A Rotorua-based Edu-tech start-up's software will mean fewer children are left behind
Incluvu is a local edu-tech start-up passionate about improving digital accessibility in Aotearoa to create equal learning opportunities for all learners.
The accelerated shift to online learning environments allowed students to continue learning remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown – but for learners with low vision or neurodiverse issues, it’s a question of digital accessibility.
Danielle Caudwell (Te Arawa) and Roslyn Morshead are the driving force behind a new suite of software that will give neurodiverse learners a range of options to make webpages and online learning environments more accessible.
The edu-tech start-up was selected to participate in Kōkiri 2021, the national kaupapa Māori business accelerator programme run by Te Wānanga of Aotearoa from its business and innovation hub, Te Ahikōmako – Centre of Māori Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
Based in Rotorua, the two long-time lawyers and friends are strong advocates of digital accessibility – both of their lives have both been touched by digital accessibility in different ways.
The fundamental shift towards a digital-first society has amplified existing accessibility disadvantages. “We recognised a gap in the need for simple website accessibility options, researched the global market for solutions, and it’s all unfolded from there,” Danielle said.
Progress in supporting digital accessibility in New Zealand for neurodiverse and low vision users has been slow and lags behind other countries. While the Ministry of Education estimates one in seven children have dyslexia, there is no data around the issue.
“It’s a difficult problem to quantify as many people don’t identify as having an impairment or being neurodiverse… it’s about giving learners options to make web pages more accessible, without them having to ask,” says Ros.
Danielle and Ros acknowledge there is no single solution that can solve every conceivable accessibility need. “But if ever there was a time to prioritise digital leadership and governance for the future, it’s now,” Danielle says.
Incluvu plans on setting up a free community hub around digital accessibility alongside developing the product suite. The hub will aim to raise awareness, provide information about implementing digital accessibility practices, and offer access to interesting research articles and product reviews.
“We want to give back to our community. It’s about bringing people along on the journey with us,” Ros says.
Danielle Caudwell (Te Arawa) and Ros Morshead are the co-founders behind Incluvu.
Bobbi-Jo Clark-Heu and Saara Tawha
The proven business acceleration processes used during the 12-week Kōkiri programme has helped the team reflect on their start-up journey and get a clear pathway for what was needed to bring the problem to the forefront and their products to life. “Without the focus of the programme, I don’t think we would be where we are now. We would sort of still be rolling along in a different space,” Ros said.
The structured sequence of the programme has helped the duo critically examine all aspects of their start-business including technology requirements, strategy, and customer segments. “We have learnt such a lot about all sorts of concepts we didn’t even know about before. The increase in our personal growth and knowledge base has just been so phenomenal,” Danielle said.
Ros added, “The learnings from the programme have led us to the realisation that the issue is bigger than just us. We can help so many people, especially with a product tailored to New Zealand. We’ve realised that we can be in the technology space. We’re wahine, we’re from the provinces, and there aren’t many women in technology out there.”