Episode 19 – An Unstoppable Pioneer in Web Accessibility and Life with Mike Paciello
It is not often that most of us have the opportunity and honor to meet a real trendsetter and pioneer. Today, you get to meet such an individual.
Mike Paciello has been a fixture in the assistive technology world for some thirty years. I have heard of him for most of that time, but our paths never crossed until this past September when we worked together to help create some meetings and sessions around the topic of website accessibility. As you will hear, Mike began his career as a technical writer for Digital Equipment Corporation, an early leader in the computer manufacturing industry. I won’t tell you Mike’s story here. What I will say is that although Mike is fully sighted and thus does not use any of the technology vision impaired persons use, he really gets it. He fully understands what Inclusion is all about and he has worked and continues to work to promote inclusion and access for all throughout the world.
After you hear our podcast with Mike, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me of your observations.
Some directories do not show full show notes. For the complete transcription please visit https://michaelhingson.com/podcast
About our Guest:
Mike Paciello has been a pioneer and influential figure in the accessibility industry for more than three decades. He wrote the first book on web accessibility and usability (Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities), and has since achieved many notable milestones. He is the founder of WebABLE.Com and co-founder of WebABLE.TV. Mike currently serves as AbleDocs VP of US Operations.
Mike served as co-chair of the United States Federal Access Board’s Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC), co-founder of the International Committee for Accessible Document Design (ICADD), and was recognized by President Bill Clinton for his contribution to the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). He was the recipient of the 2016 Knowbility Lifetime Achievement and the 2020 ICT Accessibility Testing Symposium Social Impact awards.
Contact Mike at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Welcome to another edition of unstoppable mindset. Thanks for joining us this week, we have a guest I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while his name is Mike Paciello. And I’m not going to tell you a whole lot about him because he gets to do that himself, except I will tell you that he’s very deeply involved in the web accessibility world. Why do we deal with web accessibility a lot on this podcast? And why do I continue to bring it up. Because if you’ve listened to many of these podcasts, you know that there is an ever widening gap between websites that are accessible and those that are not. And it is something that we all need to deal with. Because there are so many people in this world who don’t get to access all the websites that everyone else can access for one reason or another. Mike has been very deeply involved in dealing with those issues for a lot of years. And I’d like to introduce you to him now. And we can talk more about it. Mike, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Mike Paciello 02:23
Thanks, Mike. Great to be here.
Michael Hingson 02:27
So how did you even get involved in this? I mean, you you are cited you, you, as far as I know, don’t have any what people would call physical disabilities and all that. So how did you get involved in all this?
Mike Paciello 02:41
Well, it’s a it’s a long and winding story that probably folks have heard many times in the past, but I was worked at a a computer company that no longer exists anymore. It maybe exists in parcels at HP. But it was Digital Equipment Corporation back in the 80s. I actually
Michael Hingson 03:03
just this morning was reading something from someone on a list where they were talking about the old desktop synthesizer.
Mike Paciello 03:10
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I know that memories. Yeah, I know the guys that worked on that. And Tony Vitaly was one of the lead engineers on that. And Tony, now we’re good friends. He passed away several years ago from ALS. Ironically enough, it he discovered it while he was at the seaside conference. Boy, I think so. So this was in the late 90s, maybe in early 2000s. But at any rate, I was working as a technical writer at Digital in the mid mid 80s, right through the early 90s. And was asked to take on a project voluntarily, which involved providing our computer software documentation we did mostly operating system software, to the National Braille Press in Boston. And I just thought it was interesting. And so I followed up and they said, and maybe you’ll get a request once or twice a year. I hadn’t had the project for more than a few hours. And I got a cost a call right away from Bill reader who was the writer? Yep. You know, Bill, yes. And he said, Hey, we need this, this this this? Can you bring these down? And I said, Sure, I’d have been happy to. And so I hadn’t carried the physical publications, which as I found out, they would then take and transcribe into and reproduce in Braille. And Bill was awesome. He gave me a complete tour of, you know, the factories and the offices and what they did. And right away he started talking about, you know, screen reader. Well, actually, it was a screen reader technology that was braille translation software at that particular time. It’s so that that piqued my interest, and i i At the same time I was doing that I also happen to be working in the very first instances of markup language. This is pre SGML, which, as anyone that knows the standardized, standardized or Standard Generalized Markup Language was the precursor to HTML, which is makes up the web. But it was actually a, a markup language used to basically mirror what an editor, a physical editor of a red publication would do, you know, take a ticket document from an individual divided up into, you know, logical portions on on, you know, within a page. So this is a paragraph, this is a list, this needs to be indented. This is a title, this is a heading, those type of things. And Dale SGML could do that electronically. And at the time, I specifically was working on a project that involves converting our electronic documents or digital into postscript, which anyone knows a postscript is that free PDF? Yes. So I thought to myself, if we can do these electronic conversions from basically a text markup file, to a postscript file, which is, you know, kind of a graphical a page, right? Right. Why not output it to Braille? And that led me on my quest to go figure out how to do that.
Michael Hingson 06:36
So what did you What did you end up doing?
Mike Paciello 06:39
Well, I curse I had established a few contacts, because of this arrangement that digital had with the National Braille Press. And one of those contexts was George cursher. Anyone that knows anything about this business knows that George is a champion and a hero, and just one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever known. And Matt, and it’s great to be to be called a friend and a colleague of his,
Michael Hingson 07:08
and George was the person who kind of really was the proponent of the DAISY format, which is used today not only in audio recordings to make them fully accessible and navigable, but he did it for Braille as well.
