Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

UXPA UK Celebrates Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2022!

Last Thursday was Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). In its 11th year there were over 200 events world wide, and while 11 years ago it really was an awareness day, now it is more a celebration of just how far we have come.

I think we are all aware there is still much to do and it is a collective responsibility, but celebrating how far we have come and sharing how we have done it will help us to keep moving forward.

UXPA UK ran a virtual event on Thursday evening which I joined.

It started with Jamie and Lion who talked about a project they worked on at the BBC looking at how to make VR more accessible.

Jamie started off giving his definition of disability, explaining that often it is the environment in which he finds himself that creates the disability - stopping him from doing what he wants to. But the environment is much easier to change than the human body, so focusing on this can help many people. However we should remember that nothing is truly for everyone; you wouldn’t expect a toddler to use the site would you?

From this starting point Jamie talked about the project he worked on. What they really wanted to know was what barriers did VR create for people with disabilities. By mapping and understanding them it is easier to do something about them.

So where do barriers come from? They are made from our assumptions, in this case about people's abilities and the environment. We need to start with better assumptions which means learning more about people.

He then talked us through how they conducted the project and some of his learnings.There were 4 key parts.

  • Inviting people to participate - they visited them in person
  • Someone to facilitate - making sure everyone was safe
  • A custom built environment
  • People to observe - different from the facilitator to take notes and ask questions

He then talked through his learnings and what he would do differently next time, things like really considering the outcomes before starting the project and making sure you have way more space than you think you will need.

Then Danny Weissberg spoke to us about his company Voiceitt which uses AI to create speech recognition for everyone.

After his grandmother had a stroke his family had a really hard time understanding her, however the nurse who was with her every day understood what she said.

Danny realised that if the nurse could understand her, then you should be able to teach a software to learn what grandma said too.

There are many different conditions which can disrupt speech, affecting 120 million people around the world. But of course having distorted speech does not change the intelligence of the person affected, only our assumptions of the person.

There are many things the app can be used for. For instance there are so many gadgets in our houses now that are voice enabled that could be helpful to someone with a physical disability, but if they also have a speech impairment they often can not use the smart speakers which control them.

Voiceitt now has an Alexa integration which allows people to use the smart speaker to make their homes work for them.

At the moment Voiceitt works from learnt phrases (involving repeating the phrase several times so the AI can learn it), but they are starting to work on fluent speech now which is really exciting.

This was such a great event. Both speakers had very different experiences to share which allowed us to sit with them for a moment and helped to widen our knowledge of life with a disability. My only disappointment was we did not get to see Lion.

⟨⟨ Previous | Blog home | Next ⟩⟩

Contact Me

If you have any questions about my work please feel free to contact me.

Email me on or find me on Twitter or Linkedin.

Sign up to The UX Life Chose Me Newsletter and get the most interesting UX Research articles, videos and podcasts from across the web straight into your mailbox once a month.