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Transcript for Deaf-Led Disaster Action Event

>>[VOICEOVER]: Deaf-Led Disaster Action: a virtual panel hosted by the Global Alliance for Disaster Resource Acceleration (GADRA) and Gallaudet University. Recorded September 24, 2021.

>> KOTA TAKAYAMA: Hello, and welcome. Hello again. My name is Dr. Kota Takayama. I’m a professor here at Gallaudet University. I’m joined by my two colleagues. To my left is Dr. Danielle Thompson, and to my right is Dr. Audrey Cooper. The three of us will be moderating today’s conversation. Thanks, Audrey and Danielle. So again a hearty hello and welcome to everyone joining us. We have over 400 people online. That’s amazing. We’ll have a series of presentations today focusing on Deaf-led disaster action. The Global Alliance for Disaster Resource Acceleration, otherwise referred to as GADRA, and Gallaudet University have partnered to make this event possible, to feature the work of organizations in Japan, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vietnam. As you can already see, we’re also using multiple sign languages in our program today, which demonstrates something critically important, which is that sign languages are not the same worldwide, and when disasters happen, we must understand and value each sign language community. We have a rich program planned today, and hope that you’ll enjoy learning from each of our presenters. If you take a look in the Zoom chat box, you’ll see that we have posted information about languages and the webinar agenda. Danielle?

>> DANIELLE THOMPSON: Hello. Today I’m going to talk a little bit the logistics for today’s webinar. As you see on the Zoom screen, we have a new experience for all of us. This is a new experience for us as well. So I’m going to share a few tips to make sure that this webinar is successful. We would recommend that you leave the Zoom in webinar mode, at gallery view, so that you can see each person’s screen. You’ll also notice that at the bottom of an individual screen, it will have the person’s name, followed by the language that they’re using, or vice versa. Throughout the presentation, you’ll notice there’s some pauses. Not to worry. We’re allowing some time for our interpreters to catch up. There are two options for the captions, which will be provided in English. You can either see it embedded into the Zoom. There’s also a link that we have included into the chat box for a StreamText link. That link will allow for people to see the captions on a separate screen. We do have English, Japanese, and Vietnam interpreters ready to answer any questions or comments in the chat. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see the Q&A, which is where you will share your question or comment in the language of your preference, and we will attend to those when we are ready. I would now like to turn it over to Audrey.

>> AUDREY COOPER: Thank you, Danielle. All right. Now having discussed logistics, it is time to start the program. Today the three organizations, again from Japan, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vietnam, will describe their work in how they prepare for and respond to disasters. Many Deaf people and organizations are involved in disaster action all over the world. However, there’s very little information on their actions. We believe that two important reasons for this are that most governments often do not recognize the sign languages used in their countries, and secondly, governments often do not recognize Deaf people’s contributions to society, which means that these organizations lack equitable access to training and resource networks. This makes it all the more incredible that they do the work that they do without this support. As we celebrate International Week of the Deaf, and International Day of Sign Language yesterday, we hope that this event will bring more attention to these issues and to Deaf organizations who are working to save lives and to underscore the importance of their work, as they are truly out there every day saving lives. The presentations will begin shortly, but first we are honored to have some opening remarks by GADRA and Gallaudet University. From GADRA, we are joined by Marcie Roth, Germán Parodi, and Shaylin Sluzalis. Following the presentations from the GADRA representatives, we will have remarks from Dr. Gaurav Mathur, dean of the graduate school at Gallaudet University. I’ll now turn it over to Marcie Roth. Marcie is the Executive Director of the World Institute on Disability, and cofounder of GADRA.

>> MARCIE ROTH: Good morning. Thank you for joining the Global Alliance for Disaster Resource Acceleration today, for this important and unprecedented discussion, and a special thanks to our GADRA partners from Gallaudet University. GADRA was launched in July 2020 by three disability-led organizations: The World Institute on Disability, the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, and ONG Inclusiva, as an unprecedented collaboration between disability-led organizations, foundations, and corporations to disrupt the failed charity approach to disaster relief. This long standing approach does not provide resources to local disability-led organizations who are most knowledgeable about how to support their community in a disaster. By bringing together local disability-led organizations, with the humanitarian resources from philanthropic donors, these vital community leaders are able to restore or continue their operations, serving their disaster impacted community when they are needed most. I’m excited to introduce our next speakers, our GADRA partners, Germán Parodi and Shaylin Sluzalis, co directors of the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies and emerging global disability and disaster leaders.

>> SHAYLIN SLUZALIS: Hello, everyone, and thank you for having us today. My name is Shaylin Sluzalis. >> GERMÁN PARODI: I’m Germán Parodi. >> SHAYLIN SLUZALIS: The Global Alliance for Disaster Resource Acceleration, GADRA, has connected with 1,540 disability leaders from 72 countries around the world, in its first year. In these spaces we raise awareness of the problem and provide solutions from disability-led organizations.

>> GERMÁN PARODI: GADRA has partnered with Gallaudet University to highlight the leadership role of the Deaf community in disasters around the world. Our goal is to share valuable information that help us all plan for and respond to disasters in an inclusive manner.

>> SHAYLIN SLUZALIS: We aim to create a global network of disability-led organizations involved in the matter of inclusive disaster risk reduction, and establish bridges to humanitarian relief resources, ensuring funding and support get to – right to disability-led organizations and the people they serve throughout disasters. Consider joining us at GADRA today.

>> GERMÁN PARODI: And it is our honor, without further ado to introduce Dr. Gaurav Mathur. Dr. Mathur is the Dean of the Gallaudet University’s graduate school. A linguistic by discipline, Dr. Mathur has conducted research on sign languages around the world, and is a strong advocate for Deaf people’s human rights to sign language. Dr. Mathur?

>> GAURAV MATHUR: Thank you so much, Germán and Shaylin. Disability inclusive disaster risk reduction is a growing field of practice. Yet Deaf people, including people who are DeafBlind, hard of hearing, or Deaf plus, are still marginalized from disaster communication in their countries. They are also marginalized from training and leadership roles in disaster management. There are two main reasons for this marginalization of Deaf people from disaster management: Stigma, generally referencing derogatory attitudes toward Deaf people, and language exclusion. I’ll talk a bit more about this. Most governments do not recognize the sign languages used within their borders. As such, their support for research on sign languages is little to nothing. Whereas there are thousands of languages in the world, only about 200 sign languages have been documented, and of these, only a few have been thoroughly analyzed. If governments do not recognize their Deaf community’s sign languages, they’re not likely to invest in policy, programmatic innovation, technology, or language translation services that Deaf communities use in order to contribute to disaster management and to their societies in general. Given this situation around the world, and the increasing frequency and severity of disaster events, Deaf organizations have begun developing their own approaches to preparing whole community responses to disaster emergency, disaster or emergency management. In light of that, I am pleased to announce that in order to support these efforts, Gallaudet University is excited to share that it is in the process of developing a graduate certificate program in global leadership and Deaf centered disability inclusive risk reduction and emergency planning. We anticipate this certificate program to launch in 2022. Gallaudet is honored to have the participation of the three presenters here today, and honored by their efforts to share with us all the significance of investing in Deaf people’s disaster preparedness and response efforts.

>> KOTA TAKAYAMA: Thank you so much, Dr. Mathur, for those remarks. We now will get underway with the presentations. I am honored to introduce you to our first presenter of the day, Mr. Naoki Kurano. Mr. Kurano works for the Japanese Federation of the Deaf. Thank you so much, Mr. Kurano, for being with us today.

>> NAOKI KURANO: Thank you for the introduction. I’m really happy to see all of you here. My name is Kurano, as just introduced. Kurano, that is my sign name. In 2011, Japan experienced a giant earthquake and tsunami, and in this disaster, 15,000 people lost their lives. The Japanese Federation of the Deaf conducted disaster relief support to Deaf people and sign language interpreters in the affected areas. And from this experience, we learned many very important lessons. That is what I wish to talk to you about today. There are three points that I would like to point out. The first is the importance of we, the Deaf ourselves taking part in disaster relief, and the second point is the hardships that – and problems that deaf people encounter in case of a disaster. And the third point is what governments can do to support Deaf people in disasters. Those three points I will talk about now. The first point, the importance of Deaf, we Deaf ourselves taking part in disaster relief activities. Deaf people, who are the people who know best what causes hardships for the Deaf? It’s the Deaf ourselves. So if disaster relief for the Deaf would be most effective if conducted in collaboration with the Deaf. To enable this, it is important for Deaf associations in the country to form a strong networking in normal times before a disaster. The Japanese Federation of the Deaf has member associations in all 47 prefectures of the country, and we have a strong network. We have all together about 17,000 members. We are a national organization of the Deaf. The Japanese Federation of the Deaf, when the giant earthquake and tsunami arose, in just four days after the disaster, we established a central headquarters for disaster relief for people affected by the tsunami and earthquake, and we supported the Deaf people and interpreters. We sent relief goods, supplies. We dispatched sign language interpreters, and we also sent social workers who can sign, Deaf social workers as well. And we called on friends throughout the country for a big fundraising campaign and collected a total of about 47 million Japanese yen, and this we sent to the Deaf people and interpreters in the affected areas for their restoration of their lives. The central headquarters for disaster relief, which was set up for the giant earthquake, has now changed its name slightly to disaster risk reduction, and in normal times it will train the Deaf communities about disaster preparedness, and also send petitions to the government, advocate with the government, for the needs of the Deaf in disasters. If a disaster should arise, the headquarters would quickly be called to action to support the Deaf. But what is important is the support, support to Deaf people in disasters should come from the Deaf themselves. We know best. And so the importance of having a strong national network is very important. The second point, problems that Deaf people confront in times of disaster. Information on the disaster and information on evacuation, if they don’t reach us, it means that many Deaf people will die. Also if we can’t communicate with the hearing people around us, even if those that manage to escape or evacuate, they will face many hardships before their lives are actually restored to normal. In the East Japan giant earthquake, the death rate of people with disabilities was double that of people without disabilities. And looking at the breakdown of different disabilities, there are five disability groups: Visual disabilities, hearing disabilities, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and mental disabilities. Among these different categories of disabilities, the death rate was highest for which group do you think? It was highest for the deaf actually. The death rate was highest for the Deaf. This was a big shock for us, because we can’t hear, but we can move around. We can run. We can escape. So why was it that the death rate was the highest for D eaf people? That was because we couldn’t hear the warning sirens for the warning announcements. Television didn’t give us no sign language interpretation on television. We didn’t know, we couldn’t – Deaf people didn’t know that they had to evacuate, they had to escape. That’s why many people lost their lives. They couldn’t escape in time. And even those that managed to evacuate, escape, confronted many hardships. In the evacuation centers, they would give out food, distribute food or clothing, but all of the announcements would come in audio form, verbal form. And they wouldn’t reach us. And also support. Support for to restore our lives didn’t reach us in time. There were no sign language interpreters to help us. Sign language interpreters were also – suffered the earthquake, so there was no one to help us, help the Deaf people. So psychologically and mentally, Deaf people, no one to support them, no one to discuss with. There was no one to communicate with, so the communication barrier was very, very tremendous in those times. Therefore, in the restoration of their lives, deaf people felt very isolated and despair. The giant earthquake took place ten years ago, but the situation remains much the same today in the following disasters that have followed since 2011. The third point is what governments can do to support the Deaf. According to the – in compliance to the CRPD, all the information to on the disaster on how to escape should come in sign languages that will reach the Deaf people. In disaster relief and support, it should be conducted together with the Deaf organization. Deaf organizations, Deaf people should be included in disaster relief activities. So we ask three things for the governments to do. The first point is when sending information on a disaster or evacuation, always to include sign language in the announcements and warnings. The second point is when making plans for disaster relief or disaster preparedness, always include Deaf organizations in the planning stages. Also when training, when providing training on disaster preparedness, to include Deaf organizations in the planning of the training. And the third point is ensure that the government’s disaster risk reduction system includes organizations of persons with disabilities, Deaf organizations, other disability organizations, in the system itself. The way we think, the people with the same disabilities are the ones who know best what is needed of the people with the same disability. That’s what governments should keep in mind. People with disabilities are not just recipients of support. We can be providers of support as well. So for disaster relief support, we should be included. Disability organizations should be included. But I want everyone to know, there are several points that I want you to know, Japan is a country that experiences lots of natural disasters, earthquakes, typhoons, mountain eruptions, volcano eruptions. We have lots of natural disasters. Right now there are two typhoons approaching Japan right now at this moment. We are really a country that experiences lots of disasters. So the important – I think the important thing is to have a connection, for Deaf people to have a connection with the community around them. When a disaster arises, what the problems that Deaf people encounter in a disaster are actually there in everyday life, and they just become more evident in a disaster. So from everyday life, people with disabilities should have a strong connection with the community around them. I think that’s really important. And there are several new issues. People with disabilities are not all the same. There are women with disabilities, there are LGBT people with disabilities. There are young children, babies with disabilities. And these involve new issues. It’s the same with people without disabilities. We are not all the same. So disaster resilience, disaster risk reduction should take on should consider the aspect of diversity in society. That is another important thing. Thank you so much for giving me this chance to talk to you today. That is all for my side.

>> KOTA TAKAYAMA: Thank you so much for an invigorating presentation. Let’s all give a round of applause to Mr. Kurano. Thank you again. Our next presenters will be introduced by Dr. Danielle Thompson. Danielle?

>> DANIELLE THOMPSON: Good morning. I am originally from Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago is a relatively small island off the coast of South America. And I am honored to introduce our two presenters today from Trinidad and Tobago. They are calling in today from Trinidad and Tobago. They are both tireless community advocates for the Deaf community in Trinidad and Tobago. Their names are Mr. Ian Dhanoolal and Bryan Rodrigues. I would like to invite both Ian and Bryan to the Zoom gallery.

>> IAN DHANOOLAL: Hello, everyone, and good morning. My name is Ian Dhanoolal. I am Deaf. And I am the current president of Deaf Empowerment and Advancement Foundation, abbreviated as D.E.A.F. Thank you so much to Gallaudet University and GADRA for extending the invitation to present to you today about our organization. I’d like to begin by giving you a bit of history about our organization. To give you context, the government had supported efforts to create a dictionary for Trinidad and Tobago Sign Language. This was a two year effort, and at the conclusion of that time, many of the Deaf people who were involved in creating that dictionary decided to create an organization called Deaf Empowerment Organization of Trinidad and Tobago, DEOTT, which was founded in 2010. In 2014 we underwent a name change to the name we are currently operate under, Deaf Empowerment and Advancement Foundation. The mission of our organization is primarily to educate and offer equal access to the Deaf community of Trinidad and Tobago. We currently have a partnership with another organization, called Trinidad and Tobago Association for the Hearing Impaired. This organization is run by hearing individuals, and that organization has a relationship with our parliament. In times of natural disasters, which we encounter frequently, TTAHI is leaned upon by the government to provide information. However, they offer very limited information to the Deaf community. They do offer interpretation on TV. However, that interpretation is offered in signed exact English, which is functionally unintelligible to most of the signing community, as most of the signing community uses Trinidad and Tobago sign language. In response to that, in 2012, D.E.A.F. decided to offer news broadcasts available to Deaf people on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, so that Deaf people will have access to information that they don’t otherwise get. We started off with a relatively small audience, but year after year, we have seen more membership, more views, more followers, because our connection to the signing Deaf community of Trinidad and Tobago is so strong. D.E.A.F. provides critical information to the Deaf community, and all of this work is done on a volunteer basis. We do not have any private funding or governmental support. We make these broadcasts with our own equipment, our own backgrounds, our own wardrobes, so this is completely an individual volunteer effort. With that, I would like to turn the floor over to Bryan.

>> BRYAN RODRIGUES: Hello, everyone. My name is Bryan Rodrigues. I am also Deaf. And I’d like to extend a warm hello to the entire group here with us today, those from GADRA, Gallaudet, Vietnam, and Japan. I am one of the cofounders of D.E.A.F., where I work alongside Ian, who you just saw. Again I would like to reinforce that all of our efforts are volunteer. We use our own time and resources to make these videos available about hurricanes, floods, various types of natural disasters that our communities face. We usually have a hurricane annually. Our hurricane season runs from June to about November, and I want to underscore that this is an annual event that we face. We are accustomed to having information be made available to us on TV, but often emergency alerts are made available on radio prior to what’s on TV, so the Deaf community often finds out weather information quite late. As an example, when there is a tropical storm that is developing into a hurricane, that sort of emergency information gets to Deaf people quite late. Similarly when we face floods, Deaf people find themselves in a position of needing information when they’re already in crisis, when they already need food and other disaster supplies. The D.E.A.F. board and other volunteers have undertaken our own fund raising efforts, and we also have our own system of keeping a list of who has emergency supplies and who is able to take people into their own homes if someone in another region needs support. As Ian mentioned, TTAHI is another organization that operates in Trinidad and Tobago, and depending on where the natural disaster has occurred, if there’s flooding, then we can make things like mattresses available. D.E.A.F. maintains a registry of Deaf people’s addresses so that we can get to people’s homes and give them the supplies that they need. And again we do this all on a volunteer basis, because we know that the need exists. Often during natural disasters, we also have to abide by a curfew. The Deaf Trinidad Sports Association has a pretty active football team or soccer team for some of you all on the call, and as it approached the end of the tournament, it was a pretty hot game. We didn’t realize that the government had enacted a curfew that very day. All events had to conclude, because the crime rate had escalated at that particular time in Trinidad and Tobago. The information was only made available by radio, and the Deaf people at the soccer tournament were unaware of the curfew. When we exited the stadium, we were confronted with police officers, some of whom escorted some of the Deaf people home. Some of whom decided to bring Deaf people to the local detention center. So this is an example of the ways in which emergency information is not made available to us. COVID is also something that affected everyone globally. We all know that we were – most of us stayed at home as a safety precaution, and we were able at that time to make videos available to the Deaf community. There are five of us that have makeshift video areas set up for ourselves, and we were able to work tirelessly on making COVID videos for our community. I’ll now turn it back over to Ian. >> IAN DHANOOLAL: I’d like to conclude by sharing the fact that D.E.A.F. primarily needs support for equipment, including things like lights, software, computer, recording equipment. This is key to the operation of D.E.A.F., because as I said, each of us are using our own resources and equipment. So this is our primary need at the moment. We also would like to have a physical office space that we can all use instead of having each of us use our spaces in our homes. This also would serve as a central place for the Deaf community to convene if they need information or if there is a natural disaster or a crisis, and they need some support. Many Deaf people in the community are not comfortable with TTAHI, because many of those members do not use sign language. I should add a bit of context here. In our community, ASL, TTAHI excuse me, TTSL, and home signs are the three primary forms of communication. The people who work at TTAHI primarily only use American Sign Language. They do not have the linguistic repertoire to communicate with people who use Trinidad and Tobago Sign Language or home sign. We need people who have the kind of linguistic range to support people in times of crisis and natural disasters. When D.E.A.F. has approached the government about getting support for our efforts, the government has declined our requests, and only gives financial support to TTAHI. Nevertheless, we continue to do our work in the face of these challenges and still continue to lobby the government for our human rights. Bryan and I still go to WFD events to learn as much as we can from other Deaf organizations, which really heartens us and helps keep us going in our efforts to lobby the government. I’d like to conclude by saying thanks to each and every one of you for supporting us, specifically to Gallaudet University and GADRA. I hope that you’ve enjoyed our presentation. Thank you again.

