Episode 22 – Moving Forward No Matter What with Sheldon Lewis
What would you do if you learned that you were losing your eyesight? That was a question today’s guest had to confront fairly early in his life. As you will hear, it took Sheldon Lewis many years to fully grasp the fact that his life was changing in a way over which he had no control. Even so, as you will discover he did continue to live life as he lost his vision.
You will get to discover how today, Sheldon has turned what many would call “the end of the road” into a fascinating and successful career. Sheldon today helps not-for-profit organizations become more inclusive and how he uses accessiBe’s accessWidget to help websites become available to persons who happen to be blind or who have other disabilities.
Some directories do not show full show notes. For the complete transcription please visit https://michaelhingson.com/podcast
About my Guest:
Sheldon Lewis is an experienced Sales Director and Partnership Maker. With 40+ years as a business executive, he has had several exits, managed cross-functional teams, consulted on SaaS tools, and expanded businesses globally all whilst being diagnosed with the rare disease Choroideremia as a child which has rendered him to lose his eyesight throughout his life.
Sheldon’s business travels have taken him from Eastern Europe’s to South Africa to the Middle East and China where he took 40 trips and got to know the airports and the people very well. Sheldon’s extensive background in the Textile industry has helped him through life in his various corporate functions and the constant trait of adaptiveness has given him the courage to find practical tools to navigate the daily challenges that come along without being blind.
Today, Sheldon works as a Non-Profit Partnership Manager at accessiBe fostering strong relationships across the disability community and advocating for a more inclusive web.
Outside of business, Sheldon is a passionate car enthusiast, biker, skier, sailboat skipper and walker – Sheldon has now turned his physical fitness to the indoors and outdoor walking on flat surfaces for safety reasons.
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:23
Well, hello, again, this is Michael Hanson, and we appreciate you coming wherever you may be at the moment. Thanks for dropping into unstoppable mindset. We’re glad you’re here. And we have I think another fun episode, we have a person to talk with a person who I’ve gotten to know over the past year, and who has become very much involved in some of the accessibility initiatives in the world. He works for accessiBe. His name is Sheldon Lewis. And he works with a lot of nonprofit organizations. And I’m sure he’ll talk some about that as we go forward. But Sheldon has an interesting story to tell to demonstrate why he, like so many people is and can be unstoppable Sheldon, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Sheldon Lewis 02:08
Hey, I’m glad to be here. Mike. Nice to see you today.
Michael Hingson 02:12
Glad you’re here will tell me a little bit about your your life you have not been blind all your life.
Sheldon Lewis 02:17
No, I was lucky in that I was born with sight. But I have a slow acting degenerative eye condition called Kreuter Rivia. And this has reduced my vision by about five to 7% a year. And I was night blind by the time I was nine and 10 years old. And but I lost most of the rest of my site in the last 15 years. So unlucky, I had Satan for most of my life.
Michael Hingson 02:50
So you know, just to pick on you a little bit, I don’t know whether that’s luck or not, you know, there, there are a lot of people who have eyesight and look what they’ve done with the world. I think that it’s a different point of view, needless to say. But I also I think that that having eyesight certainly gave you the ability to learn how, if you will, a lot of people see the world and now you get to look at how people see the world another way. And what do you think? Do you think that one one way is really worse than the other way? Or what do you think about not having eyesight as opposed to having eyesight?
Sheldon Lewis 03:30
You know, it’s a funny thing that you asked that question. Because all my life, I said, Would I rather have another kind of disability? And the answer is no, I wouldn’t. And I’m perfectly comfortable with losing my sight because that’s what no one is going to happen all of my life. So I’ve adapted along the way. And I’m okay with it. It’s not the best situation, I’d rather have sight. But that’s my life.
Michael Hingson 04:01
Yeah, I mean, you You were born with it. And you you don’t have that sense as you used to. But at the same time, what you have learned to do is to accomplish tasks in different ways than when you’re able to see I assume that you’ve you’ve done that.
