From FOMO to Front Row: How Inclusion Avatars are Revolutionizing Accessibility

Author- Adarsh Ajaikumar, Anubha Singhal, Peter Gibson

The electricity crackles in the air. Laughter erupts from a family reunion. A presentation you’ve been prepping for months is about to begin. You can practically feel the energy, the anticipation. But then a familiar knot tightens in your stomach. The venue—steps, narrow doorways, or simply no accessible restrooms—throws up a wall between you and the experience.

This frustrating reality of “missing out” (FOMO) is a constant companion for millions of people with disabilities. Accessibility, as the concept goes, isn’t just about physical access to a place. It’s about ensuring everyone can participate, engage, and feel like they belong. That’s where the innovative idea of “Inclusion Avatar for Accessible events” comes in—a vision championed by EnableMe Access (EMA) on this Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD).

This year’s GAAD theme, “Building a digitally inclusive and accessible world,” perfectly aligns with EMA’s mission. But what if accessibility extends beyond the digital realm?

Here’s where Inclusion Avatars enter the scene. Forget clunky robots or faceless virtual assistants. Imagine these avatars as your friendly, helpful representatives. Stuck at home due to mobility limitations or being on bed rest for a long time but don’t want to miss that work presentation? Your Inclusion Avatar, connected via a live video link, can be your eyes and ears in the room. It can ask questions you’ve submitted beforehand, navigate the space to get a closer look at a presentation slide, or even capture photos for you. Suddenly, the physical distance disappears, replaced by the thrill of active participation.

The possibilities are endless. Inclusion Avatars can be your personal cheerleaders at a concert, your enthusiastic family member at a virtual gathering, or even your cultural ambassador at a faraway festival. They break down barriers, foster a sense of belonging, and ensure everyone including people with severe disabilities, elderly, and people with high support needs gets a front-row seat to life’s experiences. 

In fact, EMA has already begun turning this vision into reality. This concept was recently implemented for a series of heritage tours in Vadodara, Gujarat, in collaboration with the Heritage Trust. Jagu, an artist who gradually lost the use of her legs and now uses a wheelchair, used to enjoy so many cultural programs and yearn to be involved in the social scene again with like minded people.  The opportunity to see the ornate churches of Fatehgunj and the serene Sursagar Lake and meet and interact with others was tantalizing. But physical limitations often kept her from such experiences. This time, however, it was different. With her Inclusion Avatar by her side, Jagu embarked on a virtual adventure. The avatar, the eyes and ears on the ground for her and the other remote attendees, navigated the cobbled streets and captured the intricate details of the churches. They could ask the Avatar to zoom in on the historical inscriptions and ask questions about the architecture, all from the comfort of their homes. “It was great to be able to participate again,” Jagu later shared, her smiling eyes shining with tears of joy, “where I felt like I was truly part of  the tour even though I wasn’t physically there. It was good to feel part of something again!”

This is the power of Inclusion avatars—transforming the experience from mere observation to active participation. The Vadodara heritage tours, along with countless others EMA is planning, serve as a testament to this innovative approach, proving that accessibility doesn’t have to be a barrier but rather a bridge to a world of inclusion and immersive experiences.

This GAAD, let’s celebrate the progress made in accessibility. But let’s also acknowledge the journey ahead. Here’s your call to action:

  • Spread the word: Share this blog or information about Inclusion Avatars with your network. Let’s spark a conversation about inclusive accessibility.
  • Advocate for change: When you encounter inaccessible spaces, raise your voice! Demand change and support organizations working on Universal design and embracing an inclusive world.
  • Embrace innovation: Explore how Inclusion Avatars can be used in your events or gatherings. Let’s create a world where participation thrives, regardless of physical limitations.

Reach out to us for any support in having Inclusion Avatars make your events and gatherings more inclusive. Together, on this GAAD and beyond, let’s build a world where everyone can truly say, “Accessibility? That’s not a barrier; it’s an open door!”

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