Transcript: Why Accessibility Matters to Your Business
Captioned by Q&A Reporting, Inc., www.qacaptions.com
Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us for those of you who are here in person, in our studio; for those of you also joining us online, watching this live. And I should say good morning for those of you joining across the country. We have a pretty robust audience here. I’m Paul Fahey, Vice President of Overit Media, white male, mid 50s and a boy next door haircut, wearing a blue blazer. We will do audio descriptions and you will learn why this a minute.
Thank you all for being here. This is a really important topic. And I’m excited we are able to deliver this in a hybrid format. Our conversation will very much parallel a lot of what is happening in contemporary society. We are talking beforehand about meetings returning in person. And all the habits that we forgot about in terms of having the microphones ready to pass around versus over the front of the room. And so there are habits that we may want to revisit. And things we were not in the habit of doing in the first place. And so over the next hourandahalf I believe, we are really looking forward to a very important and stimulating conversation.
And a very human conversation. This is going to be a very safe space for learning. And I think a lot for questions and answers. As the topic was first brought up by my colleague Lisa Barome a lot of it for me was I don’t know what I don’t know. And how do I you know learn about these things. Tim reminded me Paul 1990 there were ADA laws that were passed and set us down the path to the things we should know. But things change. I think that is even worth commenting for those of you watching this on demand in the future, this is being recorded at the end of April, sorry beginning of May, 2023.
My microphone is completely fell.
Thank you, Katie for the audible cue. Perfect.
I’m Paul, welcome very important conversation. For those who couldn’t hear much of that we will just go from there.
So thank you. I’d like to have our panel introduce themselves as we go through and then we will kick the conversation off from here. Right now this is a bit of an monologue from me and will turn to a dialog for the panel. In person at some point we will pass the microphone for you to ask questions. And for those of you that are joining us online please use the chat or if you are watching this streaming live on social media put notes in the comments. If you see me checking my phone it’s not my undiagnosed adult ADD it’s me getting messages from Katie of questions I would like to relay to the panel so to my left I would like to introduce Katrin Haldeman.
>> KATRIN HALDEMAN: I’m with Disability Rights New York. I’m a white woman in my late 40s.
I have long brown curly hair and I have a necklace I wear everyday that is a blue stone and I have kind of a hot pink shirt on. It’s nice to meet all of you today in person as well as online. And I will pass it to our Executive Director.
>> TIM CLUNE: Thank you. So I’m Tim Clune. I’m the Executive Director of Disability Rights New York. I’d like to say that I am a white male in my early 50s but actually I am a white male in my early 60s with a gray shirt and sort of salt and pepper more salt colored hair and glasses. I will turn it to my left.
>> DAN O’LEARY: I’m Dan O’Leary senior marketing strategist at Overit Media, early 40s, 6 foot, 200 pounds, wavy brown hair with a black and white checkered shirt with blue cuffs that match my blue eyes.
>> JOHN ROBINSON: President and CEO of Our Ability. We are without meaning to be we are technology company using generated AI to build accessibility products for individuals with disabilities. I am a white male with five weeks of growth of brush cut and need to get my haircut. Round face. Round body. Three foot eight limited arms and legs due to being born a quadruple amputee. Checked shirt and no tie because I refuse to wear one in my middle ages and happy to be that way. Nearing 55 years old.
>> PAUL FAHEY: Thank you, John. And I want to introduce Brooke joining us from Long Island.
>> BROOKE ELLISON: Hello everyone. My name is Brooke Ellison I’m an associate professor at Stony Brook University focusing on applied medical ethics and healthcare policies specifically as relates to people with disabilities. And I also serve as a vice president for technology and innovation at the nonprofit organization the united spinal association and an author in addition to that, I am a white female in my early to mid 40s. And I’m wearing an off white dress with blue stars on it. Which hopefully in appearance looks less Juvenile than it sounds like. In its description. I’m here in my home office. Joining you remotely. My office is a walls with paraphernalia in the background and I like to be a part of the conversation today so thank you everybody for welcoming me and for really just broaching this topic to begin with.
>> PAUL FAHEY: Thanks Brooke we are glad you are here. Tim, why don’t we start with you and create a bit of a context for what we will talk about today but why this is so important.
>> TIM CLUNE: Thank you very much. I do want to thank you and thank Overit and Lisa Barome, who is also on the board of Disability Rights New York for all of your support and making this happen as well as our panelists.
I think it’s important in terms of the context but also just to give you a little history. And I will do it in a very brief Brooklyn based quick paced way. We are the protection and advocacy system for New York State. So what does that mean?
Back in 1972HeraldoRivera put a hidden camera on Willowbrook school on statin island New York and he uncovered abuse and neglect with people with developmental disabilities. Congress held hearings and created the protection and advocacy system because Congress concluded that the states were incapable of providing the necessary oversight and protection of our family and community institutions. So the PNA was born.
In New York State, the PNA was located within a state agency. Let’s fast forward to 2011. There are now eight Federal programs, Federal PNA programs. The oversight Federal agency concluded that the state was incapable of staying independent from the Governor’s office. And redesignation was necessary.
Our office disability advocates, inc and operating under the name Disability Rights New York became that not for profit office that is providing all of these services. So that gets us to where we are today. The accessibility has been an up hill battle since day one. And I can’t tell you when day one starts because everyday often feel like day one depending on the issue we are addressing.
And you alluded to the ADA so the passage of the ADA in July of 1990 was a benchmark that we thought would really start to change the way accessibility was dealt with. The way people who had disabilities was dealt with. And all types of situations.
What we found for the first ten years is that, I’m also a lawyer so I need to and in the spirit of full disclosure I am a lawyer even though I am the Executive Director, not practicing per se. But for the first ten years after the ADA was passed, we rarely, if ever, got to the substance of a complaint. The merits of a complaint because Defendants whether it was the state, whether it was the city, whether it was private, companies, argued that our clients were not covered by the ADA. There is a definition of what a disability is and whether it affects a major life function. We spent a decade arguing over that before we ever got to the merits of the case.
Fast forwarding a little bit into the future, when we finally started doing that, we started to address things that are basic needs, sidewalks, movie theatres, insurance, ASL, all of those things are daily issues that everyone has to deal with. Yet, the accessibility in each of those categories was something that needed to be addressed. And if I have time I can just touch on a few of them.
Sidewalks, in New York City curb cuts. For someone who uses an assistive walking device or a wheelchair, a half inch, a quarter inch lip on a sidewalk into the street is like a wall. I recall a colleague of mine and I were traveling to New York City and we were taking Amtrak. And she asked, she wasn’t taking her motorized chair and asked if I could push her manual chair and said yes and pushing her up the ramp to get to the train station and there was a crack in the sidewalk that I did not see. And that almost catapulted her out of her chair. I tried to pay attention when we are out but create obstacles insurmountable at times. In Troy trying to navigate the streets in Troy are sometimes impossible. There are roots. There are heaves. These are things that need to be addressed. And we try to address them in terms of advocacy. And litigation, if necessary. Although we are lawyers, you will never be surprised when we sue you. You will have every opportunity to fix it because litigation is the last thing we want to do.
