Global Accessibility Awareness Day!

Today we are celebrating the 11th Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)! 

The purpose of GAAD is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion, and how this impacts on more than 2.5 billion people living with disabilities worldwide. 

Just as powerful as this annual celebration is the overarching work of the GAAD Foundation who are on a mission to modify the culture of technological and digital product development to include accessibility as a core requirement.

So let’s start by talking about some facts…

 

From the obvious human rights factors to the economic benefits these facts highlight some of the reasons why technological and digital accessibility simply must be considered and not continue to be overlooked.  

Now let’s talk about accountability…

While technological innovations continue to evolve, so does the world of accessibility, which is why our team at Remarkable will be the first to admit that we may not always get things right. As a team, we believe that accessibility is not a one-size-fits all concept, but rather an evolving concept where we learn from our mistakes along the way, while continuing to strive for excellence in accessibility. 

We invite you all to join us on this journey that continues well beyond today. This is an invitation to work toward a future described beautifully by Fernando H. F. Botelho, where “Assistive technology will then no longer be a lesser technology, but one more essential layer on the infrastructure of modern society.”

Announcing a new charity partnership with TPG Telecom Foundation!

We are so excited to announce that we have been named one of the successful applicants of TPG Telecom Foundation’s annual charity grants program!

TPG Telecom Foundation has announced the seven non-profits to be awarded more than $1 million, focused on opportunities to improve the health, wellbeing and education of Australian communities in need.

Funding projects using innovative and scalable technology solutions, this year’s Foundation partner charities are ACON, Infoxchange, headspace, MissingSchool, Guide Dogs Australia, Remarkable which is made possible by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) and Starlight Children’s Foundation.

“We are thrilled to be partner with TPG Telecom Foundation alongside some of Australia’s most impactful and prestigious charities. This grant will enable Remarkable to support more startups at the leading edge of tech innovation, ultimately leading to more inclusive and independent lives for people with disabilities,” said Remarkable Founder, Pete Horsley.

“We are proud to be supporting the ingenuity and innovation of our 2022 Foundation partners, as they continue to positively impact the lives of Australian communities,” said TPG Telecom Foundation Chair and TPG Telecom Group Executive People Experience, Vanessa Hicks.

Celebrating 20 years in Australia, the Foundation (formerly known as Vodafone Foundation Australia) has donated more than $26 million to date to charitable causes and organisations using mobile technology to improve the health of all Australians.

“Whether combating mental health issues and domestic and family violence, supporting critically ill children and people living with disability, or enabling important medical research and innovations, these unique projects will make a genuine positive difference,” said Hicks.

Remarkable is Australia’s leading disability technology accelerator, supporting startups with a mission to improve the wellbeing, independence and inclusion of people with disabilities. Since being established by CPA in 2016, we have supported nearly 50 startups, which have raised in excess of $35 million to power up the potential of people with disabilities around the world.

Click here to read the original version of this media release on TPG Telecom’s website.

Introducing our 2022 cohort of startups!

From wearable rehabilitation robots to Australia’s first audio tourism platform, we’re thrilled to announce the 8 innovative startups in our #RA22 accelerator program!

This announcement is also particularly exciting because it marks the launch of our partnership with Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation (CPARF) who we are working with to pilot the first Remarkable US program!

“In only a matter of years we have gone from an in-person, Australia-based program, to a global online program, and now we are launching bespoke international programs to further meet market needs! The launch of Remarkable US marks an exciting chapter that will allow us to rapidly grow our impact,” said Pete Horsley, Founder of Remarkable.

This year, Remarkable’s eight startups will be joining from several countries including Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. The demand for their global presence is also representative of the increased popularity of the Global Disabled and Elderly Assistive Technology Market, which is predicted to be worth $32 billion by 2026.

Now without further ado, we are proud to present the #RA22 cohort!

  • Homeable – creates personalised and inclusive smart home solutions to increase independence in the home.
  • Nuroflux – the world’s first wearable to non-invasively monitor brain activity and blood flow alongside other vital activity relevant to stroke and stroke rehabilitation.
  • WearWorks – is a haptics design company that designs products and experiences that deliver information through touch.
  • RecoveryVR – provides a fun and engaging, medication-free, virtual reality application that motivates more adherence to rehab activities in the home or clinic while also providing measurement data, adherence tracking and unlimited healthcare access using a custom-built telehealth portal.
  • Participant Assistive Products – is democratizing high-quality assistive products and putting them within reach of unserved people, starting with the 70 million people who need but do not have a wheelchair or the mobility, health, inclusion, and dignity that an appropriate wheelchair can provide.
  • Vacayit – Australia’s first audio tourism platform, using storytelling to revolutionise travel for blind and low vision tourists.
  • Biomotum – design smart wearable robots to empower mobility and discovery in children with Cerebral Palsy.
  • Accessercise – the first complete fitness app created specifically for people with impairments.

 

Over the course of our 16-week our startups will be receiving $75,000 of seed funding and will participate in masterclasses, sprints, and deep dives. It all culminates in pitches to more than 500 international investors, partners, and industry connections at Demo Day on the 20th of July 2022. 

Each startup will be working with 1 of 8 expert coaches, who will help guide them on their Remarkable journey. Our wonderful coaches this year include Kate Jenkins, Alan Jones, Ben Reid, Poppy Rouse, Warren Bingham, Molly Levitt, Sam Lazarus and Laura Anderson!

The program will also be supported by an incredible community of mentors, as well as, Open Inclusion who we’re working to provide user-testing experiences with people with disabilities to identify practical, inclusive and accessible innovations.

We’d like to say a big thank you to the incredible support we receive from our partners icare NSW, Telstra Foundation and VivCourt, as well as, the newly introduced Remarkable US partners CPARF and SmartJob.

Looking back at a Remarkable Year

As we approach the end of 2021 we want to take this opportunity to reflect on everything we have achieved, but before we do it’s important that we thank the community of Remarkable supporters including our alumni, mentors, coaches, facilitators, friends and family! Also, on behalf of Cerebral Palsy Alliance, we send a special thanks to our principal partner icare NSW as well as, Telstra, Microsoft and Vivcourt.

We would not have been able to achieve everything that we did without this incredible community so from the bottom of our hearts we thank you all.

It gives us great pleasure to share our 2021 highlights reel showing some of the fun we have had and it’s also important to note that the following film accurately depicts the speed at which it all happened! 

You can also learn more about some of our achievements from the last 12 months in the list of highlights below:

1. #RA21 Cohort of startups FROM ACROSS THE GLOBE!

2. THE PREMIERE OF OUR FOUNDER STORIES SERIES

3. Welcoming 120+ participants to Design-athon

4. LAUNCHING THE +N INCLUSIVE INNOVATION NETWORK

5. THE REMARKABLE INSIGHTS SERIES

6. LAUNCHING THE JESSICA KING FELLOWSHIP

Thank you for a Remarkable year and we can’t wait to dive into 2022!

Inclusivity in the post-COVID Age

This event is part of the Remarkable Insights series.

International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) is a United Nations observed day celebrated internationally on 3 December each year. It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

This year’s IDPwD theme was ‘Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world’. To celebrate and honour this theme we hosted a Remarkable Insights conversation with a focus on Inclusivity in the post-COVID Age.

We welcomed Hannah Diviney, Co-Editor In Chief & Head of Creative at Missing Perspectives, as guest moderator for this event, as well as an amazing lineup of panelists!

Panel

The views expressed are solely those of the contributors.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3Ok5ipQerg[/embedyt]

Transcript

Download a copy of the transcript

[00:04 – 04:50] Hannah Diviney, Co-Editor In Chief & Head of Creative at Missing Perspectives

Hi everyone I’m Hannah Diviney a writer and disability advocate with cerebral palsy it is my immense pleasure to welcome you to a Remarkable tech panel discussion. I’m also the co-founder editor-in-chief and creative lead and Missing Perspectives and to give you an idea of what I look like for anyone who’s wondering I’m a young white woman in my 20s who navigates the world in a wheelchair. So Remarkable is the venture arm of Cerebral Palsy Alliance with backing from principal partner Icare as well as Telstra, Vivcort and Microsoft Remarkable is where technology meets human potential and we see an incredible gap in progress and innovation in technology that breaks down barriers to the inclusion of people with disability. Remarkable runs a 16-week accelerated program that equips early-stage startups with seed funding, mentoring and support networks to commercialise their startups. Now I want to take a minute and acknowledge that I’m speaking to you today from the land of the Dharawal people of the Eora nation this is their land never ceided always sacred and I pay respect to the eldest past present and emerging of this place. I also acknowledge we have people joining us from many other places and I pay my respects to the traditional owners and elders of those places too. Please feel free to share what land you are watching or listening from today in the chat I would also like to acknowledge the advocates who have played a role in advancing the rights of people with disability leading society to address the inequalities faced by people with disability they have paved the way for us we carry a privilege and a responsibility because of that history. Today we’re celebrating the international day of people with disabilities which is a United Nations observed day celebrated internationally on the 3rd of December each year it aims to increase public awareness understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate our achievements and contributions. This year’s international day of people with disability theme is leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive accessible and sustainable post-covid19 world, you think they could have made that a bit catchier right? To celebrate and honour this theme today’s conversation will indeed focus on inclusivity in the post-Covid age. For anyone who wants to join the conversation on social media our handle on Twitter Facebook and LinkedIn is @ remarkable tech #remarkableinsights this event has live captioning by otter.ai and our wonderful Auslan Interpreter is Therese Lewis. We will be recording this event and it will be made available post the event on remarkable tech’s youtube channel so be sure to subscribe if you want to share it with your friends family colleagues and community. It’s now my pleasure to introduce our three panelists to this morning’s conversation first thanks in my warmest welcome to Steven Ralph the co-founder and ambassador of Maslow for people from Sydney Australia then I would like to introduce Varun Chandak the founder and president of access to success who’s joining us from Toronto Canada and finally Julie Duong the director of empowering solutions and policy and program development officer at the City of Sydney so she’s obviously also joining us from Sydney Australia. Welcome to each of you thank you so much for joining us this morning  I’d like to invite each of our panelists to give a quick one to two sentence description of yourselves for the benefit of our audience if you don’t mind so Steve we might start with you.

[04:45 – 05:01] Steven Ralph, Co-Founder & Ambassador of Maslow for People

Alright thanks, Hannah good morning everybody, yeah my name is Steve I’m a young white male as well sitting in the living room I’ll also navigate the world using a wheelchair similar to yourself Hannah after suffering spinal cord injury.

[05:01 – 05:14] Varun Chandak, Founder & President Access to Success

Hi everyone this is Varun speaking I’m a young Indian male wearing glasses and I’m sitting in front of a virtual background that is blue in orange and says ATS Labs 2021.

[05:14 – 05:33] Julie Duong, Director of Empowering Solutions and Policy & Program Development Officer at City of Sydney

Hi everyone Julie Duong here a pleasure to be here this morning I’m a Chinese woman a wheelchair user and I am I’ve got long dark black hair and I am just passionate about disability inclusion and really for everyone.

[05:33 – 06:13] Hannah Diviney

okay with that done let’s get started with our panel so my first question is to you Steve and this is talking about the impact of Covid for anyone who doesn’t know and I hope this is okay it’s more of a personal curiosity, I guess you’ve come into the experience of life as a disabled person relatively recently so how has the pandemic impacted you I guess like learning the ropes yeah sure of what it means to live as a disabled person?

[06:13 – 08:01] Steven Ralph

Yeah thanks so much, Hannah I think yeah to answer that question I’d probably like to yeah just get a bit of context to yeah my disability for my intro so yeah having a spinal cord injury I suffered that injury about four years ago just going down to four years so for the first year and a half I was pretty much hospitalised and you know learning to come to terms with the situation and just how to manage the disability and slowly started to return into community activities and like you said just navigating the world and also returning to work and I was easing into that I suppose over the first couple of years that I acquired my disability and I’d say Covid struck around that time and you know the last couple of years we’ve just been in constant yeah I’m in and out of lockdowns and there’s been a lot of disruption to that so I think the main impact it’s had is so obviously the massive and like deep impact it’s had on people’s lives over the last couple of years has been undeniably horrible however I think the silver linings for myself with a disability have been that with for example my work and my employment I’ve been able to actually sort of increase the amount of capacity that I had to contribute so I think looking into that it’s actually enabled me to build on the foundations that I’d set in terms of adjusting to life with a disability in terms of returning into the workforce and participating in that respect so I think that’s a really good silver lining to take out of Covid-19 it’s a sort of yeah reference that theme  but to move forward that would be fantastic.

[08:01 – 08:32] Hannah Diviney

I think yeah definitely Varun obviously you bring a unique perspective because you’re joining us from another country today and I wanted to ask you there was a kind of landmark Covid-19 disability survey in Canada and that found that of those surveyed 85% sorry 82% reported that the pandemic was negatively impacting their mental health can you speak to this from your experience if it’s not too personal to share?

[08:32 – 10:03] Varun Chandak

No not at all I think it’s safe to say that everybody experienced some level of mental health  challenges whether you classify that as a disability or not that’s beside the point  but if it was difficult on everybody for me though my i’m hard of hearing so I rely on hearing it in my right ear and live captioning but most importantly lip reading so from my  perspective the biggest impact of the disability was the use of masks because when I cannot lip  read I cannot understand I may have 40% hearing loss in my ears but my verbal recognition is about  10% to 20% in both ears which means that when somebody’s wearing a mask and I can’t lipread  the impact of that on my life is absolutely immaterial I just cannot communicate anymore  so I think a lot of it stemmed from that as well and that even if you go to a grocery store and you have to talk to somebody you can’t really do that so tech did help and I do  want to acknowledge that all things considered I got away with it relatively instead it was it  was tough at times it was at other times it was just an inconvenience maybe i’m done playing  it a little bit there but you know I think from me that was the biggest part of the experience

[10:05 – 10:41] Hannah Diviney

Did you find that you were relying on other people to help you communicate? Or like I’m not really across how bad the pandemic was in Canada were you guys in serious lockdown for an extended period of time.

[10:41 – 11:50] Varun Chandak

Yes, it was pretty strict here as well definitely a lot stricter than our neighbors out of the south of the border yes from what I hear from friends in Australia probably not as long as strict as the one in Australia but it was still a very extended period of complete lockdown where we were required to just only leave only for the most necessary items there was a period when things were sort of rationed and grocery stores and everything so to your question about communication absolutely I have no idea what I would have done if not from my wife oh I am endowed up relying on her so much for day-to-day communications for conversations I did rely on tech as well as I use an app called otter.ai which is a live captioning app it’s free and that was a game-changer for me in situations where I was by myself but it’s not perfect so whenever if I had the option my partner my wife she was I had no idea what I would have done without her to be honest.

[11:50 – 11:57] Hannah Diviney

yeah, so Julie obviously I’m curious for you as well what was your experience of Covid?

[11:57 – 13:55] Julie Duong

Yeah I have so many mixed feelings about what’s happened and it’s still happening so I’ll talk about that instead because you know post-Covid and it’s good to know what considerations there are for others moving forward. For myself i’m pretty anxious more than ever i’d have to say more than in 2020 when all of this happened and I think that stems so much from the expectation to return to normal for example state government NSW opening everything basically all at once and while that’s necessary I feel like there hasn’t been good consideration for how we retain some of that inclusion and elements of safety and I would say optimism for doing things differently than we actually had I think so many organisations are eager to get back into action in how things used to be without really understanding the impact that it’s had on individuals during Covid after Covid and so that expectation concerns me. An example is working from home you know all of a sudden everyone could do it and when that happened I was a little bit annoyed because suddenly it was okay everyone could do it they had the capability and resources for everyone who could work on a computer so now so before that it wasn’t a case of they couldn’t do it it was a case of they wouldn’t do it and it was just that it wasn’t acceptable as I would definitely yeah and now I think you know there’s that expectation that we’re going back to normal hard and fast and you know yeah sure they’re gonna let you work from home one to two days but there’s still that expectation that nine to five in the office again traveling one to two hours commuting spending money on transport which is actually quite expensive for some people with disability.

[13:55 – 14:45] Hannah Diviney

Of course yeah and I don’t think people have really realised the impact. As well that actually leads really well into our next question which is for Steve again so you mentioned earlier that you’ve done something a little different over the course of the pandemic to most people instead of decreasing your workload you’ve actually increased it shifting from part-time work to full-time work thanks to the accommodations that make your life easier like working from home remotely I’m just curious if you think the shift from part-time to full-time work has brought a shift about in the way people treat and react or respond to you personally and then more broadly like what shifts have you noticed if any in the attitudes towards people with disabilities over the course of the pandemic?

[14:45 – ] Steven Ralph

Yeah sure so exactly as you said Julie it’s sort of all of a sudden it’s normalised remote work and and like you’re saying it’s it’s brought about a massive change in terms of at least for me personally like I was able to increase that workload up to a full-time work week which is you know which was really what I was wanting to do and as I said earlier I was sort of building up to that just kind of working through all the logistics and things that had to come with part of living with spinal cord injury but yeah over time that was becoming more manageable and yeah it was kind of phasing into into looking at full-time work but yeah the remote work component has definitely helped shape I suppose my expectations for myself to be able to do that and hopefully as he’s saying Julie  like hopefully those benefits don’t disappear over the future you know like hopefully we can take these and show that look this has been proven this is how we can move forward and make it more inclusive like make the workplace and just the work the workforce in Australia more accessible because there hasn’t been much change in terms of like  disability participation in the workforce over the last 30 years or so so it’s really interesting to see that like all of a sudden it has opened those doors so I suppose from a perception point of view I think it shows that you know everybody deserves that level playing field to to work and to participate so I think if we can remember all the benefits that Covid has brought about  as well as forget the negatives that would be fantastic.

