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This is a transcript of Open Mic, The Accessible Podcast – February 8 edition

Jingle Open Mic, The Accessible Podcast.

(soft piano music)

Host: Hello and welcome back to Open Mic, the Accessible Podcast. I am Andreea Demirgian, your host, and today I will be talking about the first edition of the #a11yHAM meetup, that happened on Jan the 24th, in Hamilton, at Mohawk College’s Fennell Campus pub, The Arnie.

#a11yHAM logo

Hosted by the Accessible Media Production graduate certificate’s students, alumni, and faculty, #a11yHAM is all about creating an inclusive community, for people eager to discuss and contribute to making Ontario a more accessible place to live in. The goal is to provide a welcoming place for people to learn, share experiences, ideas and solutions, and to collaborate on building more inclusive information and communication. The first meetup was dedicated to Inclusive Design.

I am very excited to say that I am one of the co-organizers of the event and I was there from the beginning. The coordinator of the Accessible Media Production program, Jennifer Jahnke put together a team of alumni and current students, that organized the event. We had six roundtables hosted by professors in the program, like Rob Harvie, Lianne Fisher and Karen McCall. We have also invited industry experts like Thea Kurdi, Accessibility Specialist for the Built-in Environment and Aiann Oishi, Senior Digital Communications Specialist). Our keynote speaker and host of the sixth round table was Jess Mitchell, Senior Manager at the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University in Toronto.  All the participants had 15-20 minutes to talk to the experts and ask questions. One of the alumni of the AMP program moderated each table. Jennifer Janke hosted the evening and also set up a short Skype call with Nell Chitty at the #a11yTO Meetup, happening at the same time.

Audience listening to key note speech at the opening of #a11yHAM Meetup

Jess Mitchel gives the keynote speech at the first edition of #a11yHAM. All speeches were live captioned and signed at the same time.

In the keynote, Jess Mitchell said: “Our work is heavy and so very important. It will never be reducible to a checklist. No, it will never be done. What we’re starting tonight will be a lifetime commitment to include the perspectives, voices, experiences, hopes and dreams of anyone who is marginalized by barriers to access — any of those who experience failure. […] So calling all architects, designers, educators, pedagogues, thinkers, dreamers, humans who want to make the world more inclusive: you’re in the right place. Let’s get started on this and make an impact.”

You can read the rest of Jess’s speech on the Medium website.


We had more than 60 participants at our first meetup and, judging by the feedback we got, the evening was a success. Our ASL interpreters, the pronoun stickers and the conversation buttons, as well as the live captioning made the event accessible for people of all abilities. With less than two weeks before the next meetup, I invited Jess Mitchell to share her experience at #a11yHAM with my listeners. Jess is a champion of inclusive design. Her work focuses on fostering innovation within diverse communities while achieving outcomes that benefit everyone.


AD: Jess Mitchell, welcome to Open Mic, the Accessible podcast.

JM: Thanks for having me and inviting me to be here.

AD: You were the keynote speaker for the first accessibility meetup in Hamilton, #a11yHAM, in January, when we talked about inclusive design. I wanted to know how you felt at the meetup.

People of all ages and abilities sitting at round tables, discussing

The first edition of #a11yHAM offered round table discussions, hosted by professors and experts in Inclusive Design. Participants were invited to rotate at the tables every 15 minutes.

JM: I thought it was extraordinary! I didn’t expect, to be honest, that there would be that many people, at the very first meeting. It’s a real sign of the commitment to accessibility and also the extraordinary organizing of the event, the folks at Mohawk, Jennifer Jahnke in particular. So I was really excited to be a part of it and… you know, the notion of a keynote is a little bit weird and uncomfortable, but I was glad to be able to contribute to the beginning of the conversation in the Greater Hamilton Area about accessibility and about inclusion.

AD: Why do you think it’s important to talk about Inclusive Design?

JM: Well I think it’s something that we can ignore, it’s something that we’ve been missing in a lot of the work that we’ve been doing, people have been putting it on as an afterthought. But I think that it is the beginning of so many important things. We find that innovation hangs out of the corners of inclusion and accessibility and we find that it’s good for everyone and that it just helps us reach more people and address for people’s needs and that’s something that I think everybody can get behind. It’s so compelling and every industry and I think it’s exciting to see that, globally, there is more attention being paid to it, because there isn’t an industry for which it’s not both relevant and urgent.

