‘Accessibility is about making a solution work for people on the entire spectrum’ – Webinar learnings from Shilpi Kapoor, BarrierBreak CEO
At a recent webinar organised by Diksoochi for Persons with Disability (DPWD), a group formed by students with disabilities for the disabled community, Shilpi Kapoor, Founder-CEO of accessibility consulting firm BarrierBreak, shared her vision about what accessibility means in its truest sense and how disabled people looking to make a career in the field can acquire the skills needed.
Over 200 participants, a record turnout, attended a webinar hosted by Diksoochi for Persons with Disability (DPWD) titled called Excel in Accessibility. Going by the number, accessibility is clearly an issue that is uppermost on the minds of India’s Gen Next in the disabled community.
Speaking to them was Shilpi Kapoor, Founder-CEO, BarrierBreak, the well-known accessibility consulting firm. Shilpi is the first person in India to conduct a computer training programme for visually impaired people. She is also on the Board of Directors of G3ICT, the non-profit that advocates digital accessibility globally as per the UNCRPD and Chair, India Chapter, International Association of Accessibility Professional (IAAP).
Excel in Accessibility is the fourteenth in the webinar series organised by DPWD, which is made up of graduate students, most of whom are people with vision impairments. They came together in May 2020, in the early days of the Covid-19 lockdown. DPWD aims to build awareness about disability rights and inclusion among corporates as well as people with disabilities.
Finding truly inclusive solutions
Many of those present said they are looking to make a career in accessibility. The only way to do that, said Shilpi, is to find a solution that addresses people on the entire spectrum.
Accessibility is all about all people with diverse needs. It’s about making a solution work for people on the entire spectrum – those with cognitive disabilities, those who are blind and deaf and hard of hearing. Right now, there are groups of people who want to talk about accessibility from their area of focus and that makes BarrierBreak different because we are looking at true inclusion. – Shilpi Kapoor, Founder-CEO, BarrierBreak
Shilpi pointed to Predictive Text to make her point. “It was created for people with learning disabilities but is benefiting so many people. Think of all user groups and not just what affects you. Accessibility has such a large user scale and that is true inclusion”.
Acquiring the right skills is critical
There are many barriers that disabled people come up against in the job market and a large part of the webinar was devoted to addressing the gaps that employers and organisations face when it comes to hiring a person with disability.
“One of the main problems employers have is finding people with the skillset needed to become part of the team” said Shilpi, emphasising on the importance of written and verbal communication skills. Sound knowledge of concepts she said is essential.
Visually impaired people must know the screen reader inside out, she added. “Make that your friend because there are very few companies that will spend the time and teach it to you. They don’t have the technical knowledge to teach it to you themselves. That is a must as an accessibility professional. Learn to be a problem solver”.
With the help of experts and mentors like Shilpi, Venkatesh Naik, Member, DPWD, hopes to bring awareness about the importance of accessibility. ‘The aim is to not only promote higher education but also awareness among the community about education opportunities and job prospects for students with disabilities”.
“Today we have hundreds of disability organisations but few that do the job of accessibility awareness”, points out Srinivasu Chakravarthula, an accessibility professional and former student of Shilpi. “In fact, many organisations are surprised to see people with disabilities use technology. We need to raise awareness and people like us and the DPWD should play a role in changing that scenario”.
- Top 3 reasons why accessibility is critical for EdTech companies to adopt. – Guest column by Shilpi Kapoor, Founder-CEO, BarrierBreak
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