I’ll start with with a story actually which is that you know I started by saying that I ended up working on disability and climate change because I realized I was intolerant to heat but the story doesn’t end there basically what happened after that was I started thinking okay what can I do about this because I’m not you know I had read this book of someone who had MS and they said yeah in the summer I stay inside and that wasn’t something that was acceptable to me especially with you know having a small kid and loving to be outdoors. So I kind of started thinking surely someone has solved the problem of how you stay cool in the summer when it’s hot and actually my first thought was of mascots at Disney World in Florida. Okay my thought was these people are in super hot costumes in July and Orlando what do they do? So I started researching basically the niche world of people who are mascots and I discovered that they wear these cooling vests and I eventually sourced basically this cooling vest for myself. So basically it’s like a vest and you put inside this sort of liquid that freezes at four degrees Celsius. Okay and what’s cool about that is well cool sorry for the pun, but it keeps your body cool for three hours. So I was sort of you know walking around in July and August in those in those periods of time wearing these cooling vests they were like my assistive device if you will and I was perfectly fine and as I was sort of doing this and people would be like what is that and like menopausal women we were like oh my God like I need that and occurred to me actually that if you know possibly everyone will need these vests if our summers are averaging 40 degrees and we still wanted we don’t you know right now the advices stay home being in air conditioning, drink water or whatever but I’m guessing that people are gonna still want to be outside and so we’re going to have to adapt and design innovative solutions. So my little story about the Icevest is sort of building on that I think in a way the people who are most affected now by climate change so people with disabilities, we are already sort of constantly in our lives having to come up with solutions having to innovate. I like to think that people with disabilities are masters in resilience, we have to navigate a world that’s not been designed for us and find all of these tips and these tricks and these things to get through life and be happy and be employed and all these things and I think sometimes it’s interesting. Like the pandemic you know, teleworking all the people that I knew who had disabilities who were completely used to working from home really like there was not much of an adjustment for us. We already were used to doing things you know part time remotely or whatever. So I think actually what I would love for governments and also companies that design products like leisure wear companies, athletic companies, like these companies should be figuring out how people will exercise in the future or when it’s really hot and the people they should turn to are people with disabilities. We’re the ones who right now are facing the most severe impacts of this crisis and we’re coming up with solutions because we’re not just you know going to stop going outside. I just don’t think that’s the sort of approach that most people I know have instead we’re just constantly trying to find tips tricks strategies to and innovating and developing solutions.

[15:49 – 15:58] Viv

At the end of these conversations I like to invite all of the guests to share an insight and a remarkable insight to be a bit punny…

[15:58 – 17:30] Sébastien

I guess I’ll say I’m relatively new to the disability world and I’ve had the good fortune of meeting a number of experienced disability activists and one of those people is a colleague who helped me sort of start the program I remember her name is Yolanda Munos and she’s been involved in the disability rights movement for decades and I remember saying she said something to me early on when we were working on this project she said you know Sebastian they’re not going to invite us to the table like we’re just gonna have to show up and ask for a place at the table and I realized yeah that’s always been the case right the very foundations of the disability rights movement were people showing up and asking for their rights and asking for changes to infrastructures and policies and programs. So I think really as much as I think that the climate movement and climate policy makers haven’t sort of thought through how they could be more accessible to people with disabilities I think honestly those of us who have disabilities gonna have to ask for that and so yeah that’s I guess my insight is basically that we’re going to have to show up, they’re not going to let us to the table.

[17:31 – 17:42] Viv

The full interview with our guest can be found in the link below where you pressed play on this podcast – our show notes. Make sure you subscribe or hit follow to not miss another Remarkable insights episode.


Watch the full video recording of this podcast here.

Connect with Prof. Sébastien Jodoin on LinkedIn and learn more about Disability Inclusive Climate Action Research Programme.

Remarkable Insights: Matt Pierri


[00:00 – 00:28] Viv

From Melbourne to the hallways of Oxford University! Aussie guy Matt Pierri, Creator and CEO of the “Sociability” app, joins us to talk about his mission to empower disabled individuals to benefit from greater social inclusion and meaningful equality of opportunity. We also talk about the obvious but frequently disregarded economic advantages of accessibility.

[00:28] Viv

Matt. Hello!

[00:28-00:29] MATT

Hi Viv, how are you?

[00:30-00:47] Viv

I’m well! Your setup looks amazing. It also sort of looks like one of those zoom default backgrounds of a library. For accessibility reasons, we were asking people if we could start off, if you wouldn’t mind doing a visual description of yourself. So just what you look like in the setting that you’re in.

[00:47-01:02] Matt

Sure. I’m a 31 year old male with dark hair, dark eyebrows seated at a desk in front of a bookshelf and a messy kitchen.

[01:02 – 1:23] Viv

Thank you so much for joining us today. As incredible and vast as everything you’ve done is and sounds, in essence you’re a young guy and there’ve been so many moments where you just want to go out and have fun and there’s just been barriers that have been presented to you. Can you sort of speak to that experience and that sort of frustration points and you just going to create a solution?

[01:02 – 1:23] Matt

Yeah, sure. I mean, I think probably the relevant context is so I had a spinal cord injury when I was 15 playing AFL at school. And so I use a wheelchair now and I’ve used wheelchairs since. And I think that was definitely a real eye-opening experience for me. Just in the sense of, you know, from. The day before, to the day after you know, my whole life shifted, but I think what particularly was a combination of confusing slash frustrating for me was that everybody looked at me differently. There was all of a sudden, all these kind of stereotypes and preconceptions around who I was, who I would be, what I wanted to do, what I could do, you know, what I should do. Because all of a sudden I was using a wheelchair and for me, you know, for all intensive purposes I was just now sitting down, you know, There’s more, you know, there’s definitely more elements to spinal cord injuries, but, you know, in terms of like who I was and my ambitions and, interests, you know, none of that had changed. I just sort of had to go about them in different way. And yet I found it really frustrating that I would go into spaces or I would, you know, apply to do things. And I was just met with a wall of skepticism, but also this kind of somewhat, you know, benign kind of, protection, you know, mentality people, you shouldn’t do this, it’s not safe or you, shouldn’t try that. That’s gonna be too hard or, you know, for your own safety or wellbeing, don’t do these things and that has definitely sort of guided a lot of my actions and activities around what I feel needs to change in the disability space, particularly for young disabled people. But exactly to your point, a lot of what I’ve done is simply to try and find ways to do the things that I was otherwise doing or wanted to do with my friends which are, you know not particularly sophisticated, it’s sort of going out, spending time with each other and having fun.

[03:12 – 03:30] Viv

And you’ve kind of spoken before about your relationship with the word, you know, the language and how important it is. Specifically this, sort of identity first and people first and, mainly this word disability. How do you think language plays a role in the work you are doing? Personally and professionally?

