Episode 84 – Unstoppable California DOR Director with Joe Xavier
I have been looking forward to this episode of Unstoppable Mindset for several months. Today, please meet the director of the California Department of Rehabilitation, Joe Xavier. Joe has been the Director of this California agency for more than eight years.
He immigrated to the U.S. from the Azores at the age of seven years of age. He has been blind since birth although, at first, he had a small bit of eyesight. Like other children, he went to school, and like other children of immigrants, he learned the value of hard work. As you listen to my conversation with Joe you will see that he has a strong work ethic that he brings to his job.
During our time together we discuss a wide range of topics around disabilities in specific and societal attitudes in general.
I hope you enjoy hearing Joe as much as I enjoyed interviewing him. I also hope you come away with a more positive attitude about people with disabilities and what we bring to jobs, the community and to the world.
About the Guest:
Joe Xavier, Director of the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), has over 38 years of experience in business and public administration as well as many years participating in advocacy and community organizations. As an immigrant, a blind consumer, and a beneficiary of DOR’s services, Joe has the experience and understands the challenges and opportunities available to individuals with disabilities, and the services required to maximize an individual’s full potential. Joe believes in the talent and potential of individuals with disabilities; investing in the future through creativity, ingenuity, and innovation; ensuring decisions and actions are informed by interested individuals and groups; pursuing excellence through continuous improvement; and preserving the public’s trust through compassionate and responsible provision of services.
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 01:21
Well, hi, everyone, it is Mike Hingson. Again, and you’re listening to unstoppable mindset. Our guest today is Joe Xavier, and he actually has someone with him Kim Rutledge, who we’re going to draft to come on a podcast a little later. But Joe, for those of you who have not heard of Joe or met him, he is the director of the department of rehabilitation in California, which is really a fascinating job. I’ve never done it, but I know what is involved in it. And I hope that you all are becoming or will become as fascinated as I with what Joe’s background is and what his job is all about. So we’ll get to all that. But Joe, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Joe Xavier 02:03
Michael, good to be here. Hello to everybody who’s listening in on the podcast and looking forward to this afternoon’s conversation.
Michael Hingson 02:10
Well, we are as well. So tell me a little bit about you growing up and your your roots and all those things. Let’s start with that. It’s always good to start with that.
Joe Xavier 02:20
Yeah, always a nice start point. So I am an immigrant to this country. I came here as a seven year old child from the Azores Islands and seven of us and my parents came here I have a brother that was born here. And a date I’m the only one with a disability I grew up in agriculture, milking cows feeding calves are getting crops and went through integrated elementary, high school and got connected with the Department of Rehabilitation entered into the workforce other than on the dairy farm through the business enterprises program. Did that for about 14 years. My wife convinced me to become a civil servant. And so for about 10 years, I did managerial positions within the department. And then since 2008 been in various executive roles, most recently the director of the department now since 2014, had exactly the path you might sketch out for a VR director. It is how I got here.
Michael Hingson 03:33
On the other hand, it gives you different kinds of experiences which have to help you in terms of your your perspectives and all that were you blind from birth.
Joe Xavier 03:44
I was very low vision I have what is called retinitis pigmentosa is and so my eyesight deteriorated from the use of very thick glasses to wear today it’s light perception and it’d be extreme contrast for me even though the lights are on.
Michael Hingson 04:04
Yeah, I had light perception but have since lost it because being blind my entire life from now what they call written up the old prematurity. I liked retro lunch or fiber pleasure. I’ve never understood why they changed the name, but medical science does what they do. So that’s okay. But I had light perception and then along the way just because the eyes don’t function cataract formed and so no one ever thought it was worth removing them just for like perception.
Joe Xavier 04:32
Yeah. Well, you know, it’s, it’s part of who we are as part of our lived experiences to get to this point and see things the way we see them.
Michael Hingson 04:42
Yeah. So you went off and did administrative work and then became a civil servant? Was that significant switch for you in terms of mindset and just the way you did things or was it kind of, even though a strange way to get to where you or today? Was it sort of a natural life regression?
Joe Xavier 05:02
In a way? It’s kind of interesting. You asked that question, Michael. Because when you first look at it, and you think about it, you go, how do these things connect. But then when you actually put it together, it does really build on itself. So my first exposure at work was really learning how to work and having the expectation and the experiences of working in various roles, I then went off and became a business owner. And being a small business owner, is a really important piece of the work that I do as an administrator, you’ll learn the whole spectrum of how things need to, and must work together between policy and funding. And the folks that you’re serving, and the folks that are delivering the services, whether they’re your staff or entities you’re contracting with. But then I guess the other piece that really comes to play is that as I’ve stepped into the executive roles, you obviously have to really lean on your political acumen and your community engagement from so many different lands, including any entity that has an interest in the work that we do. But think of the business community that also has an interest in what we sow, in a roundabout way. These are all major elements that I’ve had to draw on and continue to draw on every single day.
Michael Hingson 06:33
How political does it have to be? Or does it end up being as you’re you’re just dealing with being a small business owner or teaching people to be a small business owner? And as they go through the process? It’s politics seems to be everywhere today.
Joe Xavier 06:48
Yeah, I think I think people hear politics, and you can hear so many different things. Yeah, I’ll never forget an experience that I had many years ago, engaging with grandma Johnson, who was the Secretary of Health and Human Services here in California. And I suppose so you’ve had lots of experience dealing with politics? What’s your best advice to me? Because well, the first thing you need to understand Joe was what politics is and what it’s not. Politics is simply a conversation for the allocation of resources. And when you start with that understanding, it’s much easier to navigate all of what you do. So that’s a long winded answer, to say that, in the conversation of politics, or better stated, allocation of resources, it lives at every level, with every individual, every organization, every body. And so when you become comfortable recognizing that and then engaging in that becomes a little more practical, a little more doable. So we deal with politics, we do the allocation of resources from the individual, to the organization, and even on some level nationally, and certainly at the state level.