Sheldon Lewis 04:21
What I haven’t learned to do yet is drive blind.
Michael Hingson 04:26
Why is that?
Sheldon Lewis 04:29
The technology is not there yet.
Michael Hingson 04:31
Exactly right. There are there there are examples of people driving the the National Federation of the Blind back in 2011 conducted a a demonstration of a car that a blind person could drive it was a standard ford escape but they put some additional technologies on it to give a driver the information necessary to be able to drive in this case around The Daytona motor speedway. Sounds good to me. And yeah, it’s not ready for for primetime and for street driving yet, but the concept was proven. If you haven’t seen it, go watch the video. It’s at www dot blinded driver challenge.org. Blind Driver Challenge not org. It’s It’s fascinating. The reality is, and I think you’re touching on it. Blindness isn’t really the problem with most things that we have to deal with it as is it?
Sheldon Lewis 05:29
No, it’s just a challenge. And the challenge is to overcome the challenge, so that you can keep on living and doing what you want to be able to do.
Michael Hingson 05:41
What is the biggest challenge that you find in the world being a person who happens to be blind?
Sheldon Lewis 05:49
Oh, the biggest challenge, I guess, is around accessibility, and doing things as a couple with my wife. Those are the two big challenges. I think. If I accessibility, I mean, how to use websites, how to walk around on the street, how to maneuver without getting hurt, and things like that.
Michael Hingson 06:20
So in overcoming those challenges, what would you like to see occur that that maybe hasn’t really happened yet?
Sheldon Lewis 06:31
Well, I wish that more companies would adopt accessibility to their websites, there are many technical software’s that aren’t accessible at all. And those really prevented me from using those tools in my work life. As far as getting around outside, if there was a technology that was like those new glasses that are available from Google, but also combined with a GPS that could, you know, guide me and tell me, this is coming up stated left, oh, and I would let them know what store I want to go to. And it would guide me right there all in one, and then be able to go into the store and do my business by myself. That would be really ideal.
Michael Hingson 07:31
Of course, today, you can do that to a large degree using let’s say an iPhone, because you can use some of the map programs, blind square and other apps on that. And accomplish those same things. Although there is an advantage to being able to wear glasses. The problem is that, at this point in the world, we haven’t really seen a pair of glasses developed that will have a long enough battery charge to be able to person to work all day and accomplish the things that they want to do much less than having the other interpretive information that you want
Sheldon Lewis 08:06
to have. Yep, it will be great when it comes I don’t believe we’re far away. 5g will help that I guess. And I think battery will happen sooner or later. Even if I have to wear a battery pack on in my in my pocket or something with a wire attached to the glass. That would still be okay.
Michael Hingson 08:26
So, as you are growing up and losing some eyesight, you went to school I assume.
Sheldon Lewis 08:33
I went to school or went to University in Philadelphia. I live in Montreal.
Michael Hingson 08:39
What drove What did you graduate with? What
Sheldon Lewis 08:42
graduated with a textile management and marketing degree?
Michael Hingson 08:47
What took you there? What Why did you get that degree?
Sheldon Lewis 08:50
We had a family business, and it was in textiles. And I had always wanted to be in that family business. From the day I was diagnosed. I turned to my mother and said, How am I going to be in the family business if if I’m blind? And and that was the last time we discussed that? What did she say? She just cried. It was very difficult for her. Very, very difficult.
Michael Hingson 09:20
So how was your family dealing with blindness as you grew up?
Sheldon Lewis 09:24
Um, to be honest, they didn’t help me very much. It was too tough a conversation for my mother to have. My father was, you know, a great father. But he didn’t or couldn’t talk about this blindness thing. And so I went about it by myself and never even told anybody that I was going to be blind until I had to stop driving. And that’s when it all came up.
Michael Hingson 09:57
When did you stop driving? I stopped After you’ve stopped driving yourself that is, that’s right.
Sheldon Lewis 10:03
I stopped driving myself when I was 30. I love driving, it was fantastic was my passion. And I still remember it very well.