[03:30 – 05:36] Matt

Yeah, for sure. I think it’s a really important part. I mean, I think there is definitely, you know, a caveat by saying, I think definitely it can become sometimes the focus of things and like the kind of core concern or debate, which I think is probably a distraction. But The way in which we talk about things influences the way in which we think about things and, therefore, influences how we act. On my end, I think having personally sort of gone. A bit of full circle with the word disability specifically or disabled. When I first had my accident, I was very adamantI was not disabled. I didn’t have a disability, I had an injury andI didn’t really wanna be associated with the disabled community. And that was, you know, a lot of internalized ableism, really. Over time. I’ve definitely become much more confident and comfortable with the fact that I have a disability and doesn’t really mean much in terms of who I am or what I can do. You know, in this sort of a macro sense I’m not gonna be running up any stairs anytime soon, but I’ll take the ramp and that doesn’t, to me kind of import any value, right? I’m not better or worse cause I used the ramp instead of the stairs. And I think for me, I’ve sort of settled on the idea that actually it’s really important to. You know, whatever we wanna call it, but like reclaim the word disability. People’s talk about how the word disabled is a really negative one and therefore we shouldn’t use it. But not using the word. Doesn’t make it less negative. It just puts it out of sight out of mind. And also every other word that people use instead is very clearly replacing disability. It’s not like we’ve kind of come up with some separate term that is not associated with the concept. We just use a kind of a mixture of, sort of pretend things like special abilities or, you know differently abled or whatever it might be. And I think the real concern there is that we’re not actually solving the problem, which is that we have this false association of negativity with the concept of disability and simply rebranding it doesn’t remove that. It just pushes it under the rug. And so I don’t have a problem now with saying disabled or disability because I’d rather say it. And actually just counter the argument that it’s, negative than to sort of just pretend that it doesn’t exist.

[05:36 – 05:44] Viv

And in terms of your work at Sociability is there anything that you are doing there? That’s really trying to change that narrative?

[05:46 – 10:29] Matt

Yeah. I mean, so yeah, to kind of step back. So Sociability is this platform, is the technology company I’ve started we’re based in East London and we’re building a platform. We’ve built a platform where anybody can go and find information about the accessibility of local venues, particularly. So cafes, restaurants, bars, you know, small format, hospitality and retail sites. And you can find that information in a level of detail that allows you to decide whether or not that space is accessible for you. You know, depending on your personal needs and preferences, but also in contexts, because I think historically. People have said, yeah, I’m sure my venue’s accessible. And they don’t know whether you’re a wheelchair user or whether you’re blind or whether you’re coming with one person or whether you’re coming for half an hour or the whole evening. There’s no right way in which they can sort of meaningfully tell you a space is accessible unless they know who you are, what you’re doing, why you’re coming, etc…and so we want to use technology to help. Break that down and actually understand who our users are and pair it with, you know, really detailed information that is as objective as possible and give people that confidence, and peace of mind that, you know, venue X will suit them in, you know, on day Z and in particular context, you know, Y and that I think is something which we can, you know, do given the, data we’re collecting of the technology we’re building. You know, we’re not a charity, we’re a business, we’re a technology company. And the goal really is to push, you know thats, Actually more so for a philosophical reason, it’s the push against this narrative that like disability is necessarily associated with charity. Because historically the conversation around disability is that disabled people should be pitied and they need your help and you should give to them, you know when you can, because it’s the good thing to do. And the disabled population, at least in the UK has, you know a huge untapped economic spending power. Their rough estimates are for disabled people and their friends and family. It’s around 274 billion pounds a year of spending powers. Most of which is not tapped into because of stupid things like a lack of accessibility or, you know, a lack of accessibility on the website, and in the same way that organizations or businesses will pay to attract more customers who are not disabled through marketing or through amenities or making their spaces, you know, More enjoyable to be in the disabled population should be catered to, because they’re people who have money to spend and who wanna do things, not because there’s some sort of guilt associated with letting in the kind of token wheelchair user. That’s not to say, I don’t agree with the. Argument, this is just an equity thing. We should just do this because it’s a, you know, it’s a human rights issue. I definitely agree with that. But I think part of the problem is that if we just put disabled people in a separate bucket, they’ll always be othered. And you end up with these policies that are inclusive, but othering, right? Which is this, which is sort of where we are today, where you’ll go to a restaurant and the accessible entrance will be around the back through the kitchen and the garbage area. No other patrons have to walk through the garbage shoot to get into the restaurant, but there’s a sense that like, well for disabled people, we have a separate approach and a separate thing. And to some extent they should be grateful that we’ve done, that it’s not built into the framework of, you know, running a business or opening a, restaurant, for example, it’s bolted on as like a luxury and a value. And until we start to see disabled people as equal consumers and customers, which is what these businesses are looking for. Right? It’s a commercial setting. It’ll always be a nice to have rather than a must have for for a lot of these organizations. And so sociability, what we’re trying to do is help kickstart that change by making it easier for disabled people to go into these spaces. And to just be seen, you know, The caveat, obviously a lot of disabilities are invisible, but the general point is that the more disabled people you can get out. And about the more you start to break down these stereotypes, they don’t want to go out that they can’t go out, that they’re not interested. And unfortunately for disabled people in a world that’s not built with accessibility in mind. You know, knowledge is the real driver that will help facilitate this. It’ll be great if tomorrow every building was built with some sort of level of universal accessibility, but that one doesn’t isn’t gonna happen. And two there, isn’t sort of this universal standard accessibility anyway. And so to the extent that we can help disabled people plan ahead and like figure out where they can go and choose, you know, have actual empowered decisions in this context. I think that is gonna make a big difference in terms of then driving representation and driving kind of more positive stereotypes. what we’re trying to do at Sociability really is collect accessibility information and organize it and then give it to the right people initially that’s to your users and individuals, but ultimately that will be to other organizations to enhance their services and unlock those for disabled people. And I think the more we can start to use technology in a really positive. Impactful way for, you know, what has largely been a forgotten population in terms of the tech boom. We can make huge gains in terms of inclusion and equality,

[10:29 – 10:40] Viv

You referenced in the UK, the. I believe it’s called the purple pound. Can you sort of speak to what the current status of the purple pound is like how much we’re talking?

[10:41 – 11:44] Matt

Yeah. So the purple pound at least, I mean, I think estimates will shift, but the latest one is around 274 billion pounds per year of spending power for disabled people and their friends and family. And that’s important, right? Because like, if I go to a restaurant with my girlfriend if there’s a step there and we can’t get in, we both go elsewhere. Or if I’m with a group of friends, you know, I don’t just sit outside while I’ll, while they go inside. And in the same way that you know, establishments have really embraced the idea of dietary requirements. It’s the exact same logic. If you went with a group of 10 people to a steak restaurant, and one of them was vegan, you would all just go elsewhere. You wouldn’t just like, let them look at the steak. And I think that’s the same thing that would happen with disabled people, but we don’t have the same narratives around like disabled people going out, their friends and families to restaurants and bars and clubs. Right? The narratives are the to disabled person is at home ordering Deliveroo, you know, by themselves which is not true. And part of the, kind of our mission and Sociability is to facilitate that, reality, which people don’t see, but to make it much more commonplace.

[11:45 – 12:41] Viv

And I suppose bringing it back, you know, into the tech side of building an app about accessibility you know, Remarkable are the first to flag, we, we absolutely are committed to driving inclusive, accessible tech. However, we don’t always get it right in the tools that we use and the things that we’ve built. And I think that sort of honesty is part of the process. We’re not gonna get it right all the time, but we are committed. And I’m curious to know. As you’ve been developing this app, have there been parts of the app itself that you’ve had to sort of navigate that weren’t accessible because the technology wasn’t available yet to just design an app, completely accessibly from the get go?