>> DANIELLE THOMPSON: Thank you so much, Ian and Bryan, for your presentation. I’d now like to ask you to mute your video. Thank you so much. And I’ll now turn it over to Audrey.

>> AUDREY COOPER: Thank you so much, Danielle. I am now honored to introduce our third presenter of the day, the presenter’s name is Tien Tran. Tien is the Executive Director for PARD, which stands for Psycho Educational and Applied Research Center, based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Tien, would you turn your camera on, please?

>> NGUYEN TRAN THUY TIEN: Hello, everyone. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, wherever you are in the world. In Vietnam it is nighttime right now. And first of all, I would like to say thank you to Gallaudet University and GADRA for inviting me to be here in this webinar and to share about the Deaf community in Vietnam. My name is Tien, and I am living in Ho Chi Minh City, in the south of Vietnam. I went to Gallaudet University with the World Deaf Leadership Scholarship in 2013. And graduated in 2016 with a masters in sign language education. After that I returned to my home country and founded an organization named PARD Vietnam, so PARD stands for Psycho Education and Applied Research Center for the Deaf. We are the first Deaf-led nonprofit organization in Vietnam. And the spirit that we follow is “nothing about Deaf without Deaf”. So this celebrates the meaning of full and direct participation of Deaf people in all decisions that impact our lives. At PARD, we have different activities to achieve our visions and missions. We empower and build capacity for Deaf people. We support and advocate for the human rights of Deaf people. We also provide information accessibility for the Deaf community through programs such as the Sign Language News and The Sign Show. Last but not least, we also build a strong network of Deaf clubs throughout Vietnam. Now, I would like to share with you more about the Deaf community and the disasters in my country. Every year, disasters occur in different part of Vietnam, including floods, salt water intrusion, landslides, and hurricanes. The central part of Vietnam was most affected by flooding. And the flooding happen every year around September to November. In last year, October to November, central Vietnam was hit by consecutive tropical storms and typhoons. Sorry I think the screen is frozen, so I will repeat. Is it okay right now? Yes? So sorry for the Internet connection. Sorry. I just repeat what I just said. In last October to November, the central part of Vietnam was hit by consecutive tropical storm and typhoons, which had brought flooding and landslide to the region, so this flooding disrupted the telecommunication network and electricity, also destroy infrastructure, houses and crops. Many people were dead or missing, while tens of thousands of people had lost their home to rising water. One of the most damaged provinces in the central Vietnam is Quang Binh province. And we contacted the leader of Quang Binh Deaf club. Her name is Trang. And on behalf of them, I would like to share about this story with you all today. So in this province, the Deaf community, they have limited education. Some of them only finish primary education level. Around 30 percent of them do not know sign language. And hence they do not have access to information. In times of crisis and disaster, they often depend on the hearing members in their families and their neighbors. When they know that the flooding is coming, they will move their valuable things, such as motorcycles or rice or other things that is important to them, and they move it up to the attic of their house to avoid water. After that, they will move to stay in their neighbor house which has two to three floors to stay safe, and they only eat raw instant noodles from the package and just patiently wait for the water to come down. In last year’s flood, there was a Deaf single mother who has a little daughter, and when the neighbor informed her about the flood, she asked the neighbor to bring her little daughter to a safe place, and so she stayed back to save her 20 bags of rice. But then the flood quickly came, and she had to climb up to the ceiling beam and stay there, and sit there and wait. She was hungry, cold, and sleepless for about two days, until the police came to save her. But unfortunately she lost all her 20 bags of rice. There is another story. These are hearing parents who has a Deaf son, and when the flood is coming, they were busy to save their things. And then after that, they moved to their neighbor’s house to be safe, but then they forgot to bring the Deaf son along. So the water level quickly rose, and the Deaf son had to climb up to the ceiling and kept crying. He stayed there, and until the police came, and they had to take out the roof of the house to save him. If they came a little later, he could have died. So in those times, the Deaf community are cut off from resources, such as food, life jacket, which is very important, also they do not have fresh water to drink. But most importantly is their communication. So double crisis including disaster and the COVID 19 pandemic has deepened the impacts on Deaf people’s lives. Lockdown measures have been imposed for the last four months. Businesses have closed which caused many Deaf people to lose their jobs. Travel restrictions made them unable to go back to their hometown, and they still had to pay for their rent and food, without earning any income. The government has released funds and food to support its citizens, and our organization, PARD, has spread this information and consulted Deaf people to get them support. However, we know that there are still many Deaf people out there that we have not reached yet. And because they do not have access to information. So that’s why we are trying our best to get connected with the local Deaf clubs to have as many contacts with Deaf people as possible. So at PARD, we have the Sign Language News Program to disseminate information to the Deaf community, so that Deaf people can get information in times of crisis. We also provide free interpretation services in time of crisis for Deaf people. We and Deaf people around Vietnam donate funds and food such as rice to the Deaf community in central Vietnam. However, it is not enough, and we need more sustainable resources. So we have discussed with the Deaf community, and these are the resources we need to support them. First we need to provide training for Deaf people, it is important to know how to protect themselves and to prepare to cope with disaster. We also need resources such as life jackets, headlamps, emergency resource. We also need emergency straw or bucket filters to have clean water to drink in those times. Inflatable solar light and phone charger to support the communication of Deaf people so that they can get connected with each other. We also need medical kits and hygiene supplies. Last but not least, we also need the financial support for food and restoring houses after the disaster. Now the rainy season is already beginning right now in Vietnam, and just yesterday, a storm hit the central part of Vietnam. So we hope that we will get the resources that we need to support our Deaf community. Thank you, everyone, for watching my presentation. And if you want to get connected with us, you can send us an email at, or on our Facebook page, PARD Vietnam. Once again, thank you so much.

>> I’m waiting for the Vietnamese Sign Language interpreters to return to the screen.

>> AUDREY COOPER: Great. Thank you so much. Thank you again, Tien, for a wonderful presentation. To the audience, you’ll have a chance to ask questions of Tien a little bit later. We are going to conduct our Q&A in a couple of components. The format of Q&A will be that each organization will respond to your questions one at a time. We’ll go in the same order of their presentations, so we’ll start with Mr. Kurano. Allow time for the audience to ask their questions of Mr. Kurano. Then we’ll turn the floor over to Mr. Rodrigues and Mr. Dhanoolal. Again we’ll have a few moments to ask questions of them, and then we will end with time for asking questions of Tien. At the end of the Q&A portion, the organizing committee will return to the committee for concluding remarks. Now, about how to ask your questions, we apologize that we will not be able to have participants turn on their cameras to ask questions in sign languages. Instead what we ask is that you type your questions into the Q&A box. You can use Japanese, Vietnamese, or English to type your questions in. I’ve already seen how active you all are in the chat box, already using your respective languages. And some of you have already put questions into the Q&A. Kota, Danielle and I will moderate those questions. Kota?

>> KOTA TAKAYAMA: Hello again. As Audrey said, we will now move into the Q&A portion of our program, starting with the Japanese representatives. Mr. Kurano, could you please come on screen? We have a couple of questions for you, Mr. Kurano. The first question, we’ll start with the simplest. How many Deaf people perished as part of the 2011 earthquake?

>> NAOKI KURANO: Thank you. Okay. Thank you for the question. In the 2011 earthquake, according to survey, it says that 75 people, Deaf people died. However, the Japanese standard for hearing disability, compared to the world standard, is very strict. Hearing disability is like 75 decibels in both ears. It has to be over 75 decibels. WHO says 50 decibels. The Japanese standard is over 75 decibels, so under that standard, 75 people died. But actually if we go by the WHO standard, I think the number would increase much, much more. So the definition, according to ours, the Japanese standard is 75 people.

>> KOTA TAKAYAMA: Thank you for that response. The next question asks about how the relationship is between JFD and the Japanese government. Could you tell us whether it’s a relatively positive or a relatively tense relationship?

>> NAOKI KURANO: Thank you for that. That’s a good question. The Japanese Federation of the Deaf, in relation to disaster risk reduction, every year we send petitions to the government, we want to do this, and gradually things are progressing. We exchange opinions. They ask us questions, and they’re beginning to understand us. Two years ago there was a big actually progress. The meteorological agency of Japan, when there’s a typhoon or a big earthquake, they have the representative comes on television and the media and explains the situation. And until now there were no sign language interpreters during this press conference. But starting from last year, 24 hours, anytime, whenever they have this press conference, they would always have a sign language interpreter. And we have been continuing this conversation with the government. So it’s slow progress, but things are progressing.

>> KOTA TAKAYAMA: Thank you again for that response. Our final question, in Japan, is there specific DRR, disaster risk reduction, education and training, or any emergency management training available for Deaf Japanese people?

>> NAOKI KURANO: You’re talking about our organization, the Japanese Federation of the Deaf, or Japan in general?

>> KOTA TAKAYAMA: Specifically offered by well, either, offered by JFD or available in general for Deaf people for training that’s focused on Deaf people. A certificate, for example, anything offered by a college, a university, or training institution.

>> NAOKI KURANO: All right. The government and local administrations, universities, do not have any special training for Deaf people. So the Japanese Federation of the Deaf toward Deaf people and to the community. We are trying to make a program so that we’re trying to make a program towards the Deaf people and the community to train people. To train the community about Deafness, the problems that Deaf people confront, and simple signs that people can communicate with. We have pamphlets like this showing simple signs, how to communicate with the Deaf people. The Japanese Federation made this and distributed to all local communities. So the hearing people in community can get together with the Deaf people. Deaf people can teach hearing people around them using this pamphlet, but unfortunately we have to start doing things like this from our side, and there’s no action from the government or local administrations, but it’s the first step.

>> KOTA TAKAYAMA: Thank you so much. There’s a follow up thank you so much for the additional response in relation to that question. There’s also a follow up. Is there any interpreter training in disaster risk reduction or emergency management? Again this question specifically relates to interpreters and interpreting.

>> NAOKI KURANO: For interpreters, we have terminology related to disaster, for example, signs specifically related to disasters. And also I think interpreters need more knowledge about disasters. So this question is very important. At present we are still working on as I said, the relationships with the community, so that the community knows about Deaf people, but as you say, the next step would be training interpreters about knowledge, more knowledge about disasters, and how to sign the different things related to disasters.

>> KOTA TAKAYAMA: Thank you again, and thank you so much, Mr. Kurano, for answering our audience questions. It’s now time to turn to the Trinidad and Tobago team. Thank you again. Dr. Ochoa, would you please join on screen?

>> DANIELLE THOMPSON: Hello. Ian and Bryan, you can turn your cameras on. Great. We have three questions in the Q&A feature for you. The first question asks what kind of support does D.E.A.F. need to recognize D.E.A.F. and deaf leaders, versus TTAHI? Bryan?

>> BRYAN RODRIGUES: I think the type of support and resources that we need is primarily in awareness and training. Because of the nature of our work, we want to professionalize our videos. We’ve been doing this for 12 years, and have been learning on the fly, and we’re getting pretty old, so we need to turn this over to the next generation. So we also need to encourage younger members of our community to take on this work. Ian?

>> IAN DHANOOLAL: I’d like to add to this too. I would also like Deaf young people to I think young Deaf people would be more motivated if they saw that our videos were more professional. Again our goal is to provide support to the signing Deaf community and in terms of training, this is not something that many people in our community have money for. So we have tried to send people out or to send messages to different companies, asking for support, but we have not been lucky enough to get that type of financial support so far. However, this past summer, we were able to get free registration for a camp that was offered for tech skills every Sunday, so this was fantastic for the young Deaf kids in our Deaf community here. So they learned all kinds of computer and camera editing skills, storytelling skills. So we certainly do see some more motivation among young people in our community, and we’ll keep trying. We’ll keep trying to send people to different camps and connect with different companies.

>> DANIELLE THOMPSON: A clarification. When you mentioned the companies, do you mean to gain employment or for training?

>> IAN DHANOOLAL: Oh, good question. When I say companies, I mean primarily to ask for financial support. When our young people want to take classes, because D.E.A.F. does not have financial resources to offer that kind of support. Again we are 100% volunteer based. We can share our knowledge, but we can’t offer that type of financial support or travel assistance if people need transportation to get from home to wherever these classes are offered, so we do reach out to companies to try to get that support for Deaf people. Bryan and I have also thought about employment and training with these different companies, but we also have so to that end, we have asked companies to give workshops at least so that information will be more accessible to Deaf people. We also think that this will help them become more aware of Deaf culture and more aware of sign language and Deaf people’s livelihood. So this is something that we also want them to be aware of.

>> DANIELLE THOMPSON: Thank you. Second question: Do you have any contact with other Caribbean Deaf communities? And if so, do you collaborate with them in any way?

>> BRYAN RODRIGUES: I’ll take that one. The two of us just created or we have the idea or plans to create a Caribbean Federation of the Deaf. We have decided on who the president would be. Ian would be the director. This would be an association of 15 Deaf communities, Haiti has agreed to be a member. Jose Nell has agreed to be a part of the organization, and while there is a lot of interest, because of the fact that we face a lot of natural disasters, things get in the way, and many of us don’t have the money to be able to get together. So there is a lot of desire and interest in it, but communication is also kind of hard, so it’s certainly on our minds, and all of our interactions have been very positive. Everyone is working towards improving education and improving schooling options and using sign language in their schools. So we’re all hopeful for a better and brighter future.

>> IAN DHANOOLAL: I am a sign language teacher at the University of West the West Indies. I teach there with a person named Ben, and one of our students named Rachel just did a research study about earthquakes and disaster response. She asked if I could collaborate on a research project in St. Vincent, where there was a recent volcanic eruption. I agreed to support this project, because I figured it would be easier for us to communicate if I were to work with her. This was about is it two years ago now? This was 2019. We went to the area, found and met with some Deaf people, asked about their experience after this disaster, after the eruption, and many of them said that they were not informed. They had no advance notification, and no access to information about the eruption. And we were astounded that they really had been told absolutely nothing. They did have interpreters on TV, but they said that the interpreters were not very fluent. They also added that they were hearing interpreters, so while someone was on screen, it was not actually useful.

>> DANIELLE THOMPSON: Thank you so much for your responses. This is all the time that we have today, and we will now turn the floor over to the Vietnamese team. Audrey?

>> AUDREY COOPER: Tien, would you like to come on camera? Great. So I will read the questions that we have for you. We’ll try to answer as many as we can in the remaining time that we have. Similar to the questions that Dr. Thompson just asked of the Trinidad and Tobago team, is there any collaboration across the country to work with other associations, or to work on getting support for DRR information?

>> NGUYEN TRAN THUY TIEN: Thank you for all the questions. And, yes, collaboration and partnership are important. And we are building a strong network of networks throughout Vietnam so that we can get in contact with Deaf people in different part of the country. Also we also partnership with disability-led organizations, and so that we can get the support and advocate for the movement of people with disabilities so that the government can pay attention and focus on the Deaf community. We also need to collaborate with experts to give training on survival skill or be prepared for coping with disaster and to give training for Deaf people so that they can know how to protect themselves and to prepare in times of crisis.

>> AUDREY COOPER: Thank you. We have a follow up question. Since your organization works with other organizations, are there opportunities for Deaf people to take trainings that are led by Deaf instructors or trainers?

>> NGUYEN TRAN THUY TIEN: Yes. And our activities and training, we have Deaf trainers who use sign language so it will be easy for Deaf people to interact with the training. And we also give training to deaf leaders in local Deaf clubs so they can be the trainer to provide the information and the knowledge to the Deaf community in their local provinces.

>> AUDREY COOPER: It seems like you truly have a fantastic network among Deaf leaders who can serve as these instructors. Have the Deaf leaders already had any DRR training themselves?

>> NGUYEN TRAN THUY TIEN: No, they haven’t. And there is one in the north of Vietnam, but they were trained by hearing people, and so the training approach and the explanation that they given by hearing people were not suitable for Deaf people, and so that’s why it’s not suitable, and the knowledge that they get is not much.

>> AUDREY COOPER: Thank you so much. And we have one last question in the short time that we have left. Are there any interpreter training programs about or interpreted training programs about first aid and emergency response?

>> NGUYEN TRAN THUY TIEN: Yeah. I think for this question, this training is really important. But for us we think that we should train Deaf people, and because so for the size regarding disaster and this too, we are lack of size, and we need to develop the size for this too. And after that, Deaf people, yeah, we do want to do the training better.

>> AUDREY COOPER: Thank you so much, Tien, for this discussion.


>> AUDREY COOPER: I would now like to ask you to turn your camera off momentarily. And I will wait for the Vietnamese interpreter to return on screen. We’ll now close the program. I’m sure I feel the same as many of you, which is that you want to have even more discussions and ask more questions of our presenters. All three presentations gave us a great deal of information today that I believe all of us can use. I would say that we can call this a call to action. We now have a list of requests, and so those of us who have joined today can take this as guidelines for what to do to lobby our governments, how to provide support, and what we can do to support all of these organizations’ activities. For GADRA and Gallaudet University, or on behalf of GADRA and Gallaudet University, we wish you safety and good health, but before we close, I would also like to thank a number of people who made today’s event possible. For that, I will turn this over to Kota and Danielle.

