The Nordics: Is Cashless the way to go? An accessibility point of view.

First, I love Sweden, I love the Nordics! If I go to there as a conference speaker, I always have a great time. The Nordics are innovative. And I am really looking forward to my next 3 trips to the Nordics in the beginning of 2020. I start with Oslo (Norway) in January, Stockholm (Sweden) in February and Helsinki (Finland) in March.

Thanks to my great network I saw this movie:

Movie that triggers this blog post

As I saw this movie I was worried as an expert in accessibility and inclusion.

So, let’s open the discussion on accessibility and inclusion from my part of view: people with disabilities.

To do this, I am going to focus on 2 disabilities: autism / Asperger (youngers with autism / Asperger) and people with learning disabilities.

(Youngsters) with autism  / Asperger

For a lot of people with autism / Asperger, especially for youngsters the physical world is important. The physical view of a banknote and how this banknote can be divided into other banknotes and in the end in coins is a very important view. Also, if you are caring an amount of physical money into your wallet and you want to go to a toy store it’s very concrete, what you can combine with the amount of money and what’s beyond your budget.

People with learning disabilities

There are people with learning disabilities. This can be adults with the knowledge of children below 10. There’s a lot of theory of learning disabilities. The most famous disability on this field is people with Downs Syndrome. But Downs isn’t the only disability that causes learning disabilities. As I tell in my story as a speaker each disability is a spectrum and the knowledge and intellectual functioning is different par person. Some adults have the IQ of a child of 9, even 6 or below 3. there are also adaptive skills and so on.

But what I see in the field if I work with people with learning disabilities is also the same as with youngsters with autism: the physical form of money is very important. As a parent or coach for a person with learning disabilities it’s very concrete t give a banknote of money and help them to split this into costs. A digital translation of money can be challenging.

Do you trust everybody?

Nice question. Can you give the bank card / the mobile application to pay to everybody surrounding the person with the disability (if this is a youngster with autism / Asperger or a person with learning disability it’s doesn’t matter)?

How to control the usage of the account linked to the card / app?

How to create a visible system that the persons with the disability understand. That provides trust and transparency for parents / care givers / coaches?

How to prevent that inclusion is going backwards?

Do make the last question concrete: I mean: Currently there are quite a lot of people with disabilities going to shops / warehouses on their own. How to prevent that these persons must be surrounded with a caregiver / coach for the payment?

How to build in safety for these vulnerable persons? If you have a banknote of 50 (Dollar by example / it doesn’t matter). The largest amount of money that can be stolen is 50 Dollar. If you share a bank account / app / card with the budget of 1000 Dollar, maybe 1000 Dollar can be stolen…

Are mobile apps the solution?

I believe. There are a lot of mobile payment apps. And as you all can read on my blog (in other blogposts). There a lot of possibilities to make mobile apps more accessible. Using Text To Speech, Color by Function, Simplify The Layout, Images and pictographs and so on.

At this time. I haven’t seen one mobile banking app that implements this accessibility concepts. I hope governments and banks will investigate how they make their apps accessible for people with different disabilities.

This is very important because we don’t want inclusion is going backwards.

A demo of an accessible app that shows people with disabilities what's on the menu to eat. In this image you see that on the menu is fries and burgers. I show this via text in combination with pictographs and an accessible layout.
Accessible Demo 1: Food applications
Image of an application to communicate about emotions. The app don't have a name right now and is not published. It's a proof of concept.
Accessible Demo 2: Emotion boards

More info on my accessibility concepts:

The Need of Accessible Apps

Simplify the layout

Color by Function

More concepts coming soon!

Thanks for reading! Can’t wait for your reactions.

Meeting the community at DevDay in Belgium

In November 26th there was a conference in Belgium called DevDay. The conference was at the Cinescope in Louvain-La-Neuve. For me this was  great reason to visit the tech community at the Fresh speaking part of Belgium.

Networking at conferences

So, as you all know I made a talk called: “Networking at conferences for autistic people and introverts”. Networking at conferences is really important for me. In fact the main reason to attend this conference was to network! I wanted to meet again with Laurent Bugnion, Henk Boelman and Nick Trogh from Microsoft. Nick wasn’t speaking at this conference but was the men at the Microsoft Booth.

AI in the battle against the fakes by Henk

This talk was an amazing war story about a real solution for solving a problem at Henk’s previous job. Henk explained how he developed an AI solution to distinguish real products from a company and fake products.

The talk was a combination of a good war story and concrete steps into action to work with Azure Cognitive Services. Personally, I loved the combination of war story with concrete steps to action!

Good job Henk!

PIcture of henk presenting AI in the battles against the fakes.
Henk in his battle against the fakes.

A lap around serverless form an app developers perspective

Are you ready to go serverless? Bart and Glenn told us their story to go serverless for back-ends for mobile devices. An app with a  serverless backend can be a cheaper, more cost-effective solution. In this talk Bart and Glenn showed how they build a complete solution, but they are not only saying which tools they use but provides us a lot of insights a lot of the Azure products.