Michael Hingson 08:08
It’s amazing how it’s been warped the concept of politics has has worked over the years and, and, you know, leaving people like Will Rogers aside who love to satirize politics, it’s just really amazing to see how people’s views have have changed and how people treat politics today, because I like that definition. And it’s all about a conversation, dealing with the allocation of resources. But we’ve just as a society seem to have warped the whole concept of politics so much.
Joe Xavier 08:44
Yeah, I mean, I think clearly, you know, when you get talking about people’s individual preferences and their own beliefs and values that certainly comes to play in the work that I do. We focus on it much more from what are the resources that are available? And how do we best make use of those. So you know, the world we live in today, and you walk those lines and do that dance?
Michael Hingson 09:13
It seems to me if we were to really talk about what the problem with politics is, it’s not really politics as much as it is. We’ve lost the art of conversation, and we’ve lost the art of listening so much, which is unfortunate.
Joe Xavier 09:27
Well, and then it’s a good point, when you bring it down to the level of conversation, because I think that’s what’s an essential ingredient. In the work that we do. It’s, it’s being opened to have any conversations. It’s listening to the other people’s point of views and interests and perspectives. And at the end of the day, I find that most everybody is aligned on the common interest, certainly within the work we do which is essential Li, ensuring that individuals with disabilities get a job, keep a job and advance an employment. And then the other slice of work that we spend a lot of time on is community loving, giving individuals the opportunity to live in their community of choice with purpose and dignity, regardless of how or where they are in their life’s progression. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 10:25
And it’s fair to think about that for for all of us. And it is something that I would like to see more people doing, of course, what you do is you work with persons who have some sort of disability, and you at the highest level get to represent their interests in the whole state process, don’t you?
Joe Xavier 10:51
Yes, that is true. Well, here at the Department of Rehabilitation, we serve everyone, regardless of the disability they have, or how they acquired or whether they were born with that disability. Obviously, you and I is two individuals who were blind. You know, obviously, we come from that understanding of disability, but it could be a physical disability, it could be a cognitive disability. You know, it can be sensory in terms of people who are deaf or hard of hearing as well. So we run the absolute gamut. And I think one thing that’s really important for society as a whole to pay attention to is, when we talk about disability, it’s not just those of us who have it today. It’s that infant that will be born today and unfortunately, not have the life of expectations that we want them to have. It’s a person in service of country, service of community that will acquire that disability is the individual that because of an illness, will acquire a disability, whether it’s through a brain tumor, or cancer, or in any other type of illnesses. And then you obviously have people require disabilities, such as the person who is going home tonight that will be involved in a severe vehicle accident, and tomorrow morning as a quadriplegic, or a traumatic brain injury survivor. And for us, regardless of who those individuals are, we want them to get the services they need to get into meaningful competitive, integrated employment than just be your full selves, realize that you have lots to contribute in the workplace needs that talent and society needs your contributions.
Michael Hingson 12:38
Just out of curiosity, I know. And I don’t recall exactly what year it happened. But at the federal level, they decided that for people who want the job of being homemakers, that would no longer be covered, if I understood it, right under rehabilitation services.
Joe Xavier 12:57
Yeah, let me I’ll speak a little bit about that. So the Rehab Act is reauthorized every number of years, the most recent reauthorization was in 2014. Right. And so in effect, a competitive integrated employment becomes the only employment outcome that is now allowed under the Rehab Act. And as a result of that, a homemaker which was otherwise and then compensated employment outcome, the idea being that if I stayed home and was able to care for myself, my wife or significant other would be able to go to work and and, you know, be employed. But that did change. Now, for those that are eligible over the age of 55. There are still independent living services, with categorical emphasis on blindness that enable individuals to get the services they need to remain at home. And if you are in pursuit of employment, then there was no impact to your services whatsoever, because we will provide any service an individual needs to pursue and gain employment.
Michael Hingson 14:09
Yeah. And it’s, again, it wasn’t anything that happened in California, it was a federal decision. How does it impact you and will not use specifically but how does it impact the whole policy process to not have the homemaker process still covered like it used to be? What is it what does it actually end up doing?
Joe Xavier 14:35
Well, on the policy side, the impact is not what I would call an unnecessarily onerous and effect. What it changed in terms of policy was, and we’ll use you as an example, Michael, that if he had come to the department, you were pursuing an employment goal. You received assistive technology because of your blindness. We now because you as as successful homemaker, you got to keep that equipment, or the policy changes that you no longer are able to keep that equipment because you were not successfully employed. So that means you no longer have the use of it. So from a policy side, that’s probably the largest shift that took place. From a practical application, my had you been one of those individuals that were coming to us with the idea that you would refresh your assistive technology or get some upgraded independent living skills, you know, now those have to be done, strictly focusing on employment. And if employment is not that outcome, then the ability to retain that equipment is not provided.
Michael Hingson 15:48
Understandable. And at the same time, there are other ways to, to get equipment if you’re not going to pursue employment under the definition, because what they’re saying basically, as as I understand it, is that homemaking is not considered achieving employment, it has to be something outside the home, that’s a job or let’s not even say outside the home, but it has to be some sort of a, a job other than being a homemaker. So you could start your own company, as an entrepreneur, and provide either jobs for you and other people that that are part of what a real independent company does. But as far as just providing the ability to do things at home, that we define as homemaking services are not really covered anymore.