>> KOTA TAKAYAMA: Thank you in particular to each of our presenters today. Again each of you did an outstanding job and provided such worthwhile information. Thank you Bryan and Ian from Trinidad and Tobago. Thank you Naoki for the information from Japan, and thank you Tien for the information about Vietnam. I’d also like to thank your respective Deaf communities in each of your countries. Thank you so much. I’d also like to again thank GADRA for your work efforts and partnership, as well as for what you do in your organization. And of course I would like to thank the Gallaudet University provost, president, and dean of faculty, Dr. Khadijat Rashid. Thank you so much.

>> DANIELLE THOMPSON: Hello again. I would also like to thank a few other people. I’d like to thank the Gallaudet University School of Education, Language, Culture, and the School of Civic Leadership, Business, and Social Change. I’d like to thank Gallaudet University communications for the outstanding job they did, and Gallaudet technology services, in particular Mr. Matthew Terry for his support. Thank you so much. And I have to thank Miss Sonia Holzman, our IDMA, international development master’s program support specialist and outreach liaison. And the last and certainly not least, I would like to thank our entire team of interpreters today who truly made today’s event possible. Thank you so very much. So now we would like to have everyone turn their cameras on for a final goodbye. Thank you so much, everyone. Thank you all. That officially concludes the session. (End of program.)

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Transcript for “20 Years of Disability Rights & Inclusion in Disaster Management: How it Started”

>[AUDIO DESCRIPTION]: 20 years of Disability Rights and Inclusion in Disaster Management: How it Started

>>MARCIE ROTH: I’m Marcie Roth and I’m the Executive Director of the World Institute on Disability. I got involved at the intersection of disability rights and disasters just in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 9/11 terrorist attack. I was the Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for the National Council on Independent Living and on September 13th of 2001 I got a phone call from colleagues in New York City very concerned because they had frozen the area around Ground Zero, meaning that the only folks who could get in were people who could show identification they lived there, everyone else was not allowed in. And while this made a whole lot of sense for overall management of a very horrible and chaotic situation, for people with disabilities, thousands of them, it meant that personal assistance services, the people who provided personal assistance services weren’t able to come in. Paratransit, accessible transportation wasn’t allowed in. Unintended consequences were starting to become known and my colleagues in New York asked me in my role with the National Council on Independent Living if I could help them. After working in disability rights my whole career, I suddenly realized that I didn’t have the faintest idea what happened for people with disabilities and disasters. And so, I started calling people and trying to get some guidance because really, nobody knew, there were very few people working on disability and disaster issues at that point. I think the things that concerned me the most were that people with disabilities were essentially not considered. While I don’t think it was intentional that the supports and services that people with disabilities needed were blocked, but when I tried and when others tried to start developing some systematic approaches it became clear that many people considered disability inclusion in the planning to be a nuisance, to be unnecessary,  whether it was involving people with disabilities at the planning tables in local communities, making alerts and warnings accessible so that people had the information that they need to take personal protective measures and to help their community, you know for people with mental health disabilities, mental health resources were being provided to people with new experiences but those same resources were not equally available to people who had a mental health disability before. You know, considerations about how people got out of multi-story buildings, sheltering became a very obvious a point of failure. There was an assumption that people with disabilities should all go to hospitals or medical facilities when in fact, most people with disabilities need assistance to maintain their health in a disaster, like everybody else, but certainly don’t need acute medical care, unless they’ve developed an acute condition or unless they’ve been injured, like anybody else. You know, the presumptions that are made about people with intellectual disabilities or people with communication disabilities, you know all those assumptions are magnified in a disaster. When you have a disability, you have to anticipate what problems might come up – we are actually great emergency managers, we probably have more practice at it than people who don’t have disabilities, and so we’re actually an asset in our community when thinking about planning for disasters. In that period following 9/11 was the beginning of a 20-year journey that has really been an opportunity to do a deep dive into how we can improve outcomes for people with disabilities but for the whole community in disasters.

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Transcript for “20 Years of Disability Rights & Inclusion in Disaster Management: From Katrina to Ida”

>MARCIE ROTH: Benilda Caixeta did not need to die in that disaster, hers was a preventable death. I’ve come to learn that people with disabilities are, the UN says two to four times more likely to be injured or to die in a disaster than people who don’t have disabilities, and it’s not because of their disability.

>>[AUDIO DESCRIPTION]: 20 years of Disability Rights and Inclusion in Disaster Management: From Katrina To Ida.

>MARCIE ROTH: August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana. A dear friend, Susan Daniels called me on the day that Katrina was making landfall and she said Benilda Caixeta had been trying to evacuate from her apartment for three days. She was an active community advocate, worked in disability rights and knew how to navigate systems. She had tried for three days to get a paratransit ride to evacuate from her home, she was someone who took the evacuation very seriously. She tried and tried and paratransit you know she kept being scheduled but nobody showed up – the night before Katrina made landfall, she called 9-1-1 and told them that she was having chest pains. Susan asked me to help Benilda, also known as Benny, I was on the phone with Benny as were other people in her life on and off throughout the day. And try as we might, we were unable to get any help to her because by this point all of the first responders were locked down, sheltering in place. And that was absolutely the right thing to do, but she needed help. We were on the phone throughout that day and I saw that the hurricane, as bad as it was, starting to pass and I said to her, it looks like things are going to start to calm down and you know people know you’re there, and you know somebody will surely be there soon to assist you. All of a sudden Benny said to me, the water is rushing in. At that point we lost phone contact. Benny did not survive Hurricane Katrina, she drowned, and she was found five days later. Her death really rocked me, I kept wondering if there was you know something else I could have done. Benilda Caixeta did not need to die in that disaster, hers was a preventable death. I’ve come to learn that people with disabilities are far more likely, I think you know the UN says two to four times more likely to be injured or to die in a disaster than people who don’t have disabilities, and it’s not because of their disability. It’s because of all of the systemic bias, the assumptions, all of the beliefs about people with disabilities, and most certainly multiply marginalized people with disabilities. Hurricane Ida came ashore and was devastating to first Louisiana and then the gulf states. I had made some very dear friends immediately following Hurricane Katrina – a day before Ida was coming ashore, they contacted me and said, our lift-equipped van broke down, and we rented a van but before we could go and pick it up, we were told that FEMA has taken all of the rental vehicles, and we have no way to evacuate. And that began a 24-hour period in which a bunch of people frantically tried to figure out how to help them to get to safety. We worked through the night and into the morning that Hurricane Ida was about to make landfall. Miraculously they evacuated to the other side of town to a hotel 10 minutes before this category 4 hurricane made landfall – 10 minutes. I was so…scared, devastated that they wouldn’t make it out and that you know once again, exactly 16 years after Benilda drowned, that they were going to have the same horrible death. I was hugely relieved and very grateful.

We learned that a number of nursing homes in Louisiana evacuated, but rather than evacuating folks to another congregate facility, they evacuated almost 900 people from a bunch of nursing homes to a warehouse, without adequate staffing, and four people died. So you know, what have I learned? What sort of progress have we made? I mean we’ve learned that rather than thinking of people with disabilities as being a liability in disasters, that we not only need to be at the table, but we need to serve in leadership roles because we really are very knowledgeable about anticipating and solving problems in disasters. But I think we’ve also very sadly learned that we are expendable, we are no more valued now than you know in all the years that I’ve been doing this work – as I look back on 20 years of trying to change outcomes for people with disabilities in disasters, 20 years ago people with disabilities were disregarded, this week people with disabilities – things are no better for disabled people in disasters.

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Deaf Leadership in International Disaster Policy: October 29, 2021

The second event in our series in collaboration with Gallaudet University, Deaf-Led Disaster Resilience.

Over the last decade, national governments and international human rights groups have devoted increasing attention to Deaf and disability inclusion and leadership in disaster and humanitarian contexts; however, much of the available policy addresses high level rights, not the mechanisms, technologies, or systems necessary to operationalize accessible language and communication processes across all aspects of disaster management. This panel centers on ways that policy can be improved to advance Deaf leadership in disaster management, including the infrastructures and funding mechanisms needed to support implementation.

Event Details

Friday, October 29, 2021


American Sign Language, International Sign interpretation, and English with live-captioning (CART) will be provided.

Register: Link to register for the Deaf Leadership in International Disaster Policy Event

Event invitation graphic for Deaf Leadership in International Policy event. Details in body of post.

Featured presenters

Leilani Craig, Co-Founder, Craigs Consultants International. Disability inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DiDRR) Consultant, Researcher, and Trainer

Leilani Craig, a woman with light skin and dark hair, smiling at the camera with long brown hair and a pair of sunglasses pushed up at the crown of her head.

As a practitioner in Disability inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DiDRR), Leyla Craig has been involved in local and international projects that focused on the inclusion and resilience of people with disabilities, with particular attention to Deaf Communities.  Amongst some of her work in the last 9 years, included is:  working on the “Increasing the Resilience of the Deaf Community in NSW to Natural Hazards and Disasters”, a collaborative project between the University of New South Wales (UNSW), The Deaf Society NSW, and NSW Emergency Service agencies; serving as an Australian Red Cross volunteer under the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) Program working with Deaf Communities and natural hazards in the Philippines;  and working with the University of Sydney as an Alternate Team Lead for the “Disability and Disaster: Empowering People and Building Resilience to Risk” project.  The latter work, funded by the Global Resilience Partnership, focused on research and practice supporting DiDRR in Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines, led to a nomination for the prestigious 2019 United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction, and an invitation from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Adaption to Resilience (A2R) to upscale this work that was recognised as an example of best practice for inclusive DRR. At present, Leyla is a PhD research candidate at The University of Sydney focusing on Deaf Communities and Organisations’ capacities to respond to and support those affected by disasters triggered by natural hazards and works in Disability Inclusion for Fire and Rescue NSW.

Emmanuel Jacq, Founder and Executive Director, International Deaf Emergency (IDE)

Headshot of Emmanuel Jacq, a white man wearing a blue suit with black tie.

Emmanuel Jacq is the founder and executive director of International Deaf Emergency (IDE). Through the organization, Emmanuel organized to set up the first “accessible” humanitarian camp for over 400 Deaf refugees in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Around 170 Deaf families were given a permanent house later, as well as an accessible school for Deaf children. In addition, Emmanuel also served as project supervisor for the Disability Rights Fund (DRF) and Haiti’s deaf community; having created and/or trained 13 local organizations and formed the National Deaf Association in Haiti.

In addition, Emmanuel was moderator and expert on a roundtable at an EU workshop about emergency policies for persons with disabilities, especially related to the Deaf with the European Network for Psycho-social Crisis Management – Assisting Disabled in Case of Disaster (EUNAD). He also served as an observer and International Disability Alliance representative at the Third UN World Conference in Sendai (Japan) in 2015 where the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 has been adopted. Since that time, Emmanuel has advocated  for inclusive humanitarian action for Deaf people with various organizations, such as serving as a member of the Reference Group on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Actions (IASC), as well with the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD).


GADRA is a collaboration between disability-led organizations, foundations, corporations, and other allies to identify local disability-led organizations and their disaster-impacted communities, then link partners to accelerate assistance and resources, both during and after disasters.

Link to GADRA main page

Link to the Deaf-Led Disaster Resilience event series page

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Moving From Disability Rights to Disability Justice

By Hailey Hudson 

The Disability Rights Movement established civil rights for people with disabilities, opening up opportunities for them to participate more fully in society. 

This movement gathered speed in the 1960’s and led to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) being passed in 1990. The United Kingdom would pass a similar legislation: the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in 1995. Many other countries across the globe followed suit with similar legislation throughout the 1990’s. 

But the Disability Rights Movement fell short of examining how aspects such as the intersections of race, gender, class and sexuality play a role in the oppression of people with disabilities. That’s where Disability Justice comes into play.

What is Disability Justice?

Disability Justice is a term that was coined in 2005 by a collective of disabled queer women of color, including Patty Berne, Mia Mingus, and the late Stacey Milbern. Disability Justice builds on the disability rights movement, taking a more comprehensive approach to help secure rights for disabled people by recognizing the intersectionality of disabled people who belong to additional marginalized communities. 

The Disability Justice framework asserts that we must include the experiences of multiply marginalized people with disabilities such as: 

  • People of color 
  • Immigrants 
  • LGBTQIA+ People
  • Homeless people
  • Incarcerated people
  • People who have had their ancestral lands stolen 

Disability Justice looks at all of these issues, recognizing how diverse systems of oppression interact and reinforce each other. Because of this broader focus, the Disability Justice movement is the most comprehensive way to create lasting change for people with disabilities and who are multiply marginalized.. 

Disability Justice has 10 main principles to examine the inclusion of people who are multiply marginalized:

1. Intersectionality

Intersectionality is a term founded by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to address how Black women exist at the intersections of racism and sexism. Similarly, the Disability Justice framework applies this concept by explaining that disabled people each have a different background and experience regarding race, class, sexuality, age, immigration status, and other issues. Recognizing intersectionality means recognizing that abhorrent ideologies such as ableism, racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia often operate together and empower one another. 

2. Leadership of Those Most Impacted

Disability Justice makes a point to center the leadership of the people most impacted by ableism rather than scholars and academics, or others who are disabled but still benefit from other types of oppression. The Disability Rights Movement has been criticized for prioritizing the voices of white disabled people, who have often continued to reinforce the racism and oppression that Black disabled people and people of color experience. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that leadership, power, and opportunities are given to people most negatively impacted by the full spectrum of ableism to more effectively combat those issues.

3. Anti-Capitalist Politics

This principle essentially says that our worth as a person does not depend on how much we can produce. Disability Justice pushes back against the level of productivity a capitalist culture expects, as well as the systemic poverty that people with disabilities are forced into if they are unable to work. All people deserve to have their needs met, regardless of their ability to produce.

4. Cross-Movement Solidarity

Disability Justice combines with other movements seeking liberation — such as racial justice, environmental justice, anti-police terror, and others. Because every demographic of people includes people with disabilities, people with disabilities will not be liberated without the success of each of these movements. This effort helps disabled people to become more united and comprehensive in our activism.

5. Recognizing Wholeness

The Disability Justice movement holds that disabled people are whole people. They are not less than because of their disability. Disabled people have rich inner lives and valuable experiences.

6. Sustainability

Another vital principle of the Disability Justice movement is sustainability. Disabled activists and advocates need to be in tune with their bodies to pace themselves long-term and continue steadily working toward justice over time without burning out. Additionally, the sustainability of the movement is dependent on the community, and cannot be pushed forward by individuals alone.

7. Commitment to Cross-Disability Solidarity

Disability Justice focuses on all disabled people, including those who are often left out.  Anyone who experiences ableism is included, whether they are chronically ill, neurodiverse, Deaf, Blind, mentally, intellectually, developmentally disabled, physically disabled, or have any other disability.

8. Interdependence

Interdependence allows us to work side-by-side, creating a stronger community as we work to liberate all oppressed individuals. Instead of solely promoting independence, which was a focus of the Disability Rights and Independent Living movement, interdependence acknowledges that none of us can thrive without support. This principle centers around building a sense of community among disabled people and organizing to achieve liberation.

9. Collective Access

The collective access principle explains that Disability Justice creates methods of doing things outside of nondisabled, neurotypical norms. In the Disability Justice movement, access needs are welcomed, respected, and acknowledged.

10. Collective Liberation

Collective liberation explains that disabled people move together as people with “mixed abilities, multiracial, multi-gendered, mixed class, across the sexual spectrum, with a vision that leaves no one behind.” This principle acknowledges the decades-long work of those who have previously fought for liberation while also acknowledging what is yet-to-be. Collective liberation means envisioning a world that can be created when disabled people with various backgrounds and lived experiences come together to enact a movement of change. 

Moving Forward with Disability Justice

When we focus on the principles of Disability Justice, we prioritize the connections between ableism and other systems of oppression. Disability Justice recognizes that disability is not monolithic — ableism looks different for people with various disabilities as well as people of different races, classes, and genders. Thus, Disability Justice is the most potent and effective way to secure the liberation of disabled and multiply marginalized people.

Hailey Hudson is a Freelance Writer for WID

Catch up on our latest blog posts here!

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Sign language interpretations: Deaf-Led Disaster Action, September 24, 2021

Event descriptions in Hồ Chí Minh Sign Language, Japanese Sign Language, American Sign Language, and International Sign. For more information about this event, please visit the Deaf-Led Disaster Action event page.

Hồ Chí Minh Sign Language (with captions)

Japanese Sign Language (with captions)

American Sign Language

International Sign

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GADRA + Gallaudet Present: Deaf-Led Disaster Resilience

The Global Alliance for Disaster Resource Acceleration (GADRA) and Gallaudet University invite you to an upcoming three-part event series: Deaf-Led Disaster Resilience.

Disability-inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction is a growing field of practice, yet deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing, and deaf-disabled people have been widely marginalized from everyday disaster communication, as well as disaster management training and leadership roles. GADRA and Gallaudet University are partnering on an event series to draw attention to, and open a set of conversations about, deaf people and disasters. The series includes a webinar on disaster action by deaf-led organizations, an expert panel on deaf leadership in international disaster policy, and interviews with deaf youth leaders about disaster action. Data, ideas, and experiences shared during the three events will be used to inform future initiatives and response efforts.

Event announcement graphic with text, all repeated in page text

Kicking off on September 24, the Deaf-Led Disaster Action webinar will spotlight Deaf-led organizations in Japan, Trinidad & Tobago, and Viet Nam to raise awareness about disaster impacts in those countries and the strategies used to advance disaster action.

On October 29, GADRA and Gallaudet will hold a panel: Deaf Leadership in International Disaster Policy, centering on ways that policy can be improved to advance Deaf leadership in disaster management, including the infrastructures and funding mechanisms needed to support implementation.

The series will culminate in a podcast premiering in November: Deaf Youth Disaster Experiences & Action, where Deaf youth from Gallaudet University will share their experiences. 

Japanese Sign Language, Trinidad & Tobago Sign Language, Hồ Chí Minh SL, and International Sign will be provided.