[16:28 – 16:44] Hannah Diviney

Varun I just wanted to find out a little bit more about how you feel like people with disabilities like what the attitude is in Canada and whether that’s changed over their pandemic whether you’ve seen any positive impact?

[16:44 – 18:32] Varun Chandak

Yes it’s very similar to what Julie and Steve said there’s positives and there’s negatives sometimes those positives are stemming from the fact that now everybody’s  going through the same thing to set a little bit of context I ran access to success and ATS Labs alongside a full-time professional job and that job in is in financial services sector  so in the time leading up to the pandemic I had been advocating to get access to any sort of a live captioning service which would make it easier for me to participate in conference calls that was a very long very very long discussion because you know i’m an investment I have access to a lot of sensitive information so there were concerns about where is this  transcription going so on and so forth and then the pandemic happens everybody is now working remotely all the conference calls now happen on Microsoft teams in my case and teams has a built-in live caption so suddenly nobody has any problem with live captions so it’s very similar to what Julie said that when it affects everybody’s sanity it’s very normalised you know and it’s a very small example but looking forward though the concern again just comes from the communication aspect because now we’re looking at a return to our office in January in my case  and now i’m trying to figure out what am I going to do if there’s a mass mandate in those in which case i’m trying to see if I can get an exception sort of an accessibility accommodation to  continue working from home almost full time for now so it’s going to be an interesting situation  about it’s what Steve said how does that what does that flexibility look like going forward.

[18:32 – 18:55] Hannah Diviney

Julie this all ties back to the founding well what led you to create the Empowering Solutions and the Diversity and Disability Alliance can you just quickly explain?

[18:55 – 20:37] Julie Duong

Empowering solutions that’s sort of my own little business where I consult with people on disability-related matters sort of my specialty is the culturally and linguistically diverse communities as well having that lived experience and working so closely with the community and I didn’t actually found Diversity and Disability Alliance but I do have the privilege of being its president. We are setting up peer support communities to get people with lived  experience from multicultural backgrounds to talk about their lived experience and value and respect that so people are really valuing what they have to contribute you know it’s expert knowledge why shouldn’t it be used and so going back to empowering solutions and it’s funny it’s all  sort of related to employment firstly you know as Steve mentioned people with disability are disproportionately unemployed you know and let’s not talk about how unemployment increases if you have a severe or profound disability type and I would be categorised at  that level because you know I don’t have use of my arms very much pretty much just a mouse and  I do need support every day of my life and I figured yeah that you know I was that figure  and statistics of unemployment so I had to do something for myself because you know really  nobody would give me the chance you know the person with a severe disability when they see  me a chance to work in an environment surrounded by people without disabilities or really people  without visible profound disabilities.

[20:37 – 21:27] Hannah Diviney

Yeah that whole idea of visibility is really quite loaded I think I should also mention to our wonderful audience that we do have the ability to have a q&a at the end of this panel so if you have any questions for our wonderful panelists please pop them in the q a box now I guess this is all the wonderful full circle discussion Varun the work you do with access to success is obviously all about the development of people with disabilities into leaders and that’s helped along by assistive tech so I’m curious what do you think the role of technology should be and what barriers do you?

[21:27 – 22:44] Varun Chandak

See it helping people with disabilities overcome as we move into this so-called post-Covid world  so again to set context access to success supports the development of future leaders  with disabilities and assistive technology we do that with two programs one is that  supports MBA students who identify as having disabilities through the access to success fellowship the other is ada slabs which is Canada’s first accelerator for accessibility mental health and agent tech startups so with that context I would say there’s two aspects in here one is the rule of tech and the other is the rule of everything else when it comes to tech and innovation I think it’s been proven over time that innovation is sort of a self feeding positive feedback loop where more innovation support for more innovation releases costs results and more access to the technology more visibilities more options so on and so forth now as long as in the case of disability all of this innovation is happening with people with  disabilities at the centre and in the lead I think all of that tech will make a real tangible impact  in how people with disabilities like myself for example in my ability to do my job as  I was talking about that example earlier of live captioning believe it or not it now sounds unusual  thought like captioning wasn’t very common just four years ago yeah because I was looking for it  in 2016 and 2017 and it was just starting out at the time so if the standard makeup had happened five years ago I would have to basically transition to sign language at that point  and while there’s obviously nothing wrong with that it would just be so much more difficult  for me to transition to that so quickly so can enable people like me to do our jobs better better  employment opportunities better productivity better quality of life in our own personal lives the other piece though is everything else I don’t and this is coming from somebody who runs  a program to support tech tech is not the end-all be-all there’s a lot.

[22:44 – 23:44] Hannah Diviney

don’t tell us that Varun geez

[23:44 – 24:20] Varun Chandak

yeah I know I mean this is remarkable and doesn’t accelerate but like I said it’s coming from me and I run a similar program and I can say with confidence that tech is not the end of the all it cannot be the end all be all unless it’s the people who are centred so ultimately I think the efforts for inclusion of people with disabilities for flexible work solutions for continued inclusion in the workplace after the pandemic I think those efforts will need to continue for all of the second innovation to be even more meaningful.

[24:20 – 25:13] Hannah Diviney

yeah definitely you’re getting a lot of flack in the comments for those your feelings about tech there but I’m sure Pete and Kate will we’ll get over it okay now Julie the next question is for you for anyone who may not know you helped to support the city of Sydney inclusion panel that provides strategic expert and impartial advice to the city of Sydney it helps develop implement monitor and review the city’s policies strategies and plans to improve the inclusion of people with disability can you describe the importance of this type of panel throughout the covet experience and then obviously for Sydney we’re opening back up and heading into a post-Covid future?

[25:13 – 26:56] Julie Duong

I think it goes back to the concept of lived experience where those people  have gone through it they’re going through it they know what the community needs and wants and it’s valuable to organisations like the city of Sydney I think it should be seen as valuable  expert information and knowledge anywhere when and and you can really use it to improve service delivery products engagement and communication with people and even be like have an opportunity to be an ally and advocate so for example the panel obviously provides insight into  some of the impacts of Covid on the disability community as an ongoing basis and as just an example access to vaccinations that was an issue that was raised for people to go to places to get  vaccinated hospitals weren’t even accessible so you know the city of Sydney had a duty of care  and relationships to be able to advocate and see what’s happening in that space and organise you know additional different ways of doing things having this vital piece of information means that  you know we were able to put in other measures and that we don’t exclude anybody or really  impose additional challenges and right now I see in this post Covid  well that you know one we’ve got to keep the good things that we’ve achieved as discussed number two  make sure there’s no additional barriers that are being created and three having innovation and compassion to for things to be acceptable and accessible if we want that inclusive future

[26:56 – 27:42] Hannah Diviney

yeah definitely now if you can believe it we are actually coming to the end of our panel we’re going to have a q a quick session in a minute but the final question I have written down here is for Steve most of your experience of disability has been throughout the course of the pandemic you’ve come to really come into your own in the disabled experience throughout the pandemic so I’m curious that you would have a very specific idea of what needs to be improved for people with disabilities in a post-Covid world can you just quickly speak to that and explain it?

[27:42 – 28:50]  Steven Ralph

For sure thanks I think mainly for me it’s just about awareness just education of of disabilities in general  particularly in the workplace like I think yeah organisations and things like Remarkable for example like it’s a breath of fresh air to be in that experience and in that environment with the disability like I think people don’t treat you any differently  and I think that’s the main thing that i’ve noticed and I think we’ve covered I mean appearing on screen for most of my work life for the last two years it takes a  lot of that out as well because unless you disclose that you’re in a wheelchair would know right so that’s been a very unique experience for me too i’ve never had that before ever yeah it’s really odd actually yeah it’s it’s weird hey so I found that to be yeah really really  jarring I think like compared to how I would have been treated had I been in the office versus  meeting a client or meeting a colleague for the first time over Zoom or teams or whatever it  is yeah so I think that’s that’d be great to just change that perception I think we’re making some progress but we still have a very long way to go.

[28:50 – 29:22] Hannah Diviney

So now I’m gonna kind of do a quick whip around q&a we have some pre-submitted questions here and if our audience has any more pop them in the q&a box my first question I think I’m going to pose to Varun and it says what needs to happen to make accessible technologies available to everyone who needs them and this is from Laura accessible technology available to everyone who needs it?

[29:22 – 32:15] Varun Chandak

That’s a very that’s a very very big question let me go down maybe two or three points here that that immediately pop up to the top of my head one as I was saying people with disabilities need to be centred in this entire process whether it’s the creation of new technology  or the scaling of new technology because we’re the people who understand our needs the best I think i’m preaching to the choir here that’s that’s so that point is pretty obvious  the second is the need the subscribers sound a little bit self-serving but I think  the second is the need for support ecosystems for the actual development and scaling of  accessibility technology in Canada just to share a little bit of context about why i’m talking about  the need for that support ecosystem the kind of work that Remarkable has been doing over the years  in canada when we started talking about the idea of ATS labs the accelerator people in  the accessibility space would tell me that you’re not going to find enough startups in this space  who are you going to serve so since that point we actually did the market research and we identified  well over 100 startups that are currently active in Canada and are already in the market  with products so that pipeline exists they just have a lot of unique needs a lot of  lack of visibility a lack of spotlight that we are trying to address here with what we are doing at ATS lab so that support ecosystem through ATS labs through Remarkable through the inclusive innovation network of which both us and Remarkable are two of the co-founders these support ecosystems need to exist and grow for the startups to continue going as well  the last piece is the actual distribution part when it comes to that distribution it will have to be addressed in a localised manner there’s no one-size-fits-all because for example a very obvious example the distribution models the reimbursement models is different by each country so there’s no one-size-fits-all response here but if you’re  talking i’m not as familiar with Australia but in Canada it would have to be a platform a model that understands the local nuances here and then you sort of combine that with the access to low-cost assistive technology the combination of that white distribution acts  white distribution as well as access to low cost technology is the third pillar and what I  believe would be key to sort of a much much wider availability of assistive technology.

[32:15 -32:34] Hannah Diviney

yeah definitely this next question is from Abraham I feel like it’s pretty self-explanatory but we’ll give it to you Julie and he says do you think enough has been done to include and accommodate people with disabilities?

[32:34 – 33:18] Julie Duong

Simply no. I think that really you know no matter how many accommodations you put in there I think it really needs to start with people changing their attitudes and how they see people with disability or disabilities people you know not as some special thing that they have to do otherwise I think without changing that attitude and the culture I think that you’re really you know the supports that you do put in place are just sort of at best compliance something nice that you have to do for the disabled person so yeah there’s a lot more work to be done sure.

[33:18 – 33:51] Hannah Diviney

okay we’re now going to move into the q&a box this question is from Kylie she says I work in DEI for a large corporate one challenge is that people are often reluctant to identify how do you suggest we build trust so that people are able to identify and get the support I’m going to lob that question  over to Steve because I think he has a pretty unique perspective on that just now

[33:51 – 34:47] Steven Ralph

Yeah thanks for that one I feel as though yeah working in a space like that where you’ve got the opportunity to change the culture and like the inclusivity of an organisation yeah just to maybe even to contract out to somewhere like the Australian network on disability to do like a workplace adjustment assessment or a program like that just to put in place I suppose it just removes a lot of the barriers for entry for into the workforce people with disabilities just so everything is as standard like it kind of changes superficial practices of an organisation that is easy to implement but they have a big impact for people with disabilities that will interact and then engage with that organisation in a whole new way so I think that’s one way to look at that I’d say.

[34:47 – 34:53] Hannah Diviney

Julie, you have something you’d like to say

[34:53 – 35:37] Julie Duong

Just really quickly I did a little bit of research on this in the past with a large organisation myself and there are you know key things that really support disclosure and it’s really having a supportive manager again with that attitude the right attitude it’s also about having visible leadership and trusted pathways and actually providing the supports so when you go through that pathway a lot of times people go through the process and they get rejected or things aren’t put in place and then people talk people will tell stories and say don’t tell them that you’re you know this they knocked me back don’t you’re just gonna cause yeah yeah trouble for yourself.

[35:37 – 35:44] Hannah Diviney

This is a very topical question obviously Varun it’s it looks like you have something to say?

[35:44 – 36:22] Varun Chandak

I agree with everything but Julie said I just wanted to emphasize the representation aspect I have personal stories that I can share there but another interest of time I won’t go into it but essentially having senior leadership step up having members of senior leadership or even middle management step up and say hey identifiers having a disability you can have webinars you can have podcasts whatever platform prefers and encouraging them to share these stories publicly if they are comfortable of course gives a level of comfort and safety almost to those a little bit lower down the ladder that they’re not going to get discriminated against if they self-disclose

[36:22 – 37:32] Hannah Diviney

definitely, I think we all know how powerful visibility is and leadership in that area is crucial now there are two more questions here in our q&a box but I’m very conscious that we literally have less than 10 minutes until we’re supposed to wrap this up  so what I might do is if our panelists want to open the q a box I don’t know if any of you want  to type out a quick reply to either of these or we can save them and maybe get your response in  an email after the panel if that works for the people who have asked those questions the last question for all of our panelists that I wanted to make sure I asked today is kind of a  typical question that Remarkable Tech always asks and that is can you give us kind of one example of a remarkable insight that you have about this topic of like a post-Covid world?

[37:35 – 38:24]  Julie Duong

I’ll go first yeah so if you haven’t noticed already I’m really big on lived experience so get people with lived experience working in your business and I don’t mean in disability-specific roles or disability-related jobs I mean in meaningful roles as decision-makers strategists advisors technical and operational leads in the world you know across the world disabilities their friends’ families have control over a 13 trillion dollar annual disposable income and that’s a lot of money and really you’re doing a disservice if you’re not involving us as assets investors and human capital because there’s really nothing about us without us.

[38:24 – 38:52] Hannah Diviney

13 trillion is such a huge number! I  cannot wrap my head around that but the fact that we are worth that much and that we have that much potential to bring to the industry I wish I could show that to everybody who has any sort of kind of investment portfolio or anything like that what about you Steve let’s what’s your Remarkable sight?

[38:52 – 39:32]  Steven Ralph

My Remarkable insight would be just again to change that perception and attitude in the workforce of people with disabilities that you know exactly like he said Julie they’re not discriminated against for any reason and that yeah people in key roles in organisations can welcome and yeah can just sort of embrace people with disabilities in any role just because of the fact that they might be the best person for that role  I think that’ll be the most remarkable insight and hopefully all that remote work and flexible working agreements all stay in place and everybody can keep yeah participating and engaging in the same way that they’ve been able to.

[39:32 – 39:49] Hannah Diviney

definitely, can I just ask you a quick follow-up  question which is, have you and this might be

personal but have you disclosed your disability to all of your colleagues?

[39:49 – 40:26]  Steven Ralph

I actually haven’t no. I mean I most would have met me in person but there are a few that haven’t and a lot of people that have started as well since the pandemic so a lot of people haven’t yeah so I actually haven’t and I mean I feel like it’s you know it’s not really relevant to the job it’s not really relevant to of course the conversations we’re having at work so yeah sort of gone over my way to my ways to self-disclose to colleagues but yeah in no way you know am I yeah sort of trying to not disclose anything oh yeah it’s just if it’s relevant it’ll be you know it’ll be talked about if it’s not then it’s not us first.

[40:26 – 40:33] Hannah Diviney

yep okay so Varun you are lucky last what is your Remarkable insight on a post-Covid world?

[40:34 – 41:37]

A Remarkable insight is a very high bar for from my perspective it’s about what I think steve does to find that just about maintaining that flexibility that everybody learned about  during the pandemic I think it’s a key tenet of increasing design which is a foundational bedrock for everything that we do access to success so if you don’t want to learn anything about the increase of design that’s fine just I would highly highly recommend people to not forget that  that flexibility benefits everyone for working parents for single mothers for single parents  any kind of flexibility that people can build in when they plan out they return to work within our office back to personal life in-person events  that flexibility is just so so important there’s just tons and tons of examples where that  flexibility will benefit people with disabilities as well as everyone else so that’s the one sort of take away if not inside that I would encourage everyone to keep in mind

[41:37- ] Hannah Diviney

thank you for that but the time has absolutely flown and we are actually at the end of our panel discussion for today so I just wanted to run through a few quick endnotes here and say a huge thank you to our wonderful Auslan interpreter Therese Lewis and of course a huge thank you to each of our incredible panelists Steven Ralph, Varun Chandak and Julie Duong. I’m also told that I need to tell you that Remarkable recently launched a fellowship program called the Jessica King Fellowship which is aimed at providing pathways for people with disabilities to explore the world of entrepreneurship and startups it involves six months of mentoring a five thousand dollar donation to your learning with we love financial support  and support to explore goals in this space applications are currently open right now  and we are excited to be extending our application deadline to 11:59 Sunday the 5th of December  that is this Sunday guys so if you want to get an application in I would do that as soon as you can  if you are interested or know someone who might be please head to the website www.remarkable.org.au and look for the Jessica King Fellowship on the front page now as we always do here at remarkable  tech we will be seeking your feedback so we can provide more remarkable insights so please after  this panel is over take the time to complete the survey and as was said at the beginning this recording will be made available on the Remarkable Tech youtube channel subscribe if you haven’t done so already because you don’t want to miss any of these recordings I’ve been your moderator Hannah Diviney I have CP I’m a writer and disability advocate and it has been my pleasure to host this discussion happy international day of people with disabilities. Okay bye.

