Episode 80 – Unstoppable Bridge Builder with Peter DeHaas
Peter C. DeHaass will tell you he has been a builder of bridges for people in many disenfranchised
communities for most of his life. I learned about Peter from AccessiBe’s nonprofit partnerships manager, Sheldon Lewis. Peter does not come directly from a family with any person with a disability. However, his family has produced many educators including Peter.
On this episode, you will learn about Peter’s journey West from Pennsylvania and how he eventually landed in San Francisco where he had to utilize his entrepreneurial spirit just to survive and put food on the table. Most recently, in 2020, Peter formed the San Francisco Disability Business Alliance. This organization is focused on empowering individuals with disabilities to secure economic independence through self-employment and small business ownership.
I think you will find Peter’s story inspiring and his mission important to many
About the Guest:
Peter C. DeHaas is a mission-driven professional with a lifelong track record of building pathways to academic, housing, and economic sustainability for diversely abled individuals from He is leading the charge to expand how we think about “diversity” to include individuals with diverse abilities (disabilities) and the businesses and organizations they engage with. Peter’s career has spanned economic development, housing advocacy, education inclusion, and direct human services for a wide range of diverse clients, including veterans, the formerly incarcerated, youth, adults, immigrants and their families. Peter has experience building pathways to economic and academic inclusion for the deaf and hard of hearing, intellectually and developmentally disabled adults, individuals struggling with learning differences or mental illness, and physical disabilities. Currently, Peter founded and leads the San Francisco Disability Business Alliance (SFDBA), the first organization of its kind in the country focused on empowering individuals with disabilities to secure economic independence through self-employment and small business ownership. Through his work at the SFDBA, Peter has built partnerships between the growing community of disability-owned small businesses in San Francisco and major local corporations including Kaiser Permanente and Bank of the West. Peter is also fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and, over the past 9 years has taught ASL to more than 1000 future educators, social workers, nurses, and community advocates as a lecturer at San Francisco State University. In his previous role as Director of Disability Resources and Academic Inclusion, Peter built pathways to academic success for more than 2000 diverse students at Golden Gate University – the majority of whom were women, people of color, veterans, and often all three-across the University’s Law and Business programs. In Colorado, Peter spearheaded community engagement across a number of successful direct-serving programs including launching the Bridges to Boulder Community Sign Language program and cultivating the non-attorney advocacy program between Denver University and the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition. Above all, Peter is a builder of bridges and is skilled at finding ways and mustering resources to connect deeply with diverse people and communities, resulting in lasting partnerships and positive economic, social, and community impact.
Link for the San Francisco Disability Business Alliance :
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:20
Welcome once again to unstoppable mindset. today. Our guest is Peter DeHaas who to right now is operating the San Francisco Disability Business Alliance. But there’s a whole lot more to Peter than that, and we’re gonna get into it as we as we go forward. So Peter, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Peter DeHaas 01:40
Thanks for having me, Michael.
Michael Hingson 01:42
Well, I really appreciate you being here. And I’m jealous because as you can tell San Francisco diversity Business Alliance, you know where Peter is. We lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in Novato, which is in what’s called the North Bay for 12 years, and missing greatly. We lived in an area called Bell marine keys. And we actually had ducks that came up to our back door every day, begging for food. So yeah, it was a lot of fun. When we were when we first were moving in, we had a contractor had to modify the house for my wife who uses a wheelchair. And he made the mistake of seeing some of the ducks on the patio and opening the door. He was eating a doughnut and he gave them a part of the doughnut. And he said after that if he didn’t have something for them, they’d go for the throat. So there’s a lot of fun. So yeah, we were we were spoiled. Well, tell me a little bit about your background, you know yourself, where your what you what you did, how you got into school and beyond and all that sort of stuff, if you would?
