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!

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

Thinking Beyond Future of Work

Did you know that in Australia 48% of working age (aged 15-64) people with disability are employed compared with 80% of people without disability? The inequality of these statistics is even more shocking when compared to studies that prove the strong benefits of hiring people with disability, from more loyal employees and customers to a richer pool of talent, to greater product designs, the list goes on. So when thinking beyond the future of work improving employment participation rates for people with disabilities in today’s labor force is a critical global issue. Another particularly critical part of this issue is that while the world redefines a “new normal” we’re presented with an opportunity to collaborate with disability-led innovators to help transform the workforce and in turn, pave the way for a more inclusive society.

This is part of Remarkable Insights Series. There is significant opportunity to leverage technological innovation to drive an inclusive future. But who is left behind as technology transforms the society around us. How might we use Remarkable Insights to create an inclusive now?

Panel

Moderator

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhJ05_E_ZLg[/embedyt]

The views expressed are solely those of the contributors.

Definitions of some of the terms that are mentioned throughout the conversation:

  • AIArtificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The term may also be applied to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind such as learning and problem-solving.
  • NDISThe National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a scheme of the Australian Government that funds costs associated with disability. The scheme was legislated in 2013 and went into full operation in 2020

Pete [00:04]: Welcome to our next remarkable insights beyond the future of work. My name is Pete Horsley. I’m the founder of remarkable we’re the startup venture arm of Cerebral Palsy Alliance it’s so good to have you with us today. Remarkable as I said is a division of Cerebral Palsy Alliance and we have the backing of a number of partners icare, Telstra, Vivcourt and Microsoft. Remarkable is really the place where technology meets human potential and we do this mainly through our 14-week accelerator program for early-stage startups equipping them with seed funding the knowledge the skills the networks to be able to grow and commercialise their technology I want to begin also by acknowledging the traditional owners owners of the land i’m on Gadigal land and this is their land it was never seeded and it’s always sacred I pay my respects to elders past present and emerging and I acknowledged that we have people joining from many other places both here in Australia and around the world and i’ve paid my respect to the traditional owners in those places too i’ll also acknowledge the disability advocates who have come before us in advancing the rights of people with disability they’ve paved the way for us and we carry both a privilege and a responsibility because of the work that they have done and the only way to really think and create the inclusive now is to do so collectively together with them

 

Pete [01:43]: So today’s event beyond the future of work is part of remarkable insights it’s a series of webinars exploring the question of who’s left behind as technology transforms the society around us we know there’s a significant opportunity to leverage technological innovation to drive an inclusive future and so remarkable ask the questions how might we create an inclusive now so for anyone who wants to join the conversation on socials please use on twitter facebook and Linkedin our handle is @remarkabletech and on instagram at remarkable underscore tech and if you could also please use the the hashtag remarkable insights as well this event has live captioning by otter AI and also we have hopefully an auslan interpreter joining us very very soon we’ll be recording this event and it will be made available to post events on our remarkable tech youtube channel and be sure to subscribe to subscribe to that today we are joined by Gina Kline founder and ceo of smart job, Sue Boyce CEO of abilityworks Australia and Dwayne Fernandes co-founder of minds at play and disability inclusion part now it’s so good to have you all here welcome and it’s so good to have all the people who are joining us on this webinar as well and for those who will watch it afterwards so we’ve all seen statistics around labor force participation rates for people with disabilities they’re low or possibly they’re very light here comes jerry our auslan interpreter so Gerry Shearim thank you for joining us it’s so good to have you here if you’d like to pin jerry’s video on there for those who do require auslan that would be great welcome jerry we’ve all seen the the statistics around low labor force participation rates for people with disability and depending on what part of your world that you’re living in that is either low or incredibly low and it doesn’t just impact income and economic security but it also impacts other areas of of life like well-being housing and people’s place in the community so Gina I might start with you talking about closing the disability wealth gap. Why have you focused on this kind of core area of focus for your impact investment fund?

 

Gina [04:36]: Thank you Pete and any opportunity to speak with you Pete I’m always there this is so much so exciting with such lovely panelists so thanks for my inclusion so answering your question live from Washington DC area here in America why do I want to focus on the closing the disability wealth gap as we all do because people with disabilities globally are the most conspicuously unemployed group of people on earth that’s why we’re dealing with statistics that are dramatic and have remained so for quite some time there are nearly two-thirds of working-age people with disabilities around the globe that are not in the labor market. let’s just think about that for a moment we’re talking when we’re speaking about disability we’re speaking about an innate characteristic of the human experience if you don’t have a disability today you might age into a disability tomorrow and statistically, we’re talking about 20 you know 20 of people on earth with some relationship disability at this point in time so if the question should be rephrased Pete Horsley why are we not focusing more on closing the disability wealth gap because the ramifications are global they have to do with a multi-trillion-dollar hole in the global GDP and in the economy, civil societies around the globe are spending billions of dollars of public expenditure on medical models of disability and supervision caregiving and support but the whole that is in the economy is about talent and there are people that are out that should be in and that’s our investment thesis at Smartjob.