Mentions made:

[8:01] COVID-19 Disability Survey, Abilities Centre

[24:20] Inclusion (Disability) Advisory Panel, City of Sydney

[33:51] Australian Network on Disability workplace adjustment 

[37:35] People with disability create over $13 trillion in disposable income every year

Design for User Empowerment: From Principles to Practice

This event is part of the Remarkable Insights series. 

“In the near future disability will be synonymous worldwide with innovation,” Regina Kline, Founder and CEO, SmartJob. 

Echoing Gina’s insights, we believe it’s critical for designers of technology to engage with people with disabilities to design the most innovative, accessible, and usable solutions. Better yet, empowering people with disabilities to design and build the technologies themselves! 

Design for user empowerment means that those with disabilities have control of technology designs intended for them to solve their own accessibility problems.

We were joined by a panel of experts to discuss how we can rethink the principles and processes of design, to identify the main opportunities when designing to spur on inclusive innovation.

Panel

Moderator

 

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmZvlgMlfCU[/embedyt] 

The views expressed are solely those of the contributors.

 

Definitions of terms mentioned throughout the conversation:

 

Transcript

Download a copy of the transcript

[00:04 – 03:58] Pete Horsley, Founder of Remarkable. 

Good evening, good morning, good day, wherever you are calling from my name is Pete Horsley I’m the founder of Remarkable. I’m a white male in my mid-40s and you’ll find me wearing a hat and my pronouns are he and him. Remarkable is the venture of Cerebral Palsy Alliance and we have the backing from our principal partner icare NSW as well as partners Telstra, VivCourt and Microsoft. Remarkable is where technology meets human potential and we see an incredible gap in the progress and innovation in technology that breaks down barriers to full inclusion of all human experience. We run a 16-week startup accelerator program in Australia that equips early-stage startups with seed fundings and mentoring and support networks to help commercialise their startups. I want to acknowledge that I am talking to you on Guringai land and this is aboriginal land. It was never ceded, it’s always sacred and I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. I also acknowledge that we have people joining us from many other places both in Australia and around the world and so I pay my respects to the traditional owners and elders of those lands as well. I’d also like to acknowledge the disability advocates who have played a massive role in advancing the rights of people with disability leading to addressing the inequalities faced by people with disability and they’ve paved the way for us and that gives us both a privilege but also a responsibility because of that history. So today’s conversation is about designing for user empowerment it’s part of remarkable insights and remarkable insights tries to see the significant opportunity that we’ve got to be able to leverage technological innovation and to drive an inclusive future but it asks the question who is being left behind as we as advance technologically and we also ask how do we create not just an inclusive future but how do we create an inclusive now? So today’s conversation is part of that so for anyone who wants to join the conversation on social media our social handles are on twitter facebook and LinkedIn is at #remarkabletech and if you could use the hashtag #remarkableinsights so this event has live captioning that is available down in the toolbar underneath the image and our Auslan interpreter is David. Welcome David it’s good to have you with us. We’ll be recording this event and this is available later on our youtube channel as well so be sure to subscribe now you don’t want to hear my voice for too much longer so I want to introduce our three incredible panelists tonight we have Léonie Watson from TetraLogical, Christine Hemphill from Open Inclusion and Chris Patnoe from Google welcome to each of you and each of you are actually in the UK and we happen to have Chris and Christine in the same location so welcome to you all it’s great to have you along. So this concept of design for user empowerment might be a familiar term to some people but perhaps it isn’t a well-known term to everyone so Léonie I want to ask you this question. Do you mind explaining a little bit about what designing for user empowerment is please?

 

[03:59 – 05:28]  Léonie Watson, Director, TetraLogical

Thanks Pete, so for me personally it has two distinct definitions but of course they merge I have a disability I’m blind so part of my answer about what it means is it’s when product services are designed that I can use them enjoy them get the job done do whatever it is I came to do and not have to fight every step of the way to get there flipping that around to you know professional and designer kind of point of view it’s really about making sure that when we do design products and services we’re including everybody in that target audience in the research that we do in the testing that we do in the creative thinking that we do the requirements that we put together you know that there is the phrase you know nothing without this and that really sums it up for me we have to include people with disabilities and other accessibility needs every step of the way through the design and development process because otherwise we’re just guessing and guessing doesn’t really get us very far if we’re creating a product that’s aimed at young people under the age of 16 you know then we need to include people from that target audience you know in every aspect of the design and development process and we have to remember that people with disabilities and accessibility needs are woven into that particular demographic as they are every demographic so we can’t separate any of this we can’t bolt it on it’s just got to be there from the beginning all the way through.

 

[05:29 – 06:00] Pete Horsley

That’s such a fantastic response and I guess we see some ubiquitous technologies that we use all day every day were first designed for people with disability but ended up being used beyond the disability community solutions like kind of personal texting captioned video optical character recognition or OCR allowing for text-to-speech so Christine I want to ask you this question why do you believe this kind of inclusive design holds so much hope for the future of design?

 

[06:00 – 09:10] Christine Hemphill, Founder and Managing Director, Open Inclusion 

I think it’s such a powerful way to look at the world when you look at the world  through different perspectives and as Léonie was just saying there are so many different perspectives and there are so many different perspectives even within disability so by going to those different perspectives you’ll understand you know back to that kind of what’s  the empowerment here well it’s actually flipping that and saying how are people disempowered today and that disempowerment can happen in a functional way it can also happen in an emotional way so this isn’t just about access this is actually about that appreciation enjoyment designed for delight design for experience and the only way you  can get there is understanding different people’s experience and understanding how  varied experience can be depending on personal characteristics but also ages really we’re saying  or gender or where people are living or the knowledge they have or the tools they’re using so the more we can go to the edges of those differences and difference being the way people think move sense and feel but beyond that also those other characteristics of difference the more we can understand where that inconsistency is and if we look for where inconsistency is that’s where opportunity is and what’s really interesting about that you just talked about you know there’s so many innovations that are our fundamental tools today because of designing into those spaces those spaces have given people that need and that desire to go and change something  because of you know either that functional loss or emotional loss that they had so it’s just such a vacuum provides you know a draw an energy that you can design into and actually as designers going to understand those spaces is where you find interesting and powerful problems to solve and therefore innovation if I can this is something you said there’s something that you said just reminded me of what Rama Gheerawo from the RCA says he says if you design at the edges you get the centre for free. So if you design for disability you’re going to get all the people who don’t have that specific disability for free it just works it’s like the curb cut effect so taking an inclusive perspective of how to solve a problem you’re truly helping everyone and I think that that the centre is not lost when you start at the edge and in fact, it’s that perspective that people are so much more than their disability or their specific access need or their specific difference and they’ll still go right across the centre of that normal curve in other characteristics so if you’ve gone to the edges on one or two areas on each as you say that whole centre it’s just much more efficient. 

 

[09:10 – 09:21] Pete Horsley

I love that a saying that’s attributed mostly to Plato who says that necessity is the mother of all invention and you know it is about how we understand the full breadth of human necessity. yeah, I love the conversation there’s an article by accessibility researcher Richard Ladner where he talks about the need for both self-determination and also technical expertise when we’re designing for user empowerment so self-determination means those with disability have a goal of the process like Léonie said before not just passive recipients of the technology designed for them so on this Chris I know that there’s kind of part of the story of how you had your journey into accessibility at google you have a love for opera singing and music and when you moved into a role with google play in the music division there it was there that you met a user tester who had a profound impact on you can you tell us a little bit about that kind of story and also specifically you went on to offer that user tester a job as a manager and why was that important to you so a bit of a double-barrel question for you?

 

[10:20 – 12:11] Christopher Patnoe, Head of Accessibility/Disability Inclusion, EMEA, Google

I think the whole thing actually goes back to Plato’s expression you see I necessity was the mother of invention I studied opera but I wasn’t very good so I had to get a job so I got a job at technology and it was a much better day job than waiting on tables but the  waiting on tables though I do have to say taught a lot of really important skills about how to  interact with people and how to read people that’s a core factor for anything but going towards  fast forward another 15-18 years I’m at google I’m the lead technical program manager for google play music and a test engineer came into our one of our meetings she turned on voice over yes we worked on iOS and I heard button button button button I said what’s that and she said this is google play music for someone who’s blind I said well that’s stupid how do they use it and she said well that’s  why I’m here and that was my introduction to to accessibility I had 10 years at apple three years  at Sony a year at Disney i’d never heard of it and here is this thing that I realised i’ve never  thought about everything I built was made without consideration and I should probably do something about that so within a couple of months I had the opportunity to take on leading accessibility  for google play the whole the whole suite of play products but I knew I didn’t know anything so I hired this test engineer as a program manager on my team to teach me what I needed to know about accessibility she herself is in the community she’s blind but she’s also a phd and a published poet an author so just because she’s blind doesn’t mean she has to be test engineering she just happened to have those skills too so the breadth of her experience and her ability  to communicate was tremendous and she taught me a lot and she’s still one of my one of my dearest friends.

 

[12:11 -12:36 ] Pete Horsley

That’s awesome such a great story and Léonie I remember reading a quote by you where you said that lots of the industry are fixated on order kind of audits is the solution and you went on to say that if you needed audit then you’ve probably it’s probably already too late can you tell us a little bit about what you meant by that?

 

[12:36 – 14:12] Léonie Watson

Yes it’s a lot like building a long road to get you from one city to another and then having built all the road you discover there’s a big ravine in the way and and you’ve you’ve got to build a bridge if you’ve done all the work and you’ve got to the end you’ve got to your product it’s launched  it’s out there in the world and then you start to think about accessibility it’s far too late you’re just going to tip yourself off the edge of that cliff you will find that you uncover an awful lot of issues most of them will sit quite happily on your backlog until a couple of years go round and you either redesign and try to do something about it or you get it retested and you add a few more issues to your backlog where they sit quite happily for another few months I’m being a little bit flippant but but the idea is is that you you’ve got to think about this this from from the very beginning to give another you know analogy if you were to build a house and not put any doors into it you’d have to take the house apart again and put it back together with some suitable spaces for some doors and so people could get in and out accessibility is a lot like that there’s only so much you can do to go back and fix it after the fact some stuff has to be done right at the origin of of the product or the service otherwise you just can’t do it I have no science for this at all but but my several years experience in the industry now tells me that you will probably spend twice as much time and twice as much money trying to retrofit accessibility and only be half as successful and I’m yeah nothing much has changed my my unscientific opinion of that particular you know kind of balance of things. 

 

[14:12 – 14:45] Pete Horsley

All that while you’re missing out on potential customer dollars as well right absolutely yeah yeah so if the second part of what’s needed to design for user empowerment is technical expertise Christine what are some of the barriers that you’ve seen when working with companies all over the world through open inclusion what are those barriers to engaging technical expertise?

 

[14:45 – 17:16] Christine Hemphill

It’s really interesting because when I think of expertise and  whether it’s about innovation or just as good design I think of three layers of expertise that need to match in order to create something delightful  one of them is that technical or kind of solution expertise knowing how to mould manage whatever you’re creating whether it’s a built environment zeros and ones in a digital environment et cetera  then there’s a user expertise which is understanding how it’s going to land in the context of a person’s life and what that usage is and you need user expertise into it and then there’s actually an enabling expertise which is an interesting one that’s often  forgotten as well which is that how you bring this together so it’s the people that have the skills  whether it’s audit skills user research skills engaging with community skills you know but also  access to finance access to advice access to human resources you know so when those three sets  of expertise match that’s when magic happens and it’s not when they’re just brought into the room but when they’re actually equally powered when they’re all given um not just that  you know from designing for to designing with but actually designing by and that you know people working together to design something with all three sets of that  expertise being matched in the middle to create something delightful so technical expertise is really important and particularly when we’re looking at things like emerging technology and you know the only Christopher and I were just saying that you know we’d last met at XR Access back in 2019 face to face you know emerging technologies like XR like autonomous vehicles like ai you know these new spaces that things are happening you need solution experts that know  how to use these tools in a really powerful way and adapt them to the situation that you’re solving for to design something that’s going to add real value but that’s like having a really fast car if you don’t have the fuel of the user expertise it’s not going to go anywhere so it’s that matching expertise so technical expertise is absolutely required and really high-tech technical  expertise is a delight to work with that’s not me by the way I’m one of those enablers but it’s those with that matching and matching power not just matching knowledge that’s when I get excited.

 

[17:17 – 18:17] Pete Horsley

It reminds me of a story I remember speaking to someone at IBM who was working on some of the kind of the code that was sitting kind of behind the ai for self-driving cars and she was saying that a good friend of hers is a wheelchair user and used to drive their wheelchair by shuffling their feet kind of backward so kind of would push her and push themselves backward in the wheelchair and she saw that the code that was going into self-driving cars actually could potentially harm her friend because it considered that a wheelchair user should drive forwards and it was then that she kind of had this kind of light bulb moment of going we’ve gotta include a broader range of experience in these new technologies you know to be able to make sure that it doesn’t harm my friend and just kind of building on that guy. 

 

[18:18 – 18:41] Christine Hemphill

Yeah, what you said just crystallised something in my head what you described for me is the difference between empathy and experience empathy is recognising that we need to recognise wheelchairs and in our ai but experiences understanding that sometimes the wheelchairs get pushed backward that’s the difference in terms of bringing people of the community together. 

 

[18:41 – 19:18] Pete Horsley

Yeah, that’s brilliant and I guess we make some assumptions in here but don’t we as well of around access to education to be a technological expert in some of these things as well and that is not possible for all people as well so I’ve got a good friend who she had to make her decision on which university she could go to based on the fact of its accessibility and that wasn’t kind of providing her with kind of the greatest amount of choice I don’t know Léonie have you seen kind of instances where education is kind of a barrier to someone even entering into this space?

 

[19:18 – 21:19] Léonie Watson

Yes very much so we know that you know there are all sorts of challenges for someone with a disability or accessibility you need to get into education get into employment even get access to technology in some respects I think that’s changing for the better when I lost my site 20 years ago there were one or two screen readers available to choose from and they both cost several hundreds of pounds which to someone at the time who’d stopped work because i’d lost my site was you know an extraordinary barrier at the time now of course we have integrated screen  readers in pretty much every platform that someone might want to to buy a device and within that we’ve got a good or reasonably good array of different cost levels you know of devices so that’s one area where I think you know the the playing field as they say has started to to level out but we’ve got a bit of a circular problem on our hands because a lot of the barriers and not just the socioeconomic barriers it’s just simply if you can’t access the educational tools if you can’t access the you know employment websites to apply for a job you’re never going to get over those barriers no matter how great your technology is or no matter how capable you are unless we can solve the problem of getting more people with disabilities and different perspectives into education and into the workplace then we come back to that original question of you know we’re not designing good products and services without  people like that on the team without them involved in the processes so we’ve really got to try  and you’ve got to start somewhere I guess and I think we really need to fix the education problem first because if we can’t fix the education problem both in terms of getting people access to it and in terms of educating people to build things that are accessible and usable to everybody  the rest of us are just going to keep fighting a rearguard action so yeah I think education is core to the solution.

 

[20:20 – 22:08] Pete Horsley

I guess kind of somewhat related to that there are people around the world that are starting to speak of the great resignation following Covid 19 where a great number of people are kind of reconsidering new career opportunities or a new role and I guess we’ve seen some of the areas that people with disability have really kind of petitioned for many years of flexible working conditions and those sorts of things have been you know brought in literally at the drop of a hat in some instances are there opportunities here to build back better and to give more opportunities in employment particularly in technical roles to people with disability Chris I want to ask you what are some of the opportunities you see here to potentially build back better?

 

[22:09 – 23:25] Christopher Patnoe

I think coming from google we started to see how technology can provide that bridge but also the mismatch between what a person can do and what the skills and what society or the technology allows. So taking a moment like Covid and this world we’re in where we have to do things differently it now becomes a matter of intention to build back better. It will never happen by itself you have to take that opportunity by the horns (that’s an American expression) run with it and not be chased by it because then you have the opportunity to bring people in work with a company like Open Inclusion or TetraLogical – bring people in at the beginning shift that engineering and do it well and then make these products more accessible and do it broadly. Everyone has an opportunity to do it no matter where you are here at google we do it on search and we’ll do it in android but everybody has an opportunity to do it it’s a choice that you make and if you make that choice to make your product better and contribute to humanity and that doesn’t suck either.

 

[23:25 – 23:49] Pete Horsley

That’s great well Léonie Chris just mentioned your company TetraLogical as well and it has four values and one of those is around how you can consider everyone and make decisions that exclude no one I want to kind of get kind of a little bit practical here so what does that kind of practice look like as you work with businesses?