Peter DeHaas 02:46
Well. I started out I was born and raised in Pennsylvania on the East Coast and lived for several years in Connecticut as well until I started making my way west. I come from a family of educators and builders. So I come by my my connection to being in education and advocacy and building bridges. Honestly, two of my sisters are special educators. And that’s how I got my start learning the manual alphabet in American Sign Language. And I remained curious from from third grade is when I learned the manual alphabet all the way through middle school, I had a dear friend who was deaf. And then fast forward to 1992 I moved to Boulder, Colorado, in started working for a little organization at the time called Developmental Disability Center. Now it’s called Imagine and I was working for their Supported Employment Department called labor source, serving individuals who had previously been institutionalized in the state of Colorado and deemed unemployable by by the Department of occupational rehab there. And we were kind of a renegade organization that built employment services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities proudly in the Boulder County in Broomfield county areas. And that’s really where I got my start working in the field and and simultaneously started really learning American Sign Language because I recognized that many of the clients that we serve were nonverbal, several were deaf, some were hard of hearing, and many of them utilized Sign Language As a means to communicate. And I noticed that many of my co workers tried to utilize signs like more and please and thank you. But then there were just lapses and gaps in communication. And, you know, being that I was earning a whopping $5.50 an hour at the time, I saw a great opportunity to learn ASL and the organization that I was working for, paid for all of my ASL instruction up until the point that I launched into my master’s in linguistics at the University of Colorado Boulder. Because I really was intrigued by the intersectionality of, of the deaf community and the the language of ASL and how the two were really inseparable with the goal of teaching at the post secondary level. And so I graduated with my master’s degree, I believe it was in 2009. And then, in 2013, I made my westward journey a little further here to San Francisco to support my youngest son Thelonious who moved out here in 2010. And my oldest son, Hans, came along with me and I landed here in San Francisco working for San Francisco Recreation and Parks, inclusion program, supporting young adults with disabilities, in particular, their ASL intensive program here and the mission, as well as some of their their summer camps. And then soon after that, I was offered a position at San Francisco State University as a lecturer in American Sign Language, which I’ve taught over 1000 students there at San Francisco State from such a diverse background of of not only focus of study, but but most of my students are first generation college participants, and it’s really intriguing work. And you may find it hard to believe, but I then got a third position. It takes a lot to live in San Francisco, I got a third position working at Golden Gate University, as their coordinator for Disability Resources and academic accommodations. And over a period of seven years, I grew that program into kind of a unified program. There were two siloed Disability Resource Centers when I got there, one for the law school, and one for the non law programs. And in my seven years there, I brought the programs together and developed my position into a director’s position. And I guess it was the summer of 2019. I started planting the seeds for the SF DBA. And we launched in March of 2020. And I stepped down from my role at Golden Gate University shortly after that, and I still teach at San Francisco State and oversee the SF DBA. And that’s, that’s where I’m at today.
Michael Hingson 08:42
Oh, by the way to answer a question you asked in an email, we do make transcripts of the podcast and when the podcast goes up, they will go up as well. Excellent. I’m assuming you’re not signing while you’re talking since we can put up videos but I don’t know how
Peter DeHaas 09:02
to do I do sign a little bit when I talk but it’s not my preference to try to it
Michael Hingson 09:07
is it is probably a major challenge because that’s speaking in two languages at once.
Peter DeHaas 09:13
It’s it’s doable, but in all fairness, I mean, in a perfect world, I’d have a little ASL interpreter at the bottom of my screen. Do you remember? I remember as a kid, we, on Sundays there would be certain evangelists on television and they would always have an ASL interpreter signing in the bottom left hand corner. And that was in the 1970s and I’m thinking, why can’t we why can’t we do that again? You know, it was doable then why can’t you know and I’m sure that they paid for it. You know, it was privately paid for wasn’t provided by the network or anything so we know where that goes. But
Michael Hingson 09:59
well, I turned it on. Have, mainly because we’re still going to have the conversation and it will, we’ll, we’ll fix it. But I use a service called otter otter.ai. And what what otter does is real time recording and transcription of conversations, and when it’s operating a person who is in a meeting or whatever, with me, can read real live transcriptions of what’s happening. But what we do is just provide the transcription, because we’ll go through and clean it up. Got it, or we put the podcast up. So it goes out as a really high end transcription. That’s excellent. And it should be that way. Right? And makes perfect sense to do that. Well, for you, you, you started the SF DBA? And are dealing with a lot of obviously, different kinds of people. So kind of what what made you decide that this was something worth beginning? And how did you really get to the point of starting it?
Peter DeHaas 11:07
A great question? Well, as you know, San Francisco is a place that really prides itself on being innovative, diverse, there’s lots of venture capital here. And people are well educated. And there’s lots of opportunities for networking, after hours. And I found myself getting more and more involved with the Chamber of Commerce here and other nonprofits. And going to a lot of after hours events. And I would tell people what I do, you know, at the time, I was at Golden Gate and teaching ASL and people were intrigued by the work that I do, but but systematically, it seemed like, disability was excluded from just about every conversation that I was having with people relating to diversity, equity and inclusion. And that bothered me. However, I took that that I was just kind of baffled, to be honest with you. And I took that kind of baffled feeling and transformed it into something that I’m passionate about. I said, you know, this is a place of opportunity, and it welcomes innovation and creativity. I’m a very creative person. I’m also a musician, an artist. I said, if nobody else is going to represent small business as it relates to individuals with disabilities, well, I’m going to take a try. And I had a lot of support from not only local business leaders, but educators and advocates and even local politicians. So that was really the genesis of the SF DBA, in when I started planting seeds in 2019. And by the end of 2019, I had a fiscal sponsor, through social good Fund, which is a little umbrella organization out of Richmond, California, they do really great work for organizations doing community benefit work, really through the pilot phases. And we had Kaiser Permanente foundation come on board at the end of 2019. And, yeah, then we launched in March of 2020. Right before everything shut down.
