Episode 10 – Accessibility and Inclusion, One Legal Perspective with David Shaffer
All too often questions and disputes regarding access for persons with disabilities are not settled until they wind up in a courtroom. Some of the best lawyers who address these issues have disabilities themselves and thus bring a strong personal commitment to the debate.
Meet David Shaffer, a blind civil rights lawyer who will tell us about his own commitment to the law and to the rights of persons with disabilities. As you will hear, David did not start out litigating civil rights cases and he didn’t even begin his life as a blind person. He has a fascinating journey we all get to experience. From his beginning as a Stanford law student through his work today on internet accessibility and inclusion David Shaffer’s story will help us all see more clearly how we all can work harder to include the nearly %25 of persons with disabilities in the mainstream of society.
Some directories do not show full show notes. For the complete transcription please visit https://michaelhingson.com/podcast
About our Guest:
David Shaffer is a blind attorney with over 35 years of legal practice experience in the Metro area of Washington DC. He currently specializes in ADA Consulting for tech companies using his previous work as a Section 508 coordinator and lead counsel in defending the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in a class action under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act. David says “my goal is to ensure the world wide web is accessible to anyone and everyone as I am legally blind, hard of hearing and have learned to understand the extreme necessity of this issue for all persons with disabilities”.
In 2006 David began losing his eyesight due to Glaucoma. As is so often the case, his ophthalmologist did not confront his increasing loss of sight. As David described it, “it was after I totaled two cars in 2009 that I finally recognized that I was blind”. He received blindness orientation and training through the Virginia Department of Rehabilitation and the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind in Washington DC.
In addition to his work on internet access cases, David specializes in civil rights cases for women, minorities, and individuals with disabilities, and have represented hundreds of women and minorities in nation-wide class actions against federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, DEA, ICE, and the Secret Service. He also represents individuals with disabilities in seeking accessible accommodations in the workplace and represents them in employment litigation.
Email – David.Schaffer@DavidSchaeferLaw.com
About the Host: Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:23
Hi, welcome to another episode of Unstoppable Mindset. And today we have I think, a person who’s pretty unstoppable, at least I tend to think so he he can make his own comments and judgment about that. But I’d like you all to meet David Shaffer. David is a blind civil rights attorney has lots of stories to tell I’m sure about all of that. And I think has a lot of interesting things that will inspire all of us, but also a lot of things to make us think David, welcome to Unstoppable Mindset.
David Shaffer 01:58
Welcome, thanks for the great introduction. I’m happy to be on here I look forward to discussing issues involving accessibility and adjustment to blindness.
Michael Hingson 02:12
Well, let’s see what we can what we can do. So you, um, you are not blind when you first were growing up, as I understand.
David Shaffer 02:22
That’s right. I always had horrible vision, and it’s tremendously nearsighted. But until I got to about in my late 40s, it was I could still get by with glasses or hard contact lenses. And then, that was about the time that I acquired a guy comma. And the comma went undiagnosed for about a year due to some idiosyncrasies in my eye, which misread eye pressure on a standard test. And so by the time I went to a specialist to figure out that I had glaucoma, even though the pressure test didn’t show it, I was I was gone. I was legally blind I visions about 2800. But it’s the closest they can measure it. But I still see some I can see shapes and things and it depends a lot on light and in various issues. But I’m pretty much reliant upon my cane and, and my technology these days to practice law.
Michael Hingson 03:42
So you sort of had to go through an adjustment process, obviously about coming blind and being blind in acknowledging that. How did all that go? What kind of training did you have? Or when did you decide that you really didn’t see like you used to see? A,
David Shaffer 04:00
I realized that after I totaled two cars, that kind of was the wake up solution for me. It started off with night, severe night blindness. And so they tried to accommodate me by letting me go home at three in the winter. Get home before dark, while I can still drive but quickly ended up at a point where I couldn’t see the drive I couldn’t see across the street. That was a tough adjustment because I was in the middle of practicing law at the time. I was a general counsel at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Just finished up huge ADA class action, kind of reforming the agency’s paratransit system. And then I started realizing that I couldn’t see my notes anymore that I couldn’t See the face of witnesses on the witness stand. And suddenly, litigation, which was my primary focus became extremely difficult, if not impossible. It was it was very difficult because my employer had no idea how to adjust to somebody who was blind, until there’s only one other blind person or organization. And she had a totally different role. So it was a mismatched series of attempts to accommodate me, that pretty much all failed, just try it. It started out with magnifiers and ZoomText and all that. But it finally became evident that I needed to learn to use the screen readers properly, and not try to just magnify things 20 times and get by. That was that was very challenging, because I was trying to keep up the practice a lot at the same time, while no longer be able to see what I was doing. Fortunately, I finally, Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, got hooked up with Virginia’s rehab agency. And they gave me an initial, you know, training jaws and things like that on them. basic survival. But the problem is that these state agencies are so low on funding that I was expected to practice law with a total of six hours of God’s training. And that’s all that they would allocate to me. Obviously, that was not adequate. To become proficient enough to practice law, I can barely read a website or a document. So I just had to go out and get my own training and pay for it myself. And I still do to this day, due to lack of resources that Virginia had. I understand it’s much better in Maryland, where I live now. But now that I’ve taught myself and paid for my own lessons, and I’m pretty advanced jobs user and, and, and Diane Tasker. So what happened next was I began a campaign at at Metro to make their technology accessible, I was the one to learn to use JAWS, I realized I couldn’t use their website, as a public website wasn’t accessible. I couldn’t look up things for people on the phone. I couldn’t use our internet at all. I couldn’t even do my own timesheets anymore, because none of that was accessible. And that was a big problem. Because we’d struggled over that the organization’s initial reaction was, we’re not covered by 508. Because we’re not part of the federal government, despite the fact that we’re a federal contractor, and therefore required to comply with 508. Anyway. So after four years of fighting, and complaining, I finally got them to adopt an accessibility policy. They made me the section 508 officer. And then again, I taught myself accessibility, I taught myself web accessibility through dq, University online, and upselling, so that I could start guiding the, the team that that made up the website on how to make it accessible. So that was kind of how this all developed, that I went from zero competence to now being a fairly recognized web caster and user of this technology.
