fbpx

Introducing the Launcher 2024 cohort

We are so excited to introduce you to the 38 global early-stage startups taking part in our 2024 Launcher pre-accelerator program!

Hailing from Australia, United States, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada and Switzerland, the teams are about to dive into 8 weeks of weekly masterclass where they will be learning from disability and startup founders, one-on-one personalised startup coaching, opportunities to test their assumptions directly with customers and supporting one another with feedback and advice.

“Empowering innovation at the intersection of technology and inclusivity, I’m thrilled to welcome the 2024 Launcher cohort. A diverse group of entrepreneurs paving the way for a more accessible future. I can’t wait to support their journey and witness the next chapter of technology making a difference in the lives of people with disability.” Emma Earley, Head of Acceleration Programs, Remarkable

Launcher is made possible by the support of TPG Telecom Foundation and Cerebral Palsy Alliance, and the dedication of some of our amazing mentors, who time and again, give their time and expertise to support innovation in Disability Tech.

You’ll get to hear from and connect with these startups at Launcher’s upcoming Customer Showcase, on the 26th and 27th of March 2024. Register to attend the virtual event and perhaps, you too can make a mark as one of their early customers or supporters.

There will be two showcase sessions to fit our worldwide audience, register below:

Wed 27 March, 5:30pm-6:30pm AEDT

(7:30am CET, 10:30am AZT, 12:00pm BDT)

This screening accommodates the timezone of our 2024 Launcher participants based in Australia,Switzerland, Azerbaijan and Bangladesh. 

Thurs 28 March, 9:00am-10:00am AEDT

(3:00pm PDT, 6:00pm EDT, 7:00pm BRT)

This screening accommodates the timezone of participants based in Australia, United States, Brazil and Canada.

The Remarkable Launcher 2024 cohort

We are proud to introduce the 2024 cohort, see full list (in alphabetical order) below:

1. ACME AI

Developing ‘DrishT’, a navigation system for the visually impaired using computer vision, audio, and haptic feedback.

Location: Bangladesh.

Connect with ACME AI below.

2. Across the Cloud

Developing the Talk For Me app for alternative communication post-stroke and wearable sensors to track physical rehabilitation progress. 

Location: Australia

Connect with Across the Cloud below.

3. Aid Motion

Redesigning four-wheel walkers for improved manoeuvrability and user satisfaction in Australia.

Location: Australia

4. Altogether

Developing a mobile app that provides free access to legal information, offers legal assistance, connects users to disability support centres, facilitates reporting mechanisms for persons with disabilities, and offers disability compliance services for businesses and institutions.

Location: Azerbaijan

Connect with Altogether below.

5. BlissFlow

Developing a non-invasive urine removal device, providing a comfortable and effective solution for managing urinary incontinence in adults. 

Location: Australia

Connect with BlissFlow below.

6. Button

A mobile app transforming physical buttons into accessible digital versions for people with disabilities, enhancing their interaction with public services.

Location: Australia

7. ByStorm

Makeup accessories designed to universally attach to makeup items, making makeup more accessible for people with upper limb disabilities.

Location: Australia

Connect with ByStorm below.

8. Cortex

Offers a non-invasive, user-friendly cerebral blood flow monitoring and neurofeedback mechanism for home use, aiding Australians affected by brain disorders.

Location: Australia

Connect with Cortex below.

9. Embodify

Developing EmoteAI, a tool to enable those with verbal communication challenges to express and articulate themselves through character formation and journaling.

Location: Australia

10. Erge

Designing sexual wellness products for people with disabilities.

Location: United States.

11. Facial Gesture Recognition System

Detects eye movements and facial gestures to aid communication for individuals with Severe Speech and Motor Impairment (SSMI) throughout the day and night.

Location: Australia

12. Feelings Foundation

Digital mental health programs for autistic people.

Location: Australia

13. Geshido

An AI focus assistant that reduces workplace-induced burnout daily. Inspired by the needs of employees with often invisible cognitive disabilities, it minimises information overload to align and accelerate work on priorities real-time between employees and their managers.

Location: United States

Connect with Geshido below.

14. Hey Jean

An early-stage, women-led tech startup providing a B2B SaaS platform to help disability and aged care providers manage client care more efficiently.

Location: Australia

Connect with Hey Jean below.

15. Human Augmentation Lab

Developing NaviShare, a discreet, crowd-source powered navigation system designed for the visually impaired, offering hands-free indoor and outdoor wayfinding.

Location: United States

16. iVocab

Enhancing communication for those with impairments through a user-friendly Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) application, designed with AI integration and intuitive editing for quick, complex communication.

Location: Australia

Connect with iVocab below.

17. Lighthouse

Smart eyewear frames for the safe mobility of blind and low-vision people. Obstacle avoidance with fashion, wearability and comfort in mind!

Location: Switzerland

Connect with Lighthouse below.

18. Magnify Access

Bridging the accessibility gap in workplaces with W-PAS, a digital platform that streamlines the accommodation process for employees with disabilities.

Location: Canada

Connect with Magnify Access below.

19. My Ability Hub

Developing an accessibility software platform that helps people to play PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo games using only their mouse, trackpad, or eye gaze.

Location: Australia

Connect with My Ability Hub below.

20. NomNom Time

An app designed to assist neurodivergent individuals with meal planning, preparation and shopping, enhancing their dietary independence.

Location: Australia

21. Our Odyssey

Making video games accessible to all with a joystick overlay and software platform that enables play through mouse movement or eye gaze.

Location: United States

Connect with Our Odyssey below.

22. Quick Styx

Speeding up wound recovery in children undergoing achilles tendon surgery for clubfoot and other injuries utilising NASA-developed gauze.

Location: Australia

23. RehabExo

Developing soft exoskeletons and exosuits for adults and children with disabilities.

Location: Australia

Connect with RehabExo below.

24. Rehapp

A tool integrated into a walking aid that uses mobile technology to assess and monitor walking quality for stroke patients, improving rehabilitation outcomes.

Location: Australia

25. ReviMo

Designing smart mobility devices to enable individuals with disabilities to move independently within their homes, reducing caregiver strain.

Location: United States

Connect with ReviMo below.

26. RoPets

Providing companionship to the elderly and disabled through AI-powered robotic pets that monitor health and emotional well-being.

Location: Australia

Connect with RoPets below.

27. Sekond Skin Society

A health and fitness app designed around accessibility, so people with disabilities and people without disabilities can workout together.

Location: Canada

Connect with Sekond Skin Society below.

28. Seymour Accessiblity

Developing Sonic Script, an app that will bring real-time audio-to-text captions to mobile devices in order to make live events, such as weddings, conferences and funerals, more accessible for everyone including the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community.

Location: United States

Connect with Seymour Accessibility below.

29. Soundclusive

A platform designed to breakdown barriers for disabled event lovers, providing a go-to hub for them to effortlessly access venue information, discover events and connect with like-minded and trained event enthusiasts.

Location: Australia

Connect with Soundclusive below.

30. Tangible Workshop

Designing Getabout Buggy, affordable, customisable beach wheelchairs to enhance mobility for individuals with special medical needs.

Location: Australia

Connect with Tangible Workshop below.

31. Teamy

Developing an app that will enable people with disability and their supports to remain connected and seamlessly share information.

Location:Australia

32. Testa-Seat

Pioneering custom seating solutions using 3D printing to make them more affordable, supportive, and user-friendly.

Location: United States

Connect with Testa-Seat below.

33. The KOBE (Keep One Breathing Everywhere) Robot

Empowering Paediatric Patients with a Novel Tethered Ventilator-Carrying Robot

Location: Australia

Connect with The Kobe below.

34. The Stomal Sponge

 An innovative solution for managing neonatal and paediatric stomas, reducing complications and simplifying care.

Location: Australia

35. Vinculo.app

An AI-powered educational platform that assists educators in the learning journey of students with disabilities and learning disorders in Brazil.

Location: Brazil

Connect with Vinculo.app below.

36. Vysum

Developing assistive technologies to improve eye drop medication accessibility and manage eye health for older adults and people with disabilities.

Location: Australia

Connect with Vysum below.

37. Wired-Differently

AI-driven diagnostic tools for faster and more accurate assessment of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and educational programs for affected individuals, families, caregivers, educators and health providers.

Location: Australia

38. ZipperBuddy

ZipperBuddy transforms traditional zippers on upper body clothing into user-friendly garments that can be easily fastened with one hand. ZipperBuddy is on a mission to enhance accessibility, preserve personal style, and empower users with a transformative and inclusive solution.

Location: United States

2023 Remarkable Highlights

Collage of smiling people, a phone screen, group portrait, and a number 2023 in bold.

Wow! 2023 has been filled with hardwork, achievements and ground-breaking milestones. As we near the end of this year we want to take this chance to reflect and celebrate our collective success, so buckle up for this fast-paced recap of this phenomenal journey!

Check out our list below of some of the top highlights:

1. Supported 12 startups through our Global Accelerator Program

Twelve ground-breaking Disability Tech startups completed our 2023 Remarkable Accelerator (#RA23) program! These global pioneers received seed funding and honed their skills, propelling their revolutionary technologies forward.

Experience their journey by watching the #RA23 Demo Day recording!

2.Ran Design-athon in partnership with Soda

Thrilled with our 2023 Design-athon’s success! We hosted 120 participants from 13 countries who used inclusive design to solve community-identified issues, supported by our partner Soda and experts like Elizabeth Chandler. We can’t wait to watch this year’s three Design-athon winners continue their journey in our 2024 Launcher!

3. Introduced Scaler to the world

We were excited to launch ‘Remarkable Scaler’, offering funding and support from Seed to Series A for Disability Tech Ventures. With the help of Cerebral Palsy Alliance, we now support disability tech startup founders on their next stage of growth. Join us, transform your product into a thriving business, and start your remarkable journey!

4. Produced Season Two of Remarkable Insights

Season Two of the Remarkable Insights Podcast doubled the inspiration with guests like Vint Cerf and Elizabeth Chandler joining host Viv Mullan. Each episode celebrates pioneers transforming disability-tech and shattering conventional boundaries. Tune in for a voyage through innovation, business, and social change!

5. Release of the world-first State of Disability Tech report

We were elated to contribute to the first-ever report on the Disability Innovation Ecosystem! In partnership with Village Capital and JP Morgan Chase, we assessed global disability innovation hubs. This pivotal work, part of the Moonshot Disability Accelerator Initiative with Smartjob and Enable Ventures, is paving the way for inclusive tech startups.

6. Hosted our 2023 Remarkable Tech Summit

We celebrated a transformative week at the 2023 Remarkable Tech Summit, thanks to CPA and CPARF. San Diego buzzed with panels, keynotes, and workshops, all ignited by the ‘Liminal’ theme, pushing Disability Tech boundaries to create a better world. From innovative design to market growth and inclusive environments, we’re proud of each moment that made this Summit unforgettable!