 

[23:50 – 25:26] Léonie Watson

Well it starts with our own so you know when we when we choose new tools which we’ve actually  just done recently we wanted a new project management scheduling kind of tool to use  we’re a small company so we got around the table and and we we looked at some options and we  found one that was you know accessible usable and interestingly not necessarily always in the same way some of the team are using the web interface I’m using an integration into slack because the website’s not so accessible but actually in Slack it works really well and and that then is how we  we try and encourage the companies that we work with to think about it is when you make a decision  not just purchasing but any decision a direction you’re going to take a thing you’re going to buy  try and think about the needs of everybody who’s involved and try and think creatively about it  humans are complicated varied we come in all sorts of different shapes sizes configurations abilities capabilities and I know universal design is a very sort of popular concept but I actually think it’s a little bit of a myth because there is nothing that’s you know universally accessible because humans are so different but what I do think you can do is is encourage people to be inclusive by as I say thinking creatively if you know solution one works for a number of people are  there alternatives that give people access to that same thing you know through different routes and different avenues that give the same experience same capability just in different ways and so creativity is is a big way that we try and encourage companies to think about inclusion.

 

[25:26 – 27:34] Christine Hemphill

To add to that I think and to bring two parts of that conversation together the word Christopher used before intentionality and what Léonie was just talking about which is for the people in question in this group so when you know in TetraLogical Léonie’s looking at her team that’s the team that it’s relevant for it’s not all of humanity and I think it’s being conscious being intentional about who you are designing for there are trade-offs. I don’t believe in universal design I believe in inclusive design which is you push the universal design approach as far as it can go but there are real limits to it and then you need to  bring adaptive design optionality capability that people you know as Léonie was just talking about some people might choose to go at it one way some might choose to go at it another way and it’s just making sure that there are roots into everyone that you have intentionally chosen that for and that won’t be absolutely everyone because there is too much variance in the way humans are so it’s taking that as a very conscious decision and not doing it by accident which is where most of the exclusion happens today.

 

[26:41 – 27:23] Christopher Patnoe

If I can build on top of that this is a juicy area here customisation is critical because you’re never going to be able to create any product that meets everyone’s needs you have to allow people to customise it to meet those needs some people need bigger fonts some people need easier text so how you create your interface how you create your product by being intentional you understand what are the options that you want to empower? Who do you want to enable with your technology? So customisation is one key factor that I’ve learned over the years that is a really powerful way of making something useful for everyone.

 

[27:23 – 27:28] Christine Hemphill

And giving agency to the user because you can’t possibly imagine all the context of all the users but they can. 

 

[27:34 – 28:15] Pete Horsley 

I think that AI is kind of a double-edged sword in that space right like because you know potentially it has a way of being able to know a particular user and to adapt kind of the needs to that particular user but if it has been designed in a way that’s kind of through assumption then potentially we’re kind of worse off as a result of that so yeah the whole suppose both promise and kind of potential pitfalls as well. 

 

[28:15 – ] Léonie Watson 

That’s the thing I was just about to say is not too much around ai but you mentioned you know not making assumptions and that’s critical to what Christine was just saying it’s about empowering the user the person to say look I want to change this font size change this colour scheme listen to this rather than read it not assuming that because a person has  x disability this is how they’re going to consume the content or these are the decisions they’re going to make so yeah that assumption kind of you know philosophy is is so wrong so bad it’s got to be about empowering people to choose how they consume your content or your product and service.

 

[28:50 – 29:18] Pete Horsley 

It’s brilliant soon we’ll have some option some opportunities for audience questions so if you’d like to jump into q a rather than the chat function and post your questions in there we’ll be able to pose those to our amazing panelists Christine what would you like to see for to create better conditions around design for user empowerment what would you like to see kind of everyone on this call and those that listen to this afterward too?

 

[29:20 – 31:48] Christine Hemphill 

Such a gorgeous question a little bit like Christopher I came to this quite late and you know in my quirky way and I was a designer for many decades before I became an inclusive designer so I’ve got a really strong perspective on this because I failed people not because I didn’t turn up with intent every day to do something delightful but because I didn’t know better and because I didn’t have that fuel to do better than knowledge of how people experience things differently than I was creating and imagining and designing with all positive intent for them and not having that knowledge of how that was being consumed and how that was being experienced to do something better. So to me it’s preventing people from being me in the future by giving people the tools the the the fuel the capability the confidence and the competence to be able to understand that early on as Léonie was talking about before not building a house with no doors and then going dang we didn’t let the people that  were actually really wanting to to come into this house actually get in so to make to lower the bar of knowledge and of experience to allow people to understand how people differ and how that difference is going to impact the design that they’re creating so that and also to lower the bar on design that there’s not this a community of designers and non-designers i’d actually like to see a real fluidity of people stepping in and out you know everyone having a role in design and having more shared power you don’t need to go to a certain college and university and and have a  degree with a capital D on it but that people are actually empowered to come in and create stuff better and technology is such an enabler of that because you don’t need to know how to write javascript to know how to design something better you need people that can do that you need  people that have that technical capability but to bring more people into the design part of that have more experiences that experience is intuitive to them and also to be able to reach to experiences more easily that are not intuitive to them.

 

[32:06 – 32:45] Christopher Patnoe 

What you said Christine reminds me of something that I talk about when I give a sort of a lecture on how to build inclusively and I have sort of three key points one is what you’re good at – do something where you have some technical expertise because like in jazz you need to improvise you need to understand where you’re going and how to get there next is nothing about us without us it’s a Léonie’s point and the third and for me, this is important when talking with people who are just getting started to start with one person, solve one person’s problems first and do it well because you have the technical expertise then you can expand it and broaden it and make a more robust solution and provide support for more people.

 

[32:45 – ] Léonie Watson 

I’d add to that and say don’t be afraid. That’s the other thing, yes yeah this is a serious matter of course it is but don’t be scared by it you know  I knew nothing about accessibility until I got interested and bit by bit I learned. If I  look back on some of the first websites I built back when I was a designer in the 90s oh horrors all the accessibility nightmares you know you know bad intent I just didn’t know any better and you know just read one one blog post listen to this podcast one thing and just decide today I’m going to do one thing differently I’m going to learn one thing and I’m going to put it into practice give it a few days of doing that choose another thing move on, move up keep going but just don’t be scared to get started whatever you do it’s vital.

 

[33:41 – 34:57] Christine Hemphill

I often talk about two things get in the way of people stepping into inclusion more fully really often one of them is fear and the other is complexity and what Léonie and Christopher have both just given you are two beautiful ways of getting around that so firstly everyone gets stuff wrong and this is a world that you can never know everything it’s a journey  and you never get off it and actually that’s the joy of it so just get into it take one step get  curious learn keep learning you never step off that learning you know map that’s moving under  us as well because even if you thought that you could possibly get to know the seven billion  configurations of humanity which of course we can’t we’re also innovating all the time in our  environment so those matches and mismatches are never ending so don’t worry about the fact that they’re never-ending just get in and enjoy it and leverage the bits that you know about and do that thing that you can today and that’s it, you’re not worrying about complexity, not worrying about solving for everyone and everything but do that one thing leveraging your skills that you can do today to do something better.

 

[34:57  – 35:30] Pete Horsley

That is so brilliantly put by all three of you I feel like that’s kind of we should just like tie a bow in this webinar right now with that point but we do have some questions here from the audience so Paul has asked to find solution experts is working with a university that supports students with a disability a good place to find this talent and the second part of the question is I’m trying to find the right path to iterate and I’m unsure if students will have time. Who would like to answer that one Christine would you like to take that one?

 

[35:30 – 35:53] Christine Hemphill

I think it doesn’t matter where you go recognize the limitations and the strengths  of communities of people so if you’re going to students you’ve got a lot of energy you’ve got  a lot of intent you’ll probably have some really fresh ideas because you know people haven’t been  anchored in decades of thinking in a certain way so there’s some real advantages of of leveraging  students for technical expertise or new ways of thinking and not being too anchored equally  there’s not a lot of life experience and so that nearly only talking about just turning up  and failing you know I did that for decades as well then you turn up and you learn over time  so recognising that there’s a trade off either side and actually trying to balance and again that were Christopher was talking about your run always goes to the edges I often draw a  star and go go out here to the star students are one edge of that in terms of life experience  and depending on what they’re studying what their expertise is that they’ve learned they’ll have  different you know particular capabilities they’re bringing but look to what they’re not bringing  and look to who you can balance that with that can bring you know a different perspective to balance  where those gaps might be if you’re only looking to one community there will be gaps that’s in any community

 

[35:54 – 37:13] Pete Horsley

We had a question that came through from Jennifer related to this and she was asking what criteria do testers need to become trusted testers or better testers. Does anyone want to answer that one?

 

[37:13 – 38:19] Christopher Patnoe

I can take this one trusted tester is an overloaded term to use a computer science thing it has lots of different meanings in the US there is a capital ‘T’ Trusted tester which has to do with section 508 testing which is like website testing essentially at google we have a thing called we have a trusted tester program lowercase ‘t’ is on both sides though we sometimes will capitalise it and this is for people who are in the community who wants to help and sort of test early our software and provide feedback for us I think the most important thing is you have to be good at some piece of tech some piece of assistive tech so you want to because you need to be able to provide meaningful feedback and not just what’s broken but also what’s important is how you can do it better so can use the technology thoughtfully and explain what’s broken and how it could be done better. I think those are sort of and be willing to do it be hungry and enjoy that kind of work so those are the three things to understand the technology to be able to explain what’s working, what’s not working well and then just enjoy doing it.

 

[38:19 – 39:41] Christine Hemphill

If I can add a layer to that I think you know that’s a it’s really important to have those things but actually I don’t think so much of trusted testers as I do trusted insight and there’s a real difference between the two it’s not the person that we trust or don’t trust the person is the person they turn up with intent yes that’s important they turn up with capability around a specific assistive technology that’s important but let’s also be really conscious of that varies enormously from person to person an expert screen reader is very different you know screen reader user is very different to someone who’s another screen reader user and these are both trusted testers if you’ve designed the research to understand and engage them in a way that will get you the insight that’s going to inform what you’re doing so the person just needs to be genuine authentic honest look for good as well as bad you’re not just looking to find all the problems you actually want to tell people what they’ve done right so they protect that they don’t by accident throw away what’s already working so to me people are trusted it’s not that the test is trusted the other person is trusted and it’s up to the researcher or the organisation doing the review to make sure that they’re given the framing of the question that gives you trusted insight and that’s you know that’s you need to know that you can trust what you’re hearing to make a better decision on the basis of

 

[39:15 – 40:17] Pete Horsley

One of the other questions we’ve had come through was from Jonathan it is how can inclusion in the disability space not only work on disability inclusion but lift the economic participation of people with disabilities so this is really kind of to the core of you know not just kind of being involved in part of the process but how do we see kind of genuine inclusion that lifts the economic participation of people with disabilities who would like to answer that one?

 

[40:18 – 40:58] Léonie Watson 

well I guess in some senses it comes back to that secular problem I was mentioning before the best  way we can elevate participate participation by people with disabilities is to make sure that the tools resources you know are the paraphernalia that are part of those processes are accessible and usable by those people you know it doesn’t matter how many degrees you’ve got if the website that you need to apply for the job that you want is not accessible it’s just as simple as that so we’ve got to solve accessibility to a large extent I think to solve the kind of participation and you know the elevation of that participation

 

[40:59 – 43:49] Christopher Patnoe

if I can build on top of that I think the there’s the other form of accessibility is important too  that we have actually there is there is training that that is affordable and and available so it has to be available first and then it has to be accessible because one and not the other  doesn’t really solve the problem so having training that gives people life first digital  basic digital skills and then the more advanced skills there are a bunch of great certification  programs that google we have a grow for google role with google program where we have like  a program management design data science certifications that will give you the skills  necessary to get a job so there has to be training that can be that are available  and they have to be made accessible I think that’s really important I think it’s also fluidity of different ways people might wish to engage and participate so yeah we’re talking about you know the change post covert and giving people different ways of participating in creating value and I think the disability community by the nature of mismatch in the world is incredibly innovative and creative and as we were talking about incredibly valuable because of the insights  through that you know understanding where those mismatches and where those gaps and opportunity  spaces are it’s turning the innovative into innovators it’s turning creative into creators and allowing that valuable to be valuable to the individuals that have that value and there’s so many different ways that can happen I mean even remarkable and the program you’ve got is taking that entrepreneurial taking that innovative perspective and allowing people to become  you know entrepreneurs and go helping people being you know bringing that enabling capability in and saying how can we support people through that learning process to go from i’ve got a great idea  to actually being able to commercialise that idea and be supported in doing so  even things like you know the programs in the uk that are designed around innovation  just little things like making sure that the process to apply for them is accessible  and not just accessible from an audit you know accessibility way but inclusive and considering how different perspectives are going to generate a more innovative and more valuable solution so  the people reviewing them are actually taking that into consideration as they review them so it’s there’s such natural value there it’s being able to make sure that that value is able to be  generated by the people you know involved in that.

 

[43:49 – 44:11] Pete Horsley

it’s brilliant we have so many other questions that I’d love to get to but we’ve come to the end of our time so I want to ask one last question and if we can keep it brief that would be great but if we’re to ask each of you what is one insight or way that we can design for user empowerment what would your insight or what would your encouragement be? Let’s start with you Léonie.

 

[44:13 – 45:13] Léonie Watson 

get to know the different medium or media for which you’re designing so if you’re an oil painter you get to know how oil paints behave if you’re a watercolorist you understand the differences it’s the same here you as a designer or a developer of a product will be familiar with the difference between a desktop or a laptop interaction and a tablet device or phone device broaden that out get to understand what the modes of interaction what the media are like for someone who listens to content and feel free to experiment with that and to design good experiences because they’re all different modes of interaction what’s it like when you speak to your technology in instead of use other input devices what’s the experience like for that think about you know the language that someone needs to use so yeah get amongst it get used to to the different modes of interaction and broaden your horizons and start designing for different experiences right the way across the spectrum.

 

[45:12 – 46:30] Christine Hemphill

I’m going to keep mine a short one ‘unlearn’ it’s a slightly weird one rather than just looking to learn look at yourself and work out what we need to unlearn so if we’re going to you know we’ve just gone through a pandemic again there are things that we assume either individually or in our society are barriers to our progression going forward so get curious about where they are in ourselves individually and start with yourself but actually also in organisations in your own  organisation obviously you know in ripples around yourself and out from yourself and in society as well and work out what do we need to unlearn that is limiting us today that is limiting our  ability to see and do better because it’s actually quite a lot and the more we engage with people  the more we can see that more easily and more quickly and that gives us the ability to see  these spaces that are all around us all the time where we can just do things so much better so yeah rather than just thinking about learning thinking about what we need to unlearn to get there.

 

[46:30 – 48:03] Christopher Patnoe

I’m embarrassed to talk after Léonie Christine because nothing I have to say is really remarkable I guess the thing I would I would say is you’re never going to get it right  so you need to provide options for people because everyone is I used to say people are hard everyone  is is a complicated human being Christine said there’s like 7 billion permutations of humanity  and I think there’s even more than that just because people are so difficult because there’s the situation changing so the same person’s environment will cause them to  to react differently so as you’re designing your experiences you want to do it with the community  because you never know you’re never going to know what the problem is it it’s it’s the wheelchair forwards versus the wheelchair backwards problem so you want to provide solutions  and variations of the solutions but now that that sounds really scary I have to do everything no you work with a community to understand what is the most important thing and provide the most  important options first and when you become successful as Léonie said learn something  new every day bring it together and continue to develop so you’ll you create a product that is robust and thoughtful and and designed with intent.

 

[48:03 – 49:20] Pete Horsley

Well, I want to thank each of our panelists Léonie, Christine and Chris. Thank you so much for your insights today! It’s been fantastic. Thank you for getting up early to talk to us here in Australia and for those that are joining us from other parts of the world. Thanks also so to David Childs our Auslan interpreter thank you and Remarkable we recently launched a fellowship program called the Jessica King Fellowship it was launched in honour of one of our founders who is no longer with us but it is aimed at providing pathways for people with disability to explore the world of entrepreneurship and startups it involves six-month support program five thousand dollar donation to your learning and you can put that to use in whatever way you choose and we also provide mentoring over those six months as well from incredible mentors applications are currently open they close next month so if you or someone you know could be interested in that please head to our website remarkable.org.au  and look for the Jessica King Fellowship.

 

Mentions made:

[9:10] Rama Gheerawo, From Extreme to Mainstream

[09:27] Design for User Empowerment, Richard Ladner 

[37:13] Section 508 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Woah, we’re halfway there!

Yep, that’s right, somehow we have just passed the halfway mark of our 2021 Design-athon…and sorry in advance for having Bon Jovi stuck in your head.

 

Over the past couple of weeks, our participants have made amazing strides towards their problem statement solutions! This is thanks to the support of the Sprintbase team who have been guiding our teams through the design-thinking process. A few teams have done amazing jobs at documenting their progress so far and you can check out the A Teams first interview below!

 

Team ‘A Team’: Recording of their First interview

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5V3elkCR1Q[/embedyt]

 

In addition to the amazing work taking place with the help of Sprintbase, some other highlights of the journey so far have included:

  1. Matt Leete, Founder of Spix App and winner of our 2020 Designathon stopped by for a fireside chat.
  2. We welcomed our community of user-testers to the Design-athon journey to help support the inclusive design-making process.
  3. Seeing our teams take their ideas out into the world to start to develop their solutions!
  4. Most recently, getting an excuse to make a Bon Jovi reference.

 

Over the remainder of the Design-athon teams will be knuckling down to fine-tune their solutions in preparation for our pitch night, which is taking place next Thursday the 30th of September.

 

How can you help support the teams prepare for pitch night? Well, we are glad you asked!