[12:42 – 15:00] Matt

Yeah, I mean, I think, I mean, definitely, and we’re, you know, very much in the same boat that we’re building a tool. You know, [00:31:00] physical or real world accessibility. But it’s a digital tool, you know, it’s available on mobile and web and it, similarly has to be as accessible as possible otherwise it’s not helpful and it’s also highly ironic. So on our end, you know, we, I think to your point, also take this approach that accessibility, you know, particularly from a digital standpoint but just generally is not a sort of set and forget thing. It’s not a tick box exercise. You can’t say great, it’s accessible. Now I can just carry on. It is an attitude, it’s an ongoing kind of evolving thing. And you know, on our end, accessibility is all about people. It’s all about functionality. It’s about how somebody can use something or do something in a way that, you know, meets their needs. And to that extent, as the platform evolves and changes and, we add new features and kind of, you know, get user feedback about X, Y, or Z we have to consider accessibility at all stages. So on our end, we’ve done our, you know, kind of best to get it up to a baseline. And we’re always looking to actively improve it, but, you know, really we’re very fortunate that we’re building a community where users are able to feed back to us. Pretty directly what does and doesn’t work? And as a company, you know, we’re prioritizing making those changes around accessibility as soon as possible as, you know, as the kind of highest priority. And I think to your point, it’s definitely a, learning curve, but also, you know, in an exciting sort of sense, we’re building an internal expertise around how to build an accessible digital product, because exactly to your point there, aren’t a lot of It’s not a problem that’s been solved. Put it that way and there’s definitely guidelines to kind of best practice and things like that, but not a lot of it. And part of the challenge is how do you also make something that is highly accessible and cool and fun and like exciting to use, right? That doesn’t look like it was built in a hospital. And I think on our end, you know, to answer your question in one specific area, we’ve found that’s a little bit challenging is, you know, using a map we’ve built a tool. That is based around this idea of finding things nearby and local venues. And we went with a map initially as to the, kind of layout and format maps are not particularly easy for people with visual impairments to navigate. And so that’s something we’ve taken on board in terms of feedback. And you know, Without going too much into the detail. The next version of the app will sort of be pushing a little bit away from the idea of, the map is the central interface, because it’s something that is not fully accessible to everybody. And that’s been a really useful learning curve on our end of also just challenging some of the preconceptions that we have around how the platform should look and feel. But also the reality is like I’m a wheelchair user. So I am biased as to what accessibility things are more or less apparent. And what we’re really trying to do as a team is like really broaden our understanding of what accessibility means for the kind of the pan disability spectrum. And that’s definitely a challenge, but a, you know, a really rewarding one.

[15:00 – 15:32] Viv

So cool. And I’m conscious of time and I suspect you have got a busy day but at the end of these, I mentioned that we like to ask guests. And that sort of is a title that encompasses whatever you feel, you know, speaks to you most, whether that’s a piece of advice, words of wisdom, a fact about the progress and the change that’s happened or, you know, the future of sociability but I’m gonna pass the mic to you. And if there’s one thing you’d like to leave people with. Go ahead.

[15:32 – 16:45] Matt

At the end of the day you know we, as people can choose to do lots of different things and I think the biggest learning on my end has been that if you choose to do things that you’re passionate about and you believe in and you know, you work hard at those, but also you kind of put into the world the, energy that you think should come out of it. It’ll hopefully all be okay. But I think on my end, you know, it’s been a really important lesson to actually be comfortable doing things that I think people disagree with, or tell you that it’s not possible or say that’s not gonna happen. If you are passionate about it and you really believe in what you’re doing and you think there’s a really good reason for why it should exist, or you should be doing it, that’s the main thing. And you know, you spend a lot of your time working and sort of, you know, trying to be productive. And if you’re not doing it for something that you believe in or you’re passionate about, then why are you doing it? So I think on my end, my not sure how remarkable it is, but my insight would simply be that I think with people who are thinking about ideas and have these things in their mind, and they’re wondering whether or not they should sort of take that first step to go and pursue something which they’ve been told is, not feasible or sounds silly, or they shouldn’t do it. I think the main driver is, are you passionate about it? And do you believe in it? And I think that’s the kind of, for me… criterion of whether or not it’ll be a success.

[16:45 – 17:00] Viv

The full interview with our guest can be found in the links below where you pressed play on this podcast, our show notes. Make sure you subscribe or hit follow to not miss another Remarkable Insights episode.


Watch the full video recording of this podcast here.

Connect with Matt Pierri no LinkedIn and follow Sociability’s social media channels. 

Remarkable Insights: Giselle Mota


Tech themed Music transition

[00:00 – 00:28] Viv

What do you get when you combine a futurist, disability advocate, entrepreneur and the courage to challenge the metaverse? That’s right Gisele Mota! We’re speaking with Giselle, creator of NFTY collective, a project on a mission to bring disability inclusion into web 3 and the metaverse. You will also hear exactly what the heck the metaverse is and why it’s important we build with inclusion and accessibility from the start.

[00:28 – 00:31] Giselle

Thank you so much, it’s so good to be with you talking.

[00:31 – 00:46] Viv

At the start of this conversation I always like to ask people because this will be a video podcast as well to do a visual description of themselves, would you mind doing a visual description of your beautiful self in the setting that you’re in?

[00:46 – 01:10] Giselle

Thank you. I’m sitting in my living room in an apartment in New York City. I have my art on the wall, a little couch, a lamp and I am sitting in a chair. I’m wearing a green dark green cardigan a white shirt my hair is brown and black and I have it is long to cut in my shoulder length I’m a black woman or a woman of color and I have big green glasses on

[01:10 – 01:29] Viv

And those glasses are amazing I must say. I would love to pass it over to you to start with. You’ve spoken about how embracing your identity has really empowered you to sort of enter this new chapter of your career and can you speak to that a bit and share that Journey with us?

[01:29 – 03:33] Giselle

Well I do a lot of different things so in my career on my full-time work is that I’m a head of product and or chief of product inclusion at this company that deals with like human capital management technology and then I have my own project called NFTY Collective which is all about bringing people with disabilities into web 3 and the metaverse. So really I came to a point where before I had been focusing a lot on the future of work per se so how do organizations use technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics and all these different types of tools to solve problems and to think about what the future looks like when it comes to work. It was awesome to be able to do those things but for me the past couple of years and a little bit more the pandemic, the racial and social injustices that were happening around the world like it really made me stop and think about how I was using my time and what I was doing with my impact. As an afro-latina I’m a woman of color you know I have an unseen disability of Dyslexia and I was really impacted by everything that was happening around the world and I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to channel my energy into something positive instead of sitting in frustration. So it led me to take forward actions and just be proactive. So I stopped just looking at the future of work and I started thinking about the future of technology and the future of work and is it inclusive are we bringing people along with us and I did every effort I could so basically the role that I have in my full-time work is a role that was created because I was proactive and it never was a role that existed before my company in an organization of over 60 000 Global employees and now I’m heading up something that’s thinking about inclusion in our products because I care about it. Now I’m doing this project of my own called NFTY Collective because I really don’t want to see people left out of emerging technology, especially people with disabilities.

[03:33 – 03:52] Viv

It’s so wonderful to sort of lead with that passion and be able to bring to the table that lived experience that you have, you know how do you explain to someone who doesn’t have any understanding of blockchains or web3 or the metaverse what this sort of like creative space could do for the world and how it could change their world for the for the better?

[03:55 – 05:11] Giselle

It’s very likened to we’ve been borrowing concepts so we’ve been borrowing concepts from games and think of your favorite animation movie that you’ve probably seen like maybe Avatar is up there for me that concept has morphed into other use cases and applications so now people are reimagining they’re like okay if kids can play and animations can happen on movies and kids can play in these like Virtual Worlds then why can’t we gather together and socialize in places like that and why can’t we learn a new skill in an environment like that that’s virtual or why can’t we actually work on a project together in an environment like that? So all of that is what we’re calling the metaverse and the metaverse is this place of like play and discovery and imagination it is using things like data and artificial intelligence and augmented reality and virtual realities behind the scenes so that’s all the tech that goes behind it but the user experience at the end is all about like imagining you know like it’s like a game it’s like animations but for other cases that we want to use in the real world. So you can go to a virtual concert and watch somebody in their avatar and you could be an avatar and enjoy that experience you know so yeah that’s what it is that’s what the metaverse is.