Mike Paciello 07:22
That’s right. That’s exactly right. And I’ll tell you, a lot of people remember George for when he worked for what you would call it out there in New Jersey and Princeton for the blind index,
Michael Hingson 07:36
RFP coding, right. Now Learning Ally, right,
Mike Paciello 07:40
right, right, exactly. However, before he joined RFB, nd he had his own little company called computerized books for the blind, write it so I established a contact with him, he and I started talking about markup languages. He pulled it a couple of other people like Joe Sullivan, from Duxbury Systems. And Yuri Minsky, who was the President CEO of soft spot, which was a major producer of SGML editing software. And we formed together with many other colleagues, also international colleagues, what was a working group called the International Committee for accessible document design. We did that in the late early 90s, early 90s.
Michael Hingson 08:30
So you, you put some processes together? And how successful were you at being able to get postscript translated into Braille?
Mike Paciello 08:43
Well, no, no, as far as I know, there was no success there. Yes, story. The story with postscript is, you know, Adobe, eventually converted everything into a PDF. And that’s where the success so to speak, relatively speaking, came in play. Adobe actually had members that were part of our, the internet international committee for accessible document design. And they got involved effect their lead engineer at that time was Carl Orthey. And Carl met with George myself in another great colleague, who worked with me at that time at Digital TV Raman. And we looked at ways of, again, taking the PDF and converting into something that was accessible. So that’s that’s so there’s no real story as far as I know around postscript. It’s all about PDF at that level.
Michael Hingson 09:42
It’s, it’s interesting. You had a lot of good beginnings and laid a lot of foundations. But But today, it seems like a lot of the accessibility that we’re seeing is still somewhat sporadic and spotty. In that not everything gets to be put into or can easily be put into an accessible form. Even with Adobe, there is a lot of document, there are a lot of documents that are released and created by various people that aren’t accessible. Why is it that Adobe and other organizations don’t really follow through and try to create native accessibility? Right from the outset?
Mike Paciello 10:28
Yeah, well, you know what that is, it’s it comes down very simply to it’s a business decision. You know, corporations. for all intents and purposes, they’ve got a mindset, they’re all about reporting back to their boards of directors, and reported profits. I mean, it’s just a business’s business, especially here in you know, in this in this country, where we’re driven, you know, by a by, you know, why the markets in so businesses, businesses look at it, and I’ve yet to see this not be true. Even for those companies that I believe Excel, where accessibility is concerned, a businesses have never been able to figure out really how to turn accessibility as you and I know it into a business value proposition, they haven’t figured out how to make it, how to make money out of it, there are all kinds of numbers that are thrown out there about discretionary income by people with disabilities. But it doesn’t come down to that. It’s it’s channels, it’s business lines, it’s, it’s we’re talking about, you know, companies don’t want to talk about making business unless we’re talking about billions of dollars now. And then, you know, it won’t take much longer looking at the recent, the recent profit reports, you know, by by Apple and Amazon, that we’re going to be talking about trillions of dollars. So if we can generate that kind of thing, then then, you know, a business business really does want to want to investigate. And secondarily, designing architecting, developing all of the engineering lifecycle or product lifecycle disciplines that are associated with ensuring that whatever it is that we’re building, and I’ll just use just a software environment, because that’s, that’s what I’m most familiar with, whatever software platform or interface that we’re designing or developing, you know, it has to be accessible, they’re not doing enough, you know, out of the box, it’s not being done in the concept, you know, conceptual design and architectural, and then fall all the way through. If you know, what I’m doing right now, as I’m illustrate, I’m using, you know, kind of a gesture to show, you know, for the beginning, all the way to the end of the lifecycle, there, every piece of that needs to be accounted for, where ensuring something is usable, and accessible to a variety of people, disabilities, and the persona types associated with it. And companies just typically don’t make that kind of investment. Unless someone at the top is driving it. And, you know, you can look at, you know, I think Microsoft is a is a good company right now to kind of hold up there, because I believe that they’ve done a great job at raising the bar. Because all of its being driven by Jenny in by, you know, by their CEO, you know, he himself has, I think, at least one son with with a disability. So he’s got a personal connection to it, but you don’t see that at 90% of most businesses. So again, like I said, it’s a, it’s a value cost analysis, that, you know, from an accessibility standpoint, it’s probably never going to really, truly wash. Now that even
Michael Hingson 14:04
go ahead. Oh, go ahead. No, I was just gonna
Mike Paciello 14:07
say, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. And that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tackle this pervasive, really, you know, like global challenge, using other means by which to, you know, kind of change the world and change thinking. And I really think that that’s probably another big piece of it.