 

Pete [6:32] I always say who are the people that we’re not hearing from that can help help solve some of the big challenges that we’ve got we’re obviously all living through a global pandemic right now where we’re kind of subject to climate change and some of the impacts around that there are so many challenges that if we’re not collectively hearing all the voices around us then we’re actually losing out on on seeing innovative solutions come there’s talk of a growing number of organisations starting to wake up to that opportunity around this kind of neglected talent pool and also as a way of being just surely more representative of their own customer base because people with disability make up 20% of the population and also as this kind of source of innovative thinking as well Dwayne are you seeing a greater openness around diversity and inclusion in policy and practice and then at a high level you’ve been involved in kind of policy and practice change so what’s actually changing to shift workplaces to be more inclusive for people with disability?

 

Dwayne [07:46] So generally speaking I think as a society we’re still at a foundational level and there are people over here that have been actively doing this since 1963. you’ll meet her later she’s in this panel and and in this space what we’re noticing is that how can we still be at a foundational level after all those years now some organisations are far ahead of others but overall I don’t think we’ve gone anywhere that with being super super inclusive what I did experience quite recently that really changed the way the the way it worked through is that where I am right now in department of planning and industry environment DPIE they are working on accessible policies for national parks they have created a workplace adjustments passport so you come in and you tell them you need a few things and you literally fill out a form and I got my entire my minor adjustment and my major adjustment in a span of three hours for like that’s unheard of like there’s a there’ll be an article about that somewhere that’ll pop up but but that’s unheard of but the fact that that is unheard of is a problem why isn’t that not a standard why is it the personalisation I need to do my day job not something that everybody gets and if you think about it it’s not about inclusion it’s personalisation and I use an iPhone or whatever technology but i’m quite sure the apps on my phone are different to where your apps are that’s personalisation in the same way you do work you don’t need to all do it the same way we’re still moving away from that role description model of how we do things to actually how focusing on the outcomes back to you Pete.

 

Pete [09:46] That’s amazing and and I love that kind of thought around yeah what we’re talking about here is is personalisation it’s what do we need to do to do our best work and we want all of our staff all of our leaders to to be in that same position as well globally there’s there’s big shifts in workforce needs as well as we embrace kind of more technology and as labor shifts away from kind of manual repetitive tasks to perhaps higher order thinking creativity and they’ve even talked about resilience is kind of one of these the newly needed skills in in work and while this might be good for some people within our disability community they innately come with some of those skills alarm bells could be ringing for those that work closely with people with intellectual disability and so you’ve looked at this shift in technology differently you’ve you’ve been able to show how technical technological transformation can actually if it’s done in an inclusive way actually offer people with disabilities better access to the job market i’d love to for you to explain some of those the the situations that you’re working in right now?

 

Sue [11:02] so i’ll give you a specific example we have a light engineering facility where we do wire metal fabrication and we manufacture products for building and construction and we trialled Microsoft HoloLens headsets using augmented reality to for one of our manufacturing machines and so what we did was we the headsets will take someone who has to work the machine from start to finish and take them through the whole process but in addition to that we we used programmers who were experts in gaming technology so it was also a bit of fun because the work is quite repetitive and so the combination of you know showing them so anybody who had who has problems with sequencing you know remembering what comes next or just remembering the entirety of the task the HoloLens will just you know help them through that and you know smiley faces pop up and trees are growing when you get something right and so it’s just very motivating as well and that’s how we’ve been able to get people who wouldn’t normally be able to do a particular task to do something that’s more challenging for them.

 

Pete [12:26] I love that and I think you know they talk about that AI isn’t actually replacing jobs it’s a person plus AI is actually going to be the thing that wins and I love what you’re doing in that space Dwayne you’re a multiple record holder as a double amputee stair climber and much like climbing towers most of the time all the effort seems to be put in by the applicant with disability to ask for those adjustments that they need what should we be doing differently?

 

Dwayne [13:02] all right so and i’ll get to that probably a little bit later on but I suspect what we need to do is take it away from from the individual saying I can do the following things and go at it usually the job that is not built for them if you look at your strengths and apply to those strengths you should apply for things that work for you right now because if society overall is at this foundational standing lean into your strengths and apply for things that are your strengths in that distributed space I know that’s not great but from an organisational perspective you need to do a cosplay of analysis going which types of disability can you hire into your job that actually adds a low financial cost to maintain now when I talk about that now I know that’s a touchy area over here effectively if you’re thinking about something like this bus driver person who’s blind doesn’t make sense right but amputee in a bus driver yeah sure it’s a simple adjustments and it’s about taking it away from rather than us going at it from an individual perspective we need to come at it like a large societal perspective find a spot that works for everybody being that we’re at the foundational level still and it’s not the greatest news but I think that’s the step we need to take now so that the next level afterwards is going well why did we stop people from this community applying to this job what was the stupid investment decision I made that prevented this much population from applying for this job or able to service this percentage let’s take it that way society because we’re in that societal model of disability not the medical model thank you