7. Released our Launcher Program Hype Reel

We had the best time working with some of our incredible alumni to create our first Remarkable Launcher hype reel!  

The Launcher pre-accelerator program supports early-stage startups that are improving the lives of people with disability. The 2024 program runs February to March 2024.

Applications are now open and close in just under four weeks on January 14, 2024.

8. Winners of Market Builder Award at the Australian Impact Investment Awards

Honoured to be named the Impact Market Builder of 2023 at the Impact Investment Awards! Immense thanks to our team and our incredible community of supporters. This accolade underlines our dedication to driving sector growth and fostering collaborative innovation. Congrats to all amazing nominees and winners who share this journey!

9. Welcomed three new team members

Our Remarkable team grew even brighter with the addition of three amazing new members: 

Cinthya Zurita,
Operations Manager

Kirilly Conroy
Digital Campaigns & Engagement Manager.

Zara Fulton,
Head of Investment

And there you have it, folks! A thrilling wrap-up of an unforgettable year here at Remarkable. We’re brimming with gratitude and joy as we stand at the end of 2023, looking back at the milestones we’ve achieved together.

On behalf of Cerebral Palsy Alliance, we send a special thanks to our partners icare NSW, Telstra, Vivcourt, TPG Telecom Foundation and The Ian Potter Foundation.

It’s also important that we thank the community of Remarkable supporters including our startup founders, mentors, coaches, facilitators, friends and the extended Remarkable family!

Your ongoing support for what we do has been critical for pushing us further towards our shared vision. So, here’s a massive thank you to our remarkable community— you are indeed the heart of all we do!

Until next time, keep being remarkable.

2023 Tech Summit Talk | Minnie Baragwanath

MINNIE BARAGWANATH | FIRESIDE CHAT

Talk Overview

In this enriching interview, Vivien Mullan and Minnie Baragwanath discuss the societal implications of inaccessible designs for disabled individuals or ‘access citizens’. Minnie shares her perspective on how disabled people become ‘shock absorbers’ for the inconvenience created by unaccommodating designs. Based on her personal experiences, she speaks out on the mental and physical cost of living in an inaccessible society. Furthermore, she also touches on issues of withholding support and power, stressing the need for radical social change and innovation that includes disabled individuals as active participants.

Full transcript available below.

Top Insights

1. The Disability community as shock absorbers: Minnie introduces the concept of disabled people serving as ‘shock absorbers’ for the inconveniences caused by inaccessible societal designs.

2. Cost of Inaccessibility: She highlights the overlooked costs that inaccessible societies impose on disabled people in their day-to-day lives.

3. Withholding Support and Power: Discussion on societal tendencies to withhold support, resources, and power from disabled people, which hinders the development of a more inclusive society.

4. Need for Radical Social Change: Minnie underscores the importance of radical social change to ensure the full inclusion of disabled individuals in innovation, design, and entrepreneurship sectors, leading to a more accessible future.

About the speaker: Meet Minnie Baragwanath
Headshot of Minnie Baragwanath

Minnie Baragwanath

Author, Social Entrepreneur & Access Innovator
Chief Possibility Officer at the Global Centre of Possibility

LinkedIn: Minnie Baragwanath MNZM

Minnie Baragwanath is an independent author, coach, consultant and social innovator. In addition to the variety of work she has underway globally, Minnie is also currently the Chief Possibility Officer and Founder of the newly established Global Centre of Possibility @ AUT.

In 2011 she, along with her incredible team and Board established Be. Accessible, a social change agency committed to the creation of a 100% accessible Aotearoa particularly for the 25% of people living with an access need. In 2019 Minnie led the transformation of Be. Accessible into the Be. Lab and in 2020 established what was to become the Global Centre of Possibility @ AUT.

Minnie’s focus on Possibility, with its unique emphasis on “Possibility leadership, design and innovation” as the key to future social transformation, is the next chapter in that pioneering story! ‘Possibility Leadership is the capacity to imagine and create a future of possibility, beyond current limiting paradigms, and beyond current concepts of disability and accessibility.’

The concept of “designing with” is absolutely fundamental to this approach. It is distinct from designing to or designing for which are the common defaults when approaching any type of design with the access community.

Minnie’s work and study as an access innovator and as a social entrepreneur, extends over 25- years and has included many diverse roles. Over the last few years Minnie has been awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit, the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award, the Westpac Women of Influence Diversity award, the Zonta women’s award and was placed as a top 10 finalist for the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

Earlier this year Minnie published her first book titled ‘Blindingly Obvious – The beautiful vision of Minnie B.’ More information about where to purchase this book is available at, https://www.minnieb.co.nz/blindingly-obvious

Viv [00:00 – 00:39]
I thought before we get into our conversation one of the amazing things about you is your use of language you’re an amazing writer and an amazing speaker and I understand this is a really safe space for people to choose language that feels right for them. Remarkable use the term ‘Disability Tech’ and I know that this is a term that you don’t choose to adopt and you use terms terms like ‘Human Tech’ and ‘Access Citizens’ and I just thought before we dive into the conversation maybe you’d like to speak to that a little bit more?

Minnie [00:39 – 02:56]
Sure Viv and look thank you so much for having me as part of this amazing event. I’m so devastated that I couldn’t be there at the last minute. So probably what I’d say is language is so pivotal especially when it comes to social change at I think conveying what it is we’re trying to achieve and so I think there’s a range of language that people can use and I think the critical thing is to understand why we choose to use the language we use. What’s that about. What is it conveying? Is it a language we can grow into or is it an outdated language that perhaps once served a purpose and was really powerful but maybe needs to keep evolving? So for me it’s about the ability to keep questioning and being very intentional about the language and why we use it. I quite love the concept of ‘Possibility-Tech’, ‘Possibility-Design’, and ‘Possibility -Leadership’ which is about future centered accessible design and Innovation, that’s a framework that I personally really relate to and it makes sense to me as I understand the world that we’re in. Now that may not be the case for other people but I think at a conference at an event like this you’re exactly right this is the space to actually explore and to keep challenging ourselves on which language we choose to adopt. I’m very happy for a range of language to be used I won’t be offended but it just might be that I might choose to use different language through this conversation…and as a person from New Zealand we speak differently.

Viv [02:56 – 03:32]
In New Zealand they say “chilly bin” for what we in Australia know is an “eskie” and I don’t know what Americans call it? A “cooler”? Alright I think New Zealand’s ‘chilly bins’ are way more fun. Okay so when it comes to the language you use, one of the really powerful concepts that you’ve sort of coined in your work is this idea of people with disabilities being “shock absorbers” for sort of the inaccessible designs within society. Would you be able to expand on that?

Minnie [03:32 – 08:01]
So as Pete said at the beginning I’ve worked on accessibility social change for oh my goodness well for at least 25 years and when I was 15 I was diagnosed with a congenial sight condition which means that I’m also legally blind. So from that age I became very aware of what it was to grow up in the world as someone living in this case with blindness but it could have been any type of impairment or or disability and as I’ve sort of continued to try and advance my work and to try and strive to create a more accessible world, as many people in the room here today I’m quite sure have done the same. One of the things that I’ve been reflecting on is actually there is a price to be paid for being an inaccessible society and any of us who live with an impairment or disability encounter that price, that cost every day of our Lives when we’re prevented from literally accessing the world around us. What fascinates me is that we we often talk about the cost of, well we government business usually those parts of society who are unwilling to change, talk about the cost of making the world more accessible so they say we can’t invest in accessible Tech or we can’t invest in entrepreneurs with a disability or we can’t put that lift in here or there or whatever the conversation might be because it costs too much. But what I notice is we’re never talking about the cost of our deeply inaccessible world and the cost of maintaining a status quo which is not benign but is actually very damaging by its very nature. So that’s why I started to think about it and I thought actually those of us living with an impairment our families, our friends, our immediate spheres are the shock absorbers. Somehow we’re expected to absorb into our bodies into our lives that inaccessibility and it comes at a price and I think it comes at a price of burnout it comes at the price of getting sick often. I think it’s something we don’t often talk about and I think the other part of that is when we think about leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, CEOs, Founders who live with an impairment of any sort and I know this firsthand having been the founder of several organizations as a blind woman there is a price to being a pioneer and when you’re out the front pushing at the edges of what’s acceptable pushing at the boundaries of what society deems acceptable that also comes at a price and a cost because the way has not been paved. The path through the forest if you like has not yet been cleared so we are doing the clearing. We’re having to clear the path and one of the things that I’m really interested at an event like this which is such an important Summit and again I just want to say I just have such admiration for Remarkable for yet again pulling off such an a remarkable event to create the space for these conversations but one of the things I don’t know if we’ve truly explored as a community, and as a growing community, is what is the current price and cost that CEOs Founders innovators entrepreneurs who live with an impairment are paying to do this work right now.

Viv [08:01 – 09:08]
I think that actually echoes a few conversations I’ve had at the Summit and also to a degree learning from an experience of having to come to terms with the fact I put a lot of effort into masking to try and fit into roles and responsibilities as I’ve kind of navigated my career and trying to unlearn these behaviors and give myself space to heal and grieve. I think when you’ve done it for so long you get hit with sort of a postponed grief and exhaustion which is a bigger cost and I suppose one that requires you to be patient with yourself and to be okay asking people to be patient with you. Have you had experiences in your career where you have tried to articulate the cost that you have paid for this inaccessible society and it has just been received with essentially just shrugged shoulders and people not understanding?

