Digital Gap Initiative, the AHR and Public Interest Advocacy Centres invite you to a very special seminar…

You’ll remember from our 2016 Wrap-Up that we were eagerly spruiking Friend of DGI, Lainey Feingold’s then new book, Structured Negotiation, A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits, which at the time had been recently published by the American Bar Association (ABA).

We can finally reveal just why it was that our little organisation was promoting this book by the renowned U.S. disability civil rights lawyer so enthusiastically.

Through the usual rigour of our forensic research in the area of digital inaccessibility – DGI after all being the CSI of digital access crimes – we had initially learned that disability rights advocates in the US had, like us, been similarly pushing to make the digital world accessible to everyone.  Their work, however, had led to more immediate outcomes than had occurred to date in Australia, including many more talking ATMs, accessible websites and mobile apps, talking prescription labels, accessible pedestrian signals, audio description and accessible health care and financial information.  What we learned again and again through the above advancements is how many had significantly benefited from an approach pioneered and developed by Lainey through her twenty plus years’ experience representing blind people and their organisations across the US.  This approach came to be known as Structured Negotiation.

When looking for a high-profile personality to open our inaugural World Usability Day event at Parliament House, Canberra in November, 2015, we reached out to Lainey, firstly advising her of our own efforts to make the digital world accessible “Down Under”, and then our request.  She rewarded us with the boundless generosity we would later come to know her by when she agreed, and kindly prepared a special video message to all those who gathered with us to celebrate the occasion.

Our networking with other disability rights advocates in the US continued in 2016, including with Blind Film Critic, Tommy Edison (after being kindly connected to him by local Friend of DGI, Rick Randall) and esteemed accessibility guru, Jim Thatcher, kept forcing us back into Lainey’s orbit, with both regularly referring to her in conversation and how highly regarded she was in our space.  Lainey herself then reconnected with us to alert us to her book’s release in September that year.  Then when Jim’s website went down and we were unable to raise a response from him, concerned, we reached out to Lainey who advised us that Jim had become unwell and connected us up with his wife, Diana Seidel.  Before we knew it, we had offered to step up to the plate and host his invaluable website as a historical archive [here].

Regular contact with Lainey continued into the New Year when she advised us of her intention to take a break from the exhaustion of “Trump’s America” and visit some friends in Sydney.  Seeing this as way too good an opportunity to pass up (we’re like that;), we floated the idea of returning the favour she had so kindly done for us at our Parliament House event by offering to coordinate our efforts to host a seminar promoting her book, and where she could also share her learned strategies and open discussion with disability rights lawyers how these might be similarly applied here in Australia.  Without very much coaxing at all, we were able to easily convince Lainey to agree, and the rest as they say is history.

And so it is with great esteem that the Digital Gap Initiative, along with the Australian Human Rights Centre (AHRC) and Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), invites you to:

Structured Negotiation and the quest for equal access in the digital age: lessons from the US disability rights movement

with US disability rights lawyer Lainey Feingold

Portrait photograph of Lainey Feingold

Date: Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Time: 5.30pm – 7pm

Venue: Ashurst Australia, Level 11, 5 Martin Place, Sydney

 

Order of events:

5.30pm              Light refreshments

6pm – 7pm       Seminar and Q&A

At the seminar, Lainey will discuss her 20+ years of collaboration to advance disability civil rights and how strategies used in the United States might be applied here in Australia. She will also bring the audience up-to-date on what is happening with U.S. digital accessibility court cases, laws, and regulations. Websites are global, tech companies are global and digital advocacy is global too.

RSVP*

*For screen reader users, we recommend using the Firefox browser to RSVP on the Eventbrite website – or please email diane.macdonald@unsw.edu.au to register your interest.

 

Lainey’s book, Structured Negotiation, A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits, tells the story of the dispute resolution process she pioneered that avoids lawsuits in favour of win-win solutions to complex legal issues. Lainey and her clients have used Structured Negotiation with some of the largest organisations in the United States to protect and advance the rights of blind people to access digital information and other technologies. The book can be purchased on the night (limited copies available). For readers with print disabilities, Structured Negotiation is available in epub format through the ABA, or with enhanced typesetting enabled in the ebook version from Amazon or on Bookshare.

DGI 2015 Wrap-up and what’s ahead for 2016

How DGI was born

Gisele Mesnage founded the Digital Gap Initiative (DGI) on a stormy Sunday in Sydney on 7 December 2014.

Gisele recalls:

“At the time I was in the midst of a legal action pursuant to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) against supermarket giant Coles, over the accessibility of their website. It was at least the 12th DDA complaint I had lodged over web accessibility issues since 2001. My experience in conciliating these cases led me to believe that a more systemic approach – including legislative reforms – was needed to tackle digital accessibility issues in our digital age. So on Sunday 7 December 2014 I was bouncing ideas on this question over the phone with a friend, Leah Grolman. We were both drinking Rooibos tea and chatting between breaks in the wild thunderclaps that raged over Sydney. By the end of the storm, the Digital Gap Initiative had been born and named.”

Connecting

Gisele then connected with people who shared the vision for the goals of DGI.  On 15 April 2015 an inaugural meeting of an informal DGI management committee was held over Skype.  It was decided that DGI would operate as a network.

Launch events in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra

Melbourne – Global Accessibility Awareness Day

On 13 May 2015 the company AccessHQ hosted an event at its Melbourne offices to launch DGI.  Ted McCoskey, who had taken on the role of President of DGI, and Gisele Mesnage, founder of DGI, both spoke at this gathering.

Sydney – Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

This was followed by a bigger launch event at the Sydney Hilton on 21 May 2015, Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The event was again sponsored by AccessHQ and attended by over 50 government and business representatives.  Ted and Gisele again addressed this gathering.  One of the guests at the event was Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, who invited DGI to hold a launch event at Australian Parliament House in Canberra.

Parliament House, Canberra – World Usability Day (WUD)

The Canberra launch took place at Australian Parliament House on 12 November 2015 on World Usability Day (WUD).

The event was co-hosted by Senators Rachel Siewert and Lee Rhiannon (the Greens) and Senator Jo Lindgren (Liberal Party) and Senator Carol Brown (ALP).

The launch event, opened by DGI Founder, Gisele Mesnage (download Opening Speech document here) was attended by 60 people, including parliamentarians and other government representatives, as well as business and community leaders.

The highpoint of the event was Gisele’s opening speech (below), and a panel discussion hosted by Ted McCoskey. Panellists included Greg Barnett (AccessHQ), Roger Sniezek (Coles), Andrew Arch (Digital Transformation Office), Christos Petrou (IBM), Alex Varley (Media Access Australia), Johmar Gazo (NAB), Sarah Pulis (PWC) and James Newton (DGI).  The animated discussion explored the theme of inclusion and innovation.  The event received a special video message from Lainey Feingold of the Lainey Feingold Legal Office in the US.

Acknowledgements

We extend warm thanks to all those who donated to our chuffed.org appeal and made it possible for three DGI members to travel to Canberra to participate in the event.  We also wish to extend special thanks to Coles for paying for the catering at the event, to NAB for a $1,000 donation, and to all panellists and other supporters who assisted us with practical tasks.

Other 2015 Highlights

Our Focus for 2016

  • Accessible online shopping such as Coles
  • Continued campaigning on Touch Screen POS devices such as the “Albert”
  • Advocating for designated accreditation codes to be applied to ICT, web and other digital accessibility skills training under the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA)
  • Accessibility and ICT public procurement
  • Advocating against PDF as a sole format for online downloadable documents
  • Networking
  • Opening up discussion on compliance-based standard on digital accessibility