Joe Xavier 16:40
Yeah, that’s correct. I mean, what’s not covered is the ability to retain, either get or retain those services, if that’s the ultimate goal. But just to just to put a little bit more of a finer point. Now employment is defined as competitive, and antegrade competitive, meaning you’re not earning a sub minimum wage, integrated, meaning you’re doing it in a setting where similarly situated individuals doing similar work are found. And so those are the sort of three prongs of employment is that that competitive and that emigrate integrated? approach.
Michael Hingson 17:20
So, you you mentioned earlier and, and, of course, it’s one of the things I think a lot of people, I see a lot of blind people thinking about it, the whole concept of starting a business. One of the main ways that departments of rehabilitation in general help people start businesses is through, what we commonly know is the Business Enterprise Program or bending programs, which come under the Randall Shepard act, primarily where people can be matched with places that need vendors to come in and provide services, whether it be a federal building, where you run a cafeteria, or vending stands, and so on. That That, of course, is one way that people can certainly learn a lot about businesses and starting businesses and being real entrepreneurs.
Joe Xavier 18:13
Yeah, it is. I’ll talk about that a little bit. I’ll talk about self employment. So we because we do have both the business enterprises program, the short version is that it was established specifically for the blind and visually impaired, it is providing food services. In federal, state, local government, by and large every once in a while we have settings in a non governmental setting, but those are more rare. And you are essentially either in a full food service where you’re doing bacon, an AES and burgers and fries, or you are in a vending machine. And then of course, a number of settings in between. You go through you get the training, you become licensed, you compete for locations that become available, you’re selected, you operate those, it is a public private partnership, public in the sense that it is public funds that establish that facility that maintain and repair and replace the equipment of that facility and provide support services to the BEP Business Enterprise Program vendor. Private in the good sense that the vendor is a self employed and whatever income they have is as a result of the earnings generated from the location once they meet their business obligations. The other one is self employment. We do self employment plans. As long as someone can put together a viable business plan. We provide them with the training and the supports and getting them set up in those self employment plans. And it really depends on the individual All and what they want to do one thing that I always tell people about self employment, you have to have a whole lot of self motivation, because nobody’s telling you what to do and when to do or how to do it. And you need to do it in the way that ensures that customers not only only going to come to you the first time, but that they will keep coming back to you over and over again, because that’s how you’re going to generate the sales. And without the sales, there’s not going to be in the income. And
Michael Hingson 20:28
you have to be disciplined to as you point out to keep to keep customers and to keep moving on. It is, is very much a discipline process. And not even just self employment. But I know I’ve had a number of jobs over the years, where I have not necessarily worked at the company headquarters. So in 1996, a company asked me to go to New York to open an office for them. And of course, that eventually led to another company that asked me to open an office for them, which took place on the 70th floor of Tower, one of the World Trade Center. But in both cases, I was working for companies that were based elsewhere. So it wasn’t quite self employment. But it was certainly self discipline. And it’s self motivation, as you said,
Joe Xavier 21:18
Yeah. And I think the self discipline part, I’ll never forget a little incident that happened to me when I was in the food service. Somebody approached me and wonder that $200 loan, and I pulled up my wall, and I said, I got 20 bucks, best I can do for you. And they said, Well, no, you gotta say for money. I said, Well, that doesn’t belong to me. None belongs to the business. Yeah. So when you are self employed, that self discipline really means you eat lattes, you pay all your bills before you know what you have available to you. That self discipline is not only in the financial side, it’s on you know, the human capital, how you lead and manage your staff. And then, as you pointed out, are you getting up and figuring out what needs to be done and how it needs to be done? And who’s going to do it? Because there’s nobody there saying, Hey, Michael, do this next or do that next.
Michael Hingson 22:15
And there are rules that companies should live by, and there are laws that are the kinds of things that you have to comply with. And as you point out, you had 20 bucks, but you didn’t have 200? Because as you said, even though you may own the business, and it may be a corporation, and especially when it is your it’s not your money,
Joe Xavier 22:37
right? Yep, absolutely. So when you’re working for other people, you got to keep that in mind.
Michael Hingson 22:45
Well, and again, the working for other people is a an interesting term, because you may be the boss of the company, and it may only be a one or two person company, but you’re still working for other people because you’re working for all your customers, and the existence of the business overall. And you can’t go fudging that at all. Yep. Well, sad. Which, which makes perfect sense. Well, I’m curious. So you grew up as a blind person, and went through all the processes of going to school and going to college? Right?
Joe Xavier 23:20
Uh, yeah, I had a little bit of college. Not a lot, but I had a year to college.
Michael Hingson 23:25
Okay. And then moving on. What kind of technology did you use growing up? What kinds of devices Did did you have? And, of course, in the logical next question to that is, how’s that evolved over the years?
Joe Xavier 23:40
Wow, now we’re both going to date ourselves. No. Which is no problem whatsoever. That’s
Michael Hingson 23:46
okay. When were you in high school?
Joe Xavier 23:48
I finished high school in 78.
Michael Hingson 23:52
Okay, so I finished 10 years before you but that’s okay. We still date ourselves out. Who cares? Experience counts for something.
Joe Xavier 24:02
I am happy to be here and talking about it. Okay. Yeah, so Exactly. So it’s interesting you ask that question, Michael. So I first started in school, the technology that I was handed, was magnifying glass, magnifying, not even glasses, but like little bars that you could sit on top of the piece of paper. Bevel them would magnify the printer bit, and then large print whatever have you but my first real piece my two first real pieces of any kind of electronic technology outside of a tape recorder if you consider that. It is. It’s true. It was a what they call a CCTV closed circuit TV. And I want to tell you, you needed a whole lot of space, and you needed a pretty sturdy desk to put that stuff up on. And then I had a talking calculator of my first talking calculator cost me 400 bucks
Michael Hingson 25:01
was that the TSI speech plus, it was.