[05:12 – 05:37] Viv

Amazing that you mentioned the gaming industry because I know that there’s been a lot of work done about the accessibility and inclusion of the gaming industry and it’s made a huge amount of waves recently and I I wonder is there is there a conversation or a debate around the accessibility and inclusion of the metaverse and and the critical importance of that?

[05:38 – 07:06] Giselle

Yes absolutely. So right now as it stands the metaverse is not the most inclusive it is not the most accessible for people with disabilities either in fact when you do go into a lot of these experiences at the beginning it was all around like VR goggles that you have to put on this heavy set on your on your head and some people have motion sickness some people have eye tracking issues where you’ll you won’t be able to enjoy that experience or perhaps you may be low vision or completely blind and how can you enjoy something that’s only fixed on a mechanism of a headset right. So that was a stumbling block and in fact some legislation has come down the line in certain experiences now that you have to if you’re going to create experiences like that on the metaverse and things you have to make it inclusive outside of a VR set so that many people can enjoy it. So today you can get on the computer you can get on a mobile device and still hop into one of these experiences without having to have an expensive and maybe uncomfortable or inaccessible VR set. So yeah it’s also not inclusive in the fact that when you play a lot of these games your avatar is not really someone that if you look like someone who has no arms no legs you’re in a wheelchair you use a walking device the way that these systems work for avatar creation they don’t always recognize that that’s a human being or that’s that’s a person so it won’t track that oh that’s that’s a human in a in a device in a wheelchair it’ll be like unrecognizable.

[07:06 – 07:22] Viv

A part of the accessibility is the affordability of things you know. Yes, so much of the technology needed for these sorts of experiences is expensive. Is it sort of moving toward a point where you can access the metaverse without these sorts of things?

[07:23 – 08:16] Giselle

In fact the only things the only platform providers that we are partnering up with right now have to have we’re we’re saying you cannot just be based on a headset to have the experience so for us it’s like you can literally use your laptop you can use your navigation keys to get around or if you plug in for example an Xbox controller that is adaptable or accessible right for people with different disabilities you can use that to get around or you know there’s many different ways in which we’ll we’ll think about that for the VR – virtual reality it’s when you want to feel like you’re having a first person experience that’s more immersive where you feel like you are literally in that space and you can feel like when you’re looking around your avatar is looking around it’s jumping you’re jumping like that is the experience so that is something that a lot of VR providers the technology providers are like reimagining how they can bring down the price point so it’s truly accessible so there’s a lot of imagination that needs to be done there

[08:16 – 08:27] Viv

From where it’s at now you sort of speak like it currently isn’t accessible, how has it gotten to that point of the design phase and these things are only registering now?

[08:27 – 09:12] Giselle

It should be it should be for us and it should be by us right so like anything that you’re going to be making you should definitely include all sorts of different people who could be your end user in the experience when you’re first starting to design it so I would think I would assume that there was not a lot of people at the table who had disabilities when people were formulating it would be a good idea to have some virtual world and create these spaces because they weren’t really thinking. So now it’s catching up to where others like myself are saying wait a minute we need to like make this more accessible and or like me you’re saying you know what it’s not accessible so I’m gonna create opportunities where they where they are more accessible and so we’re having like rebellious people like me step in and try to change things right now.

[08:27 – 09:31] Viv

It’s brilliant you Rebel! How do you think we go about policing the Integrity of that intentional commitment to inclusion and accessibility just knowing that the landscape of technology and accessibility is constantly shifting and changing?

[09:31 – 10:17] Giselle
For sure, I think one of the ways that we’re starting to see is that there are associations starting to form and legislation starting to come down the pipeline to legislate and regulate. If you are having some sort of technology experience you have to consider accessibility, you have to consider it all kinds of inclusion. So you might have a person of color that has experienced this or people of different gender representations or people who speak different languages or live in different parts of the world you can’t just create something with one you know one scope in mind anymore including people with disabilities you have to think about that so that’s happening now there’s many groups of people that are forming these coalitions and associations and form drafting out laws so that’s promising.

[10:17 – 10:28] Viv

And I suppose that leads beautifully to the work that you’re doing with the NFTY Collective. What exactly is your sole mission with this incredible initiative?

[10:28 – 11:25] Giselle

The mission is to highlight amazing people right and to give them the opportunity and I’m talking about people with disabilities and to give them the opportunity to show up as they are in web 3 and metaverse spaces and so for me it’s a space like we’ve been discussing that lacks, severely lacks, diversity it severely lacks representation of people with disabilities. So we’re working with people from around the world and we created avatars in their likeness and we’re using those avatars through we provide them as an NFT to some of them a non-fungible token where they can like create value with that and sell it or trade it if they want to they are now we’re making games out of these avatars so that they could show up in experiences. We’re doing a lot of different things but it’s again I’m being rebellious and just interjecting people into a space that has not included them and that’s what that’s what I’m up to that’s what I have to say.

[11:25 – 11:39] Viv

Although it’s a rebellion it’s a celebration. What is it opening up you know when people step into a space like a metaverse and they have an avatar that represents themselves. What are the other doors that open all of a sudden?

[11:39 – 13:06] Giselle

A lot of times I’ve spoken with people with disabilities and we started very organically we started to reach out to people and ask them simply would you like us to create an avatar of you and we explained to them what we were doing and they wanted to be a part of it and when they did in many cases we would have people literally start crying or literally just express how honored and touched that they were that somebody thought of them enough to not leave them out of something that was coming out yet again that was gonna leave them out. It’s important to yeah to make representation and I feel like that’s opening a door to make it more normal and to to shed a light on that hey when you design any technology you should be including people with disabilities 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 kind of doors that open up as well. Now we are being invited to create games and um inclusive art galleries with some of our characters and learning and development experiences for organizations 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 like opportunities that are coming up and the sky’s the limit.

[13:07 – 13:17] Viv

Being so closely and emotionally involved in this project what do you think about the risks involved in this space and in bringing these avatars into a space?

[13:17 – 14:17] Giselle

Yeah it’s funny, I’m guarding this project because of risks. I’m guarding it, I’m being careful with it I’m not opening it to just everybody and anybody can do anything in fact even people with disabilities have sometimes approached from an angle that is not mission-centric to what I’m trying to do and I’ve said you know I’ve had to turn some people away for wanting to kind of even look at this as a way to monetize or to do something where it’s not the mission-center that I want to focus on so all sides there’s risk from all sides, there’s risks from the people in the community themselves who are you know that that might not align to the vision that I have and what we’re trying to do and then there’s risk to other people who have approached me about funding opportunities but they only see it as like they do their math they’re like wait there’s one billion people in the world with disabilities and if you do this then we can do and I’m like like so there’s a lot of from the angle of disabilities there’s a risk. From the angle of you know technologies and what they’re trying to do in a space of the metaverse as well and how if they don’t put guard rails to your point that you were saying before that they people can be exploited people can be discriminated against like there’s a lot of things that can happen so I’m being very careful and very calculated with who we partner with what we collaborate on and how we’re using these characters. So really good question you ask some really good questions by the way you must do this often?

[14:17 – 15:08] Viv

I just got a really great guest. I’m so excited by the friendship! and is there a future for a NFTY Avatar that would if someone is low vision or blind is there sort of any future for a character to be sort of based on haptics or or an audio described experience for someone?

