Advancing Digital Accessibility In Asia Pacific: Insights From A Fireside Chat With Josh Tseng

In a world deeply entrenched in the realm of digital platforms and services, the significance of accessibility reaches far beyond a moral imperative—it stands as a pivotal stride towards a more inclusive and diverse future. Recently, Jasmine De Guzman, Director of International Marketing at Monsido, engaged in a dialogue with Josh Tseng, Director of Digital Accessibility Services at Etch Empathy, on the state of accessibility in the Asia Pacific region.

Etch Empathy are a nonprofit organization, based in Singapore, which specializes in accessibility consulting for digital services, offering comprehensive training sessions and workshops.

Together, they navigated the landscape of accessibility in the Asia Pacific, unearthing its implications and explored some actionable strategies to propel accessibility initiatives forward.

Watch the full fireside chat on YouTube or read the brief conversation recap below.

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Exploring the Region's Accessibility

The conversation began with a positive evaluation of the advancements achieved in digital accessibility across the Asia Pacific region. While the integration of accessibility in this geographic sphere might be recent, remarkable progress has been accomplished. Josh underscored Singapore's swift strides, noting that while the likes of Hong Kong held a far more advanced position with regards to physical accessibility two decades ago, recent times have seen commendable progress. As Josh put it ‘‘Singapore think has been doing a really good job of making up for lost time, especially in the area of digital accessibility’’ Jasmine concurred, emphasizing that this upward trajectory mirrors the transformative legal measures in nations like Australia and New Zealand—a clear reflection of heightened awareness and implementation of digital accessibility principles in the region.

Corporate Catalysts and Continuing Quest

Josh stated that he believes that a substantial portion of the accessibility headway in Singapore can be credited to multinational corporations who have regional headquarters in the nation—names such as Apple, Facebook, and Google. Their influence and experience operating in regions has help bring digital accessibility to the forefront and has catalyzed significant change in Singapore. As Josh stated:

‘‘All these companies come here because it’s easy to do business, and naturally that leads to a lot of our digital services and digital infrastructure becoming better built as they take their learnings with them.’’

Nonetheless, Josh acknowledged that despite the considerable progress, the path towards aligning with global accessibility standards is an ongoing journey for both Singapore and the broader Asia Pacific region.

Personal Insights from Josh

Josh's vantage point springs from a deeply personal journey marked by his encounter with glaucoma, leading to complete vision loss at just seven years of age. This pivotal life event impressed upon him the profound import of accessibility, sparking a lifelong mission to champion improvements in his country and beyond.

Addressing his impactful Ted Talk titled "How We Can Stop Failing People With Disabilities," Josh outlined his three central pillars for fostering inclusivity:
Accessibility: Encompassing infrastructure, policies, and services to amplify societal participation.

Inclusive Leadership: Key decision-makers must be educated on the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities, so that steps can be taken to enrich their ability to contribute to society.

Self-Advocacy: Amplifying the voices of those living with disability, including his own, through platforms like TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube, cultivating community awareness.

Josh's vision illuminates a path towards a more inclusive society, where barriers are dismantled, voices are amplified, and everyone can thrive. But what are some of the barriers faced by those trying to secure accessibility investment, and what advice does Josh have to help them be more effective in their mission?

Navigating Accessibility Buy-In Hurdles

Addressing some of the common obstacles faced when securing support for accessibility initiatives, Josh pinpointed misconceptions and perceived budgetary limitations as prime hurdles. He stressed the significance of educating and engaging management, and highlighted that financial decisions often hinge on traditional resource allocation practices as opposed to an actual lack of overall resources being available. As Josh put it:

‘‘Getting buy in from management is very frequently one of the key problems, because when you are talking about a big multinational corporation, it’s not about a lack of resources but about the allocation of resources.’’

To secure the backing of upper management and developers, Josh advocated framing accessibility as an investment for enhanced products, services, and user experiences, as opposed to an obligation or cost. He underscored the importance of management recognizing the value of accessibility as a competitive advantage and emphasized that early education is crucial to making accessibility concepts comprehensible to stakeholders and decision-makers.

Driving Affirmative Change

 

Our fireside chat with Josh provided an illuminating snapshot of the evolution of digital accessibility in the Asia Pacific. Beyond his assessment of the progress made and the challenges often encountered in soliciting buy-in, Josh's insights also serve to underscore the pivotal role accessibility plays in nurturing a culture of inclusivity within the region. His championing of self-advocacy, education, and proactive approaches as catalysts for driving affirmative change through accessibility initiatives are something to be celebrated and shared.

In this era dependent on digital interfaces and services, online accessibility and its prioritization transcends ethical considerations; it represents a pivotal and essential stride toward crafting a future that's more truly inclusive and diversified. The fireside chat served as a potent reminder that the journey toward accessibility is still ongoing globally, and that persistent efforts and continuous education are needed to surmount the remaining challenges.

As the Asia Pacific region increasingly embraces these ideals, the horizon brightens for individuals with disabilities and society at large.

To learn more from Josh, follow him on social channels including Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. He has also been featured in two shows on Channel News Asia notably the series “Seeing is Believing” from 2021 and most recently “Live Free” in 2023. For corporate consultation, Josh encourages you to reach out to him on LinkedIn.

Did Josh inspire you to take action on your website's accessibility? We'd love to help with a complimentary website accessibility scan, so you can find out how your website stacks up. Request a scan today.  

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