Joe Xavier 25:07
I am the nose. Yeah. Now today I’m sitting here, iPhone and my clip on my belt for the Bluetooth keyboard out of the box doing amazing things notetaking, emailing texting, phone calls, apps to do a myriad of different things just an access, and power I never thought I’d have at my fingertips in front of me is a computer with jaws that enables me to read, write, and do all those functions that I need to do for, you know, my everyday job and as well as is at home. So what’s really cool about all this is slow, no doubt. But nonetheless impactful is how much of this is being built in from the ground up. We are far from perfection. But it is noteworthy that we are continuing to make progress, that the assistive part of technology is being built built in, which means you and I as a user don’t have to go and pay out of pocket money over and above to get a piece of technology that works for us. And then there’s many other things like the echo devices into Google devices, and you know, homes and the access that those can provide. But you know, there’s a generational piece to this. You and I started talking about our ages, what I find is my five year old grandson gravitates this stuff, and it’s intuitive. And my 91 year old mother looks at an iPad and sees a piece of glass and struggles to figure out what to do with it. So just like any other error and time, I think as generations move on, and as technology evolves,
Michael Hingson 27:05
I think we’re in a better place all the time. We’re definitely in a better place. It’s it’s, it’s funny what what immediately comes to mind when you make that comparison is of course the old joke. And nowadays, I’m not sure how many people really get it. But how adults really had a hard time manipulating VCRs. And they always had to have their kids or their grandkids work the VCRs because they couldn’t. Yep. Well said. And it’s not that they were all that complicated. It’s just that it is not what people are used to. And we I don’t know, I don’t know why that is whether we just don’t do enough to teach people to be more curious or more explorative or what. But it is unfortunate that we have so many people that have such a hard time migrating as the technological world changes. You know,
Joe Xavier 27:56
monkey, Michael, you bring up a really interesting thought. And it’s interesting that you bring this up right now, because I literally have just had this conversation a couple hours ago with a colleague, I think we sometimes stay very comfortable with what we have, and it works. Which means we don’t take the opportunity to learn something new. And I think the challenge with that is that at some point, you wake up and you go, Oh, my God, this stuff has also changed. I don’t know how to use it. So big word of encouragement, everybody. Yes, it’s, it’s stressful. It’s challenging to learn and keep learning and keep learning. But I think you’re better off to keep learning a little bit every day, then you’re wired to wait 1020 30 years, and then also and figure out you got to learn how to use something you don’t have any concept of how to.
Michael Hingson 28:52
And that has nothing to do with blindness, eyesight ability or person who happens to have a disability. That’s societal. And I absolutely agree with you. And it also needs I think, to be said that, what we need to recognize is that technology is a tool or set of tools that we can use, but we still are the ones least the theory is, we are still the ones that need to manipulate the tools or utilize the technology rather than being afraid of it. And I think that fear is one of the big things that we face.
Joe Xavier 29:33
Well, I think that I think that fear is one piece of it. And I think the other piece that I would add to you and I do this quite often with my team. Yes, I do have a pencil box. True. I haven’t sharpened the pencils and I don’t know how many years but I will reach in the pencil box and grab out a pencil and say look, the fact that I have this doesn’t make me Shakespeare, right. And I think so many times we conflate the two Having a pencil makes it a whole lot easier for me to write and maybe some corrections or what have you. But it does nothing in terms of what I write, how I write it. And what I’m trying to convey or say. And I think that’s true of all pieces of technology, whether it’s an iPhone, or jaws on a computer, or you name it, right, the competence of knowing how to use the technology is essential. But that competence does not mean you’re going to be good at your job, or I’m going to be good at my job.
Michael Hingson 30:35
The Writing helps with the concept of knowing a little bit better how to communicate, but it still requires us to do it, and to learn it. And then to learn the other kinds of things that we need, you’re right, I carry with me everywhere I go, when I travel, especially pens, ballpoint pens and markers. And sometimes I don’t pay attention to which one I grab. But that’s okay for for sighted people they can, they can tell me why they would prefer I use a marker in a particular place. And I’m willing to accommodate those less fortunate than I who happen to use eyesight. But still, I wouldn’t be caught without having some sort of way of writing in the traditional, I sighted sort of way in, in in my backpack, I have pens as well. I remember once Hallmark sold wooden pens, so they had these, these pens, and the outside was Rosewood. And somebody said to me, it’s always the blind guys who have the fanciest pens. And I said, Well, you know, we want to impress you guys. Yeah, makes but it makes sense.
Joe Xavier 31:52
Yeah, yeah, well, people have all kinds of impressions of all day,
Michael Hingson 31:57
don’t they though, on the other hand, Mom was able to pull the pen out or pencil and the Hallmark thing came with a pen and a lead pencil. And so I carry them both and use them. And it makes perfect sense. And I wouldn’t be caught without them. Just like one of the things that I was very fortunate to learn was Braille. And I see us unfortunately, moving away from that, and a lot of what I see as the educational system that says, Oh, you don’t need Braille anymore, because you can listen to books, and you can listen to them on your computer, or you can get them recorded and so on. That works really well until you need to learn how to pass how to spell on a spelling test. Or when you need to be able to compose a document. And if you don’t really learn how, or if you want to deal with mathematical equations and so on, you’ve got to be able to peruse a page, peruse and move around. And you can’t do that as easily. And as effectively without Braille if you happen to be blind.