 

Some of our teams are looking for people to complete online surveys to help with their market research and we would love for you to jump in and take part. Below are a few of these surveys for you to consider:

  • Team ‘eMotion’, is looking into designing accessible smart-tech solutions for nighttime use, with the aim to help people with disabilities gain independence and autonomy during the night and in a low-cost manner. Complete their survey here.
  • Team ‘Your 100-Year Life’, is investigating how we can provide all Australians with access to useful devices and services to make homes smarter and safer, and we need your help. Complete their survey here.
  • Team ‘Future City’, is looking to solve how might we make self-employment radically more inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities. Complete their survey here.

 

We can’t wait to see what our participants will achieve over the remainder of our Design-athon!

Brain Computer Interface: science or science fiction

Brain-computer interface (BCI), a neural device that translates a person’s brain activity into external responses or directives, might sound like science fiction. Yet we are getting closer to the day where we can directly interact with and control machines with our minds. What does this mean for those with a disability?

For our most recent Remarkable Insights panel, we were joined by a patented inventor of a brain control assistive tech, a neuroengineer who enabled the first demonstration of brain-controlled robotic limbs by people with paralysis, and a founder leading a world-class research & development team that has delivered a human-grade implant, to explore the possibilities and applications of BCI.

 

Panel

 

Moderator

 

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JltKe6ycczs[/embedyt]

The views expressed are solely those of the contributors.

 

Definitions of terms mentioned throughout the conversation:

  • BCI – Brain-computer interface (BCI), a neural device that translates a person’s brain activity into external responses or directives.
  • FMRI – Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measures the small changes in blood flow that occur with brain activity.
  • EEG – Electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that detects abnormalities in your brain waves, or in the electrical activity of your brain.
  • RNS – Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS) System is similar to a heart pacemaker. It can monitor brain waves, then respond to activity that is different from usual or that looks like a seizure.
  • FDA – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of U.S food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.
  • Neuroprosthetics – Any biomedically engineered device designed to be linked to the peripheral or central nervous system and enhance the cognitive, motor, or sensory abilities of an organism.
  • Motor cortex – This is the region of the cerebral cortex (which is the outermost layer of the brain, made up primarily of grey matter) involved in the planning, control, and execution of voluntary movements.
  • Endothelialization – refers to the process in which endothelial tissue is formed.

Transcript

[00:04 – 03:43] Pete Horsley

Welcome, everyone to Remarkable Insights my name is Pete Horsley I’m the founder of Remarkable we are an early-stage tech accelerator for startups that are creating technology for disability we are part of Cerebral Palsy Alliance and we have our principal partner is icare and we have partnerships with Telstra, Vivcourt and Microsoft. As well Remarkable is where hopefully technology meets human potential and we see a real gap that exists in the place that technology can play in the lives of people with disability we mainly do that through a 14-week accelerator program where we support early-stage startups commercializing their technology and getting them on the path to getting their technology into the hands of the people that need it most. I want to acknowledge that I’m on the land of the Guringai people this is their land it was never ceded and it’s always sacred and I pay my respects to elders past present and emerging and to whoever you are joining us from as well and the traditional lands that you’re meeting on also pay my respects to elders past and present. There also to pay my respects to the disability advocates who have come before us who have fought for the rights of people with disability over many many decades and we stand on their shoulders now in doing the work that we do we have both a privilege and a responsibility because of the work that they’ve done. So today’s conversation about Remarkable insights conversation is about brain-computer interface and we know that there’s a significant opportunity to leverage technological innovation to drive an inclusive future and we want to ask the question about who’s getting left behind as technology accelerates around us and we want to ask as well how can we start to create an inclusive now rather than just an inclusive future. So for anyone wanting to join this conversation on social media please use our social media handles at remarkabletech and also use the hashtag remarkableinsights the event has live captioning by Otter AI you can make use of that using the live transcript we also have a separate AI transcript that you can click on on your screen as well. And today we also have sign interpretation by Taryn Coswello so welcome Taryn as well today we’re joined by Nick Opie from Synchron presently in lockdown in Melbourne Australia, we’ve got Beata Jarosiewicz from Neuralink in San Francisco and Zuby Onwuta from Think and Zoom in Austin Texas. Welcome to each of you today some of the people on this call are very familiar with what brain-computer interface is but for some of us it might be relatively new so I’m going to ask Beata, you’ve been at the forefront of BCI for quite some time working with a number of different organizations including someone who’s a good friend of Cerebral Palsy Alliance and Remarkable Lee Hochberg and the team at Braingate so do you mind just giving us an explanation of what BCI is, please?

 

[03:43 – 08:28] Beata Jarosiewicz

I would be happy to can you guys see my slides okay hear me okay so let’s see I’m sorry it’s got this live captioning thing at the top… There we go okay so just a brief overview of motor brain-computer interfaces which are meant to help people with paralysis to be able to control their environment and communicate. So like every cell in your body brain cells also called neurons have a voltage across their membrane and when they communicate with one another they rapidly change their voltage over the course of just a millisecond or so and we can spy on these so-called action potentials or the firing of these neurons to try to interpret what the brain is trying or what the brain indicates that the person’s movement intention is at any given moment in time for example so this is a picture of a human brain on the top left here where the left side is the front and the right side is the back and the red strip there the strip labeled in red is called the motor cortex this is the part of the brain that controls voluntary movement different parts of the motor cortex if you look at this blown-up cross-section represent different parts of the body so if you record from the neuron in the hand or arm area of motor cortex you might find activity that represents the person wanting to make particular movements of the hand or arm and here’s an example of a neuron that we recorded when I was at brain gate from participant kathy hutchinson the technician is going to be asking her to imagine that she’s opening and closing her hand and see if you can hear a difference in the activity of this neuron it’s going to sound like little popping sounds relaxed imagine you’re opening your hand relax close your hand relax open your hand so you can tell whenever the person is imagining opening our hand the neuron kind of goes crazy and when she imagines closing it the neuron gets very quiet and then with relax it’s somewhere in between so you can take a neuron like this and just look at its firing rate in small windows of time and use that information to open and close a prosthetic hand for example just by asking the person to imagine that they’re opening and closing their own hand so here’s a video of us doing that with another brain gate participant matt naval so that’s a very basic example of a brain computer interface but other neurons in motor cortex have encoding for particular imagined movements in different directions in space so for example one neuron might encode movements imagined leftward movements another neuron might increase its firing rate when the person imagines moving their hand up and if you record from a lot of neurons at the same time which a lot of brain computer interfaces do and you know the preferred directions of all of the different neurons that you’re recording from you can look at their firing rates at each moment in time and figure out from the pattern across the neurons which direction the person intends to move and then use that movement information that you’ve decoded to for example move a computer cursor on a computer screen this is the the basic explanation or the intuition for how a brain computer interface works and of course you can use that to allow a person with paralysis to point and basically use a point-and-click mouse with her brain as though she were controlling an actual computer mouse and this is another brain gate participant t6 who is typing an email to my colleague Paul Nuyujukian and using a brain computer interface and then just for context at braingate or sorry at neurolink where I currently am we’re trying to make a fully implantable and cosmetically invisible brain computer interface with lots and lots of channels that will allow a person to be able to control devices in a very similar way just by thinking about how they want to move that’s the end of my little intro I will stop sharing thank you thank you so much.

 

[08:28 – 09:44] Pete Horsley

You should be a teacher Beata I feel like thank you I feel like we have a really good base understanding of the kind of technology we’re talking about here and just to give some warning to our participants today that we probably might also be mentioning other things like EEG, intracortical neuroprosthetics and other kinds of terminologies hopefully we’ll try and explain those if we do mention those on the way through. So we know that BCI isn’t necessarily kind of reading our thoughts but it’s reading the brain’s activity when there’s intentional thought typically towards a physical activity I want us first to explore the use of some of these cases picking up the signals and then using them to control something outside the body so nick firstly congratulations on the 40 million series b capital raise earlier this year and already you’ve been doing human trials in Australia but I know that you’ve just started or just got approvals for human trials in the US as well so huge steps towards your own commercialization so congratulations for that what excites you about the potential of this technology particularly for those people who might be living with a disability?

 

[09:44 – 10:38] Nicholas Opie, CTO and Founder, Synchron

Yeah, I think it’s just fascinating how the field’s grown certainly you know from some of the work Beata mentioned in Braingate back in the day the ability to access information from within the brain extract it and then convert it into signals that can be used by people with paralysis to control computers or robotic hands or vehicles being robots and wheelchairs and so forth it is just incredible and it’s really fantastic to see the field progress to a stage where it’s starting to you know to turn from early-stage research showing that it’s feasible and possible to things like what we’re doing where it’s being implanted into people and being used by them to enhance their quality of life. I think it’s it’s amazing to watch the progression and you know there are early stages a long way to go but it’s fascinating to watch.

 

[10:38 -10:53] Pete Horsley

That’s brilliant and Zuby you didn’t start your career kind of in this space you kind of came to this technology through a slightly different track can you tell us the story of how you started working with BCI?

 

[10:53 – 13:41] Zuby Onwuta

Sure thanks so much Pete and thanks to everybody for being here. So yeah I’m currently in Austin Texas USA and yeah I kind of fell into this and now I’m on a journey of creating a better world for people with disabilities. So I started out just wanting to be a physician just want to be a doctor and I did that pre-med and I was in the U.S military but within two short years I went from seeing the eye chart from roughly 10 feet away or more to now down to just one foot away it was dramatic I became legally blind from a form of Juvenile macular degeneration called Stargardt and at that time once you hit your 2200 it’s supposed to plateau one-stop but mine never stopped and so by the age of 21 I had to scramble for plan c as I had to exit the military and exit my medical studies so I chose to engineer and I struggled all the way through. I had the opportunity of working for some fortune 500 companies and so I immersed deeply into software engineering but then within that journey I ended up at the school for the blind learning non-visual skills so you can imagine it was a very very tough and challenging time and then several years after that I spent some more times at no vision all kinds of ophthalmologists 300 of them and we discovered that i actually have three genetic mutations affecting my retina so that explained why i was having all the fluctuations and unstable vision but all throughout this time I kept thinking of how can i create something that could not only help myself but also millions of people like myself and so that’s what threw me into neuroscience that’s how i discovered brain control and now i’m on this journey of critiquing better worlds for people with disabilities and tell us a little bit about the technology that you’ve created so far so think and zoom leverages the power of brain waves but it does that knowing invasively for so from a wearable pci which is a sensor that touches you know outside of your head and just like a Beata explained we harness you know the electrical impulses coming from the brain and we’ve been able to develop a prototype to show that it is possible to look think and zoom in to see better so essentially in layman’s terms you can now use your brain to influence magnification so you don’t no longer have to use your hands or manually control you cannot think and zoom in to see better.

 

[13:41 – 14:56] Pete Horsley

It’s brilliant fantastic Beata earlier this year your boss i don’t know if we’re able to call him this but Elon musk announced that a monkey could play with video games using its mind this is kind of using the signals to control something external like what you explained before and while some parts of this technology are new some of the applications of this this kind of technology have been used for decades through devices like cochlear implants that were also starting to put signals that were also used to put signals back into the brain as well so Elon’s also been known to say that BCI was integral for humans not to be outpaced by artificial intelligence so it seems to me that it’s one thing to get signals out of the brain to control an external device but then another thing to i guess use those signals or to put signals back into the brain so i guess my question to you is what’s the potential of this of this technology to put signals back into the brain and what could that mean for people with disability? and also I’d love you to mention some of the work that you’ve already done with another company through epilepsy as well.

 

[14:56 – 17:01] Beata Jarosiewicz

Sure so that’s a very big question but as you mentioned you know cochlear implants provide a really good example of a very promising way to put information into the brain that the brain can then learn over not too long a period of time to make sense of and make use of for people with hearing disorders of course that the resolution of the input that you get from a cochlear implant is nowhere near the actual cochlea but with the brain’s plasticity you know the brain has this amazing ability that if a source of input into it contains information about the external world that it’s useful to the person or to the animal it’s going to learn how to make use of that information and there’s of course there’s also visual prosthetics under development for you know stimulating the visual cortex with the device like ours and there’s also of course retinal prosthetics other things like that under development that are also very promising as for oh and you also mentioned with epilepsy you know recording from i used to work at a company called Neuropace also that that makes the the RNS systems responsive neurostimulation so it listens for brain activity indicating that the person is about to have a seizure coming from the seizure focus and sends some brief electrical stimulation to try to normalize that activity and prevent the seizure from progressing and that also works tremendously well for people with medically refractory epilepsy as for writing in the kind of information elon is talking about where you want to basically be able to do a google search in your brain or be able to you know communicate with one another without having to speak that’s going to take i think it’s going to take a lot of either like better understanding of the brain that then we currently have or a big leap in technology that i currently can’t envision but it is definitely a goal of neurolink a long-term goal.

 

[17:01 – 17:16] Pete Horsley

That’s brilliant and Nick, just in terms of the work of Synchron give us an update on kind of where things are up to now and what the next steps in terms of some of those human trials are going to look like?

 

[17:16 – 20:10] Nicholas Opie

Sure so Synchron at the moment is as you mentioned continuing human clinical trial in australia and and branching out to the U.S our technology is a little bit different to to a lot of the other existing brain machine interfaces in that we came up with a way where you didn’t have to perform any invasive remove craniotomy’s removal of the skull you don’t need to do that to to implant our device to the brain using blood vessels as the you know the naturally occurring pathway to get to the different regions so through a small incision like an injection in the neck we can put our device up and to the motor cortex as we are mentioned before and once it’s there the the patients can you know use their brain to think about activities that they would like to perform and and the device can obviously pick that up and wirelessly transfer those out of the body to be interpreted and used to control external equipment i think certainly you know for us continuing the clinical trial we when we started the company about 10 years ago our vision really was to go beyond amazing research that everyone on the panel here is doing and get it into a product that can be used by people to help them with their with their lives and to help them and their carers perform different activities so we’re still on that pathway to you know start of a a long journey you know a lot of regulatory approvals and fda testing and needs to be needs to be achieved and and certainly we’re well on the way to getting a product out to those that can use it with the idea being that for people who have a through damage or disease a functioning brain but a body that isn’t isn’t connected so they can’t move their arms or limbs spinal cord injury for example motor neurone disease or ALS in the U.S and other different conditions that prevent the signals from going from the brain to to their body and you know we’re planning on helping those people and certainly trying to help them in in a way that you know is surgically non-invasive very minimally invasive and and can be used sort of out of the box to perform communication as well as other activities of daily living so it’s it’s exciting and you know there’s a lot of people coming into the into this into this field at the moment which is which is fantastic and certainly i think there’s a bright future for for this technology and the people that will be using it whether they be the the users themselves or their carers or their families or whoever it might be.

 

[20:10 – 20:55] Pete Horsley

That’s brilliant and I want to stay with you just you mentioned there kind of some of the regulatory pathways and obviously this is all a journey towards commercialization and being able to have this available out in the market and that you know the 40 million dollars of investment you just got is people banking on you to be able to get something in the commercial market eventually I want you to kind of just talk us through a couple of the kind of critical points on that regulatory journey so far what did that look like and yeah I guess we’ve got other founders on the call today that are perhaps on a similar kind of regulatory journey so give us a bit of a picture of what that’s been looking like for you?

 

[20:55 – 22:54] Nicholas Opie

Sure well certainly you know one of the main things you need to to prove is that it’s that it’s safe and that you know that’s for for all technology whether it’s invasive minimally invasive non-invasive you need to prove that it that it’s safe and that the patients that it’s intended for you know won’t be put at additional risk by by having this technology and so that’s one of them and the fda is obviously very big on on making sure that there are a huge amount of tests that need to be conducted and shown to demonstrate that it’s safe for implantation and once it has been implanted obviously the the next step is to show that it works that it’s reliable and that it can perform how it’s intended to perform and allow the the user to communicate with it for example if that if that’s the goal or to control a prosthetic limb or whatever that might be so so there’s a lot of a lot of work you know in the background once you’ve once you’ve made the technology and even once you’ve got the surgical procedure right and implanted it there’s a lot of work that needs to go on in in continuing to to demonstrate and prove that it’s safe and functional and and will continue to be reliable over the the lifespan of the patient and i think one of the things that’s amazing is with all the technologies that the brain machine faces seem to be achieving is getting commands out of the brain and what happens at the other end there’s a lot of work also going on you know how you can make a better technology that allows people to to use these devices properly so making robotic limbs and making exoskeletons in wheelchairs there’s a whole range of other applications that people can use that are they’re only saying to be built as well which is you know which is fantastic so it means you know the people that are making the implantables now have a lot more things to connect to so so the users can control a lot more of their environment

 

[22:54 – 23:26] Pete Horsley

That’s super interesting yeah thinking about the kind of marketplace of available technologies that might need to be there in the future so for you that the regulatory in environments kind of a little bit different for those kinds of inter intracortical devices so ones that go inside the body versus those using neuro neural decoding like EEG so you might want to give a little explanation of EEG but what have been some of the significant milestones in your own commercialization journey?