Michael Hingson 14:28
We see them with Microsoft, but even with Microsoft, now with new windows 11. There are a lot of things that are technically accessible, but they’re not obvious and they’re not obviously located so that one can see them, you know, as an example. It used to be in his latest Windows 10. If you wanted to go to what we’re now calling even with Windows and app that’s installed on your machine, you hit the start button. And then you could use the arrow keys to go down and find the AP. But that’s not the case in Windows 11 anymore. And there are additional keystrokes or other things that you need to do. They have not kept the same obvious process. And yes, it’s accessible because you can find it. But is that really is usable, and was a lot of thought given to that when they were creating windows 11. And it seems to me that Jenny has has done a lot and we’re speaking by the way for those who don’t know, of Jenny Lefevere, who is the Chief Accessibility Officer for Microsoft, and Jenny is deaf, we met at a convention a few years ago. And obviously, you, you work with her pretty well. But I just think that there are things that they aren’t, they’re still not giving a lot of thought or as much thought as they should, to some of the architecture and ways to make Windows is obviously usable as it should be.
Mike Paciello 15:59
You know, I mean, Mike, I can’t, I can’t deny that I totally agree. I think, you know, what we see out on the web in terms of social networking, social Mark marketing, we see what Microsoft wants us to hear, right, but we’re not inside. In I am not at all surprised, because I frankly, I hear this about a lot of the other, you know, big companies, who was it was at Forbes was at Forbes, or was a fast company that just came out with this glowing article. It in mentioned, it was it was really kind of interesting. It mentioned Microsoft, Amazon, Google. Facebook, who else was in there apple in all these great, wonderful things that they do in I mean, you can’t deny the fact that they’ve made some awesome, you know, steps forward and done some great things in behalf of the entire disabilities marketplace. Right. But force, but at the same time, you and I both know, I see every single day, if not hundreds, you know, dozens, you know, if not dozens, hundreds. So whichever way you want to look at it, I have people who are seeing exactly what you’re saying. Yeah, great, but now I can’t use Windows, I’ve seen that. I’ve seen that whole discussion on Windows 11. So what happened? Who’s Who’s not watching the the watching the ball there? How can you not at this point in the game, when you’re in industry, as mature as Microsoft is? Including the accessibility space? How could you miss these things? You can’t. So someone’s making decisions that should either is, is not well educated, well versed and accessibility, or be and I think this tends to be more likely scenario. They’re doing it because they’re being driven by whatever financial incentives that they have. Right?
Michael Hingson 18:04
Right. But But here’s, here’s another aspect of that. I agree that in especially in this country, we tend to be very driven by the financial aspects of it. What Uh, what about our stockholders, we’ve got to report directly to them. And they’re the only ones who matter, which I’m not convinced is true. But that’s what what companies do. But when do we get to see companies believe? It says much about the cost of doing business to include people with disabilities, and we’ll deal with blindness here. But in general, to include people with disabilities as it is others look at Adobe, if you install Adobe Acrobat, or if you look at a lot of the things that that you can do with Acrobat, and Acrobat, DC today, we have Acrobat, DC, licensed as I do here, you get options for different kinds of languages, you get a variety of different kinds of settings. And obviously, those were put in because people somewhere thought it was important to have more than English, then of course, part of that is you want Acrobat to be able to be marketed all over the world. But even in this country, you want Acrobat to be able to produce documents and English and Spanish and Chinese and Japanese and other languages as well. But so there’s a mindset there, that that’s important. But I think part of the issue with corporate decisions is there isn’t a mindset yet about dealing with disabilities, even though more than 20% of all people in this country and around the world have some sort of disability there isn’t a mindset of inclusion for those people yet.
Mike Paciello 19:56
Yeah, I totally agree. Um, you know, we all I often talk about culture, we often talk about acumen, we I used to have a domain that was called thinkaccessibility.com. And it’s true with the mindset is, they’re just not doing it. But I also feel like in I kind of apologize, because I haven’t been able to come up with the right answer yet. But I used to talk in terms of what, you know, what, how do we change the world? I mean, that’s, that’s what we’re trying to talk about, right? We’re talking about changing the world change the world’s mindset, as it relates to people with disabilities, in, in accessibility. In terms of any kind of interaction or, or or inclusive design doesn’t matter whether it’s hardware, or software, wood, or paper, or electronic. The same thing is true all the way across the board, I still see buildings that are built, and they don’t meet the ADA standards. Right. Right. So So what is it? I used to talk about, you know, back in the, in the 90s, particularly, we went through this phase, where alternative energy became, you know, a big thing. In many governments, many, many governments put billions of dollars into alternative energies for a lot of reasons, right? They want to stop fossil fuel pollution and things along those lines, right? The the atmosphere, but there were a lot of reasons for doing it. But the the government’s and the people, the scientists behind it, saw, had had the foresight, they saw a vision of what the world would be like, in 5060, you know, 100 years or decades ahead, in from the term from the standpoint of preservation, for from the standpoint of, you know, global warming, pollution, things along those lines, it became intrinsic to life, for every human. We haven’t achieved that in the disability accessibility. A world in our world, we have not created a mindset that says, We need to change the world, because if we don’t, this is what’s going to happen in the years to come. Right? That makes sense. It does.
Michael Hingson 22:31
And, you know, part of the problem is the term disability is still, we’re great at redefining words, right? I mean, we’ve re defined, we’ve redefined diversity all over the place. And now diversity generally tends not to include disabilities. And will but we haven’t been able to define disability yet to not mean you’re not able. And so it is a problem. And I’m just not sure how we’re going to get around that. But somewhere, we need to do that, to get the mindset to shift so that people can truly understand and accept that just because a person has a different ability set than they and it doesn’t include some of the things that that their ability set includes. That does go the other way as well. And it isn’t all of a physical nature necessarily.
