Never a Better Time to Care about Online Accessibility

Expert David Berman to address Carleton’s Accessibility Summit in July

By Susan Hickman

Ottawa and Ontario are Ground Zero for online accessibility and an example of what is possible when everyone is included, says motivational speaker, author and web accessibility expert, David Berman.

“We’re going to up the bar as to what people expect and what people know is possible,” says Berman, who will speak at Carleton University’s upcoming International Accessibility Summit at the Ottawa Convention Centre in July.

Berman says he will discuss “how we can delight rather than just accommodate our entire audience.” A specialist in design and strategic communications and a Carleton alumnus, Berman says there has never been a better time to care about online accessibility.

“By the end of this decade, the majority of humanity will be online. We’ll all be online together and we have the opportunity, then, to liberate millions upon millions of people,” says Berman, who is a senior strategic consultant to some of Canada’s largest websites and a special adviser to the United Nations.

“As socially responsible Canadians,” he says, “we are known for demonstrating how one can create a civilization where we measure our success by how we treat those who are either permanently or temporarily our weakest.”

Berman is among nearly 100 speakers from all over the world who will present at the summit.

Rick Hansen, a celebrated athlete and advocate for creating an inclusive, accessible world, will close the four-day summit. He says the goal of the event is “to move from intent to action in several specific areas highlighting innovation in accessible communities, technology and employment.”

Hansen is best known for his Man in Motion world tour in 1985-1987 which took him around the world over 26 months and raised $26 million for spinal cord injury (SCI) research and accessibility initiatives. He established the Rick Hansen Foundation in 1987 and has since helped generate more than $280 million for SCI research.

The Honourable David Onley, the first person with a disability to hold the position of Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, has championed disability issues for many years and adopted accessibility as the overarching theme of his mandate. Lt.-Gov. Onley will give the opening plenary address July 13.

“This is the right time and the right location for a conference of this nature,” says Onley, “The speakers will be a unique intellectual and motivational force to compel greater action as it pertains to accessibility. I’m optimistic that (the summit) will provide a great learning opportunity and an enormous networking opportunity.”

Onley, who defines accessibility as “that which enables people to achieve their full potential,” has served as chair of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council of the Government of Ontario and is honorary patron of Carleton’s Research, Education, Accessibility and Design (READ) initiative.

Jutta Treviranus, director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) and a professor in the Faculty of Design at OCAD University in Toronto, believes the diversity of speakers at the conference “will help to move this critical global agenda forward and contribute new catalysts to effect change.”

Treviranus founded and directs an innovative graduate program in inclusive design. She leads international research networks that have created innovations supporting inclusion and has played a leading role in developing accessibility legislation internationally.

“Accessibility and inclusive design is supported and advanced through a large global community,” she says. “The International Accessibility Summit is an important addition to this collective effort.”

Other key speakers include Paul Jackson, of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and a lead developer for Canada’s Web Experience Toolkit (WET), which has revolutionized the way the federal government manages its digital properties, as well as American advocate Randy Lewis, who pioneered a disability employment model in Walgreens distribution centres across the United States.

Media Inquiries:
Chris Cline
Media Relations Officer
Carleton University
613-520-2600, ext. 1391
christopher_cline@carleton.ca

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