Accessibility Consultant Spotlight: Meet Anu Pala
We have such an amazing pool of talented associates at Untapped Accessibility. Join us as we shine a spotlight on Anu Pala (she/her), whose unique contributions and unwavering commitment to accessibility and inclusion embody the ethos that drives our collective mission forward.
At Untapped, when we put together a project team, we’re always asking ourselves how can Anu help? As a multi-faceted accessibility professional, Anu can do a lot! She’s our resident expert in screen reader-friendly web environments, but she’s also a compassionate and powerful facilitator.
Here are a few highlights from our interview.
Why did you choose to work in accessibility?
I did not choose to work in accessibility. It honestly chose me. I think this is an evolution of all the different things that I’ve done throughout my career. Oprah often talks about connecting the threads of your life, meaning “Your thread is that which connects the dots and experiences of your life and allows you to become who you were meant to be.”
What were those common threads?
So whether it was one of my first jobs working at a law firm as a receptionist, then moving into broadcasting, which is very different, followed by volunteering at a women’s center. And then transitioning into the non-profit sector in the areas of education, fundraising communications, career development, assistive technology training, and leadership which has created the perfect tapestry for entrepreneurship.
I remember when I was learning how to use assistive technology and being inspired by the program head who also had complete vision loss and how she became a mentor to me. And I was like, I want to be a leader like her, she’s amazing. She’s running this department and she’s teaching all these people, including myself.
Each experience led to the next. Over the years, I kept upgrading my education and volunteering in between my career because I did lose jobs at times. That’s where I was like, well, now what am I going to do? Every experience has helped me, you know, progress and evolve, build this huge array of skills.
What do you enjoy the most about being an accessibility consultant?
I really enjoy inspiring people to think differently. I feel like people are still sometimes stuck in their old ways of thinking, and I enjoy helping people see things through my experience and sharing what I’ve learned. It’s getting people to think outside of the box. We can be really creative and do things differently, but we have to be open to it.
I also enjoy playing a small role in the societal shift towards equity and inclusion, especially towards people with disabilities. Take accessibility legislation like the Accessible BC Act, for example. Prescribed organizations throughout the province are now being mandated to have processes in place for inclusivity that cover all areas of business so that we can have more diverse workplaces.
This means a lot to me because I’ve experienced my own challenges in my career journey. I’ve had a lot of wins as well. I enjoy sharing these stories with other people, especially those where people with disabilities like me are shining and thriving and living a good life. It’s incredibly important and valuable to learn from people with lived experience.
What’s your vision for an accessible future?
I hope that we as a society become more comfortable with people with different abilities, whether it’s someone who’s neurodivergent or who has vision loss for example.
I’m hoping there will be more opportunities for people to become educated so that it enables them to be more comfortable around people with disabilities—whether that’s through media, workplace training, professional development, and other mediums.
We need more people talking about accessibility inclusion to reduce fears and negative stereotypes to help increase comfort levels and include people with disabilities in their circles. I’m still not included in some groups in my community because they see me as different, even though we probably have more similarities than differences.
My hope is that others never experience this in the future and that people become more willing to step out of their comfort zones, away from the so-called societal norms, and embrace diversity. I envision a world where we can celebrate each others’ differences rather than judge. We all learn from each other at the end of the day.
Anu Pala (she/her) brings over 25 years of experiences in the areas of diversity and inclusion training, vocational consulting, media, and advocacy. Learn more and connect on Anu’s Linktree, where you can find links to her social channels and podcast episodes.