Minnie [09:08 – 14:42]
I think the challenge we’ve got is that this is quite an emergent space right now so this area of Technology Innovation entrepreneurship and design in my mind it is the single most important area in terms of if we are to truly ever create an accessible future for the nearly two billion people worldwide living with a disability if we collectively can really understand what is needed to ensure that access entrepreneurs designers innovators and leaders can thrive and do their work well then I think we can create an accessible society. If we do not understand and if we don’t ask the question ‘what is needed for a blind CEO to thrive and succeed?’, ‘what is needed for a Deaf entrepreneur to thrive and be successful?’If we don’t ask those questions and understand what’s required in terms of resourcing behavior and attitude all of that then we’re not going to see the change that’s possible in the world. In order to do that I think we need to have some shared frameworks for having these conversations. I only really started to understand the true cost of an inaccessible world as a blind CEO after I went through cancer and then I had a very unexpected and quite shocking experience of heart failure in 2020. As a blind woman CEO living alone in my home in New Zealand but also still trying to run a progressive social change organization but without any support that I needed to really function well. What I realized was that we didn’t have sort of a shared framework to have that conversation and to be able to say ‘Hey how do we talk about this in a way that other people don’t feel defensive? Don’t feel criticized? Don’t feel like they’re failing?’ I think the challenge is when we start to raise these issues firstly as the CEO or the entrepreneur people around us who feel they’re there to support us might feel criticized and that’s not my intention. My intention is to say hey everyone’s doing their best but perhaps we need to be doing more or better or differently. But how do we talk about this in a way that we can all come to the party? This is where this idea came to me of what I call being able to take an approach that is based on this idea of how do we be ‘with’ as in ‘with’ our access entrepreneurs, leaders, innovators and designers. How do we show up with these key innovators in a way that we’re all actually set up to succeed and not trip at every hurdle that comes up before us. So it’s a model for success but it’s also a new social contract saying as the innovator, entrepreneur, designer there may be things I need that someone else does not need there may be ways of operating and running my organization or my Enterprise in order to be truly accessible that actually does not fit neatly into that government contract that I’ve just signed up for it might mean we have to push back on a whole lot of traditional ways of thinking about entrepreneurship and design that actually is challenging for other designers other accelerators because we start to disrupt everything around us if we’re being true to our way of working and so it’s not an easy conversation but but I think if if and this is why I wrote my book in many ways was because I thought actually I look back and I think if I’d had a framework from the age of 15 day where I could have talked to my family my friends as I went through education employment and then as I went out into the world trying to Pioneer change through my different organizations if I had this framework of weth what might have been different and I think when I think about this immersive uh immersive emerging space of whether we call it disability Tech or as I like to call it possibility Tech design and Innovation I think we need some shared ways of talking of leading and understanding each other that are fit for 2023 and Beyond. I don’t know if that answered your question at all Viv…

Viv [14:42 – 15:13]
it did it and one of the parts of this sort of social contract is this term ‘withholding’ and in essence and correct me if I’m wrong but the concept is that as we sort of entered this space with each other there are undeniably and sort of inevitably these people that withhold and are resistant to that change and those people are people that are outside the disability community and inside. Could you speak to that?

Minnie [15:13 – 20:02]
absolutely and so if ‘with’ is how we birth an accessible future and interestingly the word ‘with’ has some of its early origins in old German and it has to do with being a midwife actually helping a mother to birth something. So if we think about ‘with’ as every moment of every day with every decision we make we are either enabling or disabling the birth of a more accessible society. So I’d love us to really think about what does ‘with’ mean? What could it look and feel like in this area of emergent technology for this future? We are all collectively trying to birth but then the other side of that because there’s always an opposite is when withholding happens. When for whatever reason we and I mean “we society”, a colleague, someone working as a designer. a friend, a family member, hold back something that is fundamental to that birthing of that accessible future. That might be we hold back our support, we hold back our generosity of spirit, we hold back funds but what I find really interesting is often we hold back power. In my experience we’re okay with people with a disability or access need reaching a certain level but are we really ready for blind people, Deaf people, people living with any kind of impairment to lead this radical revolution of possibility technology? Or are we withholding that opportunity because actually we don’t want to give away that power? That resource we don’t want to give away to this community? Because for whatever reason we’re fearful. It’s uncertain, it’s scary, it’s uncharted territory. So I think often withholding happens and we all do it. It’s something that I think we need to become cognizant of ourselves. It’s when we put a chair in the way of an accessible hallway. It’s when we choose to print something in size font instead of something larger. It’s when rather than smiling at somebody we frown at them. I have this example in my book, it was so pertinent to me. I had this massive contract that I was negotiating with about $1.5 million for an accessible Employment Program when I was running one of my organizations and in those big meetings I pour tea or coffee for my guests – you know it’s part of being a good host just to be able to pour a cup of tea and a coffee for your guest. Now that might sound really small but actually it’s a fundamental part of building a relationship through a contract negotiation and the member of my team whose job it is to support me as the CEO in that moment and there was obviously something going on for them okay but in that moment when I said would you be able to pour the tea they felt that task was suddenly beneath them and they actually walked out of the room and I couldn’t see they’d walked out of the room but I keep thinking where have they gone? Now in that moment that team member withheld an act of support that was part of enabling the birth of an accessible society. That single act of withholding almost derailed a $1.5 million contract negotiation; those are the stakes we’re talking about. Sometimes it’s the smallest things like that of withholding that actually can have the biggest impact and they’re often the hardest things to pinpoint. We often look to bigger examples around funding but it’s each of those little micro moments that determine whether a new Enterprise gets off the ground. They determine whether a new innovation sees the light of day, whether an access entrepreneur can actually flourish and create a successful organization

Viv [20:02 – 20:52]
I’m going to read one of my favorite quotes because it’s great it’s “No matter how cool disruption can be made to sound I now believe most people do not want disruption especially if they’re the ones who need to change in order for it to occur the fact is that we all need to change for True access to occur no one is exempt. And I now know in my heart that very very few people are brave enough to stay the course as we go out and into the fire’ Now that’s a big quote and when I first read it I got genuine chills but I would love you to expand on what that means for everyone in this room who are are really facing this challenge of disruption in what they’re doing?

Minnie [20:52 – 25:01]
I think again I I look at the this through the lens of for those of us who putting ourselves right in the in front line of social change because you know everyone who’s here at this event no matter what hat you’re wearing we are part of a radical movement of social change and by its very nature change requires us to do things differently and it is disruptive. You know in the next part of that quote I say is that people and marketers will water this concept down all the time and they’ll call a new chocolate bar or a new type of bottled water disruptive and it’s like oh my goodness it’s so not but when you think about the Civil Rights Movement in America the kind of radical social change movements and protest that we see around the world every day, women in countries you know where their basic human rights have been stripped away day after day after day but who bravely come out onto the streets and protest that is disruption. Now I think the challenge for us in a space like the Remarkable Tech Summit is we have to remain brave. We have to remain on the cutting edge. The world of Entrepreneurship, the world of business, the world of design also play it safe. There are models right now and in the world of business and this is one of my big bug bears actually and concerns with the space that we’re all a part of at the moment have we yet created an economic model where the value of the technology and the Innovation that has been created comes back to the access community? As the designers and innovators and entrepreneurs? Because what I often see and this is a quote from an amazing designer Liz Jackson but many of the Innovations and Technology the acess community radically fights for the money that’s generated whether it’s by big companies like Microsoft and sorry I don’t mean to just point them out, it could be any company when these products get commercialized which of course is is fine – where do those profits go? Until the access Community has direct access to the resourcing to actually lead the innovation of what I call “possibility design” we’re always going to be in the position where we are waiting to be invited to the table, we are waiting to be included. This is why I struggle with the term inclusive design as well because for me inclusive design is often about those who have the power and resource inviting us to the table – if we want and if they deem it appropriate or timely. We’re often invited to the table in a way that suits them, not necessarily us. So I think we need to be thinking about inclusive design along one platform and then what I like to call possibility design along another platform. We need to be doing both. We need to be ensuring the things that are being designed right now have accessibility built into their DNA but then we need to be having radical possibility design that is designed by the access community with our own resource base, with our own ways of designing, innovating, creating, going to market that honors a truly accessible worldview and that is disruptive.

Viv [25:01 – 25:26]
That was a very powerful way to end this chat – I am conscious that our time is up but you have just released your book and a a round of applause for you. Where can people access purchasing your book, is that on your website?

Minnie [25:26 – 25:47]
It’s on my website. I think there’s a beautiful slide that I sent through with an oh I’ve never done a promotion like this but it’s actually so at Min b. co.nz so m i m m i e at

Viv [25:47- 26:03]
We’ve got it up on the screen Minnie, so people can it’s m i n n i e b dot Co dot NZ but we’ll share that with everyone. Minnie we’ll get you back on the screen and just say big thank you for coming and joining us.

Remarkable Insights: Vint Cerf Part 2

Transcript

[00:00:00] Viv
We would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we record this podcast. The Gadigal people. This is their land, never seated, always sacred and pay respects to the elders past, present, and emerging of this place. Coming up on Remarkable Insights.

[00:00:17] Vint:
Yeah, there is an internet in your future. Resistance is futile.

[00:00:22] Viv:
If you’re listening to today’s episode on December 3rd, then Happy International Day of People with Disability, and welcome to the final episode of Season two of the Remarkable Insights Podcast. Today we’re excited to share part two of our chat with Vint Cerf. To start off, I’d love to know what does International Day of people with disability mean to you?

[00:00:40] Vint:
Two things occur to me. One of them is that we should be accommodating people with disabilities because there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have equitable access to all of the Internet’s capabilities. But the second thing I would want to emphasize on that day is that assisting someone with a disability doesn’t just help that person. It helps everyone that’s interacting with that person. And so if you get done doing the math, pretty much everybody in the world is benefited by any kind of accommodation because almost everyone knows someone with a disability and anything that makes them more able to work with the online environment is better for everyone, including the person with a disability, but also everyone who interacts with that person.

[00:01:32] Viv:
Yeah, it’s so powerful. And it wasn’t until you, I believe you went into your senior sort of roles within your career that you started to feel more comfortable talking and advocating about your lived experience with hearing loss. I would love to dive into that and understand that journey of how you began to feel more confident and why you needed that to be later in your career.

[00:01:56] Vint:
First of all for a while hearing aids were unusual. People didn’t have them, or the cohort that I worked with, I was the only guy with a hearing aid. There were awkward moments like, you have to change the battery, so what do you do while you’re changing the battery? And so I would concoct a little spiel to keep other people from talking while I was changing the battery, because I knew I couldn’t hear them. And then after a while I realized this is stupid to try to hide this. I’d rather have people know that I can’t hear, as opposed to thinking I’m stupid. So I got more and more comfortable by saying, look, I got hearing aids and if I may not I’d hear you if you’re behind me, or you should get my attention so I can see you and that you’re talking. So I got more comfortable with that personally, and then I got more comfortable telling other people, you know what, you should just get more comfortable telling people how to work with you, and the first question out of your mouth. Should be, how can I work with you best? How can I best facilitate our interactions and conversations? And you’ll find, I think that as long as you’re open and transparent about this, that other people will feel comfortable saying what they need as well. So I think over time I’ve become an advocate for transparency and openness, even though I do understand that. For some people, there’s a worry that if you disclose a disability of some kind, people will think you’re not really capable of being a hundred percent. We probably shouldn’t ask you to do anything too hard. Or you get the pity shtick, which you don’t want, aren’t interested in. But I’ve become a big fan of transparency because I think it aids much better interaction.

[00:03:42] Viv
And I know that Google does a really great job at promoting the work they’re doing in the DEI space and accessibility within the actual products that they offer. How does that feel for you to work with a company that is making so much noise in the space of accessibility and really driving that forward?

