Geek Session in review: Accessibility, User Experience and Usability

Yesterday, we opened the door to the community with the third Geek Session, an MD3 brand that aims to raise awareness and discuss different topics in the field of ​​technology, software and programming.

Moderated by António Lopes, MD3’s software engineer, and guest João de Sousa e Silva, PhD in Informatics at University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Master in Informatics and Mobile Computing by the School of Technology and Management of the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, and Bachelor in Informatics Engineering by the same school, the session was divided into João’s presentation on the subject and Q&A by the participants.

João focuses his research work on digital accessibility motivated by the idea that for people with disabilities, technology isn’t just a facilitator, it is the thing that makes it possible. That’s why he thinks his work is as broad as possible and merge it with mainstream research and software development.

Since 2020, he’s been working as an Accessibility Consultant at Maieutic Access and from December of 2015 to the Present date, he’s a research fellow at Institute for Systems and Computer Engineering, Technology and Science (INESC TEC), funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Portugal.

A truly inspiring session – Highlights

  1. We live in a technologically evolved society, however, that is not enough! It is necessary that technological evolution is available to everyone, in an inclusive perspective, so that no one feels excluded and deprived of “normal” life just because their eyes do not see or because their ears do not hear.
  2. João is part of a team in the United Kingdom that tests accessibility in technologies, software, platforms, mobile apps, whose development companies want to see their product certified and in full use by people with disabilities. We realize, from his testimony and years of the academic and professional path, that there is still a lot to do!
  3. In Portugal, we have a long road ahead of us regarding the use of technological means with functionalities accessible to people with disabilities. For example, since the 90s that American laws include accessibility in technologies, set by the public sector. It is a matter of vision and profit. In this case, the companies that develop accessible platforms and software benefit gain more profit from the users that are able to enjoy a more full experience of the resources.
  4. Even though legislation on the topic of accessibility in technologies exists, there are products that apparently meet all the requirements need, but when tested by the people who really need them, prove to be ineffective and outside the law in force.
  5. A visionary warning given by our guest was regarding the senior population. We don’t think about the capacities that this segment of the population is losing and the adaptations that the technology must foresee to avoid exclusions.

“If there was a visionary company that now bet on accessibility, it would be creating its successful future!”

João de Sousa e Silva 

It seems that the market has not yet realized that wealth is lurking in this topic. When that happens, entrepreneurs driven by the desirable fragrance of fortune and success will act and society will, in fact, evolve towards people who are not currently included in technological progress.

In short, we are treating something as basic as specific and minority. It is a little bit the message that João de Sousa e Silva conveys to us, with this Geek Session: What can we improve? How can we bridge this gap in software and technology development?

Last question: What about the role of AI? 

João believes that AI will prevent the lack of existing accessibility, by detecting it in advance and thus correcting this trend. However, he believes that it will be some time before this occurs.

Until then, events like this, serve to raise awareness and clarification for the lay society and for the community of developers, for whom this feedback is precious to work on the accessibility characteristics in an ambitious and comprehensive way, in each project they do.

For his amazing works, for his presence in this event, all MD3’s team want to THANK HIM! 
Looking forward to learning more with João de Sousa e Silva. 

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