Episode 8 – The Accessibility Gap (Part 1)
Statistics show that over 380 new websites are created every minute in the United States alone. Studies further show that only about %2 of all websites are accessible. This phenomena is called “the accessibility gap” and the gap grows larger in number every minute of every day.
In this interview, taken from a webinar conducted on March 30, 2021 Mike interviews Curtis Chong, a longtime expert on assistive technology who happens to be blind as well as having a deep knowledge of the challenges persons with disabilities face in using the internet. Curtis will share his own stories and observations as well as challenging all of us to rethink how we create and construct websites in order to include the %20+ of persons with disabilities who today are left out of the opportunities the internet offers to most of us.
About our Guest:
Curtis Chong was born in Hawaii and lived there for twenty years. Because he was born prematurely (weighing in at only two-and-a-half pounds), he was placed in an incubator. Unfortunately, at that time, the incubator delivered too much oxygen, causing his retinas to be irreparably damaged.
For more than four decades, he has worked to improve the ability of blind people to use computers and other technologies. Since 1969, he has been active in the National Federation of the Blind, promoting civil rights and improved services for blind people in Hawaii, California, Minnesota, Maryland, Iowa, New Mexico, and now in Colorado.
Before entering the field of work with the blind, Curtis spent more than 20 years working in information technology. He programmed his first mainframe computer in 1972, at a time when computers did not talk to the blind. As a designer/consultant at American Express Financial Services (now Ameriprise), he provided technical support for mainframe database and communications software, maintaining systems for sighted coworkers within the company. From 1997-2002, Curtis worked as the Director of Technology for the National Federation of the Blind, supporting internal information technology for the Federation and its external programs to improve nonvisual access technology for the blind in several different areas. He then spent fifteen years in Iowa and New Mexico as a nonvisual access technology specialist in work with the blind.
From October 1998 through April 1999, Curtis served as a member of the Electronic Information and Technology Access Advisory Committee of the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board; this group prepared the preliminary standards which were later used by the Access Board to implement Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Curtis also served on a second Access Board committee, appointed ten years later, which developed updated technical standards for Section 508; these standards have been incorporated into published federal rules.
Today, Curtis Chong has retired from paid employment. Nevertheless, he continues his work to help blind people to live the lives they want regardless of their blindness. He continues to volunteer as a nonvisual access consultant for the National Federation of the Blind. In this capacity, in 2019, he and his colleagues in the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado worked to pass a law which enables people with disabilities in Colorado who cannot fill out the printed mail ballot without help to mark their ballots online using the assistive technology with which they are most familiar.
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.
https://www.youtube.com/c/accessiBe https://www.linkedin.com/company/accessibe/mycompany/ https://www.facebook.com/accessibe/
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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 01:22
Hi, this is Michael Hingson, your host for Unstoppable Mindset. In the past, you’ve heard me talk some about accessiBe, the company I work for as Chief Vision Officer. accessiBe is a company that helps make websites much more usable both through its artificial intelligence solution, as well as other remediation efforts. That is to say what it does is it makes websites more accessible for persons with disabilities who otherwise can’t use them. Because most people don’t put in the appropriate technologies that would make their websites usable by all people. The gap grows wider every day, every minute in the United States alone, more than 380 new websites are created. less than 2% of those websites include all the tools to make them or at least even some of the tools to make those websites usable and accessible. In March of this year, we conducted a webinar called the Accessibility Gap. And actually this is the first webinar in a series. My guest on the webinar is Curtis Chung, who’s a longtime accessibility technology leader for blind people in the National Federation of the Blind and throughout the world. Curtis’s highly recognized for all of his knowledge, and the skills and the efforts that he brings to make the world an inclusive place. I thought it would be interesting for us to just go through and listen to that webinar today. I hope you’ll find it interesting and instructive. And I hope it’ll give you some thought about what you can do to make your website accessible. So sit back, relax and enjoy the Accessibility Gap Part One.
Michael Hingson 03:03
I’m Michael Hingson. I’m the Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. And I’m really glad you came by. Glad you’re here. And we’ll we’ll have high hopes some interesting things to talk about. But I’d first like to introduce Curtis Chong, I should say that I am the Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe, which means I get to be out in front of a lot of things, which has its pluses and it’s minuses, but it’s a lot of fun. But with me today is somebody I’ve known forever. And the thing about both of us is we’ve been dealing with technology since the 1970. So I don’t want to hear any comments from anyone about being too old or older than dirt, because experience counts for a lot. That’s right, Curtis. So I’d like you to meet Curtis Chong.
Curtis Chong 03:51
Yes, I’ve known Michael since 1974. And we’ve both been involved in one fashion or another in efforts to enhance Braille and speech technology that was at the beginning. And then to go forward now to try to interweave all of that into mainstream, the mainstream world since everybody else is now using technology, and it is no longer in the back rooms, hiding behind a secure door that nobody else can get through. So that’s my background.
