What’s Up WID: Unconscious Bias

Ashley Inkumsah:

Hello, everyone. And welcome back to What’s Up WID, the World Institute on Disabilities podcast where we discuss what’s up in the disability community across the globe. If you’re new here, I’m your host, Ashley Inkumsah. Now, a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with the wonderful Kamilah Martin-Proctor. Kamilah is the founder of the Martin Multiple Sclerosis Alliance Foundation. She’s also the chair of the Washington D.C. Commission on Persons with Disabilities. And prior to that, she was the vice chair on President Barack Obama’s National Council on Disability. She’s also worked with Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson and New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez. And we are also so happy to call her one of our board members here at WID. I was so excited to speak with Kamilah and she’s, by the way, had over 20 years of experience in the inclusion space and in workforce development. But it was such an honor and a pleasure to speak with her about why unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, affects people with disabilities, especially those of color.

Ashley Inkumsah:

We also talked about the fact that now as vaccines have rolled out and the world is reopening, there is apprehension from people with disabilities to return back to a so-called normal that wasn’t really working for the disability community to begin with. So we had a really awesome conversation and it was super thought provoking. And I really hope that you enjoy today’s episode. It’s such a pleasure to have you as a guest today on today’s podcast. And I’m really looking forward to having this much-needed conversation about unconscious bias, particularly against people with disabilities in the workforce. So my first question for all of our guests is always, how are you doing and how are you feeling today?

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Thank you so much for asking, Ashley. I’m doing well here on this hot rainy day here in Washington D.C. A lot of us are under a lot of stress at this point where we’re stressing because you don’t know how long the vaccination is going to last. We’re stressing because our work environments are possibly changing once again, and they’re going to do what they always do and trying to pull back a lot of the progress that we’ve already made in an effort to go back to the solution of power. So am I doing okay? Yes, but big picture. I think a lot of my friends and fellow colleagues and disability community probably are not doing as well.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely. I think one of the things that came out of this past year and a half of COVID was we suddenly became so much more accessible, our entire society, than we had been in the past. And living in this remote environment has been really convenient for people with disabilities. And now we’re at a time where people, I know my mom and my best friends are now being asked to go back to work. And it’s just really stressful. It’s just adding to the already stressful environment that we’re under.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Yeah. We haven’t even dealt with the trauma that we’ve already been through. For all of us, particularly here in D.C., there was an insurgence. Nobody wants to talk about that. That Black Lives Matter protests that are continually happening. And I do think that a lot of that needs to be addressed and it comes under the topic for today with regards to unconscious bias.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely. I think, yeah, that’s a great segue. So although unconscious bias is certainly a term that’s becoming more and more ubiquitous, I would say there’s maybe some people who are still not even familiar with what the term really means. So could you define for our audience who may not know what exactly is unconscious bias?

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

It has a very unique and academic term and you’ll see it a lot in the universities. There are a lot of conscious courses on unconscious bias and, or otherwise known as implicit bias. And to just be very clear, I use this definition because I have a lot of mentees, I work with the Girl Scouts, and I to tell them that unconscious bias is you feeling a certain way about a person based on most likely erroneous information that you’ve received. And I tell them, “It’s not always your fault. You are being bombarded with so many pieces of information from the media, from friends, from family that may, in turn, have you developing stereotypes and let’s say overall opinions about a person that you don’t even know based on that unconscious information that you’re being bombarded with daily.”

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

So that’s what unconscious bias really is. It is those little, teeny tiny pieces of stereotypes and erroneous information that you have been taught and, or heard that you now apply to another person just based on having not even gotten the chance to know them.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely. And I think that unconscious and implicit biases, sometimes it’s even more dangerous than explicit bias, because it’s so covert. And so you can’t easily detect it. And sometimes it’s born out of innocence, even within the person who is the perpetrator of it. They don’t even realize that they’re doing it. They’ve just been poisoned by the ablest ideology, the racist ideology, the sexist ideology that’s been just indoctrinated within all of us as a society.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Exactly. I completely agree with that. And we do try and give our family grace with regards to that. And my mother is an educator and she loves to tell me all the time, “Everybody doesn’t know everything that you know. And though you didn’t go down the path of education, I need you to sometimes be that good teacher every once in a while.”

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely. Yes. How does unconscious bias affect particularly people with disabilities?

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Oh, my goodness. There’s several layers with regards to that. If we want to talk specifically about the labor market, which I think is going to become very important as we try and transition back to what I hope is a more equitable labor environment, it starts from the beginning. As individuals with disabilities started looking at the job applications or the job postings, are they accessible? Can I do a paper application, because the websites you have up is not necessarily working? Can somebody from USA Jobs, give me a little help to find the right buttons? And it goes beyond just making sure that the organization has the standard EOC documentation up? Has that company built a reputation for accessibility? Have they built a reputation for welcoming individuals with differing communications patterns or veterans with disabilities? And do they make asking for accommodations easy or do you feel like it’s an interrogation?

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Sometimes I think we forget that. When you’re asking for an accommodation, you are technically asking that person for some of their most personal medical details. So does that company have a reputation for making that process easy or for making it uneasy? And that comes from the unconscious bias of thinking an individual with a disability will not be able to do the job that you are trying to hire them for.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And how do you think that organizations can begin to work to eliminate this unconscious bias that discriminates against people with disabilities in their hiring processes?

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

With regards to their hiring processes in particular, I think it should stop being just one person. I think that the hiring process should be more of, it may be a little bit more work, but it should be more of a matrix model. I think when you apply to a school, college, or even a high school here in D.C., you have to go through a process. And then there are several people that are able to review that application and give you different points of view and making sure that that table of individuals that are reviewing that application are at the table are diverse. I would also pull out the analytics. I don’t think the code that is currently written that is pulling people’s applications is necessarily equitable or equal to everyone, because it’s being written by a certain segment of the population. And as such, it will tend to lean more towards that segment of population. So I think that those will be my two things, having a wider panel to review applications, having more accessible application platforms and then pull out the analytics.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yeah. I think people with disabilities should be even involved in that process. That wider panel should include people who are multiply marginalized, people of different genders, of different races and people with disabilities should be in that position to be evaluating. I think that would be my personal dream scenario for sure.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Ashley Inkumsah:

How would you say that, you’ve touched on this before, you started to talk about this accessibility or lack thereof, how has that entwined in the exclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce?

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

I think individuals are excluded from the workforce based on, as I think we had discussed previously, unfortunately, this unconscious bias that they will not be able to do the job. You will get past a certain point in the interview and then you’ll come to some very uncomfortable questions like, “Well, are you going to be able to travel?” “Yes. Yes, I can.” “Are you going to be able to process these widgets as fast as I need them done?” “Yes. Yes, I will. I may not do it the same as somebody else, but I can still meet these goals.” There becomes an unconscious bias in the sense that everybody has to do everything the same way. We don’t. Every individual person is going to be able to bring something new and unique to that process or to that table, especially individuals with disabilities, because we’ve had to learn how to, what did the kids call it now? Life hack? From day one.

Ashley Inkumsah:

I got you. Yeah. Literally.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

From day one, we will be able to come to a situation and find a different, possibly even better, more succinct way of that process. If you put your bias aside and give people the opportunity.

Ashley Inkumsah:

A lot of people would say we have the ADA and we have all of this legislation and policies that should protect against discrimination. What government policies in the United States and globally help protect against unconscious bias and why does it seem there’s a disconnect there?

