TechShare Pro 2023: Takeaways from our accessibility team

Headshot of Accessibility Consultant Emma Urquhart

Accessibility Consultant

2 minute read

TechShare Pro is Europe's largest gathering of accessibility and inclusion professionals. Here Emma and Danny from the accessibility team share their key moments and main takeaways from the conference

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend TechShare Pro 2023 along with Danny and Chris from our accessibility team. Hosted by AbilityNet in London, the event is Europe’s largest gathering of accessibility and inclusion professionals, and a chance to connect with like-minded people across the tech world. 

We were grateful to be invited along by our partners at Microsoft, who have been working widely with Nexer on some exciting projects around accessibility, including where it intersects with emerging technologies like AI. 

The event was jam-packed with memorable moments, and we spoke to some amazing people along the way. But a few key moments stood out to us in particular: 

My highlights:  

  • I absolutely loved Joseph Clark-Jones talk about Sony's work in Accessibility. It was brilliant seeing an #ActuallyAutistic speaker take the stage, and hearing the hard work and passion he was putting into the work was fantastic. Joseph was also kind enough to speak with the Nexer group later that day. It was useful to hear what Sony is doing with their ‘Driving Accessibility and Inclusive Design Through Experience Labs’ - and equally thought-provoking to hear about how they describe these environments (they’ve long moved away from “Empathy labs”).   
  • We also got to take part in some hands-on demonstrations of the PlayStation 5's built-in accessibility features, as well as the upcoming Access controller. It was great to try out the unusual-looking circular controller in real life - I was expecting it to take some getting used to but was pleasantly surprised by how quickly my brain adapted to using it instead of the standard controller!  
Chris stands in front of a screen displaying a game - he is using Sony's new Access controller, which is a circular controller with buttons around the edge

Chris gives Sony's new Access controller a test run

  • With so much in the news about AI being used to cheat in education, it was really refreshing to hear how the Gower College Swansea team are using AI proactively to benefit their students. I also really appreciated how thoughtfully the team handled the privacy concerns involved in working with student data and balancing potential worries from both students and parents on the ethics of AI selection.  
  • The new version of the Be My Eyes app, Be My AI, definitely looks interesting - though my favourite moment of that talk was the stories about the existing app, especially a sighted user who, through the app, had a call with a blind user to help them read the results on a pregnancy test. It was a wonderful example of the sort of situation we don't want AI to take over - a situation where human connection and empathy really make a difference.  
  • During a panel on disability representation and AI, Perry Nightingale (SVP, Creative AI) provided a fantastic visual of a situation that only AI could create - when fed with thousands of pictures of parrots and asked to create artwork in the boundaries of a perfect circle, the generator was able to create a very otherworldly 'circular parrot' - a photorealistic parrot in a perfect sphere. It was also interesting to hear about the ethics behind AI and using the right dataset. On the whole other end of the scale, we heard about the trends and marketing tactics being used, such as putting step counters on chickens, and putting their step counts on the eggs produced by them.   

Danny’s highlights: 

  • We got some great insights into the European Accessibility Act (EAA) from a panel featuring Jessica Rafuse (Director of Strategic Partnerships and Policy, Microsoft), Stephanie Cadieux (Chief Accessibility Officer, Canada), Malin Rygg (Head of Digital Authority, Norway), Susanna Laurin (IAAP Representative to the EU), Ted Drake (Global Accessibility and Inclusive Design Leader, Intuit). While the focus was on the changes to the EU market, it was also interesting to hear about the overlapping trends in legislation covering Canada and the USA.  
  • Accessibility in Enterprise; an exceptional panel led by the brilliant Hector Minto, discussed the new Microsoft Horizons roadmap which is a model for connecting with key decision-makers on accessibility. With 3 different levels, it sounds like a very effective way to ensure end-to-end processes and technologies can be adapted across the many different teams and departments. As part of this talk, and some of the other panels their reps were involved in, it was wonderful to hear their stance on the need to provide a diverse workplace and set up a wide representation across teams for success. The outputs for products and services outweigh any investment cost.
  • Teaching Homer Simpson about accessibility; Self-described as clickbait, but incredibly thought- provoking when it comes to both different learning needs, from corporate learners to awareness for school children. I loved the insights in designing learning materials for Mr Spock (using logic and facts to govern our learning) or more like Homer Simpson (short-term gains through low hanging fruits and instant rewards). As an agency that delivers accessibility training regularly, it is important to consider the audiences we’re working with and how to provide the best impact in a short time.  
The Accessibility Tech Leaders Panel at the TechShare Pro 2023 seated onstage in front of an audience

Overall, TechShare 2023 was a fantastic opportunity to explore diverse perspectives on collaboration and forge lasting connections with some of the most dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable people working across the accessibility industry. A huge thank you to everyone who shared their insights with us, to AbilityNet for hosting a truly meaningful event, and to the team at Microsoft for extending the invitation.  
Here’s to TechShare 2024!