 

[23:26 – 25:07] Zuby Onwuta

Yeah like Nick has you know given details the intracortical is are very heavy with regulation right because it’s going into the human body but for the eeg which we’re leveraging a head wearable device so it doesn’t go into the human body so we’re not looking at that length of time and all those lengthy clinical trials so we envisage is going to be shorter and in terms of some of the milestones we’ve achieved well we’ve gone from just concept an idea to various prototypes we have a prototype that runs on a smart glass which is what we envision in the future something very lightweight and portable that you can just wear we also have a version that works on a smartphone and in the future we hope to add one that works on your laptop and we also in order to lower the barrier of entry because people as you can imagine ask a lot of questions about you know is this real or something else we created a game out of it that fortunately won an award at apple worldwide developer conference so it’s a brain controlled game and we also earned a patent so these are some of the milestones that we’ve achieved but we also do face some barriers and and challenges as most investors still do not understand the disability landscape very well and so these are still some of the things we’re trying to tackle to move forward.

 

[25:07 – 23:26] Pete Horsley

Yeah that’s brilliant now we’ve had a question come through on the chat asking are these devices suitable for people with cerebral palsy so other than nick or beater do you want to take that one?

 

[25:21 – 26:28] Nicholas Opie

Yeah, I can start, I think in general, yes but it really depends on on the type you know certainly for the centroid and the technology we’re developing in the first case provided they have a functional brain and that meaning that they can think and cause the cells that you was talking about before to function it doesn’t have to be everywhere but just some of their brain can respond normally and that they can have intentional thoughts then yes you can acquire these and they can be used to assist but I suppose that there are going to be some conditions where parts of the brain responsible for arms or limbs may not work that might be okay you might not need that specific region to be working but certainly you know I think it’s it’s a case-by-case sort of scenario where their physicians will be able to assess whether this is something that would be suitable for them.

 

[26:28 – 27:48] Beata Jarosiewicz

Yeah i think Nick stated it perfectly just if you know the part of motor cortex that controls movement is still responsive in a way that communicates the person’s movement intent then these kinds of devices could be used or or some part of the motor motor system doesn’t necessarily have to be cortical but as long as yeah movement is still represented in neural activity then something like this could work awesome and we encourage you to put some that’s for brain machine faces and brain control and if there are other issues with other parts of the body there’s there are technologies you know many people around here as well that can directly be involved with the you know the damaged limb or the part of the the nerve in in the limb or something like that so it doesn’t necessarily need to to come from the brain and there’s a lot of other groups and and a lot of other research and work that’s going on to look at you know how you can how you can really replace anything that’s that’s lost or damaged and so the field of biomedical engineering is certainly taking off and you know i think there’s unlimited possibilities in that regard.

 

[27:48 – 28:52] Pete Horsley

Yeah we’ve seen some incredible research happening at brown university where they’re essentially kind of taking signals from the spinal cord and looking at reinserting those essentially back into a damaged spinal cord below where a break might have happened so just there’s an incredible kind of forefronts I guess for so much of this technology control bionics is another organization here in Australia that’s done some work around taking any kind of signal from a muscle and being able to turn that into a control button as well I guess I wanted to and this one we might yes I encourage people to put questions that they’ve got into the q&a panel down below and we’ll try and get to as many of those as we can one of the questions I do want to ask each of you is if you could just briefly touch on what are some of the ethical questions that you think that we should be asking ourselves in this work? Do you want to start with that one Zuby?

 

[28:52 – 30:21] Zuby Onwuta

Sure in terms of ethics right I think we always have to remember that the piece of technology is to serve the human right and we always have to do our very best to put the human first and then in trying to do that we have to look at the cross-section of humanity one and it pinches me to even touch on this is the event that happened at the Paralympics right where the blind athlete was hit by a self-driving train because that wasn’t considered and so if you think about the paralympic that should be the haven for people with disabilities right everything this real issue has been covered but then the self-driving train which is great but then this one angle wasn’t covered and you know it was disastrous so I think in terms of ethics rather than even trying to think too hard just remember no matter how great the technology is hey we’re trying to serve humanity first and then b let’s look at all humanity and be inclusive so that’s my take on that

 

[30:21 – 30:25] Pete Horsley

That’s brilliant, thanks Zuby. Beata?

 

[30:25 – 31:01] Beata Jarosiewicz

Yeah just to add on to that I guess I would say another thing that needs to be thought about carefully is the fact that a lot of these technologies right now are meant to be assistive for people with disabilities restoring function but now and then also going forward if these ever become kind of enhancement technologies making sure that they’re available to everyone, not just people that are wealthy you know to make sure that your insurance model includes you know medicare or Medicaid or whatever just to make sure whoever needs them is able to get them.

 

[31:01 – 31:07] Pete Horsley

That’s brilliant, thank you. Nick?

 

[31:07 – 31:52] Nicholas Opie

Yeah look I think what Zuby and Beata say is spot on we gotta really make sure as everyone who’s working in this field does that we put the patients first and we really have their best interest in mind I think there are a lot of ethical issues like you mentioned that haven’t been thought of as Zuby and yes and certainly time needs to be spent making sure that all covers all bases are covered where you know where possible but there are new things that arise as new technologies arise and I think as long as the researchers are aware and continue to be motivated towards helping the human condition then I think we’re in a good place with people like this on the panel who are in charge of this sort of tech.

 

[31:52 – 32:21] Pete Horsley

So one of the questions has come through a little bit more of a technical question or a couple of these are so how does your technology deal with signal noise and particularly for the intracortical devices so those inside the body and the signal loss over time due to local inflammatory response so you might just want to give a little bit of context about what happens when we put foreign objects inside the human body and I know Nick and Beata you’ll have different responses to this.

 

[32:21 – 33:57] Beata Jarosiewicz

I can start that one off so at greengate we’ve had participants that were implanted for over five years in whom the device was still working well enough that the neural signals weren’t quite as beautiful as they were in that example neuron that i showed you guys earlier but we can still get information out of the residual signals even though you know there’s a little bit of a gliosis response where the glial cells that sort of the blue that holds the neurons together in your brain tend to kind of wrap around and protect the rest of the brain from these devices that we’ve been planted in in them it makes it it makes the signal a little bit smaller over time but it’s still possible to get useful information out of them what else was i going to say oh and at neurolink work we’re working on ways to make the response this immune response kind of as minimal as possible and one way we’re doing that is by having very very flexible electrodes that they get put in with a very tiny needle that’s a quarter the size of a human hair the needle is taken back out and then these tiny little flimsy things that you can’t even really see with the naked eye end up staying in the brain they move with the brain they’re a little bit more invisible to the brain they can be coded with molecules that the brain recognizes as good things and have the brain kind of accept them more easily that way so these are some of the ways in which we’re dealing with that and yeah i’ll pass it on to Nick.

 

[33:57 – 35:25] Nicholas Opie

Yeah so our stories are a little bit different when you put things inside a blood vessel in ours so our device it goes in through a blood vessel through a very small sort of sub-millimeter catheter and when it’s in the desired location the motor cortex then we remove the catheter and it expands to put the electrodes or the sensors against the vessel wall to allow blood flow to to go through the middle what we found is a process of endothelialization or the gliosis the the body’s response to devices in a blood vessel it will push it away from the inside of the blood vessel so the device gets incorporated into the vessel wall what we found both in the the preclinical trials and the humans is that that’s actually beneficial for us we the device gets incorporated into the vessel wall where it sort of anchors and so our signal noise improves because there’s no movement through through the middle and and the device is more stable so so the fortuitously we’ve found that the body’s reaction is actually helping our signal quality over time and and once it reaches a point obviously where it’s incorporated in the vessel you know within a couple of weeks then the signals you know remain and we haven’t got to five years yet we our first patient was in august 2019 so we’re so only only two years down but certainly we’ve seen that the signals remain as they did at the two week point from from then on.

 

[35:25 – 36:18] Pete Horsley

That’s brilliant and certainly, go have a look at some of the videos both of Neuralink and also Synchron for kind of seeing some of the things that both Beata and nick have just mentioned another technical question well they’ve called it a slightly technical question from Dimitri from Thoughtwide how high or low do you think that the ceiling for EEG based BCI is functionally especially with devices that are wireless and easy to wear versus those that are a lab grade capped with amps they’ve talked about so again maybe just give us a little bit of context for those that can’t imagine the technology that’s just been mentioned there who wants to take that one so if you do you want to take that one? Nick, you go first.

 

[36:18 – 37:54] Nicholas Opie

Yeah i’ve got a comment i think that there’s there’s a lot of different technologies that will have different benefits to different patient groups obviously if if you’re placing something outside the skull the skull will act like a a filter and will suppress some of the activity that you get m but need to have a binary switch to control some applications then you know that’s you know that’s that’s one application certain people might have that and indeed some of our patients haven’t wanted to use all of the electrodes or sensors we’ve got in there they’re happy with just getting really good at one or two sensors or clicks if you will and they’ve found that with even with those they can do a huge amount of communication and web-based activities like shopping and and banking and financial management and and they’ve said you know that’s enough i don’t need all these other switches for me to you know if it will for them that person to have benefit and then you go to Beata where they’ve you know got got many more electrodes and sensors and and certainly again there’ll be different applications for that there are going to be people that want to control a huge amount of of information whether it’s receiving or sending and so i think a lot of this technology will have you know a base level of everyone will be able to do this but there’ll be certain subsets of individuals as well as different conditions that might benefit from from each way of addressing the same problem

 

[37:54 – 38:31] Zuby Onwuta

yeah I might just add to that I think that nick is right in terms of you know the different areas of applications but that question also made me remember one I think it’s out of MIT media a lot it’s called AlterEgo where they actually take the signals from the throat area they tap electrical signals before your voice box actually issues the sound so you’re silently whispering to yourself so again that’s another way of grabbing the electrical signals out of your head.

 

[38:31 – 38:47] Pete Horsley

We’re kind of running short of time now but one other question that we’ve got there in q a is do you feel it will be disability assist or performance enhancement that will be the primary driver of BCI progress in five to ten years time? Beata do you want to take that one?

 

[38:47 – 40:18] Beata Jarosiewicz

I think definitely starting with disability assist that’s been the big driver all this time and the fact that it kind of remained in academia for so long that sort of the intracortical brain computer interface at least kind of speaks to the fact that there hasn’t been as big of maybe a push from from the disability community or i don’t know why it’s just kind of stayed in academia for so long but then it’s been nice that there’s been much more kind of commercial interest in bringing it to market and i think definitely the fact that it’s going to take that stop along the way is is a great thing for for the disability community and then whether or not it actually ends up in the enhancement stage i’m a little bit skeptical there are certain things that i think we we definitely can do in the near future like you know add sensory modalities for example that for things that already exist like which way is magnetic north or like seeing into the ultraviolet range or something like that but yeah as for like writing in really complex information that’s going to be a little bit harder but definitely like one of the one of the drivers of both the the enhancement and the disability technology is trying to get to that final enhancement stage.

 

[40:18 – 40:22] Pete Horsley

Zuby, what about you?

 

[40:22 – 41:19] Zuby Onwuta

My hope is that we can start out focusing on the disabled there are 1 billion of us around the world and largely overlooked right and you can start looking at the statistics and you know all kinds of data so that’s just my hope that we can finally focus on this group of people and get them to climb out of the very ultra-high unemployment rate public rates and get them to learn and earn so they can become you know economically independent and contributing members of society and you can never really say never right we don’t have a crystal ball of what will happen 5 ten-fifteen years from now maybe the performance enhancement market will kick-off but the hope of my prayer is that for now let’s leverage what we have and help those who are in need.

 

[41:19 – 41:27] Pete Horsley

That’s awesome, Nick. What about you?

 

[41:27 – 42:43] Nicholas Opie

Yeah look I agree I think certainly if you look at what’s happened in history with leicester plastic surgery which started as a medical procedure for burns and other reasons you know once you’ve got traction with the medical community then you know obviously the larger community have taken that up and spun it in their own way and I think you see the the Paralympic games that were just on and certainly a few years ago you may recall the blade runner Oscar Pistorius was wearing sort of bionic limbs and wow that guy was fast like certainly much faster than I was probably equally as fast as some of the the athletes that didn’t require prosthetics and I think they had to slow the legs down so we didn’t go too quick but I think you’ll see a time where some of these bionic replacements are better than our own limbs some of the arms that have been made by in the U.S are arguably better than the one i’ve got now so you know I think there is going to be a time where where the technology excuse me improves people to it to a level that they’re not at yet but I can’t see that yeah I certainly want to see that happening for the people that need it in the first case.

 

[42:43 – 43:01] Pete Horsley

That’s brilliant well the last question that I have for each of you and we’ll have to keep this brief because we’re just about out of time but what’s one remarkable insight that you have for BCI generally and where it’s headed I’m so biased we’ll start with you.

 

[43:01 – 43:42] Beata Jarosiewicz

I’m not sure I would qualify this as a remarkable insight but my own personal insight is it’s just kind of my story of like how I got started in neuroscience was because I was very interested in consciousness and how you know brain activity gives rise to consciousness and it’s an inherently subjective thing so it’s very difficult to study but now that we’re making these brain-computer interfaces and you know implanting them in human study participants maybe we have a way to actually start accessing some of these questions as well because ow we can actually introspect and see what kind of neural chords their correlates there are of these subjective phenomena.

 

[43:42 – 43:47] Pete Horsley

That’s fantastic. Nick?

 

[43:50 – 42:43] Nicholas Opie

I think the insight that I’d like to share was from our first participant when he was using the system firstly you know it was absolutely magic to see a man sitting there paralyzed controlling something on the screen but the thing that I didn’t appreciate at the time was the people that benefit from this aren’t necessarily the users only so he was obviously benefiting he was able to control his you know his environment but on the side his wife and Cara she was able to get more independence knowing that she could now leave his side to go out in the garden go down to the shops. We connected him up with you know so communication tools Whatsapp and texting so that they could always be in contact but she didn’t have to be there and I didn’t appreciate it at the time and when building this the impact that would have on on the carers and the family and the people that aren’t necessarily the recipients of these sort of technologies so I think that was a big insight for me and certainly, you know lovely to see that what we’re doing is is more we’re further reaching than the users or the people that that actually receive the tech

 

[45:03 – 45:19] Pete Horsley

Absolutely yeah there’s the also under-recognized support community and carer community that that happens alongside some parts of the disability community as well so. That’s brilliant Zuby we’ll finish with you.

 

[45:20 – 46:44] Zuby Onwuta

Well, I think my inside will be the moment so what I mean by that is I mean look at the team you’ve assembled here right these are folks at the bleeding edge pushing technology forward to help humanity I think this is the right team to do the job right and create positive impact but then also the forum this is probably one of the first times remarkable insight has put together a busier right and so that’s great it’s an exciting moment but then look at the humanity the disability space from Caroline’s amazing job of development 500 and I just happened to be in Geneva Switzerland to echo her message same year at the UN and now two years later we do have those 500 companies and you move over to WeThe15 and then we move over to plus N inclusive innovation network and then there’s think and zoom feature of disability with a list of global innovators so that’s what I mean by this is the moment right. So we are pushing for the technology and we’re also bringing the humans together and so this is the moment to bring it all together that’s really exciting.

 

[46:44 – 48:35] Pete Horsley

Really well said Zuby thank you so please join me in thanking our panelists today we’ve had Beata and Nick and Zuby also to Taryn our Auslan interpreter it’s been fantastic having a conversation with you. Remarkable is about harnessing technology to build social economic and inclusion for people with disabilities so we want to welcome anyone to express interest in our accelerator program that is open right now for our program running in 2022. Today is also RUOK day in Australia and are you ok day while we’re waiting on technologies like BCI that might actually be able to assist people who those of us who do have mental health challenges one of the things that we can do right today is to check in with people that we know and love and to check in and ask if they’re doing okay it’s important that we look after ourselves in this time of need as well we’ll be seeking some of your impact on today’s remarkable insight session as well so if you could leave us some comments straight after this webinar that would be fantastic recording will be made available as well on remarkable tech’s youtube channel make sure you subscribe to that this kind of conversation we think is vital like Zuby said we we hope that this moment in time of the bringing together of of people technology and where the future of technology and innovation is headed is going to be more inclusive and so we thank you for joining us for this remarkable insights we look forward to you joining us for the next remarkable insights during spark festival next month enjoy the rest of your day and wherever you are calling from good evening good morning and good night.

 

Mentions made:

[09:44 – 10:38] Synchron secures $40 million in Series B round funding

[14:56 – 17:01] Brain-responsive neurostimulation for epilepsy (RNS ® System)

[27:48 – 28:52] Scientists with the BrainGate research collaborative have, for the first time, used an implanted sensor to record the brain signals associated with handwriting and used those signals to create text on a computer in real time.

[37:54 – 38:31] MITMedia Lab ‘AlterEgo’ is a non-invasive, wearable, peripheral neural interface that allows humans to converse in natural language with machines, artificial intelligence assistants, services, and other people without any voice—without opening their mouth, and without externally observable movements—simply by articulating words internally.

 

+N inclusive innovation network launch!

We are thrilled to announce that Inclusive Innovation Network (+N) has officially launched!

On the 1st of September, 2021 we were joined by Jenny Lay-Flurrie and over 250 guests to celebrate the launch of +N, which is the world’s first global community of disability tech startups, innovators, ecosystem enablers and investors who shape future technologies that change the world of disability inclusion.

+N is made possible by Cerebral Palsy Alliance and we are honoured to be part of the +N founding team alongside Global Centre of Possibility, Disability Impact Fund, AssisTech Foundation (ATF), Access to Success Organization, Innovate Now.

You can now rewatch and share this launch event on our YouTube now, and we would like to note this video has been edited to reflect the brilliant feedback we received from our guests on how to make the audio more accessible and a transcript of this event is also available to download.

 

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9I-sUrK1H8Y[/embedyt]

 

[00:29 – 03:49] Minnie Baragwanath, Chief Possibility Officer, Global Centre of Possibility

Welcome to the global launch of the Inclusive Innovation Network or +N I’m Minnie Baragwanath and it’s my absolute privilege to be a founding member of this incredible new network driving and catalyzing social change around the world. +N aims to grow a global community and marketplace of entrepreneurs and innovators who have the skills and the passion to create a future that is truly accessible to everyone. We know that globally disabled people, or people with access needs, are the most excluded of any group in our society today +N is seeking to mobilize the incredible talent in this community globally, to reimagine, invent, design and lead new technology products and services to transform this disabling society into a future of possibility for all. Did you know that many of the products and technologies that we just take for granted in our day-to-day lives were created or designed for, by, or with people living with disability, or access needs. Whether it’s the smartphone, the keyboard, or optical character recognition – these are all innovations that occurred within the access community. Can you imagine what types of world-changing innovations await all of us if we now start to invest intentionally into this community; actively unlocking the skills, the talent and the lives of the billions of people worldwide living with disability or access needs. +N is a network of leading access accelerators growing the next generation of access entrepreneurs, innovators and designers. We are a network of forward-thinking investors, making strategic investments into this possibility laden sector. As the Chief Possibility Officer here at the Global Centre of Possibility in New Zealand Aotearoa and as a blind entrepreneur myself, I know first hand the incredible power of this work. We are currently hot-housing a group of entrepreneurs and their incredible ideas that seek to transform our society and economy. Imagine hundreds of these accelerators all around the world and hundreds and thousands of startups tapping into and growing the 13 trillion dollar market opportunity and that is what +N can be if you choose to join us to create a truly accessible future with the 2 billion people worldwide with access needs. So join us now! We at +N, are seeking progressive investors, designers, technologists, entrepreneurs and social change agents who are all deeply committed to creating a different and more equitable future for us all. It is now my great pleasure to introduce my friend and colleague the Chief Accessibility Officer for Microsoft global Jenny Lay-Flurrie.

 

[03:54 – 14:52] Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer, Microsoft

Hi there folks and thank you to Minnie. I’m excited to be with you today. My name is Jenny Lay-Flurrie. I am the Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft and thrilled to be with you for the official launch of the Inclusive Innovation Network. I’m excited about the potential of what this network can achieve in what is an incredibly important time I think in the history of inclusion. As we look at the diversity of just being human my lens, my focus, is on the area of disability and how accessibility can empower people with disabilities, which means building an ecosystem that is supportive of disability in all its forms. Disability is a big gig. It’s if you look at the statistics, it’s over a billion people and those statistics are 10 years old and that was before a pandemic. Pandemic has undoubtedly added to the demographic of disability. In fact just in the last few weeks long COVID has been recognized as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means that we are in a growing demographic. We were before the pandemic because disability is so closely correlated with age. But it’s going to grow even more in the next five years. If I look at the indicators from the last two. That said, there’s a lot that we can and should be doing right now to make sure that we are more inclusive of talent with disabilities, and I look at where we are today and the demographics today and it’s clear that we have a lot of opportunity ahead. The unemployment and the labor participation rate for people with disabilities is woefully low. In fact, around double that for people with disabilities versus not. I look at education rates, and graduation rates for people with disabilities, and they are significantly lower than their non-disabled peers. When you look at the core and the reasons why, well, it’s not one factor – it is a multitude of layers of inaccessibility and societal stereotypes and stigmas that have rendered people with disabilities, well, many, many brick walls and hurdles. I myself am one. I have deafness, and in fact got deafness through measles as a very small child. I am severely profoundly deaf. I do rely on sign language interpreters and captioning. But my deafness is deceptive because my speech is pretty dang good. I’m from a place in the middle of England and I still withhold my British accent, which is the gift of my deafness, you could say, having been here in the States for 15 years. But like the rest of humanity I don’t just have one disability anymore. As I age – gloriously and elegantly age – I acquire new ones. I have a physical disability in my leg and I have a mental health condition. All of those are covered. All of those are disabilities. But there’s plenty more vision, mobility, speech, neurodiversity, mental health and more. In fact, the majority of disability you cannot see is non-apparent or invisible to the eye. Over 70 percent of disability you would not know by seeing someone. And these blockers, these issues, can be anything very simple. A building may not be accessible to get into for an interview. The interview process may be prohibited for individuals. You may ask someone who’s blind to use equipment never used before, or to write something on a whiteboard. In fact, that scenario could be prohibitive for someone who’s deaf, or has a mobility disability as well. We’re closing doors to talent all the way through. And so it’s incumbent on us all to really think about what we can do in a new and innovative way to drive a new bar of inclusion for people with disabilities. Microsoft, well we laid down a gauntlet earlier this year. We have set a new charter; a new goal, to tackle the disability divide that exists not just here in the States, but around the world, and we want to make an incremental impact on that divide in the next five years. We believe that technology has a significant part to play in solving that divide and not by making stuff compliant, but for driving for a bar higher than compliance driving for technology that is usable, productive, effective, delightful – that opens doors to people. We also think that it’s really important to unblock the talent pipeline by focusing on partnerships with universities and with governments, public and private, to help make sure that the processes for people with disabilities are inclusive. One great example of that is we’re working with the department of work and pensions in the UK to train 26,000 of their Job coaches that work in job centres around the United Kingdom and we’re training them on digital accessibility. So when a person with a disability walks in the door, they know where to go and how to educate them, because they’re already educated themselves. And the last pillar is to really focus on our own workforce. We’re very proud to have a very strong community of people with disabilities at Microsoft, in fact, that’s how I came to be doing what I’m doing today is that I joined the company coming up 16, 17 years ago now and joined in London to work on Hotmail and very quickly found that I needed to be more upfront about my deafness and find others like me so I could get some best practices under my belt. Microsofties like to talk, quite a lot, and it was a little bit different than I thought when I joined the deaf community. I then joined every other that I could. I found there were six at the time, and created the disability employee resource group, which is now 22 different slices of disability around the world. Employees talking about how to work effectively, how to bring their magic and their talents and their expertise into the workplace to help us create better products and services. We did publicly share our representation in the US last year at 6.1 percent, but bluntly, we’ve got a long way to go and we’re really excited to continue to dig into hiring talent, specifically talent with disabilities, but bringing talent in that really understands the world of disability and accessibility and can help us. Whether they’re technical or non-technical, we have a lot of jobs outside of engineering. Ultimately though, one of the biggest things that I get excited about is the opportunity to create technology, processes, products, work environments, that are accessible by design. Where technology is affordable, easy to find, easy to access and it again is going after some of the newest areas of technology, to render new scenarios, open to talent. I’ll give you a couple of quick examples, hopefully, to light a fire. In gaming, Xbox worked a couple of years ago with an amazing group of individuals to figure out how they could make gaming more accessible; particularly for people with mobility, and for those veterans coming back wanting some respite. That resulted in the Xbox Adaptive Controller – a piece of technology that was affordable, designed with, and for, people with disabilities and looks cool. Is awesome, easy to find in the store on the shelf. We also have been working on the core of Windows and Office, making sure that simple technologies like well, colour blindness filters you can see, that there is captioning in Microsoft Teams, that is if you want to check a document to see how accessible, there is an accessibility checker – yes, very similar to spell check – right there to make sure that your document is accessible and by the way it’s using artificial intelligence to tell you what’s missing and make suggestions so make it easier for you to make it more inclusive and accessible. We’re also going to be prompting people and nudging people to say, “Hey, you’re about to send a large email but it’s not accessible. We suggest you make some changes.” And that prompt will be happening for all people using outlook. And lastly, teams that just create completely new visionary pieces of technology. The immersive reader is a great example of this, where a gang got together in a hackathon and created technology for dyslexia specifically to power kids. 5 percent of the population has dyslexia, but most go undiagnosed. But simple features can simply empower a kid sitting next to a kid without dyslexia using the same laptop, the same Microsoft Office, the same environment, but just hitting a single button and making it render 10 percent easier to read. These are simple things built with, and through, and for people with disabilities that will hopefully help to bridge the disability divide. But I’ll tell you now, it’s the tip of the iceberg. So I look forward to hearing and seeing what you do. I look forward to hearing how you’re partnering with the experts – people with disabilities – and helping us collectively, as a global society to change the lens on disability, because this is one of the biggest, if not the biggest talent pools, untapped Talent pools out there today and that’s got to change. Thank you so much and I look forward to you having just an incredible event, an incredible time, and be the change. Take care, bye.

 

[15:05 – 15:34] Jani Jalavisto, Partner, Disability Impact Fund

Good morning, afternoon and evening to everyone, and welcome to the first-ever +N investor fireside chat. My name is Yani, I’m a partner at Disability Impact Fund and I’m here today with three friends to have a, discussion on investing in accessibility and inclusion. So first of all here we have Lucas who is the Founder of Amparo a really exciting prosthetic startup. Hi Lucas.

 

[15:34 – 15:39] Lucas Paes de Melo, CEO & Co-Founder, Amparo

Hi Yani, thank you so much for the invitation I’m happy to be here.

 

[15:39 – 15:41] Jani Jalavisto, Partner, Disability Impact Fund

And then we have Gina, she’s the Founder of SmartJob, a groundbreaking new investment fund changing the future of work. Welcome, Gina!

 

[15:48 – 15:50] Regina “Gina” Kline, Founder and CEO, SmartJob, LLC

Thank you Yani so much.

 

[15:50 – 15:58] Jani Jalavisto, Partner, Disability Impact Fund

And last but not least Shashaank. Shashaank is with Gray Ghost Ventures, one of the early success stories in impact investing. So welcome Shashaank.

 

[15:58 – 16:05] Shashaank Awasthi, India Advisor, Gray Ghost Ventures

Thanks for having me Yani, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Lucas and Gina.

 

[16:05 – 16:37] Jani Jalavisto, Partner, Disability Impact Fund

And so Lucas, as a founder I know you’ve done your fair share of fundraising and I’m pretty sure during that process every now and then you’ve wondered, “What on earth are the guys on the other side of the table thinking?” and so today you have this really special opportunity to sit down with two actually friendly faces from the other side of the table and have an honest conversation on everything that is bothering you. And so, so what do you want to ask Gina and Shashaank?

 

[16:37 – 17:48] Lucas Paes de Melo, CEO & Co-Founder, Amparo

Yeah so it’s really an unusual situation, and it’s actually quite interesting to be able to chat with people whom I talk to and negotiate with on an ongoing basis. As a matter of fact, since I’m fundraising right now, this has been happening quite a lot and one of the questions that I always ask to impact investors is, “How do they see and measure impact?” And the reason why I ask this because it’s very important for me to be aligned with the people that are going to be sitting on the same table as me after the investment is done, so there are no frustrations, for none of the sides actually, on people being able to see the impact measurement and the impact alignment. Because you can do it by focus, by area, by depth, in so many different ways. And as a follow-up question, it would be very interesting to see how they as investors account for the impact when they’re making the investment decision-making process in comparison to the financial projections of the company.

 

[17:48 – 20:06] Regina “Gina” Kline, Founder and CEO, SmartJob, LLC

Yeah, so I think Lucas that this is maybe a rather untraditional view, but SmartJob was created and founded with the intention of using a disability lens investing with the singular idea of closing the disability wealth gap and materially changing the employment experience around the globe, for the nearly two-thirds of working-age people with disabilities who are experiencing an unemployment crisis. The impact is in everything that we do. We are essentially a global company looking for the best ideas around the world that will materially change the employment experience. That that predicates what comes into our deal flow into our sources sourcing into our pipeline I should say that also has to do with how we view the material long-term revenue potential of early-stage companies. We see the impact potential of any prospective company as being causally linked with its ability to earn revenue and produce a substantial financial return in the future. That these two things are not disparate ideas, they are, in fact, working together and here’s why we know that universally designed solutions – solutions that are designed with everybody in mind – have more revenue potential than other solutions. We know that products and services that have been tested ideated, brought to minimum viable products, by people with lived experiences of disabilities, have more universal application in the market. And so our investment lens is focused on four main areas: we focus on upskilling and reskilling work, underrepresented founders with disabilities, we’re focused on work-related tech, supporting accelerators in incubators around the world that are all very much focused on closing the disability wealth gap. We know that a good investment, the right investment thesis has to include who is creating the ideas based on what experiences and how will it materially drive changes in the market as it relates to the employment of people with disabilities.

 

[20:06 – 23:53] Shashaank Awasthi, India Advisor, Gray Ghost Ventures

So I want to start off by first placing on record the unfairness of Yani letting Gina in first – she said everything there is to be said in the first place. Right and then Lucas, before I try to answer the two questions, I must say thank you for having that background. It’s always nice to see the work that entrepreneurs are doing. So thank you for having the posters behind you. I’ll try and answer the two questions that you asked from our experience. We’ve been fortunate to be around for a little while. The first question was about ongoing alignment, right the frustrations of you know what should I say drift, or people thinking differently, I would encourage you to not worry too much about that because your own pathway is still not defined. Right your pathway is going to be…so an equity investor is going to be your partner for a minimum about, you know, at the barest minimum for five, seven years all right, probably longer. So I think you know you should worry about the ability to have alignment with whoever you’re speaking with. Right, because there’s going to be lots of changes that we’ve seen. You know things start one way, they go a different way when we hit the market and things like that right. And I think that’s true for all business and personal relationships that we engage in. So that’s sort of one part. The second part is about how do we measure. so for us, we put a dollar value to the impact that any businesses it creates. That’s one of the first conversations that we have with any entrepreneur. Right so we say, “Okay here is the aspiration of the impact that you want to make, here’s the dollar value” and we report that dollar value to the people whose money we are managing. I can tell you that in many conversations I observe a certain gesture which I think really tells me where the problem will impact an investor which is when people ask us this question, they almost always use this they say, “How do you think about impact and investment?” and this indicates that one of them has to operate at the expense of the other right. I can tell you for us and for most impact investors what’s very important to remember is that impact is the asset class that we are a part of. The second thing is I’ve had lots of conversations around what kind of returns do you want in equity. The fundamental difference, and Yani please allow me a little bit of latitude here, but the fundamental difference between fixed income and equity is that you cannot gun for a certain return on equity. It doesn’t work like that. Equity as a product doesn’t work like that. You have to negotiate a point of entry and you can negotiate a point of exit and that gives you the kind of return that you look at. So you cannot start off by saying that I’m going to look for sub-market returns, market meeting returns, or whatever right. So when people talk about being able to control returns for equity it’s very fascinating because I don’t know how to do that right and I can’t imagine how that gets done. And we all report in hindsight. Fixed income if you held to maturity will be able to tell you what returns you can get. So I would say that you have to recognize that investors. For you are basically asset managers like Gina and me, and we have responsibilities to people that we have raised money from, and that is to be able to invest in the category that delivers impact. And in that, we have to aspire to deliver good returns. What I can assure you, having learned from some very, very smart entrepreneurs is that you, or anybody else is not playing for sub-market returns. Markets behave in ways we don’t understand, right?

 

[23:53 – 26:18] Lucas Paes de Melo, CEO & Co-Founder, Amparo

No, thank you, thank you so much for bringing your piece of knowledge and your piece of information to this question in particular. And the point is also that we see and I find it very interesting to mention that’s the impact as a category because sometimes that’s not necessarily how it’s spoken right because I do believe that you can create both impact and gains and profits at the same place and that’s kind of like how for-profit organizations that create impact go for. But sometimes the profits can take a little bit longer, or sometimes you give bigger discounts for countries or for areas and geographical areas where they could not afford high paying prices and that will reflect on the revenues – that will reflect on the profits. Because if you’re only selling to developed countries, or if you sell to developing countries, you definitely have a different balance sheet right? And that is the question that comes to my mind because then impact becomes a keyword that is used as branding for some people that would like to create good in the world. But in the…as a matter of fact, in the end, the only thing that really matters are the financial returns of the game in the end. And I’m not saying the investors should not worry about it, of course, investors, they put money because they’re expecting to have a return. Nevertheless some of this return the returns are not necessarily accounted for in forms of impact but in forms of how the return comes in terms of money. And that’s kind of a question that comes to I think many early-stage companies of how, why are they even measuring impacts because sometimes investors just say oh this is a nice product and it creates impact. We create prosthetic legs for example. And for some people, that is enough. This means that oh you give a leg to someone – someone can walk – great! But actually, impact is measuring so many different ways, like how was the situation before the person had a leg? What is the situation with a different product? And hours, for how long can we help someone to actually walk again? And what is the depth of, what is the length and what is the timeline of the impact? And a lot of investors, they are not accounting that for on their financial decisions and that is something that could be frustrating for real impact startups or companies.

 

[26:18 – 26:53] Jani Jalavisto, Partner, Disability Impact Fund

That’s all the time we have today folks, it was a really interesting conversation and a lot was left unsaid, so I’m sure we will pick up from here on another occasion. And I hope everyone watching enjoyed and stay tuned for our next chat where we’ll pick up where we left here. Goodbye. Goodbye everyone.

 

[26:53 – 27:53] Bernard Chiira, Director of Innovate Now

Hello there, my name is Bernard Chiira, the Director of Innovate Now, Africa’s first assistive technology accelerator program out of Nairobi, Kenya. Now I believe that technology and entrepreneurship have important roles to play in ending the exclusion of those of us with disabilities. That is why I’m very excited to share with you about the Inclusive Innovation Network, +N. Over the last one year, or so, together with like-minded peers from Australia, India, New Zealand, Canada and Hong Kong, we have envisioned and founded +N, a global community of innovators, accelerators and investors, dedicated to growing the impact of technology and entrepreneurship on disability inclusion.