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

You know what I learned as a political science major? That our laws are written to be reactive, not proactive. We have a lot of amazing policies and legislation and regulations on the books, there is no enforcement protocol in place. And I think that’s where the disconnect is. I think that a lot of what happens is after the fact. We look towards that legislation to say, “Well, I was discriminated in this way and that’s what violated this law.” The laws aren’t being implemented proactively. And I think that truly is where the disconnect. I do think some, don’t get me wrong, some of this legislation can be updated and written better and could be more inclusive with regards to making sure that we’re touching on some of the gaps that are now occurring, especially with regards to technology. But until we get that implementation piece, it’s all going to still just be reactive.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

And having to have to go through the process of gathering evidence to file your complaint or to make your case, it is exhausting and is just another round robin of unfortunate events that doesn’t really lead us anywhere. I think we need to take a different look at this. How do we implement these laws, so that they are proactive and not reactive?

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely. Yeah. How do we, yeah, as everyday citizens? Is it going to take a grassroots movement? How do we get the government and the powers that be to implement these laws? I think of a Bradley Lomax, for example, the Black Panther. He enacted so much change to get the 504 section of the Rehabilitation Act to be implemented. How do we become Bradley Lomaxes? How do we do that kind of thing?

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Okay. I actually talk about this with, I believe it’s my Gen Z-ers and my millennials. I’m a proud Gen X-er just to put that in context.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Proud millennial.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Yes. But I think you guys have to be able to tap into your power. Each generation’s had to push the first generation or the generation before them just a little bit. The baby boomers, you guys have to remember, when they started work, they had to come to work every day in a three-piece suit. They had no vacation time. They had to beg for lunch hours. They were literally locked at the desk for eight hours. What did they push for? Free dress Friday. I’m sorry, it’s called casual Friday. And then they pushed for vacation and sick leave. And then you had, I guess, the next generation, possibly the Gen X-ers, we pushed for work-life balance and creating what that looks like.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

I’m expecting my millennials and my Gen Z-ers, and, I guess, the generation after that, to start pushing for the fact that there is a different way to do things. You guys can do everything that is needed to be done from your watch. That is just a fact at this point. We really can. Why are we going back to these cubicle farms? How are we not focusing on making this place more accessible for having that global citizen community that I know we all really want? How are we not holding these companies more responsible for the health and welfare of their employees? I know people don’t to say this, but I truly believe that either directly or indirectly, a lot of what happened with this virus was because we had everybody packed into these spaces eight hours a day with no air, and no sunlight, and it’s overcrowded. And it’s all so your boss can walk around and make sure that you’re doing your job. And then we had to stop. And everybody’s still did their job.

Ashley Inkumsah:


Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

So I’m expecting my millennials to say, “Wait a minute. Stop. I don’t want to go back to a situation that physically harmed my health when I can still do my job in a safer, more complete and accessible environment.” That’s what I’m expecting you all to do. And I’m on my way out.

Ashley Inkumsah:

We need the next generation. Absolutely. Yeah. I feel like, yeah, if anything that we learned from the past year and a half is that we can be equally as productive, if not more productive, if you think about it, when we’re working in the comforts of our own home. So it’s discouraging to see how so many employers are just like, “Okay, let’s go back. Let’s go back to normal.” Normal, so-called. Well, normal was never working to begin with, honestly.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

No. Yeah, absolutely. But I would also want to have that conversation. I think that’s the other piece that’s missing. What do we need to be talking about? What do we need to be having and giving to each other, generationally, to move forward?

Ashley Inkumsah:


Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Yeah. You see that commercial with Dr. Rick how not to become your parents and he’s throwing everybody’s signs out.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yes. I’ve seen that commercial.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

How do we have that conversation about let’s do this different and that change is not a bad thing?

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yeah. I think at least speaking from the point of view of a millennial, I’m not sure about the Gen Z kids, but I would imagine they would have the same issues. I think our attention spans are not where the boomer generations or Generation X, we don’t have the same attention spans because there’s too much technology and there’s just too much going on, too much stimulation. So I think that we don’t have the same attention spans, although you could make the same argument and say that social media, really in the last year and a half, has proved to be such a powerful, powerful tool. So I guess it’s a double-edged sword. It really is.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

I agree with that to a certain extent, but I hate that it’s shaded in such a bad light. I was like, “What kid didn’t have a bad attention span at 20?” I don’t understand why, all of a sudden, it’s like, “They don’t have an attention span.” I was like, “You didn’t either.” You don’t get to have intention span until you’ve actually done some things, until you’ve learned how to sit still. For women in particular, I think that we learn attention spans earlier, because we have to sit down and get our hair done. Somebody has to do our hair. And I think that that takes time to learn to build. I hate that that’s seen in such a bad light or in such a negative conversation. Suddenly they don’t have good quote, unquote attention spans. Who determined what a good attention span was?

Ashley Inkumsah:

That’s true.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Okay. She did it in five seconds. She gave you that [inaudible 00:18:09] and the project came back perfect. I’m good with that. I don’t need her to do it the exact same way I would. I just want it done and done to the specifications that I’ve given. And you guys have learned or cracked the code for multitasking. I will never forget I had this intern. She was amazing, but I thought she wasn’t listening to me, because she had this pink phone. It was beautiful. This little pink phone, it was attached to her ear and I’m talking to her and she’s talking to them and she’s listening to me and the project came back perfect. She never put that phone down. And I didn’t ask her to.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Wow. That’s amazing.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Yeah. But I was a different kind of supervisor from that perspective, because I know that I got some pushback. It was like, “She should’ve put the phone down.” I was like, “Why? The project came back perfect. I didn’t need her to do it the way that you think it should be done.”

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely. Yeah. Everyone has a different way of accomplishing, as long as you get the finished product at the end, I guess. Yeah. There’s many paths to get to the same location in the end.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:


Ashley Inkumsah:

If you’re a company and you’re looking to make your hiring process, services, products, or environment accessible to people with disabilities, WID is here to make that happen. 1.3 billion people across the globe have a disability. And this accounts for $1.9 trillion in disposable income each year. Not only is making your products accessible for people with disabilities the right thing to do, it’s also the best thing to do for your business. So consult with us today by reaching out to the director of our accessibility solutions program Kat Zigmont at kat@wid.org. We look forward to doing business with you.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:


Ashley Inkumsah:

I’m curious to hear how and when did you get involved in unconscious bias and disability inclusion space? How and when did that took place?

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

I kind of always been in this world. My mother is a special education teacher here with D.C. Public Schools. So I have always been aware just about in my community, in general, what unconscious bias looked like from a racial perspective, from a female perspective and then from a learning and communication perspective. It was very important to her that we understood early on that everybody is different and that’s a beautiful thing. But, unfortunately, not everybody’s going to see it that way and that’s not sometimes due to their own fault. That might just be how they are being raised. The information that they’re receiving from friends, family, and the media. But we had to put forth a different type of information process, be willing to ask those questions, be willing to have that conversation.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

And so from there I’m lucky enough to have gone to Howard University. So as a proud Bison, they work really hard to make sure that we come out as global citizens and that we know that these things exist, but our job is to have those uncomfortable conversations and address unconscious and implicit bias in every way that we can.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely. Yeah. It’s amazing. I always say, “We are the sum of our own life experiences.” And I think oftentimes our individual lived experiences is what ends up coloring what we end up doing for a living. Especially in the non-profit space, it’s really important to draw from our own personal experiences, for sure.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

And that’s why we need to have diverse conversations and inclusion at the table to make sure that these conversations are had. If you have the same perspective across the board, then the unconscious bias will just continue to bleed into everything. It’ll bleed into your outreach. It will bleed into your programming. It’ll bleed into your ones and zeros. Everybody thinks that the ones and zeros are going to save all. They can’t, because they’re written by a person. And who are those people on that team? And what do they look like? And what are, as you said, the sum of their experiences?