Mike Paciello 23:24
I totally agree. I tell you every I mean, what’s also factually true is, you know, the profession, the business and the community that you and I are part of, is it is in and of itself kind of a civil rights notion, right? It is. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, in the US, it’s absolutely that, well, actually, most countries, it’s absolute. That’s why you have, you know, Ada, like legislator, legislation and laws throughout, you know, throughout the world. But here’s the interesting thing about that. Every great civil rights movement, every great movement, has always had a great leader and a vocal leader and a visible leader. And I’ve always thought that that’s one of the things that we miss, we don’t really have, we have some great leaders, we’ve got some great people out there. Jenny being one of them, for example. You know, when I, when I grew up, Ellen Brightman was like, it was like my hero key and Gary Moulton. Were just, you know, awesome. Good. George cursher, you know, to this day is, but we don’t have, you know, a Martin Luther King, like individual, you know, a Mahatma Gandhi, like individual who, who doesn’t just bring the cause, but brings the recognition in, in in creates change as a result of that in in so I still kind of think that that’s something that we we probably need in this industry to to to change the world the way that we want to change it.
Michael Hingson 24:56
Yeah. And and the problem is that to bring the recognition that take a Martin Luther King, the the thing is, there were some differences about him. But there were enough similarities between him and everyone else that people could rally around him. And I’m not sure that when you’re viewing people as physically disabled or developmentally disabled, when you bring that disability in, there’s, there’s a part of it, that I’m not sure that anyone yet has figured out a way to get around the closest person who I ever encountered. And I never met him personally, but person who I think could have achieved that, although not in the exact same strident way that Dr. King did would be Jacobus timber, the founder of the National Federation of the Blind. He was he was the deep philosopher, and extremely vocal about it and very innovative, but he was blind. And I think that that’s that problem is what we face in terms of dealing with disabilities.
Mike Paciello 26:11
Yeah, yeah, I totally agree. Yeah, so I mean, I think that’s just one, one piece of the, you know, of the puzzle, so to speak, to try to solve this worldwide mindset that that needs to be changed.
Michael Hingson 26:31
Yeah, and I’m not sure how we’re going to get around it. Because I think we also tend to not be violent, and we shouldn’t be violent about what we do. But we do need to somehow cross this barrier. And maybe the way we need to do it is to be more forceful, collectively, and get people to to notice, but there are things that that companies could do take apple. So Apple, finally came to the realization and it took in part of the threat of a lawsuit to make it happen. But Apple finally took the iPhone and made it accessible. The iPod. And they even went so far as to make iTunes you available, although I don’t hear as much about iTunes you today. But still, it was the method by which a number of people could get class lectures, and so on. And they made all of that accessible. The problem that I see with what Apple did is that they didn’t take that last step. That is to say, there is still nothing in the App Store today that mandates any level of accessibility for the apps that they allow to go through the store. And they could make an incredible change in mindset and shift in mindset. If they would just say, your app has to have some level of accessibility. And that’s going to be different for different kinds of apps. But at least I ought to be able to control apps that go through the store. And I recognize that a lot of apps are going to be graphical in nature, but they still ought to give me the ability to control the apps and manipulate the apps and my example that I use are star charts, you know, I’m not going to see star charts. But for me to take the time to describe it to someone and describe what I want to get them to manipulate it rather than me being able to manipulate it and then saying to someone, what do you see, I still don’t even get that. And apps go in and out of accessibility in the app store all the time. Apple could, with a fairly simple process, make accessibility as mandatory in the store, as it does other things. It would seem to me.
Mike Paciello 28:54
Yeah, well, what companies do about their own products is definitely one thing. But again, I still think it comes down to dollars and cents. No, they’re not gonna push any harder than they have to, because they just don’t have the C level people who should be, you know, putting this on their agenda and in prioritizing accessibility the way it ought to be, as we as we see it.
Michael Hingson 29:21
Right. Right. But what’s but what’s the message there? The message, it seems to me is still we’re still not really important enough for us to do that.
Mike Paciello 29:31
Oh, that’s right. You’re not a viable entity? Yeah, absolutely. There’s no doubt about that. They’ll never say it. But in fact, that’s really what’s going on in the boardroom. Now. One One thing that we tried to do have been unsuccessful up till now. But when Jim Tobias and I shared the the last five weeks, one of the things that we had already laid groundwork for doing was implementing the Five weight requirements, which include all the the web accessibility requirements into the Americans Disabilities Act, because the Department of Justice was a participant there, they’re following what we’re doing. And we made some good head rows, headway into it. But it came to an abrupt abrupt stop. As a result of politics, frankly speaking. We, my my last meeting, ironically enough, at the White House, was the day before the 2001 or 2016 election. Yeah, yeah. 2016 election. And I listened to President Obama’s chief technology officer, and his chief science officer, both talked about the players that they were laying out for the next four to eight years. In all those things got trashed right after that election. So again, not not not really, in no way am I see he could have a political position here, because I don’t I stay out of politics, but I’m just sitting, having been the chair, a co chair, rather, of a committee, whose charter was to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities by enhancing technology for accessibility. We lost, we lost, we lost quite a bit at that level. Now. You know, will it ever get into ADA? I don’t know. I really don’t know. It’s it’s more or less than table, that the Department of Justice position at this point is well, you know, things are fair, you know, are out there for everybody to follow. They don’t need enforcement. But the reality is, lawsuits are gonna keep coming until until until enforcement is mandated. And then then corporations will do one or two things, they’ll either comply, because they’ll have to obey. Or they’ll do what they typically do, which they send lobbyists groups in and fight it.
