Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day

A conversation with Accessibility Specialist - Greg Alchin

Global Accessibility Awareness Day logo
In the selfie, Greg Alchin, a Caucasian male with a white beard, is wearing glasses and smiling as he looks directly at the camera.

Be Inclusive by design and accessible by default!

Celebrating the 13th Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) with Greg Alchin.

At Get Skilled Access (GSA), we passionately champion digital accessibility every day. The Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) offers a distinctive moment to spotlight the critical importance of accessibility. 

This year, we are excited to share an exclusive interview with the esteemed Greg Alchin, a renowned inclusioneer and authority on accessibility, amplifying our mission.

Greg Alchin boasts a distinguished career as an inclusioneer, keynote speaker, author, and advocate for disability rights, with an expansive 30-year tenure across the educational, community, and governmental landscapes. Greg brings a wealth of knowledge and insight. His deep understanding of disability, rooted in personal experience and bolstered by certifications from leading tech innovators like Apple and Microsoft, as well as comprehensive studies in accessibility, enables him to speak with genuine expertise. 

As an Associate at GSA, Greg has played a pivotal role in numerous projects, utilising his vast expertise to drive the success of GSA’s initiatives.

In the selfie, Greg Alchin, a Caucasian male with a white beard, is wearing glasses and smiling as he looks directly at the camera. To the left of the image, the text reads: "Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day - a conversation with Accessibility Specialist - Greg Alchin."

Check out this thought-provoking interview.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your journey with disability?

Greg Alchin

Absolutely. I am a husband, a father, grandfather, chocolate eating, whiskey drinking inclusioneer, for whom disability is a lived experience. I’m legally blind in my right eye, and my left eye is a prosthesis also known as an artificial eye or as I like to call it, a plastic fantastic! My disability has shaped who I am, but it does not define me. It has given me insights and perspectives and a deep understanding of the barriers and challenges that many people with disability face. I wanted to be included and participate on the same basis and that fight fuelled my desire to find my own solutions and advocate for myself and others. Eventually, this passion became a career.


You mentioned finding your own solutions. It’s amazing how a simple shift in mentality can make such a difference in terms of inclusion.

Greg Alchin

Exactly. People often see disability as a vulnerability, but that’s not how I or many others view it. We are just normal everyday people who want to live our lives just like everybody else. What limits us, is not our disability, rather it is the impact of the assumptions, misconceptions and poor design decisions of others.

We can express this as a simple equation, Disability = condition + barriers, in other words, I will always have restricted vision. However, when I engage with inclusive and accessible experiences the barriers are removed and the equation is changed.  This is where my work with the Department of Education began and now my work Service NSW thrives. It is also why it is so rewarding working with GSA because inclusion accessibility are a part of the DNA.

As I always say, be inclusive by design and accessible by default!


That’s a great quote! To be honest, not many people know much about accessibility beyond alt text. Can you talk a bit about digital accessibility, especially in the context of Global Accessibility Awareness Day?

Greg Alchin​

Accessibility is about making experiences inclusive, whether in the digital world or media or everyday life experiences such as sport. The purpose of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion, and the more than One Billion people with disability.

Accessibility is a human right enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It’s also an enabling right. Without accessibility, how can people participate in politics, make purchases, or manage their health? We have the right to freedom, safety, and voting. Accessibility is the foundation that allows us to exercise these other rights.

At its’ core accessibility is about empathy and respect. We need to understand other people’s perspectives and experiences to design solutions that include everyone. People who design, build or buy ICT to create a digital services need to understand that the decisions they make decide who is intentionally included and who is unwittingly excluded. Just like we have the national building code and accessibility building standards we also have a national standard for digital accessibility (AS EN 301 549) to guide us in our efforts.  The important thing to remember when we design inclusively and accessible by default we deliver product and services recognises that that include features which are essential for some people and useful for all.  