Michael Hingson 13:48
Yes. Isn’t that the way of it?
Peter DeHaas 13:51
It was very, very fortuitous that, you know, because people were just starting to whisper about maybe you should postpone the event, maybe you should, you know, and if we had waited, we would have lost that whole audience of over 100 people they were just starting to put hand sanitizer up in the in the room and nobody got sick at the Marriott you know, from from our launch event, fortunately. But we had over 100 people at the Marriott Marquis downtown. So I was just blessed that that that many people showed up. My event organizer who I hired, you know, was doing all of that worked behind the scenes. I had no idea who was going to going to show up. I was too focused on the programming for the day and whatnot. And when I looked out into the audience, Michael, I was just astounded at not only not only entrepreneurs with disabilities and small business owners with disabilities, but like I said, educators, advocates, business leaders, corporations. It just it really really moved me that that this was an important venture that I was I was embarking upon,
Michael Hingson 15:06
and rightly so. But you’ve said something that really prompts a question. You mentioned that you notice that is diverse as San Francisco is and so on, there wasn’t a lot of discussion, especially in the business world and in the entrepreneurial world, about disabilities and so on. Even though San Francisco clearly is an incredibly inclusive city in a lot of ways, why do you think that is that disabilities weren’t really part of the mainstream?
Peter DeHaas 15:39
You know, it’s an interesting question. I don’t know that I want to go too far down that rabbit hole, but But I posit that there’s still a lot of fear and a lot of around disability. And, and I’ve come in contact with that before. You know, when I, when I first started working with individuals with developmental disabilities, and I was very young, I used to take offense to people staring at at the people that I worked with many times we’d be after we would work on one of our supported employment contracts, we would maybe go have lunch on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, and people would stare and I took offense to that when I was young. But as I matured, I realized that not everybody had the upbringing that I did. Not only, you know, surviving some, some disabilities that I had early on, when I when I was born, that I that I outgrew fortunately. But but but having the exposure at such an early age, to innovate individuals that my sisters were working with who had disabilities. And so I had that, that luxury of being kind of matriculated into that community early on. So for me, it was no different than any other community that I’ve been a part of in my lifetime. And I think that there’s just a lot of maybe education that still needs to occur. And, you know, sometimes, as you know, Michael, it’s about money. And people don’t want to, or they don’t know how to develop a budget or line item in their budget, to provide the appropriate accommodations. So there’s that fear of the unknown? I think I could.
Michael Hingson 17:36
I agree with you, though, I think it is largely about fear. I think we we fear what we don’t know. And we fear things that are different than us. And unfortunately, especially with visible disabilities, people tend to really fear it, because they don’t understand it, and they haven’t been taught, which is exactly what you’re pointing out. And the other part about it is that until someone really starts to drive the conversation, the fear isn’t going to go away. I think people don’t hate persons with disabilities. I think that we, I suppose you can look at it in several ways. And in one sense, we haven’t been as visible and maybe we’re not elevated to the point where people hate peers, persons with disabilities, like they seem to do race things and so on. But I think mainly, it’s fear that people just don’t know.
Michael Hingson 18:37
And there’s fear on both sides of the equation. Yes.
