The writer Dan Senor in his book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle wrote that “it is a story not just of talent but of tenacity, of insatiable questioning of authority, of defining informality, combined with a unique attitude towards failure, teamwork, mission , risk and interdisciplinary creativity”. Last week, I was fortunate enough to be part of a select group to participate in a five-day program known as the Global Accessibility and Inclusion Summit, or GAILS for short, sponsored by Access Israel, a non-profit organization whose main mission is both to promote accessibility and inclusion throughout the State of Israel and to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. Yet throughout the summit, what became evident was not just the structure of the event, but the fact that Israel provides such fertile ground for exploring the ever-changing scope and definitions of accessibility. .
Access Israel’s philosophy for this event was built on the premise of bringing together a diverse group of leaders across the accessibility space and developing an environment for cross-pollinating ideas, building trust and planting seeds to reinforce a greater sense of community that has the potential to grow exponentially. Over the course of five days, this diverse group of thinkers and practitioners from around the world developed a sense of collegial harmony and built relationships that challenged the traditional framework of accessibility and offered new avenues for thinking. to the potential opportunities of what can be done, not just in the State of Israel, but around the world.
Although this was the first year that Access Israel had embarked on such an endeavor, what they understood through their programming included meeting with members of the Technology Pillars team from the Israeli campuses of Microsoft and Google at a multitude of young entrepreneurs who have shared their start-up visions is recognizing the changing language of accessibility goes well beyond curbs and ramps to something even deeper, a model of innovation that will have a tectonic effect on the century to come.
The conclusion of these five days, beyond the feeling of being part of a new community, was the ability to recognize that accessibility is an umbrella term that has significant nuance and complexity. We live at an inflection point where we must commit to exploring the many affluents that will define accessibility for the future to come and identify that the lived experience of disability is inextricably linked to various elements of innovation, including design, technology and the future of work.
Access Israel understands that as an organization they are embarking on a new paradigmatic model in the disability space. They position themselves as a key mechanism for change that espouses the values of innovation leadership and highlights the disability community as central to building a new formula to help discover more effective solutions linking government, universities, non-profits and businesses to look forward to. a society that embraces full inclusion as a core ethic.
Access Israel and the Global Accessibility and Inclusion Summit (GAILS) are a monumental step forward in disrupting the status quo and bringing accessibility in all its permutations to the forefront of societal thinking. Accessibility can no longer be an afterthought, but an essential element in shaping a better quality of life for all.