Joe Xavier 33:09
Yeah, you know, Michael, I admire and I haven’t know a number of people that are what I would call true Braille leaders. And the way I can always tell if somebody is a real Braille user is their ability to stand in front of a crowd and deliver a speech. I, on the other hand, do not make speeches, I will talk to people. And then part is, I have not a Braille user that has that level of skill. I use Braille in a very elementary way, a rudimentary way. But I admire those individuals that either grew up using it from birth, and had very little other choices and continue to be avid users of it. You know, yes, I think for all the reasons you said knowing Braille is invaluable. Certainly we, you know, will always support the individuals that wants to do that. And yet at the same time, you know, the advent of speech, like what we have with JAWS, has also made it much more interfacing, and much more usable with so many other pieces of technology that we otherwise might not have access to. So I will often say to folks, don’t think of it as one or either or it’s an it’s an How do you do both? How do you become adept at Braille? And how do you leverage the other technology that is here?
Michael Hingson 34:51
I choose not to use a Braille display on a daily basis to interact with my computer. Mm hmm. Because Jaws is faster, until I get to some things that require me to do more to understand formatting. And yes, I could work through some of that with JAWS, or other screen reading technologies. But Braille does make it more effective. Of course, I still don’t have multi line braille displays, although we’re working toward that. But still, Braille gives me information that I wouldn’t get just from speech. And I suppose you could say, for the person who likes to read and sit somewhere and quietly read Braille also add some value, just like reading print, quietly, somewhere adds value, because you get to just really let your mind go and deal with the book. And when you’re listening to someone, you’re focusing on the reading as much as you are the book, so you can’t really let your mind drift and get into the book like you can with Braille or print.
Joe Xavier 36:00
Well, I think that’s right. And I also think that it’s also interesting to take note of the fact that that the idea of walking around the big braille book as like a lot logging around the big textbook, it’s gone a little bit, but it’s technology makes it so much more usable, right? You can sure. A braille display and you know, access your electronics in that way. So you know, it’s both, right. It’s, it’s knowing how to use it. And then you have the different options, whether it’s the actual paper or braille displays, or what have you. So
Michael Hingson 36:39
yeah, and it is, it is unfortunate that we’re not necessarily catching on to that. But I really liked what you said, which is, it isn’t one or the other, it is both. And it’s nice to have a choice. And the most important that I think I think that any of us can really learn to do is to understand the value of each of the tools, so that we make the best choice with what we have. But if we don’t really know all the tools, and that’s what makes it more difficult to really make that decision. Yeah. Yeah, great. So it makes perfect sense to take advantage of those choices and then operate accordingly. And it’s an it’s a lot of fun. I remember when the original Kurzweil Reading Machine was developed. And it had the advantage that we knew there were so many books that were not available. And so giving someone the ability to suddenly have limited access back in the 1970s. But still access to a lot more printed material was reasonably well accepted, which which was cool. But and it evolved over the years. So using your analogy. Now I can just grab an iPhone or an Android phone and run one of many different kinds of apps. Some are better than others. But I can read a whole heck of a lot more than I ever could with the original machine and and Binney being involved with the original machine, I remember how limited it was, in some senses. So much better today.
Joe Xavier 38:25
Yeah, yeah. No it technologists comes such as such a long way. You know, it’s funny, you were talking about the iPhone, I have one as well. Now they had these like miniature braille displays that you can just use as a Bluetooth with your iPhone, or what have you ever thought that was going to be possible? Yeah. And it just, you know, the way I always look at it is, how do I gain access to information i Otherwise don’t have available?
Michael Hingson 38:53
I see. Absolutely. There’s a company called independent science that has made scientific equipment accessible by taking some commercially available products and making them talk but also the ability to solidify graphs and so on. And now independent science is beginning to work on a tactile graphics display so that people can actually work in the laboratory. And in real time, not only get a graph of what is occurring just like a sighted person would be able to do, but they’re also able to see it change. So it isn’t like it’s a static graph, you can actually, like if you, as the creators of it have have done, you can feel a ball rolling around on the screen. And that’s really cool that that kind of stuff is happening. And so we’re gonna see. And you know, the reality is, I think it’s not something that just blind people will be able to use and I think that’s an important point about a lot of the technology. It isn’t just something that a blind person can use. Look at voiceover I’m still surprised we’re not using it as much as we should.
Joe Xavier 40:00
Well, but you know what? It’s interesting you bring that up, because what we’re learning, I think around all of the, let’s call it accommodations. These are actually what I’m going to term more of a universal design. Yeah. And that when you think of a universal, universal mindset, you start to create things that people don’t think they need, but they end up using, and not just people with disabilities, let me give you a really quick example. My daughter, who has an iPhone, lost all the sound on her iPhone, could could make calls, could answer the phone. But she didn’t know that it was ringing, couldn’t hear it. I told her to go into the hearing accessibility feature in turn on alerts with flashes, she turned it on a text came the phone, Flash, voice, or phone call came to text flash, blah, blah, move forward, she gets her phone fixed, and kept that feature on, because she found it so helpful. My wife learned about it turned it on. Curb cuts are another example that we use, yes, they’re great for people in wheelchairs. They’re also good for moms with strollers, and professionals towing their luggage or office bags, or anybody pushing a cart or a hand, truck, whatever have you. So universal design, think of all users build it for all users. And then the benefit is available to all users.
Michael Hingson 41:36
And Apple set the tone to a large degree with that, although they they were kind of dragged kicking and screaming to it. But they still made the leap and built the technology into the iPhone technology. The only thing that I wish that they would do is now take that last step of mandating that there be some attention paid to accessibility by app developers. And and it’s not going to be the same for all apps. If you’re, for example, looking at an app that shows star charts, and so on, you’re not going to see the charts if you’re blind, because we haven’t really learned yet technologically speaking, how to use artificial intelligence to describe those. But at the same time, I, as a user, know what I want to look for if I understand the technology, and I’m studying the subject, so I understand what it’s all about. And so it’s important for me to be able to manipulate the star chart, rather than telling someone else what to do, and then just ask somebody what they’re seeing. And Apple hasn’t made that leap yet. And no one else has really done it either.