Michael Hingson 04:19
And I’ve been dealing with assistive technology in official capacities ever since working with Ray Kurzweil and the National Federation of the Blind to develop the original Kurzweil Reading Machine, which also set the tone for consumer involvement in a lot of different areas dealing with technology. And I want to start by saying that today, we are not here to sell you any products. We are here however, to give you a takeaway, and if you want to call it such to sell you want a concept, which is what we’re calling the accessibility gap. So what is this thing that you’ve registered to hear about called the accessibility gap? It’s really the same sort of thing that we see as blind people, and that persons with disabilities in general, tend to encounter and that is that there is a major gulf between what we as so called persons with disabilities encounter, and what the rest of the world has access to. And that golf is that we don’t get the same access to things that others do. And today, we’re going to talk about the internet, specifically, in the World Wide Web, because there is a major gap between what most people get online and on the net, or however they get there. And what we tend to get blind people. And I’m going to talk about blind people, mainly here, but in one way or another, this translates across to any disability. But we’ll deal with blindness today, if that’s all right, mainly because Curtis and I are blind. And we know more about that than anything else, at least I think we do. And so we’re going to talk about the world in those terms to a degree but the concepts go across the board. So we get no access, really, to graphics, from the outset of what people do when they create a website, we don’t get access to a lot of the content because the website developers, that is the people who make website, building software, and so on, don’t have any kind of accessibility automatically, or mandated wise built into what they do. So people nowadays are creating websites at an incredible rate. I think the last number I heard was something like over 380 websites per minute, which translates into something like 500,000 websites a day. And that’s a lot of websites. And the problem is that the number of people who can make those websites accessible, that is who have the technical knowledge is very limited. And their knowledge and their expertise really goes to all aspects of the whole accessibility issue. That is some are better at it than others. But nevertheless, there aren’t that many of them. And the result is that we don’t have a lot of have access to many different kinds of things. People are creating websites at this incredible rate, because they’re easy. We got website builders, CMS technologies, they’re just a lot of things, people can easily create WordPress sites and so on. That’s a very fast and somewhat automated process. And we don’t get access to that stuff, which is part of the issue that we all face, in the world. Right, Curtis? Sir?
Curtis Chong 08:05
Well, I would, I would clarify that, at least in my mind, it’s not that we don’t have any access to all the websites that are out there, it’s that we are more likely than not to run into difficulty with either all of it, depending on how the pages are put up, or parts of it. And sometimes the parts that are not accessible, are trivial. And they don’t matter in terms of the task that I as a blind person interested in performing. And at other times, the tasks that I want to perform is vital to my completion of something. So for example, if I’m going to an employer’s website and file filling in or submitting a job application or resume, I might get all the way through uploading all of my content to the site. But then there’s a button that says Submit. And that little little teeny weeny button that says Submit could be one that you cannot activate with the keyboard. And it is not because these people that the people who are making websites deliberately set out to hate let’s put a barrier get those blind people, we don’t want them, we just just keep them off of our website. No, that’s not how it is at all. A lot of these things that get in our way, are what I would call unintentional barriers, for the most part, which are created be caused because they’re using the latest development tool, or they’re trying to be fancy, and they’re doing something and nobody finds out that it doesn’t work until a real life a blind person or person with disability tries to do something and all of a sudden, oh my gosh, we have a problem. And of course, given a low number of blind people, I mean, it’s a significant chunk of the population when you think about it in one way, but we’re a pretty small group. And so we’re not going to touch as a population Every single one of the websites accessible or inaccessible, that are out there, until we do it, and then all of a sudden it becomes becomes an issue. So I don’t get the feeling, you know that the web is overwhelmingly barred from me, what I get the feeling of is, I don’t know, for absolute sure. Whether the next website I want to access and you know, most of you, you, as a as a blind person, if you’re out there looking, let’s say for articles about a certain topic, this is where you might visit 1020 or 30 websites in the course of a half an hour, because you’re reading different articles about a topic in which you are interested, then you’re going to notice, or wonder how many of those 30 sites are sufficiently well put together, that we can at least glean what we want out of them? Or kick our way through the parts that don’t work and get the essential stuff that we want? We don’t put it?
Michael Hingson 10:56
Yeah, yeah, you put it you put it very well as muscling through
Curtis Chong 10:59
muscling through. Yes, that’s exactly what we wind up.
Michael Hingson 11:01
And that’s exactly right. And the problem is that even if we can muscle through and get some content and get some information, what we don’t know is what we don’t know. That is to say, there are many times on a website for us as blind people where information is, is is given. But it’s done in a way that we don’t tend to see it or there are menus, or there are other elements that aren’t accessible. So the problem is that it comes down to the fact that most people don’t know what to do to make the website world available to us. And we were not in an ideal situation. That is if we were really dealing with a truly ideal world. The people who create the tools that develop websites would need to and would have to provide access automatically as part of that, they would have to build that in so that there was no way that you could create a website without it being fully accessible to all. And that’s not what happens. Well,
Curtis Chong 12:15
I mean, I submit, Michael, that the problem also exists with our access technology with our shirt, right? It’s not, it’s because right now, the fundamental underpinning of the whole access arena for the blind has been the ability to take text or to find text or to do something with it. And to send it off to a speech system, or to send it off to a Braille device, or both. The whole infrastructure of screen access technology, a 99% of it is focused on this concept of grab the text and render that what the screen reader software is incapable of doing. For the most part, I mean, yeah, you hear about things like Jaws with the picture smart. And you hear about jaws and other NVDA with the OCR. OCR means optical character recognition where you can read the print. But the intelligence in the screen reader is not like a person who, you know, if I hire a human being who I think of as smart, competent, literate and articulate, you know, somebody and I used to do this a lot more than I do now, to read what’s on the screen, to me, that person can look at the picture and say, This is a picture of an Edsel with a license plate number that at that at that, ah, okay, so they make some human judgments. But the screen readers are incapable of doing that right now, also. So I want to emphasize that point as well. It’s a balancing act, actually.
