Talking accessibility with Itto Outini (Morocco, 2017/18)
Talking “Accessibility” with Itto Outini (Morocco, 2017/18) in the latest episode of Net:work?: A Fulbrighter conversation.
Extract: Itto Outini on her experiences as a blind person
Laurence: Hello, and welcome to Net:work?: A Fulbrighter conversation. In this March edition we are talking accessibility with Itto Outini.
We have both explored the Apple eco-system. I wonder if you wanted to tell us a little bit about those devices that Apple have brought out in recent years that enable you to fully participate in the internet?
When I lost my eyesight in 2007, I was introduced to the Braille method. And when I came to America on the Fulbright in 2017, I was introduced to technology for the first time.
Itto: When I lost my eyesight in 2007, I was introduced to the Braille method. And when I came to America on the Fulbright in 2017, I was introduced to technology for the first time.
Laurence: What would you see as being the one or two most important devices or specific pieces of technology that have most unlocked the community on the internet.
Itto: Braille method was the only way, but it has a lot of limitations. One of them is, for example, sighted people cannot communicate with the blind and visually impaired people unless they learn how to use that type of writing. So, with the appearance of the Internet, we have three types of screen readers: JAWS which stands for Job Access With Speech, NVDA which stands for Non-Visual Desktop Access, and Voice Over which is a screen reader built into Apple devices.
Laurence: It's great that we have created some really awesome hardware that is allowing folks who lack the visual capacity to consume the information from the internet and be able to engage with that. And these are pretty recent developments, and I have spoken with you before about the impact of that on the lives of folks like yourself.
Itto: I think I have lived life three times. I do not know basically how to express it, but I think I was blind and became visually impaired and became sighted again.
I advocate more for technology: it's a wonderful way for blind and visually impaired people or any person with disability to communicate
Now when people ask me "Are you happy being blind?", I respond, "Yeah - I wish I was introduced to this life". So basically I advocate more for technology: it's a wonderful way for blind and visually impaired people or any person with disability to communicate.
Laurence: To pivot our conversation onto social media, I learned in our design class that accessibility was one topic and you had this list of must dos, like always adding alt text on your images so the screen reader reads out the description. Do you think web accessibility should be higher up on the priority list of the makers of technology across the board?
Itto: The problem is with the updates. Whenever the web updates, then the page become inaccessible and we come across the screen reader flow. So they will never be accessible to each other, because Facebook or any other website is considered to be a third-party app.
Laurence: This interview came about after I spotted you on the Fulbrighter global news feed repeatedly advocating for better accessibility on the platform. I have been trying to lead efforts to have Fulbrighters be more engaged about giving feedback about the different priorities of the Fulbrighter app as it's being developed.
We are in a very privileged position as we have a Fulbrighter app funded for us that means we have a no-ads social media space, and given that we are one of the biggest clients of Hivebrite who are creating this white label social media platform, I wonder if you have a message for Hivebrite or the Fulbrighter network or any Fulbrighters.
Extract: Itto Outini on her big dream
I want to be independent to use the Fulbrighter platform to communicate
Itto: I come across a lot of issues on Facebook groups that are designed for the Fulbrighters because there is not that privacy. And when I started posting on the Fulbrighter platform, I had to have a sighted person help me set it up because it was not accessible at all. And I posted saying that I wanted it to be accessible so that I could communicate with the Fulbrighter global family worldwide on my own. I don't like waiting for a sighted friend to come and help me to do something. I want to be independent to use that platform to communicate.
Laurence: I think it is awesome that you are going out there and asking for it. There are 200,000 plus Fulbrighters worldwide; we are around a year into the Fulbrighter network app, and we have around 13,000 active users signed up. Approximately 75 percent of them can be considered active to some extent. But it is actually a much small percentage that are truly actively posting. And you are waiting on Hivebrite to make the platform have more accessibility features. Here you are really yearning to get involved with this space which, as you say, is objectively an awesome concept; it is actually like a private Facebook group with no ads. Do you think they are missing out?
Extract: Itto Outini on Fulbrighter's potential
Itto: Yes. I think it is a really wonderful platform. My big dream is that I will help to include people with disability on the Fulbright scholarship; because a Fulbright scholarship is for people who are eager to make change and I think people with disability have the ability and the passion to do so. We are in the 21st century and I think it's time to value all human beings as equals.
We are in the 21st century and I think it's time to value all human beings as equals
Laurence: Wow what a wonderful note to wrap up this episode of Net:work? with. I really encourage people to comment and to get in touch with Itto. But it remains for me to thank Itto so much for coming and talking on Net:work?. It's been a wonderful Fulbrighter conversation. It comes every month on the second Monday of the month so next time will be April and I look forward to having the rest of you hear the start of what should be a conversation that can continue both online and off.