One more thing I would like to touch on before I pass it on to my colleagues here. When the pandemic hit, and we were all working from home and we all needed to obtain valuable information from our Government, and more specifically from the Governor at the time, he was holding daily press conferences. They were live, on screen press conferences. He did not have an ASL interpreter live in screen. What they had was an ASL interpreter on the web page. So we contacted the Governor’s office and said, listen, you need to have, this is important information that is getting out there. You need to have an on screen, live interpreter. No, we don’t. We just like people can access it on the web page.
That is a remarkable statement because it misses the point of, one, not everybody has access to high speed Internet that they would have an opportunity to see that. And, two, there are a lot of people in New York City area who are using TV, you know, with rabbit ears to get their daily news. Were we getting complaints across the boroughs. We contacted the Governor and said we will sue you. Next week on this if this is not fixed. They did not fix it. We sued them and the Court ordered them to fix this. This is in 2020, this is not what we should have to be fighting about in 2020.
So I’m going to leave it there and we can come back and talk about other things if you like.
>> PAUL FAHEY: Let’s broaden that context a bit. So I mean this under lying theme of access, you know, and in this meeting format that we have that is hybrid essentially we want even to see and learn and participate. And to that end, we have Katie our wonderful ASL interpreter. And she will be followed by Stephie. We have a number of tools and tried to make this physically accessible as well as having some technologies. I would love to hear from each of the panel your perspective on access. What is the work you’re doing or what is the space you are in regarding accessibility?
And maybe, John, I will start with you and Dan and bring it around to Katrin.
>> JOHN ROBINSON: I think for us accessibility as I said in the intro without meaning to we became a technology company. We started out as a mentor network for individuals with disabilities. After my 16 year experience in television it became interesting to me, could we create video stories that would act as mentors to younger people with disabilities. We were doing that. And that was all well and good. But what ended up happening was people wanted jobs and companies wanted to post jobs. So we became very transactional as a company creating a jobs board and creating a pathway for people with disabilities. In that process accessibility is extremely important because individuals with disabilities looking for employment it can be neuro diverse or IDD or, physically disabled as I am or deaf or blind.
You learn creating systems for a whole culture. Then you learn that the culture of disability really truly is the culture of western society.
And if we are going to be inclusive, accessibility has to be built at the beginning and at its core. You know, Tim talked about it a little bit we are 30 plus years after the ADA and more used to elevators or buttons for doors or curb cuts. Things that I use everyday that I need. You know, my gate is not long. I can’t lift my feet very high. The curb cut actually matters to me. The buttons on doors actually matter to me. But at the same time building technology online or app or web based it’s the same thing. We have to create accessible products.
And partly because of COVID. As we all sort of sat behind computer screens that really opened the doors for our world. Way more people with disabilities reached out to us looking for remote positions. Hybrid positions. New opportunities. More businesses reached out to us to recreate people with disabilities. What ended up happening was we had to create an accessible system that understands people with disabilities at our core.
Fast forward to 2023. Again becoming a technology company and building a technology AI driven website, there is so much more that we can do. And we have realized that we are able to and we have created an ableist language filter that works like Grammarly and can up load job descriptions and I mean immediate for ableist suggestions. We are not changing the language. It’s your responsibility to change your language but want to help you think that through. As we were building that, in that same sandbox we realized wait a minute. We can take PDF documents and instantly both digitally remediate and then offer human remediation to create documents accessible. That are accessible.
>> KATRIN HALDEMAN: Can I ask you quick part of the way we talk about accessibility where there is language that we use that sometimes our audience doesn’t know about. Ableist is one of those words. Right?
Where when we talk about how we are doing things and we use language that is not inclusive, would you give that definition to everyone?
And talk about why it’s so important.
>> JOHN ROBINSON: I think a lot of us are used to racist and sexist terms and you are exactly right Katrin. Ableism is a newish coin phrase, but the truth is it has been around since the dawn of time.
Ableism is language or action that is hurtful to individuals with disability. So ableist language is when it’s in action. And in practical terms, you might see a job description, you might see you might hear yourself speak. You might read an old novel or you might read a new document and realize there are elements in here that are hurtful to me. Example, our chief technology officer who is beyond brilliant is completely blind. And I hear myself say things like see. Or read. And really like wait a minute. I have to stop myself. But imagine being bombarded all day long with written word when it’s continued in there. Then take it to the next step. Where job descriptions. I just happen to run across a job description at the high school I went to in New Hampshire and it was completely laden with ableist terms. If you want to work in the office at this prep school you must lift 50 pounds. You must have a driver’s license. I don’t understand why working in an office you must have a driver’s license. I think what they are saying is they want you to get to work on time. Those are two different things.
And so these are phrases that we are able technically to pars out. So that we all can continue to be more inclusive. And we don’t know when we offend somebody in a lot of cases. It could be this meeting. It could be the website. It can be a document. It could be just human interaction. We don’t want to. We certainly don’t want to. But if we build with accessibility in mind, we have the opportunity to create a more inclusive society, and we can then welcome the one out of five people from western culture who are disabled.
>> PAUL FAHEY: Yes.
>> My back is a digital marketing strategist. I’m at Overit, a resource, and I consider myself a little bit of an evangelical when it comes to disability and working with our clients’ websites. Overit works with clients and governmental websites that has clear observations when it comes to website accessibility. We also have nonprofit organizations. That are kind of on that public, civic line but private entities and then you have private businesses that have also their own set of obligations.
Most of what I do daytoday when it comes to accessibility involves the WCAG guidelines. That stands for website, web content accessibility guidelines. The standard are we are WCAG2.1. 2.2 is actually in draft mode. About to be approved sometime in 2023 and will completely update it again for the first time since about 2018 is when 2.1 was released.
WCAG is a very well organized and clear sort of set of instructions. And processes for web development teams to make sure that any sort of information or communication that’s mediated digitally, electronically is accessible to the widest range of audiences possible. So it’s built on four main principles. If you can understand the four main principles you have gone a long way to understanding accessibility. The acronym is POUR. The first one is perceivable. Any content that’s communicated electronically or digitally needs to be perceivable to a wide range of audience you need to provide at least more than one sensory modality for interpreting that information. Right?
So if you have text on the screen it needs to be able to be read by a screen reader. If you are using audio or video there needs to be some sort of written descriptions of what is happening. For those audiences that cannot perceive visually or auditory. So it’s effectively about redundancy. You need to always have two or three ways of presenting the information available to the users.
The second principle is operable. When you have a website, when you have an app, your users must be able to operate and navigate through the electronic medium, through the ether, whatever you want to call it, using their keyboards or sometimes screen readers or assistive technologies. You cannot rely on just touch and put.
You cannot rely or assume a user has a mouse or is even using a specific keyboard type or design, right?
So besides being able to see or perceive the information they have to be able to engage and interact with it in a way that they can be accommodated with bridging the human technology gap. Also let’s take for granted, click, click, click, that is how you operate through a website or on your phone. It’s tap, tap, tap. For people with a variety of disabilities, they interact and engage, they interface with websites completely different. So it needs to be operable.