Michael Hingson 13:41
So there’s a lot that goes into it. And look, this goes across other disabilities as well, in terms of issues that we all face, if you happen to be a person with epilepsy, and you go to a website, where there are blinking things that are trying to attract your attention to parts of those sites, those can cause seizures. Or if you’re a low vision person, and you don’t have some of the technology that ideally would be great for you to have, you may not be able to change the contrast of the text and or change the font sizes. And those are issues that website developers also need to to deal with because it isn’t necessarily automatically done in some other way. So there’s just a lot of access that that needs to be done. And then
Curtis Chong 14:32
there is the dimension. The another contributor the accessibility gap is the proficiency with which the technology is used by the blind or otherwise disabled individual. Person. Yeah, because in the world of the blind in order to use a lot of this stuff, there are a lot of you know, mouse people just take their pointer and find an icon or something and they click on it. They have to memorize things but mostly they don’t have to memorize things like what’s the keyboard command? Go to the top of the screen? What’s the keyboard command to go to the bottom? How do I activate a link. And that is something that is intrinsic with our not just the technology, but the training programs that we rely on as blind people to learn the very specific techniques that we use non visually that are not taught anywhere else. So that’s a contributing factor too.
Michael Hingson 15:27
The problem is that ultimately, what it comes down to is that, for us to be able to fully deal with access and access technology today, we have to be pretty technically savvy, compared to most people that use the web. And that’s not even dealing with some of the other issues that contribute to the graph to the gap, the cost. So if I go off and create a simple website, I can go to like Shopify or somewhere maybe on Amazon and create a site, maybe it’ll cost 20 bucks, maybe it’ll cost 100 bucks. There’s nothing that makes that site accessible. So then how do I get it to be accessible? Well, I’ve got to have to find somebody who knows, assuming I’m even aware enough to think about access. But typically, most people want to get their sites up, they want to start selling products, and so on. And so the bottom line is, they don’t know about accessibility anyway.
Curtis Chong 16:21
And the irony here is, the simpler in design the site is the less Elysee is the less complicated development tool, the higher the likelihood that it will actually work out of the box with little extra effort. On our part, right, more complicated ones, the ones that use the slides that you know, change at random are the ones that have layers of software between the actual you know, where the developer doesn’t know anything about old texts, for example, for graphics, those are the ones that will cause us trouble. So that there is sophisticated the worst that becomes
Michael Hingson 16:55
accurate there. But the problem is that the the building tools are encouraging a lot more of those complexities, menus, slides, tables, graphs, other things that that tend to be a problem. And so they’re making the inclusion of a lot of those elements in a website, a lot easier to bring about, which then goes off and tends to make the sites less inclusive. Yeah. And so how do you deal with that? Well, you eventually have one of two options. Well, one of three options, you just ignore it. Another option is you realize, oh, maybe there are other people out here who aren’t able to access my website, I’ve heard about this whole access thing.
Curtis Chong 17:39
And I know about you, as in the purveyor of the site, and not
Michael Hingson 17:42
The purveyor of the site. Right? Okay. All right. And and the third is that you as the purveyor of the site, suddenly get a letter saying, we’re going to sue you, because your website’s not accessible. And unfortunately, that’s happening all too often,
Curtis Chong 17:55
too, how are we the end users, the ones who ultimately get hurt or helped by what they do, dealing with it, because it’s not as if we’re living in a universe where nothing gets done, or we don’t have, you know, some some of the enterprising forward, you know, blind people who are just trying to get by living their lives normally, if they have enough motivation, and if the confidence in themselves has not been bred out of them, will make a determination how much more effort do I want to invest in this in order to get what I want? Because, you know, that’s a lot of what happens, you know, you remember when we used to live in the world of only print, right? Where nothing was accessible in print. There were some who couldn’t handle that. And there were others who had strategies in place to figure out what to do with the print involving the use of a person that you hired or more than one person. Now, do I want to go back to that? Absolutely not, we don’t write we want access to the technology, because it’s so intrinsic to our lives. Now. You can’t even visit your doctor without going online. You can’t shop for necessities these days, half the time without getting online or file a complaint or apply for a job, right? So the need to get at this digital infrastructure is, is a lot more significant, and a lot more pervasive now. Because you can’t live your life, you know, without getting online without using email. Our society looks askance at people who don’t have access to the web. And a lot of opportunities are denied to a chunk of the population who doesn’t have access to the web, because so many companies just offer it. So we have to accept that as a reality in order to go on to the next part that I know you want to talk about, which is how do we get across this gap? To try to get as close as we can to something that enables us to do what we need to do Online just like everybody else, because I submit to that. It’s not just that people with disabilities who have this problem. Sure it’s economically disadvantaged people, people who live in areas where you don’t have the internet, people without Wi Fi, you know, all this other kind of stuff. But we’re
Michael Hingson 20:15
people who, yeah, or people who grew up without the Internet. And now they’re thrust into this. Yeah, we look at seniors who are in a position where they have to start using smartphones and computers and do all this stuff online, and a number of them don’t know how to do it, and are having to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. And so how do we how does how does all that get fixed? Well, the answer is that in the traditional sense of the word, the developers, the people who create the websites, the people who create the tools that create the websites, that whole environment, tries to make access as easy as possible for all of these people. And there are a lot of books and training tools and other kinds of things that most people can have access to. Now, there are going to be the Luddites that resist but but people are oftentimes able to find ways to get access to some of that stuff. And whether they like it or not, they will learn enough to get by and there again, we get left out of that to a large degree as people who happen to have disabilities, and especially blind people, because the material is just not made available. So we get back to what you just said, we really are need to talk about next is, so how in the world, do we start to close that gap? What are the what are the various ways that we deal with making the internet more accessible and narrow that gap?