Ashley Inkumsah:

Eradicating unconscious bias in the workforce, why is that an issue that businesses, corporations, why is that something that they should prioritize?

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

I know that we sometimes forget that we do live in a capitalist society.

Ashley Inkumsah:

It’s hard to forget.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

I wish it was different.

Ashley Inkumsah:

I don’t forget, personally.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

We have to understand that the goal of capitalism is to make money. It is at the end of the day. So why should businesses, in particular, prioritize addressing unconscious bias is because this underlying issue is affecting your bottom line. You may not understand it. You may not see it, but I guarantee you it is affecting your bottom line by all these 20%. You are missing out on opportunities. You’re dealing with a whole lot of unnecessary lawsuits. It is affecting your bottom line. And then the more altruistic reason really is, I think most of our companies, because we are run by people, you want to be a global citizen. You don’t want to cause pain, and harm, and hurt, because we all have to answer to somebody later. But those would be my two main reasons why we need to focus on eradicating unconscious and implicit bias, because it’s affecting your bottom line and because you want to be a better global citizen.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely. And I’m curious, and only if you feel comfortable with sharing, did you have personal experiences with unconscious bias in the workforce?

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Unfortunately, yes. I am an African-American female with a disability and an Arabic name. So there was a lot of layers that I do have to constantly maneuver through to make sure that I’m addressing, either directly or indirectly, anybody’s unconscious bias. Whether that’s making sure that I’ve done the project, not just to their specifications, but have gone beyond, but also to make sure that I can answer or address any questions or concerns they may or may not have. And also manage my own wellbeing and health with regards to that. Because the stress and the anxiety can eventually get to everybody

Ashley Inkumsah:

I totally agree with you. I would love to hear, though, about your, I know you have a foundation for MS. I would love to hear more about what you have going on there and what inspired you to found that. And, yeah, I’d love to hear all about that.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Okay. I thank you so much for that. And, yes, we have a foundation. It’s called the Martin M.S. Alliance and we focus on multiple sclerosis in communities of color, particularly. I was diagnosed with MS when I was 16 and I realized that there was not a lot of research and, or outreach in communities of color in regards to multiple sclerosis. There was a bias, implicit and, or directly, not just from the general public, but from the medical community that MS does not affect people of color. And you had one or two. At that point we had Richard Pryor, we had Montel Williams who were the celebrity faces of color with multiple sclerosis, but there wasn’t much else out there. So I started the foundation to really address that, not just in the community, giving voice to individuals that are living with MS and their family and friends, because it touches everybody differently.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

So once one person’s been touched, then that whole community becomes touched. But also having those conversations with medical professionals, so that they can do better early detection. Because even though MS has no cause and no cure right now, early detection and proper treatment can greatly improve one’s quality of life. So what we’re doing right now is Pride. So, unfortunately, we don’t get any parades this year. I would be downtown with my booth and talking about multiple sclerosis in the community with our ADA umbrellas. But this year, we’re just mainly doing a whole lot of outreach and webinars online and, hopefully, everybody can join us and see what we’re working on. So we’ve got Pride taking place and this is going to be our first year looking at disability images in film with the Tribeca Film Festival. And that has been so exciting and so exhausting.

Ashley Inkumsah:

I’m sure.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

There’s so much good stuff to take in, but that’s what we’re working on right now with the foundation.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

But that you so much for asking.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely, yes. Where can people keep up with what you guys have going on at the foundation?

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Absolutely. Please reach out to us. Our website is, I have two, because I to keep everything as fluid as possible. You can find us at manyfacesofms.org, also at the martinmsfoundation.org. And you can find us @kamilahproctor on all the platforms, Facebook, IG, Twitter. And our YouTube channel is up right now but, unfortunately, we don’t have any new postings at this point. But with the Tribeca Film Festival, we are hoping to have some really great new interviews to be posted to our YouTube channel, which is also at manyfacesofms.org.

Ashley Inkumsah:

That’s so exciting. I’m definitely going to be following you guys everywhere. I’m so excited for everything that you have going on.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Thank you.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Are there any closing thoughts, famous last words that you would to leave our audience with regarding unconscious bias in the workforce and why we should all, collectively, as a community really fight to eradicate it?

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Yeah. Closing thoughts. I just want to leave everybody thinking that I know that it’s stressful right now, and I know that we are facing a lot of unknowns and transitional feelings. And those little pieces of unconscious bias are going to start to creep up. I want you to do very well to address that, internally and externally, so that you’re not missing out on a great opportunity, a wonderful partnership, a new friend, a new business colleague, or a new employee that can turn your business around in ways that you can’t even imagine. Address those within yourselves, push them to the side, be brave and take a moment to say, “You know what? I’m not going to listen to that voice. I’m going to try something new.”

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely. We all have work to do as a society, for sure. We all have work to do. Well, it was so exciting and such a pleasure. I had so much fun chatting with you today. Thank you so much for being a guest.

Kamilah Martin-Proctor:

Ms. Ashley, I truly appreciate you. Thank you for the work that you’re doing. Thank you for having me and let’s do this again.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Absolutely. Yes. Absolutely. What’s a wonderful and important conversation. I was so happy to have the opportunity to have this much-needed conversation with Kamilah. And unconscious bias, it definitely is so much more harmful than other biases, I think, because it’s perpetrated without the perpetrator actually being aware of their actions. I think when we experienced more explicit forms of bias, it’s easier to call out, but the biases that are ingrained within people by, and I love how Kamilah puts it, friends, family, and the media have really significant ramifications on people with disabilities. And this is why it’s so important to listen when people with disabilities, when people of color say that they’re experiencing discrimination. We live in a society that is so systemically ablest, racist, sexist, and so on and so forth. And we all are influenced by it, whether we realize it or not.

Ashley Inkumsah:

So listening, learning, and including people with disabilities, people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, non-gender conforming people. That’s the only way that businesses and corporations can thrive and really reach the entire market share that they’re trying to reach and that we as a society can truly achieve equity. So thank you so, so much for tuning in. As always, you can find transcripts and American sign language interpretations for today’s episode and all of our past episodes on our website at http://www.wid.org/whats-up-wid. And as always, to paraphrase the words of one of our founders, Ed Roberts, we need to get out there and change the old attitudes, so we can build forward better. Thank you so much once again.

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 wid@wid.org.

Main content end

Arizona Disability Benefits 101 Overview Transcripts

Nicholas Love: Welcome to Arizona Disability Benefits 101 Training. In this training, we’ll be going over an overview of DB101. We’ll go through the main sections of the cash and health benefits, as well as programs that support employment and help build assets. We’ll be talking about specific strategies to you utilize DB101 to support an employment decision path.

Arizona Disability Benefits 101 or AZDB101 is a user friendly Arizona-specific digital tool that helps work through the myth and confusion of social security benefits, health care, employment and more. It is your one stop for information resources and tools to motivate guide and support people with disabilities to increase economic security through informed choice in their plan for competitive, integrated employment. DB101 provides equal access to accurate information and resources 24/7, 365 for individuals their circle support and professionals.

>> No need to be an expert on the topic or find an expert. Utilize the easy to navigate later information within DB101 to understand the complexity of benefit program interactions. Utilize the user-friendly work and benefit estimators with the associated content to understand the impact of employment has on public benefit and health care DB101 is a safe harbor there is no private identifying information giving individuals the confidence to explore employment without fear.

