Isaac Harvey, a resilient individual hailing from East London, navigated his way through life with limb pelvic hypoplasia, a condition that left him without arms and with short legs. Despite this challenge, Isaac’s determination led him to remarkable achievements, including skiing, skydiving, and tall ship sailing. Using his feet, he became adept at editing videos, responding to emails, and staying connected with the world online.
Becoming a Voice for Inclusivity: Isaac’s Impactful Advocacy Work
Over the past decade, Isaac emerged as a mentor and facilitator for people with disabilities. He proudly served as an ambassador for multiple charities and received numerous accolades for his accomplishments. Holding the esteemed position of president at Wheels and Wheelchairs, an organization uniting roller skaters and wheelchair users, Isaac passionately advocates for inclusivity and accessibility.
Isaac draws strength from the unwavering support of his friends and family, enabling him to overcome obstacles, including battles with mental health. During challenging times, he delved into understanding the human mind, emphasizing the importance of honesty with oneself and others.
At the core of his journey is the belief in the power of genuine experiences. Isaac’s mission is not to change the world but to transform lives, one positive story at a time. Join him in this conversation as he explores the realms of digital accessibility, inclusivity, and the impact of Universal Design and User Experience (UX) on making technology accessible for all.
In-Depth Interview: Isaac’s Advocacy for Accessibility
Could you please introduce yourself and share some background about your disability?
Born and raised in East London with a disability called limb-pelvic hypo-aplasia which in short means no arms and short legs. Even with this disability it has not stopped me from achieving things such skiing, skydiving, tall ship sailing and much more. For the past ten years I have used my feet to use the computer to edit videos, answer emails and be able to communicate to the wider world.
In what ways does your disability influence your daily life, particularly when it comes to using digital products or services?
On a daily basis I do rely on voice dictation software when I am at home working or having to use it to make calls when I am out. This is because I’m not able to get the phone out of my bag and be able to check it, I have everything done hands free to be able to have an independent life. And when I am at home, I am able to use my feet for the computer but for typing it takes me quite a while and I do get pain. I use Microsoft Word and its dictation software to be able to write answers to questions like this which allows me to express and get my answer out that much easier.
Also, with the rise of artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT and an AI which takes notes for me (jamie) has definitely made me feel more productive and in some ways levelled the playing field for a person like myself with a disability.
Which digital devices, platforms, applications, or websites do you use regularly, and have they been helpful in addressing accessibility challenges?
I use Microsoft Word quite a lot where I use the dictation part of it which allows me to get down my ideas and stories much easier.
Jamie, which is an artificial intelligence which records meetings and turns them into meeting notes has really benefited my productivity. I have never been able to take meeting notes for my entire life and because of that sometimes I end up forgetting what was said in meetings but with this software has really addressed my accessibility challenges in doing this.
I use voice to text on my Google Pixel which allows me to text friends and family at a much faster pace than it would for me to use my nose or feet for the phone.
I have recently been using the insta360 camera which has allowed me to control it by voice but sadly it sometimes thinks you’re saying something completely different to what it’s commanded and does the opposite. This can be quite frustrating when I get home and find out it wasn’t filming! Should be a great accessibility too but makes it even more challenging.
What specific design features do you find most beneficial in digital interfaces considering your disability?
I find it to be the most beneficial when you have a choice on what would suit an individual as the world is so vast so it’s good when people have a choice.
I also like it when it wasn’t firstly intended as an accessibility feature which means that it doesn’t feel like a tick box exercise or an additional feature. It needs to be integrated and feel normal like the rest of interfaces.
And of course, it needs to be simple and understood as soon as I get onto it. Throughout the whole process from beginning to end.
What advice would you give to product designers, who often struggle to understand the needs of users with disabilities, on enhancing the accessibility of digital products?
Always talk to the consumer with lived experiences, be willing to get it wrong and at least try whilst listening to feedback and keep on learning from the different people that you may meet.
And try and reach out to as many people as you are able to, just so that you have a better understanding and representation of who you may be wanting to serve.
This article was last updated on December 21, 2023; Originally published on December 11, 2023