“People are scared to say the wrong thing" says fintech leader, heading up new disability inclusion campaign

Project Nemo is being headed up by fintech leader Joanne Dewar, who is running the campaign for a year to raise awareness.
“People are scared to say the wrong thing

Leading UK fintech organisations are clubbing together behind a campaign urging the fintech industry to improve their disability inclusion efforts. 

Called Project Nemo (its name is a play on the film Finding Nemo: as in, the campaign wants to find out the extent of the fintech industry's awareness and understanding about disability inclusion), the year-long campaign is headed up by Joanne Dewar, who previously led the payments processor, Global Processing Services (now called Thredd).

Dewar is running the campaign on a pro bono basis and has the backing of leading fintech and disability organisations-Innovate Finance, The Payments Association and global disability movement Purple Tuesday.

The campaign is being launched today (Monday) at the Innovate Finance Global Summit.

Dewar says:

“I have come to be aware that every single organisation is dealing with diversity and inclusion in the same order. Gender first, then ethnicity, then LGBTQ. And so,at best, disability inclusion is being looked at forth. And therefore not being addressed.

“People are scared to say the wrong thing and by consequence end up saying nothing at all.”

Dewar says the fintech industry is in danger of blocking potential customers from its products unless their accessibility demands are met.

She says some of the changes needed to make their organisations more inclusive are small.

She points to the example of hashag social media postings, stressing the importance of capitalising the first letter of each word, as they are friendly to screen readers (screen readers allow people who can't see or can't easily see the words on a screen to understand the content by interpreting it and using synthesised speech to communicate it aloud).

The campaign will focus on three areas. The first is education (improving awareness of the barriers and opportunities for fintech to be more inclusive to those with disabilities and lived experiences).

The second is empowerment (connecting fintech business leaders, allies, advocates and those with lived experience to a toolkit of resources and expertise that will enable them to build inclusive workplaces, products and services) and the third is showcasing (sharing and celebrating progress).

An important aspect of the campaign will be Project Nemo’s Fintech Festival of Inclusion, an events programme to empower fintech business leaders to adopt incremental changes as part of their longer-term inclusion journey. 

Dewar added:

“I have long held the mantle on equity and inclusion in fintech and yet I have never received such unequivocal support and personal resonance around one issue - disability inclusion. It is a massive missed opportunity for fintech.  

“Fintech thinks of itself as the future of financial services, and we have made great strides in streamlining, broadening reach and lowering costs. But if we ever want to truly achieve mainstream adoption beyond the digital natives, we need to ensure that our workplaces, all of our products and services fully consider accessibility.” 

The campaign will run for a year, after which Dewar hopes the industry will collectively take on the mantle for making disability inclusion fundamental to the industry.

Image: Marcus Aurelius

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