Peter DeHaas 18:40
You know, let’s the elephant in the room. We know that disability discrimination has occurred over over the years. And there are specific laws in place that they protect individuals with disabilities in a lot of regards. I see the disability community is kind of the last frontier in terms of coming out, as it were, in celebrating their disability. I spoke with a young entrepreneur last week, who found her way to SF DBA, just through the the internet and and we met in person, you know, post COVID It was so exciting. And she was just thrilled to share her story with me in a way that she could readily self identify and not have to worry about being excluded or shamed. And this is somebody this is somebody who went to Stanford University and faced and I’m not trying to bash Stanford because, again, there’s a steep learning curve and everybody’s doing their best to try to, to get educated as to how to do the right thing. But she faced certain opposition in her program at Stanford when she was trying to navigate how to get accommodation hands. And there’s plenty of work to be done. So again, I’m not trying to bash anybody but that’s the gift that I share to the world is to help people solve problems and come up with creative solutions. We had a student, matriculating at Golden Gate University when I was there, who was deaf. And she had gone to just about every other private university in the Bay Area. And they had told her that they were not equipped, or they did not have the funding to provide ASL interpreters for her. Her pursuit. She came to me at Golden Gate University, and I was excited as soon as she landed on my doorstep. You know, obviously, I have a very close affinity to the deaf community, but it could have been any disability type, honestly. But when when she came, and she said, Peter, would you be able to provide ASL interpreters for my HR cohort program? I said, You bet you will figure out a way. And of course there were some people scratching their head on the other side, like, how are we going to do this? We created a budget, we developed a partnership with Department of occupational rehab, she already had a case with occupational rehab. We met them halfway, we paid 50%. Oh, Dr. Paid 50%. And they were quite shocked. Dr. turned to us and said, We’ve never had a university pay 50%. And I said, Well, that’s that we’re doing it because it’s the best practice and it’s the right thing to do. And that’s, that’s really, you know, a broader part of my mission, Michael is helping institutions develop best practices. It’s not the specific mission of the SFDBA per se, but it, it comes with, it’s a benefit that people get in associating with the SFDBA is that, you know, I believe that, that we’re on the cusp of a giant wave, and you know, that working for excessive B, I think that this is just kind of, we’re just at the tipping point where people are starting to recognize Oh, yeah, we are having more conversations now about disability inclusion, and I’m like, shamila Hi, this is the time, now’s the time.
Michael Hingson 22:23
Well, and to be real clear, I don’t think in any way you’re bashing anyone, and no one should interpret it. as such. When you talk about the fears, when you talk about what organizations haven’t done, it isn’t really so much a question anymore, I think of what organizations haven’t done, it’s more important to explore, what are you going to do? Do you recognize there is an issue? And are you willing to explore addressing it, which is what you did with the young lady who was deaf. And it’s something that we should all do, what we haven’t yet really gotten to the point of recognizing is providing reasonable accommodations should just be considered part of the cost of doing business. Just like providing computers, providing lights, for all of you light dependent people who don’t get around in the dark, we pity you, or coffee machines, or whatever. The fact is providing and having the ability to provide reasonable accommodations ought to be part of the cost of doing business. And so that does get down to a budgetary issue and being aware and putting it in right from the outset. through that. And it is something that we haven’t done nearly as much of. And so it, it really helps to have the conversations like we’re having, and I hope people will listen to this and take it to heart as well. But we do face still a situation where persons with disabilities are in an environment where the unemployment rate among employable people is in the 60 to 70% range. And it’s not because people can’t do the work. It said others who are different than we don’t think we can do the work.
Peter DeHaas 24:22
Correct. And that’s what I in in some of the early research for SF DBA. Michael, I uncovered a statistic that suggests that individuals with disabilities are starting a rate starting small businesses at a rate almost double that of individuals who don’t have disabilities. And I really attribute that to one. Individuals with disabilities are very creative, and they’re very resilient. And there’s a lot of autonomy in starting your own business and who doesn’t have a side hustle in the Bay Area. There are at least one side hustle, right? Frequently starting a small business, impede can be a pathway to, you know, just the success in the small business, or it could be a leveraging point to your next gig. So there’s a lot of a lot of fruitful things, I think that come out of entrepreneurship.
Michael Hingson 25:23
Why do you think that so many people, though, are starting what’s caused them to take that path, as opposed to other things they could do?
Peter DeHaas 25:32
Well, again, you know, even if you have one job here in San Francisco, likely doesn’t pay the rent, right. Um, so I attribute it largely to, you know, the need to survive. But, you know, several young entrepreneurs that I’ve spoken to also say that, that it’s out of necessity, because they haven’t been able to land a job. And, and some people are still hesitant to even readily self identify as a result of that.
