Episode 11 – Accessibility Gap (part 2): Different Disabilities, Same Goal with Josh Basile
More often than not when we think of web accessibility we think of the challenges blind people face with inaccessible websites. In fact, the lack of web accessibility encompasses all disabilities.
Our episode this week is the second part of a webinar series I conducted for accessiBe. This week we will present The Accessibility Gap part two. You will meet Josh Basile, a C4-5 quadriplegic, who will discuss the challenges he has with the internet. Josh will show you from his vantage point why businesses and companies should make internet accessibility an important part of their presence on the web.
Some directories do not show full show notes. For the complete transcription please visit https://michaelhingson.com/podcast
About our Guest:
Meet Josh Basile a C4-5 quadriplegic, power wheelchair user, disability rights advocate and lawyer. In 2004, at the age of 18, Josh was paralyzed below the shoulders in a beach accident. Soon after he formed a 501(c)3 to empower newly injured families through SPINALpedia.com and its 21,000 paralysis-related videos. As a medical malpractice lawyer and disabilities rights advocate, Josh serves persons with disabilities both in the courtroom and through policy initiatives. As a community leader and change-maker, Josh works tirelessly to improve the quality of life the persons with disabilities and to continuously break down existing barriers to access and inclusion. To improve web accessibility and usability, Josh joined accessiBe and that accessFind initiative as the Community Relations Manager.
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 01:20
A pleasant Good afternoon to everyone wherever you may be. I’m Michael Hingson. I and I am here hosting the webinar series we call the Accessibility Gap in CO hosting and with me today is Josh Basile. If I could talk straight, I’d be in good shape. Josh, welcome.
Josh Basile 01:38
Thank you, Michael. It’s great to be here. today.
Michael Hingson 01:42
We’re excited about this series of webinars because it talks about something that most everyone isn’t addressing. And that is this concept of the accessibility gap. Last month, we did one, our first in the series with Curtis Chung, who is a well known assistive technology expert, a longtime consumer advocate. And we talked about the nature of the gap. And basically what we discussed last month was that there is a very significant gap between on the Internet, what exists, and the number of people with disabilities who can access what exists. And that gap grows wider every day, as more and more websites are created that are inaccessible to those of us who happen to have a disability. The world, the industry, and most all of us are not doing anything to bridge that gap. And we thought that today, one of the main ideas that we can talk about and one of the main objectives we have is to make you aware that it crosses disability lines, it isn’t just blind people, although we tend to be pretty visible at dealing with the accessibility gap because of the fact that we don’t get a lot of access to content for a variety of reasons. But no one thinks about the fact that it goes further than that, and that it isn’t just blind people. So Josh happens to be a quadriplegic uses a wheelchair. And I’ve mentioned last month my wife has a paraplegic who uses the chair, but she doesn’t have a lot of the issues that say Josh does, and Josh will talk about that. For my part, I have been blind my entire life. I have been using the internet, since it’s been around I have found some websites that work pretty well have found a lot of websites that are not very accessible and don’t work pretty well. And more recently, even finding that some of the websites that I can access, when people actually do the work of remediation of those websites. That is they work to make them accessible. A lot of content becomes visible and usable for me that I’ve never been able to access in use before. And I’m sure that Josh also has lots of stories about that. So Josh, why don’t you introduce yourself a little bit. I think some of the people here know my story more than yours. So why don’t you go ahead and tell us about you.
Josh Basile 04:14
Thanks, Michael. So, hi. Hello, everyone. I’m Josh basil. So just let you know about my journey. I grew up in Maryland, and was an avid tennis player and loved all sports. And after my freshman year of college, this is back in 2004. I was on a family vacation at the beach and a wave picked me up, threw me over my boogie board and slammed me on my head that day I shattered my neck. I was facedown in the water unable to turn over. And luckily my friends saw me floating and they pulled me onto the sand and that was the start of being a sea for fact quadriplegic. I’m paralyzed below the shoulders. So I use a mouth control to operate my computer, I do have enough movement in my hand, that I’m able to operate my joystick, I can’t even lift my hand off my joystick. But that’s my level of injury. But I never let my spinal cord injury or my unique abilities stop me from moving forward and continuing to wheel after my dreams, I ended up going to community college after my injury, then went to undergrad, and then went to law school and graduated magna cum laude without ever flipping a page with my fingers. Technology’s pretty amazing. And I think a lot of what we’re going to talk about today is how technology is advancing in beautiful ways to bridge the accessibility gap. I have a nonprofit called determined to heal. And we help simplify the transition for newly injured families through information, videos, through adventures. We just try to live with an adventurous spirit, adventurous wheels and, you know, keep moving forward. There’s no point to really reinvent the wheel. others in the community can show you what’s been done before you and give you ideas on how to customize your journey forward. Mike, thank you for letting me have an opportunity to speak.
Michael Hingson 06:11
Well, Josh, let me start by asking you a question. Because I’d like to really hear it from your perspective. What, what do you feel is the accessibility gap? How would you break it down? If you’re dealing with it in terms of all of us?
Josh Basile 06:26
I think the simplest way to think of the accessibility gap is we have accessible websites, and we have inaccessible websites that exist. And the gap is what’s that divide? What how is it growing? Is it is the gap coming closer together? Are you getting to put more inaccessible websites, or they’re getting to be more accessible websites at any given moment. And unfortunately, the gap is growing in the opposite direction, every single day, every single second, there’s more inaccessible websites being launched than accessible ones. And it’s just it’s not the direction we should be moving in. It’s unfortunate, but so much of it is because so much of the content management systems that exist out there, make it so darn easy to build websites no longer with manual coders that know how to build it right from the beginning. And right now it’s just anybody can go and plug in and pull over and build a website with a click of a button and not actually put in the accessible elements needed for people to explore, understand what’s in front of them, and be able to really, truly experience a webpage as any person without disabilities experiencing it.
Michael Hingson 07:43
Let me add to that the gap is not only in the actual fact that websites are inaccessible in the number and the in to some degree, the percentage of websites that are inaccessible is growing. But we have another gap, which is really what leads to the title of today’s webinar, which is different disabilities, same goal. The fact is that while people are making their websites and as Josh said is becoming easier and easier to do, what we’re not seeing is any major effort on any level, to make business owners who make websites more aware of the need for accessibility. And we’re not seeing those who really should be involved in addressing the issue. We’re not seeing them increase awareness. Programmers aren’t learning about access. The schools aren’t training coders and programmers about access the content management systems that Web site creation systems, especially the ones that make it easy, like a WordPress or site builder and any number of other systems that are out there. They’re not mandating access, and they’re not incorporating access right from the outset. And the reason is because of the real gap that exists, the awareness gap. There’s not much of anything being done to address this whole concept of awareness. And that is what we really need to do. I don’t think, and I’m sure Josh, you would agree. And I want to hear you and what you say about it, but I don’t think that anybody really Mullah is malicious and they’re ignoring making websites accessible. They just don’t know Don’t you think?
Josh Basile 09:44
Yes and no, I think there’s many different sides of the coin of why people don’t make their websites accessible. One is definitely an awareness issue. before my injury, I really didn’t know anybody with a significant disability. And you know, my injury gave me a new perspective, a new way of experiencing the world, for me a new way of seeing the world, in so many different things that I never knew, or was concerned about. But a lot of the times, it’s, you know, as you’re building a website, so much of the business world look at it, like, it’s, it cost me, you know, $100 $200 to build a website, and to make it accessible, it might cost me 10 times that amount, or even more, and then they make decisions on money, which, you know, in respects, it’s, if it could be done right from the beginning, you wouldn’t have that issue. Or if you rely on other types of solutions, that you can get it done in a much more financially feasible manner. But I think so much of it, like you said, is basically not knowing, not being aware. But I think there’s definitely a lot of different factors that contribute to why the internet is not accessible.
Michael Hingson 10:57
But I think that the majority of people if they understood, things like 20%, of all people are one out of every five persons in the world has a disability. And most of them can’t utilize the web, the way the other four out of five can. If people who are creating websites understood that one out of five people aren’t able to take advantage of their websites and thus do business with them. They would be even if it’s just a financial motivation, want to make websites accessible, but it still goes back to that level of awareness that they don’t know that and they don’t know about accessibility, most people don’t. And unless they have direct interaction, they probably won’t. Until the time comes, that disabilities truly become a topic that we’re as a society willing to discuss and bring to the forefront. In the past several years, we’ve certainly heard a lot about diversity with issues regarding women like women in Hollywood, we saw a lot of that dealing with the Oscars last Sunday, or different races and so on, and how all of that is changing. And that landscape is changing. But the landscape for persons with disabilities still is not because the mainstream of society has yet to decide to make its mindset inclusive, that to bring all of us in for whatever reason, it still is that way. And I think that’s something that that we need to deal with. And hopefully things like this webinar will help raise some awareness and find that more people will become aware, because I do think that mostly people, if they understand want to do the right thing. The other part about it, Josh, is, as you said, it needs to be inexpensive, and it needs to be easy to make happen. And the reality is that there are a lot of people who have found some pretty easy solutions that have made their websites accessible, they feel that it has no one has objected to the websites, since they’ve put technology into play that makes their website accessible. So they’re happy. And they’re able to go on and do their business. And of course, that works until something doesn’t like the the website server goes offline or something like that, then they don’t have a website, or it can be that somebody says, you know, I tried to do something on your website, and I couldn’t make it work. Can you help me with that, or they people will speak up and say, we have an issue. And then when that happens, the good website owners will address the issue. And hopefully that they have resources to make that happen.
Josh Basile 13:52
When it’s about the fact that businesses just are not are not tapping into the disability community. If you have one out of five different potential customers that could potentially benefit and purchase or access the information on your website. Why wouldn’t you want to reach that audience that we’re talking about billions of dollars of untapped customers that because a website’s not accessible, that they can’t fully reach that audience. And even studies have been done over the years that the disability community is the most brand loyal community in the population in the entire world. Once we are treated properly and cared for and acknowledged, we go back and back as repeat customers, to these businesses. And it’s not only just us, it’s our family members. It’s our friends, because we speak about it. We talk about Yeah, we went to that place and treated as well. And we go back and again, we invite people there we let them know. We love being mentors to other community members.
Michael Hingson 14:59
So tell them So tell me, why is there such strong brand loyalty when that happens,
Josh Basile 15:05
because if you look, you know, there’s 350 million websites in the United States, or that’s tapped in with with within the United States. But yet, less than 2% of those websites are accessible. So just thinking about just businesses in general, when you only have a select few of businesses that truly speak and serve our community, you remember those, and you go back to those, because that’s where you’re going to get the best experience, you’re going to get an experience with less struggles, less frustration, it’s just going to be easier. And that’s what customers want. And that’s what persons with disabilities want. That’s what anybody wants.
Michael Hingson 15:51
One of the one of the strongest messages that any good salesperson learns is when you establish a rapport with your prospects and with your customers, when you get them to feel like you’re speaking to them, not pressuring them, not just trying to, as a lot of people would say, buy used car salesman, sell them, but you’re speaking to them, you are concerned about them, they’re going to pay attention to you. There’s so many examples of that if you deal with people in real estate, the good real estate agents will tell you that, although we may have sold someone a house, the fact is that if we keep in touch with those people, if we know what’s going on in their lives, even though they’re not going to buy from us for a while because they’re not moving. They’ll refer other people to us. And when they do need to move, they will remember us and they will come back to us. And and the reality is that works when you have that genuine concern. And the the 2% of websites that are accessible, are transmitting a message, we care, we are working to make ourselves available and accessible to you, whoever you are. And the result is we’re going to be brand loyal. And we are brand loyal to those people that really touch us and talk to us. And that is I think one of the most important things that we as people discussing this today and people who create websites, and more important the people who are going to be involved. And the companies that are going to be involved in fixing websites, the most important thing they can know is it really is about the consumer, much more than the business. Because you may get a business as a customer. But ultimately, it’s about getting the consumer, the users of those websites to both the accessibility that has been created. And then obviously, the products that you want. My favorite example that I came up with just on the spur of the moment, once a couple of weeks ago is that you can have websites that people work on and do things with and supposedly make accessible. But if consumers have a problem with it, it’s like cat food. If you are a company that manufactures cat food, and you sell it to your customers, that’s really great. But it only works until the cat tastes it. And if the cat doesn’t like the taste of it, and if that tends to be a general consensus, you’ve got a problem somewhere until you please the cats, nothing’s going to work. You know what I’m saying?
Josh Basile 18:47
Absolutely. So I think so much of having an accessible website, just talks to like, like you said about caring, about respecting about just inviting someone to have a seat at the table, or to really open the door enough to let somebody in, that might be peeking in, because it’s not fully accessible. And, you know, in order to truly experience a website, you need to experience all four corners of it, you need to experience all the pages, if you can see the product, you can read about the product, but you can’t check out and purchase the product. You know, that’s just half of the picture. That’s half the half of the puzzle. And you know, that’s the trouble of some websites. You know, you just can’t navigate the full thing without you know, calling in a family member or friend to help you get across and to tell you the truth. Not everybody has those people next to them to help them at any given moment. So it’s making the website accessible is just so important. And right now as the accessibility gap is going in the opposite direction. It’s something that we need to do. And like right now we’re talking about the issues which is the first stage of have an understanding that there is a major problem. And then it allows us to figure out solutions on what we can do to bridge that gap, and how we can work together as a united front to bridge that gap. And I’d love to talk a little bit about how we’ve done this well in the past, and how we haven’t done it well in the past, within the disability community.
Michael Hingson 20:23
Sure, but before we do, can you maybe give us a couple of stories of your own experiences, or what you’ve what you’ve experienced or seen about people who’ve had real accessibility gap problems in your community, and then I’ll tell a couple also, well,
Josh Basile 20:40
so too often, the way that I’ve seen this, experienced it, and just witnessed it from the history lessons of diving deeper into the wall into kind of the past, is that the disability community, as always, or for the most part, in an afterthought, products are rushed to market industries are created. And the disability community is not thought of until years later, when we basically, let’s say, with with build, building a building, like before the ADEA was existed, buildings were built, and you know, if they were built accessible is one thing. If not, you know, later on, they would create a ramp to let somebody in. And probably the best industry right now that you look at it in recent years, is the ride sharing industry, the Ubers, and the lifts of the world, they basically came onto the market, crushed the taxi industry, which had regulations on accessibility, and then basically came into this new ride sharing world and had zero accessible vehicles out there for persons with disabilities. And it made it so hard to, to get picked up if you run a power if you’re in a manual wheelchair, and really almost impossible if you’re in a power wheelchair. And now, as years go on, enough persons in the disability community have spoken loud enough, and enough things have been getting into the media. And now these companies are starting to say, you know, we want to help this customer base now that we’re being forced to. And, you know, we don’t want to force businesses to do the right thing. But at the same time, it’s the way it’s been done over the years. And it’s unfortunate. And as the accessibility gap becomes wider and wider, it’s just, we need to keep the conversation going to let businesses know that they need to do this.
Michael Hingson 22:37
Yeah, that’s a good point. And continuing with the rideshare example. I was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit a few years ago against Uber. Because Uber wasn’t dealing at all with the issue of blind people with guide dogs traveling in Uber vehicles. Drivers would show up, discover it with a blind person with a guide dog and drive off. And we didn’t even know that they were driving off or if we did no, because they said I’m not taking you because you have a dog and I’m not putting any dogs in my car. And they would drive off Uber’s response was even at the beginning of the litigation. Well, we don’t have any responsibility in that because all we’re doing is matching drivers and passengers. So we’re not involved in that, well, yes, they are their contract employees, the Uber drivers, we’re not letting blind people in with guide dogs and the Americans with Disabilities Act specifically addressed that kind of a concept. So what took a lawsuit, and even now with the lawsuit that was finally settled, there are countless cases of drivers with Uber and and some with Lyft as well, that continue to not accept blind people, even though especially with Lyft, there’s been a fair amount of training. I just read a situation last week where a woman after the lawsuit had over eight to 18 or 20 different examples of where Uber drivers would refuse to take her would send the information to Uber didn’t get very many positive results, filed a case it went to arbitration and she got over a million dollars because Uber wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. So there’s still a lot of resistance in the industry saying you’re not going to force us to do something that we don’t want to do. And the reality is that shouldn’t have to be that way because there’s no magic about a blind person and a guy dog that is well behaved going on any or in any Uber vehicle. You know, and that is just as true with the internet and my my example that comes to mind is when target refuse to deal with the internet and making their web site accessible for blind people back in the early 2000s. And it took a lawsuit filed by the National Federation of the Blind, and an $8 million settlement to get target to finally address the issue. It wouldn’t have cost anywhere near that for target just to go off and make the website accessible, but they weren’t going to be forced. And that’s unfortunate, because they were missing up to one out of five persons in the United States or in the world, their worldwide, being able to use the website. And I don’t know whether Target has addressed the issue for all disabilities. And I think that’s a very relevant point for us to deal with. Your website isn’t accessible unless it’s really dealing with all disabilities. It isn’t just being blind, it isn’t just dealing with what a person in a chair a quadriplegic has to deal with, take a person with epilepsy, and they go to your website and start to see a lot of different blinking elements on the site that can invoke seizures, it’s just as pertinent even persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, oftentimes without having good captioning. And without videos being captioned, can be a problem for blind people, those same videos, without audio descriptions of the videos, that can be a problem. There’s a lot to accessibility. And it is something that we all do need to address.
Josh Basile 26:32
Well, it’s the unique functionality that you’re saying, of almost, you know, for each person with a disability, we’re experiencing a website differently based on our unique abilities. I find it amazing that, you know, we have AI solutions now, that can create profiles, based on your functionality where you go to a website, where if you have epilepsy, you can click a button, and it can turn off, you know, gifts and other types of blinking lights. Or if you have a cognitive disability, it can make that information that’s on the page easier to absorb. Or if you have a quadriplegic, you can use keyboard navigation, to be able to get through all the dropdowns and get through all the different parts of the page. And for the blind community. It has so many different integrations with jaws, and screen readers and other things of the sort. The biggest thing that, you know, we have the ability now through technology to have a united front on how we can come together to make websites accessible. Too often, if you look in the history, and just I see it, I live outside Washington, DC. And when I go to Capitol Hill to advocate, it’s always every unique disability group advocating for themselves and having a fight with legislators, please help us. But what too often doesn’t happen is that we have a united front of all disability groups coming together for you know, a mission to make a particular thing accessible. And I think that’s what we need to change with the internet like we are going in the wrong direction when it comes to the widening gap. And the only way to bridge it is if we all come together, persons with disabilities, unique populations of persons with disabilities, persons without disabilities, people that are manual coders, people that are in the artificial intelligence world, the more and more people we come together in the business community, we all unite under a common mission to make the internet more accessible. And we can do beautiful things together if we do that. But the trouble is, how do we get messages like we have in today’s webinar out to the world to start a movement to get people involved to get people to have a call to action. And I hope we’re starting that right now. And I know other people chimed in about this in the past, but we just got to keep having this conversation.
