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It took me almost 50 years to understand accessibility.

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This presentation was delivered to the IBM Research team as part of their Accessibility Day in May 2014. I shared my experience with assistive technology and my journey of understanding the meaning of accessibility.

Published in: Technology, Design
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It took me almost 50 years to understand accessibility.

  1. 1. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 1 It took me almost 50 years to understand accessibility. Peter Mahoney Chief Marketing Officer & GM, Dragon
  2. 2. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 2 My name is Peter. I have many roles. I am a CMO. I am the general manager of Dragon. I am a parent of 3 kids — one of them with severe disabilities. I am an advocate for assistive technology. @DragonDictator
  3. 3. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 3 It took me almost 50 years, but I realized that I did not understand accessibility. It shouldn’t take you that long to figure it out. Maybe my story will help you learn faster than me.
  4. 4. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 4 I was destined to be a geek. When I was born in 1965, my first home was on MIT campus where my dad was getting his PhD in physics.
  5. 5. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 5 In the 1970s, I learned to program FORTRAN on an IBM 1130 on punch cards. I graduated to a TRS-80 and an Apple II. This stuff was hard, but I was proud to be geek enough to make it work. I thought of technology as EXCLUSIVE.
  6. 6. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 6 In the 1980s, I was studying Physics and Computer Science at Boston College. Dr. Jim Gips was my advisor and he introduced me to kids with special needs at the BC Campus School. I wrote software to help them communicate. He showed me that technology could be INCLUSIVE.
  7. 7. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 7 In the 1990s, I got married and had two kids. My second child was born with spina bifida, hydocephalus and very low muscle tone. She would need a power wheelchair to move around the world.
  8. 8. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 8 Back then, my experience taught me accessibility = wheelchair
  9. 9. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 9 In the 2000s, I had my third child and started working with Nuance and the Dragon products. I met some amazing customers who showed me a more complete view of accessibility.
  10. 10. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 10 I met a 12 year old girl who attended a school in Sydney that deployed Dragon in all their classrooms. She told me that she didn’t write well and the kids called her stupid. She thought she was stupid too. Then she started using Dragon and the ideas came out of her head and onto the page. She got good grades. She knew she was smart.
  11. 11. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 11 I realized that I didn’t know what accessibility meant anymore.
  12. 12. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 12 In the 2010s, saw my daughter flourish with assistive technology, joined the board of the Easter Seals and met even more assistive technology users – and even saw technology help my family use the TV at home.
  13. 13. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 13 I realized that accessibility was not just about wheelchairs – it was about enabling all people to reach their potential.
  14. 14. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 14 I now realize that accessibility = democracy
  15. 15. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 15 This is why, at Nuance, we are focused on reinventing the relationship between people and technology.
  16. 16. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 16 20% 18% 16% 14% 12% 10% 2009 2010 2011 2012 18% Average word error rate reduction per year Averageworderrorrate We’ve invested billions of dollars making voice recognition more accurate
  17. 17. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 17 And we make tools that allow a 12 year old to make a great app (OK, not just any 12 year old…)
  18. 18. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 18 And not only is it the right thing to do, but we have laws that say that we must make our world more accessible
  19. 19. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 19 What if everyone had access to technology that allowed them to reach their full potential?
  20. 20. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 20 Look how far we have come
  21. 21. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 21 people are slaves to technology technology at service to people Then Now
  22. 22. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 22 accessible when demanded accessible by design Then Now
  23. 23. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 23 exclusive inclusive Then Now
  24. 24. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 24 we did it because we had to we do it for the massive economic impact Then Now
  25. 25. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 25 It took me almost 50 years to realize that accessibility = democracy
  26. 26. © 2002-2013 Nuance Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Page 26 How long did it take you? @DragonDictator

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