Digital Gap Initiative Management Committee
Gisele Mesnage, Founder/ President
Gisele is an experienced and passionate advocate based in Sydney. She moved to Australia from France, aged 11, after being told by her parents that her family was going on an adventure to see kangaroos.
She graduated in 1998 from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts (Social Science) with Honours, has completed multiple computing courses at TAFE NSW and enjoys continuing education courses at the WEA, Sydney, particularly in space exploration and marine biology. Gisele also has an enviable knowledge of Star Trek, being a long-time Trekkie. Give her a call – you may find her voicemail recording reveals she is on the starship Enterprise and cannot take your call.
Gisele has volunteered for many not-for-profit organisations over the years and was involved in the peace movement and advocating for Aboriginal rights. She was a member of the Sydney Space Association for 25 years, advocating for Australia’s own space program.
Gisele is a member of the Ashfield Access Committee of Ashfield Council. Gisele also has a wealth of experience as an end-user tester of digital technology.
Gisele enjoys sharing time with her family and friends, theatre (audio-described where possible, of course) and opera and folk music, falling asleep to an audio book and chilling out, walking and swimming with her noble Guide Dog and friend, D’Artagnan (a.k.a. Mr D). Those who know her well know the way to her heart is marzipan, not chocolate, and that the first English word she learned was “shut up”, obviously she still doesn’t know what those words mean.
Gisele’s goal is to bring about legal and other systemic reforms to create an inclusive digital society. Although her father is no longer with us, his influence lives on in Gisele’s conviction that digitalisation makes the world more accessible. As her father used to spend hours explaining to her, binary code is flexible and not visual. After decades attempting to bring about change through lodging complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission, direct approaches to various organisations and ultimately litigation, Gisele founded The Digital Gap Initiative to achieve real change in a systematic and constructive way.
James is an Adaptive Technology Consultant and Disability Liaison Officer based in Tasmania. He lost his sight on his 21st birthday as a result of Marfan Syndrome. Searching for a job, James discovered the hard way that the blind were five times more likely to be unemployed than their sighted counterparts. He chose academic study to increase his potential of employment success, going on to complete a Diploma in Occupational Therapy, Bachelor of Arts with Hons I in Philosophy (for which he was admitted to the Dean’s Roll of Excellence and awarded both Alfred Houston and Golden Key International Honour Society scholarships) and a Bachelor of Social Work & Applied Human Sciences in Disability Studies.
The journey was a difficult one. While a student, James began to experience the digital gap first-hand, being forced to file a discrimination complaint against the University for its use of inaccessible course materials.
Since completing his studies, James has been heavily involved in web testing, working with web developers so that his knowledge and experience is combined with that of the developer to maximise accessibility and usability.
James currently works in the NGO and TAFE sectors, providing workplace and educational accommodations for people experiencing disability (vision loss but other disabilities, too), technical writing, consulting on digital accessibility and usability of e-learning, and training on adaptive technology. He has won numerous state and national awards for the quality of programs he has implemented to promote access.
James previously sat on the board of ILCTas, an advisory and information service for maximising daily living with assistive technology. His tireless work for numerous arts access groups including Arts Access Australia and the Interweave Arts Association (serving as their Secretary/ Grants Officer for over 8 years during which time he raised over $1.4 million in funding) garnered him both the Regional Arts Australia Volunteer Award for Sustained Contribution and the Tasmanian Human Rights Award. He recently ended his six‑year term on the Premier’s Disability Advisory Council (PDAC), which provides strategic advice to the Tasmanian Government on issues of social inclusion and participation of people with disability where he served as Community Chair advocating primarily for Accessible ICT Procurement Policies to be adopted across government.
He categorically denies swinging from rooftops with a billyclub, though.