Stay tuned for more information and a link to register for each event!

Learn more about each event

Follow the links to learn more and register for each of the Deaf-Led Disaster Resilience events:

Deaf-Led Disaster Action webinar, September 24, 2021

Deaf Leadership in International Disaster Policy webinar, October 29, 2021

Deaf Youth Disaster Experiences & Action podcast, November 2021 [Link coming soon]


GADRA is a collaboration between disability-led organizations, foundations, corporations, and other allies to identify local disability-led organizations and their disaster-impacted communities, then link partners to accelerate assistance and resources, both during and after disasters.

Link to GADRA main page

If you are having technical issues or accessibility issues on this site, email

Main content end

Banner with text: Global Alliance for Disaster Resource Acceleration. Global Alliance logo - 6 arrows wrapping up and around an abstract globe shape, each arrow a different color - red, orange, purple, blue, green, and gray. Background: large matching arrows stretch from the bottom left to the top right of the frame over a pale blue background.

Deaf-Led Disaster Action: September 24, 2021

Deaf-led organizations play a vital role in disaster and humanitarian contexts, but are often overlooked in disaster research, training, management, and reporting. 

This webinar spotlights Deaf-led organizations in Japan, Trinidad & Tobago, and Viet Nam to raise awareness about disaster impacts in those countries and the strategies used to advance disaster action. These actions begin with Deaf communities and also provide information and resources that benefit the wider society.

Event Recording

A full recording of the webinar including open captions in English and a transcript are now available!

Link to event transcript for Deaf-Led Disaster Action

Event Details

Friday, September 24, 2021


Japanese Sign Language, American Sign Language, Hồ Chí Minh Sign Language, International Sign, and English with live-captioning (CART) will be provided.

Register: Link to register for the Deaf-Led Disaster Action Event

Event announcement graphic with 4 Deaf presenters collaged into one image. All text repeated in body text.

Details in Hồ Chí Minh Sign Language (with captions)

Instructions for registration in Hồ Chí Minh Sign Language:

Details in Japanese Sign Language (with captions)

Details in American Sign Language (with captions)

Details in International Sign

Featured presenters:

Event details and presenter biographies in Japanese

Event details and presenter biographies in Vietnamese

Naoki Kurano, Executive Director and General Manager of Head Office, Japanese Federation of the Deaf; General Secretary, Central Headquarters for Disaster Relief for Deaf People

Naoki Kurano, a Japanese man wearing a dark blue suit and red striped tie, stands infront of a white wall and is looking at the camera.

Naoki Kurano became Deaf at the age of six months after having diphtheria. Kurano serves as the General Secretary of The Central Headquarters for Disaster Relief for Deaf People (CHDRDP) and Executive Director and General Manager of the Head Office of the Japanese Federation of the Deaf (JFD).

CHDRDP was established for sustained support to the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, as well as for the response to other regional natural disasters, and promotion of disaster reduction. CHDRDP was founded upon the predecessor organization, Central Headquarters for Disaster Relief for Deaf People in the Great East Japan Earthquake (CHDRDP-GEJE) and co-organized by three deaf-related organizations: JFD, National Research Association for Sign Language Interpretation (Zentsuken), and Japanese Association of Sign Language Interpreters (JASLI). CHDRDP-GEJE was launched by JFD in 2011, in response to the mega earthquake in eastern Japan, and operated support activities.

Bryan Rodrigues, President, Deaf Empowerment Advocacy Foundation (DEAF)

Bryan Rodrigues, a Trinbagonian man with light skin and curly black hair, wearing a navy suit.

Bryan Rodrigues was the first Deaf President of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of the Hearing Impaired, a founding member and former President of the Deaf Empowerment and Advancement Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago (DEAF) and the Deaf Basketball Association. He has been involved in six local organisations for the Deaf. 

Rodrigues attended Deaf primary and mainstream secondary schools in Trinidad. He then attended college for two years in New York. He is passionate about improving interpreting services and access to better education for the Deaf.  

On his return, he studied computer repairs, A+ Certification and later on digital film-making. He has expertise in videography and digital video editing. As a facilitator for the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, he has presented on ICT4PWDs with a focus on the Deaf, in five Caribbean islands. He was the first Deaf Trinbagonian to teach Deaf Language and Culture at UWI, St. Augustine Campus. 

Rodrigues was awarded the Community Hero Award by the Ministry of Community Development in 2013. He was one of two Deaf representatives who attended the 2nd World Federation of the Deaf’s Conference in Sydney, Australia in 2013. He comes from a fully Deaf family, has been married for the past 13 years and is the father of three boys.

Ian Dhanoolal, Vice President of Deaf Empowerment and Advancement Foundation (DEAF) and Sign Language Instructor at University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus in Trinidad, West Indies

Ian Dhanoolal was born Deaf in 1974. After attending Cascade School for the Deaf and South East Port of Spain Secondary School, he spent a year at the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf in the US, before returning home to Trinidad and Tobago.

He is a researcher, educator, activist, interpreter, translator, and small business person. He has carried out groundbreaking research on Caribbean sign languages and Deaf communities, including projects in Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St Vincent, Guyana, the Cayman Islands, Honduras, and Colombia.

He has taught Trinidad and Tobago Sign Language and American Sign Language for over 15 years, and has worked as a tutor at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus since 2015, where he teaches sign language and Deaf culture. He was the first Deaf Interpreter to work live on National Television, and continues to interpret the National Budget and Budget Debate, as well as contributing to the interpreting to the national news on TV6.

He was one of the founders, and current acting president of the Deaf Empowerment and Advancement Foundation, and one of the first Deaf board members of the Trinidad and Tobago Association for the Hearing Impaired.

In 2019, he won the LCCF Edward Miner Gallaudet Award, presented to a Deaf or hearing leader from any place in the world who is working to promote the well-being of Deaf people worldwide. Ian was the first Caribbean winner of this award. He also presented his work on Caribbean sign language documentation and language rights to the World Federation of the Deaf’s International Congress in June 2019.

Nguyen Tran Thuy Tien, Director of Psycho-Education and Applied Research Center for the Deaf (PARD)

Vietnamese woman with short black hair and dark eyeglasses, wearing light blue sweater and dark-shirt collar. She is signing 'three", standing in front of a PowerPoint projection to her right and a green-board to her left. Green-board contains a list of names written in Vietnamese.

In 2013, Tien became the first Vietnamese Deaf person awarded the World Deaf Leaders Scholarship to pursue her Master in Sign Language Education at Gallaudet University. After her graduation in 2016, Tien returned to her home country and worked on the development of the deaf community.

In 2019, she founded the first and only Deaf-led NGO in Vietnam named Psycho-Education and Applied Research Center for the Deaf (PARD). PARD is working for an inclusive and barrier-free society for the Deaf community where Deaf people have full access to sign language and equal participation in other social activities. PARD focuses on empowering and building capacity for Deaf people, promoting advocacy, and raising awareness about the Deaf community. The spirit that Tien and everyone at PARD always follows is “Nothing About Deaf Without Deaf”.


GADRA is a collaboration between disability-led organizations, foundations, corporations, and other allies to identify local disability-led organizations and their disaster-impacted communities, then link partners to accelerate assistance and resources, both during and after disasters.

Link to GADRA main page

Link to the Deaf-Led Disaster Resilience event series page

If you are having technical issues or accessibility issues on this site, email

Main content end

Transcript for TRACS Transportation Professionals Workshop, February 10, 2021

MARSHA SAXTON: Hello, welcome.

I’m Marsha Saxton with the World Institute
on Disability.

I’m the project director for this joint project,
TRACS, the Transportation Resiliency Accessibility

and Climate Resilience Project.

We’re now 2 1/2 years into the project.

We’ll eventually introduce all of our speakers
today, but I particularly would like to introduce

at the outset our partner with the Metropolitan
Transportation Commission, Drennen Shelton

and Shimon Israel, both from the Commission.

Again, welcome, everyone.

Also, I want to say thanks to our captioner
who is going to be providing closed captions

for the hearing-impaired participants.

And I think we’re ready to go to our first slide.


As I said, the World Institute on Disability
and Metropolitan Transportation Commission

have collaborated for at least 2 1/2 years
on this research and information gathering


We want to thank the California Department
of Transportation, CalTrans, for their funding

and their commitment to accessibility for
passengers who have disabilities.

Our theme for today’s workshop is ensuring
access is everyone’s job.

And this focuses particularly on transportation professionals.

Next slide.

Our agenda for today is welcome.

We’re doing quick introductions of our panelists
as we go through.

We’re going to briefly review TRACS outcomes
projects which will soon be posted on our

website, the World Institute on Disability.

We’re going to discuss our workshop goals.

We will briefly discuss disability basic concepts,
including universal design, and today we have

a panel of speakers and we will introduce
when we get there.

We will be very much welcoming recommendations
in this session.

And affirm our commitment to accessibility.


TRACS is 2 1/2-year research, policy analysis
and public education initiative to improve

collaboration between transportation agencies
and people with disabilities in the nine-counties

of the San Francisco Bay area, which include
Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco,

San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma.

This project is funded through the sustainable
communities focus of Caltrans SB1 grant program, and again,

Thank you to Caltrans for your commitment
to accessibility and for sponsoring this.

We have a question.

Yes, we will discuss the slides.

Our achievements, again, it will be posted
on our website on the World Institute on Disability,

with a potential to repost on other disability
agencies’ websites.

We have created a wonderful access — active
policy advisory board.

Some of you are joining us today.

We have completed our research documents and
we’ll continue to post new documents as we

can get them on our website.

We held multiple community workshops, focus
groups, interviews, events over our two years.

And these two workshops, this one today for
transportation professionals and next week

for disability community, passengers, activists
and so on, advocates, are our final workshops.

And we are completing this project at the
end of February.

DRENNEN SHELTON: Thanks to all of our participants
today in this webinar.

And to those who have participated along the
way, as we mentioned, this is our final event

focused for our colleagues who work at transportation

We have a few goals for today’s workshop.

First, we’re going to focus in on a few wide-ranging
concepts of disability inclusion and these

concepts have broad applicability and should
be meaningful to your work regardless of your

job scope.

Second, we have a few speakers who will talk
about their experience working with and through

community advisory committees, the types of
working groups or councils that we’re all

very familiar with in our work at public agencies.

And lastly, our slogan for this workshop is
“ensuring access is everyone’s job.”

So we hope to solicit commitments from you
to go beyond your regular advisory councils

and make new contacts with disability organizations
in your area.

This will help to root the concept of accessibility
in your work and will help to improve accessibility

more widely in the Bay Area transportation systems.

So before we begin, I want to set the stage
and I want to share something that I recently

heard during the Senate confirmation of Pete Buttigieg hearing
for the secretary of transportation post.

Senator Tammy Duckworth said “accessibility
must be considered at the forefront of all

policy development rather than treating it
like an afterthought or a box checking exercise.

We really need strong leadership from you.”

I want us to all hear this quote from Senator
Duckworth and pretend that she is speaking

directly to us.

So with that, I’m going to turn it back to
Marsha who will kick us off with some of those

disability awareness basics.

MARSHA SAXTON: Okay, disability awareness
basics, this is a very cursory list.

I’ll elaborate a little bit, but we’re going
to keep emphasizing that part of our commitment

to ensuring access is creating long-term active
relationships with local disability organizations.

So there’s constant interchange and re-enforcement
of inclusion, accessibility and so on.

So this is just very brief introduction to
basic concepts of disability awareness for

those who may be new to this.

The first is we may have heard all our lives,
don’t ask, don’t stare at people with disabilities.

This may seem alright, but it keeps us uninformed.

So our suggestion is, if you need information,
respectfully ask.

And if you’re just curious, don’t ask because
it is intrusive, unless you’re friends.

There’s much more to say about that and we’ll
be able to have those dialogues.

And then the fear of saying something wrong,
the wrong word, is this rude and so on, is

confusing and staying away out of these fears
is part of the discrimination.

It prevents connection and adds to the isolation.

So the suggestion here is go ahead, take a
risk, connect as human beings with respect,

with common courtesy, connection is hugely important to moving this process forward.

Another is countering the stereotype that
people with disabilities are alone, lonely,

isolated, although we are during the lockdown
as everyone, but for people you’re going to

meet out and about, transportation, in the
city, you know, in ordinary life, people with

disabilities have whole lives.

Their disabilities are not the main focus
or the hardest thing in life. Next slide.

These are some technical distinctions we make
in disability awareness and disability studies.

The medical model is the old-fashioned model
of disability that locates the problem of

disability in that individual’s body.

So this may seem like common sense because,
well, the reason they don’t have that job

is they can’t climb the stairs to the office
building or the factory or whatever, but we

contrast that old model with the social model,
which locates the problems of disability in

discriminatory attitudes and policies and
barriers in the environment.

The social model arose in the 1970s and it’s
such a useful perspective because it enables

everyone to be able to do something about
the problem rather than fixing the person’s

body by medical intervention, which may not
be appropriate or useful, or possible, the social model

encourages accessibility and awareness.

Nothing about us without us is a fun slogan in
the disability community.

It’s now used worldwide, which challenges patronizing
assumptions that other people know best.

So people with disabilities are experts in
access and accommodations and should be included

in every step of planning and implementation of policy.

So nothing about us without us.

And so now just to reference to the full population,
people with disabilities, people with hidden

or invisible disabilities, for example, people
with arthritis, hearing impairment, cancer,

this hidden disability population is the majority
of this population and are equally entitled

to accommodations with wheelchair users or
blind people.

Now, wheelchair users and blind people have
visible disabilities, and you can tell that

they may need assistance of certain kinds
of accommodation, but this is also true with

people with hidden or invisible disabilities.


Universal design is very interesting and important
to the evolution of the disability rights movement.

This is the typically called the seven qualities
of universal design.

It’s very much important, very useful in transportation.

And our goal is to fully implement these components
in transportation design and operation.

They’re pretty self-explanatory.

Equitable use means everybody or pretty much
everybody can use the facility, the vehicle, the resources.

And all seven of these are based on extensive
research, over decades, including the broadest

population of people with disabilities.

Do they include absolutely everyone?

Hopefully eventually.

Especially with new emerging technologies.

But we need to keep in mind that flexibility in
use, means there are adjustable components

to the design.

Simple and intuitive just means it makes sense
and it’s obvious.

Perceptible information may particularly refer to hearing impairment, visual impairments, make the information available

through Braille, through captioning and so on.

Tolerance for error really refers to if there’s
something unusual, there’s an accident or

emergency, and there are options, for example,
alternate exits.

Low physical effort refers to particularly
to wheelchair users and to people with deep

conditions where, you know, the ramp is not
too steep, and the level entrance is accessible

and easy to use.

Size and space for approach and use means
that there’s enough space for the capacity,

expected capacity of the facility or vehicle.

So people can move freely, the hallways are appropriately
wide and so on.



DRENNEN SHELTON: Thank you, Marsha.

We hope you will keep these concepts handy
and that you will consider them as you do

your work.

I would ask that you print them out and maybe
post them upright next to your computer screens

because it’s these concepts that will animate
the existing laws and codes that we are already


Like the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under these codes and other laws, transportation
agencies are required to practice inclusivity

which we all do, all of our agencies conduct
public engagement, and we have citizen advisory

boards, and we take public comment.

And yet even here in the most progressive
Bay Area, transportation agencies continue

to design and implement projects and programs
that may meet the letter of the law but they’re

not accessible to people with disabilities.

We’ve all heard the angry voices and complaints
at our public meetings.

And I’ve been asked by more than a few colleagues
to explain and I’m just going to be brutally

honest in my phrasing here but I’ve been asked
to explain why people with disabilities are

so pissed off about our transportation systems.

These systems are all compliant with the ADA.

There’s nothing nefarious going on with the
transportation agencies trying to keep out

disabled people.

But for the great majority for people with
disabilities, our transportation systems simply

do not work.

And right now, we’re experiencing this unprecedented
and exciting wave of equity work.

All of our agencies are looking at how to
better design our systems and how to serve

the underserved.

And as we move forward into the future, we
need to be thinking about how to ensure that

our agencies are incorporating the disability
community more fully and that people with

disabilities play more of a role in designing
our transportation services.

Next slide, please.

So we have three presenters for you today.

Our speakers will talk about their experience
working with or through advisory boards or


And we’re going to have a Q&A session at the
completion of our three speakers.

But feel free to type questions into that
Q&A box as we go.

So first up we have Annette Williams.

Annette is the director of the accessible
services at San Francisco municipal transportation

agency and she’s been there since 1990.

Her team is responsible for accessibility
to SFMTA’s fixed route systems including trolley

and diesel bus, light rail, historic street
cars and cable car services.

Her office also manages the contract for San
Francisco paratransit and she’s also responsible

for overseeing accessible design and review
for transportation related capital projects

that includes public transit, bicycle, parking,
pedestrian access and the public right of


There’s basically nothing in San Francisco
that Annette doesn’t touch.

So Annette, thanks for being with us here today. Take it away.

Annette, are you with us?

We know you’re logged in.


Sorry about that.

I was muted.

That doesn’t work very well, does it?

Can you see me and hear me now?


I was talking away to — I guess to my house.

Thanks for having me.

My name is Annette Williams, as Drennen
said, I’m the director of accessible services

at MTA.

And what Drennen and Marsha asked me to do
was talk a little bit about kind of my on

the ground experience in working with people
with disabilities and using that input to

make the system better.

And what we as an agency have done in that area.

And I’m not saying we’ve always been successful,
but we have a really long working relationship

with people with disabilities, and I’ll talk
a little bit about some of the things that

I think have worked well.

Next slide.

As Drennen said a little bit in the introduction,
we’re unique somewhat as a transit agency

because we have all — almost all the transportation
functions under one organization.

So not only do we do fixed route and paratransit,
but we also work with the bike share program

and the scooter share program and we regulate
taxi services and design and built the bike lanes.

So it gives us no excuses in terms of how
all of these things work together and how

do you make sure the whole system is accessible
to people with disabilities.

And we’re trying to push the envelope on things
like looking at adaptive bicycles and adaptive

scooters and looking forward, working a lot
on the whole question of TNCs and Uber and

Lyft and how we ensure that those services are accessible.