Joe Xavier 42:50
Yeah, and I’m an eternal optimist. And so I often think about these kinds of things. And you know, how to keep grounded in this. So earlier, we talked about what technology was like when we were young folks, and in high school and whatnot. And who would have thought that I would be describing the iPhone just in my lifetime? So you’re right. Those things that you’re describing are not available today? And who knows what’s going to be available in five or 10 years? And frankly, the escalation of progress is geometrical, right? I think what it took to go in terms of the progress made from 1978 to 1998. These days, we can see that same scale of progress made just in a few short years.
Michael Hingson 43:45
Yeah, absolutely, we can. And, you know, and, and some people are going to be dragged kicking and screaming into it, which is unfortunate, but that’s gonna happen. I, as you know, work with a company called accessibe that has used artificial intelligence to make websites accessible. And we see opposition from people who, as near as I can tell, haven’t totally internalized what the artificial intelligence process can bring. It’s not perfect. And in there are things that we can’t use technology necessarily to describe like bar charts and some pictures and so on. But the reality is that the technology does an incredible amount. I remember back in 1985, I started a company to sell computer aided design systems to architects and the opposition from architects was really fierce because they said, well, but now we can’t, we can’t make nearly as much money because we can’t build for the same amount of time because now you can do something in three days that maybe took us a month to do and I said, Why has anything changed? It’s not the time that it took you to draw it. It’s the expertise If you bring that expertise to the cat system, you can still charge just as much as you ever could. And what I’ve seen with accessibe is that the programmers don’t recognize that if they use to access a B, to actually let it do what it can do, which is also evolving, by the way, and accessibe as a company has now started its own process to do internal our to do coding with with people that had hires, but still, the artificial intelligence processes has grown and will continue to grow. And why not let it do all the lifting that it can do? And then a programmer comes in and does the rest? Why do they need to charge any less? It’s still their expertise?
Joe Xavier 45:41
Yeah, you’re hinting a little bit at sort of the bigger shift that has taken place in society, which is the business model. And what it gets monetized. And then, you know, how to how do companies capitalize on that monetization of these changes underway? I suspect that coming through COVID, over the last three years, we’ve accelerated tremendously things that were already here, but not necessarily in full swing. But I think the other thing that that got accelerated, is the shift to business models, and ways of monetizing products and services that we have thought about it in the past, I would expect we’re going to see an explosion of that in the coming years and decades.
Michael Hingson 46:39
Yeah, we have people who are absolutely opposed to the whole concept of what Tesla is doing with not totally yet totally self autonomous vehicles or automated vehicles, but it’s coming. And again, it seems to me the people who resist it are people who are primarily not letting their imaginations and vision really go. Because the fact of the matter is that we got to take driving out of the hands of drivers anyway, the way they drive. I love to tell people, I really don’t understand why the DMV won’t let me have a license given the way people drive around Victorville. So I don’t see the problem here myself. It’s kind of funny. But yeah, the the fact is that, that the time is going to come when the technology will really allow for us to take the basics of driving away from people, which hopefully will make the roads and people a lot safer.
Joe Xavier 47:38
Yeah, it’s coming. It’s coming. There’s evolution of what’s available and what it can do. And then there’s socialization, of what’s available and people’s acceptance of it. I think you see that changing very quickly. You know, as more and more vehicles have the technology and society will become increasingly more comfortable with it. And it will evolve, it will evolve, but probably not as fast as your I would like but
Michael Hingson 48:13
Right, right. Yeah. I mean, I’d like to see them do it today. But yes, but but it will happen. And I think the very fact that you and I understand that it will happen. helps. And we’ll find that more native stuff gets to a note with your your point earlier about Native accessibility is absolutely a very relevant thing. And that will happen more and more as as time goes on, not only for people with disabilities, but just so many other things will become natively available. And that’s fine. Yep. So it’ll be interesting to see how it goes. So how is the concept of rehabilitation? And the department kind of evolved over the years do you think? Well,
Joe Xavier 49:01
I mean, I think as you just reflect on the conversation that we’ve been having around technology, and around society and society’s attitudes, I think you can also parallel that with the workforce. And so for us, our continuous continual focus is going to be on how do we help individuals get into the jobs? And what does it take to get that job and then what does it take to keep that job and grow in that job? So rehabilitation is also evolving in some significant ways. And yet, not nearly as fast as we all would like for that to be the case. I mentioned COVID-19 A few minutes ago, we have just made a major shift to remote work. And so I don’t think that we are as ready as a as a national program. They help people want identity by their skill sets, and they need to work remotely, and to to develop that skill set so they can be competitive and effective employees in this remote virtual world hybrid role that we’re moving into. So as an example, you and I are here on Zoom. And so we as blind people, we think Zoom is what you should use, because it’s workable. But employers are using teams, and Google meets, and WebEx and any number of other things. And so if we want to go work for that company, we’d better have the skill set that it takes to engage with our product. So rehabilitation has to catch up with what that understanding is, and really start leaning into and developing the technical and the workplace skill competence to effectively function in this world. And then the jobs are changing Silkworth talked quite a bit about artificial intelligence. Big fear is that it’s going to do away with jobs, it’s going to do away with tasks and activities and cause jobs to be restructured. Because functions to be really thought of in terms of how they’re performed. So we have to make that adaptation, we have to make that change, as well, in terms of training individuals for the workforce, and again, there’s a generational piece to this, that 50 year old in a workplace is going to be less embracing of that technology, by and large, then you know, that 1520 year old who’s showing up tomorrow,
Michael Hingson 51:38
and I think that it won’t do away with jobs, it will change how we do jobs, and which is nothing but partly what you’re saying. But it won’t do away with jobs, because it still takes the creativity and the intellect that we bring to it. And I think that no matter how artificial intelligence grows, there still has to be the human aspect of it. Now Ray Kurzweil will tell you that we’re going to integrate humans and computers when and that’ll be the singularity. But the reality is that it’s still going to be the human that drives it. And I believe that, that it’s important to adapt. But the fact is, I think there’s just going to be as many jobs as there ever has been. Some of the natures may change, but we should be able to live with that.
