Caroline talks to AXSChat

This week we profile AXSChat, a global Twitter chat & community focused on disability inclusion and accessibility.

  1. Tell us a little about AXSChat.

AXSChat is an international collaboration between Neil Milliken, Debra Ruh and Antonio Santos – all influencers on social media.

  • Neil is Head of Accessibility & Digital Inclusion at Atos, a large Multinational IT Company. He lives in Sussex, UK.
  • Debra is a Global Disability Strategist, CEO and Founder of Ruh Global Communications, located in Virginia, USA.
  • Antonio is a Digital Strategist with Atos, located in Cork,
  1. When and why was AXSChat established?

We started AXSChat in November 2014 because we wanted to broaden the conversation about how society can benefit from the inclusion of persons with disabilities (PwD) and accessibility.  Our goal was also to give PwD a bigger voice on social media.

Each of the founders has personal stories that connect us to the community of PwD:

  • Debra has a daughter with Down Syndrome (Sara Ruh), parents that acquired disabilities and two nephews with Autism.
  • Neil is dyslexic and has parents with acquired disabilities.
  • Antonio’s wife has fibromyalgia

Consequently, we are personally connected with the community of PwD and dedicated to raising the profile of talented individuals to ensure that their voices are heard all over the world.

  1. What are your main objectives?

AXSChat is an open online community of individuals dedicated to creating an inclusive world; we believe that accessibility is for everyone.

We engage leaders and all stakeholders via a weekly chat about all the moving parts associated with true inclusion of PwD.  Having created a community of stakeholders that believe that society benefits when we are all included, we will, over time, grow this into a movement for social change.

Through social media, we encourage in-depth discussion and spread knowledge about the work people are doing to enable greater access and inclusion. AXSChat is a great example of how social media and communication tools allow people to come together and break down silos.

  1. What have you achieved so far?

When we launched AXSChat we did not talk about numbers, followers or actionable steps other than having a weekly chat.  We just knew instinctively that our community needed to engage with each other if we were going to start breaking down the barriers and change stigmas associated with the disability community.

The three founders were well connected, so we combined resources and started the chat.  We believed if we provided good content and allowed all members to have a voice we would be successful.  We never dreamed that we would have the global impact, number of engagements, leaders and guests from all over the world.

We have been surprised and delighted by our successes.  We have interviewed Lords of the realm, Ambassadors, CEOs, Actors with Disabilities, Musicians, Artists, Paralympians, Senior Managers, Activists, Authors, Media, Brand Influencers, Advocates and Persons with Disabilities from all walks of life.

We have partnered on UN sponsored initiative “Draw Disability” and AXSChat was chosen to be the social media partner for the Rio Inclusion summit organised by the International Paralympic Committee.

The stats:

Since we started monitoring in March 2015 the #AXSChat Hashtag has rippled across the internet being shared and appearing in people’s feeds almost 3 Billion times.  Discussions are lively; on an average chat night we get between 3000-5000 tweets in the space of little over 1 hour so.

We’ve had 20,000 individual participants in the chats and the sentiment is hugely positive.

We are still growing and attracting attention from participants and guests including The White House, Multi-National Firms, UN, and Global Leaders.

Our greatest triumphs are the individuals with disabilities that have blossomed and found friends and a community by being part of AXSChat.

  1. 5. What are your plans for the future?

AXSChat has been around for 3 years and we hope to continue long into the future.  We pride ourselves on the fact that the topics we cover, while having a focus on inclusion, are very diverse, including innovation, employment, entrepreneurial ideas, Assistive Technology (AT), ICT Accessibility, Physical Barriers, Digital Divide, Different types of Disabilities, Accommodations, Laws, Trends, Media, Marketing, Politics and Empowerment of PwD. The topics will continue to be wide-ranging to encourage discussion and ensure everyone has a voice on social media.

Our next steps will probably include sponsorship to help finance growth and pay for services that are being done in people’s spare time.  However, we always want to be neutral and try not to water down the conversations or be unduly influenced.

We will also be writing a series of books featuring stories from our guests.

Caroline Casey, founder of #valuable will be featured on AXSChat on Tuesday 14th November at 8pm (GMT) – Take part by tweeting using the hashtag #axschat (www.axschat.com)

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