Michael Hingson 26:05
And I think that’s a an extremely valid point, I remember the first time I was confronted with some of that I had been working for a company and was let go in June of 1984, at the end of June, mainly because not doing a good job, but rather the company purchased a company was actually Xerox purchased the company I was working for, because they wanted the technology and not the people. And I happened to be the last person in the sales force for their major flagship product to be let go. So at least I was there a week or two longer than others. And they decided that they just did not want any of us because they just Xerox just one of the technology. So I was looking for a job for six months, wow, couldn’t find one. I even had an interview we were living in, in Mission Viejo, California, at the time. And I continued to look, and even got a call from an executive recruiter who said, gee, we see your resume, we, we really think you’re very qualified for the job that we had, which I was. And everything went well, until the night before the interview, the recruiter called and said, I was just looking at your resume again. And I see that you do a lot of work with blind people. How come is that? Is there somebody in your family who’s blind? And I said, Yeah, I am. I didn’t mention it before. There was no need to write. But immediately, oh, my God, I don’t know whether the recruiter the company is going to want to talk to you, you’re blind. I said, What does that have to do with it, you liked my resume, but you’re blind, doesn’t matter. You didn’t know that until 10 minutes ago, I already had the airplane ticket that they sat down. Anyway, the next morning, the interview was canceled. So I never flew up to San Jose to do the interview. And that happens way too often. So eventually, I and a couple of other people started a company to sell the new concept of PC based CAD systems to architects and engineers, and so on. And of course, a blind guy selling graphic technology. I was the president of the company, but who had to work the machine, I didn’t need to work it, I needed to know how to work it and needed to know all about it to talk intelligently about it. But I’d rather sit an architect down in front of the machine and talk them through making it work, rather than me having to work it because then they’re involved with it. So I did that for four years. And then I went back into the regular workforce. Right? But the reality is that it happens today, almost as much, but you’re right. There are a lot more entrepreneurial opportunities than there used to be. And there are tools to help. So if you’re a blind person, for example, and you start your own business, there, there are tools that can help. Are you familiar with a company called IRA? Ira I’m not Hi Roz AI are a it’s a what’s called a visual interpreter. They Ira has people who they hire because they demonstrate an aptitude for describing and they give them more advanced training on being able to describe. The idea is that you activate Ira by opening an app and you call one of their agents. Their agents are hired, trained and put under extreme non disclosure and confidentiality restrictions. So literally what happens in Ira stays an IRA. But the point is that blind people who use the service and have things described or deal with tax forms or whatever, know that whatever they do, won’t be divulged. Because it’s all incompetence, which is the way it should be. Well, IRA, and some companies including Quicken, have established a program where if you have a your own business, you can get free Ira services, at least at an hour or half hour at a time. But you can get free service to use their system, when you need to interact with something that requires someone to describe it to you or interact with something that’s too visual to use. And there are a lot of those kinds of tools out there that are helping make it more practical for blind people to start their own businesses. And I think that in one way or another, it goes across the board. But you’re right, we do it because of necessity.
Peter DeHaas 30:38
Yep. Yep. One of the partners that, in addition to accessibe that we’ve developed a partnership with is a company called Eva Aava. That was launched by two graduates of UC Berkeley, and it provides captioning for zoom calls and in other applications that way. So that’s a very unique partnership that we’ve developed.
Michael Hingson 31:08
Well, that’s, you know, that’s pretty cool. How’s accessibe worked out for you guys? I have to ask, of course, don’t I?
Peter DeHaas 31:14
Well, I still I have a few organizations that I need to follow up with. I’ve, I’ve told a lot of my partners about it. And you know, it’s still, it’s still, you know, I say we’re on the cusp of a wave, but but people are still not, you know, biting full heartedly for me. I’m excited about it. I, you know, in the fact that Judith human gets behind it, and in and I can show people that that widget, just yesterday, I was meeting with somebody, and she was talking about, you know, the advances of technology as it relates to accessibility. And she, I just noticed that she had our website open. And I see I said, Do you see that widget there? I said, Put your finger on it. And she did. And she was like, Oh, my gosh, there’s so it’s it’s a process. But I long and short. I haven’t, you know, one of my goals is to get other companies on board with excessive B as well. You know, for for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, because it’s the right thing to do. And, and there’s an opportunity for SFDA as well, if, if somebody decides to go with the product? Well, the thing
Michael Hingson 32:36
about using accessibe, just generalize it, the thing about internet and website accessibility, is that most people don’t know that it even exists. But they also just haven’t taken the leap to recognize that they’re leaving out an incredible amount of potential business for their own sites, or an incredible amount of interaction. You know, the CDC talks about up to 25% of all people having some sort of disability. And a lot of those people are left out because we can’t use websites. And when you have a, you have a product like accessibility that changes that not only the widget, but then excessively has a full service department to help remediate what the widget can. But the bottom line is that today, if you talk to people with disabilities, they’re going to tell you that they are incredibly loyal to companies that have made their websites usable, because then we don’t have to go through all the struggle of trying to find an accessible site.
Peter DeHaas 33:46
That’s true. And I’m sure you know, the state of Colorado just is the first state to mandate that all of their state websites need to be fully accessible.