[00:03:59] Vint:
It has been a long journey. I’ve been with the company almost 18 years now, and it’s only in the last five or so years have we seen a real focus of attention on inclusiveness in designing and building systems that are accommodating. We even have a central team now, plus people that are scattered around in our product areas that are focused on that. It used to be a very small team. Now it’s a much bigger team. It still has a lot of work to do. And we have a lot of people to train. So one of the things that I like is that when people join the company and they’re going to do software development, we run them through some programs to expose them to the user interface question and want to remind them that that there are things they should consider when they’re doing the design so that it can be adapted to a person with color vision problems or just vision problems or maybe hearing problems or motor problems or even cognitive problems. We should be imagining how do I make this work for everybody?

[00:05:02] Viv:
And it’s such an interesting point. Working in this space and being, I call myself a Remarkable enthusiast. I just love learning about the space and I’ve been on my own journey of learning later in life that I have Autism and ADHD and coming to terms with my own sort of journey and how technology has benefited me in different ways, but also just how accessibility is this huge spectrum. That is ever- evolving and I don’t think you’ll ever perfect it, but I don’t think that’s the goal. I think the goal is to constantly be learning and being aware that you’re gonna have to keep improving. But I also get baffled why people aren’t as excited or enthusiastic about this space, especially in the tech space, and that we have to even make noise about accessibility. From your perspective, what do you think is stopping that, that sort of universal enthusiasm or awareness for why this is so important?

[00:05:57] Vint:
First of all, it’s hard work and if you don’t have an intuition about what you should do in order to make something adaptably accessible, then it’s kinda like a giant barrier. It’s having writer’s block where you’re trying to figure out how to say something and you can’t, the words don’t come out. We need several things to happen. We need for people who are designing and building these user interfaces. To get more exposure to what makes a good interface, what makes a bad one? The thing I’m dying to see are catalogs of examples of lousy interfaces and what you have to do to make them better and concrete Examples are great ways for people to ingest and learn what makes a good user interface. So you want not only to show them the difference, but explain to them. Why this other one is better? What is it that it enabled? The second thing that would be wonderfully attractive if we could figure out how to do it, would be a kind of user interface that learns from the user what it is the user needs. We need for an easy way for the user to either say or show what the user needs to make things more accessible. But we want the system to learn about methods that will make the systems more accessible so that after a while, The system begins to figure out for itself what it should do to make the interfaces work. Now, one of my colleagues, not here at Google, but elsewhere is Gregg Vanderheiden, been in this game for 30 years. He had a project called Raise the Floor, which basically says let’s make sure that the floor reaches everybody’s needs for accessible communication. He has this very clever idea. He said, why don’t you figure out a way for a person to explain to an operating system how it should configure itself to be maximally accessible for you, and then take that information and put that somewhere where it’s remotely accessible through the net. So if this particular user goes to anybody’s laptop or desktop, And is able to connect to the place that has its configuration information. They can download whatever is needed for your, any particular operating system. So it’s configured for his or her preferred interface. And so this idea of being able to essentially automatically configure a computer to meet your requirements, your access requirements is a very interesting idea. There’s all kinds of standardization that has to be done in order to achieve that objective, but it’d be really cool if you could do it.

[00:08:42] Viv:
That would be the coolest. It gets my vote. The tagline of this podcast is ‘ exploring how disability drives innovation’. What does that concept mean to you?

[00:08:53] Vint:
Oh this is actually a really easy question to answer. Imagine if you have a disability that you confront every single day, overcoming that disability. And so some of the most creative people in the world are people with disabilities, because every single day they have to go figure out, how do I do that? How do I solve this problem? Which is why I really love the idea of hiring people with disabilities because they’re really good at thinking their way through innovative ways to solve problems. I think we need to give people with disabilities more tools to help solve the problem. And we need to educate the general public and our businesses that almost everyone in the company will suffer a disability, even if it’s only temporarily, whether it’s a broken arm or a hand, or a broken leg or some other, stuffed up nose, you can’t hear all of those. Temporary disabilities will benefit from software and hardware that addresses the problem. And of course, then there are people with chronic conditions like mine. I’m chronically deaf. And having a solution to that in the form of hearing aids or special headsets or other kinds of things is very much appreciated.

[00:10:06] Viv:
This might give you an opportunity to restate what you’ve said previously, but at the end of these episodes, we’d like to invite guests to leave the listeners with a Remarkable Insight. So a piece of advice or something to think about moving forward. Is there anything you would like to share?

[00:10:24] Vint:
Yeah, there’s an internet in your future, resistance is futile.

[00:10:31] Viv:
I like it. I suppose if you’re gonna share one that’s specifically about disability tech?

[00:10:39] Vint:
What I would say to our listeners is that those of you with disabilities, please don’t be shy about being clear about what we could do to make the internet more accessible or its applications more accessible. And for people who are making those applications, please don’t forget your friends with disabilities. Make your applications accessible because you’ll benefit them and everyone who interacts with them.

[00:11:07] Viv:
Vint Cerf, thank you so much for coming on, and I’m so grateful that we got to chat.

[00:11:13] Vint:
Thank you very much and thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate it. It’s an important topic and it’s one that deserves the attention that you’re giving it.

[00:11:21] Viv:
That is it for season two of Remarkable Insights. If you enjoyed this season, I reckon you could listen to it again, you could share with a friend or watch some of our videos on our Instagram. If any of the stories connected with you connect with us. You can follow us on our socials or head to our website and send us an email. Everything is in the show notes below, and that’s it until fingers crossed, season three of Remarkable Insights.

Remarkable Insights: Vint Cerf Part 1

Transcript

[00:00] Viv
We would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we record this podcast. The Gadigal people. This is their land, never ceded, always sacred and pay respects to the elders past, present, and emerging of this place. Coming up on Remarkable Insights.

[00:19] Vint
We worked together on the first paper that was published in 1974. We figured this out around 1973, in the fall. So this is the 50th anniversary of the basic concept of the internet.

[00:30] Viv
I have the absolute honor to introduce our next guest, Vint Cerf wildly known as the father of the internet, who joins us to talk about how he believes disability drives innovation. Vint, thank you so much for joining me for this episode of Remarkable Insights. If you are comfortable, could we start by you giving a visual description of yourself and the setting that you’re in.

[00:51] Vint
Yes. I liked that very much. I’m very attuned to the whole issue of accessibility. What you’re seeing is an 80 year, almost 80 year old guy with a white full beard and a bald head wearing a headset and wearing a grey pinstripe suit with a a blue shirt and a tie. The tie is a paisley black and white affair. In the background on the whiteboard is nothing secret but it is all about the interplanetary internet operation not necessarily a Google project, but a project that Google lets me work on, which I do with NASA and some of the other space agencies.

[01:38] Viv
I thought we’d start by looking back at when you first started to understand that perhaps you had hearing loss.

[01:44] Vint
I think that it was detected when I was in the fourth grade, which would mean I was about nine years old and I think that it was detected because it seemed as if I was inattentive from time to time. And so my hearing was tested and they decided maybe I should go to a special school in order to learn to lip read, or they didn’t think it was bad enough that I had to go to learn sign language or anything. So they’re gonna put me in a special class. And then there was a big debate and they said no, it would be better if I were just mainstream and I was be forced to concentrate and pay attention. So by the time I got to the seventh grade my hearing had diminished enough about 25 dB or so that I started to wear hearing aids.

[02:38] Viv
Is there any technology that’s available now that you wish you had at that age?

[02:43] Vint
No, not really. The closest we might come to something would be email, for example, but I’m not sure that it would have worked out very well in the settings of the 1950s and ’60s. It certainly did turn out to be spectacularly useful by the time 1971 rolls around when it gets invented during the Arpanet project. But I’m not sure that would’ve been useful. And the hearing aids worked very well. I’ve been able to function in a hearing world effectively, even with my hearing getting worse, the hearing aids get better. So here we are having this conversation. I have a headset on and I’m wearing my hearing aids underneath the headset and it seems to work.

[03:25] Viv
And would you say that hearing aids was your first entry point into the assistive technology world?

[03:32] Vint
Oh, absolutely, yes. At age 13, which would’ve been 1956 that’s the first exposure I had to assistive technologies.

[03:43] Viv
Wow. And when I’ve looked at the way that you were inspired by the prototypes of how the internet was shaped, I understand that your wife’s lived experience as well was also a big part of your personal passion for the idea of the internet.

[03:58] Vint
Yes and no. The whole idea behind the internet was what would happen if we got a whole bunch of computers talking to each other, regardless of who made them, was extremely interesting. These are not designed to talk to each other. How do you make it work? The other part, Bob Kahn and I pursued in our early period was what if you have a whole bunch of different networks? What if they’re radio and satellite and mobile and fixed installations, dedicated circuits, optical fiber, all this different communication capability, how do you make all that work together? That was the internet problem.

But during the Arpanet program, which started around 1968, or so and became visible to me in ’69 when I was at UCLA as a graduate student. The thing that got invented as an application very early on was electronic mail around 1971. Now, that instantly got my attention for two reasons. First of all, it meant that we could communicate without necessarily both being awake at the same time. Which meant that we could overcome some of the time zone problems associated with working with groups of people scattered around the planet. So that was one thing that was very attractive. But the second one is that reading is more precise than listening for someone with a hearing impairment. And so I was very attracted to that as a communication medium. And I’ve tended to take jobs with companies that are comfortable with using email as a primary communications tool. Google certainly falls into that category and so do the other companies I’ve worked for.

The thing which is perhaps most attractive and telling though about my relationship to the internet and my wife’s relationship to it, is that although she was not a big email user, she’s an artist, she wasn’t an engineer. Laptops and desktops didn’t come naturally to her but she did get on the internet once because someone told her that she should look into something called cochlear implants. Now this is 1996, so we’ve now been married for 30 years. The internet dot boom is underway. She gets a note from somebody in Israel aiming her at Johns Hopkins University. So she inquires ‘am I a candidate?’ She has 95 dB loss. She really can’t hear a jet plane going off in her left ear. Both ears are really bad and so she gets a note back saying, ‘why don’t you come up to Johns Hopkins? We’ll test to see whether or not your auditory nerve is still functional, even though the ciliar hairs that allow you to hear don’t work.’ So she goes up, she gets tested, she’s a candidate. Then she goes up and has the implant operation in 1996, she comes back, waits for a couple of weeks till everything heals. Then she goes back up to be activated. 20 minutes after they activate the speech processor, she picks up the phone and we have a conversation on the phone for the first time in 30 years of marriage. Not a deep conversation, but stunningly important. And by the time I get home I can’t get her off the phone. She’ll talk to anybody. She’s a 1960s teenager, so internet has become very central to her life and of course to mine for the last 50 years.