Michael Hingson 32:06
Yeah, well, and you bring up a really interesting thing regarding lawsuits, because lawsuits can can be a powerful and valuable way to help the process if the litigation is brought for the right reason, namely, we really want to help fix the problem. But we’re also seeing a lot of lawsuits. And it’s been going on well, certainly before the ADEA. But we’ll use the ADEA. And, and and our situations and experiences as the example, lawsuits today are often filed by lawyers who just want to make a bunch of money. They’re very frivolous lawsuits. I saw one last week, where a lawyer decided to sue a company actually a bunch of different companies, because they said their websites were inaccessible. And they use the same boilerplate on on all of the lawsuits. And in reality, from the time the plaintiff, quote, looked at the website that I am aware of, until the time the lawsuit was filed was about a month. And in that time, unbeknownst to the defendant, or to the plaintiff, the company took action to make the website accessible because it was the right thing to do. So that by the time the lawsuit was filed, in reality, the claims were totally baseless because the website had become accessible and usable, demonstrably speaking, but yet the lawsuit was still fired filed, and there are so many of those frivolous lawsuits. It seems to me that one of the things that we ought to figure out ways to do is to get Bar Association’s and others to go after these lawyers who are doing these frivolous lawsuits, because they’re not doing anyone any good.
Mike Paciello 34:07
Yeah, yeah, there’s no doubt about there are a lot of evil, it’s chases out there. They’ve been out there for as long as I’ve been, you know, in the software and web accessibility, because it’s, I mean, I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to change that unless, unless we do what would there is there has been some inroads made in terms of how much a person can sue for and, and in some of the motivations for but yeah, yeah, I mean, it’s sad, in unfortunately, they they bring in individuals with disabilities, you know, to be part of the of the suit itself. And that creates angst in the communities as well. Right. So I mean, it’s, yeah, it’s, it’s funny, I gave a talk at the UN years ago on fear based incentives, and I hate them. I mean, it’s such a stands for any kind of fear based incentives. But the fact of the matter is that we see it does. It does effect change, right. So you’ve seen large corporations in organizations in educational institutions who have made the changes because they were forced to as a result of those lawsuits. I don’t like it. I don’t think anybody likes to be quarter, you know, put into a corner and then have to fight out. It just gives accessibility and disabilities a bad name overall. But it is effective. Set
Michael Hingson 35:36
offer, marketing, fear based marketing is all around us. I mean, turn on a television, and you hear commercials, like your check engine light is going to turn red at some point. And then it’s going to be too late. You have to get our car warranty. Now I’m in fear marketing is all around us.
Mike Paciello 35:56
Yeah, that’s true. And I work separately. It is ironic, because it is kind of ironic that you’re talking about that, because we are kind of talking about messaging, and marketing. It’s one of the reasons why would I built web able, one of the things that I really wanted to focus on was trust based marketing, that anyone that I did business with, has to has to be truthful in everything that they say and everything that they do. And so I’ve worked really hard at that focus, I’m actually updating our pages right now to add another set of value statements associated with trust, and in truthful marketing, because I believe it’s ironic my drive here is to make sure that people with disabilities and consumers with disabilities, you know, what they’re being told, or what they’re being sold, is, you know, an accurate reflection of what your product can or cannot do. So or what a service company or a service based company says they can and will do, because I believe, frankly, speaking, very analogous to the lawyer, you know, the English face lawyer scenario, is I believe that there that that individuals with disabilities, not unlike the elderly community are often take advantage, taking advantage of, because they don’t know everything that’s going on it, you know, their disability puts me into a situation where they, they, they often are not aware of what the true motivations of a corporation or organization really are.
Michael Hingson 37:38
Right. And it’s, it says an important for those of us in the disability community to understand corporate dynamics, and do as much as we can to become a part of the corporate world, because change does have to come from within, and it won’t come unless we help bring it about and unless we work as hard as we possibly can to get other allies on the inside. But I still think ultimately, it’s it’s going to require that mindset shift. And I’m, I’m not convinced that it needs to be a costly thing to bring about accessibility, especially if you create a native way to make it happen right from the outset. Then you’re building it into the cost of doing business, which is what Apple did, of course, with the iPhone, and the iPod and the technologies that are in the
Mike Paciello 38:37
Mac voiceover voiceover right. And then voiceover,
Michael Hingson 38:41
it’s a cost of doing business. And I’m not even sure I totally like that. But it’s, it’s okay. It’s a cost of doing business to make sure everyone can use the product. And I think that’s a reasonable thing to do. But that’s why I think that they, they need to take that last step. And get to the point of recognizing that part of that same cost of doing business has to be to say, to developers, you’ve got to have some sort of basic amount of accessibility, just like we do with the with the iPhone and the iPad and the Mac itself, because you’re leaving people out. The The problem is that Apple put itself in that position by being a policing agency for what goes into apps and how apps work. I understand. I don’t even I haven’t looked lately, but I understand that if you create a piece of software that looks like it has a Windows desktop, that was true of Windows 10. Anyway, Apple wouldn’t release it in the app store because it didn’t look abolition often look to Windows II and of course their competitors. They have the ability to make and they do make decisions based on what they choose.