Michael Hingson 33:57
Yeah, and I know one of the people who is very much involved in having architected that and gotten the legislature to do it just like they’ve they’ve been taking sort of a lead and making sure of accessible voting as well. And it makes perfect sense to do. But it it is, well, the Nielsen Company did a survey in 2016. And there’s actually a report that that will talk about how much brand loyalty counts to people with disabilities and how much more website owners get because of persons with disabilities if they make their stuff accessible. But you interview awesome. Go ahead. No, go ahead.
Peter DeHaas 34:41
I lost my train of thought. Okay.
Michael Hingson 34:43
Well, so another aspect of all that, is that with you said something earlier about and starting businesses, blind people or people with disabilities tend to be very creative and so on. The real All of us were forced into that there was a guy, Dr. Jonathan Lazar, who used to work for Towson University. And I heard him speak at a National Federation of the Blind convention. And he observed that this, of course, was about blind people and internet access. He pointed out that blind people, because we are so used to being left out and work so hard at trying to find accessible sites, we also tend to be more resilient when we can sort of make something work. And it may not be that it’s totally accessible, but we figure out as many workarounds as we can, to try to be able to interact directly with it. And I think that goes back to what you said, we’re forced to be more creative, and it isn’t just blind people is people across the board with disabilities. Yeah, it’s true. So it is, it is an issue that we need to clearly address and and work on. But I hope that there will be ever increasing conversations about it, because people need to learn that there’s nothing to fear. And you’re right, they worry about expense, or, gee, do we have to buy special insurance for these people or whatever. And they don’t recognize the other aspect of it, which is that if you hire a person with a disability, and you’re fortunate enough to be able to do that, the odds are and there are studies that are starting to show this, you will have an employee who will be much more loyal and likely to stay with you, then most other employees, because we recognize how hard it is to get that job in the first place. And I’m sure you’ve experienced that. Yep. Yep. So it’s a it is a challenge, and it is something that we need to deal with. Well, so having started the diversity, Business Alliance, and so on, what kind of an impact are you starting to see in the Bay Area? How, how has it been?
Peter DeHaas 37:17
It’s the San Francisco disability Business Alliance disability
Michael Hingson 37:21
Business Alliance. I’m sorry, I don’t talk good. That’s, but just wanted to clarify for our No, you’re right. You’re right. So how is how’s the impact been in terms of overall what you’ve been able to accomplish? And what have you been able to measure?
Peter DeHaas 37:35
Well, as I said, we launched in March of 2020. So everything shut down literally a week or two, I think it was a week or two later. And I got a text from one of my keynote speakers. And he said, Peter, you better get ready, because small businesses are going to need you more than ever. And sure enough, we started consulting with businesses on how to access PPP, reorganizing their staffing patterns, creating resources in tandem with the SBA and getting those up online. So really changed our focus, our impact, through the pandemic was really continuing to help businesses through this unprecedented time. But then continuing conversations with future entrepreneurs who are curious about how to start a small business. So we launched our future entrepreneur training program, and we’ve seen a lot of interestingly enough, a lot of women of color are with disabilities participating in our programs. And I can’t say why that that that demographic specifically, has been so high, but it’s been quite fascinating for me. So we’ve we’ve had that educational piece, we’ve created several mentoring opportunities, connecting entrepreneurs with with members of the broader business community to get some mentoring. Just an example of that we had a young African American who grew up here in the Bayview district of San Francisco who is recently just got his real estate broker’s license. And he wants to be investing in properties. And this is the youngest of I believe, 11 children and connected him with a successful investor here, and he’s well on his way. We’ve also worked with a film student from SF State and connected him with one of the producers of crip camp. Which I’m sure that you’ve you’ve experienced. So really building bridges, and helping individuals get connected to not only educational opportunities, but mentoring opportunities, helping individuals get access to capital. Early on, we got contacted by the State of California regarding small business certification. So we’re in, we’ve been in conversation with the state of California over the past couple years, as well as many entities here in the Bay Area, about how they can diversify their supply chain by hiring individuals with disabilities. So but as you know, getting a small business certified is no small feat. So we’re working with UC Berkeley now, in in, they have a program there that helps get small businesses certified. And I’m very excited about that. And we have our second annual Bay Area, disability Entrepreneurship Week, coming up in October, which runs in tandem with national disability, Employment Awareness Month. And we’re going to have interactive panels, which will be online, and then we will have, we’re going to visit several businesses here in the city, as well as have a networking event. And we’re going to have one of our future entrepreneur trainings, hopefully, in concert with one of the Bay Area leaders in in entrepreneurship, as well.