Michael Hingson 09:03
Well, let’s go back a little bit. So you, you have been in law all your life what what got you into that? Why did you decide to choose law in the first place, because obviously, you didn’t have some of the same causes that you do now like blindness and accessibility and so on.
David Shaffer 09:21
Well, I grew up in a town of 1000 people, or Ohio. My stepfather was a lawyer. He’d been a former state senator and Majority Leader of the Ohio Senate. So he was of course the only lawyer in town and the only way or pro for a while around nearby, but I saw how he helped people from anything from a divorce to a car accident DWI to a criminal offense to any sort of state funding. I mean, you Did everything. And, you know, clients were constantly coming to our house in the evening and not just to his office, and it was just like part of our life was what we do we help people with legal problems. I remember I was so curious about the law that we get a decent law laborer in the house. And so if I would ask him a legal question, at 12 years old, he’d make me go into his office and look it up in American jurisprudence, or how jurisprudence, bring him back the answer, and then we discuss it. So I was doing legal research from 12 years old, onward. And I, I guess, I just got hooked up with a political angle, I would, because we were all very active in politics. And my stepfather ran the campaign for the Democratic congressman, in our district and things like that. So politics law was kind of in my blood from from very early on.
Michael Hingson 11:07
Well, clearly, you had a good teacher, because he made you go do the research and the work. And you know, of course, there’s nothing like discovering things for yourself. But you’ve had other you’ve had other good teachers, haven’t you?
David Shaffer 11:18
I have, I would, you know, at law school at Stanford, I had a interesting teacher, former Justice Scalia, for common law. That was a fascinating experience and frustrating but But I learned his side of the law, and his points of view and, and his philosophy. And the rest of that I have read the common law itself, I learned on my own, but we had to listen to his philosophies quite a bit. But he was a very good teacher. And then after I’d graduated from Stanford, I was lucky enough to work for an incredible woman on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals a Carter appointee, who was also tremendously liberal and, and taught me more in that year than I’d learned in three years of law school. And so throughout, I guess, my career, I’ve been lucky to have mentors. After the clerkship, I went to Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher in California, a large law firm and had a litigation partner there kind of take me under his wing and, and, you know, let me go out and my first week, I was in court, of course, week on the job. And, you know, there was, I guess it throughout your life, you’ve got to take advantage of mentors and people that really are looking out for you, and then you can learn from it’s really the most valuable way to learn than trying to do everything on your own. As I learned when I lost my budget, it would have been really nice to have a lot of training fast rather than having to take a year to get up to speed on the technology.
Michael Hingson 13:18
Yeah, I mean, we we all have to take things as they come. I remember in my involvement with the law, from a legal standpoint, comes from the other side being a consumer. And I had a situation that happened, I think, in 1981, it was 80 or 81. I think it was 81. But I was denied access to an aircraft with my guide dog. And they actually, they they insisted that I had to sit in the front seat, even though the airlines policy did require that. But we went to court with it. And eventually it was appealed and it went to the ninth circuit. We had a judge in LA Francis Whalen. I don’t know whether you ever encountered him here. He was pretty old. cielo or her but that’s that was my closest experience to dealing with the with the appellate court directly. I’ve been involved in seeing other appellate cases. But it’s it’s it was it was interesting.
David Shaffer 14:24
How’d it come out?
Michael Hingson 14:27
The case was settled. It actually had to go back for a second trial because Francis Whalen was on the ninth, actually not the appellate court. He was in the Ninth Circuit. But when it went to appellate court, the he didn’t like it but the the appellate court found that he had erred and went back for a second trial and we ended up settling it which is unfortunate because it it was certainly a case that could have been a little bit more of a landmark than it was But it was interesting. One of the things that happened at the beginning of the the case was that when the ruling went when when motions were being heard at the beginning, one of the motions that the airlines lawyer put out was, well, yeah, it’s our policy that people don’t have to sit in the front row with their guide dog. But that’s just our policy. And so it shouldn’t be allowed in as evidence and the judge allowed them, which was horrible. Yeah. But you know, we all face, face those kinds of things. But Judge Whalen did what he did, and then it went to appellate court, and it and it did get settled. And, of course, overtime, the law change, there’s a growth time for all of us. The Air Carrier Access Act was passed in 1986. And it needs to be strengthened. And then of course, in 1991, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, which you have, obviously, as a lawyer now, a lot of involvement with when when you were going through training, well, let me put it this way, when you were becoming blind and discovering you were blind, how did all of that affect you in terms of your practice of law, and your view about what you were going to do with the law and how you would do it?