Curtis Chong 21:56
Well, there I don’t think the answer is one. I mean, there is no one, right? Single Answer, there is a multiple, you know, for example, not even referring to technology itself, if we could get it so that every single training program that teaches you how to develop the web, would mandate that you have to pass a component dealing with accessibility, that would be one way. It’s not the only way. But it would be a step. If we could make our screen reading technology more sophisticated and able to use a, you know, at one time, when we used to deal with remember the 24 lines by 80 characters, text only screens, and we were even wrangling then about how do we give that information? Because it’s more than just the letters and the words, it’s what’s highlighted. Where’s the little pointer? How do you convey all of that information to the end user? So there’s we got pictures? Yeah, yeah, then we got crap, which contain text sometimes, right? And we got data representations, which visually are much more convenient. You know, like, especially now with the pandemic, you get tons of these graphs that show the trends of how many people have died over the last six months, how many people are getting better over the last six months, all that kind of stuff, our data visualizations, which are bad enough in and of themselves, but it’s worse, when the people who put them up, don’t even label the links that bring them up to tell you which data visualization you’re going to get. Right. So
Michael Hingson 23:26
it’s true that you can do some things with screen readers that is specific assistive technology. But what do we do? And I And again, I am also agreeing with you that there is not one answer. But I think there are several answers that come up to one overall solution, which is awareness and desire. But what are some of the ways that the the world of people who create and are involved in addressing the issue of having internet websites available? What are the ways that they can deal with the gap? Well, I can think of a couple I can think of a few. One is going back to something that you said, but taking it a step further. Because even if you get trainers to be required to pass a component, that doesn’t mean that they will build accessibility into it. And it also may mean that when they go to someone’s website to build it, they’ll say, you know, here’s what we can do. But we’ve got to use special expertise to put an access in. So that’s going to cost more money. And then somebody says, Well, I can’t afford to pay more money. So I think that the solution to that is that access has to be mandated right out of the box everywhere, with website development tools, with all of the technology that is involved with the Internet. Having said that, that’s not working very well. For us, because it isn’t happening. It isn’t happening very fast. But it’s still the ultimate way that we want to do it. So what we have in the meanwhile, are the people that you’re talking about who get trained. And some of them do a better job than others. I think there’s been even some studies lately that show that even among the coding environment, they don’t necessarily always get it all that well. And so a lot of accessibility issues get left out. But that’s still a solution. And if we had it as a partial, it is a partial solution, one component of this, it’s a component. Yeah. And you’re absolutely right. So we have we have those folks. And it would be great if we could get 100 times as many of those folks as we have today. But even then, the problem with that partial solution is, once you go in, and you make a website accessible, you have another problem, which is, what if I, as the website owner, go in and change something. So I’m a restaurant and I go in, and I put up a new menu tomorrow, over what’s there today, or I want to change some other things. And typically, I have the resources to do that easily. Because the tools allow for that. And hopefully, when I hired you, as a coder, you helped make sure that I could do things to my website that I need to do. But still then when you get to access, and there’s nothing that mandates that that access continue, suddenly, what you as the coder created goes out of compliance. And so it’s it’s not a scalable solution. But it is a partial solution.
Curtis Chong 26:42
Well, you know, I had a, I have a, I live in a place that supposed to be for people who are 55 and older. And when they first started getting everybody online, they would put the restaurant menus up as a part of the body of the email, which were great. Until one day, somebody discovered they could do a screen print of what would otherwise be an accessible document. And they would paste that in the email. And then if you were a blind person, you would find if you were lucky, the graphic would be spoken. So you know there was a graphic there. But otherwise your screen would it would indicate that there was nothing there. And you you you were left wondering what what’s going on with the menu, you know,
Michael Hingson 27:30
and I went the other way I start I’m living in the Spring Valley Lake area of Victorville. And so we have a country club, and they have a restaurant. And they started with screenshots. And they send also texts every day with a screenshot of the menu. And I said, you know, this isn’t working for some of us, and got them to change. So that now, they still send the message with a screenshot. But they also email the menus every day in text format, because there’s no other way for me to read them. But But the bottom line is either way you go, people have to alter what they would normally do to make it possible for us to get access to it. And the coders can’t keep up with that stuff. Because it would drive so many people out of business, if you had to keep somebody on constant retainer to fix access issues as they emerge because you’ve made changes in the site. So it’s just not going to be a good end all solution. And you know, so where are we headed with that? Well, the bottom line is we need a solution that’s more scalable, and that can enhance what the coders do. Or that can can do a lot of the work that the experts already do that could be automated, and then they could do the stuff that an automated solution can’t do. And the reality is that artificial intelligence is with us everywhere we go. And there’s no reason not to take advantage of artificial intelligence.