[07:23] Viv
Wow. And you are commonly referred or widely known as the ‘father of the internet’. How does that name feel for you?

[07:31] Vint
First it’s wrong because I’m not the only one. Bob Kahn and I did this project together. He started it by the way, I did not start it. He asked me to join him very early on in the process. We worked together on the first paper that was published in 1974. We figured this out around 1973, in the fall. So this is the 50th anniversary of the basic concept of the internet. And of course, we were smart about this as once we understood what it was we wanted to do, we went out and got a lot of help. And this is important for anyone who wants to do something big lesson number one, get help, especially from people who are smarter than you are. And of course, today it’s a global phenomenon.

We still have about a third of the world’s population to go to get online. So there’s lots of work still to be done, but the system has grown by something like six or seven orders of magnitude since its original implementation. And that’s quite astonishing. Normally you don’t find systems that will scale to that extent. And so I’m very happy and even proud of that. But as I say the successful implementation and the growth in new applications and everything else is a result of enormous amounts of investment by governments, by the private sector, and by literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who are inventing new ways of using this technology.

[09:02] Viv
And was accessibility something you and Bob Kahn were thinking about when you were designing this prototype and the landscape of the internet?

[09:11] Vint
In all honesty, that was not top of mind. Although what one might want in flying an aircraft is to be able to control other parts of the aircraft, you might want voice capability to do that. Speech understanding turns out to be a very important possible alternative interactive medium. Once you can do that though, that means that you can, if you can understand speech, that means you can translate it from speech to text. If you can translate speech to text and you can show the text, which is what I’m doing right this moment my browser is actually taking the text that you’re speaking and putting it up on the top of my screen so I can see it. So there were implicit accessibility concepts that were hidden in or adjacent to the work that was going on, but I would say that my focus of attention was not so much on accessibility until I got into the commercial sector.  And at that point, without any question at all accessibility has become a very highly important element for me. Not only in the context of work I do here at Google, but even in earlier context working on the MCI mail system and on some of the other defense applications, accessibility has become a high priority.

[10:32] Viv
When you’re thinking about this and maybe some of the barriers that might exist when it comes to accessibility with the internet, if you could go back to when you were first designing it is there anything that you would change knowing what you know now?

[10:46] Vint
Actually, I don’t think so. And part of the reason for that is that it has taken this long to get to the point where we have technologies that will allow us to do some of the things that we couldn’t figure out how to do back then. Speech understanding being example, speech to text, text to speech. Image recognition. We still don’t know how to do a good job of recognizing signing, for example, of either generating it or understanding it. There’s still a lot of work to be done there.

On top of which, designing an accessible user interface requires a depth of awareness and understanding of what makes a good user interface that we don’t all have. The engineers who build the user interfaces do not uniformly understand what makes an accessible interface. It requires a certain amount of intuition. It requires even some experience with what makes a useful and accessible interface. There are pockets of places where there’s deep focus on this. I know a number of people who’ve made careers out of this, but the general run of the mill programmer who’s writing an application doesn’t necessarily have either the intuition, technical maturity, and awareness to build these systems that really will be widely accessible across a variety of disabilities.

So we still have a long ways to go to train programmers to think about accessibility at the beginning. So if there’s anything to be done, it’s to remind people when they begin designing that they should be designing for everyone, not for a fictitious 20 year old with 2020 vision and a brain that’s running 900 miles an hour.

[12:33] Viv
Hey guys, it’s Viv again. If you’re enjoying this chat with Vint Cerf I reckon you should join in for the season finale of Season Two of Remarkable Insights where we’ll be featuring Part Two of our chat with Vint and also celebrating International Day of People with Disability.

[12:45] Vint
We should be accommodating people with disabilities because there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have equal equitable access to all of the Internet’s capabilities.

[12:54] Viv
Make sure you subscribe, follow us on Instagram and we’ll see you on the next Ep!

2024 Launcher Hype Reel

Super excited to announce the launch of our 2024 Remarkable Launcher Application campaign! 

Transcript

[00:02 – 00:05] Pete Beckett, Founder of Indii
Launcher is a place for Founders who want to make an impact.

[00:09 – 00:14] Urwah Nawaz, Founder of Vertere
It is a place for anyone who has the wildest ideas that they want to bring into the disability space.

[00:17 – 00:22] Sophie Li, Co-Founder of Signhow
I didn’t expect that the Remarkable program would give me so much confidence going forward.

[00:25 – 00:38] Jeremy Nagel, Founder of Focus Bear
What I found with Launcher is that I learned a lot about customer interviewing. As someone with ASD I can find going out of my way to have conversations a little bit challenging but I was able to get support from my mentor in how to structure those conversations.

[00:40 – 00:55] Urwah Nawaz, Founder of Vertere
Our idea was very much just an idea around the time we joined Launcher. We were able to gain some insights from people with lived experience with disability. We were always able to reach out to the Remarkable team. They were always really resourceful and linked us to any useful connections.

[00:55 – 1:09] Sophie Li, Co-Founder of Signhow
It offers so much richness and resources. And it identifies the gaps to take action. It gave me full access. It was just beautiful! It was like taking a breath of fresh air.

[01:09 – 01:23] Pete Beckett, Founder of Indii
Being part of a community is key to succeeding in whatever part of life but even more amazing when you’re part of a community that has that same passion for bettering this world that we live in and having a genuine impact.

Remarkable Insights: Moaz Hamid

Transcript

[00:00] Viv
We would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we record this podcast, the Gadigal people. This is their land, never ceded, always sacred and pay respects to the elders past, present, and emerging of this place.

Coming up on Remarkable Insights.

[00:20] Moaz
This lack of knowledge into what’s happening with disability and disappearance of the impact that disability itself had in our entire technological ecosystem. From text messaging that was first started by people with disability, to the TTY system that first started by people with disability to the T9 communication system that improves our autocorrect today and our iPhones. People forget this history because of how overwhelming and noisy our work is today.

[00:46] Viv
Mission-driven, technologist and strategist Moaz Hamid joins us to talk about his Silicon Valley journey and new mission as an investor dedicated to advancing accessibility and disability technology. Moaz, thank you so much for joining me for an episode of Remarkable Insights. If we could start, would you mind please giving a visual description of yourself and the setting that you’re in?

[01:06] Moaz
Absolutely. So I’m wearing glasses, shaved head, fully shaven actually. And a blue t-shirt, a blue shirt actually. And I am sitting in a bright lit room close to the windows in a cloudy day of Los Angeles surprisingly.

[01:26] Viv
Sounds perfect to me. I would love to be in LA right now. For people who are listening who might not know, would you mind giving us an introduction to who you are and how you got to this point in your life?

[01:38] Moaz
So I’m a technologist. I got into tech up surprisingly, at a very young age because of my mother going everywhere. She’s going around her work, she’s seeing computer, which were popping up everywhere. And she saw that I was breaking stuff in the house to try to discover how they work. And she thought to stop me from doing that to put me in a computer school so at least I know how to build the computer. But what she didn’t realize is that she put me in a coding school. She did not know the difference at the time between the two. So I ended up learning coding at a very young age that led me to have a very bright future, basically in the tech world. So I ended up working in the future of smartphone at a very young age, in a very early days of smartphone helping launch the Treo smartphone that led to me leading an investment and the launch of the HTC brand. And then shortly after it, Skype and Oprah and many of the tech that are very relevant to what we are using today and doing today. That later on, led to me, joining Microsoft to support Windows Mobile and the expansion of Windows Mobile. And then shortly after to Google to do the same with Android and Chrome OS and Google Map and Google Search Appliance and Google Apps for government. And over the last few years, I’ve been focusing my entire life in entrepreneurship and supporting entrepreneurs and helping build entrepreneurship ecosystems specifically.

[03:12] Viv
Wow. And all thanks to mum getting the wrong school.

[03:16] Moaz
Absolutely.

[03:18] Viv
Do you think if you had told your younger self that in the future you’d be working at Silicon Valley with companies like Google and Snapchat, that you would’ve thought that is something that would suit who you are? Or how do you think that where you ended up in life aligns with where you thought you would be?

[03:36] Moaz
Yeah, surprisingly, even though I loved to open devices when I was little and I wanted to experiment with them, including opening the TV at home and trying to connect it to the speaker. And my mum came from work once and found the entire TV and pieces at home. Actually, that first internship that I got with Palm was because I bought a Palm PDA at the time. I sold my desktop to go and buy it, and then few days later it stopped working and with my best friend who was interning at Palm at the time, I tried to fix it, and when we couldn’t fix it, he didn’t know how to help me and he didn’t know what to do. The only thing he thought about was to give me the email of the CEO. So I exchanged emails with the CEO. He sent me a brand new device and gave me my first internship, but it was a very kind thing for him to actually answer a kid who just emailing him and telling him, I’m a kid, emailing you. I just bought my device and it’s not working, and I tried to fix it. I tried everything. It didn’t work. And then he responded with his assistant in CC and asked me what my address was and sent me a brand new device and then exchanged a couple more emails that led to me getting my internship with Palm.

[04:45] Viv
Your career progressed from Palm to then working with people like Snapchat, I believe, and Google and Microsoft. Working with these sort of companies, at what point did you decide that you were gonna pivot and then start your own organization?

[04:59] Moaz
My older brother was in the entrepreneurship scene already. So I was exposed to it also at a very young age. But I found Palm to be my home. I didn’t wanna ever leave Palm for the rest of my life at the time when I started working for Palm. So I started helping my brother on the side and his entrepreneurship journey while I’m working with Palm at the same time. The passion and love I had for the devices allowed me to explain, to use my best friend who was working with me at the time to become my voice in the company. So I used to explain to him about this device and issue with it and think that we could do with it. And he used to go and explain it to the rest of the team and to the rest of the company. And I really wished and hoped that for every autistic child in the world who especially ended up in the work environment, that he has this best friend and has this advocate in their company that is basically always in connection with them and always talking to them and listening to their ideas and bringing their ideas forward. Because I had really incredible ideas for my company that I just couldn’t be in the room saying to 20, 30, 40, 50 people. Sometimes while my best friend was next to me and he used to say, even if I’m in the meeting and I’m too quiet, and he said, this is the idea that I told him. And then he just described my idea and then eventually after two, three, maybe 10 meeting, I can’t remember exactly, I felt comfortable enough to, that when the team asked me ‘can you tell us more’, that I felt comfortable enough to explain to them why I like that idea.

[06:37] Viv
For people who don’t know, what is it exactly that your venture company does?