[15:08 – 16:28] Giselle

Yes absolutely, that’s on the road map. So we have a couple of things on the map and one of them is using an algorithm and artificial intelligence to turn an image into sound so we next have ways in which we want to get the people who are not able to see their Avatar or experience it in that way visually that they’ll be able to hear a version of what they look like and so it sounds super nerdy but that’s a possibility and we’re exploring that we’re also exploring we’re doing a virtual gallery an art gallery and we’re making sure that it has audio descriptions so that someone who’s low vision or blind can enjoy that experience without having to see it they can still enjoy going to a gallery right. We just did an experience recently through augmented reality where you put up your phone or your mobile device and you scan a QR code and you’re able to see an experience like the story of NFTY Collective what we did with that is that right after the the you know first version of that story it was an audio description version of that story so that people using a screen reader and still have the ability to like pop up the experience on their mobile device could then hear it and enjoy everything else that was happening from the background music, to the descriptions of the characters and all that and we will continue to do that

[16:28 – 17:24] Viv

Wow, it’s like I’m not gonna lie when I when I first heard of the metaverse I was a little scared I just kind of thought oh gosh I’ve seen so many movies and that’s pretty much the only basis for my fear it was movies but hearing this and the excitement of these amazing things it just sounds like like you say like a playful land that we can go and just have all of these really creative experiences. At the end of these conversations we always like to invite our lovely guests to to leave us with a remarkable insight and that could be a piece of advice or a statistic about the metaverse or some sort of words of wisdom that you would like to leave people with that are thought-provoking when it comes to designing tech or experiences for the metaverse. What is something that you would like to leave people with?

[17:24 – 17:40] Giselle

Honestly approach it like we’ve approached anything else with technology if you know if you’re a technology provider think about the people that you’re trying to create for and don’t leave them out and it’s very simple that’s all I want to say as a message don’t leave people out of your experiences

[17:40 – 17:53] Viv

The full interview with our guest can be found in the link below where you press play on this podcast our show notes make sure you subscribe or hit follow to not miss another remarkable insights episode.


Watch the full video recording of this podcast here.

Connect with Giselle Mota on LinkedIn and follow NFTY Collective on Instagram.

Remarkable Insights: Jonathan Kaufman


[00:00 – 00:37] Viv

Just outside of New York the term “Disability Economy” is making its way across the globe and this is thanks to the brilliant work of Professor Jonathan Kaufman.

Born with Cerebral Palsy, Jonathan’s disability has been a profound part of his personal, academic, and professional life and it’s also how he ended up as the former Policy Advisor to the White House on Diversity and Disability and with a column in Forbes magazine.

In the following conversation we dive into the brilliant mind of Jonathan unpacking the concept of the Disability Economy and what this market means for the future of the tech industry.

[00:39 – 00:54] Viv

Jonathan, thank you so much for coming.To start off, I’d love it if you wouldn’t mind doing a visual description of yourself because this will be a video podcast as well. So if you wouldn’t mind just describing what you look like in your setting, that would be wonderful.

[00:54 – 01:20] Jonathan

Sure. You know, at this point I must say, I am now middle-aged. Sort of, I guess, Caucasian man, you know, sort of, I used to have cur- very curly hair, but you know, wavy hair glasses wearing a black t-shirt as I normally do, this is sort of my normal uniform black t-shirts and jeans are sort of my favorite and slightly scruffy, but it’s morning time. So I think it’s always scruffy. Yeah.

[01:20 – 01:47] Viv

Thank you. I’m Viv I’ve got very fair skin and long dark brown hair, and I always seem to be sporting red lipstick but I am so excited to be speaking with you today.You’ve mentioned when we spoke earlier that your, disability sort of colored your life in a way and, the trajectory that you went on from a young age, would you mind speaking to that?

[01:47 – 03:33] Jonathan

No, I talk about it all the time. I mean, I was born what they call the sort of medical terminology is I was born with the right M E paresis, a form of cerebral palsy. And so in, in sort of layman’s terms, it means that essentially. It’s really the left side of my body that works fully. The right side is debatable. And I always think of myself as having two sides and in my house, the right side of my body is called Bob and Bob has a personality of his own. And Bob decides, you know, when he’s spastic, I mean, my significant other always, she always goes, I know when you’re angry because Bob never lies. He sort of takes a mind of his own and has his own personality. So yes, I live with another person that I deal with every day. I mean the truth of the matter is I’ve learned to deal with it. But it’s given me a tremendous amount of gifts. I think. I think my disability is my gift. And so in so many ways it’s been up and down. There’s been moments when you’re sort of thinking about, okay, how do I live day to day when you’re in an insignificant amount of pain? And Iuse humor a lot to hide it, but I always think that’s something that’s good. I understand. Okay, where is my place? And being able to evolve and actually being able to innovate, because the fact of the matter is the world. Like for many people, with different types of disabilities, the world wasn’t designed for us. So we have to figure out, okay, how do we reframe it so that we can, I think, navigate through it.

[03:33] Viv

And, going back to the start of your D and I work. There’s this one story that I love, which you had a surprise lecturer at, your university?

[03:44 – 05:50] Jonathan

Oh, you mean the surprise lecturer at the University of Chicago? Barack Obama. Barack Obama before he was Senator Barack Obama, before he was president of the United States. And, you know, it absolutely sort of shaped my career cause I always thought I would be a full-time academic. At least I thought. And then when I was taking classes with him, it sort of changed the trajectory of how I thought, where my life would go. And really what changed was subsequent to that. I went on to Columbia University in New York. And then he was running for president and all my friends who knew him or knew him said, he’s running. And do you want to be a part of this? And. Subsequently sort of, sort of securitas route. I had heard he was going to create the first advisor to the president on disability policy and lo and behold, I got a call, but the thing was, is I lived in Los Angeles at the time I wasn’t living close. And so I said, yes, And so what ended up happening was that I helped design the policies and the programs and helped train. The person who was actually on sort of, I guess, on location in the white house, around disability policy and politics. And I had a variety of different verticals and different portfolios within the US government And what’s actually even more interesting is that I was on a medical ethics committee at the University of Chicago hospitals with Michelle Obama, who I think is even more fascinating than he is. I mean, he’s a great guy and he was a wonderful professor, but she was really interesting. And just to sort of be with her and get to know how her brain worked and her mind worked was really interesting. So I got to know the Obama family. I mean, this is going back ways into the sort of nine, the, you know, mid to late nineties.

[05:50 – 06:00] Viv

Wow. And, what did, when you are talking about Michelle, it sounds like you, you had a you got to know her in a really special way. What is it that was so impressive about her that perhaps other people wouldn’t know?

[06:00 – 06:23] Jonathan

Well I think people know she was smart as a whip. because it was a medical ethics committee. She had this level of empathy. That was extraordinary. I mean, I think anybody who is on a medical ethics community really has to have that. But it was interesting in terms of her way of negotiating with people and seeing the way that she connected with human beings was, great.

[06:23 – 06:39] Viv

When it comes to policy change, what are the red flags that you see as being sort of the barriers to this change? Is it a majority vote? Is it just a lack of awareness or is it division between parties? What are the real roadblocks?

[06:40 – 08:20] Jonathan

I mean I think initially it is a lack of awareness. Politics do play a role in it. And we’re sort of in this funky time globally and in terms of our political discourse. But I think that initially it’s understanding that we really aren’t that different from one another. And specifically when you’re talking about the disability space, is that look, this is the largest minority on earth and it’s diverse in nature. Which makes it really unique. It runs across free. I always tell my clients and my students that disability is the essence of diversity. It runs across race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic, sexual orientation, and it’s the only minority group anyone can join at any time, whether you’re a visitor passing through or whether you’re a permanent resident or it’s the fact that. Not only is this something that’s important as far as from a sort of D&I standpoint, but the value proposition of the community itself impacts everyone. If we’re lucky enough to age, we all join this community. This is an inclusive community by design and that it benefits everyone. If you think about it from the perspective of. Well, we really have to take people with disabilities with all types of disabilities and their narrative into our design processes, whether it be a product or a service or a policy.