Mike Paciello 40:02
Yeah, yeah, there’s no no no doubt about that, again, businesses are in the business of doing business. Right. And, and, and that’s why we have things, you know, like trademarks and copyright and, and patent infringement and patents, and, you know, all of that it’s all proprietary, proprietary systems closed open. This that’s, that is the world that we that we live in today is as as we started, as you said, from the beginning, the sad part of all of this is that in that the decision makers, the architects, the designers, are not really truly thinking about accessibility and building an infinite start.
Michael Hingson 40:44
And it would make it just and it’s not that hard to do. If they would do it. Tell me about the web accessibility initiative a little bit.
Mike Paciello 40:53
Gosh, sure. Well, I’ll tell you, as much as I know, I mean, I haven’t. I’ve been on the fringes of it more or less for the last 15 years or so. But I’ll tell you the, the interesting story about the about the way is that I and I was working as a volunteer, I was working at digital and working as a volunteer to kind of with MIT, in the WCC to just kind of build some content, leads, you know, email lists, you know, some some resource information, and just keep it there for accessibility. Organizations like trace ad, which then under Greg Vanderheiden, was at the University of Wisconsin, now down at University of Maryland, Baltimore, I think that’s where they’re at. And in WGBH, here in Boston, under Larry Goldberg’s directorship in cast, they also were organizations that were kind of pulling together these resources around around the web. And so while I was there, I came in contact with a few key people like Daniel da, and of course, Tim Berners. Lee, I was working closely with with Uri Rybicki before he passed the 96. In others, Dave Raggett, just a few other people that were there, in ultimately, you know, we started talking about, you know, can we do something with this. But at the same time, conversations were being carried on with with the National Science Foundation is Department of Education, and a couple of European consortiums, including tide. And what happened was, Tim, as I understand it was approached by either Vice President Gore, or President Clinton at at that particular time said, hey, look, would with the W three C, would you guys be interested in kind of building a project around people disabilities that access to the web? And Tim came back to myself DlG Villar a dragon and said, Hey, do you guys think that we could do this, but would this be something that we could do and ultimately, that led to us putting together a plan and a proposal for an initiative at the time was called the web accessibility project or whap. And I never liked it. Never like, you know, from a marketing standpoint, you know, a branding simple, I just knew it wasn’t gonna work. So when we decided that we were going to launch it in 1997, Danielle, and Danielle and I went back and forth, okay, what can we name this whole thing? And I came up with way Wi Fi. That was marketable, it was easy to say and easy to brand. And Daniel liked it. And and we were back in 1997. Now at the I think it What was it? Like everybody, I think it was the sixth, sixth or seventh. Why would conference, I think the seventh I want to say seven, but even six. And I’ve got my stuff right over here on my other shelf. I can’t see it right now. But we launched it there. It’s at Stanford and see in Santa Clara. And that’s that led to, to the launch of the initiative. We got funding, US government funding matching funds from MIT in matching funds from the tide initiative for three years. So we built a three year business plan for it. Ultimately, I at that time, actually, I changed jobs and Dale Yuri had passed away 96 It’s now 1997. And I was the executive director of the European ski and sky foundation. So under that notion, I went out and helped help lead and build the the Web Accessibility Initiative Program Office. And ultimately that led to us hiring Judy Brewer. Who was in Massachusetts, it had been very well known for her activity with. With her boy, I can’t remember the name of the organization was I want to say the mass mass association for disabilities. But she had led the effort to requiring Microsoft to ship Windows, Windows 95, with certain accessibility features into it. And so she was a great hire, you know, to leave the office, I went back off and eventually left the OSI Foundation, and started up my own company TPG.
Michael Hingson 45:43
And now you’ve since fairly recently sold TPG, right?
Mike Paciello 45:49
Today, it’s already been for almost five years.
Michael Hingson 45:54
What did TPG do? What what did you form the company to do?
Mike Paciello 45:59
Yes, so I, what I really wanted to do was forming a professional services organization, company that helped make web web applications and software, regardless of the platform, usable and accessible to people disabilities. So I built an initial team, we went through several iterations of the team, before I could pull the right group of people together. But ultimately, that’s, that’s, that’s what we did. And that’s how I sold it became one of the most, if not the most well known brand, in software, professional services around web and software accessibility in the world. And that led to the company at the time, was VFO. Now now known as Despero, and they acquired they acquired TPG is specifically for that we had the largest bring not the largest company, but the largest brand most well done. It was because we were built on a foundation of trust. Every client that we had, came to us by referrals, we never did outbound sales ever. And, and we had lots of lots of repeat business enough to keep you know, ultimately, I think when I saw that we had about 40 or so people on staff in some of the world’s best, best of the world in this business. Now my drop it in their knees, because they’re all there are there. So they’ve gone off and formed their own companies. You know, I find I find that a little bit of a legacy. They you know, a car girls would often in antennen, and now he’s with level access. Leone, Watson went out and started petrological. And she’s got, you know, seven or eight members of her key team are all former TPG employees. Sara Horton is going off. She’s doing her thing. So and I’ve gone off and done my so there’s, there’s been a lot of it’s kind of interesting, a lot of breakout companies from from TPG.
Michael Hingson 47:52
And now you’re doing web ABL.
Mike Paciello 47:56
And now I’m doing web ABL. Yeah, I’ve kind of labeled right. Web evil and evil docs.
