inABLE hosted the first-ever virtual Inclusive Africa Conference on the 8th and 9th of October, 2020. The two-day conference brought together global and local experts from different sectors to showcase inclusive design, mobile accessibility, and digital accessibility in primary and high school education, higher education, financial services, social media, employment and more.
Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta was the keynote speaker on Thursday where she called for better digital inclusion for persons with disabilities, to eliminate technological barriers that prevent them from accessing services. The First Lady in her speech said the need for digital solutions had been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic which made it necessary for communities and businesses to rely on access to the internet, smart technology and online services to survive.
She said that there is a need to adopt regional and global best practices to ensure young people with disabilities are not left behind in contributing to Kenya’s development. She expressed concern that digital services and products that fully cater for the needs of persons with disabilities were still lacking in many areas.
The First Lady lauded Kenya’s Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs for its recent launch of a new National Information, Communication and Technology Policy that prioritises access and inclusion of technology for persons with disabilities.
The next speaker was at the Conference, Rama Gheerawo who is the Director of the Helen Hamlyn Institute in the UK. Rama provided an overview of the key principles of inclusive design, while highlighting those who benefit from it and why it is necessary.
His speach was followed by a panel discussion by leading international and African policy experts and users with disabilities who discussed how to improve accessibility in the financial sector. The Moderator for this session was distinguished Kenyan lawyer, Dr. K. I. Laibuta. The panelists were Yuval Wagner, Founder/ President, Access Israel, Christopher Patnoe, Lead Program Manager, Accessibility Programs Google, Daniel Obam, CEO/Communications Secretary at the National Communications Secretariat (NCS), Ida Jallow, Program Coordinator ITU Regional Office for Africa, and Eng. Irene Kaggwa Sewankambo, Ag. Executive Director and Director Engineering and Communications Infrastructure, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).
The next speaker was Haben Girma, who is the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School and a global advocate for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Haben shared her life story and how her teachers encouraged her to do what she thought was impossible.
Mobile accessibility was one of the first topics to be discussed on Friday morning by a panel comprised of Mr. Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, the Chief Financial Services Officer at Safaricom PLC, Clara Aranda Jan, Insights Manager, GSMA, UK, and Karen Smit, Principal Specialist, Specific Needs Commercial Business Unit, Vodafone, South Africa, and Brian Kemler, Accessibility and inclusion Product Manager, Google.
Fredrick Haga the Director, Special Needs at the Kenya Ministry of Education later on moderated a Primary and High School Education session. His of panel was graced by Ambrose Murangira, Disability Inclusion Advisor, Uganda, Leopoldine Nakashole, Deputy Director, Special Programmes & Schools, Ministry of Education, Namibia, Florian Rabenstein, Education Officer, UNICEF, Kenya and Irene Mbari-Kirika, Founder and Executive Director, inABLE.org, Kenya/ USA.
The inaugural Conference brought together global and local knowledgeable experts from different sectors to showcase inclusive design, mobile accessibility, and digital accessibility in primary and high school education, higher education, financial services, social media, employment.