[06:41] Moaz
So I started to brainstorm and research with my colleague and classmates to think with me around the venture world and what we are doing in the venture world to impact the disability space. And to my surprise, many of them were shocked that we are even discussing this topic, the disability topic. For many of them they thought of disability as just a charity thing that we do to help people with disability. Nobody saw a business opportunity, nobody even heard about the impact that we are having today from not employing people with disability. And the lack of data also was another thing that shocked me because I was trying to find all this data within our census and our CDC and our government organisation, and I couldn’t find a lot of data was missing. So I hired a small research group led by a dear friend and a colleague her name is Jasmine. And we started working together to find this data and research this data and put more knowledge and more ideas around it. And that’s led to us having where it is today, what we’re working on today, which we call Movement Venture, MVMT Venture. So MVMT Venture is the first venture studio and a venture fund that is dedicated to make technology more accessible and reduce the unemployment for people with disability. So that’s the goal and our mission at Movement Venture. So we look for people from an idea stage and from early stage and support them through their ideas to mature their idea and make it more empowering and more accessible to more people, and then prepare them to become venture backable. And then bring them into our second firm, which is the Venture Fund, where we help fund them and take them to what’s next.

[08:31] Viv
There’s so many pieces of technology and innovation that are ubiquitous with everyday life that were created by people with disability to solve a problem or to remove a barrier they were experiencing. And now that benefits everybody. When you talk about people still seeing disability as a charity rather than a business opportunity. How is that so when we have so many of these examples that we could show people, where is that sort of breakdown in communication and awareness, and why is it still happening?

[09:02] Moaz
Yeah. So the reason it’s happening that I discovered so far is because nobody is bringing the topic of disability into the forefront of what they see every day in the news. So today, when you open the news and you open YouTube and you open anything that you get news from, you see the number one topic is cryptos and AI. There is nothing else happening in the world except cryptos and AI. And because of that and the way that people are exposed to news today it’s very limited and it’s not showing them what’s happening really in the world, unfortunately. And also with how much connected we are today with the amount of technology we have, we are even way more disconnected than how our parents were connected. And it’s completely shocking that now everyone carrying two and three iPhones and devices that connect to each other and all day messaging and iMessaging people, and they still don’t even know what’s happening in their own neighborhood. And this was not the case for our parents and our parents before them. And this disconnect of communication between us and our community is what’s resulting into this lack of knowledge into what’s happening with disability. And this appearance of the impact that disability itself had in our entire technological ecosystem, from text messaging that first started by people with disability to the TTY system that first started by people with disability to the T9 communication system that improve our auto correct today and our iPhones. That also started by the community with disability. All of these features, to voicemail, and all of this all started by the disability community, but people forget this history because of how overwhelming and noisy our work today.

[10:47] Viv
Moaz, we need you on our marketing team. We’ve got time for one last question and what we like to ask guests is invite you to leave listeners with a Remarkable Insight that could be a piece of advice or some sort of thought or question you want to leave them with to think about after this episode has ended.

[11:06] Moaz
I am seeing more and more innovation today in the disability space that are coming from small nonprofits. And this small nonprofit they discover these features and they discover these solutions for their community. And usually nonprofit in United States specifically, but probably globally also are launched by a family member who face those disability and somehow they discover the solution and they start using this solution. And because they’re not thinking global today and they’re just thinking about the community aspect of what they’re doing, they end up supporting a small piece of their community. Empowering this nonprofit I discovered that it’s going to be something that is going to be very significant to the work that we are doing in the disability space. So for everybody who’s trying to do something in the space from government to venture world, to nonprofits who are well funded, to also look for these small nonprofit who are doing small things in small communities and empower them and support to do things at scale, to bring this technology to flourish and to be in front of other people who also need them. And from that we’ll discover new innovation that we could have never imagined. And I believe completely that the space of disability will bring us the next wave of innovation that we are all desperate for. And instead of the repetitive innovation that we are seeing today in the venture world, we see the same fund funding, the same technology, same startup over and over again expecting different result when there is this whole space with new innovation and new idea that is underfunded today. That’s what I want to leave your audience to think about. And these small ways and small ideas that they might think of them as small today. They’re still worth sharing, and they could turn into something really significant.

[13:10] Viv
Thank you to our guest, and hopefully you found your own Remarkable Moment. Make sure you subscribe to the podcast and follow on Instagram at @remarkable_tech for unheard moments from this episode. Talk with you all on the next one!

2023 Tech Summit Talk | Joe Devon

Joe Devon | Snapshots in AI & Inclusion

Talk Overview

In a captivating presentation at the Remarkable Tech Summit, Joe Devon opened our minds to the revolutionary role of AI in digital accessibility. He emphasised the invaluable perspectives people with disabilities bring to AI development, stimulating thought on sensory input and cognitive processing. Devon ignited interest about AI’s future role in personalising information, ultimately enhancing all our abilities.

Full transcript available below.

Top Insights

1. AI – A Game Changer for Digital Accessibility: Joe Devon emphasised the potential of AI to revolutionise digital accessibilities, urging for inclusive research and development.

2. Addressing Aphantasia through AI: Shedding light on the concept of aphantasia, Devon argued how understanding and accommodating such conditions could significantly enhance AI models.

3. AI Innovations for Inclusion: Devon discussed how AI could generate automated speech recognition, visual recognition, text-to-speech for increased accessibility, and even clone voices for those who need it.

4. Sensory Substitution – A Novel Approach: Introducing the concept of sensory substitution, Devon spoke about devices like the BrainPort and haptic vest that could allow blind and d/Deaf people to experience ‘vision’ and ‘hearing’ respectively.

5. Predicting an All-Inclusive Future with AI: In his conclusion, Devon predicted that AI will augment all of our abilities, transforming information in real time to suit the unique needs of each individual, thus challenging the boundaries of accessibility.

About the speaker: Meet Joe Devon
Joe Devon - headshot

Joe Devon, Co-Founder Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

LinkedIn: Joe Devon
X: @joedevon 

Joe Devon, Head of Accessibility and Al Futurist at Formula Monks, is a technology entrepreneur and web accessibility advocate. He co-founded Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) and serves as the Chair of the GAAD Foundation, focusing on promoting digital accessibility and inclusive design. Joe explores artificial intelligence’s (AI) potential to revolutionize digital accessibility, developing Al solutions to enhance online experiences for people with disabilities.

Joe Devon:
I have a little image here. Everything here is generated by Midjourney. And this is just an image of someone who has lots of things coming out of their mind, and the condition of people that have extremely vivid memories of imagery is hyperphantasia.

And, this is really an experience of a vivid mind’s eye where you can visualise things very well. Who here has a poor visual memory? And I’m like that as well. So we’ve got Molly. You’ve got you as well. So, Molly, can you tell us what did you imagine when I mentioned the beach?

Molly Levitt:
I mean, I live on a beach, so I had a very clear picture of what I knew but I was not imagining anything new.

Joe Devon:
OK. And I probably have aphantasia and similar to you, really struggle to visualize anything.

And here we have an image of a man with a cloud in front of his face because he’s got nothing. And the inability to generate images in your mind’s eye is called aphantasia, and it’s another form of blindness when you think about it in your mind’s eye.

Working in accessibility, as well as AI, has made me rethink the fields of accessibility as well as the field of artificial intelligence. Because that artificial intelligence is an attempt to try and understand sensory input, as well as cognitive processing, and producing generative output, just like a human being does. And when you think about disability, what is disability other than a disruption in sensory input, cognitive processing, and generative output?

So think about that for a second. Everything that we’re trying to do in artificial intelligence can really be improved when we are thinking about people with disabilities. And if you’ve seen lately about some of the things people are talking about when it comes to AI, they’ll talk about things like automated speech recognition, which generates automated captions. They’ll think about visual recognition, which can generate automated alt text and hopefully very soon, automated audio description. And then you’ve got text to speech, which can be great for people that might need to have their voices cloned and be able to generate their voices.

And it made me think. What if we start to rethink accessibility from the sense of trying to understand the different abilities and senses that everybody has and focus AI researchers on the fields of disability so that as they’re building their technology, they are testing with people with disabilities. It’s going to improve the models considerably.

Has anyone heard of an anauralia? No. Anauralia is the inability to have an inner monologue. So some people, just like we talked about the inability to visualise something in your mind’s eye, it’s the inability to have a monologue. Does anybody here not have an inner monologue? It’s pretty rare but it does happen. And what’s interesting is if you’re doing artificial intelligence, if you’re focusing on these little differences, you’re going to learn a lot about what you’re doing when you’re building artificial intelligence, and one example is I have a friend who is a child, Dakota, a child of d/Deaf adults, and he’s heard since birth. However, he thinks visually because his mother tongue is American Sign Language. And so this is just one of these tiny little details that when you’re trying to emulate using artificial intelligence to try and emulate human beings, you’re not going to be thinking about how to build models that are useful for different kinds of people unless you speak to people with disabilities.

Colour perception is another one that’s really interesting. Anybody know why monitors have you heard of RGB? Red, Green, Blue, Yes. Do you know why monitors are RGB? So they’re the primary colours, and it’s because most people have three primary colours that they can see because they’ve got three colour cones. And I liked your answer. So I’m gonna give you a dollar. There you go. Awesome.

But did you know that women actually have a backup colour cone and in rare cases, some women actually express all four colour cones, and they therefore have four primary colours, and this is a condition that is called tetrachromacy. And we can talk about disabilities where you’re looking at ‘what does the average person have?’, and if the average person doesn’t have an ability or has some kind of impairment compared to the average, we’ll call it a disability. But what about tetrachromacy? Women that have this and it’s only in women can see 100,000,000 colors, whereas the rest of us that are tetrachromats can see a maximum of a million colors. And interestingly enough, the retina displays can show a billion colors, so can 8K and, nonetheless, because it’s based on RGB technology, it comes out flat to tetrachromats because it is RGB based. So this is another example where you can push technology further by testing with people with disabilities.

Some of you may figure out where I’m going with this. This is a question here. ‘Do words or numbers evoke specific colours or tastes for you?’ There’s a dollar in it for whoever says yes, but please don’t lie. Do you associate numbers or letters with colours? Oh, no. OK. Usually there’s at least one or two in the audience and this is called synesthesia. But at one talk where I gave this in this black and white slide one person raised their hands like, ‘Yes, I know what you’re getting at here. There are fireworks coming out of this black and white slide and colour streaks’, and he just described something incredible and this is the kind of thing I wasn’t prepared for that, and everybody in the audience was completely shocked. I gave him 5 bucks, not $1, and it is just incredible. And what synesthesia really is. Does anybody know?

Audience (Ted):
Yes, it’s when you see sounds? It’s when you taste colours, you see sounds. It’s when your senses overlap.