David Shaffer 16:21
Well, it seriously affected my ability to practice law for about a year, it was a good time was was a government agency, because they couldn’t get rid of me too easily with the disability. But after that, it really made me I mean, I’d done it. I’ve been doing ADA law since before the ADA since I started practicing in California under the unrack. But it really hit home to me this whole feel of digital accessibility. I mean, of course, I knew about it. And, and, and, but I’d never had any cases on it in my entire practice. Until these days, so I, what I ended up doing was, first off, they switched me to internal advice from litigation. And the department, one of the departments that gave me was Ada, in addition to human resources, because I’d spent my previous 20 years as a Labor Employment lawyer, advising large corporations. So doing that, let me start trying to make some impact from within those organizations. So I get ADA office and the human relations office to understand accessibility. And that was the first step was was an education. It really, it’s something that had to go on person by person one at a time. Because just talking about it, never made an impression till I brought somebody in my office and showed them how I use JAWS, how a screen reader works, now, it doesn’t work. When something’s not accessible. In the minute, you give them a visual and hearing example of how important it says to a blind person, you’ve converted them, okay? Obviously, we need to make this work for you. Because that’s their obligation. But it’s a person by person thing, then they take it back. And the other people don’t understand that. So then they got to come down to my office and get shown, and, like, did a lot of internal training and advocacy, and force them to, you know, form the position of section 508 Officer, which by then was given all of my other jobs and make a commitment to accessibility. You know, company wide and to the public and within, and that was a long battle. But I did it from within, instead of without, probably would have been quicker if I just turned around and sued them. But lawyers generally don’t like to sue on behalf of themselves. It’s just not pleasant. So I worked from within and made changes, and left when I left that organization, their website was 95%, double A 2.1 compliant. And that was due to four years of work by me manually with the web department. I had three people there working for four years to fix a 15,000 page website manually. Of course, we use software level access At the time, but it’s always out there that are equally as good. But that just goes to show how difficult accessibility can be when you start from ground zero. And part of the thing that I’m into, as well as presenting people with disabilities, and advocating on behalf of people with disabilities and trying to make the ADEA stronger, and Congress, working with Congress and various issues,
David Shaffer 20:33
to educate them. And now I’m finding that as I talk to people in Congress and the staff members, again, it’s just, it’s an education thing, once you’ve shown them an example and explained how important accessibility is to 20% of their constituents who have disabilities, then it clicks, and then they’re interesting. But it’s really got to be a strong education effort by the blind community. And we just got to, we have to reach out and explain ourselves to others, and not feel embarrassed about being blind, but show them what we can do when we’re bind, if we have the right technology. And I think, demonstrating on a daily basis that you can do the same job as a mouse can do with with as long as you got the right technology and an accessible source to read it from. You’re just the same as anybody else. And I think that’s the education effort that the blind community really needs to work harder on. Because you got to change people’s minds about this, and they can’t view accessibility as simply an expense. That’s mandated by law.
Michael Hingson 21:57
Do you think it’s all about technology? Do you think that the technology Oh, it’s
David Shaffer 22:01
not? I mean, it, obviously, I deal with more than just digital accessibility? You know, I was also responsible for the physical accessibility of the buses, trains and stations, and so forth. But it’s an overall understanding of the concept of accessibility to the 20% of the population who has some sort of disability. And that’s the hard part. To shine them, okay. Well, they think, oh, there’s only you know, three to 5% of the people that are blind, that need a screen reader. They’re not that important to me. What about the other 15% with other disabilities, you know, almost 40% of which are cognitive. Those people are currently being left out of the world. They’re being left out of jobs or being left out of information technology. And, you know, the studies show that people with IDD issues often make up the most best and loyal and valuable employees. Study after study has shown that if we simply know how to accommodate them, and that’s not so easy as it is to fix a website to make it by weight or with gag compliant, that it’s much more even more of an education effort. I would say the other project that I’m working on is also football people with disabilities and that we are working on a company called way map, UK company and a partnership with Verizon. And we’re mapping the whole DC Metro and DC metropolitan area for the for the blind with step by step navigation. That process also has separate options for people using wheelchairs. And I was the major drafter of the US standards for this technology, as well as to 1.1, which is the standards for cognitive wayfinding which will be the next phase. So technology, there is technology out there to help people with disabilities other than just blindness. And it’s in its infancy, but some very good pilots have been done with FTA with whom I work quite a bit Federal Transit Administration that we can make much more of the world accessible to people, not only who are blind but with other types of disabilities that make it difficult for them to navigate or to use technology.
Michael Hingson 24:48
So the the way we met was actually through as you know, accessiBe, where does that fit into what is happening to make the The whole internet and website access available?