 

Pete [14:54] That’s great Dwayne as I said it’s okay if our panelists do disagree we don’t mind that it can sometimes make for more interesting viewing so if anyone does want to disagree with Dwayne that’s okay as well? There was a report released by ILO in 2019 that outlined five key objectives for inclusion of people with disability in the future of work and they they included number one new forms of employer employment and employment relations to integrate disability inclusion number two skills development for lifelong learning made inclusive of persons with disability number three universal design embedded in development of all new infrastructure products services number four assistive technologies existing and newly developed to make affordable to be made affordable and available and number five measures to include persons with disabilities in growing and developing areas of the economy gina I’ve spoken to you a number of times and I can hear lots of parallels between that report and what you’re doing and I know you travel to kind of almost every state in the us when you’re you’re an American civil rights lawyer particularly looking at at what’s working in disability service I’m interested in in hearing your opinion on what’s what’s both the burning platform and also the opportunity we’ve got right now starting to emerge hopefully from a global pandemic

 

Gina [16:32] well you’re still on youtube excuse me thank you Pete for such a lovely question so and a loaded a loaded question I see you’re wanting me to you want me to disagree with Dwayne maybe i’ll start to disagree with myself as I get the answer you know I did travel through a number of states in the united states as a civil rights lawyer and I think that it it informed me about where where workers with disabilities are in the American economy but also in the global marketplace there’s a long history of discrimination against people with disabilities not only in the united states but in the world and part of that principally amounted to exclusion from discriminatory exclusion from the workplace there’s been a long and storied civil rights movement that precedes our conversations tonight with so many people that have advanced and vindicated the rights of people with disabilities to be treated equally to be included in workplaces and they’ve done so with the suggestion that people should not be given different opportunities disparity in pay disparity and advancement and opportunity on the basis of disability alone but now you you mentioned a loaded term the the burning platform which suggests that we’re caught between a rock and a hard place so to speak that the platform is on fire do we stay or do we dive in and do something differently because there we have to change up what we’re doing and what does that mean why did you ask me that question well we’ve had a long history of civil rights but we haven’t had a corresponding or concomitant increase in labor market participation as a result of the civil rights advancements we’re in the middle of the civil rights movement globally for people with disabilities to be treated equally and work but let’s pause for just a moment and ask ourselves whether we should be focused exclusively on the attributes of the worker or whether we should change our lens and be looking about set about to look at how we work the ways that we work and whether we should invest in new and different ways of approaching work and we spent the last century of both philanthropy and governmental enterprises focusing on increasing the attributes of the worker changing the attributes of the worker and modifying existing workplaces there’s a whole new generation of innovators that are calling for work to be fundamentally changed and they’re not they’re not alone in that movement we’ve just said about in the middle of a pandemic which taught us all that people can work excessively adaptively sustainably remotely and in a distributed workforce from wherever you are place has been severed from work and it’s been in a very adaptive way people with disabilities have been fighting forever to work remotely they were the first there asking for remote and flexible and adaptive work the burning platform question is whether work will whether new work opportunities will be generated from the experiences of the pandemic from the from the acknowledgement that flexible work is now the wave of the future and and now available and we have said about the look at workers with disabilities as a natural the most untapped talent pipeline in the universe in the global workforce and yet we can’t assume that people with disabilities will come into the technology infrastructure and support in order to avail themselves of this new flexible remote work this new way of working without corresponding investment in a new workplace in new workplace technologies and so with that acknowledgement we’ve divided our investment thesis into up-skilling and reskilling workers future proofing work not the worker thinking about supporting innovation hubs around the world that support early stage ideas and early stage entrepreneurs looking at the next generation of workplace and work related technologies sue just gave a tremendous example of work-related technologies and how it can innovate access and opportunity for workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities and looking around the globe at underrepresented founders with disabilities i think that the next phase of unfinished business and civil rights is not merely a question about equality it’s now a question about equity and it’s about who is accessing it corresponding investment in new ways of working as opposed to merely advancing only the argument of equality so equality is definitely important and sufficient maybe not maybe necessary but definitely not sufficient for for competitiveness in the new global marketplace. so that’s a long-winded answer. Is it a burning platform probably not because probably the reason why you know diving into the water is a lot easier when you realise that there’s both profit and purpose in this there are truly tremendous investable ideas all over the world that are being advanced today by disability entrepreneurs.

 

Pete [22:23] I love that that’s fantastic and I kind of was ingest kind of baiting the two of you you actually think that you both agree.