Throughout DB101 is access to local state and national expert help. DB101 empowers individuals and their circle supports and professionals to be able to ease the fears to be able to engage in a productive employment discussion. Names can be misleading. DB101 is more than just benefits; it’s an integrative employment tool that supports the full spectrum of employment services DB101 contents and tools cover employment supports resources and tools healthcare options asset building and financial empowerment and higher education.

>> There’s even a section specifically for youth and parents the independent living philosophy is carried throughout DB101. As an employment professional you can utilize DB101 in your everyday business practices to increase the effectiveness of services. This isn’t an additional task. This is support the work you already do. You’re able to get information tools and resources about uncertain topics. Without learning a new skill set you can become a pseudo benefit paraprofessional feeling confident in sharing information and explaining the impact of employment on benefits and then leading individuals to free benefit planning professionals. You’re not dependent on one staff or one agency.

>> DB101 is always available at your fingertips to give you the information you need. Throughout DB101 we promote the employment-first messaging: that all individuals of working age should have employment as their first daily activity. We’re able to assist individuals in engaging more fully in employment services by giving the information they need to ease the fear about employment. AZDB101 can be accessed on any mobile device at http://www.az.DB101.org. Now let’s look at DB101 Arizona. DB101 is available to anyone with internet access. There is no password or restrictions there is no need to register to utilize any of the tools or access to any of the articles and AZDB101. But by registering it allows us to collect additional analytics to be able to help with the promotion and advancement of AZDB101.

You also have access by registering and signing in to My DB 101. My DB101 allows you to collect your favorite articles and tools and all your saved estimator sessions. I’m currently on the homepage and if I click myDB101 now without being signed in, it explains what MyDB101is and gives you an opportunity to sign and register there to access it. You can also do the same at the top of the page, so let’s register simply put in your email create a password. Confirm that password.

>> And choose the organization for which you belong in this case it’ll be RSA. Hit submit and you’re now registered so every time you go into my into DB 101, you would like to sign in, simply put in in your email and password. Now when I click MYDB 101 I have all my articles and my favorite tools as well as all my saved sessions that save automatically to My DB 101. You can see that I’m signed in because my email is at the top This allows you to take your little mini myDB101 toolbox with you on any device in which you access DB101.

On the homepage, next to the sign in and register functions that you use for my DB101 is the ability to change the full site into Spanish. With a simple click of en Español, AZ DB101 is translated into full Spanish translation. This is true translation and not a Google translation. And go back to English with a simple click.

>> These functions are right above the search bar. You can simply put in any topic that you’re interested in, like housing, do search and be able to find information resources and tools within AZ DB101. Along the top panel, you have quick access to Home, Work & Benefits, Programs, Youth, and My DB101. Let’s take a tour of the homepage. Our first panel is how work and benefits go together. There are three articles that have been pulled out, information on benefits that support work, programs to help you find work and ways to save money. By clicking on all work and benefit, you’ll be able to access to all the information.

>> Within the work and benefits section, pull out another article, helping people who are interested in going to work. Then we have a section on going to work, where it helps people make work part of their plan and another section about helping them earn more money. We’ll be going through these articles in just a little bit. Back to the homepage. The second panel is our benefit planning estimators. We have three estimators within AZ DB101. There’s benefits and works for individuals over the age of 18 receiving SSI or SSDI. School and work for those under the age of 18, who are only receiving SSI, and AHCCCS Freedom Work, which is our Medicaid buy-in. There is a special training video, specifically on how to utilize these estimators. We will go into them briefly during this training.

>> The next panel is information about cash and health programs. Three articles that are pulled out are finding the right health care coverage for you SSI and SSDI. By clicking in all programs, you’ll be able to have another access to the Benefits and Work Estimator. We’ll also have information about cash benefits and health care coverage. We’ll come back to these also. Back to our homepage, we’re going to scroll down past cash and health programs into young people section. This pulls out three articles talking about options to help you enter into adulthood, information that helps support young people going to work and section for parents. By clicking in on all youth, you’ll able to have access to the School and Work Estimator, and then articles specifically to help young people understand education and work goals to make them part of their plan for their future. There’s also five articles specifically for parents. We’ll come back to these.

>> After the young people section, there’s a section specifically about COVID-19, where you have up-to-date accurate information from state and federal resources. Below that is in the news, which is Twitter feeds that allow you to have information about upcoming trainings from Social Security, or any new information that is seen important for individuals who use DB101. Along the bottom of AZ DB101, you have access back to the homepage, about section and a glossary, where you have access to all definitions used within DB101. Anytime you see a blue word, you should be able to click that and get directly to that glossary section. We also have a feedback section where if there’s any information you feel is inaccurate or you need direct feedback, contact through the feedback. We also have all our access to printing and sharing. And again, feedback is this little comment box.

>> Going back to the top of AZ DB101. You notice as I’ve gone through, this blue question circle has been following me. This is access to additional help. If you need help, you can get help through the Arizona Work Incentive Consultants at Ability360. These are individuals who will be able to answer your questions not only on helping you on DB101, if you have a challenge, a question or need clarification, these are the people who are there to help you. They’re also direct access to the Work Incentive Planning and Assistance free benefit counseling. So you do not have to be an expert on any benefits. These are the people who are going to be there to support you along the way.

>> On the homepage of AZ DB101, you can see how work and benefits go together. In the first panel, there are three articles pulled out, see how benefits support work, finding the programs that help you find work, and saving while working. We’re going to go to the first pulled up article, see how benefits support work. This leads us directly to getting past the myths. These are great articles for helping you become comfortable with sharing information and getting rid of those myths. There are seven basic myths. I can’t work. If I work, I lose my SSI or SSDI. By work, I’m going to lose my benefits. I’m going to lose my disability status. People can’t help me find work. I can’t afford to work. Or my benefits will stop, and I’ll never get them back again. These are some basic fears. If we can get past the basic fear with correct information, we’ll be able to help people move to a more financially empowered life, aka, work.

>> So we can go in and learn about the basics, where it talks about Social Security, those seven myths, why do you need to know this information, and very short paragraphs on what is SSI, what is SSDI and helping people decide if they’re ready even to go to work. You can go into any of these articles and get some basic information. Now, we know one of the main fears is people are fearful of losing their health care benefits. So let’s go into that myth. So if I work, I’ll lose my health benefits. What I love about the myths articles is it’s not just information, it’s actually a script. In the blue box, here, we’ll have a conversation that someone might have had with you, talking about their ongoing health care needs, and then never going to be able to pay for them by themselves. And people tell them, they shouldn’t work. We know this is what people are being told.

>> And in response to this very valid concern about health care, you have a script to follow. Right here, the first paragraph is literally a script for you to read. You can read this until you feel confident with the information you’re providing. So when an individual says I can’t go to work because I’m going to lose my health care, you can come back and read this and tell them, losing your health care benefits can be a huge concern if you’re thinking about going to work. However several programs can help you keep your health care benefits when you go to work. Some jobs will offer employer sponsored health care benefits. But for some people, that may not be enough. Some people may want to also keep their Medicare or their AHCCCS benefits.

>> It then goes on and talks about the importance about knowing the difference between different health care coverages and then pulls out small paragraphs to explain Medicare, Medicare at work, AHCCCS, 1619(b), AHCCCS Freedom to Work programs, and private and public health care coverage. It can then take you into more in depth articles so that you can learn more about it within the healthcare section. But what this does is it gives you enough information to feel confident in sharing what you’re being told. And this section is very helpful for getting specific information right to the point stop people right in their tracks when they start talking about these myths and help you feel confident in sharing and talking about the information.