The setup of the project are some web projects hosted on Docker. Docker has advantages if you want to be scalable and are good to fix the “it works on my machine” issue.

For storage Bart and Glenn advice to use CosmosDB. CosmosDB is horizontally scalable and has a very high SLA .

The complete solution glued together with Azure Functions. Azure Functions is a serverless approach to execute code.

As good developers should advice, do Bart and Glenn advice to automate your complete development with Azure DevOps and App center.

I really loved this talk and this talks gave me a lot of insights for my next serverless backends.


As I only speak Dutch and English, and a lot of talks were in French I couldn’t attend all the talks. At DevDay a lot of talks were in French. And… It was the first time in Louvain-La-Neuve, so I made a nice city tour in the late afternoon before heading to my hometown.

Picture of Louvan la neuve by night
Louvain La Neuve by night.

I had good discussions, saw some amazing sessions (some more than the 2 I describe here and walked in a nice neighborhood. So I had a good day!

See you hopefully next year, DevDay!

Going Social at Microsoft Ignite

A month ago, I really had the time of my life. One of my biggest wishes was becoming reality. I had the wonderful opportunity to speak at Microsoft Ignite, a big Microsoft conference in the US.

This trip was my second trip to USA in my #7ThYearMagic year. Microsoft Ignite was in Orlando, an awesome hood.

The climate is very warm and humid. Let’s say it was my second summer of 2019.

Because a lot of developers blog about Microsoft Ignite (and this is because it’s such an awesome conference) I am going to blog about a specific topic: social topics like Diversity and Inclusion.

Creating an inclusive community event

Lars Klint, a hero from Australia gave a session about building inclusive community events. Lars is the Organizer of DDD Melbourne. For Lars and DDD Melbourne it’s very important that the event is inclusive. Diversity and Inclusion is Key for them.

Lars explained about gender diversity, about newcomer speakers. I liked the session. It was good.

Lars explained about gender diversity, about newcomer speakers. I liked the session. It was good.

Recognize exclusion, design for inclusion

A talk from Bryce Johnson. People that know me already may know that I speak about accessibility and also visit often other talks about accessibility.

But this one was another one. This talk was exceptional good. My number one talk about accessibility I ever saw. And I saw in my last 2 years great talks about accessibility.

This talk was the story behind the XBOX Adaptive Controller, about how to enable people with disabilities to get engaged with their gamer friends  / community.

Bryce has a strong vision and the vision behind the Adaptive Controller can go way further. Bryce also told about the Inclusive Design Series from Microsoft and a bit about Inclusive Hiring, that people with disabilities deserve a paid job.

So folks, you all know that I am a volunteer. And I am really happy with my life. But the vison Bryce shared about being paid or not was strong.

Being a Social Developer

Scott Hanselman, a hero, a Rockstar. Scott presented a talk about being visible and on social media for developers. A talk about blog attitude (that is a working point for me!) and about personal branding.

I loved it. The talk had some awesome take-aways. And I try to blog more. (But can I say this, if this blogpost about Microsoft Ignite is already a month later?)

So I am on the good way going to this type of talks and try to be a better blogger.

Mental health, It’s time to talk

A talk by Ryan Yates from the UK. Very good talk. A talk about the explanation of having another state of mental health. And in this sentence I don’t say mental health issues .I say a different state. And this is with purpose!

A good talk with a lot of metaphors and theories in the field of mental wellbeing. Some concepts come back in the scope in support for people with autism.

I remember the Swimming pool theory. I try to explain: You could ask to your coworker (or your friend) how the level of their swimming pool is. Imagine that you stand at the ground (bottom) floor of a swimming pool? How high is the water? The lower the water is the safer and comfortable you are. But if the water comes to high you start to drown.

Another theory I liked is the Spoon theory. I try also to explain: Each person received a set of spoons. You need the spoon for each task you have to do during the day. But each person starts with a different amount of spoons. Also, the amount of spoons you need for each talk differs from task to task, person to person and mental health state to mental health state. If your spoons are empty, you cannot enjoy your day, complete you day comfortable anymore.

My talk: Building inclusive workplaces: Supporting coworkers with autism

My talk was about supporting coworkers with autism. About how to be the best coworker for your coworker with autism. And how to make most of your work situation. I give some theory about autism. Then I talk about specific issues people on the spectrum can have at work scenario and I give concrete advices for each of these situations. I say what to do, and what you better avoid.

People loved the talk. I got great feedback and awesome conversations after my talk.

What you don’t see

I end this blogpost with what you don’t see in blogpost and what not everybody know. But Microsoft Ignite is all about the hallway track, of how many speakers call it. It’s about being there and making connections. About talking to people from product groups you never met before .About experience sharing and helping each other.

And of course I visited a lot of technical sessions too. But I see most people telling, blogging and spreading the word about technical sessions already. I tried to deliver you another view of the conference. But in a conference of 6 day (5 + a pre day) you can visit a lot of technical sessions and a lot of social talks.

And the last night, it’s about partying. Microsoft rented the 2 Universal Studio’s park and everything was free. You could enjoy all rides and have some awesome drinks and foods.