Michael Hingson 48:02
And you’re married. So you have three jobs. What’s that? And you’re married? So you have three jobs?
Mike Paciello 48:08
I probably have five because yeah, there’s that parent tells me I have like five jobs now. So yeah, we’re able to able to access web people. It really started out at TPG. It was my idea to kind of build a marketing, but I wanted to honestly, I built a news aggregator which the front of it is front end of it is a news aggregator. But ultimately, I wanted to be a digital marketing social networking marketing company strictly within the context of of, of accessibility and disability. And that’s, that’s where it’s at.
Michael Hingson 48:47
And what Able Docs?
Mike Paciello 48:49
Able Docs is a right now, it is primarily known for documentation accessibility across the board. So it’s not just PDFs its word, its Excel, PowerPoint. We’re dealing with Google Docs. But it is a company that is involved in digital accessibility. We’ve recently branched out and started building on our, our own web accessibility services. So we did an acquisition of web key it out in Perth, Australia, so that we brought them in. And we’re buying some tools and we’re building some business long there. So so I’ve been helping Adam Spencer’s, the CEO there at Apple docs. Adam has a long history in documentation accessibility, and they’re one of the world leaders in that. So I’m here to help them build their USN branch.
Michael Hingson 49:43
Pretty exciting, isn’t it?
Mike Paciello 49:44
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It’s startup all over again. So it’s kind of fun from that standpoint, but a lot of hard work
Michael Hingson 49:52
well, and doing it in the COVID era. Well, you get to do it at home. So there’s, there’s there’s lots of time do it. So at least you just don’t have to travel as much right now.
Mike Paciello 50:03
Honestly, that’s the thing I missed the most. I love travel. Yeah, I do too. I love traveling. I love speaking, I will go no everywhere and anywhere to do that, you know, to kind of carry the mission. So I missed that the most.
Michael Hingson 50:17
I I’ve never really minded being on airplanes, although I understand the whole issue with COVID right now, but I’ve never really had a problem with it. I enjoy traveling. I haven’t been to a place yet that I couldn’t find some things to like about it. And I’ve enjoyed everywhere I’ve gotten to go and all the people I’ve gotten to speak to and speak with and educate. Yeah, I miss it as well.
Mike Paciello 50:42
Yeah. Well, you and I saw each other down in Washington, DC. We do in Baltimore. So the NFB and, and then m&a Bling. But I right after that COVID started to break out again with the Omicron variant. So I stopped all travel. So right now and I’ve done probably five or six other events since then. Right now, if all things work out, I’ll be at CSUN.
Michael Hingson 51:09
Tell me about that. You’re going to be the keynote speaker this year?
Mike Paciello 51:13
Yeah, I was kind of surprised. I got a call from from from CSUN. And they asked me there their executive director asked me if I would see any uploading, asked me if I would consider I was really shocked. To be honest with you. I haven’t been at CSUN. In you know, in four years right now. Yeah, in four years. Because my first wife passed away. And I was like, at home for I retired after I sold TPG. I retired for, you know, for the better part of four and a half years. And you know, was caretaking for Kim. And I really couldn’t travel. So I did go to C center. I’ve been to CSUN since 2018. Yeah, so be four years now. So when they call when I can’t think it now just lost her name. Oh, see any? Sorry. I went didn’t see anyone see any called me. I was really surprised. But she asked me if I would consider giving the keynote and, you know, see son to me. See, says where I got my start in terms of networking and meeting people and getting involved in the community, not just on the national level, but on the international level. And that I think really spearheaded an awful lot for me in just about every other company that that’s out there. So it holds a very dear in your place to me, Harry Murphy’s the director, the founder of CSUN. He and I are close friends, even to this day. He retired over 10 years ago. And I served on I served on two advisory committees to to see some over the years. So when Sandy? Yeah. Well, she asked me, I said, Yeah, I’d be happy to. So I’ve got so
Michael Hingson 53:04
so what are you going to talk about? Can you give us a hint? Well, the theme
Mike Paciello 53:07
is trying to get make it a little bit interesting, intriguing accessibility users and the golden goose, why trust is a vital digital asset. So kind of goes with what you and I’ve been talking about what we’ve been talking about. We we in I did actually talk about this at m&a Bling. That I think there are four key attributes of our business in our industry that needs to be pervasive and promulgated and in founded, organizations and companies need to be fully immersed in. And that’s innovation, collaboration, transparency, and trust. When those four attributes are built together, then then I think we come out with a winning value proposition. And so I’m planning on taking using a trilogy of three stories, life stories, and bring them all together to show how they work out that way and the value behind them.
Michael Hingson 54:12
Yeah, I’ve been in sales a long time having started while working for Kurzweil and taking. Actually, my first foray into sales was the Dale Carnegie sales course, which was a 10 week program once a week with live lessons and then other things during the week, but in Massachusetts, and the the interesting thing, and the overriding message that was constantly addressed during that course was that when you’re selling, you’re really advising you’re, you’re helping people and you’re establishing a rapport and if you You’re doing it just to drive somebody to get your product no matter what, then you’re not selling the right way it is all about trust.