The third one we have already touched upon, understandable. And this touches upon with ableist language. Generally you should be unless it’s very technical or scientific driven language, if you are dealing with an audience of Ph.D.s you may not be able to get around jargon or technology. But generally language should be written at an 8th to 9th grade reading level. Because that is geared toward the widest mass range of audiences. And when necessary glossaries should be provided. Like you can hover over words and if it is a term or an acronym many nonprofits we work with are alphabet soup. Everything is a three or four letter acronym. We used ADA American with disabilities act right. You need to sort of spell out what the abbreviations and acronyms are. What they mean. To the degree that you need to use technical terms you need to be able to provide sort of like a translation or a way for other audiences that have cognitive or neurodiverse backgrounds or impairments that they can still understand and receive the same sort of content. It’s understandable.
It deals with how you organize the content.
You can’t just have 1,000 words, no paragraph breaks. No headings. No formattings. People are not able to sort of you know, I call it the scanning or the hunting, right?
People sort of scan web pages, user studies have shown and look for clues or signals as to where the information they are looking for is relevant.
So your design of your information must make it so that like whatever information you are presenting it’s in the most clear and understandable way. And it works with, again, the operable. Does it work with the navigation?
Right, so are these things dovetailing and working together.
The last one is the R stands for robust. This dives into sort of the technical needs but basically means web products need to be coded according to web standard WCAG is off shoot of the worldwide web consortium and basically they are the independent body that is what is well formed HTML. What are good tags. From a coding standpoint tags that are open need to be closed. Right?
Without really getting into it, it can sort of break the functionality of assistive screen readers or devices when the code is not well formatted or formed. So there is sort of you know, compliance and sort of a checks for that regard.
And when they say robust they mean it can support all known user agents like screen readers and assertive technologies maybe ones not built yet adhering to well accepted standards you can sort of forward proof that your website will be accessible, okay?
So those four principles get broken into 13 very specific guidelines, right?
So when we have perceivable there is four or five things by what we mean by that. For each of the guidelines there is very specific passfail criteria checks. The checks basically give you A, AA or AAA levels of conformity to the criteria or guideline. A is the lowest. For most ADA title three lawsuits, the AA level of conformity is the one that has been the preferred remediation on behalf of a Court and judgment. AAA is highest level and are backward compatible if you are 2.0 compatible you are 2.0 and 1.1 compliant. This is my background and I work with basically designers and web developers primarily to make sure that any websites we build or work on are adhering to these principles. And then also websites that we may like inherent from an organization where they kind of know well you didn’t build this for us but it’s like a thing. Now we will start dealing with it. How do you remediate websites that were not built originally for accessibility?
Sometimes in practical experience it’s easier to scrap it and just start all over. Build it from the ground up with these things in mind.
But sometimes you are able to sort of remediate and kind of patch over maybe some existing web frameworks that were not necessarily built with that in mind but that can changed to get up to compliance. That is my background and it’s technically driven. But we are passionate about it here. And obviously depending on the client and what their relationship with the community particularly I would stress nonprofits and any state or Federal agency. Accessibility is like it’s a nonnegotiable, right?
So it needs to be built in as a sort of process just as much as risk management. Or any other sort of compliance, right?
One of my realizations very early on working accessibility for a lot of stakeholders they view website accessibility as a deliverable. Did we make our website accessible we bought it from the vendor and worked with an agency. It’s accessible. It’s a check box done and don’t have to think about that any more. That is not proper to think about website accessibility. Website accessibility and inaccessibility is an on going process and obligation and commitment to your users and to your audience. It’s not something where you can check and be done and think two, three years down the road we took care of that. So sort of even just the internal expectation setting from beginning to the highest levels and stakeholders is something I have learned to sort of when you go into these fields and have these conversations to really properly set expectations of like we are going to start this journey now. But it’s not just going to have like an end date, right?
It’s not like other projects or deliverables where when you get final status approved you move on to the next thing. So.
>> KATRIN HALDEMAN: If I can ask quickly for our audience we were talking about a large amount of information that you talked about and that information is public right?
People can find it on line and if someone could drop it into the chat where to find the accessibility guidelines that would be a great resource for our audience to be able to take a look at and certainly if they have questions I’m sure they could have those answered as well.
>> DAN O’LEARY: We have a hand out physically here and valuable digital version on line. It has a link from an organization called web aim.org. They have an intro guide to accessibility. It’s one of the best resources I could recommend on line. Anyone at Overit that I work with a junior or intern and want to learn about it I send them and take the boot camp and then go to advance topics.
It’s technical enough but not so technical if you are not a web developer you can’t understand it. But it’s a good mix of the micro and macro, all the different times of things you might need to consider when you are building a website. Everything again from audio transcription to color contrast to font size et cetera et cetera. So yes all of that is available on line WCAG Google it, the top result will be the current and up to date standards.
>> PAUL FAHEY: Brooke let’s bring you into this and build on what the panel was just chatting about.
>> BROOKE ELLISON: I want to thank everybody it has been an incredibly robust conversation so far already and hope I can add to this meaningfully.
So I became paralyzed as a result of an injury. It is 33 years ago. This up coming September. So the ADA was passed in July of 1990 and my accident happened in September of 1990. So my entire life lived with a disability has been under the ora of this incredibly important piece of legislation. This civil rights piece of legislation that is landmarked legislation. I have seen over the years how approaches to accessibility have improved but not necessarily have not necessarily changed in orientation and ideology. I will talk about what I mean by that in just a minute.
So the in the early 1990s we were still living in a medical model, understanding of disability, that disability is a medical failure. Some kind of diagnosis you can give to somebody, something relevant to a physical aspect of one’s identity rather than understanding disability from a much more wholistic and social culture standpoint that we were talking about disability. We are not just talking about somebody’s physicality. We are talking about all the ways in which as specifics of the world influence somebody’s level of ability, right?
So we can build a world in which people are more or less able to navigate it for next policies where people are more or less able to approach their world. Provide social services or further disable an individual. All things add to a level of ability, right?
So I think coming out of me that was a very prominent way of understanding disability even to this day really. But kind of it came to its head or came to fruition in the mid 70s and really characterized thoughts, social thought for a very long time. If you ask most people about disability they will probably tell you it has something to do with somebody’s body or inability to move their bodies or move their bodies in ways other people can or thinking about it from a wholistic and cultural standpoint.
ADA was the first step in changing the mindset but did not go as far as it could have. So a lot of the language in the ADA or the standards that are set in the ADA approach disability from the ways that my colleagues were just mentioning. What are the minimum standards we need to meet in order to protect ourselves from any kind of litigation or any kind of liability. What are the standards we need to achieve in order to make our business accessible in order to make our building accessible. Our schools accessible. What do we need to do in order to prevent ourselves from being challenged in some way. Where kind of like the former Governor Cuomo’s office did as we heard about right in the beginning. What is the bear minimum we need to do. I think that is a really unfortunate way of understanding accessibility. It’s almost like oh, man, what do I need to do now to accommodate this poor population. I don’t really want to think about unless I’m forced to. I think that is a backwards way of understanding accessibility.