David Shaffer 25:04
Well, what it’s going to help do is guide people to accessible locations. If your website’s accessible, then we can put you on to this app, and people can find you and not only find you, but read the menu in your restaurant. And so can tourists find you. So, by encouraging people, you know, by expanding this project, into convention centers into other places, museums, galleries, where there’s a ton of information, we can integrate the accessibility of the web, the original website, to, for example, the descriptions on a picture in the National Gallery to be, you know, read to you, and explained, and all that it’s going to be 100% WCAG compliant. So these, I think, these all work together, at my various projects, to show people that there’s an overall issue of accessibility. Websites, of course, are one of the major ones. But we’ve got to integrate this awareness concept with not just websites, but with how do we make this world safe and accommodating for all people with disabilities, so that everybody can achieve their full potential.
Michael Hingson 26:47
So I know that you also in addition to doing the web map project, though, do or have become involved with accessiBe specifically, so website access in general, but accessiBe in specific, why did you choose accessiBe to work with
David Shaffer 27:04
That is an interesting story? I was deep, and I was the byway officer at macro, I was deep into manual coding, fixing, you know, analysis of police reports, and how to deal with them. And that’s why it took four years to get that website compliant. That was four years of daily work by a team of people. I was against layered approaches that first. Some of the ones that have been proposed to us at macro simply didn’t work. So I just figured, okay, I’m not interested in layered approaches, when somebody gives me something that doesn’t even work on their own website, then, you know, forget it. But, you know, I was introduced to accessiBe with some skepticism. And then I started trying and testing it. And I found that it made websites accessible and usable, to really the greatest extent feasible by AI technology. We won’t, I will never claim it’s going to get your website 100%. ADA compliant, although some simple websites will be some complex websites may have features that are inherent to the underlying UI of the website that simply can’t be fixed entirely by artificial intelligence. But what I was convinced was that the vast majority of websites out there are small and medium businesses, they’re not complex. And an overlay said that works like accessories does is the solution to make to try to get this out to the masses, and to get people on to more small and medium businesses, rather than just given up and you go over to a large corporation, who does no accessibility and use their website instead. So I was convinced that accessiBe is better than the other ones. Plus what really impressed me most about accessiBe was the fact it’s not just for the blind. And it has significant settings for cognitive disorders, HD seizure disorders, various types of color, vision issues, and cognitive. And I think that this is the comprehensive approach that I’ve been preaching that we need to accommodate all disabilities. We can’t just focus on the blind community. We can just focus on the deaf community, or the IDD community. This has got to be an overall attitude about how we approach All of our technology, how we approach shopping, how we approach going into a store, getting down the street, getting on a train or bus, that we’ve got to bring together these concepts of Universal Design for everybody, so that the entire population has the same opportunity, as everybody else
Michael Hingson 30:21
do you think accessiBe is having success in this arena?
David Shaffer 30:26
Yeah, I do. Um, you know that they’ve subject to what I think are some unfair attacks. And to the extent any of the criticisms, warfare, we’ve looked at him, and we’ve we’ve fixed them, and continue to outreach to the blind community to talk to us and give input, I give both legal and technical input to accessiBe And that’s because I can see both sides of this, I can see how the courts developing the law, as well as how the technology is developing and how it’s being used. And it’s a fascinating place to be. And I’m enjoying working with them quite a bit as we try to bring more education accessibility to the 20% of the population that’s left out these days.
Michael Hingson 31:27
And what, what would you like to see accessiBe do, If anything, that it’s that it’s not doing? Or how do you think we deal with some of the people who have been, as you put it unfairly criticizing what accessiBe is doing? And, you know, there are a lot of questions. I mean, why are why are they criticizing accessiBe And, I mean, there’s a lot of ways to go with it,
David Shaffer 31:52
right? I mean, to some extent, everybody’s entitled to their opinion. But when those opinions start becoming absolutely provably false, that’s when the criticism goes too far. Or when they write to a customer, you know, telling them they should drop it says to be because, you know, it doesn’t conform to WCAG standards, or something like that active interference with our goal that says to be of making the web accessible by 2025. And, to my mind, as a civil rights lawyer, they’re hurting the blind community, they’re hurting the entire disability community, by removing from them a tool that will help them navigate all these internet sites so much better. And forcing them to go only to the sites that grow forward, a full ADA accessibility professional to do this work, if cost hundreds of 1000s of dollars. And it’s a disservice to the disability community, it’s a harm to the disability community, and it should stop. They want to make productive criticism. I’m all for that. But depriving the disability community of a solution that actually works is a damage to this ability community.
Michael Hingson 33:23
How has accessiBe evolved as a company since you have become involved with it? And I’m not saying that you did it all, by any means, but Right, but how are accessiBe involved?
David Shaffer 33:34
I think accessiBe it’s become much more sensitive to an understanding of the US market. I think that’s part of bringing in people like me and my team that understand these issues. Why I have a law firm comprised of all lawyers with disabilities, and most staff with disabilities. We understand disability, and we understand the US disability community. You know, in my previous job, I, I spoke all over the metropolitan area about issues involving disability, blindness, accessibility. And I know that people’s minds can be changed. But I think, you know, accessiBe, it’s on the right track they have, they’ve adapted some of their stronger language to advise advice from the US team. They’ve listened to the US team, and they are trying to understand a little bit better American disability politics, which are no good differ from country to country, and we’re making progress and we’re making inroads and we’re doing positive things. If you watch the real story, It’s an accessiBe TV ad 90% of it’s about what people with disabilities can accomplish. And that’s the kind of focus that they have changed to it, you know, you their commercials are more public service announcements now. And then they are sales pitches, of course, they, they get their name in there, they bid for it. But I think that approach to the problem, in entering the United States in a big way, has changed quite a bit. And I’m very happy about it and, and things that are talking to the blind community more productively. And I think we can all find a way to live together, there’s, there’s a place for manual coding and remediation, there’s a place for accessiBe. And there’s a place for something in the middle, where you’ve got a big website that needs to do something fast, while they work on the details was kind of a hybrid approach. So that that’s how I view accessiBe is it’s fitting into what we’re we all wanting to see it be.