Just a little bit about the public transit
system, we do 700,000 trips a day.

It’s lower now since COVID.

Hopefully we’ll be coming back as we all get vaccinated.

About 150,000 of those trips are for seniors
and people with disabilities.

And in paratransit, we have about 12,200 paratransit
customers and do 700,000 trips a year.

Next slide.

Our advisory committees have been really important
to our success.

We’ve had a paratransit coordinating council
since the late ’70s.

We recently celebrated our 40th anniversary.

And multimodal accessibility advisory committee
has been working with us since the early 1980s.

And both of these committees are very active.

We meet at least monthly.

The paratransit coordinating council has subcommittees
of the different modes of our paratransit programs.

We have a taxi subcommittee which met today.

We have a group van subcommittee and SF access,
which is more traditional ADA service subcommittee.

What I think is somewhat unique with our PCC,
maybe it’s true of others in the Bay Area,

is that we bring a lot of stakeholders together.

Not just the customers, people with disabilities
that use the service, agencies that serve

people who use the service, but also the providers
themselves, drivers and provider representatives.

So that we can really hash and talk about
things and have kind of all the players in

one place.

I think that’s been really helpful.

In terms of the multi-modal accessibility
committee, that committee advises us on all

the other SFMTAs services, predominantly muni
but bicycle lane program, parking, other MTA

services that we do.

And I just wanted to mention, I think Drennen
talked a little bit about so how do you go

beyond your advisory committee.

Some of the things that I think have been
really helpful and it’s sometimes been working

with community organizations. About a year and a half ago we had a charette with our vision zero senior

disabled working group and we brought together
engineers working on separated bike ways as

well as customers, people with disabilities
who would either use transit stops or the

bike ways or have to crossover the bike ways
if they were parking buffered bikeways.

And we sat down in groups and really looked
at the nitty-gritty and how had engineers

hear from people with disabilities.

For people with disabilities to hear what
engineers were dealing with in terms of designing

these facilities.

Next slide.

So some of the important factors that I thought
in my career I think have — have been illustrative

in terms of this working relationship, one
is that you have to build relationships and

trust with people that are advising you so
they trust the advice they’re giving you,

you’re listening, that you’re hearing them
and I’m sure there are times when I haven’t

listened, or we haven’t listened in the way
that we should.

But I think that’s so important because you’ve
got to really hear what is it that people

are having challenging with, what works and
what doesn’t work.

And then following up in terms of what changes
have you made because of that input so that

you get back to them and say, here are the
things that we’ve done that address what you

had brought up.

And that’s the part of the acting on that

Another thing that I found is really important
is the geometry.

And I’ll show you a few examples.

Is you know, it comes often down to inches
or, you know, angles, like Drennen had talked

about earlier.

And that those things are very important and
who best to get information from but the people

who are actually using it and being able to
try it out and give you feedback, oh, yeah,

this works, this doesn’t work, this works
for my particular situation when I have a

walker, this doesn’t work well with my crutches.

So that we’re getting that information from
people directly.

And then another thing I think is always important
and I think we don’t in the accessibility

world always think about this is money.

We have to have funding.

If we don’t have funding, how do we implement
the things that are important to the disability


So we need to be part of that, advisory committees
and staff need to be part of that decision

making when funding plans are drawn up.

And often we come late to that game.

So I think that that’s something where we
need to put more attention.

And then one other thing I think is important
to point out is that it’s important that in

the policy making arena that you have people
with disabilities.

Not only at the board level but at the staff
level and the more that people with disabilities

are integrated into the whole kind of, what,
hierarchy, board, staff, executive staff,

the better you’re going to be getting in terms
of having input.

So I think we’ve been fortunate to have quite
a few really active members of our board that

were and are people with disabilities and
I think that’s been really important.

So I just was going to show you a few examples.

Next slide, please.

So I don’t know how many people remember back
when we first started looking at low floor


When we first had accessible buses they were
all lift equipped.

Then with the manufacturers came up with was
a ramp that started at the door and went down

straight from the door to the street.

And in San Francisco it’s not realistic to
expect that every single time a wheelchair

user gets on or off a bus or a person with
a walker, someone else is not using the stairs

or needs that, is that they’re going to be
getting on from a curb.

Sometimes you have to get on the street.

And what we found with those lifts, by testing
them with those ramps, by testing them with

people with disabilities and our advisory
committee was that they were too steep.

If that ramp had to go down into the street,
two of your wheels would come up when you

tried to go up that ramp.

And so we worked for a long time with bus
manufactures to say, really, this doesn’t

work for all situations.

And we really need to have a longer run, meaning
that the ramp itself was longer so that the

slope didn’t have to be as steep.

And so we got a few different things.

And I think now almost all of the ramps that
you see out there do not start at the door

and go straight down.

Either they start within the vehicle already
sloping and then come out when it folds out

or they’re bifold like this one that you can
see the example.

That really came from people with disabilities
trying things out and saying, this works and

this doesn’t work.

Next — one other thing I wanted to mention.

In the paratransit world, one of the things
that we’ve done recently in terms of testing

is speed humps.

Speed humps are really important to pedestrian’s
safety because it slows the traffic on streets.

But we were very concerned about what are
the impact on people with disabilities if

they’re in a paratransit van and have to go
over that speed hump.

So we tested a number of different speed humps
with people in the vehicles and let them give

us their feedback, what worked and what didn’t.

And we’ve come up with one that has much more
gradual slope and a wider part at the top

and it’s made it much easier for people to
go over it.

And of course also you need to keep that lower
speeds, like 15 miles an hour.

Next slide, please.

So the next one is about securement areas.

Another thing that we noticed is in the original
early days almost always the securement areas

were right next to each other.

So that if one wheelchair user was already
in a securement on one side of the vehicle,

and another person came on, it was very difficult
to maneuver to get into that securement area

next to the individual that was already there.

There just wasn’t enough maneuvering room.

We decided a — and this is all based on consumer
input and our advisory committee, is we need

to stagger those securement areas.

And not only stagger them but also make them longer.

So that there is more room, not the 48 X 30
that was the minimum required but more like

55 X 30 so that there is a lot more room to
be able to turn around and to back in and

to have more flexibility.

Next slide, please.

Another thing that one of our advisory committee
members came up with is, you know, if you’re

an individual are who isn’t sighted or is
low vision, it’s very difficult to see, even

if it’s a large bus number at the front of
the bus, if you want to make a complaint or

you want to provide feedback, you want to
be able to get that bus number without having

to ask another customer.

And so one of our advisory committee members,
Jewel McGinnis, came up with the idea, why

don’t we put the bus numbers in Braille in
large raised letters, raised numbers so that

if we have all of — if we have all of our
buses with that number in the same place right

behind the driver, on that panel, people can
find it if they want to find it on their own

and not have to ask.

Next slide.

And then recently we’ve all had to do a lot
of kind of quick thinking with our response


And to the needs that people with disability have.

In San Francisco we’ve had to cut back some
of our meeting lines to reduce to the core

service so that traditionally almost every
person who lives in San Francisco has a bus

line within like four blocks.

But with the cutbacks in service to our more
core service there is much longer distances

that people had to travel.

And so what we did was implemented this program
called the essential trip card, ETC card,

which provides to any senior or person with
disability a small amount, $60 per month,

in taxi value that they can use for essential

And the reason we were able to implement that
program so quickly is all the work that people

with disabilities had helped us with to implement
the debit card within our paratransit program.

We were able to take this program that we
had done for another purpose and translate

that technology and do something very quickly.

And we were fortunate because we’ve been working
on a grant with the health department to do

a special program at a few of our underserved
health clinics in terms of transportation

barriers so we had set up a taxi program for
that and we already had kind of a registration

method using Google forms and we were able
to just quickly translate that and use that

for the ETC program and within two weeks we
had something up and running and we were able

to collect all of this data, like the disability
of the person, what trip needs they had, what

ethnic groups they come from, so that we can
see, are we really meeting the needs across

the city, are we meeting the needs of — are
we meeting needs in an equitable way.

A lot of that was because we mad done a lot
of work with our advisory committee and gotten

their feet back before.

Another thing I think is important — next
slide — is, you know, is to celebrate volunteers.

Most people who work on these advisory committees
are available to us as staff when we call

and say, what do you think about this idea,
do you have any ideas.

You know, they’re volunteers.

They’re not getting paid for this effort.

And so one of our advisory committee members
said, we already do an annual meeting in November

and we have a big luncheon and celebrate the
drivers but she said, we really need to do

something that celebrates the PCC.

So we started an annual luncheon and we usually
go to a museum or cultural event and often

get docents able to take us on an accessible
tour and we have a lunch together and we get

to build on those relationships in a personal
way and not just always working.

So this is a picture of one of our previous
luncheons at the D. Young Museum.

You can only tell because of the dimple building
in the background.

People on our PCC, not only the people with
disabilities that use our service but also

providers and drivers and there’s a lot of
relationships that have been built through that work.

I just included at the end my contact information,
e-mail is the best right now with working

from home.

So feel free if anyone has any questions that
we don’t get to today, feel free to contact


And I like this picture of San Francisco.

It’s a picture looking down Market Street,
downtown, and there’s no sales force tower yet.

So it’s an old one.

But I think it’s a nice picture of our city.

We’re fortunate because we’re a dense city
and we’re able to only really serving about

50 square miles, which is a lot easier than
a lot of the services that many of you have

in terms of meeting the needs of our dense community.

So the next slide just has a few resources
for those of you who get these slides afterwards.

You can gain access to our website and different
areas on paratransit, on the services that

we’re doing during COVID, on the ETC program.

There’s a nice video there that shows how it works. And some of our other services.

So thanks a lot for having me.

I think — I really believe a lot of our success
has been because we have worked so closely

with people in the disability community and
seniors to hear what’s important to them and,

you know, and I think it was mentioned earlier
because of universal design, if you design

things that work well for people with disabilities
and seniors, often they work better for everyone.

Like the calling out stops on the vehicles
with automated announcements, you know, all

of us now are benefiting from that, or the
overhead signs that tell you what the next

stop is.

There are so many means that have benefited
many more people than the people with disabilities

that have really advocated for them.

So thanks a lot.

I appreciate your time.

DRENNEN SHELTON: Thank you, Annette.

I want to remind our participants that we
are soliciting your questions in the Q&A box.

But up next we have Ernest Rogers.

Ernest is the chair of the Solano Paratransit
Coordinating Council and member of the Solano

Consolidated Services Agency Advisory Committee.

He has worked in a variety of initiatives
and programs focused on youth mentorship and works

with inmates at San Quentin as a sponsor in leadership
training programs and assisting individuals

who are getting ready to return home.

Ernest was born with osteogenesis imperfecta
and he is a public transit user.

Ernest, take it away.


Thank you.

Annette, you did a great job.

Thank you.

I’d like to thank everyone for having me here

I’m going to take it from a different level
because the reason why I became — I’m a volunteer.

The reason why I became a member of the Solano
County paratransit coordinating council is

because I was having transportation issues.

Being disabled, number one, let me take you

Since I’ve been disabled and I look way younger
— I was born in the ’50s and so I was raised

DRENNEN SHELTON: Ernest, Ernest —

ERNEST ROGERS: — people to do —
DRENNEN SHELTON: Ernest, we’re having trouble

with your audio.

It’s just slow.

Maybe if you turn your camera off and continue
speaking, it may come through a little bit


ERNEST ROGERS: Do what now?

DRENNEN SHELTON: I’m suggesting maybe if
you turn your camera off and continue speaking

we will be able to hear you clearer.


Well, I think we lost him.


There he is.


ERNEST ROGERS: Is that better?

DRENNEN SHELTON: Yeah, let’s give it a shot.

ERNEST ROGERS: I will cut my camera off
though because you don’t really need to be

seeing me.

Can you hear me?

ANNETTE WILLIAMS: So much better.

Maybe it was just — that may have taken care
of it.


What I’m saying is basically I’m going to
take it from a different angle.

I’m going to explain about the changes I’ve
seen in the disability world dealing with

public transportation.

I was born in the south.

I was raised in the south.

I was raised in the ’60s and ’70s.

I was raised in the ’60s and went to college
in the ’70s when there was no ADA.

When the idea of a person with a disability
was really not even to be seen basically.

Less known to be heard.

But as time has gone on and as I’ve grown
and as I’ve tried to do more for myself and

other people with disabilities stepped up,
we seem to have been able to improve the services.

So I joined the Solano County Paratransit
Council because of that.

I got caught one night late at night around
10:00, 11:00 at night away from the house

and unable to get to the house by bus.

So that’s basically where I come from.

Now, Solano County hasn’t changed much.

We’re a different county from San Francisco.

Are you guys hearing me?



We can hear you.

ERNEST ROGERS: You are, okay.

All right.

I seem to be running fast because I’m nervous.

But being caught late at night, far away from
home, blocks away from home, not feeling well

and not able, I felt like I needed to make
my voice heard so I went to a paratransit

meeting I was told about on the bus.

When I went I was able to make my input but
be it wasn’t just my input, I know that the

people there really cared so they developed

Another thing I found out through my years
of being disabled is the fact that they do

want to design stuff without our consent or
without any knowledge, foreknowledge, behind

knowledge, any kind of knowledge about what
does it take really to make — help a person

to move seamlessly throughout society or
especially mobile issues.

Now, one of the things I’ve learned to I can’t
— I lived with all types of people and one

of the people I love to work with are veterans.

But the thing I find myself hurting when I
talk to a veteran is I really don’t understand

where they come from sometimes.

But I can understand — I can feel — I can
empathize with them when they lose a limb

or when they lose their ability to move about freely.

Being always asked for people to help you
is a burden.

Number one, on you.

Number two, maybe on the people that are dealing
with you.

So that puts a burden on the people with disabilities
to want to be able to move about, want to

be able to go because sometimes you need someone
to go with you because you’re scared of what

might happen.

You might need somebody because you don’t
know if there’s going to be a hole

in the road, if there’s going to be any of
those means.

So that’s why I joined the council.

We have grown quite a bit.

We have changed a lot of things.

We have done a lot of the things that were
mentioned in the — from — by Annette with

the disability population.

Some of my suggestions were made.

I made some suggestions and I saw them — I
saw them take fruit.

And I saw how we changed.

Solano County is a little different than San

We got a bigger region and people are way
more spread out than a lot of the areas in

San Francisco.

We deal with a place called Rio Vista.

That’s way out and they have an elderly population
of people who have just became mobility-challenged.


So we have to work with them.

And we’re trying to work them into a system
where we can bring them in to where the hospitals

are and we have taken all their advice.

We even had meetings in their town so they
could come.

We try to make everything as approachable
or as reachable as possible.

So that’s the basic thing about what I do.

Another thing I found out is advocacy.

People with disability needs people that advocate
for them.

Not only because, oh, I feel — but, no, because
I really see the need.

You know, the people — we try not to ask
so much because we don’t want to seem like

a bunch of needy people but we do need certain

The only way you get it is to ask.

The Bible says you have not because you ask not.

So we begin to ask, we begin to let our voices
be heard.

And that’s how come a lot of changes have
been — are being made.

There’s another program we have in Solano
County for the elderly called Go-Go grandparent.

We hook up with a group and we have them elderly
person can get — it’s almost like Uber or

Lyft, pick them up and take them where they
got to go.

Call back and let the people know they made
it safely.

They pick them up and do the same thing.

We have initiated all kinds of stuff in Solano
County to help people with disabilities.

The paratransit — I’m going to tell you the

I don’t use paratransit only because I’m too,
I guess, how I want to say it?

Because with paratransit you have to set a

And me, I don’t necessarily live by schedules.

I do what I want to do when I want to do it.

I think that’s the best thing about living,
is the fact that you can do the thing that

you want to do when you want to do it.

That’s another reason why I joined the Solano
County paratransit authority, is because I

do appreciate the idea of being able to get
to a bus stop that’s not far from my house.

Being able to talk to them and say, hey, look,
I need a little change on the route maybe

that will help a lot of people with disability.

Being able to communicate that way.

Makes it easier for me and for my friends
who like to assist me or who like to go with

me even.

So those are the things that I wanted to express
at this meeting, is that first of all, another

thing, I would like to thank everybody because
it’s your input, it’s your passion to go out

and ask people for their input that has made
this thing a whole lot better than it used

to be.

I remember when there wasn’t a bus for a person
with disability to even get on.

Less to be a person of color to sit on the
back of the bus.

We were not even allowed a seat on the bus.

But now that has changed.

So these things are part of society.

And as —
[Audio breaking]


DRENNEN SHELTON: Yes, thank you, Ernest.

You went out there at the end but I think
we understand what you’re saying.

ERNEST ROGERS: I was basically saying if
they have any questions about how the — how

I have seen the ADA work from 1990 until now
I would be glad to help.

Still need a lot of improvement but it’s a
lot more being done.

Just ask.

I’m better at answering questions than I am
about giving stuff.




Thank you.

So I do want to remind our participants about
the Q&A box.

If you have any questions or comments, feel
free to type them in.

And then our last speaker today is Susan Rotchy.

Susan is the executive director of Independent
Living resources of Solano and contra Costa


She is a member of various advocacy committees
around the Bay Area including the Blue-Ribbon

Transit Recovery Task Force that’s helping
to guide the future of Bay Area’s transportation

systems as we adjust to our new reality under COVID.

She’s a user of public transportation and
my favorite fact about Susan is that she is

a former Ms. Wheelchair California.

She’s a real live beauty queen.

Susan, thanks for being with us today and
the floor is yours.

SUSAN ROTCHY: I’m Susan Rotchy,

and I am the executive director of Independent Living Resources.

My background is I was in a car accident 25 years ago.

And actually to be really honest, I always
thought ADA was in place until it became me, right?

Go back to school.

Figure it out, paratransit, took that for
about two years.

Had a lot of problems.

Learned to be an advocate for people with

And that is how my beginnings started 25 years ago.

You know, I’ve seen it evolve in transportation.

It has –Ernest is right, it has improved.

One of the reasons it has improved is because
consumers or clients like us with disabilities

make the change, right?

Ernest gets on a committee.

I get on a committee.

There’s very few people on those committees on transportation that actually ride transit to work or

actually go to school.

