Innovating Accessibility: A Conversation with Eyra Abraham, Founder of Lisnen

As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s crucial to spotlight individuals whose ingenuity and determination have not only transformed their own lives, but have also contributed to making the world a more inclusive place for all.

In this exclusive interview, we delve into the story behind Lisnen, a groundbreaking app designed to address a critical issue faced by individuals with hearing loss. Join us as we sit down with entrepreneur Eyra Abraham, the visionary behind Lisnen, to uncover the inspiration behind her creation, her insights into entrepreneurship, and her pivotal role in driving disability inclusion initiatives on both federal and provincial levels. 

  1. How did you get the idea for Lisnen?
Lisnen started because I wanted to solve a problem that affects far too many people with hearing loss. I was living in a condo building in Nova Scotia, and I slept through a late evening fire drill. The property management wanted to see how people in the building were responding to the alarm. Unfortunately, I found out about the alarm a couple of days later with a memo in my mailbox. The letter reprimanded people for not taking fire alarms seriously and advised people to evacuate when an alarm goes off. I would have left had I known, but I couldn’t hear after I took my hearing aids off. I wanted to fix this, but no affordable solution would work for an older building with multiple fire alarm systems for units and common areas. I decided to explore the answer myself using advanced technologies like artificial intelligence.
2. Can you give us some more details on how people can learn more about and access Lisnen?
Information about Lisnen is available in the CHHA E-Store, where CHHA members can download the app at a discount. If you want to try out the app you can download it from the Google Play or Apple Store by searching for “Lisnen”.
If you want to purchase to unlock all the features, visit the CHHA E-Store for a reduced price. Set up an account using the links directing you on the CHHA E-Store and use the credentials you used to set up your account and purchase annual membership to access more features directly from the app.
 3. Do you have any words of advice for other entrepreneurs? 
Entrepreneurship is a rewarding career. It can improve self-awareness and understanding of people and our society. It does come with waves of highs and lows but embracing them and not allowing it to define you is important. My advice is to stay present and build a business that aligns with what you value and the life you want to create for yourself. It could be a one-person company, a small team of four or it could be a 1000 people organization. Businesses come in different flavours to help solve problems for others. You don’t need to adopt a business model that appeals to billion-dollar evaluation-type companies and investors.
4. You are also a Member of Federal and Provincial Committees driving disability inclusion can you tell us a bit more about this role?
With Accessibility Standards Canada, I’m a technical member of plain language. We are developing Canada’s first plain language standards with a focus on people with disabilities for the federal government and it’s entities. Communication is very important to me, and communicating for access is critical to ensuring that everyone gets new information, can understand it, and takes action. The public has access to review this and other standards that affect people with disabilities in Canada and share your input as well. On a provincial level, I sit on the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council for Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.  Here I help guide the Government of Ontario with matters relating to people with disabilities. I started in the fall and am looking forward to contributing to making our province more accessible.
5. What are some ways individuals and communities can honour and celebrate Black history beyond February?
Canada is rich with stories of black history that take us back to the late 1700s on the East Coast of Canada. If you are in Nova Scotia or visiting Nova Scotia, go to the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre, which will take you right where it all happened.If you grew up or were educated in Canada, there are a lot of stories that get left untold to continue to fill a narrative that serves colonialism. Be open to finding and exploring new untold stories to shape new perspectives and inspire you in different ways.

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