So one of the classes that I teach here at Stony Brook University is a course called inclusion and innovation. And when it was in the initial construction was to train future engineers and policy makers. And healthcare providers and whomever how to make their future innovations accessible for inclusive of people with disabilities.
And so the nature of the course is it’s called vertically integrated project course. So I bring in students from all different educational backgrounds, all different levels of education. So under graduate students, masters, Ph.D. students and they all work together on several different projects of their own creation. And at first they were looking at it, well, how can we design a gaming device that will be accessible to people with significant disabilities or quadriplegic. And looking at technologies and people can engage in art. And as they had their projects it became obvious to them that until they address accessibility head on like as an issue on to itself, it does not matter what other conversations we are having. It doesn’t matter how we approach, you know, other aspects of disability or inclusion. We need to get to the heart of accessibility first.
So they started looking at how else can we understand accessibility. What are the other mechanisms by which we can approach accessibility as an important social priority?
So they looked at the ADA. And they also looked at an organization up in Canada called the Renaissance foundation and what they are doing and working on is a way to create almost like credentialing of buildings. And public places across Canada. Giving them different kinds of numbers of stars essentially. Based on their level of accessibility. Almost like the leads program in the United States. You have different businesses and buildings are rated on how sustainable they are and how green they are. So they took the same approach and applied it to buildings accessibility. So turning the conversation on its head or not looking at accessibility in terms of compliance and mandates and oh, man, what is the Government telling me to do now or what are lawyers telling me to do now but looking at accessibility as an opportunity, an opportunity to do things better. An opportunity to cater to a wider audience than you wouldn’t have otherwise. And an opportunity to be more adaptive and adapted to the world as it is changing. We are in a changing world right now. Very fortunately people with disabilities are much more visible than they ever have been. We are an aging population. Many more people are living with disability as a result of you know the outcomes of the pandemic. Right?
So we are living in a changing social cultural environment that needs to cater to the needs of more people with disabilities. And accessibility is the only way that is going to happen.
So until the conversation is shifted in that way, you know, in that kind of paradigm, people are going to fall short. People are going to be left behind. And that is I think the nature of the conversation. That is what I try to teach my students. That is the kind of message that I really got. They really fully understood. I feel really privilege to have been a part of shifting that conversation for them and then hopefully them being ambassadors of the same message moving forward.
And, you know, I also teach medical ethics as I mentioned before. One of the kind of the classic cases that we discuss is the Willowbrook case. And, you know, when the students hear about that case now, they are horrified. It was a horrifying case. It was a horrifying instance. They are so much more open minded now than they ever have been. I think in the past in terms of how we need to view the world differently. And I think a conversation about access and what that actually means and why access is not just, you know, we are not just talking about something simplistic but the ways in which people address fundamental human rights questions in their lives. Like gain access to employment. Gain access to healthcare. And you know, community participation or education. That is what we are talking ability. About. We are talking the liberties so people can live the life we want to. That is access not token gestures to get in a building and do some shopping. We are talking about some really important things. Those are the conversations that I’m involved in. So lastly mechanism side of thing and more the academic side of things.
>> TIM CLUNE: So, Brooke, thank you for that and bringing it back to Willowbrook. I was 12 years old when Heraldo Rivera was on TV and I sat and watched it and stayed with me forever and no big surprised that 17 years later I started working for the PNA that was created as a result of this. I would love to come to one of your classes when I’m down in Long Island we will have to talk about that.
>> BROOKE ELLISON: Thank you.
>> TIM CLUNE: You are absolutely right. Access, it spans so many things. And a lot of it also comes back to some fundamental education around access and what it means. Right?
There is a lot of ignorance. I don’t mean that in a pejorative way. I mean it in the true sense of ignorance. Sometimes people just don’t know. For those of you who are here and seeing we have an ASL interpreter. We also have a live transcription of what we are saying. And I have friends who have said to me when we brought the case against the Governor about ASL well it’s captioned why isn’t that enough?
And for those that know, like wow. I don’t understand.
But if you haven’t had the experience to address that, it was an opportunity for me. One, to educate my friends. But it also opened up my perspective that this is a larger problem. That ASL is a different language. It’s not English. It is what is it?
It’s ASL. That’s what it is. So it is its own self contained language. And it gets even more complicated when there is a foreign language component involved. And the person who has grown up in a different cultural background and Katrin has been at the forefront in our office of putting together panels where we’ve had multi lingualASL interpreters. So some of it is just basic understanding. So I just wanted to touch upon that because seeing this here, it may appear to be redundant. But it is not.
It is as inclusive as we can be at least with respect to people who can read English. And people who understand ASL. .
>> PAUL FAHEY: As we were preparing for this meeting I found fascinating. I don’t want to find myself being accidentally ignorant. We are well intended and talking about setting up the room for the in person portion of this I was reminded that when somebody in the audience has a question we would offer to pass the microphone. And very often even my own response is I can speak loudly enough. As we were preparing for this it’s not about my ability to project but everyone else’s ability to perceive the information. And different devices. We have been talking about a lot. And I think it could feel intimidating there are so many dimensions we can be accidentally ignorant to. Katrin let me bring you in on this where do you begin?
I mean, how do you start that conversation?
And you know, try to create a more inclusive culture?
>> KATRIN HALDEMAN: Thanks for the question, Paul. I think when we started this conversation with all of us and how we are going to address these issues and in what way, who is going to really talk about it?
The bottom line is really why is it important?
So when we talk about our audience and we always talk about who is the audience we want to give the message to whether in marketing or business or wherever we are trying to communicate. As Paul said you know we are talking about how can everyone receive the information?
That is access, right?
Like if we can’t have the information given to everyone that they can’t receive the information. So when we start to have these conversations, often times as I’ve said and I know that other people on the panel have heard the same thing is I don’t want to say the wrong word. I don’t know what the word is. I don’t know what the question even is. And I don’t want to offend anyone. And as I talk to Brooke a couple of weeks ago, that comes down to a lot of times people don’t want to have that sense of they don’t know anything or they are not an expert. And there is weakness involved in that.
So, I mean, culturally we have that as part of the way we talk with each other. But there’s the reality is we don’t know what we don’t know. And asking the question first and for most what do you need?
How can we best get this information to you?
Is there a system or a process that you use that is best?
And how can we ask those questions from the very beginning?
Like where Dan said this is not an add on. This is not a one and done. We are not checking the box. And it’s something that Tim said to me in my interview with him, only six years ago, is that if you met one person with a disability you have met one person. And similarly when you meet one person you meet one person. We all have very different needs. And as John was talking about language and being offensive, it’s going to happen.
And it’s not by intent. It can often times by just not knowing. But asking the question, how would you like to be referred to?
And we do this sometimes with our names. Right?
If we have a nickname we can ask someone do you prefer to be called like for me my full name which is Katrin or Kat?
There is a certain amount of energy that when we ask questions if we are asking with the true intent to find out the answer, hopefully we are going to get there. But we are setting up events like this from the registration page all the way through to execution, asking what accommodations need to be made on your event pages, ensuring that the event patients are accessible themselves.