I mean, there’s a lot of people that are making
decisions about what we do and they don’t

even ride the bus.


So — and I’m sure Ernest can tell you stories
where we have been left behind.

I personally have.

And — been left behind or waiting outside
in the pouring rain for an hour for paratransit.

I mean, we can talk about some stories and
share and feeling like we are just second-class



But we have — we’ve made great strides.

We absolutely have.

But it takes a team to make great strides.

And I’m only speaking in Solano County probably
because Ernest is right, we’re always on Jim’s and Ron

and Darrel’s, you know, just on their behind
to make change, you know, and not accept — it’s

coming, it’s coming.

You know.

You have to be involved.

And because I also am the director of the
Independent Living center we have a lot of

complaints about transportation.

And I feel their pain because I know.

I’ve ridden the bus.

One summer when gas got so high I just refused
to pay the price and I decided I was going

to ride the bus every day all summer.

And the first day I rode the bus I said, I’m
never riding that Solano Express again because

it took me three hours to get to work and
it should have only taken me an hour and 15 minutes.

But the lift didn’t work. The bus driver didn’t know how to use the lift.

And we’re talking – this was five years ago, less than 5 years ago.

So when consumers call, I tell them, hey,
paratransit isn’t that reliable, let’s get

you travel trained to ride the regular bus.

But some people just can’t.

They live out in the country.

They don’t have that option.

So you know, we do — we have made great strides.

And in Solano County we have a program — as
Ernest talked about, Go-Go Grandparent.

We also have a rideshare program that several
of the nonprofits use a wheelchair accessible

van for seniors and people with disabilities.

And I do sit on various committees as well
as I am an advocate for, you know, all disabilities,

whether it’s someone that’s vision impaired
and at times some of my staff or my consumers

that are vision impaired, you know, the simplest
task could be, hey, announce the bus stop,

announce the right bus stop.

That doesn’t take any money.


It just takes education and pick up and let
us know what bus stop you are at.


So some takes money.

So you know, that’s what we always fight for.

But some does not.

And also, you know, the other thing that really
goes a long way is courteous.

Drivers, education, courteous.

You know?


And not telling a client or a passenger, hey,
the next bus is going to come in 20 minutes

or 45 minutes because my lift doesn’t work
and you didn’t check the lift before you left.

So you know, courtesy from drivers is, you
know, also — it’s how you present it.

You know, just like how we present ourselves.

The other thing I wanted to talk about really
quick is bus schedules and also because of

COVID right now, you know, feeling safe in
this environment.

You know, in how we get our transit users
back on the bus and on BART.

And that’s what the task force team, the blue
ribbon task force team is working on right now.

And hopefully that — to reassure you guys,
right now transit is taking some great precautions

to get us back on the bus.

Some of the bus schedules have been delayed.

You know, in other words, decrease because
we don’t have enough transit users.

So until we start getting more transit users
will we get a lot of the schedules back up

on track.

If you have — I don’t want to repeat a lot
of the stuff that Ernest has said because

we both live in the same county.

In Contra Costa County I do ride the bus and
I have to admit, Contra Costa County the one

thing I really like about Contra Costa County
you can ride the bus until 10:00 p.m. and

in Solano that doesn’t happen.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

ERNEST ROGERS: We’re working on it, Susan,
in Solano County.

We’re working on it.

SHIMON ISRAEL: Well, I guess now is the
time that we turn to the question-and-answer


We’ve got these great panelists.

A lot of good discussion and presentation.

And we want to open it up to folks in the
Q&A box.

Take a look.

See if there are any questions yet.

No questions yet.

Maybe as everyone is kind of getting ready
with ideas, thinking about what they might

want to ask.

To our panelists, anything, any best practices
that have not been covered yet in terms of,

you know, things about committees, about being
the most effective that you can be in meetings

or about best practices for transit vehicle
operation, anything that we have not touched on?

ERNEST ROGERS: I would like to say that
one of the best practices that we found in

Solano is the fact that we have these meetings
where we involve all of the communities.

We get to like a senior citizen center and
then we ask the people there do they have

any question or comments about public transportation
or what can we do to better it.

And that seems to work well.

If you do it in different communities and
in different locations in the communities,

it seems to make, number one, it makes it
— what do I want to say?

It makes the transit authority look like it’s
involved in the community, which it is.

And it makes it look like it’s more accessible,
which we hope it does.

And then it makes people feel more like something
is going to be done, because I can say what

I want to say and then later on I can see
it happening.

SHIMON ISRAEL: We’ve got a question from Jeff, Do you think that forming relationships with elected officials

is helpful and any tips on doing so?

SUSAN ROTCHY: I’ll answer that.

I believe that —

ERNEST ROGERS: I would like to answer that

one, too.

One of the locations that we have, I have
found it very helpful to contact public preachers

to kind of help push my age a little bit.

But not only that, it develops a relationship
with public figures.

And it does help.

It does help.

And — they do listen because now as we begin
to take more — more to voting, more to being

heard, more to being seen, it does help.


SUSAN ROTCHY: I think that consumers should
absolutely contact their state legislator.

Their assembly member, and talk to them about
how they — how we can make change because

a lot of those legislators — actually most
of the legislators, all of them, do sit on

various transportation committees.

So when you talk to their aide, the legislative
aide, they really do take your information

to heart.

I always talk to our consumers at our agency,
we do at times help them draft a letter to

the legislator.

Not just also participate in capitol action day.

And we go with a list of things that we need
in our community and these are all people

with various different disabilities.

So absolutely, contact your legislator and
contact, you know, whether it’s your nearest

Independent Living center and work with them
on advocacy and then the one thing I have

to admit even during this pandemic now, you’re
able to participate on Zoom and ask questions

because, before, it was really hard to attend
those meetings for some people with disabilities.

And so, you know, good — that’s another good

So yeah.

ANNETTE WILLIAMS: I think another thing
with policymakers is they hold the purse strings.

They often — that’s where the funding comes

The so it’s important to foster those relationships,
you know, one of the things that we worked

on in the last few years was this whole issue
of accessibility to TNCs to Uber and Lyft

and the legislator had to pass a law in order
to set up the access fund to force really

the TNCs to include accessible services as
part of their service.

And there’s money attached with that.

And I think that, you know, without having
the legislature do that it probably wouldn’t

be able to happen.

Especially because it’s regulated by the state.

SHIMON ISRAEL: Any creative approaches to recruiting new PCC members?

Do any of the PCCs offer any incentives other than paying transportation costs to attend meetings?

ANNETTE WILLIAMS: I can answer, one of the things that we do is have elections in November for — at

the annual meeting for the executive committee.

So we try to get a broader group of people
to come and there are different affinity groups.

There are people with disabilities, people
who are older adults, and then agency representatives.

Then you know, I think that makes it, you
know, they’re representing others, not just

themselves but they’re representing others.

And I think that that has had some help.

Other thing I think is to reach out to organizations
and — we had a lot of work with the — it’s

called San Francisco school district access

And they work with people with intellectual
and developmental disabilities who have finished

high school and are now doing a lot of living

And a lot of the people from that group have
gotten more involved in our advisory committee.

And they’re very, you know, very rampant transit

So sometimes it’s connecting with one person that can get you connected with others who might be interested.

Word of mouth is sometimes the way that people
— to actually get somebody to do something

new, it’s usually someone has to tell them,
you should try this out.

Or they have an experience like Ernest mentioned
that got him involved.

It’s often hearing from somebody else, you
can have a voice here, you can make a difference,

you want something to change.

That’s been my experience anyway that it’s
word of mouth that often gets people to actually

act and come to meetings and to say, oh, well,
maybe I want to be a member of that committee,


SHIMON ISRAEL: Okay, we have a couple more


There’s been a big push to provide less parking
for development projects but the amount of

disabled parking is still based on a percentage
of overall parking.

As an amputee who counts every step I wish
the percentage requirement of disabled parking

is looked at again.

This is true even at BART stations and other

ANNETTE WILLIAMS: Unfortunately we don’t
have someone here from BART.

We don’t have parking at our stations.

In San Francisco, we don’t have any parking.


There’s street parking and we work towards
— as the person was mentioning, the pro ag,

4% on the streets of accessible blue zones.

There has been a lot of work that’s gone on
in terms of disabled parking and parking reform

because we do believe sometimes spaces are
filled up all day by somebody with a placard

who, you know, then the spaces are not available
to people with disabilities who may be coming

for shorter periods of time and maybe that
person doesn’t really need it for proximity.

That’s frustrating for people with disabilities
because often then you can’t get to the front

door where you’re trying to go because all
the blue spaces have been filled since 6:00

in the morning when people came to work.

SHIMON ISRAEL: Agreed, yeah.

Susan, did you want to add something?

I thought maybe I saw a hand.

SUSAN ROTCHY: We do have a lot of consumer
complaints about the parking, not having enough.

Since these are the Baby Boomers, they’re aging.

And they’re having also difficulty walking.

There’s just not enough.

And Annette is correct, we’ve had a lot of
people complain about, you know, someone that

works in the city parks there all day and
then someone that needs to get to an appointment

in San Francisco for a medical appointment
is unable to get that parking spot because

somebody has been there because they’re working
parking all day.


ANNETTE WILLIAMS: And we had a committee,
disabled advisory committee on accessible

parking a number of years ago and
there were recommendations to charge for blue

zones because part of the reason, at least
they found in other states, that those spaces

get filled up all day is because it’s free
and you can leave it there for three days.

And so then there isn’t the turnover that’s
needed for disabled people who want to park

for short period of time or come for a number
of hours because they’re parked up.

And it’s not just blue zone, it’s all the
parking spaces because you can use a placard

in any space and not have to pay for parking.

So there is — there’s some desire to have
statewide — at least options for cities to

be able to implement that.

You know, limiting the time and potentially
charging and maybe then having like a low-income

amount for people who are lower income.

Because the reason that there was no charge
in the first place had more to do with the

ability to pay because the meters weren’t
accessible and there wasn’t an accessible

way to pay.

And what it’s morphed into is people using
it some maybe that don’t need it because they

like the convenience and the fact they don’t
have to pay.

And it just takes going to a doctor and having
your certified that you need it.

But they found in some states where it went
way down, like huge — many more spaces were

available when they started to charge for
parking because all of a sudden those people

who were parking there all day weren’t taking
advantage of that.

SHIMON ISRAEL: Good insight.

Next question, what is a good committee make
up to ensure people are trusted, respected

and heard?

Disabled riders are clearly important but
I have found that the they often can only

provide input with respect to their particular issues.

Those are important but often leave the full
committee without the entire situation.

I found that agencies that represent people
with disabilities have a more universal perspective

but don’t necessarily speak from personal
experiences. So how do we get the balance right?

Susan, do you want
to take this one?

SUSAN ROTCHY: So I think that, first of
all, we need to start placing people with

disabilities in leadership roles, right?

That’s the first thing.

And also — or putting some really doing a
survey and getting some people that are transit

rider, low income, a senior on a committee,
because I do sit on a panel, several panels,

and like I said, I’m sure Ernest and I are
the only transit users, right?

And they all have an opinion of what to say.

But never been left behind or discriminated
against because, hey, we have 40 able-bodied

passengers on the bus, there will be another
bus for you.


So we need to get people with disabilities
in leadership roles, sitting on those committees

or doing some breakout workshops or, hey,
let’s — if you’re having an in-person meeting,

get there by public transit and let’s see
how your work has really been done.


I’m going to get off my soap box.

ERNEST ROGERS: I like what Susan said.

She’s right.

She and I have been on the only two in the
room, but really?

The thing is if they’re in a leadership role,
one of the things you have to find out about

people is you’ve got to find people that are
empathetic, who look at other things, just

not only from their side but from other people’s side.

I know we have a young lady on one of our
committees, she’s disabled, rides the chair

and she only looked at it from her side.

I be trying to tell her a lot of things we
can’t change because we don’t have that right

or we don’t have that kind of change.

But we can ask, you know, be sympathetic with

And I think that’s the biggest thing.

You have to have people on the panel that’s
even — that can empathize and see from other

people’s perspectives and also surveys.

Surveys do good because a person can be six
feet in a wheelchair and a person that’s four

feet in a wheelchair, there’s a difference
right there.

You know.

So it just has to be — got to be a medium

You have to have someone that can empathize
and understand how to go between those two


A leadership role would help.

ANNETTE WILLIAMS: I think that people who
work together for a period of time with different

disabilities, they become aware of the issues
that their fellow users are dealing with.

I think also like just the citizens — with
have a citizens advisory committee that is

made up of all different types of people and
having people with disabilities on that committee

as well to be speaking from that voice, because
I think there’s not enough cross pollination

and often people who are not disabled really
don’t understand the challenges that people

with disabilities face in using public transportation.

And they needed educating.

And that’s why like you were saying, having
policymakers and those in executive positions

to have disabilities, then they’re in the
room when those things are brought up and

they can bring up their personal experience
or what they’ve learned from their work.

But I do think that people who work for a
period of time become aware of other people

with disabilities and their needs as well.

And not just their own.

Like you were saying, the empathy and the
understanding and even just, you know, knowing

the things that are important to, say, a person
who is blind or a person who is deaf, you

learn it from hearing from those people directly.


Empathy is good for sure.

We do have just one comment.

So California Commission on Disability Access
would be the place to take the parking issue


And I did want to open the Q&A to anyone else
who had a question for the panelists.

It seems like we may be at the end.

We have a bit left on the presentation.

Maybe we’ll resume there then?

Shall we?

All right.

This is actually my slide.


So these are recommendations that we wanted
to share for transportation agencies.

And we don’t presume to know what’s best.

These are some highlights that have been revealed
from our project.

2020 was very much a year of discussion about

And one of the things that kind of came to
surface is discussion of pipelines.

How do you get people into the relevant professions
that have the relevant experience?

This is something that we want to investigate
in MTC but we feel that internship programs

are a good vehicle for people to get the right
people and the right positions and to get

movement generally of people who have kind
of — that come from the disability community

into planning professions.

The next point, we want to foster relationships
with go-to organizations within your county.

The first stop will be your centers for independent
living and we’ll provide a list on the WID website

as a product of this project.

You want to have trusted relationships with
people in the community so you can just pick

up the phone and have a sounding board if
there are plans or service changes that may

impact the disability community.

It does not — not every event needs to be
a full-scale community outreach activity.

Sometimes you just want to have a little bit
of insight or perspective that can be represented

in your work.

You want to partner with community agencies
to do the outreach.

Transit agencies and MTC may not have the
best relationship or the reputation with the

public and I see that as an MTC employee.

Sometimes it can be helpful to have the local
touch, have a trusted agency which has a good

relationship with the community, who may have
more ongoing direct engagement.

And it can be good to have those folks on
retainer, so consider paying for those services.

Either one agency or a bench or group of agencies
can be helpful.

And then you want to participate in county
and regional emergency planning.

So from time to time there are tabletop exercises
for emergency actions.

You want to engage with them and practice,
practice, practice.

Be connected on the county level but also
be mindful of regional exercises as well.

Every county has a different liaison in terms
of setting these up.

For some those are sheriff’s departments,
others are health departments.

We’re going to add a list of those contact
resources also on the WID resources page that

we’re developing.

And so to the last point, you know, you want
to include disability and access into equity

frameworks and analyses.

So we have antiracist and antidiscrimination policies.

We perform equity analyses to measure dispirit
impacts of projects.

But at present we don’t — at least most of
those types of equity analyses don’t include

disability and access.

We have our own work to do in our own house
at MTC when we evaluate future projects for

regional transportation plan.

Historically disability has not been included
as one of the metrics.

Related to this, I will make a plug for MTC’s
coordinated plan, which will include some

off the shelf approaches for developing equity

And that’s still in development.

But these are in general hard to put in practice
and they’re not fully developed but continue

to engage with us.

It’s all of our responsibilities to promote
access and that’s been a theme of this presentation.

But do continue to reach out and be engaged
as we develop this together.

DRENNEN SHELTON: Thanks, Shimon.

We just about reached the end of our time
together today.

Hopefully you’ve learned something new or
that you’ve heard something that will inspire

you to expand how you include accessibility
issues in your work.

But we don’t want you to stop here.

We would like to ask for your commitment today
to establish or strengthen your relationships

with the disability community.

We want you to be the champion who voices
accessibility issues and perspectives at your work.

We want you to start by reaching out to a
member of your own agency’s advisory board

or to your local Independent Living resource
center and tell them you heard this presentation.

Tell them that you’re seeking to include their
perspectives in your work.

Go beyond that box checking exercise and look
to really incorporate the disability lens

in your work.

It’s not going to be easy.

And it’s going to feel awkward at times and
you may be afraid that you’re making a mistake

of some kind

But I want you to remember, Senator Duckworth’s
words to you that we need strong leadership

from you on this front.


And so in the coming weeks we will definitely
follow up with everyone who attended today

or who was registered.

We’re going to provide this presentation and
more resources to you.

We want to help get you started on this.

And I just want to thank everyone for your
time and attention and your commitment to

ensuring accessibility.

Thank you.

If you are having technical issues or accessibility issues on this site, email

Main content end

Banner text: Events. Icon of turquoise calendar with WID globe and the number 23. Background photo of WID's Nicholas Love and Zona Roberts at a WID event in 2019 with a magenta tint.

Transcript for Global Digital Accessibility: Why Digital Accessibility is a Must-Have for Businesses

May 20, 2021.

Global digital accessibility:  Why digital accessibility is a must have for businesses.  (Please stand by for the event to begin).

>> KAT ZIGMONT:   Thank you so much for joining us today and being here to celebrate the tenth annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day.  We have such a great program in store for you this hour.  What you’re about to see are recorded segments from our lineup of speakers.

However, towards the end of the hour, myself and several of the

Speakers will be live for a Q&A segment. So please send us your questions throughout the hour and we

Will be sure to answer them at that time.

We have captions available in Zoom as well as at this link, That I will put in the chat.  All segments will have ASL, including the videoed segment.  To get us started, we have three amazing speakers.  They are both WID board members and global experts in digital accessibility discussing accessibility as a business imperative. Our first speaker will be Neil Milliken

From Atos. After Neil, we’ll have Tali Bray from Wells Fargo, followed by Frances West from FrancesWestCo. We hope you enjoy today’s presentation – let’s get started!


