Keynote Speakers

Axel Leblois

Opening Keynote Speaker

Photo of Axel Leblois

Axel Leblois spent over 20 years at the helm of information technology companies in the United States including as CEO of Computerworld Communications, CEO of IDC - International Data Corporation, Vice-Chairman of IDG - International Data Group, President of Bull HN Worldwide Information Systems - formerly Honeywell Information Systems, CEO of ExecuTrain and President of W2i, the Wireless Internet Institute. Axel Leblois served as a Senior Special Fellow of UNITAR, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, and is a founding trustee of its North American affiliate CIFAL Atlanta. He served as chairman of the board of the Atlanta International School and is chairman of the board of CASIE, the Center for the Advancement and Study of International Education. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars on ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities organized for policy makers, civil society and the private sector to foster collaboration among multiple stakeholders. In his capacity, Mr. Leblois oversees all the publishing, capacity building and advocacy activities of G3ict. Mr. Leblois holds an MBA from INSEAD and is a graduate of Sciences Po Paris.

Axel J. Leblois
G3ict, Atlanta, Georgia, United States,

The DARE Index: Monitoring the Progress of Digital Accessibility around the World

Research Conducted by Advocates for Advocates

It is not sufficient to simply express the goal of improved digital access for people with disabilities, without properly monitoring the progress towards those goals. This keynote speech describes the Digital Accessibility Rights Evaluation (DARE) index, which is coordinated by the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ICT). The DARE index is a benchmarking tool, for disability advocates, governments, civil society, international organizations and policy makers to trace country progress in making Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) accessible for all, in compliance with Article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The DARE Index measures three categories of variables in each country: country commitments (legal, regulatory, policies and programs), country capacity to implement (organization, processes, resources) and actual digital accessibility outcomes for persons with disabilities in 10 areas of products and services. Data is collected in close cooperation with Disabled People's International (DPI) and persons with disabilities worldwide, considering their best position to assess and report on digital accessibility matters in their respective countries. This keynote speech for ASSETS 2021 describes the DARE index and the most recent data collected in the DARE index in 2020, and highlights how the DARE index can be used to support digital accessibility research.

Annalu Waller

Closing Keynote Speaker

Photo of Annalu Waller

Annalu Waller PhD OBE is Professor of Human Communication Technologies and the Academic Lead for Computing at Dundee University, Scotland. She directs the Dundee Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Research Group and has worked in the field of AAC since 1985, designing communication systems for and with nonspeaking individuals. Her primary research areas are human centred computing, natural language processing, personal narrative and assistive technology. In particular, she focuses on empowering end users, including disabled adults and children, by involving them in the design and use of technology. She is programme lead for a new MSc in Educational Assistive Technology and co-directs an MSc in AAC with Psychology. Professor Waller was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List in 2016 for services to people with Complex Communication Needs and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

Annalu Waller
School of Science and Engineering, University of Dundee, Dundee, Angus, United Kingdom

Participatory Design and Research: Challenges for Augmentative and Alternative Communication Technologies

User-Centred Design (UCD) and Participatory Action Research (PAR) have laid the foundations for Universal Accessibility. The inclusion of disabled end users in the design of digital Assistive Technology (dAT) is now an expectation within the accessibility field. However, some areas of dAT research fall short of this gold standard, especially when end users have speech, language and/or cognitive impairments. This is a particular challenge when developing technology for individuals who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). In her ASSETS 2021 keynote talk, Prof. Waller provides a brief history of the development of AAC technologies since the early 1970s with a focus on users with severe speech and physical disabilities, illustrating that, despite significant advances in technology, the underlying design of AAC has not changed. This is in part due to challenges associated with the inclusion of a diverse user group in all stages of research from project ideation to product evaluation. She will demonstrate how a more inclusive approach might be achieved and will challenge the research community to consider the nature of interdisciplinary research teams and their role in setting the research agenda.