Curtis Chong 29:08
Yeah, there’s a lot of reasons why you don’t want to take advantage of artificial Intel. Yeah, because it’s in its infancy now
Michael Hingson 29:13
it is in its infancy. But But But by the same token, it’s there and it isn’t just artificial intelligence on the web. The fact is, we have artificial intelligence all around us. And, and like it or not, we are using it even if it’s in its infancy, and it’s going to emerge and evolve. But by not using it and not taking advantage of the capabilities that are in existence today. We’re leaving out a potential component that can enhance what we do.
Curtis Chong 29:43
See, I subscribe to the School of Technology has to earn our trust in order for it to be truly of benefit to people. Because if I have spent my all of my working life finding out what’s wrong with a part of the technology that I was responsible for supporting. And after you fix the problems day after day after day after day, you know, my team used to make which were all sighted people, except for me. And we used to make jokes about how well gosh, I’m sorry, Mr. President, but we can’t fire the missiles today, because the mainframe just crashed, you know, right. And this is not something that AI is going to eliminate, it might reduce it. But remember, AI is created initially by fallible human beings who do make mistakes. So anybody who says to Me AI is going to be a tremendously successful fix to any kind of a problem. I gotta tell you, I am willing to look at it. I will explain it right. That’s true. But I’m not willing to go around and say to people, don’t worry, AI is going to solve real problems. But because all that’s happened is it’s, it’s no. Well, here’s the point, people will muck it up. Yeah. Because of the way it’s implemented. Right? Well, that’s because that’s what we do. As the
Michael Hingson 31:05
conceptually speaking AI can be in and a part of an enhancement or a part of solution. Yeah. And that’s all I’m saying. I’m not saying that it’s going to be the end all solution. It hasn’t progressed that far. I suppose we could say if Ray Kurzweil is correct about the singularity, which by the way, is now moved from what the late 2020s to 2045. But if he’s correct about the singularity, and we all get chips implanted in us, so that we interact with computers and so on, and so you marry the two, maybe that will fix it. But we’re not there yet. No, and, and so we still deal with human fallibility. But AI is something that exists more today than it did five years ago, or 10 years ago, and it will be improved over the next 10 years or 15 years. And the fact is that it does exist, and okay, ought to be explored as being a part of where we go as we do. We can close together,
Curtis Chong 32:06
Michael, let’s talk about what AI can do today. Okay. I mean, I’m, you know, what some of those things are. So why give me some concrete examples of what an AI intervention? And we’re, you know, let’s focus on web accessibility. So what would AI? If, let’s just assume that there’s no problems that it’s all working? Great. So well, basically? Yeah, let’s talk about some of the things that AI can do. Because I want to I am interested in knowing what the state should AI is, right now.
Michael Hingson 32:37
So So ai, ai certainly can analyze a lot of things. So let’s take a website. And I love to use my website as as an example. And you’ve been there and you’ve seen it, there are components on the website, that were not all tagged appropriately when the website was updated last August, one of which is a menu. And what shows up to my screen reader into your screener is something that says it’s a pop up, but we can’t access it easily. We can muscle through and do a lot of convolutions to finally get it to show up. But AI can recognize that that’s supposed to be a menu can look at what’s in that menu. And it can provide a representation of that menu that I can then access
Curtis Chong 33:31
That assumes, I mean, isn’t there a basic assumption that is assumed, which is to say that the elements of the menu themselves are readable? text so that it does well? What happens if the elements of the menu are pure pictures?
Michael Hingson 33:48
Okay, and so then the answer, so then the answer is, and you’re right. So then the answer is, if the pictures are differentiable, AI can tell the difference from one picture to another. How well it verbalizes those pictures is something that is going to be one of the one of the ways that AI will improve. So let me talk about pictures. And again, I’ll pick on my web site, oh,
Curtis Chong 34:13
no, no, no, let’s back up a little because I want to be positive about what I’m talking about. With the menu expansion. If the elements are text readable, and the AI can detect it, here’s a collapse menu in here, the practice of it, AI, what you’re saying is then it can help. First of all, enable the blind person to experiment work and track the menu using fairly simple keyboard commands. That’s one and number two, the AI can read the elements of that menu with certain broad assumptions being operable, which I’ve already you know, which I highlighted earlier. So that’s a plus for a Yeah, okay,
Michael Hingson 34:49
so let’s go back to your menu with the pictures. So that’s what I was getting to that. Actually, I was using a picture on my website, because there are a couple of pictures on the site. Let’s say those were in a menu As opposed to and let’s say they represented different things, and the pictures were distinctly different enough that they they would not be identified the same AI can today make a stab at identifying those pictures? Will it be correct? Maybe. And again, using the the picture that you know I was going to talk about which isn’t in a menu, but let’s pretend it was. There is a picture that shows me with my guide dog from being in the World Trade Center on September 11. Roselle. And the correct description of that picture is Michael hingson, hugging Roselle. But the AI recognizes it to the point of saying, man in black suit jacket, hugging yellow Labrador Retriever. So is that incorrect? It’s not. It’s correct, as far as it goes. And AI doesn’t yet have the sophistication without paying a lot of money to be able to do full facial recognition. And someone in some of those services exists. As we know, the police are taking advantage of some of those, but it’s not a cheap thing. And it’s not an easy thing. But their AI is getting to the point where even facial recognition is possible. I’ll be it expensive. And if there were a number of those pictures on the menu, and AI had the ability to do more, more accurate image recognition to put the right words with each of those images, then it would fully be able to verbalize that the way you would want it to be verbalized. And I would want it to be verbalized today, it might not verbalize it exactly the way we want. But distinctive images can potentially be described. But that’s evolving. And we know that.
