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Hope, inspiration and inclusion

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Hello everyone, my name is Steven Mark Langley. I am registered blind, and use the assistive software package JAWS (Job Access with Speech).

I have worked for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) since 2002 in various job roles and assisted projects with end user testing for accessibility/usability. I have a very beautiful and intelligent guide dog called Questa who has become an integral part of my working/social life.

Over the years I have (like everyone else) seen technology come on in leaps and bounds; it has and forever will change people's’ lives and the way we do things. The digital age is here to stay, and this is where everyone involved in technology must be aware of the needs of all end users who have various requirements due to their disabilities.

Having been added to the Government Accessibility Community Group and listening to the  exchanges of information/ideas and solutions, I just had to put some words together to share with you all.

New beginnings

Within the accessibility world a new dawn is breaking, a new understanding is rising above the horizon, and a new soul is born. I am talking about all of you out there within this community who, as I say, ‘get it’. With a humbling sincerity, please make sure that I, and all other people with disabilities, never feel excluded from the Digital age anymore.

The right people for the job, and the passion to succeed

It is amazing just how many professional developers and designers have such a passion to achieve accessible and usable IT systems. The unbelievable enthusiasm to create all-inclusive websites and programmes for those of us who have various disabilities is overwhelming.

The mere thought of one day being able to log in to any site and navigate it without any issues gathering all the relevant information required is almost unimaginable. Being able to input personal details and data into an electronic form without having to ask for assistance would turn frustration into joy.

The collaboration between you all is phenomenal; the way you all share information, the advice you give each other, the sharing of best practises, and lessons learnt cannot be ignored by those who place accessibility in a small afterthought box. It really does feel that a change of attitude and progress is now taking place. The understanding by people like your good selves, who are not just prepared to tick a box to say ‘’that bit of the accessibility side is done’’. You are changing old ways of thinking, you are creating the future of how accessibility is to be looked at and taken forward, you have the power and skills to affect so many people’s lives for the better.

A huge can of positiveness and hope

Most of us are familiar with the saying ‘ opening a can of worms’. I don’t look at all of this reaction to Alistair setting up this group as a can of worms. No. What Alistair has opened is a huge can of positiveness and hope.

A good leader is needed to guide/coordinate everybody into a very special team. This to me is Alistair’s main role, and I am sure he will agree with me that all of you are very special and extremely individually skilled and now all part of this tremendously special team.

All this comes with massive responsibilities from you to the people you are striving to help, but I can feel from all your e-mails that you will not let us down.

What you are doing really matters

It is so heartening for me as an end user of assistive software being able to tell my family, friends, colleagues, and basically anyone who will listen about this group. I’m proud to think that after many years,  irritation, frustration, anger and sadness could possibly become emotions of the past. You good people are on the cusp of a realisation of taking my dreams into reality. Be strong, be forthright, and show the doubters that you mean what you say and produce that accessible/usable end product. Never forget, it could be you in our position one day and, believe me, you don’t want that and I don’t want it for you.

You are the best of the best, with hearts of gold and intentions of truth. Go for it and deliver.

Photo of Steven and his guide dog Questa
Steven and his guide dog Questa

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