Michael Hingson 36:16
And I think, well, and I agree with you. And I think that accessiBe is also recognized that even terminology is is more important than perhaps it anticipated, for example, SSB is the name of the company, but no longer do we call the overlay accessiBe, it is now an artificial intelligence powered solution. And, and probably over time, that name will change just because it’s pretty complicated, but it’s a lot more of an accurate description of what its flagship product is, and, and will continue to be. And very frankly, just to make it real clear, accessiBe, has also acknowledged that it doesn’t see that the artificial intelligent power solution or the overlay solves everything. And so accessiBe is putting together a whole suite of products to deal with the rest of the remediation process, which is really cool.
David Shaffer 37:19
Yeah, and that’s where I like to see them going and where they are going. And I think, and they’re always working on improving their AI. You know, AI is is in its relative infancy, yet, and it still can do amazing things. And if we can stick with this, approach, this artificial intelligence powered solution and improve it, I think within the next few years, we’re going to be able to solve, you know, almost all the accessibility issues on our website. Some things are always got to be personalized, like, you know, AI reading a picture of a person, and he’s really the CEO of the company, it just says, you know, man with dark hair and in suit, obviously, somebody is gonna go in and interpret that’s the CEO of the company, and put his name in there. You can’t expect AI to do that. But on the average website, it really can make such a market improvement from unusable to usable, that I think gets is the wave of the future.
Michael Hingson 38:39
And an AI will improve. And that’s, of course, one of the whole points of the major flagship product of accessiBe today is that it learns it improves. And the day may come when it will even do image recognition. But that can only come if it if the company and the technology has access to appropriate facial recognition and other things that don’t exist today. But it is an evolutionary process.
David Shaffer 39:09
Yeah. And people need to recognize that. I mean, if you’re used to using an iPhone 12 or 13 These days, and somebody were to hand you an iPhone two, you’d say this is a piece of crap. Didn’t do hardly anything. But that was a totally been a little over 10 years ago. 15 Maybe 2008. And so yeah, and that’s we’re not on an iPhone to stage were more like an iphone four or five. But, you know, every year it’s going to get better and as does the iPhone or any other jobs that gets better every year with more improvements. All these products are constantly working on improving their technology and as one company He’s develops than others can see and learn from it. And so you, you hopefully will see the whole industry, you know, learning and gaining from this us.
Michael Hingson 40:14
It’s, it’s, it’s interesting the society in the times that we live in. We are in such a technological era. Yet, more and more we see everything being oriented or most things being oriented toward a visual process. So websites, for example, that that put more visual stuff in. And what prompts me to mention that is, we were watching my wife and I were watching a commercial this morning on a television. And it was just some people singing a song. And there was nothing to say that it was Google talking about all the ways that it protects us. And, and there are a lot of those kinds of commercials that do nothing but play music or Yeah, or sound, but that have nothing to do with anything, how do we get people to recognize that they are leaving out a significant amount of the population? And oh, by the way, what about the person who gets up, I guess the marketing people don’t think that that will be a big problem, and I’ll come back to it. But don’t think that’ll be a big problem, because they’ll saturate the air with the commercial. So eventually, people will see it, but they don’t even deal with the people who get up during a commercial and go do something else get a snack or whatever. Never see it.
David Shaffer 41:43
Right? I don’t understand that either. Myself. Many times, I turned to my significant other and I say, what was that commercial about? I’d like the music. Cuz I don’t know what they’re trying to sell. I don’t know why they think this is useful. Especially like you said, half the people get up and go the bathroom on commercials, toilet toilet flush at once. But yeah, I don’t get it. It’s just like they think all this has impact, you know, the flash, big name at the end after the beautiful pictures, but no an impact on me. So they’re losing 5% of their potential customer base,
Michael Hingson 42:28
do they may be losing more, because again, anyone who doesn’t see the commercial, blind or not, has the same challenge.
David Shaffer 42:39
And this is the fault of the people that look only at the visual side of things. And that’s all they can think or think about these people that are creating the commercials, people that are creating websites, whatever creative people are doing this. They’re looking at it. And they’re deriving their impact from what they see and met with the here. And this frustrates me, but I figure, okay, well, I’ll never buy that product, since I can’t tell what they’re advertising. So that’s one down the drain. They won’t get my business. You know, what else can you do? Except deprive them of their business? If they’re not going to make this their commercial accessible?
Michael Hingson 43:28
How do we break into their psyche? And get them to recognize what they’re doing? Which is, of course, a general question that deals with the whole visual or non disability aspect of society in general. How do we how do we get the the public at large, the politicians, the visible people of large, to bring us into the conversation? Maybe it’s a good way to start that why aren’t we part of the conversation?