>> Back on the homepage. In our first panel of see how working benefits go together, we’re going to go into all work and benefit tab. It pulls out an article talking about being interested in work and programs that support work, which leads us right into the basic information to talk about to get to work and work incentives and vocational rehab and one-stop centers. So very specific information on where to find that help and those assistance and supports. Within the work and benefits section underneath the first panel is two sections, one on going to work, learning how to make work part of your plan. And the other is about your money, and how to build your asset and save money. And most people think about people who live in poverty, stating they cannot save money, because they don’t have the money to save. When in fact, these are the people who need to save money. We need to be able to support them and give them the resources to help them move forward.

>> So within going to work section, you have the myth, which we’ve just went through. You also have finding the right job for you, knowing your rights and responsibility, job supports and accommodations, managing your benefits while working and a going to work toolbox. In the going to work section, my favorite article is Finding the Right Job for You. This article has so much information to help people actually think about prepare for going to work. Anyone who’s working with any type of employment services should have this marked as their favorite. So let’s click and add that to our favorites. It’ll now be part of My DB101 as we move forward. Finding the right job for you, we have some basic information about apprenticeships, customize employment, and talk about if you’re ready to go work and then give suggestions based on those simple questions.

>> What Kind of Job is Right for You? Again, my favorite, provides interest inventories, self-assessment and personal inventories to help people understand their interests, their likes, their dislikes. There are quizzes and worksheets that you can be linked to, to help people think about what makes them happy. If you give someone a job … Let me try that differently. If you even help someone get a job, you’re going to help them get another job and another job, and another job. But what we really want to do is we want to help people get a career. And that career comes from the passion they have, the dreams they have. So let’s talk about what really interests them, so that they want to get up and go to work. So these interest inventories are very helpful with that aspect.

>> You can learn about job priorities and overcoming obstacles and a personal inventory worksheet. We talk about self-assessment, and we link you to the program called MyPerfectResume, where you can add information about their work history and be able to create the perfect resume for this individual. Maybe the functional resume because they’ve had gaps in employment. We talk about how to connect to the career one-stops in the career exploration pages, how to talk to career counselors, and how to address your personal needs. There’s a personal needs assessment through the Job Accommodation Network or JAN. We talk about what are reasonable accommodations, and how to request them either in writing or verbally. We provide information from the Americans with Disabilities Act, and there’s also some really good resources from the Arizona Center for Disability Law.

>> We then talk about matching those interests and those strengths that they have with job opportunities. So finding those careers. So going to the O*NET network to connect to find out what are those careers that are out there. A lot of different resources to do that. And then you can even look at the future of those jobs. You can go down to if someone’s interest says that they are interested in working with animals, you can then go and see what are the projection and what are types of different types of jobs of working with animals. And then even take that down to what is the growing area regarding working with animals in let’s say, Tempe. It will be that specific. And we can say, what is the earnings potentials? Because we know that’s an important factor when working with people.

>> So this article itself would be able to provide a complete overview of people’s interest and strength, and then what are careers that match it and what is the projection for those. So how much better would it be instead of going to vocational rehab and say, I want to get a job and vocational rehab going through all these assessments and working with them. How much better would it be if somebody walked in and said, I want this kind of job. These are the skills I need. This is the education I need. And this is the projection growth in the area I want to work. How more empowering is that? This is why I love this article, What Kind of Job is Right for You?

>> We can then go and explore the different options. Maybe they need to have some job shadowing, so how to do that. How to connect to job fairs. And talking about the difference between traditional work, part time work, customized work or even self-employment. We then give options about how to build those skills through education and training, entrepreneurship, job shadow winning, et cetera, and strategies for seeking employment. So we talked about the self-advocacy and job seeking skills. Again, linking to additional resources, including the ARIZONA@WORK and our Arizona Job Connection and One-Stop Job Center. Talk about different types of courses and trainings that are offered through these one-stops to increase people’s skill center, as well as vocational rehab services. So how to link to whatever vocational rehab services are closest to the individual.

>> The next steps, pull out those resources that we’ve been talking about, including ARIZONA@WORK, vocational rehab, and at the bottom of the 2-1-1, we have additional resources, including evaluations for assistive technology, and employment preparation and resume preparation assistance. So great article, Finding the Right Job for You, and supporting those employment goals. We’re going to go back into our work and benefits section. We can learn about rights and responsibilities. This will address the Americans with Disability Act, talk about discrimination. How do we address it, how to identify it. So some very basic information about rights and responsibilities.

>> Job Supports and Accommodations go more in depth into the Americans with Disabilities Act. And starts talking about, should someone disclose their disability? When should they disclose it? And how should they disclose it? So in that article, it’ll have information, how to talk to someone, how to write, including a sample letter requesting accommodations. Talks about what is reasonable accommodations, how to request those accommodations, and that interactive process, as well as the different types of accommodations which might be available. Then the frequently asked questions, I think is very useful in finding out some of the basic information about accommodations and some of the pitfalls people have.

>> One of the things I prefer is going into the next steps where all of that is capsulated for you. In the next steps, it encapsulates all the resources that have been in throughout those articles, including the Job Accommodation Network, a very useful website to help you understand wealth of information about accommodation. It will explain more about just closing disabilities, more legal responsibilities, or legal responses. But it also talks about common accommodations. People think about accommodations as large expenses. And in fact, sometimes they’re free, and majority are under $500. So you can go through and you can see based on someone’s disabilities or needs, what is a possible accommodation. That also can help you understand what might be an impairment related work expense to help people go to work and earn more money.

>> So if an accommodation is something someone has to pay out of their pocket due to their disability going to work, it can be an impairment related work expense. You can also help people understand that work is possible by showing them the wealth of accommodations that are available to them. In the next steps, we also have Assistive Technology in Arizona, to be able to learn about how to have access to different technology and assisted equipment that people can use, rent and test to see what works best for them. And how do you pay for these accommodations? Either themselves or someone else, it’s all explained within these articles. So a very useful article. It also then talks about the protection aspect. So if someone is discriminated against, what are their legal rights and how to connect to those groups, like the Arizona Center for Disability Law.

>> The next article is about managing your benefits while going to work. So this is an encapsulated article about the different work incentives. So while there is the full article on SSI and SSDI that we will talk about, it gives you a shortcut about, say, the effect of SSI/SSDI so that you can get right to the point, but then it will lead you intro why deeper conversation. So you can learn about the work incentives, maybe a little bit about an ABLE account. And as you can see, it will lead you to a deeper conversation. So the safety nets in your health care. All these are short, quick paragraphs. So you don’t have to learn everything about SSI, you can read this article, get some basic information to help support your learning skills to be able to know where to go in DB101 to get more information.

>> So it also talks about healthcare and reporting your income and asset building assets. It also talks about maintaining your healthcare, reporting your income and maybe building those assets. So in reporting your income, very simple way, there are reporting articles, both in SSI and SSDI. So you can also go here and learn about how to report your benefits in a lot of different ways. How to report them to Social Security, as well as DES. In the Going to Work Toolbox article, we talk about how to keep organized. So how to report to Social Security and DES, and then how do you organize that so that you know what you reported, when reported and how you reported it. Very important.

>> Benefit planning is not just about understanding what’s going to happen to the benefits, it’s also organizing the paper records. We have not only the organizational tips, but downloadable templates to help you with this. So there is a job search log, there are tracking sheets, there are how did you report your earnings to SSI or SSDI earnings? So these forms can be downloaded, filled out and then organized. So great tools throughout DB101 beyond the basic articles. Now let’s go into your money within the work and benefits section. Here we’ll cover building your asset and wealth, ABLE accounts, achieving a better life experience, individual development accounts, plan to achieve self-support or a PASS plan, earned income tax credits, home ownership for people with disabilities and starting a small business.

