OrCam Users Share Their Views on Global Accessibility Awareness Day

2021-05-20 | By Orcam Staff

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OrCam Users Share Their Views on Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Humankind continuously develops new technologies to improve our quality of life. In particular, developing new assistive devices for disabled people and enabling their greater contribution to society is highly significant. Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) aims to focus on digital access and inclusion for more than one billion people who have disabilities or impairments. 


 The story began with a single post by a web developer, Joe Devon, in 2011. After that, in 2012, the first Global Accessibility Awareness Day was established on the third Thursday of May for celebration annually.  Since then, many cities worldwide have hosted a wide range of events for people with disabilities. 

Abbie Robinson

Abbie Robinson

Listening to GAAD from people with disabilities

Abbie Robinson, Darren Clark, Suzy Taylor, and Janet Gray – while of course having their unique character traits – all share one thing in common: each of them has a disability. OrCam is privileged to have interviewed them to learn about their feelings and opinions about accessibility.


These OrCam device users come from diverse backgrounds:  Abbie is a para-climbing athlete, Darren is a global neurodiversity consultant, Suzy is a dyslexia blogger and Dr. Janet Gray is a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.


We asked them some questions about accessibility and GAAD, their everyday life struggles and how OrCam helps them achieve greater digital accessibility.


Here are their thoughts and feelings:

Have you heard of GAAD before? Do you think it is important?

Abbie:To be honest I had not heard of it. But it is definitely an important thing to have. If anything, it encourages people that do not have any type of disability to be more mindful of how inaccessible things are and their role in supporting inclusivity.


Darren: When I started working more in the kind of the tech industry around neurodiversity and since you sent that email, I have read a little bit more about it. I know where it originated from and how it has expanded into what it is today. I am aware of it, but it could be more great and bigger, if people had more awareness and if it was not just a day.


The problem I have when we have dyslexia awareness weeks/ months is that I think accessibility awareness days should just be aware and if we can get rid of the day and if we just had global accessibility that would be a great point to get to.


Suzy: It’s important because it’s making people realize what technology is available to help, as well as explaining that not all technology is expensive and difficult to use. A big part of this is also encouraging people to take up, and use, this technology particularly for a neurodiverse community.


Awareness days like these are really important for educating people and helping them understand accessibility issues and reading challenges that others are facing.


Dr.Janet: Awareness days like GAAD are really important and act as a useful reminder for how we can all improve accessibility across all areas of society. Increasing awareness of accessibility globally and educating able-bodied people is also vital here. Giving them the opportunity to offer help and bring about important change.

Dr. Janet Gray

Dr. Janet Gray

Have you yourself come across any challenges when you face poor digital accessibility?

Abbie:At university, I did web development and I have done some work as a web designer too, and one major thing I have noticed about company websites is that when it comes to accessibility, the font size was small, and they didn’t really have the option to zoom. They would often just put a screen reader in, but for the majority of people with less severe visual impairments, they don’t really use a screen reader. I sit in the middle ground and therefore size 12 font for me is too small, but I don’t feel the need to use a screen reader. So, I feel with digital accessibility, there is that major gap because disabilities are a spectrum, and the middle ground always seems to be skipped over. There is that gap there and that can be down to a lack of education and awareness that people with my type of eyesight exist. 


Darren: I have been incredibly open and said that I am an avid user of the OrCam read and that’s been a bit of a game changer for me in terms of accessibility, especially when finding out train timetables, reading, etc. If I had not had that technology beforehand, I would have gotten by don’t get me wrong, but what this allows me to do is make everything easier and more accessible. From a neurodiverse point of view, the minute something becomes very time-consuming or exceedingly difficult to access, it makes the job 10 times longer than it should be. Sometimes you have anxiety when you go into a workplace and you don’t have the tools to do your job and then it sets you up for the day in a bad way. If people don’t have the knowledge or tools to cater to what neurodiverse individuals need, then it can be very difficult. 


Suzy: In a previous workplace I found the systems in place were very unfriendly and not very neurodiverse. I couldn’t change fonts and wasn’t able to do anything that could aid me. This meant I got really tired from over-reading and getting on with daily tasks.


For me, the font Century Gothic at size 14 is much easier for me to read, it’s important for organizations to understand which fonts are dyslexia-friendly. I run my own dyslexia blog and I have a mixed-coloured background of yellow and green which is also spaced evenly to ensure it is easy to read by all. 


Dr.Janet: We’ve come a long way in our global journey to increase accessibility, but more needs to be done. In terms of digital accessibility, I find the internet rather inconsistent, some web pages are more accessible than others, and being able to find the information you need is a real challenge. 


The phrase “go online” can also be rather daunting, particularly around online banking and finance which I rely on my husband to help with and advice from customer services. This shows the importance of retaining these services which are vital for people, having only technology in place could prove even more challenging and leave those with disabilities even further behind.

Suzy Taylor

Suzy Taylor

How does OrCam help you achieve greater digital accessibility?

Abbie: With certain document types, I can’t just enlarge the text so I will use the OrCam MyEye if I am unable to enlarge the text or read the screen with certain file formats. With my eye condition, when reading documents, it’s not always possible for me to independently do so, therefore the OrCam MyEye gives me the possibility and ability to read text independently.


Darren: With the OrCam Read, it has really helped me as it offers me that normality in a discreet kind of way. So, it does help me with my work life and personal life.  For instance, it helps me when I’m reading an article with different fonts which I can’t actually decode, or it could be when I’m traveling. I have shared this before. When I was traveling with my work, I remember getting on the wrong plane. What it has done is given back that bit of life, that bit of normality where I can just click and it’s done. Time-saving and it also reduces stress /anxiety. Now I have a piece of tech that takes away an element of the stress/anxiety and creates a level playing field.


Suzy:As a student at The Open University the OrCam Read has helped me to read large amounts of text and prevent reading tiredness. Due to the nature of the course, there is a lot of proofreading, the device allows me to read this in half the time. It also stops me from getting distracted as I don’t lose my place in the reading and can easily pick up from where I started. The OrCam Read is really discreet and helps me with traveling on the go.


Dr.Janet: The OrCam MyEye Pro has made a big difference to me both personally and professionally. The device has allowed me to access both printed and digital material entirely by myself, without requiring a person to read on my behalf. With the recent shift to digital and virtual communication during the pandemic, the OrCam MyEye Pro has allowed me to interact with materials online. With the number of virtual meetings that I have been required to attend on Zoom for the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the device allows me to read and engage in presentations when other participants enable screen sharing. 

Darren Clark

Darren Clark

OrCam keeps touching the lives of people with disabilities

At the conclusion of our interview, Darren used his final comments to point out that developing assistive technology will be a part of life, always. 


“I think it’s fantastic that we are creating awareness for this and we are living in the modern world and technology/accessibility is not something that will go away. It is something we should strive to continue.


The main thing people can take from this day is to continue the conversation afterwards. If you look at an organization, they want to be able to support their staff, so educating them and having those conversations would be extremely helpful.”


Learn more about how OrCam MyEye and OrCam Read help you achieve greater independence.