Curtis Chong 36:50
Right. But so so there’s basic guidance that would need to be available to the the owner of the webs of a website that has never heard of people disability exactly right from the people supplying, you know, he, himself, herself itself themselves are developing the AI solution, or they’re piggybacking on somebody else’s AI solution. And now you get into a judgment call how much of the AI works for this particular thing? Versus what do we need to shore up with some human intervention? Right?
Michael Hingson 37:24
And the reality is, that’s why none of these are full solutions and of themselves. Yeah, and you’re bringing up the basic point, which is that really, when we’re talking about this, there are there are things that an AI oriented solution can do. And there are things that that a coder can do. And the reality is that we need to recognize collectively, that both can enhance a website. Not only design, but a website interaction positively for persons with disabilities, the word working together,
Curtis Chong 38:04
I agree with you? Yeah, it can. It can. Yeah, and there are a lot of factors that can part is how many things can make it so that it can’t
Michael Hingson 38:13
Well, and and what will change something so that when it does, then somebody comes along and and does something that that breaks it again. You know, I was interviewed on a on a podcast recently. And the the podcast operator mentioned a website called pod bean pod ba n calm and he said, I went to that site. He’s a blind guy. Well, it’s Jonathan mosun. I’m numb. Some people may have heard of him anyway, he. He said, I went to pod bean. And I saw that accessiBe was on the front page. And this, he said, that looks really great. I liked it. And that was very, very pleasurable to go there. But then I went to pricing page. And it didn’t do that is accessiBe, which is the product that he saw, didn’t do anything for me on that page. He said, so I was very disappointed. Well, as it turns out, After some investigation, they had done nothing on that page that the people who deal with POD bean had done nothing on that page to create accessibility. So there was an AI solution. And I don’t know whether there was other coding that went along with it on the homepage. But it wasn’t even on the pricing page. Why that’s that’s a good mystery. But but the reality is, if if people don’t work at bringing the accessibility, using all the tools that are available to him to a website, then we’re back where we started. And that’s why the can is is absolutely the right way to put it.
Curtis Chong 39:43
it can do it. And I think that it would be fair to say that any solution that offers a 100% guarantee that something is going to happen, needs to be looked at askance so that we can make sure You know, I don’t care who the website owner is some effort has to be ongoing, I think, even if they adopt an AI solution or an overlay solution, and they’re paying somebody money, or if they’re hiring a accessibility consultant, the reality is that most website owners are going to be what I call reactionary, which is to say, number one, I think we all agree they wouldn’t think about accessibility period. That’s one, unless somebody approaches them and says, one, either, I have a partial solution that can help you. Or number two, I use your site and the things that you’re doing don’t work if they never hear either of those messages, right? Neither one of those messages, the concept of accessibility in today’s world isn’t going to happen. Now, sometimes that won’t be a problem. Why? Because maybe it’s a simple website, and all everything just comes up hunky dory. Or other times, it’s very complicated and something doesn’t work. And so there’s this part of AI implementation and expert consultant implementation that involves the human factor, which I am a big fan of not forgetting. Because, right, if it’s done wrong, she compete. Here’s what AI does. And here’s what all technology does, they magnify both the positives, and the negatives curve. So, you know, when AI, or the computers do something wrong, they do it 1000 times wrong. And when they do it, right, they do it 1000 times, right. And so the effect positive or negative makes the seesaw swing more significantly in the right or the wrong direction, depending upon, you know,
Michael Hingson 41:44
as she says it does with the programmers as well. Yeah. And it’s, it’s really very frustrating, because if you screw it up, you’re really screw it up. And yeah, it’s very frustrating. But But the bottom line is, you know, and I’m moving us along a little bit. I know you only have about you and I are both ready to go. And I really want to leave some time for questions. But I believe that, that AI can be part of a solution. And coders can be part of a solution. And we need to, to both sides need to address the issue of not only do we have to work together and should work together, but each side needs to embrace the concept that working together enhances our chances of having a more accessible process. And, and especially on the AI side, when when people think oh, if I just put this AI solution in, it’s gonna fix everything. We know that doesn’t happen. And one of the things that companies do need to do when they’re implementing, or providing an AI type solution is they need to be able to address the issue of so what’s left to do, and they should interact with the website owner, to tell them what’s left to do, and why it’s important to do it. Because that’s part of the educational process. For them learning why accessibility is important. And reminding them that in reality, 20% of all persons in the United States in the world have a disability, and you really don’t want to leave those people out, because 20% More of your market share would be a wonderful thing.