[08:20 – 8:56] Viv

I’m curious to know specifically from the point of view of people that have acquired disabilities, how have you seen any sort of trends in your D&I work, where you’ve had to, there’s been people that were employed and then they acquired disabilities and, then all of a sudden employment becomes trickier? Trying to communicate, you know perceptions change for what are just really awful stereotypes and misconceptions about disability that we didn’t judge someone on prior to acquiring a disability?

[08:56 – 11-13] Jonathan

I mean, I think it feeds into the narrative perfectly because I think that the one sort of idea that’s prevalent I always say is the F word, fear. Fear drives that narrative all the time. It’s the fear of the unknown. Rather than saying, okay, let’s get to know it. Let’s get to understand it better so that we can embrace it and say, okay, what do we need as an organization, as an institution to do about it? How do we think about it ? This isn’t about a policy issue, as much as it’s or even a legal issue, which it sort of mired in at times, but it’s really about a design issue. And, you know, it’s fascinating and sort of the age of COVID and we’re gonna be living with COVID when COVID isn’t done, but the silver lining of all of this is that it, was, it sort of, it was an accelerant. In the sense that it accelerated the idea of a hybrid workforce, of the idea of changing the culture of work. And we needed that accelerant, unfortunately, or fortunately, whichever way you sort of look at it, but we needed the accelerant to say, all right, we are now working in a very new time. And yes, there would be some times when you’re sort of in office there’s sometimes when you’re out. Now how does that change the narrative of people with disabilities? It allows them, it allows people with many different types of disabilities to engage in employment. So what you can do is you can say, okay, whether it’s in the D&I, you know, diversity and inclusion, the chief diversity officer and their team, whether it’s in the talent management side or the HR side to say, okay, we understand that this is now a reality.
What one, there are two sides to this; One what do we learn from this community? You know, in terms of needs, in terms of design processes, also the ability to say we can get the best and the brightest. And if they’re working from home, for example, or we have sort of accommodations or design tweaks, we can then. Get people with disabilities involved in the organization at a much faster rate.

[11:17 – 11:40] Viv

It is a massive market now. But in many ways it, sort of always has been, if we look at the technology that is ubiquitous in our life a lot of it was originally born from a need inspired by those with disabilities. Things like, like SMS, which is or texting. Can you think of any other examples of that sort of technology that is ubiquitous with our day to day lives that people probably don’t or perhaps don’t know about?

[11:40 – 13:35] Jonathan

Yeah. I mean, we, you certainly mentioned texting, we talked about that the other day and I always bring that up because that And then, and you think that’s the sort of perfect example is that in 1976 at Gallaudet university in Washington, DC and Gallaudet was known for, it’s like the pretty eminent university for, deaf and hard of hearing. But, it’s like these sort of bastion for deaf culture. So their idea was how do we communicate with one another and. You know, the idea of cell phones was in its nascent stages. And texting became a part of even before the advent of cell phones, but it was adapt. It was adapted for that reason. But even something as simple as what I’m wearing glasses.You know the, advent of glasses in itself. I always tell people when I give it speech, I said, how many of you out there think you have a disability? I said, nobody, somebody, there are people who raise their hand. I said, how many of you have glasses? How many of you take your glasses off for a moment? Can you see? And they’re like, no. So you have to look at glasses themselves as an adaptive tool. We all use adaptive tools in some way, shape or form, it doesn’t matter who we are. It’s part of the human it’s part of the human condition. Actually, I think to use adaptive tools, we can use forks and knives. Those are adaptive tools. So if we’re looking at the history. Of design in any capacity. Human beings have used adaptive tools, whether if you were hunters and gatherers, we were using adaptive tools from the very beginning to live a better quality of life.
So what’s the difference today? Mmm, nothing.

[13:33 – 13:56] Viv

This driving force of nothing about us without us has been huge in the disability advocacy space and really paved a lot of ways for, this understanding of, co-design and, really not making assumptions because that lived experience is critical to getting it right. What is your perspective on that design approach and how it’s transformed over time?

[13:56 – 15:17] Jonathan

Yeah I mean, I actually wrote an article just recently for Forbes. The last article, actually, I said I think we have to rethink the max, nothing about us without us and really think about it. Maybe you should be nothing without us because the fact of the matter is we are a global society. People with disabilities are 20% of the population. Of the global population and is only continuing to grow. And rather than saying nothing about us without us, which is a wonderful statement, But if I think you reframe the model and say nothing with not, you know, you know, nothing without us is that we have, we as a community, have to be, have to have a seat at the table. We have to have a seat at the table for everything. And, why is that important? Because it benefits society, it benefits the sort of financial. And economic prospects of the future. And then there is obviously the diversity piece, but all of this plays into a larger benefit for all. And so that’s really the sort of key driver, I think, for all of this. And I think that’s something that needs to be harnessed again and not only needs to be harnessed. It needs to be expressed again and again until people get it.

[15:17 – 15:39] Viv

So I mentioned earlier that we’d like to sort of wrap these conversations up by asking our lovely guests to share a remarkable insight. And that can range from a fact specifically about the space that you’re super passionate about or it could be a piece of advice or a hope for the future that you would like to leave us…

[15:39 – 17:31] Jonathan

I don’t have a remarkable insight but I always like to tell people, learn from everything and everybody, and everywhere. it’s you almost have to be a sponge because one of the most important things about being alive. Is that there is always something to learn from every experience, whether it be sort of the minutiae of everyday life. I mean, I, you know, I learn from a grocery list to just something that’s so profound, which is watching a great piece of art, you know, whether I think that one of the things that people get caught up in, and in this day in sort of this age of COVID, we’ve all been in this sort of moment of languishing. When we’ve sort of just been standing around, not knowing if we’re depressed and that’s, I think more than reasonable, the last two and a half years have sucked for a lot of us. But now we’re sort of at a moment of reckoning where you have to say, okay, what do we need to do? We’re going to have to live with COVID, but it’s important to learn and important to experience. And what I mean by learn, you can learn from your friends. Which means, you know, start establishing friendships again, start communicating, start engaging with the world around you, because that’s how we learn. That’s how we grow. And so it’s really important I think as human beings to connect and to grow and to learn. And that’s what being alive is about. There’s a wonderful line by William Blake ‘to see the world in a grain of sand and heaven and a wild flower to hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour’. And he wrote that 300 years ago and it still rings true today.

[17:13 – 17:51] Viv

Wonderful, well thank you so much for joining me and sharing all of your insights Jonathan. The full interview with our guest can be found in the link below where you pressed play on this podcast – our show notes. Make sure you subscribe or hit follow to not miss another Remarkable insights episode.

[16:45 – 17:00] Viv

The full interview with our guest can be found in the links below where you pressed play on this podcast, our show notes. Make sure you subscribe or hit follow to not miss another Remarkable Insights episode.


Watch the full video recording of this podcast here.

Connect with Jonathan Kaufman on LinkedIn and follow his Forbes Column. 

Accessercise | 2022 Demo Day Pitch


Ali Jawad, Co-Founder and Director of Accessercise.


Accessercise is the first complete fitness app created specifically for people with disability.


[00:23 – 03:26] Ali Jawad

This is me. Yes, I was a very cute kid and I was born as a double leg amputee, growing up I was an obsessed gym user, which allowed me to achieve international success and compete at four Paralympic Games winning silver in 2016. However, I always wondered why as a disabled person, there is no fitness tool for me to exercise on my own terms. I had to rely on people to guide me Fast forward 17 years and this is evident, with over 70,000 health and fitness apps globally available. None service the disabled market with 81% of disabled people in the UK alone wanting to be more active. But continue to have limited resources. 