>> Within the building your asset and wealth articles, you’ll learn about why assets matter, ABLE accounts, individual development accounts again, other asset building programs which include PASS plans, tax credits and tools and trust funds. So you go into let’s say trust funds. Here you can learn about other types of trust funds. So difference between a special needs trust funds, and how trust funds can work very well with maybe even an ABLE account. So a great way to be understand some of this information about how to help people save money. We also have within this section, of course, your example, frequently asked questions, pitfalls, and next steps.

>> You can go directly into the ABLE account and learn about how achieving A Better Life Experience Account or an ABLE account can be set up. These are highly underutilized and really should be encouraged, so that individuals who have a resource limit of say, when you have SSI of only $2,000, how they can actually save up to $100,000 and not have it affect their resources. That’s the importance of an ABLE account. An ABLE account allows individuals to save money without it impacting resource based benefits, such as SSI, Medicaid, or AHCCCS, HUD or even food stamps.

>> So you can learn about what it is, how to open an account, qualifications, and how to compare. You do not have to only be in Arizona to utilize an ABLE account. You can utilize account in other states. And each state has slightly different rules, so shop around. It talks about how to deposit the money and talk about how to spend the money. One of the things, and again, how an ABLE account and especially a trust can go together. One of the things people worry about is an ABLE account, what can I spend my money for? An ABLE account means achieving a better life experience.

>> So in Arizona, an individual has onset of a disability prior to the age of 26 can use these ABLE accounts for basically anything that helps them feel better about their life. If watching Netflix increases their life, and it’s achieving a better life experience, then they can use their ABLE account money for that. So, it is a great way to save money to avoid the $2,000 resource limit, to allow individuals to save quite a bit of money. And in fact, you can have $15,000 deposited every year by anyone. And if someone goes to work, they can actually increase how much money they can have. They can include an additional, an Arizona, $12,760 of their earned income, which means a job, into an ABLE account without it being considered above the resource limit.

>> The other thing about an ABLE account that is really wonderful is an ABLE account is managed by the individual, which means they have access to the money and become empowered and are not dependent on another. In a trust, they do not have access to their own money. But a trust fund and ABLE account can work really well together. There are some downfalls to an ABLE account, so learning more about it, really helpful. Encouraging people to open up these accounts. No more than $50 to open up an ABLE account in Arizona. You could also learn about individual development accounts to maybe help with buying a home or other asset development. You can also learn about individual development accounts maybe to help with saving up for a business, higher education or a home. And a PASS plan.

>> PASS plan is a plan to achieve self-support, are very helpful for individuals specifically on SSI, to help them work towards a work goal, help them work off of benefits without it impacting their resource limits. So within this article, we learn about the basics, the eligibility and the application itself, how to set money aside in the PASS plan, how to suspend or terminate a PASS plan, how to self-employment PASS plan. This is what’s important. A PASS plan can be used for multiple things. They’re very detailed plans. The money can only be used for that plan to help with either an employment or vocational goal that will help people eventually work themselves off of SSI. People on SSDI with very low SSDI, benefits can also utilize a PASS plan.

>> PASS plans can be created by anyone. So very helpful. We not only talk about the eligibility in the application, but we also give examples of successful PASS plans so people can utilize it for expenses, maybe like college expenses, or a work goal of starting a new job and getting those resources they need for a new job, or even starting their own business. So very helpful, very highly underutilized. We also talk about earned income tax credit. I’m not going to go into that specific one. But people don’t realize that people on benefits should be filing taxes because they might be getting money back. So let’s talk about Earned Income Tax Credits with the individuals.

>> Home ownership is something that most people with disabilities think is not a possibility. This article allows people to understand things they can and cannot control about home ownership. It’s not only Section 8 home ownerships, but it’s also about different ways you could actually earn a home. And in the next steps, it talks about public housing, but it also talks about other programs that are there to support people, maybe in their first home, programs that help specifically people with disabilities, and because of our particular time, perhaps they need for closure prevention. So there’s help to support people to not only get a home, but to maintain the home they’re in including, as we go down further, perhaps dealing with home barriers or removal services, which means home modification. So how do we modify a home so individuals can live with in their home and not move into any type of congregated settings.

>> One of the things I love is that AZ DB101 has a Starting a Small Business article. So it talks about, is it right for you to be self-employed and start your own business, and how to even develop a business plan. Something we are never taught in employment services, how to develop a business plan. So it has breakdowns of all the sections of the business plan and resources to connect you to how to do that appropriately, including how to raise money and save money for your business. Below the articles within work and benefits, we’ve also pulled out a couple additional articles, programs that support work, the Social Security Ticket to Work, and the work incentive articles so that you have them readily available to support going to work and saving money.

>> When most people think about AZ DB101, they think about the estimators. And while the estimators are awesome and incredible tools, they are merely only a piece of AZ DB101. I wanted this training to focus more on the tools around the estimators. So for more in depth training, there is a training specifically on how to use the estimators including the mini estimators. We’re going to quickly just touch on them in this training. The second panel of our homepage shows the benefit planning estimators. AZ DB101 has three estimators. The Benefit and Work Estimator, which is for individuals over the age of 18 using SSI and SSDI. They have the School and Work estimator for people under the age of 18 only on SSI, and the AHCCCS Freedom to Work estimator, which is about Medicaid buy-in. We talk about potential eligibility and potential premium payments.

>> The estimators are very easy to use. You simply answer the questions and it will help you understand the impact of employment on health care and cash benefits. As an example, in the benefit and work section, it explains who was at for. It talks about gathering the information you need. The main focus is knowing the correct information, SSI/SSDI benefits, what are their work goals. There’s no private or identifying information within DB101 and nothing is ever shared with any organization. So like I said, you simply follow the questions. Name it, enter some basic information, the month and year of the individual. This is simply find out how close they are to full retirement or if they can utilize other work incentives for people who are younger. Answering the questions about household information, about their plan, and you get the results.

>> We’re going to go back to our homepage. And I’m going to go into My DB101 to get a previously saved session to show you how they look. So I answered the simple questions and what I got my results, which allows me to explain the complexity of say someone in this case, who’s co-current, which means they receive SSI and SSDI payments. They have HUD housing and nutritional assistance. And I’m able to show what happens if they go to work. I believe this person was going to work at $14 an hour. I can find that out by going to my plan recap and find out what information that I put in. So I had this individual receiving the housing assistance with some work history, some trial work history. And they’re going to be working at $15 an hour full time at targets, name of the job I gave them.

>> They have Impairment-Related Work Expenses even. You have what is their SSI and SSDI benefits, and now their health care. And we’re able, because we answered the questions, to be able to get these results and their monthly income goes up. We’re able to show how their benefits change over time. We’re able to show even though this person will lose their SSI and SSDI cash benefits and their nutritional assistance cash benefits, they still have considerably more money $2,610 compared to their $934 previously. And they get to maintain their health care coverage. And in fact, they have additional health care coverage available because they’re going to have private health care through their employer as well as our Medicare and Medicaid.

>> Then it goes in explains the bottom line to help people understand what they’re talking about, about their benefits, how they will go to zero. How their rent will increase but not at a fast rate. We’re able to suggest ABLE accounts and suggest they go through monthly income expenses, their next steps and talk to an expert. Again, here’s your expert. It goes into explaining information about substantial gainful activity, 1619(b) and perhaps a PASS plan. All this is foreign language to you. But you can easily click on a button anytime and learn about what is substantial gainful activity. So simply reading this information to someone is very helpful.