Making sure that links are live. And there is an ability for those to be open. So when we talk about how things get set up, there are times where maybe we will miss something. Or we will forget and mid conversation say I forgot about that microphone. Or any number of things. And I think being honest and being open and saying either, wow, we didn’t account for this because we didn’t know. And that is not the excuse. But now that we know we can do better. And the way that we can do better is by having our audience members, having other community members tell us. I saw your ad for that, and it was inaccessible. I couldn’t read it.
And taking that not as a knock or an insult by saying, okay we need to do better. How do we fix this?
And how can we do it better the next time and doing your best practice lists. Well the things that are on line are super you know heavy content wise, maybe we don’t know how to execute what’s online. We can find resources.
And so everyone on this panel and Brooke and my conversations with Brooke, the amount of resources that she has available as well. We are all resources. Because the bottom line is even at the end of this we are not talking about nonprofits or anything else I suppose that is outside of like a commercial area. At the end of the day, and maybe we can talk about this with the rest of the panel is the bottom line, right?
So as businesses and I’m sure we have businesses in the audience, how accessibility impacts your bottom line in a positive way is pretty significant. And so I don’t know if John you want to talk about that a little bit. But it is we talked about why it’s important. Ensuring people are receiving the information. There is the other end of it, right?
So maybe we can speak to the other reasons why it is important as well.
>> JOHN ROBINSON: Yeah, I think there is the carrot and the stick approach to the economy of individuals with disabilities. But before I go there, Katrin I think you said something really important. It’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to not know something. It’s okay to you know, use offensive language if you don’t know. But it’s the learning that comes, right?
When you are told something is inaccessible, when something is built incorrectly, when somebody has said something, that’s where the learning begins. And then how you act and react after that moment of education becomes really important. And I think it’s that is the process of being a public person with a disability, running a company with a disability is understanding you are learning from me as much I’m learning from you and that has to be okay.
We have to be in that says so that we improve for the next person, the next generation, the next whoever.
The economies of individuals with disabilities is pretty cool. I said the carrot and the stick. I’ll start with the carrot. In the United States alone, individuals with disabilities and their direct family members, their significant other, there is one trillion dollars in buying power. By our community. One trillion. In the U.S. alone. And yet we are 70% under and unemployed. So there is a large marketplace in our economy. We are the number one buying power in any other diversity category disability is part of diversity and try with that in DEI in corporate America we are number one buying power and yet we are 70% under and unemployed. Imagine one of the reasons I work on unemployment so much with our systems is because imagine what our economy could do, forget disability economy. Imagine what our economy could do if we took 70% down to 50%. And we took the one trillion to two trillion. It’s more money in the economy. That is less taxes paid out, more taxes received.
So there is a real emphasis on what could happen. So when we talk to businesses about accessibility and accommodation and we talk about employing individuals with disabilities and communicating to individuals with disabilities it’s about that buying power. There is no better example than Microsoft. If you look at the time that Microsoft CEO has taken over watch what their stock price has done. Go and Google tomorrow, go on bing tomorrow, go on bing tomorrow and track Microsoft stock price over that time. When accessibility became important, that’s when the stock price completely exploded. That is important.
They have gotten to the 7% threshold of hiring individuals with disabilities. They make products such as the accessible game controller for individuals with disabilities. All the office suite has tools for our community. So this is really important. So the carrot is there is an economy out there. The stick is this: That in this in Albany, New York or any other sort of state capitol there are a lot of state agencies, there are a lot of state websites. There are a lot of state entities. There are organizations that have contracts with state entities. There are organizations in the economy that Federal contractors or subcontractors to the Federal Government. You may wonder wait a minute I don’t do business with Northrop Grumman and doesn’t serve me, but Key Bank is a federally insured entity and have to adhere to the standards. Section 503 says if you are a Federal contractor or subcontractor you have to work to 7% of your employment base as individuals with disabilities. That means you need to be actively recruiting and speaking to individuals with disabilities. Hence the system we built.
In the conversation we are having here today about digital accessibility, one element of that is section 508. Your digital foot print has to be compliant. And if you are a state entity and you received Federal funds, you cannot be noncompliant. It’s illegal. And that’s really important. And there is the stick.
And so we have to approach accessibility, certainly, in a Utopian world it would be wonderful if we built from the beginning but doesn’t always happen. We have to explain 503 and 508 and what can happen if you’re not compliant. So it becomes very important to be able to understand both sides of that equation. I would prefer to talk about the two trillion in buying power. But I will also definitely point out that if you, you know, if you are a subcontractor your digital foot print needs to be accessible.
>> KATRIN HALDEMAN: I want to bring it back also to technology and how we are talking about it today, right?
We talk about technology very freely in all the things we have are gadgets and phone and ADA over 30 years. Tim would you talk a little bit about technology and maybe we don’t think about as technology now. How it was to begin with and where we are now with assistive technology?
>> TIM CLUNE: Absolutely. So John a lot of the things you talked about the buying power it is so true. Right?
It is my experience has been early on that businesses would not listen unless there was some correlation to a bottom line. How can this benefit our business?
We don’t have people who use wheelchairs coming to our restaurant. Well, okay so let’s just back up a moment. Maybe because there are three steps to get in. So if you the conversations that I wish I would have journaled the conversations that I had with restaurants, employers about these things, because, one, it was sad at the time. Two, maybe make me chuckle looking back. If you build it they will come. And one of the examples, and I use assistive technology definition in a very broad sense. You know, our office has done cases where the use of a service animal in a school was, you know, we argued that it was an assistive technology. And the young child was able to have his dog with him when there was rules against this.
But bringing it back to that two trillion dollars, just here in the capitol district. So Hoyts, I guess they are regional cinemas when the stadium theatres, IMax when stadium theatres came they were the rave to provide that view of the screen. So before cross gates had built the stadium theatres we contacted Hoyts and said listen we have access to resources. We can help you, you know, build a really, great accessible theatre. Reach out to us. Also by the way the corrals you have in your existing theatres for people who use wheelchairs not so good so maybe we can talk about that too. We got a letter from the lawyer saying no thanks. We don’t think we have to deal with it.
When those movie theatres were built and the only spaces for people in wheelchairs were on the front row looking up at the screen with neck breaking angles, contacted a couple of friends and said want to go to the movies and we brought a lawsuit against them and made them fix it. It was part of a national retro. Like you can pay us now or pay us later. It doesn’t make sense. Because people who use wheelchairs, people with disabilities go to the movies. And if you don’t think ramps are good, for every one that is not true. If you are a parent and pushing your stroller with your children, the availability of a ramp is a game changer. I mean it just is. So that is one aspect.
The other is see you talked about technology and phones and how we rely upon the digital age. Well, if you were in an emergency and you had to call for assist assistance and you called 911 you had to be able to speak to the operator. There was though text to 911 capability, you know. In New York. Wyoming county believe it or not had it. So explain to me why New York City didn’t have it. But that is for another conversation.
We brought a lawsuit against New York City, Nassau and Suffix county the city and Suffix county subsequently agreed to do it and proud to say that yesterday we signed an agreement with Nassau county that they were going to implement text to 911. I think this is a major accomplishment. But then on the other hand I’m like what took so long?
We brought this case in 2017. That’s why, you know, we have the capability of litigating. But that doesn’t help. Right?