Michael Hingson 10:13
All right, how old are you now?
Sheldon Lewis 10:15
Have 60 going to be 64? Okay,
Michael Hingson 10:18
so you have not driven for more than half your life? That’s right. Okay, so you got a degree in the in textile management? And then what did you do?
Sheldon Lewis 10:30
I went to the family business, and then drove myself around, I opened up some factories, I traveled a lot to Europe, Eastern Europe, all over the world, Africa, and North America, of course. And then it became a little bit more difficult to, to manage that part of my life, because I couldn’t drive anymore at night. And, you know, this is in my mid 20s. And going through tunnels was tricky. Because I don’t really have to follow the lines on the roads, or the lights from the cars in front of me. And if there weren’t any cars, it was a big problem. So I really had to give it up sooner than I did in here. After that, after that, I managed to, luckily stopped managing certain facilities that were outside of Montreal, and I started using the public transit system to get around and vote. Yeah, go ahead and kept on in the textile business until three, four years ago.
Michael Hingson 11:43
So you continued in the business, you were in the family business all that time? Yes. So did you essentially assume the responsibilities of the business?
Sheldon Lewis 11:54
I did. So as to the company. And it was, it was it was strange, because I had to keep on changing my abilities, and what I could actually perform as the President, as my eyesight went down,
Michael Hingson 12:12
how did your your family respond to that? Well,
Sheldon Lewis 12:20
I have my immediate family, which is my wife and kids, right? Well, they Yeah, it was, it was difficult for my wife, to see me lose my sight. My kids knew that I couldn’t see at a very, very young age. So it kind of just was a natural thing for them. And they saw it happen. And we just dealt with it as a family. But between my wife and I, it was it was difficult at times.
Michael Hingson 12:50
How about your parents, they must have been seeing this change occur? And then you took over the business? Were they still around? How did they react to all of that?
Sheldon Lewis 13:00
Yeah, my mother passed away a long, long time ago. So she didn’t actually see me go through this part of my life. My father, I worked with him up until the business closed in 2018. But again, we didn’t talk too much about the blindness. He saw it happening. He didn’t approach me with it very many times. And that’s the way it was.
Michael Hingson 13:31
Yeah. And you just you moved on. So what did what was his job, as the business progressed, when you were president and so on?
Sheldon Lewis 13:39
He was chairman. We had, we had divisions in different countries. So he took on the management role in two of those divisions, I took the management role in the other ones, and I did all the buying. So it was it was tough to do the buying, as you can imagine, because when you can’t see what you’re buying, you have to rely on other people to to judge for you. And there’s all kinds of trust issues that come with that performance issues. And, you know, they just didn’t have the same ideas about what I wanted to target businesses as I did. So that was there were difficult times around that.
Michael Hingson 14:21
But you perceived what you needed to do and you pursued your dream.
Sheldon Lewis 14:27
I did. I tried my best, and I never let it get the better of me.
Michael Hingson 14:32
How come the business closed?
Sheldon Lewis 14:35
You know, circumstances changed a lot. It was it, the world became very focused on a huge selection of product, which meant a very large investment. And unless you had a very good distribution that work your a good portion or too much of a portion of those products didn’t sell enough. So We ended up, you know, having to take financial losses based on that scenario. And we just couldn’t blast that out. Yeah. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 15:09
Yeah, the whole market, in a lot of ways has changed. Companies have come along like Amazon and so on that, that do the things that they do. And of course, they even make products now, but still, they they come along, and that that changes the whole landscape. And is that a bad thing? Well, depends on, on who you are. But for you, but for you was just a change that the company could really continue to deal with, I
Sheldon Lewis 15:37
gather. That’s it.
Michael Hingson 15:40
And so you went on. So when did you become totally blind?
Sheldon Lewis 15:45
I still see light. Everything is at fault, though. And I have no central vision. So my brain up until about five years ago, kept on saying to mice to itself, I could still see. And it was great, because I had this little cocoon of vision, that that allowed me to pretend that I wasn’t blind. And only only in the last five years of, I’ve had to tell myself don’t challenge you really are blind now. And you better get used to being going.