AD: You hosted one of the tables at this meetup and you sat down with about three rounds of people if I remember correctly, how was that for you?

JM:  I really like the format. It was quick because the tables kept rotating, but I thought it was really lovely, because it gave people a chance to have kind of focused conversation, get to know each other very quickly and then move on, so it wound up being really rich. Very different conversations…, we didn’t have the same conversation each time, which I thought was really valuable and wonderful. Because there’s so much to this topic, it’s so multifaceted, I think it really… it does it a disservice to just try to have one conversation about it. But to try to have the diversity of conversations about it sort of proves the point that you have to have more voices, you have to have more perspectives in doing this work. So I really like the format of it.

AD: Was there any question in particular that you still remember, that made you think about it for a long time?

JM: I think the people were curious about how to make this happen in some of their organizations that were struggling with budget and struggling with sustainability, just in general. And that’s a tough thing to ask. I think that it’s still really urgent because if you’re struggling with basic sustainability, it’s going to be even harder if you’re not incorporating those diverse perspectives. It’s not that it’s a foolproof solution to sustainability but it certainly has to be a consideration. But what I think was really important for the conversations at the table, the one that I thought about in particular, it’s just that this is…  They’re real struggles, it’s really hard to do this work and it’s really hard to find support to do this work, and so it’s important, I think, not to minimize that.

AD: How accessible was this event for you?

JM: Super, super accessible. Again, Jennifer and team were extraordinarily thoughtful about the venue, about the signage coming into the venue, to see where to go, it was very, very easy and then… everything was live captioned, there were microphones to amplify voices and the setup of the tables in the round configuration I think it’s really, really important. I loved how thoughtfully the whole event was put together. And, again, that’s a real tribute the thoughtfulness of the organizers.

AD: Is there any suggestion that you have for us? Anything that we can improve?

JM (laughing): Keep going! Keep doing it.  And one of the things that I really wanted to say, in particular, in the keynote was: you’re going to have people come to this who aren’t familiar with accessibility, who don’t know the language who don’t know the practices, who aren’t informed about this stuff. And I think one of the best things we can do, is to make them feel a part of the community, and make them feel welcome, and meet them where they are, and serve to help them figure out how to do more.

AD: Our next Meetup is February 28th, it’s the last Thursday of the month, and for February we are going to talk about accessible content. I hope you’ll maybe join us again, if not this February maybe for one of the next editions. It was a pleasure to have you there, thank you very much, Jess.

JM: Thank you!

(Music – lively piano solo)

Host: That was Jess Mitchell, Senior Manager at the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University in Toronto, on the first #a11yHAM meetup. I am Andreea Demirgian and you are listening to Open Mic, the Accessible Podcast.


If you’re interested in accessibility & inclusive design, and you live in Hamilton or the Greater Hamilton Area, #a11yHAM is your home. Please join us for our February #a11yHAM meetup group, hosted by Mohawk College’s Accessible Media Production students, alumni, and faculty. Meet us in The Arnie (Mohawk College’s Fennell Campus Pub), on February 28, 2019. Our doors will open at 6:30.  This month’s meetup will focus on accessible documents with presentations and demonstrations by: Karen McCall of Karlen Communications, Dawn Campbell of Equidox by Onix, and Adam Spencer from AbleDocs Inc.

Following the demonstrations, members are invited to participate in a speed networking event – come prepared to share your contact information!

Please RSVP on our meetup page. All #a11yHAM events are free and open to anyone interested in discussing accessibility. All meetups have live captioning and ASL interpreter services.

And that’s a wrap for this edition of Open Mic, the Accessible Podcast. If you have a question related to accessibility, we can help you find an answer. Leave a message on our website, or send us a message at We welcome feedback on the issues already covered by this show and the previous ones. Last, but not least, help us tell the world that Accessibility matters! I am Andreea Demirgian, thank you for listening.

(Music fades out)