2023 Pre-Conference Speakers

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Laila Coulton (she/her)

Head of Design, Research and Accessibility Operations, Xero

'Digital Accessibility and learning when to flex'

In her presentation, Laila will share her background and experience in the Digital Accessibility space within large corporate environments. She'll discuss the challenges she faced and key learnings, emphasising the importance of flexibility and problem-solving skills. Laila will highlight the balanced approach of using both top-down and bottom-up strategies, along with "carrot and stick" to drive progress. Lastly, she will outline the critical factors for knowing when to flex effectively.

About Laila

Laila is the Head of Design, Research and Accessibility Operations at Xero and is passionate about business transformation, design thinking and customer experience. With a background in strategic consulting, Laila is known for eliminating complexity, leading change and establishing new teams or capabilities. Laila established the Digital Accessibility capability at Coles Group in Australia and is now leading the global Digital Accessibility team for Xero. Laila lives in New Zealand with her husband and two sons.

Laila’s LinkedIn Profile

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Lauren Hayes

Independent Digital and Arts Accessibility Consultant

'The Carrots are Overcooked: Moving Beyond the Business Case for Digital Accessibility'

The moral case for employing people with disabilities has been discussed for years across the world at countless conferences and workshops. We are hard workers, problem solvers, more likely to remain as long-term employees, and take fewer sick days. Why aren’t the arguments working? Like a pot of carrots boiled for too long on the stove, they’ve lost their flavour, and no one wants a bite.

The business case for digital accessibility holds more weight than the moral case for employing people with disabilities, but it is also being ignored. This presentation will outline the key arguments in the business case for accessibility and where they fall short. Lauren will discuss how changes in education could influence digital accessibility in the workplace, and how stronger legislation could create positive change. For too long we’ve offered carrots in hopes that we could avoid using the stick, but now what choice do we have if no-one is willing to eat? How can we use legislation effectively? Can we strike a good balance of both carrot and stick, rather than an “either/or” approach?

Weaving personal stories and facts, Lauren will paint a picture of her ideal accessible world, and how this could be achieved. Carrot cake is compulsory.

About Lauren

Lauren is a creative and passionate Digital and Arts Accessibility Consultant. She has over 7 years’ experience in collaborating with organisations to review and provide guidance on best practice regarding accessible and inclusive design of products and services.

After beginning her accessibility journey at AccessibilityOz in 2016, Lauren decided to try her hand at freelancing, establishing Lauren Hayes Consulting Services in 2019. As a freelancer, Lauren has significant experience in providing technical and advisory support to not-for-profit, disability, arts and community organisations, including Able Australia, Guide Dogs Victoria, Arts Access Victoria, Melbourne Fringe Festival and Intopia.

Lauren recently moved from Melbourne to Wellington, and when she’s not auditing websites or helping artists embed accessibility into their shows, you’ll find her at a choir rehearsal, checking out live theatre, or exploring local cafes and bars.

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Callum McMenamin

Web Standards Consultant, Department of Internal Affairs

'Doing accessibility well'

Accessibility has a range of clear benefits for disabled people, and it also has a strong business case. But, we have to make sure that accessibility is done correctly, otherwise these benefits might be missed — or worse, we might actively harm accessibility. In this talk, sensible strategies, and common pitfalls of implementing accessibility will be discussed.

About Callum

Callum McMenamin works as a Web Standards Consultant at Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs. He has 10 years of experience in designing and developing mobile and web applications, and has spent the last 3 years specialising in digital accessibility. Callum has low vision, and this fuels his mission of building an accessible Aotearoa for all.

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Professor Gillian McCarthy

Director of Postgraduate Programmes, School of Design Innovation at Victoria University of Wellington

'Education opportunities for Digital Accessibility'

Gillian will talk about developing a ‘micro-credential’ in digital accessibility in partnership with DIA, and reflect on opportunities to improve digital accessibility education more broadly. 

About Gillian

Dr Gillian McCarthy is a Lecturer in User Experience Design at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington and an IAAP Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC). She’s been developing tertiary-level curriculum in digital accessibility, ensuring people going into careers in design, software development and content writing can improve accessibility within their practice. 

Gillian’s LinkedIn Profile

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Chris Anderson

Senior User Experience Specialist, ASB

'ASB's Accessibility Journey'

ASB is now one of NZ’s leading companies that are genuinely addressing accessibility needs in their designs. It wasn’t easy to get here. In this talk you can gain some insight into the failures and successes ASB has had since starting down this path in 2015. We’ve had to encounter and overcome ignorance, apathy and mis-matched objectives. And stakeholders. So many stakeholders.

About Chris

Chris Anderson is a veteran user experience designer with over 20 years in the industry. His customer-focused work in design has been applied in medical, teaching, telecommunications, research, retail and banking spaces. He joined ASB in 2015 and in 2018 spearheaded their successful accessibility programme for a number of years.

Chris is also a founding member of Te Atatu’s maker space, TAP lab, which helps to bring STEM activities to the community..

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Chandra, a woman with short brown wavy hair, looking relaxed and smiling at the camera.

Dr Chandra Harrison

Managing Director, Access Advisors
(Aotearoa’s only homegrown specialist digital accessibility consultancy)

'Eating the accessibility elephant one bite at a time'

One of the main barriers to successfully integrating digital accessibility is that many businesses just don’t know where to start. It is almost like there is an metaphorical elephant in the room that most business want to do something about, they just don’t know where to start.

Most know that improving accessibility is the right thing to do. Chandra will explain how to take the first bite and how each bite will improve outcomes for everyone, not just for disabled people.

About Chandra

For 20+ years Chandra has worked with businesses around the world helping them implement accessible and usable solutions. Chandra combines her lived experience of chronic health issues and neurodivergence with the theoretical foundation of a PhD in Human Computer Interaction and extensive industry experience to provide pragmatic solutions that make a difference for people.

She enjoys supporting stakeholders on their accessibility journeys almost as much as she loves doing usability research, training, and talking at conferences. Chandra is passionate about making everyday interactions and experiences more accessible, enjoyable, easier, and more efficient.

Chandra and her family live in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

Chandra’s LinkedIn Profile