Shakti — Part 2: A mother’s vision for the future.

Going back to Mother’s Day 2020

On Mother’s Day 2020, I founded The Accidental Ally (and launched it with a blog post Shakti: Part 1 — The Power Within) with a mission to help other product leaders like me embrace accessibility and build inclusive digital experiences from the ground up. My journey on accessibility had started by accident and I had to stumble through it to find my learnings. I wanted to make that experience better for my fellow product leaders. I strongly believed that most people want to do the right thing but often do not know how to go about it.

Coming to Mother’s Day 2022

Today is Mother’s Day 2022. It is also the 2nd anniversary of founding The Accidental Ally. I am excited to say that we have come a long way in a short period of time. Today, I want to take the opportunity of sharing with you ‘the why’ from my perspective as Gayatri, a woman and a mother.

For Rohan. For The Dream Team.

Six months ago, shortly after concluding his summer internship with The Accidental Ally , Rohan reached out to me with his vision. He said,

Rohan is smiling. He is wearing glasses and a blue and white striped shirt.
Rohan, the young man who started it all!
Dashiell, Roan, Madison, Laith, Rohan and Gayatri holding framed portraits of themselves.
The Dream Team on the last day of their summer internship

For my children, Riya and Rohan.

My children are an integral part of my work at The Accidental Ally. They are always helping me with ideas, are great friends with my team and are often eager to pitch in where help is needed. I am often told how much my work inspires them to do more for others. I believe we all need strong role models in our lives and my hope is that I am a strong role model for them. I am demonstrating to them what is possible when you lead with love and compassion. They see me as a nurturing, loving human but also a very strong, impact driven entrepreneur. My work, my life is a blueprint for them on what happens when you pursue your passion, when you risk being unconventional in your approach, when you are fearless, when you are not afraid to make mistakes, when you do something that seems impossible at the time and when you lead a social (for profit) enterprise rooted in love and compassion. I do this work to demonstrate to my kids that they too, some day, can and will make a difference in the world and contribute in their own special way to make this world a better place for EVERYONE.

Gayatri hugging her daughter, Riya and Son, Rohan.
Gayatri with her daughter, Riya and son, Rohan.

For the moms.

and dads, siblings, family and friends of people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities and to anyone who wants a better future for people with disabilities. Many of the moms have told me how much our work means to them. It has been a source of hope, that their child can have a better future. They can finally feel some of the pressure lifting off their shoulders. We are happy to be able to support our amazing moms with our work and we thank you for your support and guidance!

For my colleagues in tech.

I know that there are many tech professionals out there, who like me, want their work in tech to be in service to humanity. We want our intelligence, our hard work, our contribution to matter. I am so deeply heartened and touched by so many of my friends and colleagues who have and continue to pitch in to help with our mission. We are incredibly grateful for your support and for recognizing the impact of our mission. Above all, we are grateful to those who have (and continue) to connect to people, resources to help us deliver impact!

For the naysayers.

“It requires a lot of hand holding. It can’t be done. No one is going to sign up to do it”

For the future of the accessibility profession.

I have written about The Hypocrisy of the Accessibility Profession, calling on my colleagues in the accessibility professional to take a more active role in making the world inclusive. The future of the accessibility profession really depends on our ability to train and create opportunities for people with disabilities so that they can actively lead, participate in the conversations and drive the next wave of innovation in the digital world. We need to think beyond simply leveraging them for testing, research purposes. Most accessibility product and services businesses today do not hire people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. A lot of time is spent on drawing attention to advocates while the real self advocates are pushed into the shadows. We want to change that. We want to shine a light on the self advocates with disabilities. We believe they can speak for themselves and work towards building a more inclusive world for themselves and for others like them. They only need us to create the opportunities for them to learn and work. It is our responsibility to create the right environment for this to happen and then we need to step aside!

To ultimately become obsolete.

I often say that I want The Accidental Ally to become obsolete. If we do our work well, in the next few years, there will be no need for us. We are here to demonstrate the possibilities to the world.

Anything is possible.

A woman founded, woman owned, self funded start up, with one employee, operating on a shoe string budget, with zero sales or marketing spend, has managed to train, up skill and prepare a team of young people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities for work experiences in tech. This team has managed to connect with 2 large tech companies who are sponsoring work programs for these individuals this summer. This team has managed to accomplish this in less than 6 months. This team has managed to up skill a team of young individuals ages 18–25 years, who are people with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Autism and prepare them for work experiences in tech. We were told this can’t be done. That this group of individuals CANNOT and WILL NOT be able to accomplish this.

Making history

Rohan, Rojene and Sabrina, who came to me a year ago, had no idea what Web Accessibility was. They had no idea what it meant to be a working professional. They didn’t have any faith in their aspirations when it came to their professional life because they had been conditioned to believe that there is not much for them to do, that they simply cannot access the work experiences available to everyone else, that they would never be able to earn a paycheck and live an independent life.

Back to the question, Why am I doing this?

I am a woman and a mother. When I see the faces of these young people on my team, I see the disability but I am also able to see beyond the disability to find that there is so much hidden ability that is just waiting to be discovered. I see immense potential in each and every one of them. I see that glimmer of hope in their eyes and I hear that excitement in their voices when we learn new things. I am reminded of the child in me that felt that same excitement when I got a chance to learn and experience new things.

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Gayatri Kini

Gayatri Kini

Believer in ‘Karma yoga’ ..the yoga of action. Work in service to others, with kindness & compassion. Lifelong learner, passionate about life!