Joe Xavier 52:27
Well, I don’t know that we have a lot of choice. Because it’s here. It’s moving fast. These last three years accelerated the heck out of a lot of things.
Michael Hingson 52:39
Yeah. But you know, at the same time, I don’t even remember who mentioned this to me, but but somebody said, you know, with all the things that are happening with technology, what really is new, in some period of time, we haven’t invented anti gravity or other things like that, that are the real game changer, what we’re doing is developing technology to enhance and improve how we do things. But doing something totally new and different, hasn’t really happened yet. And that will happen at some point, whether it be transporters to be not too cute, but serious for antigravity or developing the ability to communicate mentally, and so on those things will occur at some point. But they’re not here yet. And who knows how long that will be? That will be a real major game changer.
Joe Xavier 53:35
Yeah. And I’m, I’m not one of those people who thinks it’s not here yet. I think it’s not where I see it, or you see it. And I think a lot of that stuff is people are thinking about these things, people doing these things, and society and technology and everything is moving very quickly. And we develop the line here in your organization as a result of change. Highlighting a little bit of what you’re talking about, which is when we moved from giddy up to being the giddy up like you were doing transportation on horseback to beam me up like I think you’re just made a Star Trek Star Trek. Right. Right. So we think that we, you know, we think that’s all fanciful stuff. It’s really not, it’s here.
Michael Hingson 54:27
So springs created Jules Verne created the Nautilus back in the 1800s.
Joe Xavier 54:31
Well, yeah, there you go. So, you know, if you think about back to Michael, when you said you were 10 years ahead of me, so between 68 and 70, there was the robot that vacuum the carpet. Yep. Now call it a Roomba. There was a device that, you know, on TV, they walked over put their meal in it and it was done in a couple of minutes. We call that the microwave. Okay. And there was that device on the wall. All that you spoke to, and you could see somebody in it. And now we have, you know, zoom and FaceTime, and so many other things that, that do that. And these things happen.
Michael Hingson 55:12
You mentioned the echo a while ago. And it’s a, it is a device that has made a lot of things much more convenient. For, for Karen free well, for both of us, I can tell it to turn the lights on, or I can tell it to turn the lights off. And pretty much although have been a couple of times, it tried to cheat me. But mostly, if I tell it to turn off living room or master bedroom, it will turn off living room Master Bedroom a couple times this is head, okay. And it didn’t really do it. But I can pretty much have faith that it’s going to or I can tell it to play news or whatever. And I mean, that’s not all that old. But now we’re getting a generation that is so used to it. They can’t imagine just doing the things that we used to do.
Joe Xavier 55:58
Absolutely. Which is okay. Yeah. But But let’s think about this. You and I didn’t do things in a way our grandparents did. And I’m okay with that.
Michael Hingson 56:09
Yep. But I like to be able to understand what they did, because it gives me perspective. And I think that’s the important thing that I wish more people would do is learn a little bit more about history. I mean, we have a generation that doesn’t really understand CDs today, as in compact discs. But how about I had to
Joe Xavier 56:32
you mentioned the track, how about the Oh, the reel to reel recordings. And,
Michael Hingson 56:39
and I have, I have some I have actually two sitting on my desk because I used to collect and I still collect old radio shows, and I have a library of stuff on reel to reel tape that one of these days. I’ll get industrious and transcribe across. But you’re right. And look, we could go back further the wire recorder? Yeah, it’s really confounded the Allies during World War Two, because Germany invented it. And they were they didn’t understand how Hitler could give two very clear speeches at the same time, when what they were doing was using this wire recorder. And very few people I bet understand that today. Well, you mentioned you mentioned COVID, you meant I’m sorry. Go ahead. No, no. But you mentioned COVID A while ago, how? How did you survive as an organization, you were successful at continuing to keep the department going, and so on, during what was clearly a major change in the way we had to do business?
Joe Xavier 57:39
Well, so I mean, I think there’s a few things that we did here at the department that, you know, in retrospect really worked well for us one was, we embrace the times that we were in things like remote work, we had not really moved to remote work in the way that we needed to. And we leveraged remote work to make sure that people were able to continue working, and we will leverage the virtual to make sure that consumers could still continue to get their services, right. And I think that in the long term was really beneficial to us. I think another thing that we did here in the department, and this is not I’m not making any kind of ideological or philosophical statements, just talking about what we did here, is we really left to the experts public health, what to do, and what were the appropriate actions in the workplace when he came to COVID. And so we follow those and apply those very carefully. But we left it to them to decide what was necessary and appropriate. And we felt a very strong responsibility to both life and livelihoods of our 2000 step. So I think I think those things, as we look back on our experience, I think we’re very pivotal. We leverage flexibility in so so many different ways to be able to do things we hadn’t thought of before. So I think all of those really paid out, paid off over time over the three plus years that we’ve been doing this
Michael Hingson 59:29
and will continue to grow. Yeah, exactly. You and I have talked a lot about employment and unemployment. The unemployment rate for blind and other persons with disabilities is typically been in the 65 to 70% range and it isn’t changing a lot. Why do you think that is and what can we do about that?