Good accessibility goes beyond websites and apps and takes in social media, and documents, spreadsheets and the like. Accessibility begins with everyday productivity tools like Microsoft Office or M365 as it is now known. If you want your content to reach everybody then prioritise using proper headings and paragraph styles. This allows people who are using  screen readers to understand the structure of the document as well as navigated on the same basis as a sighted person. One of the great features that I like in M365 is the ability to check accessibility of the document. Most of us spell check and  grammar check to quality assure the document before sending it out. M365 also allows you to accessibility check it as well. You will find that feature under the review tab.

Running an accessibility check is not just about reaching a wider audience; it’s also a matter of basic courtesy. The intention to include anyeveryone as part of content creation. In my experience, no one has ever expressed a desire to exclude others deliberately. It’s about ensuring our content is inclusive and accessible to all, reflecting good manners and consideration.


That’s a great point! So many of our clients are amazed by some simple steps they can take to make their content more accessible and how big the market size is for accessible content.

Greg Alchin​​

Exactly. As research shows when you deliver products and services that are inclusive by design and accessible by default you reach a 3 to 4 times larger market. The reason is diversity is the norm not the exception.

  1. Everyone is unique because of the different background and abilities.
  2. Everyone will experience difficulty completing tasks due to permanent disability, temporary limitations (accident or illness), ageing or trauma.
  3. Everyone interacts with products and services differently.

So you need to design for diversity and when we do we deliver better digital experiences. As an a example, consider the  strong correlation between disability and aging. While the general statistic is 1 in 6 people having a disability, Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows it’s 1 in 9 below 18 years old, but it jumps to 1 in 3 by age 55, 1 in 2 by retirement age (67), and a staggering 1 in 1 by age 80.

Here’s the kicker; 30% of the adult Australian population is over 60. The over 60’s cohort is huge. Many who are in this cohort might not consider themselves as person with disability. They might just say they’re getting harder of hearing or need things louder.

If we want to design for the broadest market possible, we need to consider the diverse needs of this group to give them the dignity of independent access. Accessibility is about that dignity. We all want to be able to do things ourselves.


What does a good customer experience look like in a digital world?

Greg Alchin​​​

Good digital customer experience means providing independent and equal access, allowing users to personalise how they complete tasks easily, safely and securely. It’s about recognising everybody’s different, we share common needs such as a desire to communicate and we all personalise our devices to suit our needs and prefernces.


That’s very well articulated. There are numerous examples of universal design and accessibility seamlessly integrated into our daily lives, often without us realising their universal nature.

Greg Alchin​​​​

Accessibility benefits everybody. It’s essential for some, but useful for all as these examples highlight:

  1. When Apple designed the iPhone, Steve Jobs insisted that blind people be able to use it as quickly as sighted people. Accessibility became a business requirement, and the iPhone 3GS baecame the first phone with a built-in screen reader. As history shows the iPhone transformed and disrupted the market making it the most most accessible device on the planet.
  2. Similarly, look at how Apple markets its watch – it’s an accessible health device that also tells the time. My friends who are blind, deaf or who have physical disabilities and I can all use the same device because accessibility is built in, we all can easily personaliuse how we need to control it.  It happened because Apple prioritised accessibility and delivered on their values.  Just as they are  delivering the same accessible functionality  in their visionOS – it’s 100% accessible. Accessibility can be cutting-edge!
  3. Think about captions in videos. They are essential for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, to delivering necessary information. They are also useful but useful for people who are neurodiverse, people who are learning English. At the same time captions improve your discoverability on search engines and social media. So yes, accessibility is useful for everyone and integral too delivering a greatcustomer experience.


What’s AI’s role in digital accessibility?

Greg Alchin​​​​​

It’s a very exciting time, and it’s being driven by the positive use of AI. If you have an iPhone, you now have a built-in feature called personalised voice. Someone with ALS or a similar condition can record their voice and create a model of it. So, the device will use your voice when you text instead of Siri’s voice. Imagine if you lost your voice but wanted your child to hear it or read them a story. That’s a great example of using AI for good.