This is why at Accessercise we built a purpose made fitness app allowing disabled people to exercise on their own terms without relying on other people. Our solution is an integrated fitness app, which has three key features a unique exercise library with bespoke exercises tailored to the user’s impairment, a social hub where users get to like love, share and comment and support each other, and an explore section that allows users to rate the accessibility of sporting facilities in the local area. This would have been an incredible tool for me growing up as a disabled person. 

Our business model is a standard freemium premium with two major revenue streams and a third coming in future versions with e-commerce. Our go to market strategy covers three main avenues. Firstly, directly to consumers. Secondly, through partnerships with organizations within the fitness and disability industry. And finally working with governments  as part of their disability support packages at government wide level. 

The team behind the vision are all high performing people in the areas of sport, disability, law and business. You have myself, a four time Paralympian with a 17 year sporting career. Sam, a world champion sailor who is heavily involved in projects for the London 2012 Olympics. Yulia, a top lawyer, and Shareen, a former managing director of Barclays Bank in just over a year since launch. 

We’ve already had incredible traction within the industry, with thousands of downloads, an MVP that’s live in the UK market. We’ve been featured live on CNN Global, gained User Economics, which have been proven to be scalable to the masses and even won the Inclusion Startup of the Year award. We’re currently in a funding round seeking £1 million to give us 18 months. Runway to allow us to add more impairments in the app and have 140,000 active users for expansion to America. 

So if you have a disability, please download the app and give us as much feedback as possible. And if you’re an investor, please check out our equity crowdfunding page. So what are you waiting for? Come on the journey with us and help us change access to exercise forever.


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Participant | 2022 Demo Day Pitch


Keoke King, CEO and Co-Founder of Participant Assistive Products.


Participant Assistive Products is democratizing high-quality assistive products and putting them within reach of unserved people, starting with the 70 million people who need but do not have a wheelchair or the mobility, health, inclusion, and dignity that an appropriate wheelchair can provide.


[00:23 – 03:26] Keoke King

So at Participant, we’re democratizing quality assistive products, starting with an all-terrain wheelchair for children.

Meet Karim from Guaymas, Mexico. Until recently, the best mobility that Karim’s family could access was a common baby stroller. It was causing problems in his arms and his posture. Now Karim is user number one for Cub, our award winning tilt and fold all terrain wheelchair. It snuggles into a small car. It loves unpaved roads and it leads the industry in Expandability. So as Karim grows, Cub grows with him. Aline, Karim’s mom, reports he’s more present in their family’s daily life. At school, he can be more together with his classmates. He joins them at the table. And because he can sit up longer, he’s more integrated into family meals and daily activities. She says everything has changed a lot. Karim represents the 40 million people in middle income countries who are stuck at home just because they need a wheelchair and don’t have one.

The World Bank projects that this massive group will double over the next 20 years, and rigorous research shows that $1 invested returns nine to society. Without mobility, there is little access to education, work and friendships. The rwa power of this need makes me ask why are they left behind? The industry offers few mid-price options. Manufacturers opt for cheap, low quality products, or they make sophisticated high margin products for markets with deep insurance funding for the 40 million people in the middle, no products that fit their needs or wallets.

Hi, I’m Keoke. CEO of Participant. In my last job, I founded a global wheelchair distributor company and I saw this product gap. To learn more, I called my friend Dave, an occupational therapist and wheelchair user who has trained providers in 20 countries. And I talked with Ryota, who’s the CEO of a wheelchair company in California. He has hundreds of designs and a half million people use his chairs today. Our combined skills and networks were fit for the challenge. And we saw a wave building. New government buyers and expanding NGO procurement. So we set out as co-founders. Fast forward to today. Our global team is eight people, four who use wheelchairs and together we have 115 years of industry experience and we speak ten languages. We offer four wheelchair models and a cushion. Our products are good on rough terrain, transportable, durable and clinically sound.We price attractively and sustainably with a gross margin to fuel growth. Our production capacity is 100,000 units per year and we intend to serve a million users by 2030. That wave that I mentioned is here just as our products are shipping, we may have that rarest of things, timing. Large NGOs are jumping in from the sidelines and several established buyers are switching.

We have strong forecasts in all five of our products with reputable customers and distributors on both the global and national levels. We’re driven by these market signals and the incredible impacts. If you share our vision and values, we’re preparing a Round and I would love to meet you. Help us help Kerim and his 40 million friends who deserve mobility, inclusion and participation.


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RecoveryVR | 2022 Demo Day Pitch


Christian Doran, CEO and Founder of RecoveryVR.


RecoveryVR provides a fun and engaging, medication-free, virtual reality application that motivates more adherence to rehab activities in the home or clinic while also providing measurement data, adherence tracking and unlimited healthcare access using a custom-built telehealth portal.


[00:23 – 03:26] Christian Doran

Have you ever had a physio injury? You know how rehab exercise is boring and you really do it. What about if you had a stroke or chronic pain or an injury at work? You had to do 3 hours per day, potentially four years to get back the life that you have right now. 65% of people give up on their rehab and often get worse, or develop other conditions because of it. And I understand why they give up. It’s not just the monotony. There’s travel time, out-of -pocket expense, physical pain, loss of income, anxiety and depression.

Hi my name Christian Doran and at RecoveryVR we help you never give up. RecoveryVR uses virtual reality to deliver gamified rehabilitation that is portable, low cost and always available. But most importantly, it’s fun and rewarding and motivates more reps and time in training that are the key metrics for effective rehabilitation.

We’ve built over 80 therapy apps so far, but from listening to our clients, we’ve unlocked something much bigger. Our remote patient management system allows a clinician to prescribe and track a patient’s exercise from anywhere in the world, plus deliver telehealth sessions, do measured assessments and monitor the improvement or decline of the patient.

Our clients love it, but it has also opened up much larger market opportunities than just motivating rehab. Since launching in early 2022, we’ve sold multi-year licenses in some of Australia’s leading rehab facilities, international universities, clinics and patients homes reaching a revenue of over $100,000. We’ve recently partnered with a provider who is developing a VR telehealth business to service the mining and manufacturing industries using our software.

We are now in talks with a metaverse company in the US to roll out RecoveryVR with insurers in that territory. VR therapy has been shown to deliver up to 20% improvement in motor function compared with conventional therapy. But I think that’s just the beginning. We’re RecoveringVR and working with prominent universities and clinicians to Increase that rate. While our team is full of film producers and game developers that make that therapy addictive and not feel like therapy at all. The Future of RecoveryVR is not only based on physical rehab. Version two of the product will be a VR health platform for a range of conditions, increasing our market potential, but also delivering on our mission of providing low cost access to health care for everyone.

We’re currently raising our seed round of 1.2 million and we already have 250,000. Subscribed will be using the investment to scale marketing, sales and research while also starting a telehealth delivery service of our own. If you are interested in investing or know anyone who might be, I’d love to have a chat. Let’s help people never give up. Thanks.


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Homeable | 2022 Demo Day Pitch


Liam Highmore, Co-Founder and CEO of Homeable.


Homeable creates personalised and inclusive smart home solutions to increase independence in the home.


[00:22 – 03:26] Liam Highmore

Hi, my name is Liam and I’m a co-founder at Homeable.

What does home mean to you? If you’re anything like me, you love being at home. It’s a place that makes us feel safe and in control. But above all else, it’s a place we should all feel comfortable in, including our friend Jacob.