>> It talks about underneath your chart, the timeline shows every month when there’s a change, anytime there’s a significant change. So going to the timeline is the best way to explain any of these benefits. So you can go through and explain when they’re going to happen, what’s going to happen. Again, if you don’t understand the terminology of a trial work month, click and it gives you the information right there. So very useful. And then you can go into the full articles that we’ve been talking about and going to talk about to be able to support this information. You can also go in the monthly income and go month by month to understand everything that’s going to happen, including taxes. All these include next steps. And you can create a report, a PDF report. You can also save them, give feedback, and you can email the report to say your case manager or family member, whoever is in your circle of support.

>> So, again, more in depth training is available in the estimator training. There’s also a School and Work estimator. Again, these are going to be covered more in depth. But let me show you a result through My DB101. I went through, I answered a couple simple questions. There’s considerably less questions for young people. And I’m able to show that they received $210 in SSI. And then they went to work, minimum wage for 10 hours, and they were able to then increase their earnings from 210 to $738.52. Here’s their income and how they maintain their SSI benefit due to what’s called Student Earned Income Exclusion.

>> You don’t have to remember that because it explains it right here for you about how Student Earned Income Exclusion helps individuals who are under the age of 22 going to school part time receiving SSI. We’re able to show the change in their monthly income. And in the next steps on these results, it provides not only information to help on the next steps, it explains what happens to their health care, their cash benefits. And it starts talking about planning for work and school, taking you into the articles that support this information.

>> The next estimator is the AHCCCS Freedom to Work. And I was able to go in and with some very, I think there’s four questions here, answer and find out that this individual appears to qualify for AHCCCS Freedom to Work, which is a Medicaid buy-in, and they will pay no more than $25 a month. Individuals, either an SSI and SSDI, have the ability to buy-in to Medicaid, if their earnings are above what AHCCCS, Medicaid, is in Arizona. So very useful way. You do not lose health care in Arizona. There are ways to get health care and maintain it. So you can do a quick estimator, learn about AHCCCS Freedom to Work and then how do you sign up. And the application is right here to help you move forward,

>> Those are the three estimators on AZ DB101. Again, I just told you what they were. I didn’t go in depth because there is a specific training completely dedicated to these three estimators as well as the mini estimators within the SSI and work, and SSDI and work. Go into that full training, it’s going to give you all the information you need about the benefit estimators. Let’s look at cash and health programs. There are three articles pulled out, finding right health care coverage for you, learn about SSI, or learn about SSDI. These articles are also within the All Programs button. By clicking there, you have access to every program regarding cash benefits or health coverage. There’s also another access to the Benefit and Work estimator.

>> Underneath cash benefits is an article on What Benefits Do I Get. This helps individuals understand the difference between SSI or SSDI. It also helps you understand how to get access to a Benefits Planning Query. A Benefits Planning Query is a document from Social Security that allows individuals to understand what their earning history is if they get Medicaid or Medicare, if they get SSI or SSDI. You can contact your local social security, right here, and get that information. This information must be obtained by the individual requesting it and not a third-party. They will charge for third party inquiries.

>> My Social Security is a Social Security online tool that helps people have access to the information that Social Security has about them. You can attain all the same information within My Social Security online account. You must set up an account with your own personal identifying information to be able to access an online account through My Social Security. We also have access to mymedicare.gov which allows people to understand what parts of Medicare do they have.

>> Back to the all program section. Cash benefits include information about SSI, SSDI, short term disability, long term disability, housing benefits, and cash assistance, as well as nutritional assistance. We’re going to go back up and we’re going to look at SSI, Supplemental Security Income. In SSI we have how to apply for benefits, understanding SSA decisions, how to report changes, how to talk about disability determination, resource and income limits, how SSI counts your income, SSI and work. There’s always an example where it’s a story that talks about how someone is working through that program, frequently asked questions and pitfalls.

>> Let’s go into apply for benefits. It will provide information on qualifications for citizens and non-citizens, including how to apply with direct links to offices, phone calls, you can apply directly online by clicking here. And what it will do is it will take you to the Social Security website where you can apply. But we also have information about how to get ready for your application. This includes a checklist that allows individuals to understand the complexity and all the documentation that is necessary to be able to apply for SSI. There’s also access to other recommendations of different programs while you’re waiting for your SSI application to be reviewed, including AHCCCS, nutritional assistance or cash assistance.

>> You could also learn more about PASS plans or health care. So on the bottom of each section is more suggestions that support the topic you’re looking at. I’m going back to the top of the page. You can also get information to understand the decisions and report changes. Within the report changes, it’s very important to make sure the beneficiaries are reporting stuff in a timely manner. So it talks about what to report as well as how to report it. There are different options including an app to be able to report your SSI benefits. There’s also opportunities. They have little tools. So there’s a little tool button that lets you know that there are certain articles that have additional tools like, How SSI Counts Your Income.

>> You’ll learn about the difference between earned and unearned income. And then we have countable income calculations, which are very detailed. But then you can also go in anytime there’s a tool that’s going to be within a yellow box, and you can try these tools to determine what is accountable income. And they do all the math for you, so you don’t have to understand the complexity of what is above that tool. Back to the top. One of the main articles you’re going to utilize a lot is the SSI and Work article. SSI and Work article provides all the information to help people understand what’s going to happen to their benefits if they go to work. So it explains some of the information. There is also a quick estimator, which I’ll come back in a moment.

>> There’s information available to help you explain Social Security complexity to individuals without being an expert. So we have encouragement throughout this to talk about how rules of SSI help individuals actually earn more money. How not all your expenses are accountable. Then it explains work incentives. Work incentives are rules created by Social Security to encourage and support individuals to go to work. There is an additional training on SSI and SSDI to help you understand how to utilize AZ DB101 to explain complexity of these work incentives. But for now, let’s continue through these options.

>> We’ll also learn how you could actually save money on SSI, learning about ABLE accounts. AZ DB101 is redundant. You can find your information in different ways in different bites. So here’s a small bite about ABLE accounts. Small bite about planning to achieve self-support. These are programs to help people save money beyond a $2,000 resource limit. We also have individual development accounts to help with maybe a housing. We then start explaining the Ticket to Work program where there’s job training and help people find the work they want. We talk about the eligibility of the Ticket to Work program and how to access it. The Ticket to Work and the Work Incentives are different programs. They’re often intertwined, but they’re totally different. The Work Incentives are rules to help people go to work. The Ticket to Work program is support to help people go to work or maintain work.

>> It talks about what if you need SSI again? That fear that people have that if they go to work and they lose their benefits due to earnings, they won’t get them back. This helps you explain if they need to get their SSI back again. And then we have small bites on health coverage rules. So we’re able to explain 1619(b) which means people are still eligible for their benefits, even if they don’t receive their cash benefits. We talk about AHCCCS Freedom to Work, which is our Medicaid buy-in Arizona, and other health care options. Throughout, you can see, you can learn more about at the bottom of each article to take you into the full more detailed article.

>> Back to our table of contents. And go to that tool that I talked about. So one of the tools with SSI in work is one of the main tools I believe a lot of people will be utilizing. To me, it’s the quickest and fastest way to help people motivate towards employment. There’s a full training on how to utilize this tool within the estimator training video. But I want to quickly show you a try it. You can simply go in and put in the person’s benefits. Answer simple questions. Again, full training is available on this. And then calculate what their earnings would be, knowing what they’re earning wages. So let’s say somebody is making 12.15 an hour, minimum wage, no tips and working let’s say minimum wage. We want people to go as much as they want. But let’s start at the basics for this conversation.