 

Dwayne [22:34] No you can’t disagree with that because there is money behind it and there’s profit behind it which is, unfortunately, that’s the way our society works right it’s all about is there is a bottom line that makes our society go ahead and the answer is yes there is there are actually 40 billion dollars in the Australian market about people with disabilities and that’s just being left on the table because they don’t cater for us and if you don’t cater for us well that’s a whole bunch of money you’re missing out on and that’s the message that’s missing from the leaders’ conversation because there aren’t leaders with disabilities and then, therefore, you don’t expect them to focus on that community back to you people

 

Pete [22:16] well Dwayne I might kind of continue with you then that so that that kind of that piece around I know you touched on it earlier and then gina just touched on it then about kind of hacking the job and not trying to fit people to the job that don’t suit them what do you like about this approach and what would you like to see?

 

Dwayne [23;50] so social model of disability is disabilities equal impairments plus barriers I modified that formula a little bit here’s what I did I took that UN formula and took it to an application of a job which is you get rid of the dis you keep the impairment and you just find the adjustment level so the job equals impairment plus adjustment level that’s exactly what regina is talking about right here and if you think about it from a disability discrimination act it’s effectively impairments barriers and how you adjust it if you want to say adjustment or personalisation same thing same thing right so if you’re thinking about it from a large organisation perspective if you have and disability is not as complex as you need to think about it from a corporate perspective there’s only a handful of things you need to focus on site hearing mobility touch think and there is the invisible discipline which is about basically from a work perspective it’s about capacity right how much stamina you have you add that into a standard standard kind of formula you can take your job solve for the amount of adjustment that each type of disability sub-community needs to have and get rid of the excuses because the issue that we have right now is that we have a tokenistic approach to job to hiring we say we can we can probably do a targeted role here or there i’m saying run every one of your jobs through this criteria and I will guarantee you that you will able to say something like 70 to 80 of my jobs can be done by a person with a disability just not the same type of disability and then you can question why not all the jobs can be done by all the disabilities and that becomes a targeted blunt question that executives can ask themselves of how are they actually doing this thing and if they if you do this you’re actually taking a really good first step if you manage to successfully I did this for like two organisations I looked at going I can actually put a person with a disability in a 30 000 one I can hire a person with a disability in every job in this 30 000 person organisation the easiest one to do believe it or not is all the leaders because they have like 20 or so people reporting to them giving them everything that they need all the leadership roles are disability friendly not so much support systems in there but if you put a whole bunch of disability leaders you’ll find all those frontline jobs becoming display friendly too that’s my controversial topic for the moment

 

Pete [26:24] thanks Dwayne and I encourage you if anyone else from the audience has got questions we’ve got a couple of questions that have been rolling in already encourage you to click on the tab down below and enter your question there so if we kind of think then about you know this opportunity for disruption through innovation how can innovators look to further disrupt the coming changes to labor market needs?

 

Sue [26:53] I‘m going to answer that with an example again and this is something that we’ve done at Abilityworks so we we have for the last 10 years been working with trans urban era road toll provider your e-tape so as a customer you know you have an e-tag in your car and when there’s something wrong with it you’d send it back to trans urban well it doesn’t go back to Transurban it comes to us and because we’ve been running this for 10 years we’ve been able to do a lot of innovation around it to get more and more people particularly with intellectual disability or complex support needs into work so something we’ve done recently is we purchased a robot called Matilda who is driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning and when you as a customer return your e-tape you normally send some correspondence and you write on it you know what the issue is with your e-taker that you want fixed so Matilda is what we’ve done with Matilda is we’ve fed into Matilda some key words so Matilda can read the correspondence and the reason we’ve done that is because many of our people don’t have literacy challenges so what it’s allowed us to do is enable people who wouldn’t normally be able to work on the trans urban account and edible ability works it’s considered to be a very prestigious account to work on so people who couldn’t normally work on that account to work with Matilda and Matilda talks to them and gives them feedback and helps them to sort the tags you know according and and do what they’re supposed to do so I love this example because it’s it’s what it’s done for a lot of our guys who have literacy challenges it’s it’s helped them their self-esteem their self-confidence to work on something as important as this and it’s really meaningful work so my answer to your question is you really need to look at the need and also to Dwayne’s point around personalisation we really do that at Abilityworks we we look to break jobs down into their component parts and to match somebody’s abilities with that particular part and on the transverse account again using that we’ve actually created jobs so we initially only we did that work with seven people who were quite highly you know they didn’t have complex support needs but we’ve now been able to double from seven to fourteen and put many people with complex support needs on the trans urban account just by breaking jobs down working with technology training as well so there’s a number of things it’s not just technology that you use to get people into work

 

Pete [30:09] that’s brilliant and we’ve had a couple of questions come through I might ask this one’s from Mike big company for his company right now exceptional one company that we know quite well I came through remarkable a couple of years ago he said it’s hard to get support and adjustments if you don’t disclose and a lot of neurodivergent people as many years up to 60 are fearful of disclosing because of being discriminated against what would the panelists recommend for addressing this at scale who wants to take that

 

