I had a wonderful interview with Maria O’Sullivan-Abeyratne, the founder of Adaptista.com. And.. we had a laugh 😁!
Maria explained how Adaptista started, the exposure she is giving to fashion brands who focus on disabilities and her very exciting plans for the future.
It was also a chance to talk about the very new Adaptista Scholarship Programme. In partnership with the British Academy of Fashion Design, the is program aimed at encouraging people with disabilities to pursue an education in fashion design.
Let’s dive in!
I asked Maria this exact same question. This is the video transcript:
“Hi, Startupmag. I'm Maria. I'm the founder of Adaptista.
We're a disabled led e-commerce platform for people with disabilities, by people with disabilities. And we're trying to change the perception of people with disabilities within the fashion industry and bring meaningful change to what is a really big problem to an industry that has previously excluded an entire section of the community throughout history.”
Initially I thought this was just a marketplace with a focus on accessibility but Adaptista is a lot more than that:
Adaptista will soon be offering full brand support. When you join as a seller (brand), you won’t just get access to traffic, you will become a fully integrated member. You will be part of a community with fellow sellers and get access to tools and training to help grow your brand.
On the technical side, Adaptista is currently built on Shopify and uses Reciteme for accessibility. However Maria was very good at teasing me with hints to further inhouse developments :-)
Adaptista’s fashion scholarship has gained the attention of corporate sponsors, with John Lewis White City providing a high-quality sewing machine and Includability, an inclusive job board, contributing a one-year membership to Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft 365 for the chosen applicant. Additionally, Includability will offer career guidance to the student.
It’s now open to prospective UK students who are 18 years of age or older. To apply, individuals must submit a 500-word essay and a mood board through the Adaptista website by March 31st, 2023. More information about the scholarship, including the terms and conditions, can be found on the Adaptista website.
A word kept coming back during this interview “Accessibility”, and in particular website accessibility.
Website accessibility refers to the practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities and disabilities. This includes individuals with visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments, as well as those with temporary or permanent disabilities.
The goal of website accessibility is to provide equal access and equal opportunity to all users, regardless of their physical or mental abilities. And this is often achieved through the use of assistive technologies, such as screen readers for the visually impaired, and through the use of standards and guidelines for design and development, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
You’ll find a list of accessibility tools on the Adaptista website.
I tested one of the recommended links on Startupmag: Accesibility Checker
And our website failed…
2 things jumped out:
First, AccessibilityChecker provides a really cool and free website test. It then makes money by offering advanced website scanning for $399 - $699 /month. And also sends you to https://accessibe.com/ to fix your problems and receives a 20% affiliate commission if you use their service.
And Accessibe is not cheap! The 20% commission represents up to 1 000$ for each referred business.
I didn’t have time to dig in too much, but although Accessibe raised $58M in June 2022, it’s not all positive for the startup with quite a few complaints.
The listed website’s accessibility issues and our known SEO issues were very similar.
Users of screen readers and other assistive technologies rely on non visible titles, comments, and labels to describe the contents of frames.
In simpler terms, if you can’t see an image, you have to rely on the description of the picture that that website owner has added to its code. If there is no description, the image can not be described.
Hopefully AI and computer vision will help fix this problem, but the tags still need to be implemented for the information to be useful.
So by making your website more accessible you will also be optimising your SEO..
No more excuses!
I hope this extra SEO bump will be another incentive to start working on your website accessibility.
Maria was very patient with my lack of knowledge of the industry 😅. She really helped me understand the current state of disability led fashion and highlighted the importance of website accessibility.
Adaptista is more than a business, and Maria is on a mission to make the whole fashion industry more inclusive whether that’s for brands, consumers but also talented individuals with a disability wanting to work in this fashion.
You can find all details regarding the Fashion scholarship here: