Episode 120 – Unstoppable Award-Winning Accessibility Consultant with Linda Hunt
Linda Hunt did not start out knowing about or in any way dealing with disabilities or accessibility. She grew up primarily in Canada. While getting her college degree she began a 15-year career with the Superior Court in her town. Along the way she married a man who worked for a screening company that silkscreened t-shirts and other products.
Eventually, Linda’s husband started his own screening company and after 15 years Linda began doing work for the new company. In 1999, because Linda began feeling tingling in her extremities, she consulted a physician and was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. As it turned out, after ten years she became one of the 50% whose disease progressed until Linda began using a wheelchair. Of course, Linda then became much more interested in the whole concept of accessibility and she began doing more work with organizations and companies in the field.
I asked her about how she remained so positive and how she was able to deal with the unexpected changes in her life. Her answer will show you why I regard her and her actions as unstoppable. Linda’s story will show you that no matter what befalls us we can move forward.
About the Guest:
Linda Hunt Is an Award-Winning Accessibility Consultant, Speaker, Podcaster and Author.
She is the CEO of Accessibility Solutions an accessibility consulting firm that aids businesses and organizations to remedy barriers for people with disabilities. Their mission is Making the World Accessible.
Linda is the Treasurer of Citizens with Disabilities – Ontario.
A member of The Rick Hansen Foundation – Accessibility Professional Network.
A Certified Community Champion on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and it’s Optional Protocol.
Linda was elected to Brantford City Council in 2022. She is the first person with a physical disability to be elected as a Brantford City Councillor.
Linda first became a person with a disability in 2004 since then she has become an advocate for all things related to accessibility.
Linda has more than 30 years of experience in senior management roles in the public, private and not-for profit sectors.
Based in Brantford, ON Linda and her husband Greg have operated their own business Grelin Apparel Graphics for over 30 years.
Free Gift– 1:1 meeting with Linda https://calendly.com/accessibilitysolutions/meeting-with-linda-hunt
Accessibility Solutions – Social media links
Accessibility Solutions – Podcast site
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 01:29
Today we have Linda Hunt as our guest, Linda is an award winning accessibility consultant. She’s a podcaster. She’s an author, and she now is a politician. She’s a member of a city council. We’re going to have to learn more about that. And she also happens to be a person with a physical disability. So we have lots that we can talk about. And we hope that this will inspire and educate. And I’m certainly looking forward to it. I hope all of you are as well. So Linda, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Linda Hunt 02:00
Oh, thank you, Michael. And thank you so much for having me.
Michael Hingson 02:03
Well, it’s really a pleasure. Let’s start, as I love to do tell me a little bit about you growing up and just where you came from, and kind of what got you to what you do as an adult?
Linda Hunt 02:16
Yes. So I’m, I’m a Scottish loss. Actually. I was born in Scotland and I emigrated to Canada when I was about two with my parents. And they came to Canada with me as a two year old had two other children. And then my, my mum was homesick. So we moved back to Scotland and I actually started school here. I started kindergarten here. But when I went back to Scotland, I went to school for a few years and came back when I was in grade three. So I’ve I’ve been here ever since I was about eight years old. And as far as you know, growing up, did the traditional school, I graduated high school in the depression of the early 80s. And my parents couldn’t afford to send me to post secondary education. So I got a job. Well, I had a job in high school that became a full time job. And and then I started working actually for superior court when I was only 19 years old. So following that, I decided to pursue post secondary education. So I have a degree in business administration, which took me 10 years to get before the days of online learning. I had to commute almost an hour each way to actually attend university. So that’s, you know, that’s kind of what got me as far as my post secondary education. I have two children, they are grown. They’re 25 and 30. Now and wow, that was a that was a forget my own birthdays. My son turning 30 was was a milestone for me, which was just at the end of November. But so and professionally, I mentioned I spent 15 years working in superior court. My husband and I had opened our own business in 1990, which we’ve had for just coming up on 33 years. I myself spent a significant amount of time working as a business consultant for the federal government, and then went on to be executive director of a national health charity here in Canada until 2009 When I gave up what I called the commute down the highway for the commute down my office or sorry, down the hallway to my office. which is how I ended up starting accessibility solutions, which is an accessibility consulting firm that AIDS businesses and organizations to remedy barriers for persons with disabilities. So that kind of got me to where I am now, from a professional perspective, you’ve mentioned that I have a physical disability, and yes, I do, I am in a power wheelchair. I was diagnosed in 1999, with multiple sclerosis. For the first five years, I could still jog and high heels. And then we eventually started to see some disability progression. To the point between early 2006 and late 2007, I went from one cane to two canes to a walker to a scooter to a wheelchair in the span of about 18 months. So adapting, adapting adapting to disability progression as we moved along. So that’s my history in a nutshell, as we will say,
Michael Hingson 06:07
Well, I like the idea of going down the hall to the office. And so do I very much enjoy it, I think it’s a great thing, I think there’s a lot of value in being able to work at home, as long as you are able to do it and keep up with what it is that you need to do. It’s it takes a lot of discipline to work at home and some cases, more than even working in an office of the when you’re in an office, there’s a lot of gossip and talking and interaction that takes place and some of that’s valuable. But working at home is a lot more of a discipline. And it it has its own challenges.
Linda Hunt 06:46
It does. I know when I first started working from home I that was in as I said in 2009, which I mean, since the pandemic remote working is become a norm for a lot of people. But in 2009, a lot of people thought if you worked from home, what did that mean? You you went on your computer, and then you went and watched, you know, TV or did something along those lines. But I did miss the as you said the watercooler the gossip, I miss the interacting with other adults. And so I’ve really embraced, especially since the pandemic zoom, and being able to connect with people like yourself, who we would never be able to connect in person just because of geography. But it’s certainly become the norm for a lot of people to be working from home. And you’re right. I do tend to take a little bit of a break around 430. But I quite often am back in my office at about six o’clock till maybe eight o’clock. So one of the things that I find about working from home is is almost like you live at work, because for me the temptation to go into your office and maybe do something or catch up on something that you didn’t finish earlier in the day is just right there.
Michael Hingson 08:21
And that can be a good thing. And it could also be a thing that you have to watch, of course, but I’ve in my career had several jobs where I have done a lot of things remotely as it were. I remember starting out working well my first job was actually involved with a device called the Kurzweil Reading Machine for the blind. And literally, I traveled all over the country for 18 months, where we in the National Federation of the Blind place machines in various places. So right from the outset, I did everything kind of remotely. So I would interact with people where we put machines, but the other people within the organization, and within the process of my job responsibilities within the organization was all remote. So I got used to that. And then I went to work for Kerswell in an office. And that was great until I was asked to relocate to California to help Kerswell integrate with Xerox on the West Coast. And there I was, again in a situation where pretty much for three years my office was really an room in my home. So I got used to that pretty early. But I do like both settings. I think there’s value for both. So I’m I’m glad that you’re you’re able to succeed at doing it. You seem to be pretty comfortable working down the hall as it were.
Linda Hunt 09:55
Yes. Yes, I really I really am and it and I do a lot of work with companies around inclusive hiring and it makes a big difference from an inclusive hiring perspective. To have to have your workforce be able to work remotely.
Michael Hingson 10:17
Yeah. So when you worked for the Superior Court, what did you do?
Linda Hunt 10:22
I was a, I started out as the Deputy Clerk of small claims court, which is basically, I think at the time when I first started, it was small claims under $1,000. And I think it went to $3,000. In today’s, you know, realm, it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000. But it was basically civil litigation. So I was a court services, representatives. So basically, in a, in an environment where no one was happy to be there. But the other thing that Superior Court in Ontario, Canada, at least does is trials that get basically bumped from Provincial Court. So things like murders and that kind of thing. So Superior Court. While we do a lot of civil litigation, there, also has a very high end criminal components. So I would do a lot of the work around juries. And basically, it’s paperwork that has anything to do with the court system, or anything to do with law or legal work has, has lots and lots and lots of paperwork.
Michael Hingson 11:48
I have too busy.
Linda Hunt 11:50
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, I, as I said, I started there when I was 19. I mean, I left. When I left there, my daughter was only two. So you know, I really grew up in that role. And as I said, the that was the timeframe that I was also commuting to get my degree. So when my you know, I would be working, you know, nine to five at the courthouse and then leaving to drive to university for a lecture two nights a week. So yeah, it certainly kept me busy back then.
Michael Hingson 12:30
What made you decide to leave that and start your own business?
Linda Hunt 12:34
Well, my so my husband was the production manager for a screen printing company for 12 years. And it was the decision to start our business was more a result of his business expertise. And he was working in a family business, he was fairly young. He wasn’t quite 30 yet, but he was working in a family business where at the age of 30, he realized that he was never going to go any higher than he was because it was all family members above. So we talked about it and, and then we had a good friend of ours that worked for a company that was looking for a new screen printer, so it was kind of a it was good timing. It was you know, maybe I can do this. And then almost like a ready made customer base, if you want to call it that. That presented the opportunity. So we did so we decided that he would start that now keeping in mind at the time I worked at Superior Court, so I always had the backup full time job will say so it wasn’t it wasn’t the total leap of faith. I mean, I had the job with the benefits and but anyway, we did our business has been very, very successful. So other than when I left Superior Court and my daughter, as I said was, well she wasn’t quite too. There was a maybe a five year span in there that I worked full time in the business but at that point, we had two locations. 16 employees and things were you know, very, very busy. And then I decided to when when my daughter went to school is when I decided to to go and work elsewhere, which is when I went to as I said I went to work for the federal government as a business consultant.
Michael Hingson 15:00
So, now when you talk about the business being a screen printer, what exactly is that? Well,
Linda Hunt 15:05
if you can imagine you’ve probably got a t shirt with a logo on the front of it. Ah, that would have been printed in a screen printing facility. Got it?
Michael Hingson 15:14
Okay. Yeah. So then you went to work for the federal government? What did you do for them,
Linda Hunt 15:21
I was a business consultant, I ran a program called the self employment benefits program. And I basically took people that wanted to be entrepreneurs, all the way through the business planning, market research, marketing plan, getting their business started, and then mentored them through their first year of business. And I can pleased to say in the, in the, my, probably about the four years that I did that I probably had a hand in launching 200 to 230 small businesses. And I found that I found that very rewarding. So that was really for me, it was, first of all, my experience of starting my own business, or, in my case, my, the business that my husband was, was running full time. But it was also my, my education. So I have a degree in business administration. So but but really, that that lived experience of being that entrepreneur that had to write the business plan, and, you know, go through all of the steps of becoming a business. And I’m pleased to say, I did that in the early 2000. And there I know, because I’ve used them, I know of quite a few of the businesses that I helped launch during that timeframe that they’re still in business today. And we’re talking 15 to 20 years later. So I like to think that I had a hand in giving them a great start.
Michael Hingson 17:12
So how long did you do that?
Linda Hunt 17:15
I did that for four years in the early 2000s. And at the time, I was sitting on the provincial board of directors for, as I said that the national health charity that I that so what ended up happening is that they approached me because they were recruiting for an executive director. So I have a degree in business administration basically was sitting on the provincial board of directors and had the was given the opportunity then at that point to be considered for the executive director position. So I was successful, applied and was the successful candidate and left that left that position with the federal government to go and work as executive director for for that, that organization, which anybody that’s worked in the not for profit world knows that that executive director level, it’s a lot like running a business. So you’ve got customers or clients to keep happy and you’ve got funders to to keep happy and you’ve got payroll to make and marketing to do and you know, all of that kind of stuff. So it is a lot like running the business.
Michael Hingson 18:35
So you did that until when,
Linda Hunt 18:39
until 2009 which is as I said when I gave up the commute down the highway to the commute down the hallway. And so in 2009 was when I saw I started accessibility solutions in 2010 2009 was a tough year. Health wise. We had my dad my father died and then my father in law died a month apart. And we had health wise I was I was struggling so 2009 was a tough, tough year.
Michael Hingson 19:21
Now were you in a chair by that time.
Linda Hunt 19:25
In 2009, I was still shuffling in the house with a walker Okay, or what I call a furniture surfing. So shuffling for one piece of furniture to another but no couldn’t couldn’t walk independently at that time. At that time I was using a wheelchair outside so I would leave the house get in my wheelchair leave the house go down the ramp and the garage get into my 2009 was when I bought my wheelchair accessible man so I still to this They drive from a wheelchair accessible van that has a side ramp. But yes, so I was still living we were still living in, you know the two story, four bedroom house at that point we installed. So we talked about adapt, adapt, adapt, right. So you adapt to your circumstances can’t do that anymore. So what do I need to do so that we can do that so that at some point in 2006, I believe I decided that I could no longer climb this flight of 13 stairs to go from the main level of our house all the way up to the bedrooms. So we installed a stair lift at that point. So when I say I was shuffling with a walker, I was shuffling with a walker on the main level, and then I’d get on the stair lift and go upstairs and shuffle with another Walker. Around the the upstairs the bedroom, my office was upstairs at that time. We Yeah, so in 2010, was when I started accessibility solutions, which at the time was primarily related to compliance with the EO da, which is provincial legislation, somewhat similar to your ADA in the United States. So we were helping businesses comply with new legislation that was that was coming on stream for businesses in Ontario. And while we still do that, we you know, we’ve we’ve really grown into quite a few other areas of helping businesses embrace the will say, embrace the culture of, of inclusion and realize that persons with disabilities are is really a market that no business can afford to ignore. And so we have a series of webinars now that we run called Accessibility is good for business. We have some partners with the local Chamber of Commerce and you know, that kind of things. So that’s that’s really my my passion now is I’m I’m a very strong advocate for accessibility. In no kind of every, every aspect of, of life, I guess is, you know, well,
Michael Hingson 22:36
tell me tell me more about your your concepts of accessibility or inclusion really ought to be part of the cost of doing business?
Linda Hunt 22:46
Well, it’s it well, we actually frame it as that accessibility is good for business. So you can enhance your bottom line by being accessible. Why? Well, 22% of the population has a disability. So and then we talk about the sphere of influence of those people. So I, I’m in a wheelchair, so I’m one of the 22%. But if we’re going out for dinner, or we’re going shopping, then that sphere of influence might be me and a couple of girlfriends or in the case of my family, my husband’s family is fairly large. So I think our Christmas dinner was 34 people. So when we set out to decide where we’re going to go for dinner for 34 people, the number one concern is is that business accessible, because if it’s not accessible, me and the 33 other people in my husband’s family are not going there for dinner. So that’s, that’s real dollars. Right? That’s, that’s, you know, that’s, like I said, that’s real dollars and cents. But the other, the other thing that we that we really talk about is the fact that 22% of the population has a disability, but that percentage over the age of 65 is obviously 40% of the population. So everybody, whether you’re in Canada or United States is well aware of what we call the silver tsunami. And and as the population ages there are more and more people that have a disability and if you’re not accessible, and then you’re then you’re you’re you know those people are not coming to your business or in the you know, they’re not coming to your website if it’s not accessible to someone like yourself that is blind or For us, as vision loss, we the other thing that that we do a lot of work around right now is inclusive hiring strategies because the world is short staffed, and the most underutilized labor market out there are people with disabilities who want to work, but need need to work in organizations that have embraced a culture of inclusion. And so out of necessity, believe it or not, a lot of businesses are recognizing the fact that accessibility and inclusion needs to be part of their business strategy.
Michael Hingson 25:49
So one of the conundrums I think, that we face, although we don’t necessarily talk about it, is that while we have a significant number of people who happen to have a disability, you said, 22%, I’ve actually heard higher numbers doesn’t matter, though. The problem is, we have a lot of different disabilities. And so yes, you have issues where you can’t gain access to buildings, and I may have issues where we can’t access the menu at a restaurant or read material, but they’re different. How do we get people within the minority to work together? Or do they?
Linda Hunt 26:36
Well, I think they do. Recognizing, and, you know, when we talk about universal accessibility, we’re talking accessible for everyone. So not just a person with the physical disability, or as you said, not someone that’s able to, to read, read a menu, or hear the waitress, for example, you know, giving you the specials of the evening at, at a restaurant, it’s, it’s really all about how, how a business can accommodate different types of disabilities, and how they, how they can do it, but the culture, that culture of inclusion really starts at the top. So that there has to be a will, for them to want to be able to be inclusive to people of all disability, you know, of all types of disabilities. So, you know, I always start with the, you know, how can I help? It’s as simple as that, how can I help? What do you need, and, and then we, and then we go from there, but we, you know, I work with a lot of businesses that that are, they’re just, they don’t know what they don’t know, right. And so, a lot of times what we think are, you know, fairly simple fixes, until there, if you, if you don’t have a disability, or until somebody points something out to you, then then you’re not even aware. So that awareness for one is definitely, you know, just being aware that you need to be accessible, or you want your business to be accessible. But then also being able to recognize that in order to be inclusive for everyone, that there are different ways that you that you need to make your business successful.
Michael Hingson 28:59
Well, I, I like what you say about it is good for doing business. But I also do think that we need to have more of a discussion about the reality that accessibility and inclusion issue is and should be part of the cost of doing business as well, because we do so many things in business. We do so many things for one group or another, or for most employees, for example, we have lights so that people can see where they’re going, and so on. Although some of us don’t need it. We have coffee machines to make employees happy and so on. And we regard that typically in a business environment as part of the cost of doing business. But if and we hit when we provide computer monitors, but if somebody comes along and says I need a screen reader to hear what’s on the screen. First of all, they may not even get hired because oh that’s we don’t have budgets for that rather than in reality. It’s no different than needing a computer monitor, or it is an issue of what’s your priority. And so we at some point have to decide that inclusion really is part of the cost of doing business. And that’s a good thing.
Linda Hunt 30:19
Yeah, I agree. And that, I mean, a lot of times I feel like I’m preaching to the converted, right? Because once once they’ve decided to seek out the services of an accessibility consulting firm, and I’m sure you deal with this, as well, that, you know, once they’ve decided that they’re going to make their website accessible, and they’ve come to, to see or talk to you about, about your services. You know, they’ve made that conscious decision that they want to build accessibility and inclusion into their business, which is great. There are though, at least in the province of Ontario, Canada, where we are, there are laws that require businesses to be accessible. And unfortunately, that legislation is probably one of the most non compliant pieces of legislation out there. Because it’s what I call the carrot and the stick, right, like people, first of all, they don’t know, I’ve had so many businesses say to me, why don’t think that legislation applies to me? And I say, well, actually, it applies to every business in the province of Ontario that has at least one employee. Or they’ll say, Well, we don’t have customers, well, that doesn’t really matter. I mean, you’re Purolator delivery guy could have a hearing impairment, and that qualifies as, or your website’s not accessible, or, you know, whatever, whatever it is. So it’s not about the legislation was, was actually passed in 2005, to make the province of Ontario fully accessible by 2025. Well, we’ve got under two years to go. And we are nowhere near where where we were supposed to be. And a lot of that you’re right has to do with businesses who don’t realize that building in accessibility and inclusion is is the cost of doing business.
Michael Hingson 32:34
How do we get speaking of the whole issue in Canada? How do we get that to be more of a national initiative? Why is it a provincial one? I know that I’ve had discussions with people in various provinces about guide dog access, and some provinces do better at that than others. But why is it that we are not able to get this to be more of a national movement?
Linda Hunt 33:00
Yeah, we, we just in 2019, actually passed the accessible Canada Act. Unfortunately, though, the accessible Canada Act, which was, which was also a very welcomed piece of legislation, but it’s only it only regulates federally regulated industries, such as banking for airline trance, transportation, or, you know, those kinds of federally regulated industries. So they’re provincially regulated industries. And I’m lucky that we’re in Ontario, because we were actually the first that that brought out legislation, and ours is called the Accessibility for Ontarians. With Disabilities Act, which is initially was comprised of five standards. We have two other ones that are working their way through being being adopted now, but the, you know, to answer your question, how do we, you know, I sit on, I sit on the board of citizens with disabilities, Ontario, we do a lot of work around advocating for, first of all, just compliance with the legislation that we do have in the province of Ontario. But then, yeah, you cross the border, and you go into another province, and in some cases, there are some provinces in Canada that don’t have accessibility legislation. Yeah. But then there’s then there’s the whole question is why do we need legislation like for those of us in that who work in the disability space? It should just be you know, Nobody should be allowed to put up barriers. I mean, you know, you’ve got our on our disability legislation is actually companion legislation with the Ontario Human Rights Code. So the complaint mechanism is is kind of tied with being able to file an Ontario Human Rights Complaint. If someone’s not complying with, with the legislation, so you know, which is, which is a long drawn out process for something that should just never happen. And that’s where we get into disability rights. And you know, people have a right to, to housing, they have a right to, you know, the same services that are available to, to persons who don’t have the same disability as them, you know, that that type of thing. But you know, that, you know, I think you and I are probably going to be long gone for this work from this world before. Everybody gets on the same page and realizes that accessibility and inclusion should just be built into everything from the start. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 36:18
It certainly would be less expensive, if it were, which is I know, something that you think about that you talk about building inaccessibility, as opposed to having to deal with a later and certainly
Linda Hunt 36:32
why one of my comments, or one of my quotes that I its accessibility is cheaper to build it in than it is to bolt it on.
Michael Hingson 36:42
Well, absolutely. And it is an issue where, if you, for example, especially for physical disabilities, where mobility is involved, if you have to modify a building or a structure after the fact, it’s extremely expensive, and my wife, what I and I built houses to avoid a lot of those costs. So our most expensive home from a standpoint of adding an accessibility that is to a home we built was when we moved to New Jersey, we had to spend an additional $15,000 to put an elevator in because all the homes in the area where two story homes. But even that became a selling point when we sold the house and moved back to California. But in reality, like the home we’re in now that I’m in now, my wife actually passed away in November. So we were going to be married for two years on the 27th of November, we missed it by 15 days. But when we built this, when we built this house up, there were no real extra costs because of the fact that you design it in. And that’s in general, true. I work for excessive be a company that makes products that help make websites more accessible. And accessible, I will tell you that if people would design in the inclusion to make websites accessible from the outset, if the basic manufacturers of those tools would design in accessibility and inclusion, it would be less expensive. But that isn’t the way we work today. And so we do have to have solutions that work like accessibility to make sure that websites are usable, and include all people.
Linda Hunt 38:39
Exactly. And I and you know, I’m totally in agreement with you in terms of housing. I mean, we’ve I’ve done some work with the accessible housing network here in Ontario. And there is a there’s a there’s a true crisis in accessible housing. And then while there’s a crisis in affordable housing, yeah, the crisis and accessible affordable housing is just you know, that’s, that’s a whole other whole other thing. And the thing is that the accessible housing network will tell you the exact same thing that you just referred to as building a single family home is that it doesn’t cost any more to build it with 36 inch doors and you know, whatever accessibility features you need at the outset, well, it’s the same if you’re building an apartment building. It doesn’t cost any more when you’re building an apartment building to build it with 36 inch doors and you know, those types of accessibility features. But what people always seem to think accessibility is is like a little add on or something we have to do and that’s something that needs to change. So I’ve just been elected to municipal council, but I’m one of the ones that will push that challenge as to We’re building a 45 unit, affordable housing complex and four of the units are going to be barrier free. So I will ask the question, why don’t we make all 45? You know that that was going to be my question? Yeah. Because it’s not going to cost any more when you’re building it. And I don’t know anybody that doesn’t need a 36 inch door that has a problem walking through one. So, you know, accessibility doesn’t offend people. And from that perspective, you know, why aren’t we building? As I said, all 45 units with that accessibility feature?
Michael Hingson 40:42
How do we change the basic conversation? I mean, we hear all about diversity. And diversity is always about sexual orientation, gender, race, and so on. disabilities are not included in that, traditionally, while the minority group of persons with disabilities is much larger than any of those except for gender. When you’re dealing with male and female, but like LGBTQ and so on, certainly from a percentage standpoint, that population is incredibly, significantly less than the population of persons with disabilities. But we never get that included into the discussion. Why is that? And what do we do about it?
Linda Hunt 41:35
Yeah, it’s, it’s funny, because he asked you, you’ll talk to, well, large businesses that have, you know, the diversity, you know, inclusion and equity. Some of them have entire departments built into their business. But, you know, when you talk about diversity and inclusion, you’re right, we we are not just talking about, you know, gender, race, you know, if you’re, if you have a inherent bias within your, within your culture against persons with disabilities, then you know, that that’s, that’s going to get forget any diversity, inclusion or equity department or policies or procedures that you have, there’s, there’s still the inherent bias. No, I have actually seen the word are the words diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. Those are those are ones that are more forward thinking,
Michael Hingson 42:45
well, a little bit, but I’m not sure it helps a lot. Because what do we mean by accessibility? And we’re not still not dealing with the issue? And I think you’re absolutely right. If we look at it, at its most basic level, the answer to my question about why we’re not included in the conversation is bias and fear. For many years, in this country, the Gallup polling organization, doing surveys of people’s fears found that one of the top five fears people said they had in this country was blindness wasn’t even disabilities. Now, that’s many years ago. But still, the biases are there, and whether it’s just blindness or all disabilities. We haven’t gotten beyond that fear and that bias, and that’s the reason that I think we have this issue of not being included in the conversation. Yeah, and if we are, it’s just all for the motivation, the inspiration of one person, one one time, one group one time, but the bias, the basic prejudice hasn’t changed.
Linda Hunt 43:55
Yeah, and that’s, you know, you’re right, like the the culture of inclusion. And whether it be any marginalized group needs to needs to be, you know, built, it’s like anything else that needs to be built into the, the, the, you know, whether it be the business, their corporate culture, from the leadership level, and then it flows all the way down throughout a business. But if you if you can’t get that that bias addressed at the leadership level, then unfortunately, that that kind of toxic type of type of thinking pre mediates the entire business culture. So, I mean, I’ll use an example you mentioned that I was that I was a elected to Brantford City Council in in October, but I actually I faced what I’ll call, you know, bias at the door with a very nice gentleman he was he was elderly, but he didn’t understand how I could possibly be a city councilor because I was in a wheelchair. So the fact that my legs don’t work had him somewhat out somehow thinking, the rest of me had deficits that would not allow me to position.
Michael Hingson 45:36
And what did you do about that? How did you address that?
Linda Hunt 45:40
Yes, I had a very nice discussion with them. And I basically said that my legs don’t work. But that I, that I’m in a, that I’m in a, you know, I, my educational background, my, you know, my, you know, the fact that I run to businesses, the fact that even as he was speaking to me, I was in as, as you can well imagine, being in a wheelchair, made door to door canvassing, which is knocking on individual doors challenge challenging, but here I was knocking on his door. And, you know, so we, we, we basically had the discussion. And it it was it was just an inherent, I mean, I don’t think he was doing he wasn’t, in fact, I know, he wasn’t doing it to be rude or disrespectful, even though it came across that way. But it’s it, I almost felt like I needed to educate them. Yeah. As as we were having the conversation that, you know, assuming that just because I’m in a wheelchair, I’m not capable of making decision making processes at the municipal council level is wrong.
Michael Hingson 46:58
How did the conversation end up?
Linda Hunt 47:00
I think I got his vote.
Michael Hingson 47:03
Well, there you go. What can you ask for?
Linda Hunt 47:05
Because and you know, what I tell people we’ve got, you know, I do a signature talk on overcoming barriers to leadership, but but sometimes when you’re faced with, you know, that kind of thing head on it, it is a lot of times, you know, as you said, like, people don’t know what they don’t know. And you need to address the, you know, the, whether it be the stigma or the, you know, the incorrect assumption that, you know, that you are somehow inferior, because you have a disability,
Michael Hingson 47:45
right. And that’s why education is so important. And that’s why among other things, we used to hear terms like mobility impaired, and I still hear visually impaired, which is wrong on so many levels. And we have to get beyond that, rather than equating how much of one thing someone has, as opposed to someone else, recognizing that what we have are characteristics. And certainly low vision makes a lot more sense to say than visually impaired, first of all, visually doesn’t make sense. And as far as I’m concerned, you’re, you’re blind, impaired or your light dependent. Yeah, that’s just probably a more polite way to put it. But the the reality is, I think, in answering my question, it is about education. And we have to do it, but we also have to get so many others across the board to become more advocates for this as much as they are for other kinds of things. Yes. And that’s where the real challenge begins.
Linda Hunt 48:55
At I and I and the other thing is, is is educating, educating our younger population, so I absolutely love it. When because I always say all the little boys love me because I’m in a wheelchair and they love wheels. So they’ll they’ll, you know, they’ll tell me, you know, how come you’re in a wheelchair? I had a little boy, actually, when I was out a couple of weeks ago that said, Does that have a horn? And it does have a horn does the horn forum and he was just totally enthralled. But I welcome that kind of curious initiative of, of children like that. And I think that you know, that, like so many other thing was in schools, that, that learning that not everyone is the same and people are different. Is you know should apply to persons with disabilities as well. Not just not just whether it be race or, or gender or any of that kind of stuff that yeah, it because that’s, that’s really the, versus trying to change the way of thinking of older people that, you know, as they become adults, if children grew up thinking that disability was just a normal part of life, there are people that have disabilities in our, in our society. And there’s, you know, there’s nothing wrong with with them or with with that, and that we need to just be inclusive for everybody.
Michael Hingson 50:57
Of course, you probably didn’t tell that little boy that the horn wasn’t the greatest thing in the world. It’s not all that loud.
Linda Hunt 51:06
I got a new wheelchair about two years ago, and this one is actually not bad. But the ones that I had before that my, in fact, my husband, one day was like, I don’t even know if the person in front of you at the grocery store can even hear that one. Yeah. fireless, you know, trying to get, you know, a group of people in a crowd to move out of your way. But, but anyway, I don’t use it all that often. Yeah, I like the Escort in front of me. That’s kind of saying, Excuse me, excuse me. She’s coming through.
Michael Hingson 51:39
My wife’s last chair was the pride mobility line of sight share. So it’s three years old. And the horns still wasn’t all that great, as you said, as far as being able to be heard in a crowded area. On the other hand, you really can’t put an air horn on on a chair either. So it’s a compromise. Yeah. You know, for for you. You have a very positive attitude, you’ve undergone a lot of changes over the years. How, how do you? Or how did you end? Do you keep up a positive mental attitude about everything? Well,
Linda Hunt 52:16
you know what, Michael, I tell people all the time, if I didn’t have a positive attitude, I’d be sitting in the corner crying somewhere. Yeah, I was I was diagnosed on March the ninth and 1999, which was all the internet was fairly new at the time. So I went back to my office after being diagnosed, and at the time I did work. My husband and I was I did have an office in our, in our facility. And my husband came into my office and said, you know, well, what did he say? And I said, Oh, he said, I have that in us. And at the time, my symptoms were tingling in my feet and my fingers. So I was convinced that I had some kind of a tumor pressing on my spine, because he kept talking about peripheral nerve damage, and that there was something causing, you know, this peripheral nerve damage. So honestly, a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis was kind of like, oh, I don’t think I can die from that. So I literally drove back to my office and was I was sitting in my office when my husband came in, and I said, Oh, he said, I have MS. But you know what, I really don’t know what that means. And I will tell you though, after now 25 years of having Ms. This is a disease that does not have a roadmap. So there’s there’s no way of knowing from onset to 25 years later. All he did say to me was that 50% of the people need some assistance walking within 10 years. And that could be a cane to a wheelchair. And as I said earlier, in our discussion, I went from one cane to two canes to a walker to a scooter to a wheelchair in the span of about 18 months. But my positive attitude. I think, honestly, it’s it’s out of necessity. I mean, I you know, I was diagnosed with with children that were like two and seven, like I didn’t have time to wallow in any kind of self pity. And the other thing is, is when I was first diagnosed, other than an exacerbation that that would, you know, kind of get me down for maybe about six weeks, which you know, they give me some steroids and I’d be up and going again, but, you know, like I said, I you know, just, you know, I was working full time we had you know, we had a business I had two children you know, so my, you know, I say the the positive attitude really is what has kept me going like to this day, here we are 25 years later,
Michael Hingson 55:05
you made the choice. Yeah, you that’s the important part that you, you could have gone the other way.
Linda Hunt 55:12
Well, there and there, unfortunately, there are a lot of people that do go there. And it doesn’t matter what kind of diagnosis or not, I’m sure you’re an exactly. I mean, you’re a very positive person. You know, with that has dealt with a disability, yourself for you know, so it’s, to me, it’s, it’s a part of life. And as I said, you know, unfortunately, having a very good support system. So my husband knows men, I mean, we were married 10 years when I was diagnosed. So we’re coming up on 35 years, but you know, it very much is a, you know, a family disease. My, my daughter, I don’t think she remembers much. Before I was actually, you know, using starting to use mobility devices, whether it be, you know, a cane or whatever, my son I think remembers more. But having that positive attitude is what’s enabled me to, you know, to continue to do the work that I do. I’ve just never, I’ve never let my, my, well, we’ll call it disability, but I’ve never liked flat the fact that I can’t walk like everyone else. And that’s really what it is. Impact, you know, my decision to do whatever I want. So I still drive I still, I still travel a fair bit. I mean, I do a lot of research before I go places to make sure that they’re, you know, I’m going to be able to use my left and my wheelchair is going to get where it needs to go. And that kind of thing. Air travel can always be a little bit of a challenge. But you know, yeah, you just, like I said, you just carry on. And it’s I think I’ve always had that attitude, though. It’s like, if something gets you down, you just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and you carry on. So
Michael Hingson 57:30
it’s, it’s as unstoppable as it gets.
Linda Hunt 57:32
Yeah, there you go.
Michael Hingson 57:36
I understand you’re an author. I am love to hear about that.
Linda Hunt 57:40
Yeah, so I have the, it’s funny, I never thought of myself as an author. Because the first couple of the first couple of published documents that I had, were more what I would consider to be documents, they were policy pieces or so I developed a developed the leadership code for the organization that I was executive director of, so I, you know, writing that kind of stuff, but I had the opportunity to, to be part of a collaborative book a couple of years ago, which my, my chapter was actually on overcoming barriers to leadership, which is one of my signature talks, and, you know, we’ve had that which kind of feeds into that poll, positive attitude, and you know, that that type of thing. And so, yeah, you know, and that book is on Amazon, I use it, use it in my business as a, as a, you know, a gift, give it away at networking events, that kind of thing. I’m actually working on another book now, which will be which is around the concepts of accessibility is good for business and why. So we’ve, you know, we’ve got a couple of kind of chapters that are that are being flushed out on that. And I had somebody you know, that said to me once when I was starting out my podcast was to think of your podcast episodes as chapters of a book, which was an interesting concept, because, you know, my, my podcast accessibility solutions, making the world accessible is is really aimed at that business, that business target market and understanding that that accessibility is good for business. So, you know, we’re, hopefully, by later on this year, then we’ll have a, I’ll have another published book out specifically about how accessibility is good for business.
Michael Hingson 1:00:15
Are you self publishing or going through a publisher? No,
Linda Hunt 1:00:19
I’m using the the Kindle Direct Publishing, through Amazon works.
Michael Hingson 1:00:24
Yeah. Running with Roselle. My second book is as published through Kindle Direct Publishing, so you understand it? And that’s, that’s great. Is your husband still doing the screen printing business?
Linda Hunt 1:00:37
He is. Although I was after him to retire, but then when I got elected, he’s like, oh, yeah, you’re after me to retire. And you have four years of city council? Yeah, I would like to Yeah, it is a very much a going concern. He, as I said, he works from the, we have a full production facility, which is off off site about five minutes from our home, which is where him and all of our production staff work. And I’m actually in the process now of bringing on some, I’m trying to replace myself, I’m trying to work myself out of a job, Michael?
Michael Hingson 1:01:18
Well, if you can do that successfully Good on you, as they say, down under it, and it’s good to be forward thinking enough to know when it’s time to do that.
Linda Hunt 1:01:30
Yes, yes. And I think that’s also a key, the key milestone to achieve in order for us to really be able to successfully sell the business, because anybody buying a business that is then operated, you know, by sole proprietor or in our case, you know, a husband and wife team for as long as we have is likely going to want to keep somebody along for the transition. Whereas I tell I tell everybody, when the when the deals done, I am no longer growing girl. So if I’ve handed off the majority of the work that I do for the day to day operations of the business and have staff in place, then that’s, that’s part of succession planning and
Michael Hingson 1:02:20
transitions. Well, Linda, this has been absolutely fun. And it’s been everything. I hoped that it that it would be and I really appreciate your time, if people want to reach out to you. Talk with you, perhaps or maybe even if you have them available here speeches and so on, how do they do that. And I think you also said that you have a free gift.
Linda Hunt 1:02:43
I do have a free gift. So my free gift is and I’m sure you’ll put it in the show notes. We shall, yeah, you can book a time to just talk with me. And I invite anyone to talk with me that it whether it’s accessibility, you want to talk about accessibility. If I’m I’m very open to being guests on other people’s podcasts or other people’s stages, I’ve done a fair bit of that kind of that kind of talking over the years, conferences, that type of thing. Or if a if you just want to reach out and find out more about what it is that we do, then that link to be able to book that free consultation. Can you
Michael Hingson 1:03:30
say the link?
Linda Hunt 1:03:32
The link is? It’s a Calendly link? It’s
Michael Hingson 1:03:36
where can people get to through your website?
Linda Hunt 1:03:39
People can get to it through my website there. And you’re going to embed it in your show notes.
Michael Hingson 1:03:44
Yeah. What’s your website?
Linda Hunt 1:03:46
They can see it there it is. Solutions, the number 4 accessibility.com. And they can also always reach me via email, which is Linda at solutions for accessibility.com.
Michael Hingson 1:04:01
Well, cool. Well, I again, very much appreciate you being willing to come on and have a good in depth and I think good substantive discussion about all of this. And I hope that we’re making a difference. I think we are and the more we talk about the conversation, and the more we converse about the conversation, the more conversation we have, which is what we really need to do.
Linda Hunt 1:04:26
I agree and I so very much appreciate you having me on. I’m a big fan of your show.
Michael Hingson 1:04:33
Well, thank you. Well, I hope that everyone listening feels the same way and we’d love to hear from you. So if you would, we’d appreciate you letting us know you can reach me at Michaelhi at accessibe A C C E S S I B E.com. Or you can go to my podcast page which is www dot Michael hingson h i n g s o n.com/podcast. And we’d love to hear from You please give us a five star rating. When you’re listening to this, we appreciate your ratings and your views very much. And we hope that this has been educational and gives you some things to think about and Linda once more. I want to thank you for being with us today and we’d love to have you come back and visit some more. Thank you.
Michael Hingson 1:05:24
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.