Inclusive Innovations Europe 2023: Highlights & Takeaways

December 14, 2023
A cheerful group of three people, Parham speaking into a microphone, with joyful expressions at ININ. Robin Spinks is on the left side of the pic shown smiling.The image is framed within a yellow graphic background with a black dot pattern and text that reads "Inclusive Innovations Europe '23 Insights & Takeaways."

The European edition of Inclusive Innovations has just been held in Utrecht, the Netherlands bringing together accessibility advocates, assistive technology innovators and people from across the blind and low-vision community for a day of workshops, presentations and networking. This third edition proved to be the most ambitious and inclusive event yet, marked by groundbreaking initiatives and inspiring discussions that have left a lasting impact.

Workshops for Change

For the first time at Inclusive Innovations, two morning workshops were hosted with very clear objectives. The first was an in-depth exploration into the world of inclusive and accessible app design run by Jesse Wienholts, a seasoned expert in user experience and accessibility. The second was run as a design session to create new solutions for the three key challenges hindering people with sight loss from fully participating in the labor market, namely 1) an inclusive work environment; 2) bringing employer and job seeker together and 3) onboarding at a new job. Results from this workshop were presented during the networking tech fair sharing grassroots ideas with guests to try out and discuss.

ININ attendees in a  classroom setting, attentively listening to Jesse Wienhold (the expert behind the workshop) at the front, who is seated and using a laptop with a large display screen behind him showing a digital interface.

Bartiméus Fonds Innovation Challenge

A major highlight was the launch of the Bartiméus Fonds Innovation Challenge, a platform for aspiring technologists with a mission to create impactful solutions. With a substantial prize of 70,000 euros, entrants are invited to submit ideas addressing the "last mile" or micro navigation for individuals who are blind or have low vision. This exciting challenge promises to drive innovation and enhance accessibility for the community. Read more about the challenge here.

Dr. Amit Patel's Keynote: Empowerment Through Challenges

The speaker program kicked off with a powerful keynote address from Dr. Amit Patel, renowned Accessibility Advocate, TV presenter, author, and campaigner—also known as @Blind_Dad_UK. Sharing from his personal story and experiences, Amit emphasized the strength found in seeking help and challenging misconceptions about blindness and disability in general. His journey, from overcoming his sudden loss of sight, independence and freedom to navigating a world that often sees disability symbols before abilities, showcased the power of perseverance. Amit's narrative resonated as a testament to the transformative potential within setbacks, urging a shift in perspective towards inclusivity and the celebration of abilities over disabilities.

Amit Patel, the key note speaker on the main stage of ININ.

Tech Demos With A Difference 

From trying out wearables that work like a self-driving car for pedestrians from Biped and AI-powered smartglasses from Envision, attendees got to explore a new indoor navigation system for eZwayZ, feel the tactile smartphone keypads from Hable and discover how Zappar’s accessible QR codes are creating a whole new shopping experience for people who are blind or who have low vision. 

Putting Innovation into Action: Panel Insights

The speaker program also featured a diverse panel brilliantly chaired by Robin Spinks, Principal Manager of Digital Accessibility at RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind). The lively discussion revolved around making accessibility a workplace priority, the importance of governance, automated and manual checks, and making companies aware of the market value of accessibility. Unilever's commitment to accessibility as a key pillar for all products, with financial implications for non-compliance, was highlighted. The panel also delved into recognising the tipping point for organisational culture and understanding of accessibility, stressing the need to make these issues visible and relatable to everyday experiences.

A photo of the panelists on the main stage of ININ, from left to right: Amit Patel,  than Ward, Robin Spinks,Parham Doudstar, Jos Verbrugge, Alice BarrowJona

Key Takeaways

Throughout Inclusive Innovations, common themes emerged, including; the power of peer support, the personal freedom of choice and independence provided by smart and simple tools and technology, the challenges of advocacy, and the importance of continuous learning and empathy in fostering inclusive innovation.

Stay Connected for More from Inclusive Innovations

As we prepare to share video recordings and dedicated blogs from the event's speaker program, join the ININ community on SLACK using this link and stay tuned on social media channels, and community networks for more insights and stories from Inclusive Innovations.