Curtis Chong 43:24
Right? And in theory, a website could use both approaches, and should don’t. I mean, she could, I could conceive of a scenario where AI takes care of a lot of the routine stuff, and it gets smarter over time. And you know, as we hope, AI will. And there if there’s really some in depth, you know, for example, I don’t think AI can solve a CAPTCHA, you know, the dreaded visual CAPTCHA that we’re, you know, some a lot of us complain about, and wish there was a different way. Right, so, so there’s things that AI need needs help with, and that’s fine. I’m not in the I’m not in the group that says AI is all bad, and all of that, but I am in the group that says if you neglect the human element, if you neglect the ongoing, you know, I’ve done the work now, can I stop? And the answer is no, you cannot.
Michael Hingson 44:16
No, you cannot stop and I agree with you. I absolutely agree with you. And so that’s what I’m saying though, that one of the things that that people it’s human nature, right? Oh, I got this in and that’s gonna fix it. No, it doesn’t. But I think that the AI solution can also look at the rest of the website and say, here’s what I did. But here’s what I don’t yet know how to do. And so these are the things Mr. or Miss or Mrs. website owner. You still have as issues that would make your website better and and then find or be helps to find people who can deal with those issues.
Curtis Chong 44:58
The I’m thinking that when a end user touches a website that is supported by whatever AI or whatever accessibility is there that we the end users need to have some clear way of knowing, number one, that it’s there. And number two, who is the purveyor of it? And number three, if I find that it’s getting in my way, how do I make it go away? And those threes and Enyo, and that’s a sort of a sacrilege thing to say, for people who are backing AI. But the you know, since we all agree that AI is still on the road, to getting better, there’s got to be a clear
Michael Hingson 45:36
well, and is on the road of getting better to Yes, it’s but yeah, but But yes, the road to Hong Kong, or Morocco. But, but but the issue is that I would rather it not be how do you make it go away? Although I can understand that, I would rather be how do we immediately get it fixed. And but if we can’t, we do have a have to have a way to get around it. But I hope more often than not, it’s the website owner has a mechanism on the website to be able to report issues. And that’s a great discussion to have. But that will allow for immediate resolution of a problem. And so there has to be a lot more response to consumer issues and needs. And we all in this industry need to make sure that we provide better mechanisms for the response.
Curtis Chong 46:33
See, and there’s there’s the rub, I mean, sure, you know, the people who provide accessibility services, whether it’s an AI solution, or whether it’s some other solution, they get paid by the person who organization that is owning managing the website, we the end users aren’t paying the consultants, we’re not paying the over directly, we’re we’re paying their customers. And so the overlay company will or the consultants company sees the customer, not the end user as the revenue generator for them, which is unfortunate. Yeah, but that’s that that is the reality. That is that is the reality. And I am I am fully supportive of having adequate channels of problem solving that enable the end users who aren’t, you know, contributing a nickel to this effort, except by buying whatever it is the customer has to offer.
Michael Hingson 47:25
But that’s how the customers have Yeah, get money to pay for it. So yeah, we are, we are the ultimate cause I use the example this morning. of let’s say, you’re a manufacturer of cat food. So who’s your customer, your customer is the person who buys the cat food. But the reality is, if the ultimate customer doesn’t like the taste of that food, you can sell all you want, but it’s not going to go very well. Because you know, so we’re all customers, and we need to be recognized as being part of the customer. And, and consumer base both. Yeah, that’s really important. You know, what I’d like to do if you don’t mind, we’ve got about 10 minutes.
Curtis Chong 48:03
Nope, no problem.
Michael Hingson 48:04
Let’s let’s open this to questions. Iyan, you’re there. We’re going to let you manipulate that if you would. But we’d like to, to have people raise their hands or Iyan, if you want to unmute people, however you want to do it. And let’s let’s see if we can get some questions. Or I suppose people can type in the chat box if they want.
We actually have a question from Mary Ellen. Yes. I hope I pronounced it well.
Michael Hingson 48:33
You did a pretty good job.
Curtis Chong 48:34
You did a great job there Iyan. Perfect.
Thanks. And I hope I think you already answered the question, but I will read it anyway. So Mary says My issue is that AI is not ready for primetime, but it is being oversold. Also, who controls the process? If an ignorant owner of a website hires a company that provide AI, and it doesn’t work very well, how does the consumer get responsive customer service? If this overlay technology was sold to an person or to the access technology provider, it seems that the lines of accountability would be much more clearly defined?