Joe Devon:
Yes, cross functional! Here is a dollar, can somebody help to get this over to Ted, please? Thank you. It is cross-sensory. You’re having one sense, even though the colour cones are not actually activated, they actually do get activated by some other means. And a good way to show this is, this is a chart with fives and twos all in black, but people that are synesthetes they identify specific letters or numbers to colours, and it could be taste as well. And so here’s another slide where the two are in red, and the fives are in green, and what’s really interesting, too, is because these patterns kind of come out at you, if you have synesthesia, your memory tends to be much better.

So all of these little examples. There’s probably hundreds of them. I’ve taken a 45-minute presentation and turned it into 15 min. I just gave you like a few of these. But there’s a lot more that you can do. And there’s lots of reasons why studying different kinds of people with their abilities is going to power the future of technology. But in addition to that, as you see here, there’s a lot of companies here working on BCIs there is a gentleman over here wearing a cognition device and it says, ‘My name is Chris’. And he’s using his brain to control the screen and be able to communicate. And when you think about it, only tech companies that are working with people with disabilities are going to be able to create a great brain-computer interface. Because how are you going to do it with the general population? You absolutely need to work with people with disabilities, so this is really the future. Sensory substitution. Anyone know what that is? Yes, sir. You Yes, we’ll get you a microphone…

Brandon Briggs:
Sensory substitution devices are software some kind of device that you can use for example, visual elements can be converted into sound based off of, you know, some sort of algorithm. And so you can do that for different types types of senses. So haptics, or visuals or auditory.

We do this for the James Webb telescope. We can’t see different radio waves and the different types of life that they’re getting from the telescope. And so people turn it into visuals that look pretty. And that’s kind of a sensory substitution experience.

Joe Devon:
Yeah, very good. That’s a dollar. All right. I got your dollar. Okay, so, over here we have a picture of the brain port and the brain port uses sensory substitution where they have a camera mounted. I don’t know if anybody here has used it. But there’s a camera mounted on glasses and it streams digital data to what they call a lollipop. I wanted to try it, but they said you’re not blind and you need FDA approval. But if you’re blind, you can actually use this device and see through your tongue. And that’s where one sense substitutes for another sense.

And there’s also some of you may have seen the Ted talk with David Eagleman, where there’s a haptic vest worn, and it streams audio data from the iPhone to have haptic touches on people’s backs and someone who’s d/Deaf is able to actually hear through a haptic touch on their back. So this is what’s coming. This is the future of technology. And then I’ll just do one other example.

Has anyone seen Humane? The Ted Talk on Humane? Yes, sir. in the back tell us what you saw?

Markeith Price:
It’s like a computer body. I can’t even explain it. But basically they’re trying to make devices like non-visual. Am I correct?

Joe Devon:
More or less, they’ve just come out with a little bit more information, so it’s a pin. They released it in a fashion show, and it’s a pin that projects a user interface on the palm. But it also does similar to Alexia or Siri, where you can talk to it, and it uses AI to communicate. So it’s definitely a super interesting new wearable and what I think is going to become what I think is going to be happening. Oh, wait, You can’t leave off your dollar.

So we’ll get you that what’s definitely coming is what we’re going to see BCIs working for everybody. We’re going to see haptics being an input device and we’re going to see that AI will transform, for example, from one language to another, from one input to another. So, for example, if you’re blind, you need all of your information to be verbal, so it will translate information to be verbal. Or if you’re d/Deaf, it will translate it into visuals. And if you’re deaf-blind, you will be able to have haptics to communicate with you. And so your real life will be generated in real time by artificial intelligence. And this is the future, AI will augment all of our abilities.

Thank you.

Remarkable Insights: Diego Mariscal

Transcript

[00:00] Viv

We would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we record this podcast The Gadigal people. This is their land, never ceded, always sacred and pay respects to the elders past, present, and emerging of this place. Coming up on Remarkable Insights.

[00:18] Diego

We have to be creative, we have to be resilient, and so it is not about whether or not disabled people are going to be good entrepreneurs. The question is, do they have the right ecosystem support that are going to allow them to thrive?

[00:34] Viv

Disabled and proud, in this episode, we speak with 2Gether International CEO and Chief Disabled Officer Diego Mariscal about his mission to have disability recognized and valued as an asset for business and entrepreneurship. Diego, it’s so great to have you here. If we could start, would you mind giving a description of your visual self and the setting that you’re in?

[00:54] Diego

Sure. Yes. So I am a Latino man. With a… we were just talking about this, with a red painting behind me. The painting has a bunch of wheelchairs on it.

I am wearing a dark blue shirt and black blazer.

[01:17] Viv:

Thank you so much for joining me today and I thought we’d just start, for people who don’t, would you mind giving an introduction to who you are and what you do with yourself?

[01:28] Diego:

My name is Diego Mariscal. I am the CEO and founder of 2Gether International, which is the leading accelerator for founders with disabilities specifically. We support high growth, high impact startups that are led by disabled founders. We work with over 600 entrepreneurs all over the world. Collectively they’ve been able to raise over $50 million in less than four years. And it’s been an incredible ride.

And I will say that we’re doing it together. Some of the entrepreneurs that we work with, we’ve referred to Remarkable and vice versa. The biggest difference I see is that we’re exclusively focusing on founders with disabilities, but the mission of looking at disability as something to be proud of or something to embrace is definitely a common theme and I can’t wait to see what we’re able to accomplish together.

[02:34] Viv:

And I love that your title is CEO and Chief Disabled Officer. Can I get your perspective, these titles like Chief Disabled Officer are sort of new to some people, but I would love for you to give your perspective on the importance of what that title means.

[02:50] Diego:

Yeah. That was very deliberate. I hope that a title such as that is able to convey that whoever the next CEO of 2Gether International is, should really be a disabled person. Because really we want to signal to people that this is meant to be by and for entrepreneurs with disabilities and that there is a sense of pride and identity in having a disability.

[03:20] Viv:

When it comes to articulating the benefits to a bottom line of investing in this space. What are some the sort of the top points that you would say to people?

[03:30] Diego:

That we are the largest minority in the world in the United States. That’s about 20, 25% of of the US population and anyone can become disabled at any point in time.

More importantly though, I think that it is important to recognize that as folks with disabilities, we are innate problem solvers. We have to solve problems every day from how do we get dressed to how we drive, how we communicate and so that… often people are looking at who are the most resilient, who are the most creative, because we know that makes for better entrepreneurs. And the reality is that we have to be creative, we have to be resilient. And so it is not about whether or not disabled people are going to be good entrepreneurs. The question is, do they have the right ecosystem support that are going to allow them to thrive.

[04:30] Viv:

For me, there’s this part of a narrative, which is entrepreneurship and advocacy in this space seem to go hand in hand to some degree, but I feel that there is this greater awareness piece, which is to say that we want to get more people with lived experience driving this space as founders, as people who are the developers, designers, but is there part of the narrative where people also need to take into account that there is an exhaustion that comes with the advocacy, that we are just not factoring in that, that people having to fight for this the bare minimum?

[05:05] Diego:

That’s another deep question that I haven’t been asked before. So kudos to you for the preparedness. Even in my own life, right? Managing my own disability and managing a business I think certainly there are moments of exhaustion. What I have learned is because there’s no other option I have to prioritize my health, I have to prioritize exercising and sleeping well because if I don’t, it just compounds. Ultimately that makes me a better entrepreneur, right? Because I am taking care of my body and taking care not always in the perfect way, but who is, right? But because I prioritize care that comes with managing a disability, that makes me for a better entrepreneur.

Not everybody has that. Not everybody has the right ecosystem and the right supports in place to be able to do that. To give you an example, vocational rehabilitation services, which are state agencies that are funded by the federal government to support folks with disabilities to obtain meaningful employment. They have a reputation from being extremely difficult to work with. I have been a client and I tell this experience that they ask you what your employment goal is and I tell them 2Gether International and supporting entrepreneurs with disabilities. And then the counsellor comes back to me and says oh, I’m excited about it, to show you all these resources to help you with what you’re trying to do. And what they show me is my own website and my own resources, and I’m like, ‘you are not even reading what is it that I’m working on’. And that’s a funny story, but many times where I’ve worked with vocational rehabilitation services, I still find it extremely humiliating at times and dehumanizing because of the way people in that agency treat folks with disabilities.

And so I share that because, It’s about making sure that all entrepreneurs, but especially entrepreneurs with disabilities, have the right ecosystem around them, right? So that they are able to not just manage their disability, but manage their business in a way that compliments each other.

[07:40] Viv:

Talking about the journey of a disabled entrepreneur, is there a really common mistake that you see in the journey to… in the early stages, that you would want to speak to and give people advice of how to avoid?

[07:52] Diego:

The number one thing I see is being afraid of losing benefits, which is a very real concern. And I don’t fault the entrepreneurs for this because it is a legitimate concern. That’s why organizations like Remarkable and 2Gether need to exist, right? To be able to help entrepreneurs navigate. But for example, going back to vocational rehabilitation services, so let’s assume that I was going to college and vocational rehabilitation services was paying for my tuition. Also, as a person with a disability, oftentimes you have access to Medicaid services which covers your health insurance in the US and on top of that, you can have access to social security supplementary income if you’re making below a certain amount. 

So that’s $800 a month that you’re entitled to. And so if you’re able to utilize those services the right way or the way that they’re intended to be used, you actually have $800 in your bank account that you can start to use to fund your business. Because VR (vocational rehabilitation) services is supposed to be paying for room and board, and so your expenses should be covered. In some ways disabled people can actually have a leg up, pun intended, leg up in entrepreneurship because you know of the systems around it. That’s not to say that it doesn’t come with a taxing prize and that it’s not a difficult thing to obtain. My encouragement or my piece of advice to folks with disabilities is navigating a disability is difficult. 

Navigating a business is difficult, but you’re going to succeed not in spite of your disability, but because of the lessons that you’ve learned thanks to your disability.

[09:52] Viv:

Are there any pieces of tech that you use that allow you to have that, to keep that balance in place? And if you wouldn’t mind sharing those?

[10:03] Diego:

My computer speaks every 15 minutes to tell me what the time is. So that’s certainly one. I use screen readers all the time to read documents and things like that. For the longest time, I thought that having two laptops would be a luxury. I was fortunate enough to be able to get two laptops at one point through vocational rehabilitation services, one of which was very big and bulky, and I have been using it for years and that was my work laptop. And finally my colleague recently was like, Diego, you need to get a new laptop, you’re lagging on the video. Like you need to get a new laptop. And he must have told me 10 times. Cause it’s the impression you’re giving. 

And finally, last week I just got a new laptop and and it’s great, it’s great! Having two computers, one at home and one, one in the office. I never think about how much carrying a backpack with weight on me would make a difference. And even though I know that health is really important, this was an example of how hard work technology for me, being able to use both computers is saving me not just the weight off my backpack, but also weight in terms of stress in terms of needs and things like that.