David Shaffer 44:07
I think we’re not because we’re not thrusting ourselves into it. We can just sit back and wait for these people to call us up and say, Hey, we were just thinking about whether blind people can see our commercials got any advice? No, we have to, we have to get out to you know, like, like we’re doing with Congress, get out to them, and explain to them what we’re seeing or not seeing. We need to get to the advertising community with some sort of education. If they really are interested in selling us products, so the the blanket, I mean, we’re going to 24 million people in the United States. That’s a tremendous market. We just need to get people to understand that they’re losing 24 million potential customers. Every time they put an ad up like that.
Michael Hingson 45:01
But in general, whether we deal with the advertisement part of it or whatever, you’re dealing with the whole population of persons with disabilities, how do we get into the psyche of people into the conversation? I mean, I hear what you’re saying about getting Congress and showing Congress what we do. But here’s a perfect example of the problem. Several years ago, I went to a congressman who I knew to talk about the fact that at that time, and still, as part of the Javits, Wagner eau de act, it is possible for organizations and agencies to apply for an exemption. So they do not have to pay a person with a disability a minimum wage, who they bring in. And that typically is in the case of some sheltered workshops that that number has diminished a great deal, because there’s been visibility, but it’s still there. And the law is still there. And what this congressman said is, well, we’re opposed to minimum wage in general. And so I can’t possibly support this bill had nothing to do with the fact that it’s still the law of the land. But we’re not considered an important and I mean, all persons with disabilities, we still are not really considered part of, of society in the same way. Now, we’re not hated like, some, some people probably hate different races. And and we certainly don’t face some of the challenges that that women do, although blind women probably do, but but the bottom line is we as a collective group, and not just blind women, but people, women with disabilities, but we are as as a, as a total group, not included. Really, in the conversation. We see it all the time, last year’s presidential elections are a perfect example. But you could you can go anywhere and cite anything. That that looks at all of the different things that go on COVID websites were not accessible last year. So you know, how do we get into that conversation? Collectively?
David Shaffer 47:18
Well, that is how we do it is collectively, I think, but I think we’re doing too much of is that, you know, you’ve got the blind community, you’re advocating for this, you’ve got the people with physical disabilities advocating for their thing, that people with cognitive advocating for those things. And they’re all just focusing on what they need. What we all need to be focusing on together, is what we need as a group of people with disability. You know, granted, each of each type of disability has different needs. But if we can get everybody to understand just the concept of universal design, and start applying that to everything we build to, from buildings, to websites, to whatever, then we’ll be taking, we’ll be including this population, but even the phrase universal design, it’s not even fully under widely understood. But that is where we have to be gone. And we have to be doing it as the entire disability community. That is numbers, but lots of numbers of people.
Michael Hingson 48:36
Sure, since 20%, to 25% of all persons in the United States have a disability. That’s a pretty large group, and it’s 100
David Shaffer 48:46
million people. Yeah,
Michael Hingson 48:48
you’re talking about a minority second only to depending on who you want to listen to men or women, probably they’re more women than men. So men may be the minority, although they don’t think so. But But the bottom line is it’s a very large group of people,
David Shaffer 49:03
or it’s not a significant, you know, it’s the most significant size, protected group there is under the law.
Michael Hingson 49:13
But the protections aren’t always there. So for example, that’s the other problem. Yes. The other problem,
David Shaffer 49:19
which is the courts, the courts are slow to catch up to the courts don’t understand this. You file a web accessibility lawsuit in front of your typical federal district judge. I mean, they don’t have a clue what this case is about. And then we’re down to the Battle of competing experts, you know, and where does that put a judge? Where does that put a jury? Well, I mean, the legal system is not the right place to be solving this problem. Unfortunately, it’s the only place we have left to go to.
Michael Hingson 49:53
Well, I guess that’s of course part of the I’m sorry, go ahead.
David Shaffer 49:55
No, no, go ahead.
Michael Hingson 49:57
Well, that’s That’s of course part of the problem. But, you know, isn’t the only place to go to. So for example, you wrote an article earlier this year, which I found to be very interesting and very informative, the talk about web accessibility. And that article described all lot, a lot of the issues, a lot of what’s being done. And maybe you want to talk a little bit about that and where people can see it, but also, should should we work to be finding more people who will publicize in the world. Part of the the issues that we have when I talked about being part of the the conversation? Frankly, I think we need to be putting out more more writings, more articles, more missives, more whatever. And as you said, we need to be putting ourselves in the conversation.
David Shaffer 51:00
We don’t and, you know, I, I, I’m, I listened mostly to NPR. And what I do notice there is they do a lot of stories on disability issues. Really impressed by the way they cover disabilities. I don’t see that on mainstream media. Occasionally, you’ll you’ll have a feel good story on the evening news, then which one you’re watching, you know, they they’re tagged at the end of the last two minutes. But really, dealing with this as a societal issue. It’s so low on the priority of things these days after COVID and, and overseas wards and foreign policy and everything else that’s going on. We’re, we’re just words faded, where we fade into the background, or unnoticed. It’s just like when, when you when you walk into a store with somebody who’s with you, they will talk to the other person and ask them what does he want to order? Instead of asking you were invisible?