Michael Hingson 16:23
What did you do to prepare for that?
Sheldon Lewis 16:26
That’s a very good question. I didn’t want to prepare until I had. And unfortunately, the first thing I had to adopt was using a white cane. And I didn’t do it until it was too late. And that’s still quite late. After which point, I knew that I broke it because I wasn’t using a cane. I knew that. So I started using it. And it was very difficult to, to, not to master, but to overcome the fears of of learning how to use it. And but, you know, I could still see more than I could later on. So my first experience with the white cane was less, less deep. Then, as time went along, that it needed, that it needed to be my skill set to improve as time next. I’m happy now I could walk anywhere in the city. And my biggest problem is when I get into a construction zone, or if I get lost, and if I get lost, I hope someone is around to help me and I don’t, I’m not shy about asking for help. And at a construction zone in Montreal anyways. The there’s always a construction guy on the live constructions that went anyways, there’s always a guy who comes over to take me by arm and help me around the construction. So
Michael Hingson 18:04
yeah, there’s a lot of construction on the world isn’t there? A lot. It happens. We all we all get some of those kinds of things. And, you know, there are a lot of sighted people who get trapped in those things, too. But yeah, but we we do have our adventures in those kinds of environments. So you must have faced a lot of fear, when When did fear kind of really become an integral part of you having to deal with all this? Or were you? Were you fearful at the beginning? I mean, you learned at nine years old that you were going to be losing eyesight and so on. Was that a fearful time? How does fear enter into your life,
Sheldon Lewis 18:48
it was a very fearful time I went to the first time it became a problem for me, I went to summer camp. And, of course, activities take place after dark. And as dark as darkness came along, it was a problem I get, I get really scared. I didn’t know that I should ask anybody for help. So I didn’t. And basically, I went back to the cabin as early as I could. And so that I wouldn’t have to bump into trees and trip over roots. That was a very scary time. Other times when it was scary was, you know, if I were driving, like I said before, and ended up in a tunnel, or a place where there were no lights on the roads. That wasn’t very, very, very much fun either. Took a lot of guts. But I think what took more guts was learning how to use the white cane and becoming familiar with how good it would be for me, and not worrying about what people thought and Just go around, finding ways to make it work, adapt to the circumstances get more training every time my vision went down a little bit. And so that was my first taste of fear. After I quit driving, and after a young age, later on, it became way it really can’t see right now, I better get ZoomText. Okay, so how do I learn to navigate my computer. And that wasn’t so wasn’t so simple, but it wasn’t too hard. But the fear of thinking about it, and worrying that I wouldn’t be able to do it, stop me from trying to do it at an earlier point in my life. And I had to wait until I had no choice. So that that was okay, once I figured out I had no choice I just went for. And when I went up went past, being able to use ZoomText, I had to use JAWS. And yeah, I just rolled into jaws, and that was no problem, continued to get more training around food preparation. So fear stopped being a big part of my life. But it’s still when I have to do something new. It’s a little bit fearsome.
Michael Hingson 21:25
Tell people what Jaws is. For those who don’t know,
Sheldon Lewis 21:28
Jarvis is a screen reader. That’s quite remarkable. It was developed in the early 90s. And it’s gotten pretty good at at this point, and then helps me navigate through websites. So if a website is properly coded, jaws can interact with all the links and fields and forms and buttons properly. But if the website isn’t coded, then Jaws doesn’t know, by using my tab key and my arrow key that those fields are there. And that’s what inaccessible website is, my screen reader doesn’t pick it up. And so I don’t know what’s there.