Sue [30:35] I might have a go at that I used to work at beyondblue prior to working at Abilityworks so beyondblue is an organisation that does mental health advocacy and raising awareness reducing the stigma around mental health and they had a formula that they used and the more awareness you raise the more stigma and discrimination you can reduce and the more stigma and discrimination you reduce the more times you’ve got of people disclosing that they’ve got you know getting help and disclosing that they’ve got a mental health condition and therefore reducing the prevalence of mental health conditions and i think in the disability sector or particularly disability employment we are lacking a similar type of organisation that can do that awareness raising and advocacy work because corporations and governments are full of unconscious biases around people with disabilities and you know it’s too it’s too hard to employ them if they cost more they’ll take more leads particularly like there’s a whole lot of unconscious biases that are operating in leaders and i think what beyond blue did for mental health we need somebody in disability employment to do the same

 

Dwayne [32:00] yes as a society we need to keep advocating going for that thing specifically for the person my in my when i do an application my opening paragraph says i’m a double amputee and everything i disclose it straight away now is that is there value in that in disclosing do i know if my resume will be thrown straight in the bin the question is you’ve got to stop carrying as a as an application it’s a numbers game for you applying for a job so put it in there disclose it’s better for you to disclose and get it over with because then you know your organisation knows that you’re you’re going to be someone that’s upfront and honest there’s value add in that now it’s not great right it’s not the society that we want that we don’t we can keep ourselves private the society that we currently have is tell people i i walk around in three-quarter shorts everywhere i mean it’s a zoom world so you don’t get to see it now but i went from wearing long pants at work to wearing three quarter shots at work just to you know drum up the awareness and that helped people not even in meetings with me to start thinking about the disability issue in the workplace you can’t change the workplace if you’re not in it so put the information in there and get yourself out there that’s all i can say to that person

 

Pete [33:21] Yeah I guess I like Dwayne when we’re still in this situation where they know that a number of them are going to be discriminated against. How do we kind of started changing some of that? I don’t know if there are any easy answers to any of this? to do its care

 

Dwayne Absolutely not so it’s for us right now for the community it’s all about resilience and then again we’ve had ten thousand nodes thrown at us already we’ve had that happening for almost everything we have the resilience at hand right and it’s once we’re in we then make it easier for the next person and that’s the objective that we have to play as people with disabilities as leaders with disabilities now it’s not for everybody to do that it’s exhausting I can tell you that it’s exhausting and then you tap someone on the shoulder to take the thing further get it to as far as you can and then take a break, go relax, reset your mind and try again but if you’re someone that can you should advocate for your community but do that subtly and personally as part of your regular life not don’t overstretch because you’re an individual you’re not a corporation that’s advocating so we’re there and there are corporations out here that here to do that

 

Pete [34:41] and Dwayne, we might stick with you. There’s a question from Mujahid who asked how do I go about getting a job and this is obviously someone who is keen to find a job so how do I go to find a job in Australia when they do have a disability? What are some of the top one or two tips that you give to that person?

 

Dwayne In a government organisation in new south wales there’s something called GSE rule 26 as a government organisation we can break the rules of recruiting to higher diversity types it works for people with aboriginal aboriginal background people with disabilities refugees is a criteria that fits on that thing as well as whoever the governor decides i think he randomly selects some people based on what the stats are in that space i think i’m missing one more thing might be youth as well now as a government job skating that you are a person from these communities there are background criteria that people check if you’re ticking boxes that meet their criteria yes you might get selected by that it might progress you up the line to get actually reviewed but you still need to have the merits for the job can you still do the job and the answer is yes you can well then you have an equal way to do it now each state legislation has similar things the disability discrimination act and there’s the anti-discrimination board that each organisation to ask for exemptions so that they can focus on diversity i personally found that in my organisation mindset play when we put it out there for people to come and work with us the disability community came working with us why because we’re we’re completely online and they all self-identify we had in our first three people we had more diversity we had the LGBTQI community we had the autism community we had people with disabilities and all just it it made up our stats and they just came out of there so maybe the role itself needs to be innovative it’s and interesting to get that that space

 

Pete [36:51] That’s awesome. We’ve had a question from Tara asking what tech solutions are needed to help people with intellectual disability find a role in the workforce. Sue, would you be able to take that one?

 

Sue I find that tara a little bit difficult to answer because =you know we have we employ a lot of people with intellectual disability but they have very very different needs so you know you can’t look at intellectual disability like it’s just one thing so you know we’ve used a range of technologies as I’ve just described already from a combination of robotics artificial intelligence machine learning but I think it’s quite individual and it and that also as I’ve described previously and there’s a range of apps as well that you can use but I don’t believe it’s just technology there’s you know we use a number of different techniques which I’ve already described breaking jobs down a lot you know looking at aligning a particular job to somebody’s skill set we also use a lot of training and support so I’m sorry if that doesn’t answer your question directly but that’s yeah I don’t believe you can look at just intellectual disability as a whole

 

Pete [00:38] As one thing I think that’s a good response Dwayne we’ve had a question here from Filipa asking how can we change reform or reshape the k-12 curriculum and teaching methods to improve employment participation rates for people with disabilities how do we kind of go right back and start influencing change back there what are your thoughts on that?