Michael Hingson 41:47
It’s early, of course, to to a large degree, because you’re you’re only operating the disability Business Alliance for three years. But are you seeing how do I ask this more successes than failures? Do you see that it is really taking off and that if you were to compare it with people outside of what you’re doing at who start businesses, then maybe you’re seeing more success because you’re able to provide more proactive mentoring and so on.
Peter DeHaas 42:22
It’s it’s been, I feel like I recognized early on, as I said, at the launch, that there’s certainly up there there. And with every conversation that I have, Michael, I recognize that the importance of what we’re doing, it’s unprecedented. My mind, I’ve had one of my advisory board members meet with the Department of Rehab here in the city and I know that there’s a bridge to entrepreneurship for individuals with disabilities in terms of getting support through Dr. But it’s not very well defined in their their website. If you’re blind, it’s there’s a specific program for entrepreneurship but beyond that. So I see a lot of potential I would say the success is in the contacts that I make that people are coming out of the woodwork in the community that we are building, we are at a tipping point with our capacity building, where we are currently working with an attorney to get our own 501 C three status and build real capacity. I’d like to hire somebody within the next year. Right now I’m doing everything with the exception of some some assistance from volunteer that I have who was my assistant at Golden Gate University previously I’m doing it all myself and you know that that that that’s sustainable to a point and I’m very excited about embarking on the venture of getting our own 501 C three status and taking it to the next level. So as you know these things take time and that’s one of my one of my greatest mentors several years ago when I started planting seeds for this said it’s going to take some time you know, the but it’s the potential is there and and I would say that there’s there’s many more doors opening than being slammed in my face if that if that makes any sense. I most people are very excited to talk to me and there’s there’s plenty of work to be done.
Michael Hingson 44:37
Well, you’re in a great place to do it of course as we discussed earlier because it there’s there’s a lot more openness to the idea of people who are different and being able to support that. But getting a 501 C three status is going to help a great deal I would think.
Peter DeHaas 44:55
Yeah, like I said, I’m very grateful to be operating under social good fun. And it’s been very useful through the pilot phases. But it’s time for us to, you know, it limits us to go after bigger contracts with the city, the state or the federal government or even bigger foundations. So this has been perfect for us. And it’s really my journey as an entrepreneur really mirrors for everybody that I’ve been working with, you know what it takes, it’s no small feat to really, you know, start a venture as you know, on your own. And it’s really about not only expanding your network, but having lifelines that you can call when you’re in a potential crisis mode. So I’ve enjoyed every step of the journey. And really, as my 91 year old dad would say, Peter, it’s about the people. It’s about the people and every relationship that I build, I really tried to nurture along and in leverage on that, you know, maybe it’s me introducing that person to somebody else, or vice versa. They’re introducing me to somebody, but it’s, it’s, it’s fascinating to me about how much of this work is about telling stories and sharing stories. And yeah, I, I’m very excited about the next year in particular, to see see the next chapter of the SF DBA.
Michael Hingson 46:27
I have to say, me as well, I’m really excited to hear how this is going. And you’re right, it is about the people in your 91 year old dad is absolutely correct. And as people on both sides, it’s not just the individuals that you serve, because they happen to have a disability and and you’re trying to work with them. But it is also the more substantial or or larger population of all the people who could help in that process by providing jobs or mentoring skills, or funding or whatever, to help bring people out and give them the opportunities to grow that clearly you’re looking for. And your passion does make all the difference in that though.
Well, thank you I you know, when people talk about all the dividends, and what what’s my difficulty dividend going to be investing in your, your startup, you know, there’s lots of conversations here in the Bay Area. And I proudly say the dividends and investing in the disability community or hiring somebody with a disability, or allowing giving somebody the opportunity to start a small business with a disability, I’ll tell you what the dividends are, there’s less reliance on public assistance. And there’s more money flowing into our local economies, people with disabilities want to spend their hard earned money, they don’t want to be limited by whatever SSDI pays these days, 900 to $1,200 a month, they don’t want to be limited by that. They want to be contributing members of our society. And many people don’t know that the disability communities, are the third largest market in the world. So put that into perspective. You know, if people with disabilities are thriving, everybody is going to be thriving.
Michael Hingson 48:28
Sure. And again, one of the dividends is that if you are hiring a person with a disability, you are very, very likely hiring someone who is going to be a lot more loyal to you, and wanting to help make you more successful because they know how hard it was to get a job in the first place for them. Right. And we really need to deal with that. As I said, we interviewed on this podcast, Kirk Adams, who is the about to retire director, he maybe now has retired as the director of the American Foundation for the Blind. He’s the one that talked about the fact that there are now now an increasing number of studies, talking about the whole loyalty and brand issue regarding disabilities that specifically bind blind people. But it goes across the board of the fact that if you hire someone there, they’re going to be very appreciative of that. And they’re going to want to do a good job. And that spiral can only go up because the better job they do, the more successful you are. And the more successful you are, the better their job will be. And the happier everyone is.
