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‘Snowboarding, AI navigation and being a digital nomad’: An accessibility profile

Posted by Kate Morris on May 30, 2024 9:59 AM

An interview with Accessibility Consultant, Adi Latif.

Adi Latif, an experienced screen reader user and technology enthusiast, has been blind since his teenage years. Adi was named in the 2020’s prestigious Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 - a list of 100 of the UK’s most influential people who are disabled or who live with an impairment. We caught up with him as part of a host of activities to promote Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). He shares how good digital design empowers his independence, helping to ensure his life is anything but limited.

Adi Latif is an accessibility consultantA glimpse into Adi’s life

Adi has a genetic eye condition that caused him to lose most of his sight by his mid-teens. Despite this, he lives an active life. “I go tandem cycling whenever I can with a friend and every year I go snowboarding. That’s my thing. When I was 16, I was told: ‘no, snowboarding isn’t something for someone who’s blind’, but as any teenager would, I ignored the advice and became the world’s first sponsored blind snowboarder.”  Alongside all this, Adi is busy working full time as an Accessibility and Inclusive Design Consultant helping to empower organisations on how to best design inclusive products and services (Connect with Adi on Linkedin).

Navigating the Digital World

Adi’s daily digital routine is a testament to how technology can empower independence. “The major gadgets I use are my iPhone, Apple Watch and laptop. Right now, I’m staying with a friend in Spain. This morning, I wanted to work from a café – as a digital nomad. I used an app called ‘Ariadne GPS’ to save my friend’s house location and then used ‘Google Maps’ to find a nearby café.”

Adi also utilises various apps to navigate his surroundings – using ‘Be My Eyes’ app to live connect with a volunteer or AI for assistance and ‘Seeing AI’ to read signs. “Overall, technology allows me to do things independently that weren’t possible before.”

Challenges with Bad Design

As well as empowering independence, digital design can also be a hinderance. “Bad design can be endlessly frustrating. Poorly designed websites and apps waste time and money. It’s not about creating an accessible app, but designing something that all people can use, because disabled people are people as well.”

The Impact of AI on Accessibility

When asked for his thoughts on how AI might affect digital accessibility, Adi was optimistic about AI’s potential to enhance this space. “AI can be scary but it’s also exciting. Using the ‘Be My Eyes’ app now uses AI to provide detailed descriptions. In a restaurant, if I take a photo of the menu…the app explains it in intelligent ways. I can take a picture of the restaurant and it will describe everything from where the chairs and tables are to paintings in the walls – the whole experience.”

Advice for organisations

Adi emphasises the human aspect of digital accessibility. I think a major challenge for organisations, when they’ve got a product or a service like a website or an app, they just don’t seem to imagine that someone disabled would actually be using it. And you know a lot of times people have said ‘Why would a blind person be using it’? Because they’ve never come across a blind person using a screen reader. Digital accessibility is not a technical thing…it’s a human thing. By making an accessible product, you’re empowering human beings…you’re providing independence.”

One of Adi’s key roles is conducting remote user testing for clients. “Clients feel the pain when things don’t work and the pleasure when they do. It’s a penny-drop moment when they realise they can make their product a pleasure to use. It makes business sense and is the right thing to do. Why unnecessarily take away someone’s independence?”

Conclusion

Adi’s insights underscore the importance of good digital design. Through his experiences and expertise, he advocates for a world where technology empowers everyone. His journey as a blind snowboarder and tech enthusiast demonstrates that with the right tools and inclusive design, independence should be achievable for everybody.

See Adi in action reviewing 5 airline apps using his screen reader: Which airline apps fail blind people? – Which? (youtube.com)

If  you have enjoyed reading about Adi’s experiences, you might also like to check out our other accessibility profiles.

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