Michael Hingson 52:08
Yeah. And of course, also part of the problem today, is that with everything that’s going on, we face it, too. And it kind of beats you down.
David Shaffer 52:19
And does. It’s it’s depressing. I mean, I my usually, my usual answer is I can order for myself in that sort of tone. But, you know, it’s like we walk, walk into a dark the other day with my white king, kind of find my way, because they don’t allow visitors now so that I can’t bring it by with me to guide me. So I’m, you know, stumbling around the place trying to find the front desk and all that. And then they shove a piece of paper in front of me saying, Can you please sign in. And they’ve seen me walking around that reception area trying to find the reception desk with a white gain. I turned around and asked me to sign something. Don’t get it.
Michael Hingson 53:07
It’s, it’s all education. And I think you said much earlier is very important. We have to as hard as it is as frustrating as it is, as trying as it is on our patients. Sometimes. We have to be teachers, we have to help. But we do need to speak out, we do need to be pushing ourselves in the conversation. There are there’s a lot of mainstream media that, as you said, doesn’t cover us much. And somehow we need to get more people to reach out to mainstream media saying Why aren’t you talking about the fact that blind people and other persons with disabilities are exempt? In some situations from receiving minimum wage? Why aren’t you talking more about the lack of appropriate information provided to us? Why aren’t you talking about the fact that when one flies on an airplane, the flight attendants don’t necessarily give us the same information that that people who can see or people who can, can read don’t have they already have. And I like the fact that people like with dyslexia also have issues.
David Shaffer 54:32
Yeah, well, pointing to the emergency exits didn’t help a lot.
Michael Hingson 54:35
Right, exactly. But they but you know, it would be so simple for flight attendants to say when they’re doing their pre flight briefing. Emergency exits are located at over overwing exits are located at rows, x and y.
David Shaffer 54:54
Row number you can, that’s assuming that’s a row number that you can read with your fingers.
Michael Hingson 55:00
Well, except when you are when you go on, you know what seat you’re at. So you know what Rotarian so your count? Yeah, you can count. Yeah, they could, they could do something to make the row numbers also more accessible. But again, you do know what seat you go to. And if you know that, then you can easily count and get at least a much better sense, then what you do. I heard once somebody explained that, when the preflight briefings are being given, what flight attendants are trained to do, and I don’t know if it’s true, but it could be, what flight attendants are trained to do is to look to see who’s really paying attention to the briefings. Because those are the people that they may be able to call on to help if there really is an emergency, because they’re the ones that tend to be collecting the information. Right? Don’t know if that’s really true, but it certainly makes sense. And, and it is also something that more of us should do, and more of us should be demanding that they do the appropriate things to provide the access that we need to be able to pay attention.
David Shaffer 56:12
Yeah, you know, Michael, it’s just, it’s such an overwhelmingly huge job. I mean, we’re talking about everything from websites to we haven’t even talked about apps on phones, to physical accessibility to how you’re, how you’re treated in a doctor’s office or on an airplane, or in a restaurant, or, I mean, it’s, it’s all throughout society, that the people with disabilities face these obstacles. And courts, you know, I think websites are a fantastic place to start. But that’s not the end of the accessibility discussion. We need to have much broader discussions about that. And we need to be doing it more publicly.
Michael Hingson 57:10
Right. And, and I think we can, I don’t think that we need to always use civil disobedience, as our solution, although there certainly have been times in the past when that has been what people feel they need to do, and it can be successful, but it still ultimately is about education. And if people refuse to listen, then obviously, there are other actions that need to be taken. You mentioned, what happened with you with Metro and Metro, at least, was interested in working with you and allowing you to help them fix their website issue, by the way, how is it now
David Shaffer 57:53
are pretty good. They actually, they brought in consultants to do the remainder of the remediation, and I wasn’t able to finish. So they’re trying to get as close to 100% compliant as possible.
Michael Hingson 58:09
And, obviously, that’s, that’s pretty important to do. I don’t know, whether accessiBe is a part of that or whether, you know, have they used accessiBe in any way. I’m just curious.
David Shaffer 58:19
I they I don’t know who the outside consultants using right now, but they haven’t seen accessiBe put on the site yet. I know they use accessiBe’s testing tool.
Michael Hingson 58:31
Right? And can you tell us about that the test
David Shaffer 58:36
accessiBe has a very quick and free testing tool, which is one of the better ones out there on the market, including some of the ones you’ve paid 10s of $1,000 for and if you go to eight.accessibly.com there’s it’s really simple, you just plug in the website name, you hit get a report, you get an immediate report within like 10 seconds of all the errors it rates it from compliant to semi compliant to non compliant and then you can email yourself the report in a PDF form and, and read all the details about what the issues are on the website. You know, and some of my own personal battles I’ve had recently with county government kind of force them to provide me with accessible materials as required by federal law. You know, I finally just sent them a report of their website or encountered entire county website is non compliant. And they said they know it. baffled me and what they’re getting me my documents on the threat of a federal lawsuit
Michael Hingson 59:56
it’s amazing. I really We upgraded we were talking about it before we started this, I also upgraded to Windows 11. And there are some real challenges from an access standpoint. Or example, for example, and I, and I’m saying this after having called and spoken to Microsoft’s disabilities answer desk, I needed to map a network drive. And the instructions say, click on the three dots on the toolbar, the three dots. So that’s inaccessible to me, I am going to try some other experiments to see if I can access them. But in Windows 10, there were ways to do it. Why would they? And could they? And should they have updated to a new version of Windows without dealing with the access issues? And I know what they’re going to say they did it with Microsoft Edge years ago, when Microsoft Edge came out, they knew it wasn’t accessible. And they said, well, we’ll get to it. Well, you know, that’s, that’s immediately sending the message that some of us are not as important as everyone else.
