Dublin Tech Summit

“I emailed 629 individual recruitment companies, and not one was digitally accessible” – In conversation with Kyran O’Mahoney, CEO and founder, IA Labs

By David Monaghan
13 September 2023
Kyran O'Mahoney smiles at the camera. Behind him is a white background. He sports a blue shirt.
Pictured: Kyran O’Mahoney, CEO and founder, IA Labs

Kyran O’Mahoney is an IT professional with over twenty years of experience in developing complex technical projects for a host of sectors across Ireland, the UK, and the United States.

He is CEO and founder of Inclusion and Accessibility Labs (IA Labs), a start-up established in 2021 to highlight and combat barriers faced by people with disabilities in the digital revolution.

IA Labs won the Ignite pitch competition at Dublin Tech Summit 2023. The competition saw 26 high potential start-ups compete across five knockout rounds, pitching their businesses to expert judges.

O’Mahoney spoke to David Monaghan, Deputy Editor, Business & Finance, about his career to date, the aims of IA Labs, empowering companies to become digitally accessible, and winning big at DTS.

David Monaghan (DM): Tell me a bit about your background, your career, and the lead up to the development of IA Labs.

Kyran O’Mahoney (KO’M): I grew up in Ireland with a vision impairment, and I started working for the National Council for the Blind of Ireland in 2019 as their chief technology officer, and one of the things that was interesting was that not a lot of charities would typically hire someone at CTO type level. They realised that technology is a huge enabler for people with sight loss.

Previous to that, I worked in the private sector, in investment companies. I worked in Ryanair, Dunnes Stores, AIB, but I was always in tech, so I thought this could be an opportunity to do a real ‘tech for good’ piece, or tech as a key enabler and see if that worked out.

It really, really has just ballooned in terms of technology being this huge innovator and this huge enabler for people with disabilities. That’s where Inclusion and Accessibility Labs was born from. We realised over the last three years that it wasn’t just sight loss that we can use technology [for].

I was appointed CEO of Inclusion and Accessibility Labs, which is an amazing honour, while still having to do the CTO role a little bit, but it’s been a whirlwind to get here, you know?

“We want to make the world digitally accessible one website [or] mobile application at a time.”

DM: And could you tell me a little bit more about the aims of IA Labs? 

KO’M: Our mission is really, really simple … [We] want to make the world digitally equal to everyone, and that’s what we’re striving for – to make the world a digitally equal place, and then, ultimately, an inclusive place. Another way to look at that is we want to make the world digitally accessible one website [or] mobile application at a time […] We work with [our customers] to make their website digitally accessible, and it benefits the broader people around the world to live in a more inclusive society.

DM: Could you tell me about some of the barriers people face when it comes to technology and people with disabilities?

KO’M: [For] people with disabilities, there’s much higher unemployment. It was really interesting at the time of the Dublin Tech Summit, because the day that I was pitching for the Ignite Pitch contest, the government released statistics to say that we’re effectively at full employment.

“If you look at the 600,000 people in Ireland with a disability, there’s huge unemployment. For sight loss alone, less than 18% of people in Ireland with sight loss are employed.”

It’s what lens you look at that through, because if you look at the 600,000 people in Ireland with a disability, there’s huge unemployment. For sight loss alone, less than 18% of people in Ireland with sight loss are employed. A horrific statistic.

And a lot of that comes because of the barriers to technology. If you look at it in Ireland, you can’t apply for a job on a recruitment website as someone with a disability. I literally emailed 629 individual recruitment companies, and not one was digitally accessible, which is scandalous, you know? It’s broader than that. Just again, if you look across any industry that you pick in Ireland, access to information, access to education, access to employment, access to finance, every one of those that you look at is a barrier for people with disabilities because we all live in this in this digital world.

Everyone is expected to live in an equal world, but the digital society that we live in is not equal. It’s the complete opposite. And even if you look back to how the World Wide Web was originally formed, it was formed to be a universal way of communication, and that was its value, but it’s kind off morphed off quite a bit. We all talk about generative AI, blockchain, and all those things, those cool, cool technologies which are incredible, and they’re going to be game changers for the world, but people with disabilities tend to become the last point that’s accounted for, and that’s where there are huge barriers, and IA Labs is here to help.

DM: How do you empower companies to become digitally accessible?

KO’M: We do it through three core ways, right? The first thing is, we educate them on the importance of digital accessibility and what it is. For example, most companies in their offices would consider it unthinkable to not have a ramp to allow people with a physical disability to come in. Whereas most companies have a website that is completely digitally inaccessible. So what we’re trying to do really is educate companies that there’s an important thing that they’re not doing as part of their diversity, equity and inclusion company values.

“Most companies have a website that is completely digitally inaccessible.”

It’s wonderful that so many companies have a DE&I agenda and people talk about gender inequality, racial inequality, working on those aspects, but if you can’t apply for a job in that company as someone with a disability, you’re missing the point. So, the first thing we do is really educate people that this is something that’s really important, and I don’t think it’s known as much as it should be.

The second thing we do is we say, ‘this is something that’s really important, there’s legislation coming by 2025, by the EU, which will be enacted across all EU states.’ They have to do it.

And the final thing is, we’re here to offer a solution, so it’s not just an aspirational ‘let’s all be accessible’. IA Labs offers a manual solution where we’ll manually review your website. This is why we took part in the Ignite competition, we’re building an automated solution for digital accessibility. So, for example, [a company] could run our solution across their websites to show the exact issues that are there, and then literally what line of code needs to be fixed. The vast majority of cases it’s a few lines of code per page. Very, very simple.

DM: What are some of the benefits of the DTS Ignite pitch competition?

KO’M: I think profile is the biggest piece for us. Of all the tech conferences that are out there, I think DTS is certainly my absolute favourite, and primarily because of the attendees. There’s such a broad spectrum of people who are attending across every aspect of not only Irish and European, but the international tech sector. So to have that opportunity to not only present at it but to have a stand! Like, we couldn’t afford, as a start-up, one of the larger stands in the main arena. I think DTS has to really be commended for their support of start-ups, you know, and to allow that presence and that profile I think is something that’s that’s hugely valuable.

To see more companies pushing for a digitally inclusive world, please visit the Diversity in Tech Awards website. Tickets for the DITA 2023 are available now.


Dublin Tech Summit 2023 hosts 8,000 attendees from around the world

Winners of the 2022 Diversity in Tech Awards in partnership with JP Morgan

Leveraging Technology for the Good of All: An Interview with Nikki Lasley, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Amplitude