At the end of the day what we want is to change the perspective of people. And that if nothing else it’s good business.
The other thing I would just tack on to this is, you know, we can talk about voting and the lack of accessibility of voting. You know, in a phrase that we have coined if you can’t get in you can’t vote. And if some of you have ever seen in the media about voting locations closed because advocacy groups found them to be inaccessible, it’s a false flag. Because what it is doing is it’s blaming the advocacy organizations for pointing out the problems. So the solution is not to close the voting location. Wait, let me think of something. Oh, maybe we can fix it and make it accessible for everyone.
The text to 911 case is a game changer for people. Because it is not just we use the examples, it’s for everyone. Access is for everyone. And we have seen the spate of school shootings. And our children having to, you know, shelter in place. They may not be able to speak. You know, in an emergency situation. The ability to text 911 and have a conversation with, you know, with a dispatcher to provide valuable information, helps everybody. So this is something that we have been fighting forever. And it has not it’s not resolved across the state. You will hear about more. And we will do this.
The other thing I just wanted to say is every municipality is supposed to have an ADA coordinator. That person is to be the point person for all things ADA, accessibility, everything. I can tell you that we did a statewide survey. And every municipality does not have one. So we feel like we are reinventing the wheel. And the reason I talk about and, Brooke, I am so grateful that you talk about Willowbrook because we can’t forget. People don’t remember why. Why the PNA is here. Those of you who know me, I have talked about this too, two life changing things one was seeing Geraldo Rivera and John Lewis being beaten on the bridge. I had an honor spending time with John Lewis before he died. We talk about everything he did. And if you have heard him speak he would say well the only thing I did was give a little blood on that bridge. Why are you talking to me?
This is your fight. You are younger and need to do all of this. Actually I wasn’t that much younger. But it’s because we have to remind people of where this came from and why it is so important. And that we can’t forget about what Willowbrook is because there is a push to increase more institutional care. There is an economy of scale that does not work, you know, when providing care to people. And we saw that during the pandemic in nursing homes. And then in other facilities for people who have disabilities.
We want people to be able to age in place. That’s what we all want. Because at some point we are all getting older.
We are all going to have to use this technology in one form or another. So it’s about education. And it is about telling another person if I learn something every single day in this job. And I’m so grateful for it. And we just want to pay it forward.
>> PAUL FAHEY: Thanks five or seven minutes we will open it up for questions to the audience. Reminder to folks watching live put notes in the chat and will be relied up here as well.
Dan O’Leary, the web is not as old as ADA, right?
What are those.
>> DAN O’LEARY: I’m going with the worldwide web because it was like 91, 92.
>> PAUL FAHEY: One of the things we take for granted now we don’t realize we are seeing and how far we have come and in your assessment what else do we need to be doing as we move forward?
>> DAN O’LEARY: One of the things I sort of observed, this is not unique to I would say to accessibility, but generally the lag between technological innovation and the law. Right?
Culture itself lags behind the technology. So the technology can rapidly accelerates and the linear curve and the law moves at snail’s pace or glacial. We have a case and started it in 2017 to get text messaging now it’s 2023. Where is the technology now?
If you were to start a lawsuit now to get technology accessibility for what ever medium or technology or gadget comes out now, you are generally just chasing behind where you are going to be in the next five years. Kind of shooting at a moving target. Where you are aiming is not where you need to be. So again I bring it back to the principles and the guidelines because if you follow WCAG standards in like the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law but the spirit of the law, they are very clear as to what you should be designing for. And, again, the nature of like the R in POR and robust it means you are effective live future proofing. We know regardless of what type of technology that comes down the road, it should still conform to these four basic principles. Of universal accessibility.
Just bringing it back to conversations that we were just having in terms of like the carrot and the stick. Besides my, you know, I’m an advocate for accessibility, it’s not my prime responsibility at Overit and when I started over ten years ago was SEO, search engine optimization and Google and bing. People want to be high in the search results and visibility for key words people search for on line. Besides that I’m also someone who works on like business intelligence. And conversion rates. Optimizing your websites so you get people to spend more money when they transact with you. If you get emails or phone numbers or form fills you get more on a shared percentage basis. When I first started having conversations about accessibility it’s a stick. Look at the chart of ADA lawsuits filed in New York. You are in New York. In is a risk mitigation conversation I want to have with you. What I started to pivot to is because I’ve had this epiphany and how do I improve ranks in Google and we get 2% to fill out the form and we need to get it to 4% of visitors. When you solve for disability you naturally improve your SCO visibility. I did not see a good website without good SCO so for Google’s bot and spider when it crawls your website it’s user agent like a screen reader. So they have similar needs that overlap, right?
In terms of conversion late it’s like all right well if litigation or leg ease they talk KPI, where is our metric. Conversion rate again when you solve for all truly universal accessibility you reduce unseen frictions entire conversion rate lifts. Not just for those with disabilities or not disabilities. But everyone gets better experience out of the end product. One thing I started to realize over the last couple of years in terms of digitally it’s not an onoff switch. I want to stress that for people. What if you have children and need to wheel them in like a tram or what do you call them?
Sorry. Stroller, thank you. I have children. It’s been a few years.
Only two of them a stroller. The other day I twisted my ankle and limping along and daytoday right if you go to the optometrist with eye drops put in your eyes you may have visual what problems in a day or two and your eye says I can’t see this website. I’m getting older and can’t watch programs on Netflix without turning on the closed captioning and reading the captioning I have to make sure I’m close enough to the television to like even read them. So as the population ages, it’s like our notion of what constitutes a disability or what should be accommodated like if you really open it up to like a full range of your users, you would be shocked to realize like how solving for accessibility just improves the experience for people who would never self identify as I’m disabled. Or I’m in need of accommodations. They would say yeah I squint a lot and can’t see. That is to the point of like the audience and I would say user pool is growing over time. So I’ve tried to pivot to again like let’s incentivize them and have different types of conversations. We can talk about the stick and the compliance. But if that does not work or in conjunction with that let’s dovetail because you say you care about Google Rankings and care about conversion rates but you don’t seem to have the same sort of buy in or commit to like accessibility. So when you can couch accessibility in terms of if you solve for X you are also solving for Y and Z I think it’s a lot more able to sort of get that message communicated to stakeholders and get a little bit more of the buy in.
>> KATRIN HALDEMAN: I want to followup on something that you said. And how it ties in with a couple of other things. You talked about how technology can be moving forward and other things are going to lag. And Brooke had brought up how the bare minimum of things are often done. When I do look at accessibility features and the ones that are now starting to come like through Microsoft suite where they are letting you know your email is inaccessible before you go, there are parts of this that are still lagging. Look at alt text, how many characters are allowed?
Punctuation is not allowed. And how are we going to actually be able to visually describe an image, any item with a hundred characters. Or 50. And there’s varying degrees. So on different social media platforms we have different character amounts.
I was at an event over this last week where one of the big topics is plain language. One, right for being able to receive information. And also limited language. Where the space to expand, to give a full experience of a visual component isn’t there. And John and Brooke if you want to talk about that quickly. I know we are coming up, to the Q and A point. But I do think it’s a part of technology that’s there. And the ability for it to be fully utilized is not necessarily there yet. Brooke, do you want to speak to that?
