It is with great excitement and a sense of accomplishment that I reflect on my journey at Aira since joining the leadership team on May 30, 2023. Over the past year, in my role as the Vice President of Blindness Initiatives, I’ve had the privilege of engaging deeply with our community. This includes spending significant time with many Aira Explorers, Visual Interpreters, Access Partners, and community organizations. Transitioning from a longtime user of the service to an insider, after two decades in government, has been an enlightening and transformative experience.
Building on this foundation, the company has been fiercely dedicated to its mission of providing Visual Interpreting to anyone in need. Although our team is small, it is a mighty and growing group of passionate individuals. The importance of people in making any organization great cannot be overstated, which is why I was thrilled to spend 2023 collaborating with and learning from the Aira team.
Looking at our partnerships, I gained insights into the impressive work being done around Accommodations, Education, and State Government. In 2023, using Aira as an Accommodation emerged as the primary use case for our service. We saw people leveraging Aira in their quest for employment, searching for and applying to jobs. Meanwhile, companies hiring blind professionals partnered with us to provide Visual Interpreters, and employees brought Aira into their companies as a requested Accommodation.
Moreover, 2023 was a landmark year of progress with states like Alabama and Colorado leading the charge. In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis and Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera announced “Colorado for All.” The recent passage of HB21-1110 and the partnership with Aira aim to connect those who are blind or have low vision with highly trained Visual Interpreters. This initiative is making state-operated buildings, colleges, state parks, and digital services more accessible. Additionally, all state employees are provided with Aira as an accommodation. Reflecting on my own journey, I was pleased to work with Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s equity and inclusion team to bring Aira Access to the downtown Salt Lake City Business District as showcased in this impactful video: Link to Video.
As we moved through 2023, our commitment to “Access as a Human Right” strengthened, and looking ahead to 2024, we are adopting a more action-oriented approach. Let’s now dive into some exciting updates and outline our vision for the year ahead, where “Access” will be our guiding principle in action.
In line with these aspirations, I am excited to announce that in 2024, I will formally take over the Aira Customer Care organization as part of my role at the Head of Blindness Initiatives. Many of you have already interacted with this talented team, handling everything from technical support to new customer inquiries. Enhancing your experience with Aira remains our top priority, and we’ve been actively improving our Customer Care services to ensure your interactions with us are exceptional. Your feedback is invaluable in this process, driving our continuous improvement.
Adding to our team dynamics, I am thrilled to welcome Marybai Huking as a full-time Social Media Professional at Aira. Starting today, she will spearhead our social and community efforts.
Furthermore, in 2024, we’re taking a collaborative approach in developing our AI offering. Co-creating with you, our community, we aim to build an AI solution that truly meets your needs. Dubbed Access AI, this initiative is another step in our journey towards inclusive technology. This also means we’ll retire our current Aira app for the newly launched Aira Explorer app. While many of you have already been enjoying the new app, I do want to make sure those of you who haven’t moved over do so by the end of this month. Starting February 1, 2024 the old app will no longer be functional. Stay tuned for more updates from our tech team in the coming months.
Finally, as our CEO, Troy Otillio, aptly summarized, “Our mission is to remove visual barriers and make the world more accessible, creating pathways to greater independence.” For us, access is not just a feature; it’s embedded in the core of our belief system. We’re committed to making visual interpreting an essential tool in your toolkit.
In conclusion, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to our incredible Aira community. Your support, feedback, and advocacy have been instrumental in our progress. As we embrace the Access Revolution, let’s continue to break down barriers, remove obstacles, and make access a reality for all.
Thank you for being part of this extraordinary journey. Here’s to a year filled with boundless access and opportunities.