International Day of Persons with Disabilities is celebrated annually on the 3rd of December.
We have taken the occasion to interview Maurizio Molinari, Head of Office at the European Parliament Liaison Office in Milan. He will be a panellist at an EU public event scheduled for the IDPD 2022 day.
Technology is a game changer in the accessibility panorama. We have discussed the benefits of speech-to-text technology in our article ‘Write and speak with speech recognition tools’
Here below, you can find the video interview with the automatic transcriptions.
The transcription has been created using Cabolo, the most intelligent device that records, transcribes, and translates interview and meeting content.
International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Interview with Maurizio Molinari
International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Interview with Maurizio Molinari [Transcription]
Ester: Good morning, thank you Maurizio Molinari who is here today with us. Hi Maurizio.
Ester: Maurizio is the European Parliament’s liaison officer in Milan and we’re here to discuss the celebration that the Parliament reserved to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which will be the 3rd of December, correct?
Ester: Yes, tomorrow, today’s the second and the Parliament is going to celebrate the day as every year, with a series of speeches and talks, and one of these we will see Maurizio, as involved as part of the panel. Maurizio let’s start to know each other a little bit better, what’s your role in the Parliament?
Maurizio: I’m the Head of the Liaison office of the European Parliament in Milan and I’m part of the European Parliament press team.
Ester: OK and you have been involved in these particular events, that is quite important. What’s your experience with disability, and why do you think a global celebration is important?
Maurizio: I’m blind, so I have personal experience of being a person with disability and to achieve such celebrations like the December 3rd the International Day of Persons with disabilities are important because they stress the need to pay more attention to the integration and the mainstreaming of persons with disabilities at work for instance, but are also to pay attention to their needs to carry out an increasingly independent way of living.
I think there are a lot of steps that have been taken in recent years by the European institutions to, for instance, improve the equal opportunity recruitment policies for persons with disabilities. I’m an example of this, I’m not the only example as you know the European Parliament in particular, but the the European institutions are, putting a lot of effort to enable people with disabilities to compete and to take role in a field level when they have to be selected for a vacancy for a post.
Also, it’s important to, I mean I think it’s very important to neutralise the disability aspect when it comes to selecting some staff and members. What I mean by neutralising, I mean that disability does not have to play in the selection, neither a positive nor a negative role. It’s very important that the level field is plain and that a disabled person can prove what they can do. The disability does not play a role in it, I mean that there are reasonable accommodations so, for instance, if I’m blind and I have to take part in a selection that I can take the tests of the selection as the other candidates and I can be graded. If I’m fit for the job, regardless of my disability, this is important, I mean we are trying to get closer to this aim, it’s not always the case but I think in recent years situations have improved.
Ester: Yes, a lot of things has been done in these years and on this day the celebration that the European Parliament is bringing to everyone. There are kind of witnesses and the commitment to towards the society that can really make everything accessible for everyone independently, as you said, regardless of disabilities. Because there is a lot of things that can be done to help and everybody can contribute with their work, and even more can bring their own experience to help others with similar disabilities to work altogether. And for this point the action European parliament, as well as the Europe taking towards a more accessible society.
Maurizio: The European Union have done lot to improve the every day life of persons with disabilities, such as thinking of the right of passengers when they’re travelling, providing assistance on trains, planes, buses, and ships. The European Accessibility Act is to improve accessibility of goods and services for persons with disabilities. The recruitment policies like I was mentioning earlier are more and more inclusive, but I think you know a lot needs to be done. The legislation must be improved, there are statistics that say that unemployment rates among disabled people are much higher than among non-disabled people, and this needs to change. There are worrying statistics about isolation of persons with disabilities during the Pandemic, for instance, difficulties that are still experienced, I believe 18 million disabled people in the European Union and each one of us is different, so you know, situations can vary a lot. At the same time, legislation is key, but cultural change is very important. You can have the best law in the world but if there is no cultural change, if there is no real inclusion within society, even the best-of-practice is not enough.
Ester: Absolutely right, change comes from people, also laws and frameworks, and then it activate everything coming from people, so the change must come from people as well, as you said, absolutely and what’s the role you think of innovation and technology in solutions for inclusiveness and accessibility.
Maurizio: Then again , I mean the role of technology. It is a crucial fact. I mean technology, in my case, changed my life and enabled me to do the job I’m doing now to become a journalist, to become an interpreter, and, as you know technology enables me to read newspapers, books, to use the iPhone to navigate around. I’ve been using a computer since I was six, and now I’m 43. I could say I’ve been using a computer for my entire life, but technology must be taken into account, you know, for people with disabilities to have accessibility. From the early beginning of each tech project because if you add accessibility afterwards, it’s very complicated and if you neglect accessibility, you’re cutting out a huge market slice from your potential customers, that is, if you are a tech company. So accessibility must be taken into proper account, when a project is being designed from scratch, you do not need to add accessibility afterwards, and there are worrying developments as far as worsening accessibility in certain operating systems in certain programmes, there are challenges in terms of artificial intelligence.
Implementation that must also take into account accessibility and artificial intelligence, which will be very important in the next decade or so, which is already present in our lives. It can be either a huge pro in the integration, inclusion, and improvement of life of persons with disability or if accessibility is not taken into proper account.
A big con indeed, let us imagine the all Metaverse. It is already there and will be more and more in our lives. If the Metaverse is accessible, this will mean giving a lot of extra possibilities for people with disability.
If it isn’t so, it will not take care of accessibility as they should. It will mean that people will disabilities will be more and more discriminated again, so I mean there are challenges ahead. The situation is interesting and worrying at the same time.
Ester: As usual with artificial intelligence, it can be a great opportunity, but also a terrible disaster, if not properly managed through legislation and frameworks, once again, and I know that European Parliament is already taking different technologies in charge to help and guarantee accessibility, and also transparency over. For example, there are a many in the speech and the public speech for the meetings, such as using transcription technologies, speech-to-text and, for example, one of these is provided by my company Cedat85, but I think there are even more technologies that the European Parliamentary is taking charge to introduce and to guarantee, once again, the inclusion and accessibility, have you experienced something like similar?
Maurizio: The Parliament is trying to make it possible for all kinds of people with disabilities to access from the outside world to its services like the website and apps. And from the inside, is trying to create a work environment as friendly as possible for people with disability. It’s not all perfect and there are things to improve, but the the past is there, and it’s a non-return path and the European Parliament is very committed to improve constantly the accessibility of services including the new Europe experience spaces that have been opened and are being opened in several EU capitals that enables the public to have a virtual experience of what the European Parliament is and how it works.
Ester: Oh great, one of that is also in Italy?
Maurizio: Yes, it was recently opened in Rome. In October, we’re still in test phase let’s say, but it’s open to schools, the general public who want to go and visit, it’s in Piazza Venezia, very central. It’s very interesting, there is a role-play game for example. I encourage everybody to go and check it out.
Ester: Sure and it would be a great experience to, in some way, even if we are a little bit far, as citizens, to understand with our experience, what’s going on, that obviously includes what is going on for our future lives, because we are part of this world and so it needs that we are aware of everything in common in the community and society. So thanks a lot. Thank you once again Maurizio for your opinions that you have shared with us today and have a great International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and, obviously, have a great speech on the 6th with your event.
Maurizio: Yes, and speak again soon,
Ester: Sure thank you, bye Maurizio.