10 October 2019

20 years of business at A2i

As we celebrate A2i’s business maturity and 20th birthday, our MD looks back over 20 years of change and looks ahead to an exciting future.

By Susie Fisher

Susie Fisher - owner of A2i

A2i has grown into an established and reliable business, and 20 years is a huge success worth celebrating. I look back and remember modems, tape cassettes, and karaoke machines and I can see how far we’ve come!

A2i today is slick and impressive, and it’s thanks to the hard work of all our staff. As a business, it’s important to use new technological advances, but it seems funny now to think where we’ve come from. It’s definitely good to take stock and realise how much has improved.

Birthday cake with candles

There are still a couple of us who remember turning the modem on at the beginning of the day to collect emails, and then at the end of the day to send our replies. A2i’s work is all about making information accessible, and it’s shocking to think how hard and how slow it was to get electronic documents back in 1999.

Like a lot of small businesses we started off with a tight budget, and I remember the only tape recorders we could afford all those years ago, that had mic inputs, were karaoke machines! At least we had some fun lunch breaks!

Old-fashioned karaoke machine

However, we’ve moved on, and technology has changed us as well as the world around us. We now recognise that we’re in the “information age” and providing equal access to information for disabled people is as important as ever.

Over the last 20 years, we’ve navigated through VAT registration, limited company status, the transition to Unified English Braille and GDPR legislation. We’ve upgraded to better paper, more formats, and higher quality production. We’ve moved to larger offices 4 times.

And now we’re looking ahead. I believe online formats are becoming more and more important. As disabled people get better online access, inequalities should be reducing more and more. Why should people be disadvantaged or disabled by the way information is presented? Surely we can make documents, websites, and information accessible to everyone? A2i are now looking at producing more multi-format documents, for example making PDFs accessible through audio playback, and adding subtitles and sign language to videos.

Lady in front of a computer creating an Accessible PDF

I believe we have impacted many people with our work in a really positive way. You can’t sit back in business, and we want to continue making a difference. Our vision is still the same, and we will use any advances in technology we can to make this happen quicker:

“A2i will provide high-quality transcribed documents that enable disabled people, regardless of whether they are the actual customer or not, to access information as easily as non-disabled people.”

How to make it to 20 years…

• Keep your products focused on your vision
• Embrace new technology, don’t avoid change
• Keep a close eye on your cashflow
• Invest in your people
• Don’t panic – make the most of quiet patches, they can be an opportunity to take stock and prepare for the next phase

How to survive 20 years running a business…

• Remind yourself of your vision regularly
• Be part of the team
• Get advice from people outside the business
• Work hard, but build in some variety
• Take holidays, avoid work at weekends, and do exercise!

What’s happening next with transcription…

• More accessible online information – audio, videos, PDFs, websites, eBooks
• Expect to see more Easy Read as awareness increases
• An increase in use of synthesised voice as improvements in technology transfer to the transcription industry, for some types of document at least

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