Michael Hingson 22:08
So to drill down on that a little bit more just to help. Jaws is a software package that can be loaded on Windows computers, primarily. And what it does is it verbalizes, whatever comes across the screen, but it is limited to alphanumeric textual information, it doesn’t do graphic information. Because graphics requires a lot more interpretation, which is another whole story. But Jaws verbal as is what comes along, so long as it can actually understand it. Which is really what Sheldon is getting to, which is that there are limitations. And we’ll, we’ll get into that. But you but you use JAWS. And you know your story very much parallels, the stories of so many people who lose eyesight sometime later in life or after birth. And the one thing that we usually encounter in hearing these stories is that there weren’t agencies or people around to really start to teach you that it’s okay to be blind, that blindness isn’t really the end of the world. And you had to eventually break a leg to decide that it would be ye but useful for you and practical to use a white cane and then eventually accept it. And there’s so many stories like that. But the reality is blindness isn’t the problem. And it’s kind of we have sort of worked around it. But the real issue is what people think about blindness, if you had have people who you could have gone to or who learned about you, and then could come and help you and say, you know, you’re gonna lose your eyesight, but it’s not the end of the world. And the thing to do is to start to learn these techniques now. Because the longer you take to decide to do that, the harder it will be because you won’t have the eyesight that you have today. And you never got that opportunity, which is unfortunate, because you might have discovered a lot earlier, the advantages of learning blindness techniques to use while you’re losing your eyesight.
Sheldon Lewis 24:28
Well, I have to correct you slightly, because I had the opportunity. My rehab center in Montreal was always there. I’ve been going there for 40 years. The problem was that because we never talked about it at home. And nobody ever said to me, you could do that which you should said Michael, and you could help yourself get trained at an earlier point, stuff like that. And because I was a little fearful of actually being a blind person and having to learn all these new things and a new way of working with life and lifestyle? I didn’t want to do it until I absolutely absolutely had to. How much
Michael Hingson 25:11
was the agency there? In Montreal? I don’t want to use the word pushing. But how? How involved? Were they are? Were they kind of just saying, well, you’re going to have to make the choice to do it. We can’t force you. How, how pushy, were they, if you will?
Sheldon Lewis 25:31
Well, they were very positive in offering me any of the services I wanted. And they kindly introduced all the possible services to me, based on my circumstances at that time period. Again, I didn’t go to a social worker there. So no one said to me, Sheldon, you’ll be better off learning it now then, at a later point, and I figured I knew better for myself. So I only wants to learn it when I needed to. And so that was a small mistake on my part, perhaps. But looking backwards, it suited me fine. Except for the legwork. I was, I was okay with how I approached it.
Michael Hingson 26:15
We interviewed on unstoppable mindset, some time ago, a lawyer who lost his eyesight as he grew older. And he decided that he wouldn’t be able to drive anymore and had to recognize that he was blind, after he totaled his second car in a year. Right. And, you know, so there are there are things that happen. It is a it is a story. It is a it is a constant story. And the problem is that in dealing with blindness, if there aren’t a lot of role models, and if there aren’t agencies that can learn to couch it in a way that you can understand up, you’re going to do exactly what you did. Well, okay, but but you’re here now. And you have moved on from a life of total eyesight to a life mostly of have no eyesight at all. And you sound like you’re accepting that pretty well.
Sheldon Lewis 27:16
Yes. So, yeah, go ahead. That’s okay. For me.
Michael Hingson 27:22
Good. So, so you lost your eyesight, you broke your leg, you learn to use a cane, you now move around Montreal and, and, and all those kinds of things. You closed the business in 2018, then what?
Sheldon Lewis 27:37
Then I had to figure out what I wanted to do. And I had always wanted to be involved in somehow helping the community. And I wasn’t sure what that meant, or how to get involved in it. Because I’ve never done anything like that before. I was very busy with work. And so I started looking around, how am I going to approach business and accessibility at the same time. And that’s when I discovered the accessiBe and their websites, or websites, because all the other websites I had looked at in this journey of what am I going to do now. We’re basically an inaccessible and give me problems navigating. And when I got to accessiBe’s website, the their website was navigable. And that’s about this incredible. That’s that’s how I met accessiBe. And at the same time, I started to get involved with the community here in Montreal. I joined the philanthropy committee at the local rehab center started doing some committee work and fundraising. I got myself on the city accessibility advisory committee that last year and I’ve tried hard to to integrate into this community and and create a new path for myself.