>> Neil Milliken, Global Head of Inclusion, corporate social responsibility for Atos.

>> I’ve been working in the field of assistive tech and accessibility for 20 years, Atos, which is the company that I work for, is a large digital transformation company.  We have a number of activities around accessibility.  We have our group accessibility program, which is essentially our corporatewide program looking at embedding accessibility practices through procurement, through talent and hiring, looking at culture, training, partnerships, et cetera and then we have what we call our accessibility practice where the experts sit within our organization to do digital accessibility, whether that be supporting assistive technologies, doing web accessibility audits, or helping people with projects with coding and design, et cetera, plus contributing to training, skills development. We’re active members of the IAAP, signed up for the ILO GBDN, Business Disability Forum, members of the Valuable 500.  We know that accessibility and disability drives innovation.  It’s something that we have embraced as an organization, it’s written into our raison d’etre, we’re a French company, so it’s our sense of purpose.  There’s lots of benefits to being more accessible. One is our customers want it, so we are attracting more customers by being more accessible, and we’re helping them attract more customers, because we’re a business to business organization rather than a business to consumer organization.  We’re attracting nosiness on their behalf, serving businesses on their behalf. Those larger customers also come to us because they know we can do that for them. But there’s also a benefit in terms of retention, we do this for our own people too, so we’re better at retaining our staff, and better at keeping them healthy, engaged, productive, et cetera, and it means that we’re an attractive employer to work for.  It’s really as simple as that.  If you’re not inclusive, then you’re going to be less attractive as a proposition for attracting talented employees.  I think it’s really important that organizations don’t just follow standards and guidelines.  Standards and guidelines are really important, but you also need to test with real users in real life scenarios, and that means real users with real disabilities and real users of assistive technologies.  So working with organizations like WID is a really important part of the process.  Investment in accessible technology will give you a good return. Firstly, your users will like it, you’ll have more successful transactions, less abandoned transactions too, so I’m not talking about just financial transactions like abandoned shopping carts in a service orientated business.  So for example if you get accessibility right you’ll get less service calls to the service desk, so you’re reducing cost, so that’s a benefit. You’re also making stuff people like to use, when you’re thinking about accessibility you’re thinking about design and thinking about how people are going to be using this, and designing it to enable people to be successful in what you want them to do, that will do things like increase your net promoter score in marketing, and these are things that are really important to organizations, they’re going to enable you to attract more customers, they’re going to enable you to do the things that you are required to do by society.  It’s the right thing to do.  But when you do it, it also has all of these fringe benefits.  Lots of real benefits in terms of practical technology and human use cases for why you want to do accessibility.  Lots of organizations have woken up to the fact that they have a responsibility and investors in these organizations are also looking to find companies that are truly delivering on what they claim to be their corporate values.  So really need to walk the talk.

>> Tali Bray, Executive Vice President, Head of Technology Diverse Segments, Representation and Inclusion for Wells Fargo.

>> TALI BRAY:  Thank you so much for having me.  It’s really great to be here with all of you today.  I have the honor of serving on the WID Board of Directors.  Wells Fargo and WID, have a very strong partnership that spans more than two decades.  Over the years we’ve provided board members for WID, programming partnerships, technical expertise, most recently we collaborated on a machine learning project to improve economic outcomes for people with disabilities.  So there’s a strong support and engagement and recognition of the incredibly important work that WID does within Wells Fargo.  Wells Fargo and Company is a leading financial services company that has approximately 1.9 trillion in assets and proudly serves one in three U.S. households and employs close to approximately 268,000 people.  So we have the opportunity and the responsibility to effectively touch many, many lives across the United States.  We are committed to financially empowering and employing people with disabilities.  We are number one of the top 16 companies for people with disabilities 2020, National Organization on Disability report. We’re really excited to honor Global Accessibility Awareness Day and continue to advocate for equal opportunities and increased access for people with disabilities.  And so I’m really proud to share that inclusion efforts over the past five years at Wells have resulted in more than a 20 percent average increase in disability hiring and over 15,000 employees who self‑identify as people with disabilities.  More than 9,000 of our employees including people with disabilities and allies belong to Disability Connection, that’s an employee resource network at Wells Fargo, and what this really points to is that accessibility is foundational for us to work with this community externally and with the internal community.  So you hear a lot of people talk about a digital first strategy, we also have to have an accessible first strategy, and that is a huge part of what we do.  We have an in‑house Accessibility Consulting organization, it’s called IHAC, and that is a group of industry accessibility experts, and they build in accommodations from the very beginning of every project, every software development effort that we conceive of to ensure that our digital properties are available for everyone.  When accessibility is considered early and throughout design, all customers including people with disabilities can better access products and services, so this drives positive market outcomes beyond the disability community and beyond the employees that we support. Our global approach that we take within technology, we piloted a new program to hire neuro diverse employees with software engineering, automation, data science and cyber skills in the summer of 2020.  We began creating a recruitment and hiring process that is inclusive of people with disabilities, so we can tap into the potential of a very talented and underrepresented population.  Our current employees have expressed incredible pride in Wells Fargo and technology for committing to this kind of program.  So we intend to continue to expand this program based on learnings from the pilots with the goal of having one percent of all technology employees hired through the neurodiversity program by the start of 2023.

>> Frances West, founder, FrancesWestCo.  Chair of strategy and development committee for the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information Communication Technologies.

>> FRANCES WEST:  This topic with technology is definitely a global topic and of course World Institute on Disability or WID has always been a proponent and also has done a lot of work in making sure that whether it’s at the policy level or at the digital accessibility level, that the world understands the power of the technology and also the promise that it can bring along if we’re designing the accessibility into its thinking, so this is a great way of celebrating this day, especially with an organization such as WID.  Global Accessibility Awareness Day is being celebrated globally, and I actually will be giving an interview to, for example, the companies, large companies, including like Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent in China, and they are celebrating GAAD like what we are doing here.  Frankly, it has just become a calling for me to really remind all the technologists out there that, you know, technology is there to serve people, not the other way around, and if we all agree that technology is there to serve people, then it has to be all people, not just some people, and with that kind of a logic, then accessibility becomes a must do, not a nice to have.  So the design experience is very important, but a lot of designers are actually not very familiar, actually they know very little to nothing about accessibility.  We have to really help the young designer, the cool designer, the creative designer to understand accessibility, the color contrasts or the use of font sizes as a part of, in addition to the artistic expression, as part of the accessibility expression and planning those together, and that really helps to build in accessibility into the design process.  It’s actually a mindset.  Accessibility, there’s no end be point, right?  It really should be a continuous improvement, and I always say is accessibility is just like privacy and security.  You never say, okay, enough privacy, I’m done, or enough security, I’m done, right?  Then we should dedicate our time and energy to solve the problem or to improve the situation and not expecting it to be very expedient and just, you know, check the box and get it done and move on.

When it comes down to accessibility testing, that is to me the most important part, actually, of the entire accessibility discussion because in the end, it really has to meet that particular user or that particular constituent’s needs and wants.  And I would never be so kind of presumptuous to say that, for example, if I’m a sighted programmer that I can create a user experience on my website or mobile that can delight the blind person and the nuances of the blind person experience.  So to me, that is the ultimate attest of our commitment to the user experience is through user testing.

>> KAT ZIGMONT:  Great perspective.  We are so grateful for the expertise on the WID board and their wealth of experience that really helps focus our work in accessibility and universal design.  Next up, we have WID’s technology specialist, Dustin Snowadzky who will show you all an overview of accessibility guidelines, some examples, and then show you a user testing scenario on a poorly built website and a well-built website, something we experience all the time doing user testing at WID. I hope you enjoy.

>> DUSTIN SNOWADZKY:  Hi, my name is Dustin Snowadzky, and I am WID’s technology specialist.  The topic of my presentation is a brief overview of digital accessibility best practices.  Digital accessibility is important for individuals, businesses, and society.  The web is an increasingly important resource in many aspects of life, including education, employment, government, commerce, healthcare, recreation, and more.  It is essential that all digital products and services are accessible to provide equal access and equal opportunity to everyone.  Access to information and communications technologies is defined as a basic human right in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,  or the UN CRPD.  What is WCAG or W‑C‑A‑G?  The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG provides a framework for making web content more accessible.  They consist of twelve guidelines organized under four principles.  These four principles maintain that websites must be: perceivable, can this information be perceived by everyone?  Operable, can this information be accessed by everyone? Understandable, can this information be understood by everyone? And robust, is this information available to everyone?  These guidelines were created by the Worldwide Web Consortium or the WC3 which is an international organization dedicated to creating web standards.  Moving on to A, AA and AAA levels.  A or single A is viewed as the bare minimum level of requirement which all websites, apps, documents and other digital content should adhere to.  AA is viewed as the acceptable level of accessible for many online services.  AAA is the highest level of conformance and is viewed as the gold standard of level of accessibility.  Alternative text, by default, images are often voiced as simply “graphic” by a screen reader or by the file name they were uploaded as, which is almost always not useful or intuitive.  When an image is described by a screen reader, that indicates someone has added alt text to the image. Alt text should be a succinct verbal description of the image, generally alt text descriptions do not have to be more than a sentence.  Some screen readers will cut off alt text after 125 characters so it’s advisable to keep it to that character count or less.  If an image is purely decorative, like a divider, a spacer, a border, et cetera, and doesn’t add any meaning or context to be the page or the content, then it doesn’t need alt text.  The main questions you should ask yourself are, what is the purpose of this image? What message is it supposed to convey?  And what information is lost without seeing this image?  So here is alt text example number one.  A good alt text example is a middle‑aged man in a sports jacket and multicolored tie, stands in front of a railing with his hands resting in his pockets.  And a bad alt text example for this image would simply be middle‑aged man.  The first alt text example contains relevant visual information within one sentence and the second alt text example describes the subject of the image but may not give the user necessary information, depending on the context of the entire page.  There’s no need to say photo or image of because that’s inferred from the image tag in the back code.  Here is alt text example number two.  Good alt text for this image would be a ladybug crawling across a leaf.  Bad alt text for the same image would be just simply bug.jpg.  Next is minimum contrast ratio requirements.  Here are a few examples of text with almost exactly four and a half to one contrast ratio, which is the minimum.  So here we have a gray text on a white background.  Next is purple text on a white background.  Then blue text on a gray background and finally red text on a yellow background.  For many of us, some of these color combinations are not very readable, that is why four and a half to one is the minimum required by WCAG guidelines.  Large text contrast requirements.  Large text is easier to read, so the contrast requirement is reduced to 3 to 1.  WCAG guidelines defines large text that is text that is 18-point and larger or 14-point and larger if it is bold.  For example, here is a gray 18-point text on a white background.  And purple 14-point bold text on a white background.  Again, while this meets the guidelines, it may not necessarily be readable to everyone.  Evaluating accessibility.  Preliminary checks.  Even if you don’t know anything about accessibility, you can check some aspects of accessibility, which leads us into the next entry which is tools.  This includes web accessibility evaluation tools, software or online services that help determine if web content meets accessibility standards.  Evaluation and reports.  Conformance evaluation determines how well web pages or applications meet accessibility standards.  People.  Getting the right people and skills involved makes your accessibility evaluations more effective, and finally standards.  This includes conditions for writing test results and rules.  When developing websites or redesigning a website or a web application, evaluate accessibility early and throughout the process to identify problems when it is easier to address them.  There are tools that help with evaluation, however, no tool alone can determine if a site meets accessibility standards.  Knowledgeable human analysis is required to determine if a site is accessible.  User testing.  The United States Census Bureau estimates that one in five people in the United States has a disability.  Many of them opt out of using a variety of products and services simply because they were not created with their disability in mind.  User testing provides a unique opportunity for companies to better understand how people with disabilities access their products and services, learn what issues they encounter, and improve accessibility.  Why is user testing important?  First-round website and app design may not be perfect for text‑to‑speech and related software.  Reviewing, testing, and adjusting digital access is a must.  The customer knows best.  Blind and low vision individuals have valuable experience and feedback.  In most cases, far more than sighted users using specialized software.  User testing demonstrates companies’ efforts to maximize access with legal benefits.  What is a screen reader?  Screen readers are software applications that attempt to convey what can be viewed on a display to their users via nonvisual means.  In the next segment one of our usability testers, Christina, will demonstrate screen reader usage on a frustrating inaccessible website.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  My name is Christina Clift, and testing websites for WID is an awesome opportunity because often I encounter websites that are not accessible, and that often can close doors to valuable resources, programs, and services that I want to access, as well as others that might have visual disabilities, so doing the testing to learn how to teach others to do accessible websites will hopefully open doors and make for an easier experience in surfing the web.

>> DUSTIN SNOWADZKY:  Can you try to find and read the quote on this homepage?

>> JAWS SCREENREADER: Is this accessible, list of six items.  Is this accessible, skip ‑‑ accessible, same page, skip to content, navigation region end, link checkout, visited link contact us, visited current page link main, link my account, link shop list end navigation region end, button, visit page link and accessible web dot site.  Is this accessible?  Navigation region list of six items.  Link cart, checkout, contact us, visited current page link main, link my account, link shop list region and main level 56899 graphic pixels, 3608311 graphic, quote graphic, heading level two is an example of low contrast.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  This is an example of low contrast text.

>> JAWS SCREENREADER AUTOMATED VOICE: Heading level two, A quote by Lemn Sissay.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  It’s by Lemn Sissay, I’m assuming that’s the one you’re looking for?

>> DUSTIN SNOWADZKY:  So you would associate the “this as a is an example of low contrast text” with the quote because that was read immediately after the quote?

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Yeah, yeah.

>> DUSTIN SNOWADZKY:  Next, can you navigate to the store and try to buy soap?

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Same page, link to shops, links list, enter.  Page has five shop.  Shop order combo box.  Default sorting.  Wrapping to top.  Products.  Same page link.  Products.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Products.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Link checkout, visited link, visited link made, link my account, visited link shop, list end, navigation button, visited link inaccessible.  Visited link inaccessible.  Link, is this accessible?  Link checkout.  Visited link, link my account, level one shop.  Link sale.  List of 3 items.  Combo box default sorting.  Shop order.  Combo box default sort.  Enter.  Main.  Products.  Showing all three results.  Shop order.  Combo list of three heading level 2 link to sanitizer, link dollar ten, link add sanitizer, link sale, heading level 2 bath bombs.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Bath bombs, all right. 

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Sale, heading level 2 link dispenser. List end.  All rights — proudly powered by WordPress.  Products U about ton.  Shop order, to top.  Button.  Products.  Button.  Shop order combo box.  Sort by popularity.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Popularity.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Enter. Main region heading level.

>> DUSTIN SNOWADZKY:  What’s happening when you use that combo box?

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  It’s not reading them as an arrow up and down what your options are, so you’re having to go out of it and come back in to figure out what it changed to, so ‑‑

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Main region, main escape, shop order combo box, enter, main region, shop order S, skip to toolbar, address escape, skip to standard region, navigate escape, product, same page link skip button, shop order wrap to top, button, showing all shop order, combo box

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  I’m not seeing soap anywhere…

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Sort by list of heading level to link, link, link dollar seven, link end, main region.

>> DUSTIN SNOWADZKY:  It actually is dispenser.


>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Heading level to link dispenser, enter, dispenser, link 05/soap.  Heading figure end.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  I was listening to see if ‑‑

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Escape. Same page dispenser.

>> DUSTIN SNOWADZKY:  Did you hear soap anywhere?

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  I thought I did.

(Automated voice over Christina’s).

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Link button, dispenser quantity tie, box same page link, skip, dispenser, dispenser same page skip to content, navigation region list of six items, link cart, link checkout, visited link contact us, visited link main, heading level one dispenser dollar 10.00, dollar 5.0 fifty dispenser quantity, add to cart button, categorized information tab.  Link additional information, reduce zero tab, link review zero heading level two additional information table with two columns and one rows, heading level two related products list of two items, link sale, heading ‑‑

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Got it. Do you want me to add that to my cart?


>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Even though I don’t want to buy soap? (laughs)

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  List of six items, link cart.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  I was looking under the cart to see if it would show cart one item but it just says cart.

>> DUSTIN SNOWADZKY:  Right.  Is that what you typically look for if you actually added it or not?

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Yeah, I look for that number to change.  I’ll go to my cart and see.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Link cart, table land, product, price, quantity, subtotal, link remove site visited link one, visited link dispenser, dollar five dispenser quantity, dispenser quantity edit span box two.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Oh, no, there’s two, I think.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Dollar point apply coupon am.

(Beep sound).

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  It made it in there and it said something soap quick I think it was just changing the page.  But it stayed also on the same product page, so that made me wonder whether it was added or not, and typically if it stays on the same page, you click add to cart and I would think it kept and there was no audio symbol up there where it says cart one item added or whatever.

>> DUSTIN SNOWADZKY:  Go to proceed to checkout and let’s see what happens.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Heading level two cart totals, table subtotal, dollar, shipping, flat rate, dollar five.OO, shipping to MD, link change address, total, dollar ten point table link proceed to checkout, enter, proceed to checkout link, checkout, first name star page has 7 region, checkout button, first name star edit enter.  Christina.  Company name optional.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Part of it on that one is – let me see if I would have been able to find that easy

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Checkout, order received heading level one, checkout, order received heading level one, thank you, your order was ‑‑

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Yeah, it definitely didn’t sound like you were going to another page to let you know that you finished checking out.  Sometime you get a little clicking noise, sometimes it’s a little bit of a feedback within the browser, but I didn’t hear anything on this one.  It was similar to the same experience when you added it to the cart.

>> DUSTIN SNOWADZKY:  And how about the product itself?  Any issues there?

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  So the product itself, the tag of the picture, I think it is, it said 0.5 and then it said soap.  So the label of the product was dispenser but then the label of the picture was soap.  So you didn’t know whether it was a soap dispenser or just a bar of soap.  So the two didn’t connect together, like what you were looking for and what you were seeing a picture of.

>> Now, let’s take a look at what this experience would be like for our user if the website was accessible.