Mike Paciello 55:08
Yeah, absolutely. There’s no doubt. Well, I think it’s all for these areas, I really, you know, especially because we’re in high tech in a digital economy and digital society. So innovation is critical, right? Working together, right? dispelling the myths associated with with competition. And collaborating, I think is crucial, especially again, in our space, transparency, transparency, you know, organizations need to be, you know, transparent about what they can and can’t do. This is one of I think, one of the, I don’t know, I don’t know exactly where to attribute it to. But this much, I do know that people with disabilities are more than happy to work with you or your organization, your company, they’re there, they’ll they’re one of the first ones to jump on board, and help you to make things useful and accessible, right? Because it benefits that. But if you’re not transparent with them, right, if you know, tell them what is what is truth, right? What my product can or can’t do upfront, it worse, you, you know, you, you mark it, or you sell something that’s not trustworthy, or truthful, you’re gonna lose them as a community, and you’re gonna, you’re gonna, you’re gonna get five bad vibes, because this is a very close knit community of individuals. So you’ve got to be transparent, it’s okay to say, look, we’ve gone this far, I’ve done this much. Our plan is to go this far in over the next three, five years is what we’re going to do. People with disabilities will, will will support you, they know you’re making some inroads towards accessibility. They applaud the effort now, okay, so they see your plan for the future. As long as you stay true to that mission. They’re all in, and you’ll get all the support in the world that you need from them. Which is why trust is so important. Because once you break those first three, and you break the trust, then you got nothing.
Michael Hingson 57:14
In 2016, the Nielsen Company did a study of brand loyalty. I don’t know all the details of how it got commissioned, or whatever. But one of the main points of the study was that persons with disabilities tend to be very brand loyal to those companies that include them want to work with them want to make their products available to them. And the brand loyalty is extremely strong because of that, which really goes along with exactly what you’re saying.
Mike Paciello 57:48
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I remember when Jacob did that, that study. I think I may have even been involved in it some at some level. But yeah, that’s it’s absolutely true. I think people with disabilities, with maybe the strict exception of possibly elderly individuals are the most free and loyal community of individuals population of individuals ever, period. When it works. Sorry, you’re not going to, you know, people, I mean, you know, this, people are Jaws users use JAWS because it works. Right, right. Even though Jaws is flawed, JAWS has has bugs in it, right. Just like every other piece of it I’ve ever I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen a bug free piece of software at all technology. But once users got into it and started using it, it became very, very clear that this is going to be even though they’ve got to pay for it. Compared to say, and, VA, right. They’re very, very, very strongly loyal to it. And that’s been true about all 80. Frankly,
Michael Hingson 58:58
but NVDA is is catching up NVDA has come a long way and is working better it is free, but it is still not Jaws know, at least in people’s minds. And still not Yeah,
Mike Paciello 59:12
nothing. Nothing is just me just, you know, Freedom owns 80% Plus that market. Right and in who have you seen over the years that have kind of gone by the wayside? Be You know, because they just churn market. Right. So
Michael Hingson 59:30
and that will, that will be the case. As long as as you said, the trust is there. If if the sparrow breaks the trust ever, that’s going to be a big problem.
Mike Paciello 59:43
Yeah, I totally agree. I absolutely agree. They know it. I know it. And more importantly, all of the individuals have visual disabilities, the users know it.
Michael Hingson 59:54
Yeah, no doubt about it. It’s it’s been that way and I’ve been using For a long, long time and have watched how they’ve grown and developed, and they’ve done some things that that have been challenging, but in the long run, it works, as you said, and that’s what really is important.
Mike Paciello 1:00:13
Yeah, yep. No doubt about it, Mike.
Michael Hingson 1:00:16
Well, we have been going on for an hour How time flies when we’re having fun. And I want to really thank you, if people want to reach out to you, how might they do that, learn more about the things you’re doing and so on.
Mike Paciello 1:00:30
Well, if they want to learn about Web Able, if you get what we’re doing, I mean, we are we’re on a sponsorship drive right now. So we’re really looking for sponsors going into 2022. So you can send me email at M as in Mike Paciello, P a c, i e l l o at webable.com if they want to contact me at Able Docs for documentation, accessibility and even professional services around software and Web. And you can send me email at email@example.com.
Michael Hingson 1:01:02
Well, we’ve been we’ve been working together now for what since September, and October, and m&a billing and all that. And I know you’re talking with folks that accessiBe, and there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on there. And hopefully, we’ll all be able to work together and make this a little bit more of an inclusive world. And hopefully, we’ll be able to change mindsets, and get people to maybe look at the world a little bit differently than they’re used to, and maybe look at it in a little bit broader and more inclusive way.
Mike Paciello 1:01:34
I totally agree. Totally agree.
Michael Hingson 1:01:38
Well, Mike, thanks very much for being here with us. And hopefully, you’ll you’ll have a chance and come back again. We’d love to have you back anytime. If you would have anything you want to talk about, then let us know. We’ll try to catch the speech at CSUN. Not sure whether I’m going to travel down there or not this year, we’ll see. But hopefully we’ll we’ll we’ll work it out somehow. But thanks again for being here on unstoppable mindset. And for those of you who want to learn more about us, you can you can find us at Michaelhingson.com that’s M I C H A E L H I N G S O N.com/podcast. And you wherever you heard this podcast, you can go anywhere where podcasts are posted and and released and you can find us there. So join us next week for another edition of unstoppable mindset wherever you are, wherever you happen to be at the time, and with whatever hosts you use. We’ll be looking forward to seeing you then.
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