Another example is Microsoft Copilot. Let’s say you have a significant physical disability and struggle with typing or using speech-to-text. Copilot can help people go from typing 30 words per minute to 200 words per minute by creating a base draft of their content. You, as the human, would then come in and edit it. It’s your assistant, not a replacement. It improves productivity, emotional well-being, and even physical health by reducing strain.

Accessibility testing tools are another area of development. Currently, there are over 80 WCAG criteria to consider when testing a website or app. We can automate about 60% of those tests, with the rest requiring manual testing. As AI continues to improve, we’ll see a significant rise in automated accessibility testing tools, leading to quicker resolution of errors.


Can you shed some light on co-design practices to create accessible tools and features?

Greg Alchin​​​​​​

Co-design means you are designing with your end users rather than for your end users. Your products and services are informed by user / customer need the quality of your work is confirmed by them as well. It means you have empathy as well as humility.

One of the best examples of co-design that I have recently seen, is Apple’s personalised voice feature which I wrote about in a LinkedIn article. One of the things highlighted there is what Apple did. Apple listened to their customers with ALS / MND and co-designed the feature with them. Apple didn’t just go off and do it because they thought it was cool or aligned with their values; they actively involved people with disability in the design process of the feature right through to the comms campaign. .  The feature is amazing in and of itself but the co-design story behind is even more so.

Co-design is also one of the tings I love about GSA. We co-design with our staff and customers. For instance, the Independent Living Skills program (ILS) in the US, or our Macular Degeneration Society in Australia,


Exactly. When you co-design, you’re valuing the everyone.

Greg Alchin​​​​​​​

Very true, and as Apple has a wonderful line: “Inclusion inspires innovation.” That’s what I keep telling people. When you intentionally include and consider diverse needs, you need  to come up with new solutions because you’re not used to thinking in just one way. It broadens your perspective. It helps you create better opportunities and ways of doing things. This is particularly important because, as the data shows, if we live long enough, we’re all going to have some kind of disability.


Can you talk a little about GSA and your work with us?

Greg Alchin​​​​​​​​

Being part of GSA as an independent consultant is a joy. It feels like a true team environment because the organisation has strong values and a great culture. It’s a fun place to be involved because you’re working with people who want to make a difference. In that kind of environment, it doesn’t feel like work – it’s fun!

The beauty of GSA is the opportunity to collaborate with so many different organisations. Over the last few years, we’ve worked with QLD tourism, NT tourism, the Australian Ballet, the MCG, an energy company in Tasmania, Medibank, and many more. By working with GSA and these other organisations, we’ve been able to contribute to making a positive difference in people’s lives by driving cultural change and building capacity within these organisations.


Do you have a message for organisations on GAAD?

Greg Alchin​​​​​​​​​

I urge everyone to take one small step towards enhancing accessibility: engage with a single person and learn about those seemingly minor details. Each action contributes to a larger impact, emphasising how crucial it is to be open to learning. This openness not only enriches our understanding but also fosters inclusivity, benefiting everyone involved. And remember, accessibility isn’t just about compliance – it’s about creating an inclusive and accessible world for all. So let’s continue working towards a future where accessibility is the norm, not the exception.

Let’s celebrate GAAD by taking action to make our digital world more inclusive for everyone. Keep striving for innovation and collaboration in the pursuit of an accessible and inclusive society!

About Greg Alchin

Greg Alchin is an award-winning inclusioneer, keynote speaker, author and disability advocate with over 30 years’ experience across education, community, commercial and government contexts. He is also the Principal Accessibility Specialist for Service NSW. Greg’s rich and diverse experience provide invaluable insights that can be applied from one context into others. Greg’s lived experience of disability as well as his industry certification by both Apple and Microsoft combined with his post-graduate studies in accessibility, enable him to speak with authenticity and authority. Greg uses this powerful mix of personal experience, professional knowledge and practical strategies to speak with authenticity and authority on inclusively designed strategies and technologies that inspire inclusion through innovation. Greg is an associate with Get Skilled Access (GSA) and has been working with GSA on several projects for over 5 years.

Skip to content