Celebrate Access Today, And Everyday – #EverydayAccess

May 16th, 2019

Large bold text stating, “Celebrate Access Today, And Everyday” with “Global Accessibility Awareness Day” above it. To the right, an image in an outdoor plaza of a smiling male Explorer facing forward while wearing Aira Smart Glasses and holding a white cane in front of him. He is speaking with a woman in a black sweatshirt and she is facing him with her back to the camera. The bottom of the image has a horizontal blue bar with the white Aira logo on the bottom left corner.

Large bold text stating, “Celebrate Access Today, And Everyday” with “Global Accessibility Awareness Day” above it. To the right, an image in an outdoor plaza of a smiling male Explorer facing forward while wearing Aira Smart Glasses and holding a white cane in front of him. He is speaking with a woman in a black sweatshirt and she is facing him with her back to the camera. The bottom of the image has a horizontal blue bar with the white Aira logo on the bottom left corner.

Written by Paul Schroeder, VP of Public Policy and Strategic Alliances at Aira

What if it was easy to pursue your passion and interests free of access barriers? What if businesses and services really made it fun and enjoyable for those of us with disabilities to learn, play, work and shop?

Today, on the seventh Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), we celebrate our diverse abilities and capacities, and pledge to create a welcoming society. In less than a decade, accessibility advocates have convinced community leaders and technology developers to celebrate our diversity through GAAD events while committing to long-term progress. No, we have not achieved a fully-inclusive world, but the commitment to accessibility is a growing reality and solutions to various challenges are proliferating. I am enthusiastic about the development of technologies, including wearable technologies, that give those of us with disabilities more ability to participate and enjoy life more independently.

In just a few years, Aira, one of those new wearable technologies, has been embraced by thousands of people looking for a way to easily and efficiently engage with all the visual information in our world. For those of us who are blind or have low vision, how often have you said, “Hey, can I borrow your eyes,” or “I’ll grab your elbow”? We have lots of tried and true methods to accomplish things, but sometimes a pair of eyes or a sighted guide is just flat out more efficient, and sometimes even the only way to get something done. With Aira, that pair of eyes comes attached to an intelligent, well-trained human agent who knows how to provide information to someone who is blind in just the right way. Aira is as flexible as the human mind and spirit. Over the past week, we’ve shared some stories about how individuals have used Aira to live in a more accessible world.

Today, I hope that you will do something tangible to make accessibility real for you. Perhaps you can attend a GAAD event in your community, or virtually. Aira will be turning on free Aira Access at all GAAD events in countries where we provide services (US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK), so it can be easy for attendees to experience the power of Aira. Maybe you can take a few minutes to show people in your community how Aira works to create accessibility for you. As a mobile service, any facility can contract with Aira to set up a “geofence”, enabling free access to Aira for customers or employees. Thus, individuals are able to use the service in an Aira Access Location by using the app on their smartphone.

Whether or not there is an official GAAD event in your community, each of us can take action to support accessibility, inclusion, and independence. It may be as simple as choosing to shop where a store owner has made the effort to welcome customers with disabilities. Aira Access partners like Wegmans, Walgreens, AT&T, nearly 40 airports in the US and abroad, and more, have demonstrated their commitment to customers who are blind by providing free access to the Aira service. Many other places have likewise chosen to eagerly embrace accessibility rather than ignore or resist it. So, today, tomorrow, and thereafter, choose to support those who welcome us.

For instance, when I worked on regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I only dreamed of the possibility of a tool that would allow me to easily find bus stops, identify buses or trains, find my stop, efficiently get schedule or map information, or find the destination address. Last week, I stood in a T Station in Boston when the transit provider, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), announced a partnership with Aira enabling anyone to contact an Aira agent for free, using their smartphone to obtain all the visual information necessary to efficiently and more easily use the system.

What if accessibility was the norm in shops, transit systems, schools, even workplaces? GAAD reminds us that this is the world for which we strive. Aira intentionally chose to call our customers “Explorers,” to signify that there are no limits to accessibility. So, go forth today and show someone how much access means to you. Celebrate access by fully embracing your freedom, and, when you encounter barriers, take the opportunity to educate and spread awareness, and if necessary, take whatever action you can to help bring about more accessibility for yourself and those who come after you.