One of the most anticipated galas of the year is GALA (Global Accessibility Leaders’ Alliance), a large-scale gathering of accessibility leaders and professionals from around the world. The Gala offers attendees the chance to meet and network with some of the biggest names in the field, while at the same time celebrating the legacy of Stephen Hawking.

GALA is named after its founder Stephen Hawking, who was born nearly 70 years ago this month. In addition to being an innovator in theoretical physics, Hawking is also a well-known speaker on the topic of disability, and in particular, how to improve the accessibility of buildings and transport for those with limited mobility.

The conference has always been organized by the nonprofit organization Able UK (Able UK), and this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Gala. This year’s edition of the Gala is themed ‘Technology and Inclusion’. As well as welcoming the brightest minds in the industry, the organizers hope the conference will also inspire everyone involved in the accessibility industry to fight harder for inclusivity.

Accessibility Leaders’ Gathering

Those interested in the topic of accessibility can look forward to a three-day conference, featuring world-class speakers, peerless networking opportunities, and lots of relevant workshops and seminars. The first session of the conference, held on the evening of Tuesday, July 12, will welcome participants to the GALA for the international keynote address from Stephen Hawking. His speech, entitled ‘In Praise of Rational Analysand’, will set the tone for the rest of the conference. There are still a few available tickets for this prestigious address, so be sure to get your hands on one before they’re all gone.

Able UK

To give you more information about the conference and its founder, we’ll now dive into the history of Able UK, starting with the very first Gala in 1996. Since then, Able UK has grown to become one of the most prominent organizations in the field, with over 100 employees, including 10 accessibility specialists. A lot has changed in the 20 years since the Gala was originally founded. Most dramatically, the internet has exploded in terms of what’s available online. This has made things much easier for those looking to find information about any topic. However, despite these many advancements, accessibility as an industry has struggled to find its place in today’s modern world.

According to Able UK, over 7.5 million people in the UK have a disability. The charity also estimates that only one in ten stores are truly accessible. This means that over 700,000 people are likely to find themselves struggling to complete a simple purchase due to lack of usable facilities. Improving accessibility in this country, and beyond, is a cause that’s close to Stephen Hawking’s heart. As far as he’s concerned, the issue is a global one, and improving accessibility for those with limited mobility is something that he feels strongly about. This is why the Gala was founded, to raise awareness of this issue, and to find innovative solutions that will help bring about real change.

At the same time, technological advancements have also played a key part in making access easier for those with disabilities. For example, video calling technology such as Skype, and apps such as Zoom allow individuals to connect with family and friends despite physical distance. The internet also provides a wealth of information about products and services, as well as supporting communities of interest, such as the autism spectrum. All of this makes the world of difference to someone who finds it difficult to leave the house due to physical or mental challenges. It also means that for those with the desire and determination to do so, life can look very different from how it would for an able-bodied person.

Why Is Accessibility Important?

According to the World Health Organization, over 1 billion people globally are affected by some kind of disability. This makes it the second largest disease burden globally. Furthermore, the WHO estimates that by 2050, over 1.5 billion more individuals will be affected. This is a sizeable increase, particularly considering that not all disabilities are visible. It’s often the case that the issues that people with disabilities face can’t be seen until they’re encountered. This is why improving accessibility is so important. It not only allows people to lead a more normal life, but it also means that businesses and buildings can be more inclusive, and better accommodate those with limited mobility or access needs. In 2022, the United Nations is holding a summit to focus on the future of work and employment for those with disabilities. It’s hoped that the inclusion of those with disabilities in the workplace will help reduce some of the inequalities that they face, especially when entering the job market.

Key Facts About Stephen Hawking

If you’re interested in learning more about the conference founder, Stephen Hawking, you can start with his name. It’s not that difficult to pronounce, and it means ‘Star of England’ in Latin. The surname is also of French origin, and it means ‘belonging to Hawk’, or ‘one who hunts with a hawk’. The full title of his first book is A Brief History of Time. In addition to being known for his work in theoretical physics, Hawking is also a well-known speaker on the topic of disability, and in particular, how to improve the accessibility of buildings and transport for those with limited mobility.

Speech By Stephen Hawking

The conference keynote address will start at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12. The venue for this historic event is the London Palladium, and tickets for this legendary speaker cost £350, which includes a hotel twin-centre night stay. If you’d like to attend this very influential event, you can get your tickets soon. While we wait for the keynote address, check out the rest of this year’s GALA schedule, which also includes some incredible speakers, such as Anita Dongre, the founder and director of the Global Business Leaders’ Disability Summit, and Joanne McArthur, the chief executive of the National Federation of the Blind of the UK.