Peter DeHaas 49:38
And it’s about creating a culture that that understands it and embraces it. I’m currently doing some important curriculum development for a biotech company here in the Bay Area as it relates to employees with disabilities and it’s it’s it’s so exciting for me, this is the kind of stuff that excites me to see companies coming full circle and saying, Oh, we really need to put some more thought into this and not just have a policy in the HR department as it relates to disability accommodations, that’s important too. But creating a culture that that includes disability in the DEI equation.
Michael Hingson 50:21
Right? The the inclusion has to start taking hold a lot more than it does diversity, generally speaking, as I think you pointed out, has left disabilities out of it. But they, the fact is, you can’t do it if you’re gonna call yourself inclusive, because you are, you’re not correct. And there are a number of us who are of the opinion that we’re not going to let you change the definition of inclusion to say, well, we’re inclusive, we just don’t do anything with disabilities, then you’re not inclusive, great. can’t have it both ways are gray. How can people become involved in and working in helping with the disability Business Alliance?
Well, they can go to our website@www.S F D B A dot ORG and, and get contact us there, if they’d like to make a contribution there. If they’d like to volunteer, or, you know, at some point we’re going to be, like I said, building capacity. I’m excited about the potential of hiring somebody to start and you know, over time hiring several people. So get in touch with us, and we’d love to have a conversation.
Michael Hingson 51:46
I hope that people will really be excited about it and be excited to help. Obviously, anyone listening to this, especially in the San Francisco area that is now willing to explore hiring persons and so on should get in touch with you. Yes, they can do all of that through the website.
Peter DeHaas 52:08
They can get in touch with us through the website. But in terms of me, I mean, if they set up time to chat with me, I’d be happy to chat with anybody about developing strategies around hiring individuals with disabilities as well, or, or figuring out how to make their business more inclusive.
Michael Hingson 52:30
If they want to set up a time to chat with you. How do they do that?
Peter DeHaas 52:34
They can email at info at SF DBA dot o RG just make a query that way?
Michael Hingson 52:42
And odds are you’re gonna see it because you’re the main guy doing it all right.
Peter DeHaas 52:47
Yep. Yeah, my volunteer gets those emails in. She forwards them to me immediately.
Michael Hingson 52:56
Well, I hope that people will do that. And that we can help make the program successful and even more so. And if there’s anything at anytime that I can do and anything that I can do to help bring resources to assist you, needless to say, excited to do that as well.
Peter DeHaas 53:17
Michael, it’s always a pleasure chatting with you. I learned something new every time that I talk with you and I don’t see our conversation stopping here.
Hope not by no means there’s always more to talk about. Well, Peter, again, thank you very much for being here. And I hope people will reach out. Go to www.sfdba.org and reach out to Peter info at sfdba.org. We’d like to hear from you. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this podcast. So feel free to email me at Michaelhi at accessible A C C E S S I B E .com. And you’re also welcome to go to www dot Michael hingson.com/podcast. Michael Hingson is m i c h a e l h i n g s o n slash podcast and wherever you’re listening to this, please give us a five star rating. But most of all, whether you’re in the San Francisco area or not reach out to Peter, he would love to hear from you. And I’m sure there are ways that that we can help establish more relationships outside San Francisco because what Peter is doing is going to have to expand anyway right? Yes,
yes, I’d sky’s the limit. I’d like to my goal is to brand SFDBA or an organization like SFDBA in Colorado. Next. I did. Some of my my work that I didn’t mention in this podcast was with the Colorado cross disability coalition, one of the nation’s leaders in disability accessibility kind of related topics and, and one of my greatest mentors, Julie risking is at the helm there at CCDC. And when I told her I was launching SFDBA, she said, Peter, we need something like this in Denver. So I promised her once I got my footing here that I would try to establish something in Colorado as well. But yeah, I’m excited about the possibility of one day growing beyond the Bay Area.
got to start somewhere, though. That’s right. Well, Peter, again, thanks for being here. And I want to thank everyone who is listening, I want to thank you for listening to us and putting up with us for an hour. But please reach out to Peter, we really appreciate it. And we’ll probably have another podcast where we get to talk more about all the progress that Peter is making. So again, Peter, thanks very much for being here. Thank you, Michael.
Michael Hingson 56:01
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.