Now, Jacob uses a wheelchair and lives by himself in his Sydney home. He finds it difficult performing daily tasks like turning on his lights and making it to the front door in time to accept his delivery. Now, Jacob is also unable to reach the cord for his blinds and as a result has been closed permanently, leaving him with no natural light. But did you know smart home technology could help overcome these challenges?

For Jacob and the nine out of ten people living with disability who require some form of assistance with daily tasks, that’s almost 4 million people in Australia alone. Now we’ve found that people are often unsure how smart technology could benefit them, and the industry’s one size fits all approach often results in technology that just isn’t suitable for their needs. We are continuously hearing from occupational therapists that the smart home landscape is incredibly difficult to navigate and no company has managed to make the entire process of creating a smart home truly accessible. That is, until now.

Homeable offers an end-to end smart home service that works like this. Jacob can be referred to us by his O.T. and based on his unique independence goals, we are able to design a solution with Jacob that allows him to open his blinds and unlock the front door using just his voice. And now, when Jacob hears the doorbell, he can use his phone to see and talk to whoever is there. Now we offer Jacob installation and educate him on how to get the most out of the technology. But the relationship doesn’t end there. We offer ongoing support through an annual subscription that is funded by Jacob’s NDIS plan.

Now in the last two months, Homeable secured six wholesale agreements with technology suppliers and smashed our target with over 100 people formally registering interest in our service, including 25 OTs, wanting to know if their clients were interested in us. We also launched our pilot program and are working with Guide Dogs Australia to design and install solutions for their community. We are going to market with our service in September and launching our installer program in 2023, allowing us to truly scale.

We have a passionate and diverse team driven by people with lived experience and have backgrounds covering product management, allied health user experience and technology sales.

We are determined to become the smart home experts for disability and aged care by the end of 2023. But we can’t do this alone. Firstly, we are looking to raise funds mid-next year and would love to start conversations with passionate investors who share our vision. And secondly, if you know any occupational therapists or end users, who would benefit from learning about Homeable, please scan the QR code so that together we can make everyone feel safe, independent and comfortable where it matters most. The home.


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Biomotum | 2022 Demo Day Pitch


Ray Browning, Co-Founder and CEO of Biomotum.


Biomotum’s wearable rehabilitation robots empower mobility and discovery in children with Cerebral Palsy.


[00:30 – 03:45] Ray Browning

Ray Browning, co-founder and CEO of Biomotum. I’d like to start by saying this is the most exciting and impactful work of my career.

At Biomotum, We build wearable robots that help people to walk. Why? Because one in seven individuals have difficulty walking, meaning everyday tasks are hard, if not impossible, and the resulting physical inactivity contributes to poor health and limited productivity.

Improving walking involves a combination of physical therapy and assistive devices, but the access to physical therapy is limited. Gait training is not efficient, and assistive devices don’t adapt to the changing needs of the individual.

Our first product is the spark, an easy to use robotic ankle assistant that can deliver efficient adaptive therapy on demand. Research participants have taken over 1 million steps, and the results are impressive. Children with cerebral palsy improved their walking speeds. 3 to 6 times faster than current approaches. The spark makes it possible to improve mobility anytime, anywhere. Our control algorithms allow the device to be used on stairs, up and down hills and over rough terrain. No other product can do this.

I’d like to show you a video of one of our research participants. Pay particular attention to their walking speed and the way they walk.This is an 11 year old child with cerebral palsy. Prior to using the spark, their walking speed was about one mile per hour, which is not fast enough to cross a crosswalk. After only four weeks of using the spark three times a week, their walking speed nearly doubled. The impact of this improvement is best captured by what parents say. This is life changing.

We are capitalizing on the electrification of transport and advances in robotics to create wearable personal mobility solutions that are effective and affordable. And given the number of people who have trouble walking. The market opportunity is massive.

We’ll sell our product to three customer groups researchers conducting groundbreaking studies on new ways to use this type of technology. Physical therapists, the workhorses of medicine who will use it to deliver effective therapy. And patients delivering the ability to do therapy at home while assisting with daily life.

We’ve assembled an amazing team. Zach is a global leader in Rehabilitation Robotics. Phil is a PT and veteran of the exoskeleton industry, and Steve is a wearable device design guru.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss our seed round and connections to health care partners. Please reach out. I’d like to leave you with this. All of us will experience difficulty walking. We can either be inactive and in poor health or we can thrive. A Biomotum. We will help you thrive.

Thank you.


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Nuroflux | 2022 Demo Day Pitch


Sam van Bohemen, Co-Founder, CEO and CTO of Nuroflux based.


Nuroflux is the world’s first wearable to non-invasively monitor brain activity and blood flow alongside other vital activity relevant to stroke and stroke rehabilitation.  


[00:08 – 01:26] Sam van Bohemen

Hi, my name is Sam and I am the CEO and co-founder of Nuroflux.

When a family member suffered multiple strokes in between CT scans, we were desperate to understand why these strokes were not detected. And now, at Nuroflux, we are developing an innovative device to address this problem.

Worldwide, there is a stroke every 2 seconds, and with an ageing population, the incidence of stroke is expected to increase.

Following a suspected stroke, a patient will come into a hospital where they will have a CT scan to confirm the diagnosis. Now CT scans provide an imaging snapshot in time, but due to radiation exposure are only performed every 24 hours. In this first 24 hour window, patients will receive treatment and are at risk of deterioration, such as having a secondary stroke, which occurs in 10% of all patients. However, there is currently no way to continuously monitor patients’ brain activity and brain blood flow, which are key indicators in stroke. Standard care relies upon waiting for the next CT scan and on nurses performing intensive nursing observations. Now, as you can imagine, this is very distressing for patients and is time consuming for nurses. It is the subject of a method and is useless if the patient is unconscious.

At Nuroflux we are developing a wearable device that will provide real time continuous monitoring of treatment and the detection of patient deterioration, leading to faster detection intervention and improved patient outcome. Our wearable device utilizes a proprietary, multi-modal system that I have developed during my PhD in biomedical engineering to provide real time continuous monitoring of brain activity and brain blood flow simultaneously, the device will be easy to use and will have alert algorithms that indicate the need for clinical action, such as the detection of secondary strokes, the neurological and diagnostic and monitoring equipment market is growing. In fact, the Asia-Pacific region is experiencing the largest growth in the sector. However, we anticipate our device will also disrupt the global diagnostic imaging market, which is valued at 37 billion AUD.

Our initial foothold market will be in-hospital monitoring where we will sell devices and offer a subscription service for our software platform. However, there are also a number of exciting expansion opportunities.

Our device is scalable to ambulances and at home settings to help detect stroke in the community and due to the low cost and portable nature of the device. We’re also interested in rural and remote communities where there is limited access to CT and MRI scanners. Furthermore, our device may also monitor other diseases, including delirium and traumatic brain injury.

David and I are the co-founders of Nuroflux. I’m a biomedical engineering Ph.D. student with a neuroscience honors degree. My co-founder, David, is a commercialization and innovation associate and a major medical research institute. He has a PhD in medicine and is completing his MBA. We are also supported by an experienced team of clinical, and strategic advisors. Nuroflux has also formed an exciting strategic partnership with the George Institute for Global Health, a Medical Research Institute to pursue a multicenter clinical efficacy trial that will take place in Sydney and will be supported by three of Australia’s leading stroke clinicians.

We are seeking $800,000 at a $4.1 million pre money valuation. These funds will help secure our IP position, develop our regulatory strategy and create our next generation device and software platform. We are seeking pre-seed investment and strategic partners.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. We hope that you will join us on our journey to improve stroke patient outcomes in Australia and worldwide.


Visit the Nuroflux website or follow them on LinkedIn and Facebook