A free and open internet.

"The internet is an integral part of modern life, a global public resource, which must enrich the lives of individual human beings."[1]

The internet is a vast resource of information, the likes of which have never existed before.

The technologies we possess today have become an indispensable resource, and they improve the quality of our lives in many ways.

But for some, technology is the only thing that stands between them and of a life of dependence and isolation.

Think perhaps...of a woman.

An intellectual, an academic.

At the height of her career, she gradually begins losing her ability to walk. To move. To speak.

And it progresses until the only physical ability that remains is flexing a small muscle in her face.

Without technology, we wouldn’t even know that woman was still there.

We wouldn’t know if she had the ability to form even the most basic of thoughts, let alone understand complex ideas.

However, with assistive technologies, we not only know that this woman is not brain dead, but she is given the ability to keep living.

She is able to continue her research, to publish her works in academic journals. She can connect with her loved ones on a daily basis.

She can laugh when her mouth will no longer move.

She can cry when she is unable to form tears.

She can give a warm embrace when the muscles in her arms have failed her.

She has a voice.

She has autonomy.

She has a life.

I had originally planned to give a very technical (and probably a little boring) talk, on my work in automating web accessibility testing.

But I realized that my real work lies not in explaining to a group of engineers how to integrate an api into continuous integration environments.

My work is to help others understand why it matters.

The problem is not that people just don’t care about individuals with disabilities.

The problem is that we do not hear their voices.

We don’t know these problems exist until they tell us

We cannot see the world through their eyes if we never connect with them.

This disconnect that exists results in products where some of our users are invisible.

It is impossible for an organization to create products and services for everyone if we only listen to the voices of a few.

We all have different experiences, and different perspectives on the world.

As such, we have unique insights to offer that others may not.

But more than that, our experiences matter.

We all have a voice. We all deserve to be heard.

People with disabilities are speaking out, and we need to listen.