>> BROOKE ELLISON: Sure, sure. It’s a really important point. I think this kind of talk or speaks to the entire societal shift that needs to be made. Or we need to be thinking of people with disabilities as fully included.
Members of the world, right?
I don’t think we have gotten to that point yet.
Touching on the point you were talking or mentioning before Katrin about people’s unwillingness to talk to people with disabilities. Or change their behavior, to change their language, I think it’s largely reflective of a notion that people with disabilities are discountable, right?
Or you could be disregarded or not included. I don’t really need to change my behavior because I can choose to direct with this population or not. I think that is a completely wrong headed way of approaching disability, inaccessibility in general. For the fact we don’t have a builtin infrastructure already, I think it speaks to that almost a level of disregard we need to start thinking much differently about. And throughout the course of this conversation, this idea of universality or universal design I think has been coming up, over and over and over again. We are talking about assistive technology when we really could be talking about technology. Technology is just how everybody enhances their abilities, right. Do we have calculators because we can calculate things, you know, on our own, we can’t. The importance of magnitude. We rely on devices because we can’t, you know, shout as loud as we could, as we might be able to, to talk to somebody down the street. All of these things improve all of our ways of life. And kinds of integrations that we put into the devices that we use or the technology that we use really benefits everybody. It’s not just assistive technology. It’s not adaptive technology. It’s technology that benefits everybody in some way, shape or form. I think that is the conversation that we should be trying to steer. And when websites or when digital platforms don’t think along those lines, don’t create the space for inclusion, they should be asking themselves why. Right?
And I think that part of the conversation we should also be having is what are the virtues that people with disabilities bring to the world?
And what are we missing by our lack of inclusion?
So I think the prevailing understanding of disability are the stereotypes of truly unfortunate stereotypes that are associated with disability, are ones of vulnerability and marginalization. And weakness. And, you know, the drain on the economic drain put on society as a result of the civility. The public charge notion of disability. All kind of built into the cake, baked in the cake talking about mandates and accessibility. When people are resisting to it.
And everybody who I know who lives with a disability, people who I have come in contact with are among the most creative and vital and problem solving and leadership oriented people you could ever expect to meet. Right?
People who by virtue of living in a world that is fundamentally not designed for their needs incorporate all of these characteristics into their lives on a daily basis. Like that is an important skill set. If you are not including within your place of employment or within your establishment you are missing out on significantly. So I think we see this replicated time and time again. But the more we can drive the conversation to one of number one inclusion. Number two virtue associated with disability, then everybody is better off. .
>> JOHN ROBINSON: Amen Brooke I say in every talk we give is our number one skill set with people with disabilities we are problem solvers because we had to live in a life and technology is no different. From my perspective we are building AI tools that are working towards fixing a problem and the tools we are making will be used automatically for a universal society. That is also great, right?
So example we are doing generativeAI and matching to positions so we are doing something that LinkedIn could do or won’t do. I know in time they will use our system because it works universally for everybody. We are building a document remediation tool right now that makes documents successful, PDF documents successful. Why doesn’t Adobe build it in right now?
These are things we can do and ultimately in five years you will be using them because they will be built by us. People with disabilities. For people with disabilities.
But really it’s a universal solution.
So it’s exciting to think about what can happen. It can be discouraging at times why it has not happened to Tim’s point. 20172023. But we also have to recognize we are making progress. And we need to remember the past of the Willowbrooks but also need to recognize the progress we are making. So that we can feel good at night and get up tomorrow and do it again. And so that we don’t get discouraged if a meeting is not accessible or a document is not accessible or a site is not accessible and give up. Get up again.
Try it again.
do the best we can to make it better for the next time.
>> PAUL FAHEY: Well said. In the spirit of that and one of the things we talked about as we were planning this, you know, when we don’t know what we don’t know it’s really okay to ask. And I thank the panel for creating a very safe harbor for these kind of conversations. When we don’t ask it puts us in a position we will not learn or change.
So to that end I would love to spend maybe 5 or 10 minutes opening up questions from folks either here in the audience, in person, for those of could that are joining us online or social, we can relay those as well. Katie can pass the mic if there is questions from the folks in the audience. Yes.
>> I have a question.
>> PAUL FAHEY: Katie lead us.
>> I will start when you were talking about the 7% of businesses that have to have like some percent of their workforce have disabilities does that include mental health disabilities?
And this could be a whole other webinar topic. Like do you think in the past year there has been improvements for people with mental health disabilities as well?
>> JOHN ROBINSON: I think there is help for people with mental disabilities and it’s important to take a step back and understand what disability is. Yes, the technical term of you know dramatic impacting one aspect of your life. But you know 29% are visible disabilities that is me and you cannot see me and not see a disability but 71 is part of that and mental health can be part of that.
I will say it has improved certainly in employment scenarios. I think when I started having employment conversations 20 years ago mental health was a Taboo topic and didn’t want to talk about it. I think COVID has helped that to some degree. Because we’ve all gone through a mental health crisis whether we want to recognize it or not with COVID.
But, yes to answer your question when you are actively working towards 7% and if you are a Federal contractor or subcontractor you need to include people with disabilities in that process. And so what you are trying to get is people to self disclose. That they have a disability. Not what the disability is. This is really important. But you know when you are filling out your EEO sheets you want to be able to have a space, a safe space that somebody can disclose that they have a disability. And then that leads to accommodation questions and answers, right?
But, yes, it’s inclusive of the 71% of invisible disabilities that are out there. And that can be epilepsy, diabetes, mental health, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So we are a lot bigger universe than maybe people understand.
>> Thank you.
>> PAUL FAHEY: A question from the live audience.
>> Thank you.
>> Hi everybody, thank you. This has been really interesting today. I have a question about social media. As content creators I know that we all have a responsibility to make our content accessible. And I’m curious to hear from anyone who feel some of the best platforms are for accessibility. And what content creators can do to maximize accessibility on these platforms.
>> KATRIN HALDEMAN: Do you want to.
>> DAN O’LEARY: I will give my opinion. It depends on what you constitute or define as a social media Platt form first and for most. One of the ones that gives tools to creators a little bit better sort of built in the platform is YouTube. I mean obviously with any sort of like videobased product if it can have automatic closed captioning or allow you to up load transcripts or maybe if it’s like a live event after the fact you can up load a live transcript so can be consumed afterwards. YouTube is I would say one of the friendlier ones. Facebook and Instagram are okay.
They are obviously very visual mediums for the most part. To my knowledge you sort of would say providing like alt text or providing image descriptions, right, you may run afoul of character limits. I only have enough characters to really describe the images I’m including in the post and there is no post left. So I think they certainly have some more work they can do in terms of like understanding how like character limits might like impact that when you have a platform that is not only allows for the transition of like visual product. But it’s fundamentally like centered around the sharing and consumption of visual whatbased products.