Michael Hingson 29:13
wondering did you discover accessiBe?
Sheldon Lewis 29:17
I think I discovered them in 2019. And when it when I discovered them, I was so excited. I called the number on the screen and the CEO picked up and it’s like, wow, we hit it off right away. And I got to know the other partners in the company as well over time and I felt very good and comfortable around them and their technology.
Michael Hingson 29:50
So you discovered it and you call the number and well so So what have you done with accessiBe Over the past three years, did you just start to use it and learn about it or what?
Sheldon Lewis 30:05
No, at first I went, and I tried to sell the technology. I thought it was a great offer. And I wanted to share it with everybody that I could. And I found that to be a little bit more difficult than I thought. I’ve never done a cold call sales kind of job before. And I’d never sold technology before. And then I wasn’t hitting on a lot of people who wanted accessibility for their websites that that was the really strange thing. Is that not any Pete? Nobody was contacting wanted accessibility for the site’s why? They said, It’s too expensive. It’s too long. I don’t need it. I don’t have clients for it. And I’m not interested. And what is accessibility, many of them asked me, I don’t even know what that is. So I gave that up. And after six months, it was too harsh. And I wasn’t getting enough results. I started looking into other technologies ran into the same problems with the disability, and using those platforms to build a business around or, you know, something for myself to do. And then very luckily, accessiBe called me not too long ago, last April or March, and said that they were starting a new initiative called the nonprofit partnership program. And they wanted to know if I wanted to join as a person working for them. And I said, Well, what would I be doing? They told me, Well, I think you might like this job. It’s it’s all about contacting a nonprofit organizations that provide services to the disabled, and offering our technology at no charge amongst other community driven initiatives. And I said, Wow, you mean I can, I can meet all these wonderful people talk about accessibility, give them a solution, and help all their clients who need more web more websites to be accessible with their accessibility needs. I meant, that’s, it took me five minutes to decide that I was in and ready to do this job.
Michael Hingson 32:29
So yeah, go ahead. Sorry,
Sheldon Lewis 32:31
since then, I’ve really enjoyed my my eye opening experience, learn a whole bunch of new technologies that I had to start using to do the job. And there are a lot of great people.
Michael Hingson 32:47
So how has that been different than going out and selling the actual product to paying customers? Why are you more successful doing this?
Sheldon Lewis 32:59
That’s a good question. The people are more receptive. They know they need accessibility. They even feel that as it is, you know, an organization providing services to the disabled, their website should be accessible. So they’re unboard almost immediately. And then I don’t have to do too much convincing. Whereas, you know, commercial customers, it was a lot of convincing and and including why they should be accepted.
Michael Hingson 33:35
Do you think yet the landscape the mindset is changing? And that may be more commercial organizations profit making companies are recognizing the need for accessibility? Or do you think society is there yet?
Sheldon Lewis 33:52
That’s another good question. I think that the black lives matter, matter, whole thing, plus COVID have really wait raise the awareness levels of everyone, to many different plates of different people. And so I think that people are more open to what it says ability means now and trying to become accessible and do the right thing, way more than compared to before. So yes, I think the commercial world has changed. And not only that, I think they’re also realizing that as the population gets older, there’s I think about 20% of people have one or two disabilities, and that that might be one of their clients. And on top of that, if they help those clients use their websites, those clients might become loyal customers too. So I think all this information is starting to sink in, and people are more receptive and open to it now.