Michael Hingson 49:13
Well, you know, there, it’s a multi part question in a way, and I’m sure Curtis has some things that he wants to say about it. But what I will say is, I don’t I’m not agreeing that AI isn’t already ready for primetime. In some ways. I think that what is an issue, however, is that it’s an emerging and evolving thing. But the reality is over if you really want to get technical, so is coding, right? Yes. Right. There are some there are some research studies that show that coding is only about 16% successful today, that there are so many errors with the coders in the world that they’re not really any different in the process. And so, it is a problem across the board, and so on. really talking about one and not talking about the other is is not a good thing. If you if you get technical, none of them are ready for primetime, but it is what we have. And there are things that AI can do. And a lot of times that we’re finding that when people say AI doesn’t do what, what they say it does, it isn’t even an AI issue. So that that becomes a different part of the process. So
Curtis Chong 50:23
But my point is, the end user doesn’t really need to know, but the need to know is where do I go for help? Exactly. Like, that’s when somebody says that they have this great thing, and I go to try it, and it doesn’t work, but I gotta get some
Michael Hingson 50:34
Curtis Chong 50:35
And and as we all know, getting help in this day and age, I don’t care whether you’re blind or not. Just try calling Comcast, for example. Yeah, really understand exactly what I’m talking about
Michael Hingson 50:45
Curtis Chong 50:46
Michael Hingson 50:47
But but you know, the, but the issue is that if if Elmo Schwartz, he gets around, I met him a long time ago, and I use him and he is really skilled. If Elmo Schwartz goes and makes a website accessible. And there’s a problem on that site. And I encountered as a consumer, I don’t know about Elmo Schwartz. It’s it’s a problem across the board. And it’s something that we do need to address. So I’m not really ready to say that AI is oversold male or Yellen as much as I think that some people think it is. Because I think that things are being said that art. But I think that also what we need to do is to make is to advocate on all sides of this, for there to be better ways for we as consumers to get help.
Curtis Chong 51:37
I remember once Ray Kurzweil told me that he thought one day that computers would develop self awareness. And I said, Ray, do you really want this? Think about history, about oppressed minorities.
Michael Hingson 51:49
But now he has got the singularity. So
Curtis Chong 51:51
which we are the computer. We’re the computer. Okay, next person?
Michael Hingson 51:55
Who’s got another question.
So don’t have any questions yet. And so we found what anyone wants to ask something, feel free to write in the chat.
Michael Hingson 52:05
This is your time. Yeah, we are. Right now. We’ve got about what five minutes or so by,
Curtis Chong 52:15
then I gotta run, I have incurred this thing about accessibility, I got to go fight for voting accessibility in the next hour. So
Michael Hingson 52:23
anyone else have any questions that you want to ask?
And so a question that was asked here are ways to to bridge the gap?
Michael Hingson 52:38
Well, the ways are, that, that there are a number of solutions. And the first thing that needs to happen is that everyone needs to recognize the value of all of the different aspects that we’ve talked with here and talked about here,
Curtis Chong 52:52
ways to bridge the gap, there’s mult, I think we’ve talked about every single thing that must happen. Like proper training of users, proper training of developers to incorporate accessibility, those things really ought to happen. enhancement of AI technology so that it can help pick solve those parts of x, the accessibility barrier that it can solve, and greater awareness on the part of the people who put up websites that accessibility needs to be something that they put in their thinking, not at the end, after they’ve done all the work should be at the beginning. Everybody says over and over again, if you build accessibility, and it’ll be cheaper to do in the long run. And that’s true with ramps. It’s equally true with this stuff. But so often, right now, I don’t care how you don’t see people thinking about accessibility until somebody kicks them or yells at them or does something. The first day of a project is I never the word accessibility never pops up. If we don’t fix that, in the end, then we’re still going to be winding up patching, patching patching, which is what a lot of us are doing.
Michael Hingson 54:00
We built a house, we built a house in 2016, where we live. And the house was designed to be accessible. But when the house was built, and we moved in Alexa stop, when we moved in, the builder did not put ramp my wife, by the way, who uses a wheelchair, the builder did not put ramps at the front door and the back door of the house. And he said, well, but there are rules about being in in flood zones and water could come up, all of which were totally wrong. And we had spent six months with this guy, but we still had to put our own Ramson by the time all was said and done. He should have done it. But the bottom line is that he wasn’t thinking about this in an accessible and an enlightened, accessible way. It happens and it’s something that we’re always going to face until the world recognizes that it’s time to be inclusive.
Curtis Chong 54:58
And then we’ll never have the disability that the accessibility is attempting to address, which is another thing that we could, we could hope for maybe I’m not sure on wishing to have artificial eyes, but I can in the long run, maybe. So I want to thank you for putting this on. This has been a stimulating discussion for me.
Michael Hingson 55:17
it’s been fun. And I think that we will try to do more of these in the future. If any of you have topics that you want us to discuss or that you want to promote in terms of stimulating topics, feel free to email me It’s Michael H AI, at excessive v.com Am I ch AE l ahi, at accessible calm. And I want this to be the first in a series of these discussions. And we want to have more opportunity for you to be the people who tell us what you want to hear about. So again, I’d like to thank you and Curtis, I really appreciate you being here. And being a part of this. I think we got some great things accomplished today.
Michael Hingson 56:01
Thank you very much. I appreciate the time. And this was fun. Thank you.
Michael Hingson 56:05
Y’all take care. And please watch out for the next one and tell us what you want. Thanks very much, everyone.
Michael Hingson 56:13
Well, I hope you found that webinar helpful and useful. And I hope that it will give you some thought about encouraging others to make their websites accessible. And if you have a website, I hope you’ll work harder to make it more inclusive as well. Lots of us would really love access to the internet, and all of the facets that are available through it, you can help make that possible. I’m Michael Hingson. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.
Michael Hingson 56:51
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.