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Bridging the disability access gap

3 Nov 2014, by Informa Insights

In the lead up to the 6th Annual National Disability Summit 2015, we had the chance to speak to Dr Scott Hillier, Manager, Major Projects & Western Australia Manager of Media Access Australia on the biggest challenge in supporting individuals with a disability within a workplace.

Scott is a leading authority in the area of access to computers and the internet for people with disability. He can also provide a personal perspective as he is legally blind and relies on assistive technology to use computers. He is also the author of Media Access Australia’s sociABILITY: social media for people with a disability resource which is now used by the United States Government to help agencies improve the accessibility of social media. We hope you enjoy the interview.

Dr Scott Hillier - National Disability Summit
Dr Scott Hillier

Can you give us a brief overview of Media Access Australia and your role within this?
Scott: Media Access Australia is Australia’s only independent not-for-profit organisation devoted to increasing access to media for people with a disability. Access to media, enabled through technology, empowers people to be independent, gain knowledge, make their own choices and be active members of our society. My role as a Project Manager and Western Australia manager is to focus on projects particularly in the digital technology space, supporting consumers in their ability to find mainstream consumer products that meet their access needs, and also support developers that create web-related content to ensure that it is compatible with such technologies. It’s great work and I always enjoy an opportunity to share the knowledge with others.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge in supporting individuals with a disability within the workplace and do you have any examples where you feel this has been done particularly well?
Scott: The biggest challenge in supporting individuals in my view is the challenge of raising awareness of how accessibility applies to a particular role. For example, people who create documents will need to gain knowledge around how document accessibility works, while people building web content will need to understand how to create accessible web content, and people who directly interact with people with disabilities will require knowledge about the accessibility features in relevant products, the choice of accessible mainstream devices and how to enable the features.

While this can sound daunting, the exciting thing is that there’s a lot of information available now to support people in their respective roles and it’s just a matter of getting the right information to the right people so they can incorporate accessibility into their work practices.

In your opinion, what has been the biggest achievement of the NDIS to date?
Scott: It’s still early days for the NDIS so I believe the key benefits are still ahead of us, but I have been encouraged to see more discussion around supporting people with disabilities with the equipment for the pursuit of everyday achievements, and this is a great thing.

Disability SummitYou will be speaking at the 2015 National Disability Summit in March. What are you hoping to get out of attending this event?
: My presentation will focus on providing support to anyone that is trying to improve a working environment for people with disabilities in relation to digital technologies, web content and communications. If you work in an ICT role, there’s some great information to help you make your websites accessible. If you are in a role that creates and distributes documents, there are some great tips for you as well and if you work directly with people with disabilities or have the responsibility of setting up computers in a workplace with accessibility features, there’s some helpful guidance for you too.

The diversity of roles in the disability and employment sector means that many roles require knowledge around accessibility and it’s my hope that through the presentation, this knowledge can be shared and ultimately benefits people in the industry in preparing and delivering more access to people with disabilities.

We are looking forward to Scott’s presentation on “Supporting the Employment of People with Disabilities through Accessible Communications” at the upcoming National Disability Summit.

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