Joe Xavier 59:51
Yeah, well, it’s funny, it’s funny, not funny, like haha, funny like in a weird sense, right? ADA was passed in 90. So you know, do the math, what are we 32 years? And yeah, tremendous progress in so many areas, except for one, unemployment onScale. I think it’s done a tremendous amount for, for pockets and individuals of getting to work. But I thought about that over the years. So there’s probably a few things that I will highlight here. One is the hire manager, the fear of uncertainty of the unknown when it comes to disability, and being more curious about how I would find a bathroom with the food on my plate, rather than how I might get the job done. And I think there’s certainly a society a societal attitude for us to do that, right. And I think in some ways, society’s attitude shifting has been slower than we had hoped. Although I see great signs in the last five years, where it’s really amping up considerably. So I look at things like even here in California ending sub minimum wage, which has been a long time coming. But that, to me is an example of the shift in the attitudes, right, the other thing that I think we all have to do better at is really start engaging youth at the earliest possible opportunity, about employment. Because the expectation that they will go to work, the question is, when or where, not if, means that they’re going to have people around them supporting that development of that competence, they will need to be competitive and to be in the workplace. But it also will be impactful on the rest of society, in terms of ensuring that they are aware of what people with disabilities can do. And at the end of the day, we spent a lot of time working with businesses to understand that hiring individuals with disability is just access to the marketplace. 61 million people in the States with disabilities, you throw when friends, allies, families, that’s a pretty large block of resources, or a large block of market, that individuals will be leveraging. And so we just got to keep pushing the envelope on that and, and we will, we will, but it has been stubbornly persistent, and slow and moving.
Michael Hingson 1:02:34
What would you say to employers who are approached by someone with a disability who wants a job, or just as they think about the whole concept of hiring somebody who happens to have a disability,
Joe Xavier 1:02:46
you know, what I’m gonna say to us, I believe in the talent potential of people with disabilities, my five year old grandson does not look at me as a blind person and see any barriers whatsoever, right, and he’s gonna grow up and he’s going to be in the workplace, and somebody blind in the workplace won’t matter to him at all. Right? representation, as I mentioned, really matters. It provides access to the marketplace. And that is invaluable. And so we definitely need to continue to focus on that. So I think those two things are things that I say to employers every single day, right? People with disabilities have amazing talents. And they can bring a lot of talent to your workplace. And they represent a market that you want to access. Because if you’re in business, you’re selling your product, or you’re selling it a service at the end of the day. That’s what business is
Michael Hingson 1:03:41
all about. And the reality is that people who have a disability who get hired, are also probably well are more apt to stay because they know how hard it was, is to get a job. And if a company treats them well and recognizes that, that they’re part of the company and treats them that way. They’re going to want to stay there, probably more than most people because they know how difficult it was in the first place to get there.
Joe Xavier 1:04:09
Yeah, I definitely think that’s a that’s an element, no question about it. Right. And they can bring some ingenuity and some creativity to your workplace that you probably haven’t thought about. With Disabilities, we learned lots of strategic ways of getting things done.
Michael Hingson 1:04:25
Right. And we’ve we’ve done that, because we’ve had to, and that experience counts for a lot.
Joe Xavier 1:04:32
Absolutely. Totally agree. Well, this
Michael Hingson 1:04:35
has been fun. And we’ve now been doing this for a while. And I really appreciate your time. How do people learn more about wheeling, California or in general about rehabilitation services, wherever they are, what kind of suggestions do you have and do you have a way if somebody wants to talk with you or interact with you? Is there a way to do that or how does
Joe Xavier 1:04:55
that work? So the the probably the easiest way for a Anyone who’s out there listening, no matter where you are, go to our , www dot Department of rehabilitation.ca. gov or dor.ca.gov. And you will find our web page here in California, you will find contact information, if you wanted to send me a note, you can do that. If you wanted to figure out where our programs and services are, where our offices are, throughout state of California, you will find all that. And if you’re looking for employment, have you had somebody around you who has a disability who is looking for employment, connect them, right, because employment is an essential pillar of good health. And we really want people to get into a family sustaining jobs so that they have the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families just like everybody else and enjoy the same benefits and opportunities they’re in. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 1:06:00
And I would only add to that, if you are someone who knows someone who, let’s say, is going blind or has a disability, or has just has just just discover that they have a disability or who was in the auto accident that Joe mentioned earlier. Don’t treat them like a pariah don’t treat them like they can’t do things. disability doesn’t mean inability. And I think it’s a very important thing that we need to learn. I think we need to change what the definition of disability is all about. I haven’t come up with a better word for it. So people seem to be able to change diversity because it doesn’t include disabilities anymore. So disability doesn’t necessarily and shouldn’t mean inability at all. Yeah, well said. So please remember, just because someone may lose eyesight or lose some of their ability to move around or any number of other kinds of things, that doesn’t mean that they are still not able to be just as productive, just in a different way.
Joe Xavier 1:07:03
No, totally the case.
Michael Hingson 1:07:06
Will again, thank you for being here. I hope people will reach out and learn more about what the California Department of Rehabilitation does and other departments as well. And I hope that you’ll all reach out to us here. We’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at Michaelhi at accessibe.com or go to our webpage www dot Michaelhingson. ingson is h i n g s o n.com/podcast. Love to hear from you. And love to hear your thoughts. And Joe once more. Thank you very much for taking the time to come on. I know you spent a lot of time here. I appreciate it very much.
Joe Xavier 1:07:44
Was your Thank you. Good to chat with you and look forward to seeing you down the road.
Michael Hingson 1:07:49
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.