 

Dwayne [00:38] Stop segregating schools as simple as that I grew up I grew up in New Zealand my education was in New Zealand during that that time that really shapes your identity the physical disability unit and that was the unit that needed the people it’s now called a disability unit in Mount Roskill in New Zealand was in the heart of the school perfect centre of the school and i would check in there in the morning and then go to all my regular classes what that did for students was that they knew that society had more than their perfectly able people every class had people with disability if person needed an additional adjustment they would use the universe resources and go to the class and do so reshape our schools to be absolutely inclusive of everybody in society yes some of us may be disrupting and then we can have specialised things within the school itself not a separate place 200 Kilometres away none of that if you have inclusion at the start you do not you you you’ll have inclusion in the work it’s simple as that build our schools to be inclusive of everybody and have them all together now if you want specific classes let’s teach inclusive infrastructure let’s teach inclusive service delivery let’s teach inclusive employment those are broad categories that you can teach to year 11 and year 12 that they take and they play alternatively just let’s play d and together the great equaliser around the table and if you’re playing with people with disability well you remember them from their youth and then you’re thinking about them when you’re hiring them because they were so creative around the digital table and that’s something that you can do too.

 

Pete [40:19] that’s awesome that’s great and thanks Ann Massey as well for your hat tip to a program that I used to manage just like you programmed that was run in primary schools all over the state of new south wales and now has been taken over by a variety is being run all over Australia and actually in Canada now as well we’ve got one more question here from Ricky and Gina I might direct this to you what are some of the things that leaders with and without disabilities can do to ensure that companies start taking action on employing people with disabilities and not so not doing so for tokenistic or KPI reasons?

 

Gina [40:59] yes well i think that there is a on an optimistic note i think that there are companies many of which have a huge market share of consumer products that are committed to inclusive design principles and to accessibility and we’re seeing great efforts around the world around diversity equity and inclusion but here’s the reality i mean the reality is that 80 to 90 of labor market participation in the world is made up of small and medium-sized businesses and not the largest companies of the economy so what are we to do about that i mean the real question is not whether well-meaning actors at the top of the fortune 500 see disability diverse talent pipelines is of use and onboarding is utterly necessary to their company’s operations but the worldwide economy is missing trillions of dollars of talent and what is it going to take to bring people back into the labor market and so the question has to be seeing diversity and inclusion and building an inclusive workforce from the bottom up as equally as mutually a beneficial strategy is building it from the top down and how do we build it from the bottom up let’s look at the workers that we’re talking about we’re talking about a group of people who’ve experienced a lack of access to not only social capital around the world as a consequence of historic discrimination but lack of access to financial services into banking when we’re talking about the collateral to access a small business loan to start an early stage company we’re talking about people that utterly need risk capital here’s what they don’t need is great ideas what we’re seeing is that there’s an equanimity there’s an equal opportunity distribution of fabulous ideas all over this world and we’re finding so many disability entrepreneurs everywhere and this conversation of how do we stick people into companies that are well meaning and ready to do dei onboarding maybe we should broaden the conversation a little bit in the in the places that we chat we should be talking about how do we build a robust bottom-up strategy to bring great people into ownership over their own ideas into mediation minimum viable product of their ideas owning an equity stake in their own future how do we get people with disabilities around the world to not only own their ideas but fully develop them and bring them to market and we know that this is possible we know that people with disabilities that we’ve met that you support pete that we all are friends with and friends and family that our natural design thinkers that have spent their lives solving problems have been spent their lives excluded from traditional ways of working have dreamt up new ways of working and being employed and so part of my answer about how do you take action to build utterly diverse talent pipelines is you think differently about a bottom-up strategy you believe in supporting people not to give away their ideas to the large companies but to own them

 

Pete [44:26] That’s brilliant. That’s so good now we’ve really run out of time now we’ve only got about a minute to go so I’m just briefly across the panel. What’s your last, what’s your kind of final remarkable insight that you could give around the future of work so sue might start with you?

 

Sue [44:45] I think we need to approach the future of work with optimism and an attitude of harnessing technology rather than stereotypical thinking that it will reduce jobs however at the same time I think we need to combine that with rethinking about how we define ourselves you know many of us define ourselves through work and a job title and purpose can be acquired not just through work but volunteering supporting others no close connections with family and friends and we may need to think more in terms of contributing likes for some of us because not all of us may necessarily find an opportunity in the new economy

 

Pete [45:31] Thanks see that’s great Dwayne what about you?