Twitter and Facebook and some of the other ones, again, I think they are like about as okay as some of the others. But I don’t think that they have quite to the degree like Microsoft has really kind of taken on the mantle and culturally and people with social media does not think about the crazy technology. It’s just sort of like a part of everyday of their life. If they start to see more posts and tools that allow for this, that, one, it becomes okay you are getting learning moments and not understanding why. They may also start to use and engage in these sort of practices. Like Paul said it’s not like oh, bad habits we fell into. It’s habits we never adopted. So I certainly think some of the social media platforms could be better about giving content creators those tools. To sort of lead that charge. Because the amount of people, I mean like the one guy, Mr. Beast if you have heard of him has 100 million users. If that guy starts doing something it will set the tone for the content creator economy as to obligations you do or don’t have to your audience. I guaranty you if someone has 100 million people watching them there are probably that have difficulty and challenges consuming the contents than others. Short answer YouTube is a better one or any of the ones centered around video. Picture based ones, sort of, so, so. And the text based ones really not much at all I would say these days.
>> KATRIN HALDEMAN: I would say there are a couple of things to build on what Dan was saying. Like from the platform standpoint it would be much better if you had to use alt text before you posted, right?
It’s still optional. Accessibility optional. Which is not really working. And then when you get to use it or there is the idea that the auto generated, alt text is going to be sufficient. Well, it’s the bare minimum and often times it’s wrong. How it’s being read is not what it is, the onus at the end of the day is the human creator. As we were putting this together today and talking about the closed captioning that is live, I am talking to the vendor and said we need to have the SRT file for this sent over afterwards because in post production you have the ability to ensure that your closed captioning is correct. And you can edit it if you need to because often times like even with my name sometimes I get lots of interesting spellings. So we can change those things.
But the onus is on the creator and anything we do in production also has ASL embedded in it in post production. We have gone through several different iterations of how that is done. And we have come into a space now where we have a great system for it. But as Tim talked about to begin with we did an event, through COVID, for the Spanish speaking population in Rochester and we needed to figure out how can we have five different translators happening at the same time. Because we had several different languages.
And we had the live event go. Then we had to really look at post production. It’s a separate piece of content. And we have the ability, everyone has the ability in creation to ensure that things are embedded properly before they post.
And so to that end the character issue, like and I think really LinkedIn has the smallest amount of characters that you can put into alt text right now. It’s kind of shocking. But when that happens, we are pulling the alt text out and putting it in the post it self. And, you know, if you are looking for space, obviously you can’t do it on Twitter because you have a character count. There is add another thread. Add another post about it. So at the end of the day the responsibility is on us. And also with multi platform content purchasers like suite or Canva they are not ensuring your alt text is hanging on when it’s posting. So these are things that we look at from ensuring the graphic has the alt text embedded to begin with and being carried over. We have heard about it. We have had people tell us that is not accessible on Twitter. And of course I’m like, no. Of course running back to try and pull it back. And I will say that has not happened in several years. When it happened my first reaction is oh, my gosh I need to take that down. What I need to do is say thank you for bringing it to my attention. We are working on it and please tell your audience let us know how we are doing. That is who we are talking to. Talking to your audience to give you feedback. So that is my very long answer on it.
>> PAUL FAHEY: That is great we are inside of about four minutes.
I would love to do the lightening around across the panel. Give us one parting thought that mantra that you say everyday, that one thing you would like to leave our audience with. John I’m going to start with you and kind of go down the panel to Katrin and Brooke and finish up with you have.
>> JOHN ROBINSON: The one parting thought is it would be nice if we all had products and services that was built at the beginning but the truth is we live in a real world and we have to at times retrofit. So it’s to Katrin’s point it’s our responsibility to do our best in retrofitting and gets back to the beginning conversation of listening. Asking questions and understanding. If you don’t know you know understand that you don’t know and work your best to improve your practices.
That is my advice.
>> PAUL FAHEY: Thanks, Dan?
>> DAN O’LEARY: My closing thought is I would encourage organizations and stakeholders to not perceive accessibility as like a burden, a regulatory like burden. But really just as again as an opportunity to improve your product. To improve your organization and to maximize access to that, to the widest range of possible users.
>> TIM CLUNE: They took exactly what I was going to say. And I think, I’m not really kidding, but it comes back to what I said earlier access is for everyone. And that for me, it is that simple. And that’s what guides me, you know. In the decisions I make. And in the cases we take. And that is going to make a difference for real people.
>> KATRIN HALDEMAN: For me it really is about approaching the questions that you don’t know or the situations you don’t know with the beginners mind which is open to having someone tell you. And when I talk about all of us as being resources, there are best sourced because when I don’t know the answer, I can ask Tim. I can ask John. I can call here. I can reach out to the web and even ask the question. Ask. Ask the question. And be open to the answers. I try to view myself as a novice all of the time so I can maybe learn something new.
>> PAUL FAHEY: Thanks, Brooke?
>> BROOKE ELLISON: I agree with all those points but in addition to that I would say we are living in a world where digital platforms are increasingly becoming a part of daily life. So we are talking about digital environments. We are actually talking about fundamental human rights. Ways that people can gain education. Ways that people gain information in response to an emergency or a natural disaster. Ways people get jobs. Ways people get healthcare even. If we are not accessible, we are denying people really their fundamental human rights. At this point we are not talking about frivolity or gadgets we are talking about critical issues that affect their ways of life. We are coming out of the pandemic. Right now fortunately. And slowly but we are rethinking how we are doing everything. Right, we have this build a better mantra. We can’t go back to the way things were. Unless we take this opportunity right now to do things differently, we might not ever have this kind of societal good will to do things differently for decades. So we need to think about everybody in this conversation. We need to think about how everybody can participate differently. We need to embrace kind of this societal unwillingness to accept things as they have been. And embrace one of how you do things better for everyone not just a subset of the population as we deal with racial reckoning or social cultural reckoning we need to talk about disability. How people with disabilities have been so historically impartialized and to bring them in for the virtues I talked about problem solving and resilience and ways of viewing problem is vastly than many other people have the opportunity to view them. That is a conversation that I think is really worth having. And settings like this are the steps to take to get to that. The over all social transition. So I just want to thank you for the opportunity to be a part of it.
>> PAUL FAHEY: Well said, Brooke, thank you. Tim I feel bad that John and Dan stole your thunder so I will quote you in wrap up remarks. Earlier you said changes perspectives of people is just good business and the goal of the meeting today is just to help bring this conversation forward. It’s part of our mission add Overit the space we have physically here and think of the community’s living room for these kind of important conversations. So thank you all for joining us. We will share a link to the recording for today’s event. That will be made available as well as the transcripts with ASL embedded. And we will also link to some of the referenced materials that our panelists alluded to as well as contact information. Feel free to either reach out if you have specific questions for these folks.
I want to thank Kamy and Stephanie, our ASL interpreters for their support today. Adam and Dave and Solomon in the studio for making us look and sound good especially when my microphone fell earlier thank you guys. Real special shout out to Katie. Content strategist, but fabulous event planner. We do these very often and she is essentially planning a wedding once a week. So thank you for your shout out to that.
Brooke, Katrin, Tim, Dan, John, thank you very much for spending time with us today. .
>> Thank you.
>> PAUL FAHEY: Thank you, everyone.