 

[27:53 – 28:32] Varun Chandak Founder of Access to Success Labs

Hi everyone, my name is Varun Chandak, and I’m the Founder of ATS Labs, Canada’s first accelerator for accessibility, mental health and ageing tech startups. Disability and accessibility are not limited by borders. The topics that need to be addressed at a global scale. And that’s why I’m absolutely stoked to have ATS labs become a founding member of the Inclusive Innovation Network, where I hope innovators, investors and accelerators will come together from across the world. There has never been a better time to be in the world of accessibility. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

 

[28:32 – 29:08] Jani Jalavisto, Partner, Disability Impact Fund

Hello from China! At Disability Impact Fund our vision is a world where everyone has equal possibility to participate, a world where no barriers, physical, or social, stop anyone from pursuing their passion. We believe technology and entrepreneurship have a crucial role to play and realizing this vision and since exclusion and inaccessibility are both global problems, we’re going to need global solutions. That’s why we’re so excited to be a part of +N. Our dream for +N is to see hundreds of local innovations scaled to become global solutions.

 

[29:08 – 30:40] Prateek Madhav, Founder and CEO, AssisTech Foundation

Hello, my name is Prateek Madhav. I’m the Founder and CEO of AssisTech Foundation – ATF. ATF is India’s first assistive technology-focused ecosystem that supports and promotes innovative disability technology startups. ATF’s goal has been to create more awareness about the world of disability and bring about a positive impact to the startups we nurture. It’s truly magical that we are in an age where many paths that are closed due to disability can be opened with innovative technology. It gives me immense pleasure that ATF is now a founding team of Inclusive Innovation Network, +N. Through +N we hope to unite innovators, startups and investors globally and partner with disability-focused organizations and the community of people with disabilities. +N is a phenomenal platform for startups to access global markets, connect with investors beyond borders and be a part of a worldwide community of assistive technology innovators. +N is committed to help them build a sustainable enterprise with their products being used across the globe. My dream for +N is to help build one global mission to make this world inclusive for people with disabilities, thank you.

 

[30:40 – 31:22] Pete Horsley, Founder, Remarkable

Welcome to the Founder Fireside. My name is Pete Horsley, I’m the Founder of Remarkable – where technology meets human potential. It gives me great pleasure to introduce three incredible founders to you today. +N hopes to bring together founders so that they can learn from each other, their experience, their knowledge. And today, we’ve got founders from India, Canada and Australia, to bring to you some of their story. So give us the elevator pitch for your businesses.

 

[31:22 – 31:51] Melissa Fuller, Co-Founder and Director, AbilityMade

AbilityMade exists so that people with disability can access the equipment they need to live their best life. We help orthotists…so we help them meet the demands of their local communities, which, unfortunately, are alarmingly underserved. And we do that by providing a digital solution for manufacturing custom made ankle-foot orthoses. In other words, AFO’s.

 

[31:51 – 32:27] Narayanan “Nadu” Ramakrishnan, CEO, Avaz Inc

So AVAZ is a communication app for people with disabilities. Since 2009 we’ve changed the life of over 100,000 people and their families in over 50 different countries. It is used by people with autism, cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions. AVAZ enables these people to communicate their thoughts, their ideas, by which they are able to gain access to education, become independent and get included in mainstream society.

 

[32:27 – 32:45] Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, CEO, Braze Mobility

At Braze Mobility we’ve developed the world’s first blind spot sensor system that can be added to any wheelchair transforming it into a smart wheelchair that automatically detects obstacles and provides alerts to the user through intuitive lights, sounds, and vibrations.

 

[32:45 – 32:55] Pete Horsley, Founder, Remarkable

So we can understand your context, let us know a little bit about your business right now. What’s the number of staff and the number of customers that you’re currently serving?

 

[32:55 – 32:57] Narayanan “Nadu” Ramakrishnan, CEO, Avaz Inc

So we have about 15 people on the team

 

[32:57 – 33:08] Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, CEO, Braze Mobility

Today we have over 150 customers and in terms of our core team, we have really four people on our core management team.

 

[33:08 – 33:26] Melissa Fuller, Co-Founder and Director, AbilityMade

So our team is at 14 at the moment. Last year was a pretty good one for us, we produced and delivered 350 custom-made 3d printed AFOs and empowered approximately 180 children, who now have increased independence.

 

[33:26 – 33:34] Pete Horsley, Founder, Remarkable

I want you to take us back to where it all started and tell us what the world was like when you first began your business.

 

[33:34 – 34:55] Narayanan “Nadu” Ramakrishnan, CEO, Avaz Inc

So back in 2009 there’s a school here in Chennai called, Vidya Sagar and they had organized a conference called the Silent Revolution, which brought in product designers from a lot of the top universities in the city and showcases to them what the different kind of challenges that people with speech disabilities face. So back in 2009, if you had a speech disability, you were dependent on like low-tech pictures that you would show those picture exchange systems, or you were dependent on extremely expensive, like five to ten thousand dollar bulky devices that were imported from the west. That was the problem that we wanted to kind of solve and Vidya Sagar was one of the schools that kind of really encouraged us to go ahead and solve this problem. At that point in time, these bulky imported devices that you used to get, didn’t have any kind of maintenance or support in India. One, but more importantly, none of them be contextualized for the Indian environment itself. So at the heart of it, ours is a communication app right. So if we are going to have a discussion about say the food in India, it’s going to be very different for the conversation if you were talking about food in Australia or Canada. So that’s why that contextualization is very important.

 

[34:55 – 36:24] Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, CEO, Braze Mobility

That’s a really interesting question, I think origin stories are already always interesting. Mine I would say started in 2006. I had just graduated from the computer science program at Waterloo and I visited a long-term care facility for the first time, where I noticed a lot of the residents were slumped over in manual wheelchairs that they didn’t have the strength to self-propel. And they weren’t allowed to use power wheelchairs because of safety concerns. So a lot of them had dementia or other cognitive impairments that unfortunately excluded them from the use of power mobility devices. I saw this as a violation of a fundamental human right. Unfortunately, there was no company that was working on this problem at the time, and the technology was also not really there. You know, it was very early stages of sensor technologies even in the automotive industry. And so the most sensible place that you know it seemed like I should go to was academia, and so I ended up doing my PhD and my postdoctoral research on smart wheelchairs and, and you know, fast forward to 2016, I was now a postdoctoral fellow and there was still no industry player solving this problem. And so really more than anything else, just out of frustration I ended up taking the leap out of the academic world into this scary, yet super exciting world of startups. So that’s when I founded the company in 2016.

 

[36:24 – 37:10] Melissa Fuller, Co-Founder and Director, AbilityMade

AbilityMade started out as a grassroots maker community. Back then, I mean me personally, I was sort of not in the loop. I think I missed the memo about entrepreneurship and startups being a thing. It was pretty early on in our journey where we met you, Pete and the team at the time from Remarkable, and that was really, really special and really important for us because there weren’t that many disability tech focused startups that were out there. And there weren’t that Many case studies or success stories that were public and well-known and so I think that’s a really important thing for the ecosystem.

 

[37:10 – 37:14] Pete Horsley, Founder, Remarkable

What are some of the pivotal moments that you’ve had in developing your business?

 

[37:14 – 38:59] Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, CEO, Braze Mobility

And so we went on this road trip to Washington DC and we went to this conference that was one of the largest rehab conferences in North America. We set up our booth there and really had no idea what to expect. And when we went there we were a huge hit! We had a ton of therapists that were sort of flocking around the booth and telling us how awesome the product was, and how it really solved the need, and how they already had clients they could think of. I think what was the most exciting thing was one of the therapists at that conference actually ended up going back and was a therapist in the US Department of Veterans Affairs and so that particular veterans affairs site wanted to purchase our system. Of course, this was exciting and scary at the same time because this was going to be our first sale, but we actually weren’t quite ready to sell. All we had was this prototype, but wasn’t quite commercial quality and we didn’t plan on launching until October of the year and this was in June or July and so we weren’t quite ready. But the customer couldn’t looked at our supply chain and we looked at where the bottlenecks were and how we could expedite it. And it turns out, the only way we could get a product in the customer’s hand within the next month was if we flew to China and lined up some manufacturers beforehand and brought the parts back with us. And so that’s what we did. And so we had everything organized when we got in there a couple of days before, we were about to head back, all the parts into our hotel room and we flew all the parts in and assembled all the units and got the system out to our customers. So that was crazy and you know rewarding and everything at the same time. But it was really exciting because that was our first sale.

 

[38:59 – 40:18] Melissa Fuller, Co-Founder and Director, AbilityMade

You know, starting AbilityMade and being a part of it and growing it has changed my life. But I would say that some of the most memorable times, I won’t list them all, would probably be so day one to day three of our crowdfunding campaign. The story or the solution that we were presenting seemed conceivable in many people’s minds. So the crowdfunding campaign we set out to raise, I think it was $25,000 and we’d get you know cash injection through ING Bank who was one of the sponsors at the time. And we ended up raising after day three, ending up equating to $100,000! And then really soon after, the next pivotal moment for me personally but also AbilityMade was for sure the Remarkable Demo Day. The pitch was like one of the most nerve-wracking evenings I think I’ve ever experienced. But like so very rewarding to push myself outside of my comfort zone and yeah and sell our vision you know that was a really cool experience.

 

[40:18 – 41:34] Narayanan “Nadu” Ramakrishnan, CEO, Avaz Inc

So back in 2013 or when we had just released the product we got a chance to go to Denmark, Copenhagen for an assistive technology conference and that’s when we showcased AVAZ. And there was, there was this lady who was heading the Autism Society of Denmark who looked at our product and was just kind of flawed by the fact that they don’t have anything like this in Denmark. And that kind of was a moment where we realized that we had built something which was obviously applicable in India and kind of contextualized to India, but we could scale it to like different geographies and different locations, by figuring out how we want to position the entire language and the communication system itself. So that was one critical and pivotal point because first, we did a lot of collaborations with different countries. So we released the Danish version, we released the French version. Obviously, there was an English/US version for North America. We then released an Italian version. So the languages then started coming up because a lot of people, a lot of parents and organizations from those countries approached us asking us to collaborate and create a product.

 

[41:34 – 41:42] Pete Horsley, Founder, Remarkable

What advice would you give to other founders in different parts of the world trying to grow businesses for impact?

 

[41:42 – 42:28] Narayanan “Nadu” Ramakrishnan, CEO, Avaz Inc

So I think one kind of important piece of advice would be to get product-market fit. I know it’s a bit of a cliche term, but I think it’s important to also understand what product-market fit actually means. Which is one, is that the product is of has to be right for the customer. But also it means that there is a market that you can reach out to, or you have channels that you have figured out to monetize that right. So how do you take it to the customer, as well. So product market fit is not only about like your product working for x number of people, but also how do you get that distribution also right, or what are the channels to get right. I think that is an important aspect that one should think as you’re starting and if you’re new.

 

[42:28 – 43:29] Melissa Fuller, Co-Founder and Director, AbilityMade

I was given this advice early on and it has really been a savior for me. It’s a quote by an African American lesbian activist and that caring for yourself is not self-indulgent it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare. And her name was Audrey Lorde and that stuck with me because the work that you do when you’re doing it with a purpose and you have a community of people who are left out and marginalized, like the pressure is up. You have a lot on your shoulders, a lot, and you have more on your shoulders than you know a just you know just a commercial corporate company. That can be crushing sometimes and I guess if you’re not caring for yourself and doing things that preserve yourself then you know there’s risk factors there.

 

[43:29 – 44:10] Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, CEO, Braze Mobility

I think one of the biggest pieces of advice I can really give to any assistant technology company is I see so many assistive tech products for people with disability that are really not usable And I think part of the part of that is because oftentimes the end-users are not involved in the design process. So I would highly recommend making the end-user really part of, not just the design and development process, but also the go-to-market strategy. Because when it comes to sales and marketing, it’s also really important to build a brand and a message that actually resonates with your end-users.

 

[44:10 – 44:14] Pete Horsley, Founder, Remarkable

What does a network like +N mean to you?

 

[44:14 – 45:11] Narayanan “Nadu” Ramakrishnan, CEO, Avaz Inc

A network like +N really helps in two crucial aspects. One is just learning – learning from other startups. This community will play a big role in us creating better solutions for the market as well. I think the other aspect in which this network will be really helpful, is that of partnerships and distribution. So for example, we partner with organizations in different countries to create a custom version of ours in their language, specific to their geographies but it would really be helpful to have another company, or a partner there who can take it to market. Because they know they would know the market better. They would understand the customer and their language better than us sitting in India and trying to do some of that. So I think that’s where this network is really it’s going to be powerful where in better AT solutions will come up, and better distribution channels will come up.

 

[45:11 – 45:37] Melissa Fuller, Co-Founder and Director, AbilityMade

And yeah so I guess the network means that we’ll have a hyper-scalable platform to engage and learn from each other, which is really exciting. And the last thing I would say is that it means that we’ll be able to form interpersonal ties you know with people who work hard assert themselves, and then use their imaginations to shape the world and there should be more of that’s a really cool thing.

 

[45:37 – 46:32] Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, CEO, Braze Mobility

You know I think in this day and age it’s so important to think about becoming a global company from day one. You know I think a lot of companies maybe start off saying well I’m gonna you know start small, and then maybe a few years think about you know going international and for us +N means access to you know global community. And now as we’re looking to go overseas as well, we’re looking at European markets, you know we’re just rolling out in Australia, New Zealand right now, I think it’s really exciting because I think accessibility is a global issue and so being able to understand what some of the geographic barriers are, you know, how funding is different in different places, I think having a network that we can now start using to share market intel and these resources that we have is going to be phenomenal. So I’m super excited about +N and I really just can’t wait to get involved!

 

[46:43 – 47:11] Varun Chandak Founder of Access to Success Labs

Hey again everyone, I hope you enjoyed learning about the Inclusive Innovation Network today. But, what now? Well, now you should have a button available on your screen. If you click on it, it will take you to a short form where you can let us know what you’d like to see from the network. You can also tell us there if you’d like to become a member. I hope you do. Wherever you might be watching from I hope you have a wonderful rest of the day or evening. Thank you.

 

Learn more about +N by subscribing to their newsletter and following them on LinkedIn!

5 Reasons why the world needs +N

+N logo which includes rainbow colour text '+N' accompanied by bold black text 'inclusive innovation network'. Underneath the logo is a purple button with white text 'inclusiveinnovationnetwork.org/launch'This week marks another momentous occasion in the development of Remarkable as we launch +N, The Inclusive Innovation Network. We feel an incredible privilege and responsibility for this work – there is an excitement in the team for what is emerging.

Momentum is hard to create.

Some say that when one door closes, another opens. That was certainly the case for us when some potential funding to launch a US Remarkable Accelerator didn’t eventuate in 2019. And to make matters worse, after having traveled to the US a couple of times to start feeling out the beginnings of a network there, the world locked down at the beginning of 2020, restricting travel and surely putting an end to expanding Remarkable.

Instead, we started to look around for other like-minded organisations who, like us, could see the potential of innovation in technology to break down barriers to inclusion. The next chapter of discovery could be developed into a mini-series but in the interest of time let’s look at the key milestones:

Something was brewing!

We began meeting and dreaming of what was possible. A network to connect disparate activities around the world needed to be central. And now here we are.

So why are we launching +N? Here are 5 reasons why the world needs +N.

 

1. Inclusion: We build what we hope for

The world is not as inclusive as it could be. So we can and must do all we can to break down barriers to full inclusion. 15% of the world’s population have some form of disability, a talent pool is largely ignored and untapped. The world needs this talent to solve some of the greatest challenges of our time.

2. Network: Startups thrive on networks

We regularly encourage startups to increase their surface area to help them learn, iterate and grow. They can’t have all the answers to the challenges that inevitably confront startups. Networks of expertise and experience are lifeblood for startups. What if there was a hivemind you could turn to, to find out how to overcome some of those challenges? What if, when considering launching into another market in another part of the world, there were startups in those locations, helping you navigate a potential go-to-market approach?

3. Capital: There’s not enough capital in Disability Tech

That’s it. That’s the point.
There.
Just.
Isn’t.

We will change that by sniffing out aligned investors from all over the world and providing one focal point to find great companies making a big impact.

4. Growth: Accelerating the accelerators

Remarkable is constantly iterating and changing as we learn and grow. We learn from our counterparts in other sectors, but we also want to accelerate our learning by learning how others are accelerating and growing great businesses in disability tech and innovation.

5. Community: Like breeds like

Prateek, Noel, Minnie, Jani, Randy, Varun, Bernard – are all brilliant leaders we hold the utmost respect for. Already we’re starting to meet other awesome folks – Gina, Cathy, Narayanan, Pooja, Shashaank, Lucas. I couldn’t think of people we’d rather hang out with.

 

So inclusion, network, capital, growth and good people we want to hang with – are just 5 of the reasons why the world needs +N right now! And on that note, this week we’re excited to invite the world to the global launch event of +N on 1st September and you can check out the promo video of what’s to come!

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71uCy18vzG0[/embedyt]

An audio-described version of this video is available on our YouTube channel.

 

Register for the launch of +N now at, https://inclusiveinnovationnetwork.org/launch