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Vodacom Group

Vodacom to hold its inaugural disability and accessibility conference

Tuesday, 30 April 2024

JOHANNESBURG - On the 2nd of May 2024, Vodacom will be hosting its inaugural conference focusing on promoting the digital inclusion of persons with disabilities. The conference will extract valuable insights and lessons gleaned from the various global thought leaders, policy experts and business leaders to assist the telco industry in strengthening its efforts to bridge the digital divide for persons with disabilities in Africa.

Local senior government leaders with expertise in disability policy will be featured in the panel of experts discussing how policies can be used to drive inclusion and how ICT can be used to accelerate inclusion of people with disabilities. Shuaib Chalklen, Executive Director for Africa Disability Forum will offer unique insights on a new Africa Disability Protocol policy. Offering insights from the international ICT market will be Google Head of Accessibility and Disability Inclusion, EMEA, Christopher Patnoe. In addition to policy makers and ICT industry leaders, attendees will hear from leaders of Disabled People’s Organisations, including Judith Coetzee, CEO of Cape Town Society for the Blind. This panel discussion is going to unpack how best to promote accessibility and unlock the participation of persons with disabilities in a digital society. The diverse range of speakers will include Vodacom Group CEO, Shameel Joosub.

"We are excited that our 30th birthday celebrations coincide with the inaugural disability conference, aimed at shining a spotlight on a critical topic of driving inclusion for persons with disabilities, so that they are not left behind. As pioneers of accessibility tech solutions in South Africa, we will use the deep insights gleaned from this conference to accelerate the work we have been doing over the past 30 years to roll out more innovative products and services which will close the digital divide for persons with disabilities, so they too can harness the power of technology to improve their lives," says Sitho Mdlalose, CEO of Vodacom South Africa."

Taki Netshitenzhe, Director of External Affairs for Vodacom South Africa commented: "According to the United Nations (UN) there are more than 80 million Africans with disabilities. For many of these individuals daily tasks which others consider routine pose significant challenges due to societal barriers. Accessible digital technologies are playing a leading role in changing this narrative and improving digital inclusion for persons with disabilities across Africa. Vodacom is proud to be playing a role in this area which speaks to our pillar of inclusion for all, underpinned by pioneering this conference. By holding an open discussion and bringing in stakeholders from across markets, industries, and points of view, events such as this offer a unique opportunity to gain a well-rounded understanding of the gaps and opportunities in the accessibility space. Through these discussions we can work towards innovating new solutions, enhancing not only our product offering and internal policies, but working together to create solutions that address the real challenges faced by persons with disabilities in a digital world."

During the event, a spotlight will be shone on the successes, opportunities, and challenges that still exist for persons with disabilities in a digital world. With the aim of coming together to seek out solutions that close the digital divide, speakers are expected to raise several pertinent issues of inclusion affecting persons with disabilities. During discussions many potential solutions will be raised, offering opportunities for innovation and collaboration.

"Beyond seeking solutions to assist those in the communities we serve, this thought leading event presents an opportunity to look inwards and assess our own internal policies and those of other employers in our markets. Addressing the workplace and employment challenges faced by those with disabilities is vitally important to ensuring their inclusion not just in the digital space but the digital economy on a broader scale. The insights that will be shared by speakers will equip us to seek out solutions to issues faced by persons with disabilities across Africa," concluded Netshitenzhe.

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