Michael Hingson 34:56
So what kind of new technologies have you learned over the past Several months,
Sheldon Lewis 35:02
I’ve had to learn how to use Zoom. That’s been a good challenge. I learned how to use PowerPoint, just last week to do a presentation, I learned how to use Excel in a much deeper way. So that’s been good. And, and the best part is that I’ve just growing comfortable with doing all the different parts of my job, and this new technology. Whereas six months ago, and eight months ago, when I started this job, I was very nervous about the technology and using it. You know, a perfect example is, when I go to a Zoom meeting, the when I after I admit the person to the meeting, the software tells me that the persons left the waiting room. So at first, I thought, oh, no, I lost a customer. Oh, no, you know what, I was panicking at everything. And it took me about 1010 tries to start to realize that no, I didn’t lose anybody, because they were going to come automatically to the meeting after that. After though that’s the meeting room. So that was, you know, a good experience. Don’t feel very comfortable. I noticed scheduling my own meetings. I’ve learned how to use Calendly. It’s good.
Michael Hingson 36:29
What are some of the other major sales tools that you’ve had to learn to be able to reach out to people deal with letters deal with contact databases and so on? What do you use?
Sheldon Lewis 36:41
Yeah, I use LinkedIn a lot. LinkedIn, I find it’s become more accessible. In the past year and a half. I don’t have as much trouble as I did two years ago. I do a lot of marketing on LinkedIn. And I like it. I use it on my phone, of course, had to learn how to use my phone as well as a blind person. Thank goodness, the the iPhones came along with VoiceOver when they did, because it was exactly at the time when I could no longer use a cell phone. And I was trying to figure out what I was going to do in business if I couldn’t use a cell phone. And then there was lucky me. And there you are, yeah, I use Twitter. Sometimes not to my utter, I can use Facebook, but I don’t really like it. So I think those are the technologies of using.
Michael Hingson 37:37
What are some of your real successes since you have began this journey? And are working with nonprofits? What are some of the the really exciting opportunities that came along? Where you’ve been able to truly assist? Since that’s what you wanted to do?
Sheldon Lewis 37:56
Yes. That’s a very good question. I think that the first answer is that I’m helping all these people get to be accessible, and overcome their own challenges of how to attain accessibility for the websites. Everybody finds it very difficult to take the time to spend the money is wrong, limited budgets. So I think the the first best part of my experience with this is helping people become successful.
Michael Hingson 38:33
Can you give us a story of one place where you had to take people through the journey, and then they came out the other end and found that what you were doing was a good thing?
Sheldon Lewis 38:46
Yes, I met with Community Living Hamilton, and they could not afford accessibility. And after telling me why, you know, too much takes too long. They don’t have enough people resources. They, I took them on a tour of the software demonstration for them. They were blown away. They couldn’t believe how good the software was, and how accessible it be a website seemed to them and, and they said, Okay, I’m ready to sign up. I just have to speak with my executive director, and everybody on the team on board. And everybody in the organization came back and said they loved it. And they were ready to go forward with it. So that’s a good feeling. And, and I know I’ve helped a whole bunch of people gain access to their website at the same time.
Michael Hingson 39:49
How many organizations do you think over the past several months you’ve been able to meet within and get to make their websites more accessible?
Sheldon Lewis 40:01
by saying that I’ve personally gotten to about the 50, Mark, or 60, Mark, but I’ve been in touch with about 125 clients right now. And but it’s funny, not all organizations want to go down the path of accessibility, even if we’re willing to provide it to them for free. They never see why. They just don’t come back.
Michael Hingson 40:31
And you don’t know whether they’ve gone elsewhere or
Sheldon Lewis 40:35
what? Oh, this one, this one organization told me they went somewhere that their web developer told that they should go to, uh huh. But no one else is, has told me why they’re not taking it, since
Michael Hingson 40:51
they don’t make them just accessible for blind people do they
Sheldon Lewis 40:55
know they’re accessible, if they do a good job, on their website accessibility initiative, they can address the needs of all the different disability groups that are out there. That’s why I love accessiBe especially because it addresses all of the disability groups needs that are out there, and brings up the general level of accessibility for any site. And it’s a great thing.
Michael Hingson 41:27
What would you say to anyone who is listening to this, and who wants to learn more about accessibility, nonprofit or profit making?
