Tuesday, May 30th on #AXSChat Twitter Chat – Jake Abma – Accessibility Lead for ING Netherlands and Ambassador of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

ost of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed be no help at all. (34)

Accessibility Lead for ING Netherlands

For the last four years, Jake has set up a raft of initiatives to make sure products and services are accessible to people with the widest range of capabilities. He’s a passionate promoter of accessibility both inside and outside the Bank.

jake3Product Owner

ING has introduced different initiatives to ensure full customer accessibility to our services and products, initially on a somewhat ad-hoc basis. Since 2 years Jake is the Product Owner for Team A11Y, and his mission is to make it managed and documented.

Champions Network

Building the right technology, and creating standards, is a top priority for Jake and his team, which is made up of people from different disciplines, such as IT, UX and communication, some of them having a disability themselves. “We’re also setting up a Champions Network, inspired by BBC and Barclays, and we’ve just launched a new page on the Dutch ING website inviting feedback from customers on what their needs are, and communicating with them about what we’re doing.”

ING Accessibility Team
ING Accessibility Team – (credits Jake Abma)

Ambassador UN CRPD

Since a year and a half, Jake is very active as an ambassador of the UN CRPD. As an ambassador of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) actively contribute to spread the knowledge and to raise awareness of the existence and necessity of the rights of people with disabilities.

Map - Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Countries who ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol

Web Guidelines Expert Group (WCAG)

Part of the WEG within the Netherlands. The WEG will propose amendments, ideas, concerns, interpretation and clarification of the Web Guidelines into consideration and issue a non-binding opinion thereon to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Collaborating across banks

One of the initiators of an accessibility ‘Task Force’ from within the G3ict, set up in conjunction with the UN, which currently involves nine banks in many different countries, sharing best practices on a range of topics. “Accessibility in banks extends to branches, ATMs, banking cards, basically any financial transaction where people are involved.”

Accessibility Guild

An Accessibility Guild within ING, along with the lines of the Spotify model, is another of Jake’s initiatives. The Guild invites colleagues from different departments – IT, communication, debit cards, ATMs, branding, to come together and see how we can all help and strengthen each other. “This is currently just in the Netherlands,” says Jake, “but with the rise in modular architecture, with projects like TouchPoint Architecture and Model Bank, it could become relevant for other countries too.” Jake is in regular contact with countries such as Spain, Poland, Germany and Belgium, sharing best practices on accessibility from the Netherlands.

Jake Abma and Debra Ruh
Jake Abma and Debra Ruh (credits Jake Abma)

A passionate promoter

“The CRPD changed the definitions,” Jake explains. “It was no longer the person who had a problem, but the product, service or environment; if it had barriers that hindered a disabled person’s full participation in society on an active and equal basis with others, then it needed changing.”

Since then, Jake has been a passionate promoter of accessibility. He has made sure that accessibility principles can be found within ING’s user interface framework, The Guide. “And they’re not just for IT, but for Product Owners, designers, developers, the whole spectrum.”

Jack photo from M-Enabling
Jack photo from M-Enabling. (credits Jake Abma)

More info at AXSChat

May 23rd – #axschat Twitter chat with Rosemary Musachio.Chief Accessibility Officer at Ruh Global Communications.

Rosemary Musachio
Rosemary Musachio

When Rosemary was born on September 13, 1966, at an American naval hospital in Pozzuoli, Italy, the doctor asked her parents, “What will you do with her?”  Her parents looked at each other and thought he was crazy.  The ignorant physician asked because she had brain damage, which resulted in cerebral palsy.  Ironically, her brain was damaged because of his clumsiness; he bumped her head during delivery.  He presumed that she would be a vegetable for the rest of her life.

Rosemary has proven that doctor dead wrong.  For every limitation she has, she has been able to overcome it in one way or another.  Even though she cannot walk, she dances in her wheelchair to music.  Although she cannot talk, she uses a word board to communicate quite eloquently.  Although she cannot use her hands to perform daily tasks, she uses a head pointer to type on a keyboard.

Despite all her challenges, Rosemary has been able to accomplish a great deal during her life so far.  A year after graduating Cleveland States University Magma Cum Laude with a B.A. in Communications, she became a monthly columnist for Sun Newspapers in Cleveland, Ohio.  Her column, Bit Of A Challenge, was the paper’s most popular column, running for ten years.  She also had articles published in The Plain Dealer and Italian Gazette.  Also, she edited and published two monthly disability-related newsletters, The Able Informer and Ability Age.  Issues still roam around the Internet.  In her spare time, Rosemary reads, watches foreign movies, and writes poetry.  In fact, one of her goals is to publish a book of her poetry by the end of the year.

Rosemary Musachio hang gliding in Ridgley, Maryland
Rosemary Musachio hang gliding in Ridgley, Maryland

Besides establishing herself as a writer and a poet, Rosemary has pursued her dream of travelling and setting new heights…literally.  She has visited Italy (5 times so far), Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Holland, and Belgium.  During one of her visits to Italy, she met the Pope!  She also has a daredevil spirit.  Several years ago she did tandem hang gliding in Ridgley, Maryland, where she went up twice at 2500ft and 5000ft.  A year afterwards, she took a ride on a customised motorcycle through eastern Metroparks and Chagrin Falls.  She also rode a horse on a Colorado dude ranch and skied at Brandywine ski resorts.  For her next adventures, Rosemary wants to paraglide and go in a hot air balloon.  No wonder her motto is “If you don’t accept challenges, you are not living.”

Rosemary photographed with a horse at a Colorado Dude Ranch

In September 2001, Rosemary saw an ad by TecAccess, a Virginia-based technology company, in a disability newsletter.  It needed web testers, so she applied for the position.  During her ten years at TecAccess, she did everything from writing press releases and conducting business development correspondence to testing software and websites for accessibility standards.  Rosemary even helped train disabled veterans.  She was an accessibility analyst and a blogger for two other technology companies before holding her current position as Chief Accessibility Officer at Ruh Global Communications.

Rosemary is very adamant about the rights of non-verbal patients.  She believes communication between medical professionals and non-verbal patients is vital to treatment and recovery.  She has given presentations and written articles on the topic.  One day she hopes to offer a training course on it.

When people say how inspiring Rosemary is, she shakes her head and rolls her eyes.  Of course, she is humbled by and grateful for the compliment.  Yet, she feels there’s nothing inspiring about living life to the fullest despite disabilities.  Ironically, her parents and friends have been Rosemary’s inspirations.  Without their love and support, she might have ended up where that doctor at the Naval Hospital insinuated to place her.

Follow Rosemary on Twitter!