[11:44] Viv:

I’m conscious that I’d love you to clock off and go enjoy your evening. So I just have one last question for you. We like to invite the guests to leave our listeners and people enjoying the podcast with a Remarkable Insight, and that can be a piece of advice or something you would just like them to think about after they’ve finished this episode.

[12:03] Diego:

Listening. Listening doesn’t cost us anything other than being present, and it is the number one skill that I think entrepreneurs can have because if you listen well, you’re going to pick up on what the market needs. Now, listening doesn’t always mean you have to do what the other person says. People often think that listening means, okay, I’m gonna do what you say, but really listen and be present. And you’ll pick up on some wise insights along the way.

[12:39] Viv:

Thank you to our guest, and hopefully you found your own Remarkable moment. Make sure you subscribe to the podcast and follow our Instagram at @remarkable_tech for unheard moments from this episode. Talk with you all on the next one.

Remarkable Insights: Joel Sardi

Transcript

[0:00] Viv
We would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we record this podcast, the Gadigal people. This is their land, never ceded, always sacred and pay our respects to the elders past, present and emerging of this place.

[0:17] Viv
Coming up on Remarkable Insights…

[00:19] Joel
And then one day they got the opportunity to come and meet him on a site visit. He said, just come out the back. I went to his office while the taxi drove me there. I was in there and I went to go to the office and there was a stair to get in, so I called him and said, ‘I’m out the back. I can’t come up the stairs’. He said, ‘yeah, just come up the stairs. I’m in here’. I said ‘ I can’t go upstairs. I’m in a wheelchair’. It’s like I told him he just won $10 million the way he responded. ‘What? What do you mean? You’re in a wheelchair?’

[00:46] Viv
Did you know the employment of people with disability in Australia hasn’t improved in 30 years, but why? Joel Sardi is part of a team of people with disability who founded and created an accessible job search site here in Australia. If Remarkable doesn’t hire me for Season 3, I might need it. Joel Sardi, hello! And please could we start with a visual description of yourself?

[01:07] Joel
Sure. So I’m sitting in my bedroom slash office at home wearing a pink hoodie. Some black over ear headphones. Sitting in front of my laptop.

[01:17] Viv
For those who maybe aren’t aware of the amazing work you do and the person you are, would you mind just starting by giving a bit of an introduction of who you are and how you got to where you are currently?

[01:29] Joel
Yeah. Okay so we’ve already touched on my name. I work for a company called ‘The Field’. The Field is an employment site built by and for people with disability, actively linking them to inclusive employers. So in essence, it is a job site built by people with disability with the understanding of some of the barriers to meaningful employment and my role now is through account management, but in the early days, it was through consulting, through my lived experience. Because I am a person with disability, I’ve got a spinal cord injury consulting on the experiences I’ve had to achieve or to actually attain meaningful employment.

[02:04] Viv
Before we dive into The Field I would love to know about your sort of opinion of the disability space and how that impacts employment and the reality of employment for people with disabilities. How that changed sort of your knowledge prior to your accident to afterwards.

[02:24] Joel
I wasn’t aware of the statistics about the one in five Australians who live with disability. I had no direct connection to disability until I broke my neck and I really didn’t see too many barriers to employment until I actually acquired my disability. And it was just one of the biggest ones was people’s misconceptions around what I could do. People put a ceiling on my capability purely because they didn’t understand disability as such. And I’ll put my hand up and say that I was probably one of those people that had a misconception about disability before I acquired my disability.

[02:56] Viv
It’s interesting because I learned about my diagnosis of autism and ADHD only in the last couple of years. And it’s been such a cool journey for me because I feel like I’ve worked in the disability space for many years, and so I’ve learned a lot about it. It’s just funny that it took me so long to realise these things about myself. But yeah, anyway, we laugh.

[03:17] Joel
How old were you when you got your diagnosis?

[03:20] Viv
Last year? 28!

[03:23] Joel
Wow.

[03:23] Viv
Welcome!

[03:24] Joel
Yeah.

[03:25] Viv
But the experience on The Field was a cool thing because just in being on it, I was exposed to so many other things that I could ask for and in a job that I didn’t know I could. And I think that there is this really cool piece in what you’re doing as well, which is just creating a safe space some people don’t even know they need it yet. But I suppose I’d love to learn about how the actual creation of the tech took into account the nuances and the experience of disability and how you’ve created a website with people in a real co-design way.

[04:04] Joel
It’s like nothing for us without us. A lot of the technology advancements we see through smartphones have been born out of people’s consulting through disability, or people with disability consulting to, for example, Apple. You look at a mainstream device such as a smartphone, it’s almost now an iPhone one of the most accessible pieces of technology that exists. Similar to The Field, a lot of the accessibility features and the tech innovation that exists on The Field are there through people’s consult, through their lived experience of having disability. That is where the tech innovation lies. Long story, but that is where it lies through actually being built by people with disability and consulting, with people with disability.

[04:52] Viv
And do you find the work that you do firstly, is a lot of it virtual? And if so, Do you find that people might not know that you are a wheelchair user? And that sort of changes the tone of conversations and then they might find out later on, and then again there’s a bit of a tone change?

[05:12] Joel
That’s a really good question because I never used to introduce myself as somebody with disability or my connection to disability is this, which is something I’ve learnt and started to put into my daily routine when now working at The Field. I used to work in recruitment and there’s a classic story I share where I had an account I was managing and the guy I was speaking to for five years over the phone and it was always virtual, a hundred percent of it. And then one day I got the opportunity to come and meet him on a site visit, and I went there and he said, ‘just come out the back’. I went to his office. Well, a taxi drove me there, I was in there and went to go to the office and there was a stair to get in, so I called him and said, ‘I’m out the back. I can’t come up the stairs’. He said, ‘yeah, just come up the stairs’. I’m here. I said ‘ I can’t go upstairs. I’m in a wheelchair’. It’s like I told him he just won $10 million the way he responded. ‘What? What do you mean you’re in a wheelchair? I didn’t even know that’. And why does it matter? But yeah, that was a funny experience. For five years I’ve been talking to this guy and he never knew because I didn’t think to share it.

[06:13] Viv
And now do you choose to share it from a fairly early point and why is that?

[06:19] Joel
I do it because it’s not my identity, but it definitely creates who I am in regards to my lived experience. And given this is a job site built by and for people with disability. I’ve had direct input into some of the features on here, which have been changed a lot and updated and improved based on something I said. But yeah that’s what we’re most proud of, we’re disability led and driven, and I’m one of those people.

[06:45] Viv
So cool. And how many like what is the diversity of disability employed at The Field? How many people are on your team?

[06:53] Joel
We work with Get Skilled Access as well, they’re our sister company and I think we’re 80%, 85% disability led overall, and there would be over 45 staff.

[07:03] Viv
We’re looking at the platform that you built with The Field and it has been built with quite a diverse range of people with disability, and you’ve already had that user feedback when you’ve opened it up to a wider audience and you’ve had a greater range and diversity of disabilities that have come in and given you feedback. What does the future of that look like and how much feedback have you already gotten that’s changed the platform as it stands?

[07:27] Joel
When we built it, we could only consult with a limited number of people, although it was still a lot, as soon as we went public facing we did receive feedback from people with different disability in regards to what was accessible and what wasn’t for the platform. So we immediately took that on board and tried to adapt as much as we could in so much as release 1.1 to 1.2 to three to 1.4, so on or so forth. But I guess that’s the beauty of being a platform willing to listen and willing to learn because like I said, one in five Australians have disability and when we initially built it, it was within the confines of who we were consulting with, but now it’s public facing the country to the world really. You can access this website from another country. I guess that’s the beauty of it. It’s forever growing, forever being shaped by the user’s experiences. Tomorrow there could be someone new access the platform. Never seen it. Never heard of it, and said, ‘Hey I want this to change. I want this feature built in because I can’t access this’.

[08:29] Viv
So wonderful. And is part of the equation also eventually gonna be a bit of an education piece on the types of technology that organizations can provide that make jobs accessible to people?

[08:44] Joel
Yeah. There’s actually an opportunity on the platform to conduct microcredentials, inclusive recruiters course or inclusive recruitment strategy and the employer then entertains a badge that we give them, we certify them with. Which allows them to celebrate what they’ve learnt, what they can actually carry out in the workplace based on the training we’ve provided them. And that’s free.

[09:05] Viv
That’s awesome. And I know you also have a tool on your platform, which is an inclusive language checkup. Can you speak about the importance of that?

[09:13] Joel
Yeah. Vivien, could you give me an example of a term that would be used for somebody with Autism that’s not inclusive or offensive? Actually, don’t give me it because that’s probably not a good idea. Maybe think of a term and just imagine that the employer was writing a job description and has said that exact word and thought, ‘Geez. I wonder if I can use this? To make sure I can, I’m gonna go to this option called the Inclusive Language Tool’, which is free on The Field, click on it and it’s like a ‘Wash Your Document’ tool. You enter that word that the employer’s not so sure about if he or she can use it, and for example, for someone like me who’s a wheelchair user, perhaps it says ‘wheelchair bound’. Now the employer goes to hit check and it highlights ‘wheelchair bound’ and the word that you were thinking of as well and says, ‘Hey, we’ve noticed you’ve used these terms. They’re not inclusive because they are, they indicate that the person is bound to the wheelchair’ or they indicate that ‘this is something for somebody with Autism that is incorrect or more inclusive’. ‘ How about you try this term’ and then you can hit edit and it copies that text into the updated version. Allows you to become more inclusive. You learn along the process. That’s how we learn we make mistakes and you become more inclusive.

[10:30] Viv
Yeah. And I guess it’s an exciting element of that, of the future of how AI ChatGPT could be used on the platform to help people write in a way that ensures inclusive language.

[10:43] Joel
Yeah, ChatGPT’s got unlimited potential obviously because of what it represents, but it doesn’t understand the nuances of a country or its culture or its beliefs. So that is where the inclusive language tool is so unique because it’s built by Australians living with disability.

[11:01] Viv
That’s awesome. And we’d like to end these conversations by asking our guests to leave listeners and people enjoying the show with a Remarkable Insight. What’s something you’d like to share for them to think about?

[11:13] Joel
I think of innovation in technology as the cousin to disability because the innovation in technology is born out of people with lived experience or the way they consult with tech experts in making things accessible or ways that make their lives a bit easier. So I guess that’s my Remarkable Insight in regards to the relationship between technology and disability.

[11:36] Viv
Thank you to our guest, and hopefully you found your own Remarkable Moment. Make sure you subscribe to the podcast and follow our Instagram @remarkable_tech for unheard moments from this episode. Talk with you all on the next one.