 

Dwayne [45:35] jobs equal impairments plus adjustment levels take that formula apply it to your workplace as a corporate as a small business and hire people that you can financially handle and get that space but for the rest of us keep keep keep yourself visible even if you are an invisible disability person put that down let people know because that will reduce the stigma foundations will go higher

 

Pete thanks Dwayne and gina finally over to you

 

Gina [46:10] In the near future disability will be synonymous worldwide with innovation

 

Pete [46:17] I love that that’s fantastic that is all we’ve got time for we’ve gone a little a minute over so far thank you so much to our panelists Gina Sue and Dwayne also to our auslan interpreter Gerry thank you for for signing for us today remarkable is about harnessing technology and innovation for building social and economic inclusion of people with disability next month we’ll be running our annual Design-athon where participants can gain first-hand experience at how good design enables human potential by tackling one of three challenges and future of work is one of those challenges so we’d love to see teams apply for that teams have a chance to win from the twenty thousand dollar prize pool including prizes and potential cash funding to invest back into your solution at the end of the four week challenge you can see more details for that on remarkable.org/events also we’ll be seeking your feedback on today’s event so if you do have any feedback we’d love to hear that this recording will be made available on our youtube channel subscribe if you don’t want to miss the recordings we need some more subscribers we’ve got lots of people watching things but not subscribing so please subscribe this kind of conversation is vital we hope it brings about actionable insights for each of you and we encourage you to continue and share those remarkable insights on social media please tag remarkable tech and remarkable insights our next event is on Thursday the 9th of September on science or science fiction of brain computer interface so we hope to see you then thank you so much for joining us and enjoy the rest of your day thank you.

 

Mentions made:

[14:54] ILO Report: Persons with disabilities need new roadmap to join future world of work

[34:24] GSE rule 26: Public Service agencies employing people with disability using rule 26

7 lessons from working with our startups in 2021

I remember heading into 2020 and it felt like a year dripping with possibility and excitement…then Australia suffered devastating bushfires and then, a global pandemic.

2020 taught us to expect the unexpected and to be prepared to respond to change and uncertainty in the best way possible with limited experience, sometimes very little information, and oftentimes, less emotional resources.

Little did we know that this lesson of expecting the unexpected would be essential for 2021 as the world was forced to continue to navigate a global pandemic.

Now jump to July 2021 and I find myself writing this blog, navigating another unexpected yet expected lockdown, but with a huge amount of pride for what the #RA21 cohort of startups have achieved. Amidst the constant change and uncertainty of this year, they accomplished so much, and it was fitting to celebrate them last week at our online Demo Day.

Reflecting after Demo Day, it became clear that I’ve gained so much from working with each of our founders and I want to share just a few of these lessons. So here are my 7 lessons from working with our #RA21 Founders…

 

1 | MEDISTAYS & HOLDING ON!

I have been canyoning a few times, but have not yet been white water rafting. In my mind I see lots of parallels between white water rafting and startup life – there’s lots of random splashing and quite a lot of unfamiliar waters around you; you feel small and insignificant amidst the power of the rapids surging around you, knowing your small raft could fill with water at any moment.

Your job is to find the most efficient path without getting caught on rocks, stuck in eddys and without capsizing. Sometimes, you get into a fast-moving section of the river, and the small course corrections you make are just trying to keep your boat in that flow. Other times you feel like you’re frantically paddling and needing to execute on 5 maneuvers at once – paddles flying, eyes wide.

The team from MediStays found a section of the river that was moving quickly, COVID accelerated their development with hospital beds needing to be freed up to make way for more patients. The ability to access short and medium-term accommodation was difficult, but MediStays provided all-in-one solution that solves that problem. All of a sudden there was massive demand, 30-40 inbound inquiries a day – without any marketing spend.

We saw the team from MediStays execute many masterful strokes, keeping the boat in the slipstream, riding this wave of market pull. They worked hard to make good strategic decisions that would give them a better boat in the long term, all while responding to the immediate needs of their flood of customers.

Sometimes when these moments come along and you just need to hold on and ride it out.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6HV2fk8INk[/embedyt]

 

2 | HUMANE & CREATING LOVABLE PRODUCTS

Startups have lots of moving parts and a founder’s job is to prioritise those moving parts to grow what they’ve conceived into a business before running out of money. What we saw in Humane was a team that went back to focus on the basics of solving a problem for their customers and developing a solution that they loved.

Managing NDIS budgets can be complex and Humane have a solution that families are excited by. They love the solution because it solves a complex problem for them and word is spreading as other families discover this lovable product.

Founders do well to go back to basics and to prioritise their attention on what they can do to solve a problem in a way that customers will fall in love with the solution.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MkwKqlPPoQ[/embedyt]

 

3 | CURE BIONICS & LEADING WITH PASSION

When you lead with passion, champions for your cause will follow. Mohamed is no ordinary founder. Now on his 3rd startup, he has gained international recognition from the Obama Foundation, Forbes, MIT and all this before he’s even turned 30 years of age! His passion to use engineering to benefit humanity is contagious. Beyond attracting attention and recognition, it has started to attract talented individuals working with him and international advocates wanting to support his work.

When you lead with passion, people have more than a transactional relationship, they taste your vision for the future and that becomes attractive as you gain other champions for your cause.

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

 

4 | WEARABLE & CO AND HUSTLE

One of our startup coaches, Ben Reid, always used to say, “If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no”. Establishing networks to distribute your products – be they hardware or software, is a constant challenge for early-stage startups. There’s only so much product you can sell to your friends and family.