Michael Hingson 28:55
And you know, it is true that people with different disabilities do have in some senses different needs. And there’s relevance in advocating for specific needs. But there are also areas of commonality. And it would be very difficult to imagine that the reality of making the internet accessible for you, is really different than making it accessible. For me. It’s all about access. It’s something that we all should work on together. And we need to get more business owners and more of the companies that are involved in making the internet accessible to work together. There’s not just one way to make the Internet accessible there. There are some who say that there are some who say the only way to do it is you got to code it. You got to do it right. By hand. There are those who say the only way you’re truly going to make it happen is if you start with accessibility right from the outset. Well that’s definitely true. That is, if everything were such that you could not create or publish an internet website and content without ensuring its accessibility because the technology demanded it, then a lot of things would go away and there would be access. But the reality is, that’s not working for us. So the ideal is a wonderful thing. But it is an ideal, and it isn’t something that anyone is going to make happen in the near future. So you do have a lot of different other kinds of alternatives and aspects that need to be addressed. So that the fact is that whether it’s being done through artificial intelligence, or whether it’s being done through manual coding, the goal is the same, the results will be the same. And the deed, certainly that is the need to make websites accessible, is the same. And the reaction, the reality is that should all be a unified front, you know, we’ll see, maybe things like the World Wide Web Consortium will recognize that and that is, of course, where a lot of the standards come from. And I guess it’s relevant that we talk about standards just a little tiny bit. That is to say, there are standards, there are guidelines, well, not so much standards today as guidelines that say this is what you need to do to have a website be accessible. And those generally rely on putting in codes, and in doing the website accessibility remediation through a coding process. But that doesn’t work. Because it’s a one by one kind of a solution. That is you got to do it to each website. Well, now we’re finding that some companies, and I will mention accessiBe is the one that I know, of course, I’m a little bit I won’t say bias, but oriented toward accessiBe because I’ve seen it. But the fact is, artificial intelligence is a solution that will help make websites accessible, it’s doing it. And that makes perfect sense. Because artificial intelligence is all around us in the world, whether we happen to have an echo from Amazon of Google Home, whether we have technologies that that use other ways of interacting with the internet, we have Netflix and other websites that use artificial intelligence to talk about our shopping habits. For heaven’s sakes, Apple just updated their iPhone iOS software, because Apple felt that there were too many websites or companies that were invading the privacy of users and looking at what they do, and using that to customize advertising. That’s AI, right. So it is all around us. But we all could work together. And we all could resolve and solve pretty quickly this accessibility gap, don’t you think?
Josh Basile 32:50
working together is basically everything you said is we have to have many different pieces of the puzzle. In order to do this, we can’t just have one piece of the puzzle and expect the whole picture to come out. But with that being said, I’m a big believer, you know, my my world as a quadriplegic, it was 20 3040 years ago, the difference in my life is has always been technology, technology changes everything, for someone that is paralyzed below the shoulders. And when it comes to the internet, I think we’re getting to a point where, because of artificial intelligence solutions, we now have scalable ways of really attacking the accessibility gap in ways that never existed before. And it’s only gonna get better as we invest more time, resources and energy, like you said, into artificial intelligence, machine learning, all these other components that where we can break down those accessibility barriers, with either just embedding a specific piece of code that ends up going over the website, behind the scenes with computer software, like the manual coding, yes, if you can do it right from the beginning with manual coding, that is an awesome option. But the second that you update that website, you have to go back and make sure that it’s accessible again, because if you don’t have that accessibility element and for updated information, you know, you’re closing the door slowly and slowly on that website when it comes to accessibility.
Michael Hingson 34:21
And that’s part of the the challenge that a lot of businesses have is that the only way to do that if you’re coding is you’ve got to keep someone on retainer. And if we use the last year as an example, the pandemic has made that all the more difficult because the money just isn’t there to do that. But even in a non pandemic time for smaller businesses that that want to create accessibility if you have to keep someone retained. That’s going to significantly eat into your profits. Should you do it. You got to find a way to keep the website accessible but remember part of the justification Is that you’re going to have a lot more potential traffic going to your site. And if you start to tell people, hey, my websites accessible, come and see me. People who come and discover that will, because of that Nielsen study that we talked about earlier, will be brand loyal, I can tell you from personal experience, that’s always going to be the case. And I’ve been in sales and marketing, since, well, literally since 1976. But even before then, I’ve been in sales my entire life, because as a blind person, I’ve had to sell just to convince people to let me take my diet guide dog somewhere, long before the ADEA, I’ve had to sell in so many ways, all of us have Josh, you’ve had to sell to convince people and as a lawyer, you’re always selling. And I don’t mean that in a negative way you are arguing a case is a sales presentation in a broad sense.
Josh Basile 35:53
For me, it’s always advocacy, ever since my injury. So when I was first injured, I was on a ventilator for five weeks, and wasn’t able to speak a word, I was only able to blink with my eyes to communicate with my family. And ever since that day that I got my voice back. I promised myself I would never be silenced again. So I’ve exercised my vocal muscles, my my vocal, my advocacy with my mind to make sure that every word counts. And so much of what we’re doing right now is figuring out how can we advocate for a more accessible internet. And we, because we live it, because we speak disability, we understand what we need to do to make this possible. And we need to do it together, we need to have actual solutions that are scalable, and we need to attack the 315 million websites that exist right now to make them accessible is not going to be an easy feat. But the if we don’t do something about it, it’s just going to get wider and wider. And that scares me.