David Shaffer 1:01:15
They are, and I’m so sorry, I upgraded to Windows 11, I would never recommend that any visually impaired person right now until they get it fixed. It makes your life so much more difficult.
Michael Hingson 1:01:28
Well, but it’s going to take a while to to happen. And the problem is that more and more things will become unsupported. So upgrading needs to be done. But there should be a real outcry to Microsoft, from a large number of people about the accessibility issues that they face in Windows 11. And that is something that gets back to what we discussed earlier. Microsoft should have made it accessible right from the outset right out of the gate, right. And they have the team, they have the people, they have the knowledge, it’s a priority.
David Shaffer 1:02:09
While the priority for them is to get the product out the door, and then worry about, you know the details later.
Michael Hingson 1:02:18
But still, the priority is to get the product out the door. So as many people can sort of use it as possible, and the people who are marginalized well, we’ll get to them eventually. Yeah, right, which is a problem. If people want to read your article, how can they do that?
David Shaffer 1:02:39
It’s on my website, and David Schaefer lawn.com. Under the ADEA. Tab. Schaefer is spelled s a j FF er.
Michael Hingson 1:02:50
So David Schaefer Law comm under the ADEA tab. Right. So what’s next for you? Where Where do you go from here?
David Shaffer 1:03:00
Well, I’m, I’m also been retained by another organization, to do some congressional lobbying on behalf of ADA, making ADA explicitly include websites, and also to work to make work with them to make Congress itself accessible, working with the house with the congressional Select Committee on modernization. And, you know, we got to start somewhere, your Congress is going to set the example for the country. And it’s really pathetic, that the studies I’ve shown are that approximately 80 to 90% of congressional websites are inaccessible. And where there were their constituents to, and we have an equal right to communicate with our representatives, under the First Amendment as anybody else, and we’re being deprived. And I think it’s a serious issue for Congress that they’ve got to face, that they’re not making themselves available to the entire population. They’re supposed to serve a
Michael Hingson 1:04:21
good point, and hopefully, you’ll be able to make some progress on that. We certainly want to hear from you as to how that’s going. And you are welcome to come back here anytime and tell us what’s happening and keep us all up to date. We really appreciate your time today. In sitting down with us and talking about a lot of these issues. Are there any kind of last minute things that you’d like to say?
David Shaffer 1:04:50
Oh, I just I just want to be treated the same as everybody else, and I think that’s what all was one, you know, you treat treat me like you would anybody else with courtesy. And if it’s an older person, you, you’re courteous to them in a different way than you are a blind person or a deaf person. Just I’d like to see people treat people as people, and not according to what they look like, are able to do is hear, see or or think.
Michael Hingson 1:05:30
Well, clearly, that’s that’s a goal. I think that all of us share. And I hope that we’ll be able to, to see more of that happen. Excuse me, I know, being involved with accessiBe. It’s an accessiBe goal. And I’m I’m glad that accessiBe is really growing in its understanding of the issues, and that it intends to do more to try to do what it can to educate people in society about all of this. Of course, that’s part of what this podcast is about.
David Shaffer 1:06:07
Right. And I think we’re well on our way there. We have more work to do. But we’ve made a lot of progress. Since I came on board. And I think February. I think you came on board just a little bit before that. Right. So we’ve, we’ve done a lot this year, and next year, it’s going to be even better.
Michael Hingson 1:06:29
Well, I hope people have enjoyed listening to this and that they’ve learned something. We’re always interested in hearing from listeners, you are welcome to reach out to me directly at Michaehi@accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled spelled A C C E S S I B E. So Michaelhi@accessibe.com. David, if you want people to be able to contact you. How do they do that?
David Shaffer 1:06:57
Michael Hingson 1:07:04
is easy as it gets.
David Shaffer 1:07:05
Yeah, I try to make things easy. Yeah,
Michael Hingson 1:07:10
absolutely. So well, I want to thank you for being with us. We’ve been working to get this set up for a while you’ve had a pretty, pretty busy schedule. And so we’re finally able to do we’re able to do it. But seriously, we’d like to keep hearing from you as to what progress you’re making and your thoughts. So don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know if you’d like to come back on and we will chat some more. And in the meanwhile, again, if people want to reach out you can reach me at Michael Hingson. That is Michaelhi@accessiBe.com. And if you would like to consider being a guest on our podcast because you have some things to say, email me and we’ll see what we can do. I want to thank you all for joining us on another edition of Unstoppable Mindset. And David, thank you as well for doing that.
David Shaffer 1:08:02
Michael Hingson 1:08:10
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.