One of the things we saw Penny – the founder of Recovawear and Wearable & Co – was to ask larger supply networks if they could stock her products. Yes, she got some “no’s”, but she also got some “yes’” as well. Deals on the table with large organisations with big reach and opportunities globally. All because of her ability to hustle and ask the question.

Founders most of the time don’t have much to lose by asking seemingly impossible questions that help your business grow. Just do it.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaslZvs-BQc[/embedyt]

 

5 | SPIX APP & THE NEED TO PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE EVEN THOUGH YOU MIGHT NOT FEEL READY

Spix App started off the back of a 3 week Design-athon in October 2020, where a team of strangers came together to consider how they might make eSports more inclusive of people with disability. They did customer discovery, research, prototyped something, tested with customers and iterated. During the months following the Design-athon, the team worked to further validate their assumptions.

At all points in the journey, the team felt like they were the beginners in an advanced class, but they kept going, not without challenge, but they kept putting themselves out there.

Too often startups try to perfect their products; to wait until the opportune time; to get more assurance that they’re on the right track. But sometimes you will learn more with a beginner’s mind than you will when pretending you’ve got everything sorted.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IOZyOkazVQ[/embedyt]

 

6 | SPECKLES LEANT INTO THE NETWORK OF INTELLIGENCE AROUND THEM

I’ve probably not met someone as eager to learn as Maddy Scavone, the Founder of Speckles. She was like a wonder cloth soaking up all she could. If we put a suggestion for a potential mentor to meet, she met them. If a lead was sent her way, she pursued it. And it paid off. She’s now working with one of the top glasses designers through a connection her coach helped her to make.

A founder will never have all the answers to the absolute barrage of questions they are faced with every day. So they must increase their surface area, listen and learn more. Accelerators should do that for founders – they should dramatically increase the network the founders have access to. Yes, it’s still up to the founder to sort ‘wheat from chaff’ when it comes to that advice, but a larger surface area will ensure wider intelligence is consulted to help make those decisions.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_H96kG4l44s[/embedyt]

 

7 | THERAPLAY.TV FOCUSED ON THE END GAME

I love the story of the gold medal-winning GB Eight rowing team who were completely underrated before the Sydney Olympics and had often finished not just out of the top 3, but often in 7th place. In everything they did in the final 2 years leading up to the games, they had one unifying question, “Will it make the boat go faster?” If it was a decision about whether to train or not – “Will it make the boat go faster?” If it was deciding if they were to go to the pub to have a drink – “Will it make the boat go faster?” Their absolute single-minded focus on that question of would it make the boat go faster was, in their mind, what won them the gold medal.

The TheraPlayTV team has a focus on what they want their vision – the end result – to be. When you hold onto that end vision, it does help prioritise the things that are more or less important. It provides focus in your execution.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0t5CwQj7NE[/embedyt]

 

It’s been a privilege for the Remarkable team, coaches and mentors working with each of the founders. We love when we learn while watching these founders create the future. So while things still feel a little uncertain as we head towards the end of this year, founders do well to hold on, create products people love, lead with passion, hustle, put yourself out there, lean into the intelligence of those around you and focus on the end game.

These lessons are only some of the valuable things I have learned from our #RA21 Founders and I encourage everyone to follow these startups. The world is better because of them!

You can rewatch and share the entire #RA21 Demo Day event below and an audio-described version of the event is available at https://bit.ly/DemoDayAD

 

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1l7Yrji3nQ[/embedyt]

Join us for #RA21 Demo Day

Purple background with bold white title that reads '#RA21 Demo Day' and the CPA and Remarkable logo in the top-centre of the image. You’re invited to our 2021 virtual Demo Day, which will be a showcase of the incredible growth of our #RA21 cohort over the course of our 14-week accelerator program.

 

Our startups this year are working on solving a diverse range of problems that have never been tackled through the accelerator before, including a Tunisian-based 3D printed bionic arms to an adaptive clothing designer featured in Melbourne Fashion Week, and many more incredible startups.

 

To learn more about this year’s cohort check out their websites:

 

Demo Day will kick off at 6:00pm AEST on Tuesday the 13th of July and marks the conclusion of our program. This is an opportunity to hear from each founder about how they’re harnessing the power of technological innovation to drive the inclusion of people with disability.

 

This event will be held in the same format as last year’s Demo Day whereby we will be live streaming pre-recorded pitches followed by an opportunity to connect with our startups virtually after the screening. To get more of an understanding of how this will work you can check out last year’s Demo Day below.

 

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fP1rSE_VPdw[/embedyt]

 

Registrations are essential and more details about the evening’s agenda will be announced closer to the date. You can register now at, https://bit.ly/3wvbMXe

 

If you have any questions regarding this accessibility or details of this event please don’t hesitate to contact the Remarkable team at hello@remarkable.org.au.

 

We hope you’re able to join us for what will be a remarkable evening!