Michael Hingson 36:56
And it’s 350 million, by the way and growing. And that’s of course, the issue. I am on some email lists, I’ve got a cut down on the number of unsolicited emails I get. But I’m seeing a number that talk about how Amazon is changing the way it operates. And so join this webinar to learn how you can set up a sales system with Amazon and sell products on Amazon, even if you don’t have your own or how you can set up a system to do this or that or whatever. All of those are websites. And all of those websites come without any specific process of making them accessible. So Shopify is a major marketing system that’s out there, and you can get a website set up on Shopify, but the basic Shopify system doesn’t, in of itself, create real accessibility, a website might be usable, because the words are there, although we may or may not be able to see the pictures. One of the interesting things about Shopify, having looked at it from the the viewpoint of accessibility is that there is someone who has put something up that says that if you have a Shopify website, here’s how you can put accessibility on it. Whether it’s accessiBe, or something else, the bottom line is, we mostly aren’t paying attention to it still. And that’s the gap and it’s going to continue to grow.
Josh Basile 38:27
Well, I think that this year alone with the pandemic, just shows how much we we rely on the internet to access the world. We’ve all been stuck in our homes for so long. Can you imagine, you go to persons with disabilities, let’s say you know, everybody that’s that doesn’t have a disability. And you gave them the problems that we faced with internet accessibility. There would be outrage, people would not people would be so mad that they couldn’t access the world. And the fact is that, you know, we’ve had to live this year with a lot of this and accessibility and it’s getting wider. It’s I think the pandemic is one of those moments in time that it’s going to push persons with disabilities to realize that if we don’t do something now, we’re gonna I want to say too late, because I think as technology advances, more and more breakthroughs can happen. But we this is the time to do something about it.
Michael Hingson 39:24
Research In Motion was the company that invented the Blackberry, and I know how familiar you are with the Blackberry. But there was one night when their servers dropped. And people went 12 hours without being able to use their blackberries. And I heard and read reports about how people panicked they couldn’t get anything done. And it was a night by the way here in the US. Some people committed suicide over it. A lot of people were very stressed because their access to the world as they viewed it was gone. and it can happen in so many ways. For us, the access is gone a lot most of the time. And what we’re saying is, let us be part of the solution. Let us be invited to the party, and let us have access. We want to help you make it happen. We’re not trying to abuse anyone. But no one should resist the concept of trying to bridge the gap.
Josh Basile 40:31
Absolutely. And so right now, we were about 45 minutes, and I was just looking at, and I would love for our participants, the people at our party, our webinar party to ask any questions, so we can keep these conversations going. So please go to the chat. And let us know your questions. And we can
So guys, we already have a few questions. We can definitely attend.
Michael Hingson 40:54
Let me just before you start, we started about three minutes late. So we’ll go until well, I’m on the West Coast, and Josh is on the east coast. So we’ll go to 103 or 403. Or we’re Gil is it’s later than that. Go ahead, Gil.
Yeah, it will start and thank you.
Michael Hingson 41:11
Thank you for being here. Gillen, for staying awake for us. For sure. For
sure. As Michael, it’s my pleasure. So we’ll start and say that because there were a few people were asking if we’re gonna publish this or oracare archive these recording. So we’ll definitely be using social assets. Yeah. So the first question we got from the audience, is there a cookbook that define the necessary accessible elements for a variety of cryptic, categorial disabilities?
Michael Hingson 41:42
There is, and Josh can add to it. But again, the World Wide Web Consortium has created guidelines and things that it says needs to be involved in an accessible website. I want to, though say that those standards don’t guarantee accessibility. That is to say accessibility goes beyond whatever guidelines that are created to talk about how to code a website, how artificial intelligence can make a website accessible. The fact is a website is accessible if ultimately, it is fully functional and usable. And so one of the examples I would give is, I have a website and I think I gave this example last time, but it’s worth repeating. My website was updated earlier, well, late last year now, actually, in August or September. And when it was updated, it was done by a person who I discovered didn’t really have a lot of expertise in accessibility. But he updated it and there were images on the website. There were other things on the website. And one of the specifics on the website was pictures of me and my guide, dog, Roselle, who you can for those of you who can see it, Roselle is behind me over my right shoulder. Roselle and I were in the World Trade Center on September 11. And we escaped I was the Mid Atlantic region’s sales manager at the time for a company and artificial intelligence when we brought accessiBe onboard. Artificial Intelligence interpreted that image as man in black suit hugging yellow Labrador retriever, which is correct. That’s exactly right. But that’s not really saying what that image is showing that I would want people to know, what I want people to know is Michael Hanson, hugging Roselle. And, you know, the process will continue to improve. But the standards would have said, if the all tags were put in the image was described, even though it’s not what I would want it to be. So there are standards and Josh, if you want to talk about that, but I’m just saying it does go beyond the standard as well.