>> Automated voice:  Visited link accessible web dot site, list of five items, visited current page link home, visited link shop, link my account.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Home link this time, that’s great.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Heading level page one middle‑aged man in a sports jacket and multicolored tie stands in front of a railing with his hands resting in his pockets. Graphic, ladybug crawling across a leaf.  Graphic, the moon tells the sky, the sky tells the sea, and the sea tells the tide, the tide tells me.  Quote by Lemn Sissay graphic.


>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  This is example of high contrast text. Heading level two this is an example of low contrast text.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  The part about the sea, the quote that you had written in gibberish last time, it’s actually accessible this time with the pictures, cool.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Shop enter.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  I’ll use my browser link list, it’ll be the quickest.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Four region shop.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  I’ll hit S for shop and let’s see if I can find my soap.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Products.  Same page products.  Same, products.  Same page visited link accessible ‑‑ blank.  List of five link home, visited link my account, contact us, cart, list end, navigation remain heading level one shop.  Showing all three results.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Three results.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Shop order.  Combo box default sorting.  List of three link sale.  Heading level two link dollar .70, heading level two link sanitizer.  Dot link ads, visited link sale, visiting level two soap dispenser.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Aha, soap dispenser.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Products.  Level two link soap dispenser.


>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Soap dispenser heading level one, dollar ten .00, dollar 5.00, 49 in stock quantity, soap dispenser quantity, add to cart, cart.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  The great thing, it’s in stock, and it’s $10.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Soap, soap dispenser, 49 in stock, dollar 10.00, add to cart button, main region, add cart.  Cart.  Soap dispenser quantity, enter main region two.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Change that to two.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Coupon code, type a text.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Coupon code.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Apply coupon button, update cart button to activate.  Shipping, change address, link.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Change address.

>> AUTOMATED VOICE:  Proceed to checkout link, enter.  Checkout.  Checkout.  Page as checkout.  Checkout.  First name star edit, enter, Christina.  Last name Clift.  Company name option.  United States.  The – ship to a different address.  Heading level three check box not checked.  Order notes option.  Contains text.  Type of text.  Privacy policy link.  Place order button to activate.  Enter.  Checkout.  Checkout.  Page has six regions 7 headings and 23 links.  Heading level 1 order received.

>> CHRISTINA CLIFT:  Awesome.  Great.  Much more positive experience knowing that I checked out.  

>> DUSTIN SNOWADZKY:  Thank you so much for joining us, Christina, and for demonstrating screen reader usage.  Next you’ll hear from one of our clients, TracFone Wireless, who will speak about user testing as a business imperative.

>> JIM ZIMMERMAN:   Hello, my name is Jim Zimmerman, I’m a senior officer of customer care and operations, and I’ve worked for TracFone for 20 years.  My responsibility is to support the teams that provide our products and services to our customers through design, automation, customer care, and support.

>> ELIZABETH VEGA:  I’m Elizabeth Vega, I’m an Associate Vice President, U.X. design and improvements.

>> JIM ZIMMERMAN:   We actually realized that accessibility was a concern for TracFone, it started out as a compliance opportunity and then it ultimately transformed into a mission, and an alignment with a cultural transformation that our company was going through, along with leadership, our Trac values and focus on customer centricity.

>> ELIZABETH VEGA:  If you’re a company offering services digitally, services or products that involve digital experiences, you have two choices, right?  You can get dragged into this kicking and screaming, or you dive in.  And kicking and screaming, that approach, you know, we kind of tried it, it’s much more expensive and much more wearing on employees than kind of doing this more planfully and letting employees get involved upfront and learn how to do it and approach it with a solid plan in place.  That is cheaper, it is a better experience for customers, and it’s a better experience for the employees, all around.  So, I do want to emphasize how much pain we had at the beginning, right?  Like we didn’t do everything right, we faced a lot of defects, and that was really a wakeup call, we have to do something to get our hands around this.

>> JIM ZIMMERMAN:   I think the other important thing we learned through struggle is that accessibility wasn’t a single person’s responsibility in the company, it wasn’t necessarily a department’s responsibility, it was the company’s responsibility, and when we were able to push out the need and work with other organizations and basically start training everyone on how to think about accessibility design, our testing in QA department, our developers, our marketing department, what we found was we had an entire organization willing to help us get better for the right reasons and align with collaboration, education, and it really took us to a different level.

>> ELIZABETH VEGA:  And marshalling the resources to do something different, to change our approach, we really relied on the usability studies that we had done with WID and the videos showing the struggles.  You know, when you take a video and you put it in front of a team of developers and executive leaders and they see people crying trying to get a product activated, everybody kind of realizes, okay, we need to approach this differently.  And it was really tremendously useful to have the kind of impactful studies and video to share to get everybody lined up.  Even developers who thought that they knew how to code, it’s really helpful to see the different kind of struggles people have.  And now we do testing with WID once a quarter, and we still find things that we didn’t think of, so we just, that has been a really useful part of the journey for us in terms of changing the perspective and completely changing the approach, instead of throw it out there and then fix it if it doesn’t work, we had to just completely rethink how we did it.

>> JIM ZIMMERMAN:   Before, we would kind of make products and force it into the marketplace.  By working with WID and usability studies, right, what we could do is we could modify our user experiences prior to releasing them into production and have a much more successful customer engagement and deliver our services more effectively.  You can’t underemphasize how doing inclusive design and figuring out easier ways for customers to activate a cell phone, engage with your websites, better color contrasts and larger text, it helps every customer across every segment.  So it’s really made us better with our automation, it’s improved our design, and we wouldn’t necessarily be able to see that if we weren’t having the usability studies and actually sitting down with customers and getting that proper feedback, right, and really, you know, candid feedback on where the opportunities actually are for us to improve our customer engagement and channels.

>> ELIZABETH VEGA: And we do things like auditing, like automated scanning, like training, like usability to complement each other to make sure that we have a better chance of getting it right.  We even have a supplier management program now where we let potential suppliers know upfront that there are some expectations around accessibility so that we don’t bring them on board and then hit them with something that for them is sort of an expensive and last-minute need.  So really, we’re going as deeply as we can into our own processes and our suppliers’ processes so that nobody has the surprise and everybody can plan for what they need to do, because we’ve realized that planning for it means it doesn’t have to be such a big deal, right?  It’s not a big deal if you don’t have to fix something that you broke in production.  We did our accessibility summits so we invited partners to tell us what they need instead of us just guessing at what we think you need, we invited partners in for them to tell us.

>> JIM ZIMMERMAN:   Our partnership with WID has really helped TracFone and our customers through identifying opportunities, realizing potential and then ultimately delivering on solutions for real customer struggles.

>> ELIZABETH VEGA:  One of the big things WID helped us with is just in recruiting the right audiences to engage in our processes.  We didn’t necessarily know how to do that and we were sensitive to the idea that we need to test with a range of different disabilities, but we didn’t know how to go about that and WID helped us, hugely. And of course, these segments have very different needs, so people who maybe have dexterity issues have completely different needs than blind users.  We didn’t always get that at the beginning, we certainly get it now, and WID was instrumental in helping us get that and understand what was needed for each of these different segments in order for us to get better.

>> JIM ZIMMERMAN:   We really feel that designing for simplicity, inclusion is really a competitive advantage specifically in our space.  It is one way for us to stand out and deliver our services to areas of the marketplace that may be overlooked.  It’s made us better, it’s helped with our culture, it’s brought collaboration, design and testing all focused and it certainly aligns with our overall mission.  So, we see it as a business competitive advantage and along with really serving to a great purpose, which has been a really great alignment with everything TracFone and our cultural transformation over the last five years.

>> ELIZABETH VEGA:  There’s another benefit that is actually important, and that is, the kinds of things that customers need for an accessible process and a digital channel are also the kinds of things that automated monitoring software needs.  So, it’s really hard for people, for us as a company, to truly understand the success rates of things that happen in the websites, unless you have some kind of monitoring software, out there looking at it.  Exactly the kind of things we need to make something really accessible, those kinds of software need in order to operate well.  So that also helped us have better visibility into things that were not working.

>> JIM ZIMMERMAN:   It’s extremely important for us to be a low‑cost operator, and we tend to try and automate as many processes as possible in order to be much more efficient and it allows us to be innovative and focus on improving our voice experience, chat, and other innovative technologies that our competitors may not necessarily focus on.  So, it’s been a great experience overall because it allows us to be both innovative and focus on really delivering simplified and successful customer experiences.

>> ELIZABETH VEGA:  Employees who are engaged in this really feel strongly about it.  People want to do this.  And it makes them feel like, you know, they have something that’s kind of bigger than themselves that they’re contributing to that is important.

>> JIM ZIMMERMAN:   Once we realized that this isn’t just a compliance opportunity, once we get beyond the compliance part we actually realized that it is a great engagement opportunity, it is a great growth engine for ourselves and it’s a great motivator of our employee base.  So when you tie all those things together, it was extremely, it’s been a great experience and we look forward to it in the future.

>> KAT ZIGMONT:  Thank you all for sticking with us.  We hope you enjoyed hearing from our panelists.  And we’ve collected a couple questions that we are going to field with our panelists right now.  Oh, I am so sorry, let’s make sure, where is our ASL?  There you are.  There you go.  All right.

So, our first question today was from Sarah, and she asked, is there a way to test your own website to see if it’s as bad as the simulation that we showed?  And I’m actually going to ask Dustin to chime in first on that.  But Tali and Frances, feel free to answer any questions that come up.  Thank you for being here.

>> DUSTIN SNOWADZKY:  Hi.  Thank you so much, Kat.  Thank you so much for the question, Sarah.  It’s a great first question.

So my answer is, there are a lot of automated evaluation tools that exist online for checking websites.  We would typically recommend some of the more established checkers like Wave or the Acc Dev tools by DQ, however, with that said, no tool alone can determine if a site meets accessibility standards, knowledgeable human evaluation is required to determine if a site is accessible.  For example, checkers can tell you when alt text is missing or added to a photo but can’t tell you if that alt text is usable or if it’s written in a way that people can understand and that covers the visual information.

>> KAT ZIGMONT:  That is absolutely a great answer.  Awesome.  I have a couple questions here geared at business, and we have Elizabeth, Frances and Tali.  So I’m going to ask this one.  Why don’t businesses do usability testing right away?  It’s a hard question to answer, isn’t it?  I think Elizabeth spoke to this a little bit in her segment, and my answer to this question is, you know, I think that we don’t educate our programmers or executives about this issue well enough so I think there’s a little bit of you don’t know what you don’t know to that question.

>> Tali Bray:  Would you like us to weigh in?

>> KAT ZIGMONT:  Yes, please do.

>> Tali Bray:  Great.  Hi, I’m Tali Bray.  She/hers.  I’m from Wells Fargo.  I think you heard from me earlier.  You know, what I would share is that often I think an organization, certainly in large organizations, supporting sort of diverse needs can often be viewed as something that is taken after a product is designed and developed, either because, I think to your comment, diverse needs aren’t understood and/or there are, I will say, erroneous cost considerations.  But what we do know is that when accessibility is not considered at the forefront, it will actually have the opposite impact with significant ‑‑ from a cost perspective and from a product performance perspective with significant increases in expense with rework.  And so ultimately you are creating a less effective product that is more expensive and you’ve certainly delivered a less accessible experience.  I mean, we know that up to 25 percent of the U.S. population has some form of disability ranging from common challenges like color blindness to low vision or more complex challenges with mobility and complete vision loss, and ensuring that our customers can, regardless of what their abilities are, can interact and engage with us for financial services is critical for independence and creates loyalty, and good customer experience is beneficial for all of our customers.  So that is what we are sort of ‑‑ why we are sort of making a very concerted effort internally and pivoting that willing to deliver for accessible experiences at the start of product design, product development and including sort of test-driven development practices around accessibility through the product life cycle is extremely valuable not only for the disability community, but for all of our customers.  And ultimately ends up developing and delivering a more cost‑effective and more accessible product.

>> Frances West:  Hi, this is Frances.  And I was also in the earlier video, and I would like to add to the comment that Tali just made.  I think there’s also a maturity kind of factor at play here.  If you look at the kind of technology evolution, what we call the B2B business, the back end business actually has been in play for a few decades now.  So for companies like the company like financial services, like a bank, they actually pay a lot more attention, for example, to testing methodologies and all that.  And I think in the last ten, fifteen years, you see the emergence of what we call the consumer-based technology, right?  So a lot of our user experience on the iPhone, and that industry came up very quickly, and then the whole kind of mindset is, okay, let’s just get the product out quickly, so we went from very kind of sudden development life cycle to these agile development, you know, fast, you know, quick sprint and here and there.  So I think what happened is sure, you can get a product out quickly but then you’re not testing, for example, you’re not building some of the discipline in there.  I think for a while it was okay because people are very enthusiastic about oh, let me get my hands on this new app, new next shiny object, but then over time, I think very quickly people realize when you just go for the speed and the efficiency, I mean, the speed, actually just on the speed, you actually compromise the experience potentially of a segment of the population, so I think as a technology, especially what I call the human facing or human experience apps and applications, more thought has to come into play, and that’s when the diversity of a tester, remediators or designers or developers have to come into play.  So I’m hoping that, I’m hopeful that with just the user experience themselves and also the social media recognition and also promotion of the equity and equality, then the technology company will actually will learn faster and quicker that this is actually a necessary step that one cannot just, you know, shortchange it.

>> KAT ZIGMONT:  Thank you so much.  Great answers.  I really appreciate it.  We have another question from Victoria.  I’m a sole proprietor with not a lot of money to spend on my website, but I want to be accessible.  Where do you recommend a tiny company like mine start?  Well, I’m serious here, you should contact me at WID,  We customize services for everybody.  We can make sure that we meet your budget needs because ultimately our goal is to make sure companies have accessible websites, and we will work with you to do just an internal review or a very small testing for not a lot of money to make sure that your site is accessible.  Absolutely.  And I have one more question here, and I think this is also to business.  Can you tell us a little bit more about how the work you do uniquely prepares your company to implement accessibility?  Do any of our speakers have a response for this one?  Go ahead, Elizabeth.  Yes, absolutely.  You are muted.

>> ELIZABETH VEGA:  In my area we have UX design under our umbrella, and we have done a lot of work to get training for the designers.  I think Frances pointed out that a lot of designers are not very knowledgeable about accessibility so one of the first things we did was make sure that everybody on that team went through training and understood what are the basic techniques for making digital properties accessible.  We also trained the developers and what we also found was really very important was training the testers, because that was a step that we kept missing or that we weren’t doing right and even though we were working at it, we were still getting defects had production because we didn’t have a testing team that really understood how to use the technology and to test effectively with it.

>> KAT ZIGMONT: Absolutely, great answer. I agree training is really important.  Go ahead, Tali.

>> TALI BRAY:  Certainly everybody on this call appreciates that what I would say for us, ensuring that our customers, right, all of our customers can successfully manage banking online is a really core objective.  So we have really integrated the idea of accessibility, as I sort of mentioned earlier, into our product design.  So we have an accessibility team that is part of our digital strategy and platform and innovation organization that’s the center of execution, and that organization is really responsible for driving accessible experiences, providing specialized accessibility consultation, leading like sprint‑level accessibility validation during the agile life cycle and supporting evolving governance and regulatory changes.  I think to Frances’ earlier comment, you know, we are a very large organization, and we are a mature organization, so we have the capability to sort of dedicate this focus and it’s even an evolution for us but we’re recognizing that we need to integrate accessibility within the overall program life cycle at the front end, so as our developers, as our test engineers, as our product designers are thinking about product, it’s integrated from the beginning.  So we’re developing and launching to the latest accessibility standards and then additionally, we perform comprehensive accessibility testing of all of our digital properties, you know, using some of the tools that were discussed here. And I would also say that for large companies that work with a lot of software vendors, we have to work with those software vendors to ensure that they are adhering to the same level of accessibility that we are, and that’s also a big challenge, right?  Because we have legal agreements with these software vendors.  They may be looking at different levels of accessibility, and so that’s another area of focus for us.

>> Frances West:  Can I just give a plug to Wells Fargo?  I don’t know Tali if you know this or not, but I actually hosted a three‑day session of Wells Fargo executives back in 2015, they came to Austin, Texas, the IBM design headquarters, and that was like the beginning of the design thinking, design methodology.  So we structured a three‑day all the way from using the IBM design thinking how we implement that into the IBM portfolio and share with the Wells Fargo team including some of the new tooling because I think one of the questions that came up, how do I make things, you know, accessible if I have a small budget.  Believe it or not, a large company like IBM and Wells Fargo, we too have a lot of budget pressure, and if you think about it as worldwide development, we have like 200,000 developers, how do you train them.  You cannot train them without some tooling.  I still remember one of my members, one of my employees said to me, you know, tools, not rules.  We talked about WCAG 2.0, all these rules.  Tools not rules.  I say okay, and we actually share with them.  A lot of IBM’s automated tooling for testing and remediation with accessibility is actually open source.  But anyway, just going back to the point that it is one thing, I love to hear, you know, TracFone, you guys talked about, it really is a cultural transformation.  One else you get it, it’s almost like religion, I don’t know whether I should say religion, it could be politically correct or incorrect, but once you believe, you see everything differently.  And then you have to be patient, you know.  You cannot be ‑‑ there’s no end on accessibility.  It’s just always the beginning.  So have patience but accumulate your knowledge.  Like the journey at Wells Fargo, like I said, I can think back, I still have that presentation from 2015, so Tali, maybe one of those days we can look at that.  Yeah.

>> KAT ZIGMONT:  Thank you so much.  I’m recognizing that we’re at the top of the hour.  Thank all of you for joining us today and for your thoughtful questions, and we’re so glad to share our expertise in disability accessibility, and we hope that you will make a plan for how your business can become more accessible for people with disabilities.  If you’re interested in working with WID to evaluate the accessibility and create an effective solution, please reach out to me,  And the if you would like to support WID’s work, please make a donation on our website, also pasted in the chat for you.  Thank you so much, and I hope everyone has an amazing Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

>> ELIZABEH VEGA:   Thank you for hosting, Kat.

>> TALI BRAY:   Thank you, Kat.  Bye‑bye.

(The event concluded at 5:01 p.m. EST)

* * * This text, document, or file is based on live transcription.  Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), captioning, and/or live transcription are provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.  This text, document, or file is not to be distributed or used in any way that may violate copyright law. * * *

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