Catharine McNally
Accessibility Lead

Presenter Profile: Catharine McNally is the accessibility lead at Phase2. McNally lost her hearing to meningitis at 8 months old and has been a technology pioneer since receiving one of the first cochlear implants as part of FDA clinical trials in 1986. Instead of being defeated by a world of barriers and separation, McNally developed opportunities for inclusion in all aspects of her life. This transferred naturally to the digital experience, where her career has been in creating mainstream accessible experiences starting with her startup that led her to being featured in Washingtonian Magazine’s Tech Titans: People to Watch, invitation to the first-ever, Twitter Town Hall with Jack Dorsey and then-President Obama, and recipient of the American Association of People with Disabilities Leadership Award. Ten years ago McNally transitioned to a digital agency where she leads the accessibility efforts for design, UX, development product management, and QA. McNally’s goal and priority is to get accessibility to scale among all of our partners in the digital space, so that the teachings, principles and best practices continue to extend beyond her leadership. McNally’s experience and guidance has led to numerous conference invitations including a keynote address in Australia, along with publications in Fast Company and UX Collective.

Presentation Title: ‘Accessibility for 50% and the 1/10’ 

Outline: Have you ever tried to fill a glass of water blindfolded? Or tie your shoes with oven mitts? Catharine will talk about her approaches to accessibility and approaches she takes. Through exercises done with common household items, this talk is designed to broaden participants perspective and awareness of design around them, and how we may take for granted common patterns. However some of these ‘standards’ may be excluding people with diverse needs and abilities. This experience awakens the audience  “this can be better” instinct to transfer to the digital experience. We will have a design thinking component, too. 

1 in 10 Americans have a disability, of half who have difficulty navigating the digital experience due to barriers introduced by design. Not to mention, baby boomers are aging at a rate that will outnumber children by 2036. What are we as designers doing for these senior adults to ensure their digital experience makes sense, is easy to follow, perceive and understand? This talk, which *isn’t* intended to sensationalise or mimic disability, brings to light the common design and user experience issues. The goal is to increase empathy to improve design through awareness and understanding of best practices.

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