Josh Basile 44:00
So I think you answered that very well, Michael.
Great. So Michael, we talked about you took you talked about the person who will create your website and this, this is a great, so we’re for the next question. Who do you think should be responsible of the accessibility of the website? Is it the website owner or the person or the agencies that creating the website? And how can you? How can you know if your website is accessible or not?
Josh Basile 44:29
In my opinion, I firmly believe we all need to be accountable. If you’re a website owner, if you run an organization, if you run a business, you need to understand all of your consumers and you need to serve all of your consumers. So just because so at any given moment, you’re always thinking about all these different demographics that you’re serving. And if you end up forgetting one of those demographics, you’re losing out and and I think the response to ability has to be on those that can be held accountable with the decision makers. And you know, as a decision maker, you need to take the extra time to dive deeper into making sure that your business is reaching the max number of people. And so that’s my opinion to that go.
Michael Hingson 45:20
Yeah, I think, ultimately speaking, if you’re going to do and ultimately speaking, it would be the website owner, that is they’re responsible for their website. And they should be obligated to make sure that their website is accessible. So I think in one sense, they’re responsible. But I am also with Josh, we’re all part of the solution. So when we discover websites, we should contact the owner. And I’m going to comment on that statement in just a second. But we should contact the owner and say, you know, your website is not accessible. The reality is a lot of us who have disabilities who are in the disabled community of persons with disabilities, we know enough to suggest places to go or what you need to do, we can introduce website owners, and I think that they should be responsible for, for making the website accessible, but we can help with that.
Josh Basile 46:23
A good point there, Michael, it’s, you know, it’s not just the accountability of the website owner, but us as a community to have that conversation to let them know when it’s not, because it’s just not I was on a friend’s website the other day, and I saw a few broken videos, you know, until he or she knew that those videos were broken, it was gonna go undiscovered control, that owner stumbled upon it themselves. So I think having that discussion about accessibility, you know, brings accessibility to light, and people start making it a point to do it.
Michael Hingson 46:56
I absolutely agree. And I think that the companies that are involved in website access, need to and making websites accessible, need to be part of the solution, in a general way, and certainly, different companies are going to promote their products. But I think they should also provide people with just general conceptual articles, general conversations, discussions about accessibility. And, yes, we all promote our own products. But you know, there are a lot of colleges and universities in the United States, for example, and in most countries, and we compete for students, in our colleges and universities. But what we don’t see is by and large colleges and universities saying, Well, anybody that goes to this kind of school is really going to a scumbag organization. Maybe they do it, and I haven’t seen it. But the reality is that colleges and universities promote their programs, but they generally tend to do it in a positive way. And they don’t deny the fact that if somebody goes to another school unless it truly demonstrates that it’s not a good school for all sorts of reasons that we don’t need to go into here. But unless they demonstrate that, then the fact is, we all need a college education. And the first thing colleges and universities will tell you is you need a college education, which is of course what they’re promoting. And they’ll say even if you don’t go to to Harvard, but you go to the University of Southern California, that’s good school. And so sorry, we didn’t get you. We think that we’re better but you went there, you’re still getting a college education. And that’s important.
Moving forward to the thank you so much for that. Moving forward to the next question. Can you provide some examples of website in the 2%? weren’t doing this? Well?
Michael Hingson 48:56
Gil, or Josh, do you want to or?
Josh Basile 48:59
I think, yeah, I’d like to see how Okay,
Michael Hingson 49:02
okay. I’m going to just send people to the access of the website because there are a list of sites that they use, or that they have remediated, and you can go there and see them. I’ll name a few Oreo calm, which is the company that makes Oreos Energizer the battery company. I learned last week that the Los Angeles Lakers store Lakers store.com is accessible. You can go to any of the consumer organizations like the National Federation of the Blind. They have they have not used accessiBe but they have made their website accessible to a good degree, although there’s more work that can be done to do that. There are a number of sites that are out there. By the way, if you want to know and I think you’ve asked this skill if you want to know if a website’s accessible. You can go to accessiBe.com www.accessibe.com, where you will also see something mentioned called A C E. ACE is a free website audit tool, and there are a number of them out there. But ACE is a free website audit tool that you can use in will ask you to type in a web site name. And then it will audit that site and tell you based on the World Wide Web Consortium guidelines, the web Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and so on, it will tell you how accessible that site is. And so that’s another place to go to look at whether a website is accessible or not. But ultimately speaking, what you can do is to go visit a website and see how usable it is. And how usable it is needs to include. If you’re blind, for example, the things that you don’t see, and they and even though you don’t know about them, that’s where programs like Ace can help. And you can learn about them. There are so many examples of people who thought their websites were accessible and didn’t do anything. But as I said, they don’t do menus, they don’t do image descriptions. And they don’t do other things that give us the information that we need to have.