Sheldon Lewis 41:40
Well, there’s a lot of information on the internet, obviously, they can go to accessiBe’s website, they can get in touch with me any time, I’ll be an impartial counselor for them to tell them about what accessibility is, how they can get it, the different possibilities that are out there for them to use. And then there’s lots of resources. So we just, we just want more and more people to become accessible on their websites as quickly as possible. That’s our goal mission. And it says to be actually to make all websites accessible by the year 2025.
Michael Hingson 42:23
Sheldon Lewis 42:24
ambitious, still 500,000 new websites every month, or, or something like that worldwide, that’s, that’s a huge number. So a scalable solution, like accessiBe is great for that, because you don’t need to spend 10 or 15 weeks coding a website that spend, you know, between five and 30,000, or $50,000, making that website accessible, and then having to keep it accessible afterwards, is another job in itself. That accessiBe tackles very handily.
Michael Hingson 43:03
You have taken an incredible journey in your life, certainly one that you didn’t expect to have to take or that you thought you would take, but you’ve taken it. And you’ve come out the other side and done pretty well. What would you say to anyone who’s listening to this? Who happens to be losing their eyesight? Or who has not been given any kind of training about dealing with blindness? Or for that matter? Any any person who is encountering the fact that they’re becoming a person with a disability? What kind of advice would you give them?
Sheldon Lewis 43:43
Well, when you have a disability, you can’t do things at the same pace. You used to be able to do them before, especially if the disability grows on you, you’re slowly becoming less speedy. And the best thing is, is if you can recognize that, and slow down so that you can do more for yourself, be aware, have more, not hurt yourself at the same time. Recognize the challenge, try and adapt to it. Adapting is a big skill that that takes a long time to recognize you need to have because all you have to do when you have a disability. And this is not true for everybody. But you have to try and find another way to to do the same thing. So someone loses the use of their legs, for example. And they used to go shopping everywhere when they used to be able to walk and then suddenly they have to use a wheelchair or crutches or something like that. They have to have to figure out a way with help or without help to be able to do the same thing so that their life doesn’t get ruined. And, and, and they can keep on doing things that the worst part of my vision for myself was when I used to wonder, could I overcome my challenges? So that didn’t, so that I didn’t, you know, just get down by by losing my sight. And I haven’t, I’ve lived up to my own expectations, my own wishes, by keeping on being able to do things, even if it’s a new way.
Michael Hingson 45:30
If people want to reach out and get in touch with you, how can they do that?
Sheldon Lewis 45:35
Well, they can reach me on my telephone, which is a toll free number at 855-561-4297. Or they can reach me by email at Sheldon S H E L D O N L E @ A C C E S S I B E .com and I’ll be happy to speak with anybody about accessibility issues.
Michael Hingson 46:14
That is great. Well, Sheldon, I want to thank you for taking time out of your day, your busy day to visit with us here on unstoppable mindset and I think it’s pretty clear that you’ve demonstrated your ability to continue to be unstoppable. For any of you listening feel free to reach out to Sheldon again email is Sheldon L E at accessiBe A C C E S S I B like Baker E .com And if you would like to reach out and comment to me about this podcast, we hope you’ll do so you can reach me at Michael H I M I C H A E L at accessibe.com Visit our podcast page www.MichaelHingson,com/podcast. love to hear your thoughts. If you’d like to be a guest on our podcast, please reach out. And also I asked you when you listen to us, please. Wherever you listen to podcasts, give us a five Star rating. We’d appreciate good ratings from you. It helps us and it helps other people understand what we’re doing. And the world really can be inclusive for everyone. If we allow our mindsets to let us be unstoppable and move forward, Sheldon again. Thanks very much. And thank
Sheldon Lewis 47:41
you very much, Michael. It’s been a pleasure talking with you today. I really enjoyed myself.
Michael Hingson 47:46
Well, thank you. I did as well. And we hope that you’ll you and everyone else will come back again next week for another edition of unstoppable mindset, the podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Thanks again.
UM Intro/Outro 48:05
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.