Behind The Scenes Of Accessibility

(International Day for Persons with Disabilities, 3rd Dec 2021)

A rainbow, out of the many storms that the Covid-19 pandemic brought, has been the increased usage of platforms like zoom. While we’ve all talked about the zoom fatigue and the boredom people faced all day working from home, there is a brighter side too. Assistive technology platforms like this have played an important role in empowering people with various disabilities to become contributors in conferences and events where earlier they would be mere participants.

On the occasion of the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, we bring to you a fresh perspective on how platforms like zoom have broadened the horizon of bringing people with disabilities together in organising and managing events and conferences which were rarely managed by a person with a disability earlier.

Nibin, Nikta and Aishwarya, the research associates of Vision Empower, talk about the EMPOWER conference conducted in November by IIITB. They share with excitement that the conference being a virtual one opened the doors for them to not just be the attendees or speakers but the organisers. All three of us remember working over 10 hours each of three days before the EMPOWER conference 2021 under the guidance of Professor Amit Prakash to plan, prepare and execute various events and sessions through the use of assistive technologies.

Nibin, a person with visual impairment says, “Had it been a physical conference, I would probably be sitting in some corner attending different sessions but due to the virtual nature of the conference, I was able to put in my best inputs while managing the preparations. A small team including people with and without disabilities worked together to organise this event and that for me was the highlight of this conference.”

Being a wheelchair user Nikita always thought twice before attending any physical conference due to the accessibility challenges the conference venue might pose. She says, “ The EMPOWER conference ensured that not only I attend it from the comfort of my space but also actively engage in organising it. What’s more, I also had a dream come true moment when I could be the photographer of the conference just by capturing the screenshots! I can’t even imagine playing these roles in a physical conference.”

Aishwarya, a person with visual impairment, shares that while she had always been part of conferences and various events, this time she could be an organiser too. She says, “In 2019 I attended the EMPOWER conference and in 2021 I helped conduct it. Nibin, Nikita and I have never been given a chance to do the backstage organising work because it is always the non-disabled people running around setting up things. This time we were the ones managing the logistics of each event through assistive technology that made inclusivity so much more real for us.”

On this day, Vision Empower hopes that the inclusivity through technology only elevates from here. We encourage all our supporters and followers to continue ensuring inclusivity in every area through technology.