Josh Basile 51:18
With that in mind. It’s a question from James that the vast majority of 350 million websites are small businesses or smaller, what tools can those small businesses and nonprofits use and survive the costs? So I know, first of all, you know what I’m going to say. The small business purposes, yeah, accessiBe provides the services at a much much lower rate than manual coding. thing I love about the nonprofit of that is that accessiBe, as we said that they are going to provide the accessory services 100% free for nonprofits. So for like my nonprofit, I was able to get it up and running for free, and which I’m now loving so much. So all in all profits, it’s just sharing that with your communities that this exists for them is an incredible, I’m making it accessible.
Michael Hingson 52:10
I’m on the board of a nonprofit that added accessiBe independent of me to their website about a month ago, accessiBe has also said that if anyone knows, or is involved with a COVID-19 site, especially vaccination websites, and so on, that accessiBe will provide its product free of charge to any COVID-19 site. And Kaiser Health News, or Kaiser Health Net, did a survey a couple of months ago, they surveyed 94 websites that were related to COVID 10 of them had some amount of accessibility and the other 84 did not. That’s not what should be going on. Especially when among other things, government agencies are supposed to know about the stuff.
Josh Basile 53:01
That’s it’s really scary that during COVID That you’re not allowing or making sure that your website is accessible before you make it go live. That just is such a disservice to to persons that are the most vulnerable to COVID. And that, you know, it’s in my eyes it is it’s life or death. And if you don’t have the ability to get that vaccine, or delay that vaccine, that it’s so terrifying.
Michael Hingson 53:29
How do you think COVID is affected accessibility, especially with the rise of CFS? S and E long COVID, resulting in more disabled people?
Michael Hingson 53:45
Well, I think that answer is part of it. If as more people become persons with disabilities in one way or the other because of COVID, they may, depending on what has happened to them need to have website access that they don’t have today. We have seen some companies respond really well. Zoom, for example. I don’t know when it first started. But when zoom became very popular, it became visible that Zoom actually has an access team and whenever something is reported to the team that is not accessible with Zoom, they jump right on it. And I’ve seen fixes to accessibility issues within a matter of years, even just a few days. That one came up last week. Were regarding a keyboard command to to start a meeting. And it’s been fixed. It was an access issue. There was a button there was a key command to to utilize that became broken. It’s now been fixed. So they’ve been great at responding. I don’t know of any other companies that have put that level of commitment into the process. But it is something that, that all companies should do, especially large companies, for small companies. If you rely on accessiBe, for example, reporting to accessiBe helps, because accessiBe will address it or let you know that it’s not an accessibility issue or what they can and can’t do and so on. And I think it’s all about response. So the companies that are going to succeed are the ones that are truly responding, ultimately to the consumers. And I think we have maybe just about, well, three minutes. So do we have another question?
Yeah, just one more for symbolic way to sum up this webinar. So you mentioned at the beginning of the webinar, that there are 250 million websites out there and only 2% of them are accessible. So how optimistic are you that is that there is a true chance to close the gap.
Michael Hingson 56:07
There absolutely is a true chance to close the gap, by the way that 350 million is in the US alone, I think the estimate is something like 1.5 billion worldwide, and it continues to grow. And I want Josh to answer as well. But absolutely, there are ways and there is a chance to bridge the gap x SMB says that they want to work toward getting the internet completely accessible by 2025. Great goal. And I believe that the commitment of the company is genuinely to make that happen. I know that there are many other people not related to accessiBe who also want to make the Internet accessible. And the fact that there are people who want to do it, in and of itself means there’s a chance. So we just need to find ways to work together and collectively make our voice a much stronger voice.
Josh Basile 57:02
Just investing energy and time into scalable solutions. And the reason why I emphasize scalable is because the gap is so darn large. If you go in and expect to bridge that gap just manually, we don’t have enough skilled people that know how to do this. And the ones that can do it are incredible at what they do. But there’s just not enough of them. There’s not a big enough army. But from a scalable solution with technology. Having the software be near your army just makes it that much easier to bridge that gap. So I’m really investing my heart energy and time and an ability to advocate for continuing to strengthen the AI solutions that we have. And they will get better and better. As time goes on, which excites me so much.
Michael Hingson 57:55
Josh, I want to thank you very much for being part of our discussion today on the accessibility gap, bridging the gap and different disabilities. Same goal because I think we’ve demonstrated as vividly as we can, it is the same goal, and that we all can work together. To find a solution. We just need to have the commitment and the drive to do it. We will be holding more of these webinars and we will make sure everyone is aware of it. If you have more questions or want to communicate, you’re welcome to email me I’m easy to reach it’s Michaelhi@accessiBe.com M I C H A E L H I at accessibe.com You can also go to my website and reach me through that Michael Hingson.com or you can go to web to accessiBe and send emails through the contact process there and they’ll reach we do want to hear from you. So I want to thank you all for being here and helping us Bridge the Accessibility Gap.
Michael Hingson 59:07
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.