>> We’re able to show that individuals are making $1,057.05. We can use those results, not using any of our work incentives. We can continue. With answering only a few questions, you’re able to get a snapshot to let people know they’ll have more money. We have a visual graph to be able to show them the unearned income they have right now, a 794, their working income of over $1,057, and the reduction of their SSI benefit to $307.98. So you’re able to show visually the impact work has on income. You can go down and show the income change is $571.03. I like to use the minimum wage at part time as a starting point in discussions instead of asking people if they want to go to work and try to argue with them about benefits.

>> I can ask someone, what would you do with an additional $571? Have that conversation. Find out what they would do. Would they live differently? Would they eat differently? Would they have different entertainment? How would their life change with an additional $571? Once you’ve talked about what would change, you then say, let me show you how that’s possible. And do an SSI quick estimator and show them that it’s possible. You can also then show them that the bottom line is that their earnings are more than offset the reduction of the SSI check. I don’t like to say that word reduction when talking to people about their benefits. So I like to tell them, for every $2 you earn, you get to keep $1 of your SSI check, that equals the reduction.

>> You’re also able to show them in this quick snapshot, how they are still eligible for their free AHCCCS, and it talks about the resource limit. It also then suggest them reaching out to a work incentive consultant and going in and doing a full benefit work estimator when they’re done. Remember, work incentive consultants are available through the little circle, and your benefit and work estimator is explained in more detail and additional training. Back at our program section and going down to our SSDI. The SSDI article is set up exactly like your SSI. You start with your basics, how to apply, understanding decision and reporting. We also go into additional information if someone is insured. And if they have a disability, according to Social Security.

>> The SSDI and work have a tool icon. And so clicking into there, you will also have exactly the same type of information explaining the complexity of what would happen to someone’s benefits if they go to work. It starts explaining the work incentives and general formation. We have a quick estimator tool here as well. This full training on how to utilize the quick the estimate for SSDI is available in the estimator training session. We go into the different phases of work, trial work period, extended period, eligibility, et cetera. This additional information will be available in the SSI and SSDI specific training. Let’s go into housing.

>> Housing isn’t just about Section 8, though, we do talk about Section 8, how to apply and how Section 8 works. But there’s also other rental supports, as well as home ownership support. So supports to help people with rental assistance or maybe foreclosure prevention. We also have information about earned income disregard, which helps people understand if they’re in a housing program, how their subsidies for that program will not increase as much as their income goes up. We also have sections on examples, frequently asked questions, pitfalls, and again, next steps. Let’s go into this next steps to show you the complexity that can be in it.

>> We have information directly related to HUD. We have information directly to public housing authorities, including how to get their information directly online, assistance for helping with utility bills, finding affordable apartments, information about foreclosure prevention and making homes affordable. We also have how to apply for housing assistance, several phone numbers and direct links. The bottom underneath the 2-1-1, we have additional information on how to help with rental assistance, maybe some general mental health counseling or benefit counseling screening, residential placement services for people with disabilities including group residential homes, and also how to remove barriers for home modification and mortgage payment assistance. So a lot of information available within this housing section.

>> We’re back to our program section. Underneath housing is information about cash assistance, TANF, as well as nutritional assistance, known as food stamps, that’ll help people apply for these benefits, understand these benefits and the eligibility, and then a frequently asked questions, including how to get directly to the application process themselves. Now, let’s move to the health coverage section. Finding the right healthcare coverage for you is a great mini tool. This tool can be utilized for individuals on benefits or off benefits. People with or without a disability. You can simply go in and put in the annual earnings for the family. And the size of the family.

>> Let’s say this is a family of three, we have a grandmother, a mother and a daughter all living together. Questions are simple. Does anyone in your family have a job that offers them with healthcare? No. Are there any children in the family? Yes. Is anyone in your family on Medicare now? Yes, grandma? Does anyone in your family have a disability determination? Yes, the child. Is anyone your family over 65? Yes, the grandmother. And we go down and see the options. When you click on the show results, you’re able to get a graph showing what kind of health care is available for this family. Anything in green is what’s available. So it’s broken into employment, income, disability income and age disability.

>> We’re able to show that this family is potentially eligible for kids care. By hovering over, we’re able to find that kids care is free public coverage for low income children. We’re able to see the limit for a family of three. We could go up, change the size of our family, let’s say there’s four people in our family, show those options. Hover over kid cares, and the income limit changes to a family of four. So it’s very specific about this family. I can click into kid care and takes me directly to an article about it. I’m going to go back to my tool and show you that underneath the graph is also learning more about the information. And it breaks each section down where you can go directly into it. So you can go into learning about each of these sections. So if I wanted to know more about disability-based AHCCCS, simply click in and I’m taken to that full article. Going back to my program section.

>> Going back to the program section, underneath health coverage, we have information about AHCCCS, which is our Medicaid and Arizona, AHCCCS for people with disabilities. There’s some times there … Going back to our program. We’re able to show under health coverage, we have AHCCCS and AHCCCS for people with disabilities. These are two different programs. People can receive AHCCCS, which is Medicaid due to low income, but they can also receive it because of their disability. We also have an article on AHCCCS Freedom to Work which is our Medicaid buy-in, information on Medicare, employer sponsored health care and buying into health care coverage on healthcare.gov.

>> I’m going to take you into AHCCCS Freedom to Work. This is one of the programs that very few people know about. AHCCCS Freedom to Work, it’s a Medicaid buy-in. It directly takes us into our basics. Information as in all articles. Then we have tools to help you and more information to find out is AHCCCS Freedom right for you, what it covers what you pay and how to sign up. Your example, your frequently asked questions, your pitfalls, and your next steps. Your frequently asked questions on the AHCCCS Freedom to Work, I think are very helpful. AHCCCS Freedom to Work allows individuals to buy into Medicaid and pay no more than $35 a month. They can earn over 65,000 a year and have Medicaid by simply utilizing this tool.

>> It talks about, it’s confusing. How do I get help. So that brings you directly to all the people that can help you to understand AHCCCS Freedom to Work. You don’t have to be the expert. The experts are readily available right there. Where can you sign up? Who is eligible? What does it cover? How much can I make? What is countable income? So this allows you understand that an individual who is earning over 4,000 a month and no other income, that would be considered countable income. Anything above that would allow people to buy-into AHCCCS Freedom to Work as opposed to just having regular AHCCCS. Then talks you through the whole process to help people understand this complexity. We also have a tool to understand what you will pay. That is your AHCCCS Freedom to Work estimator, which we go through in an additional training.

>> Back to our programs. So we also talk about employer sponsored health care, as well as how to hook up with health care through healthcare.gov. This is helpful to anyone to be able to sign up for Affordable Care Act. So it talks about is right for you, how to pay and how to sign up. So I’ll talk you through the whole process about open enrollment, it will change any of the dates of when open enrollment is, any special enrollment issues, and how to set it up. Back to our programs. So you can see a lot of information is available right in this article to help you understand the complexity of benefits without you having to know all the information. You can simply research it through here, search for it at the top and find the information you need to support individuals and provide the information they need to go to work.

>> AZ DB101 was very fortunate to have a full youth section. This section is not only helpful for young people, but also for people who are transitioning into independence, not just transitioning into adulthood. Let’s look at this section. See what makes the biggest difference for young people. I have three articles pulled out. One on options as you enter adulthood, another one how benefits support young people going to work and articles specifically for parents. Let’s click the All Youth button. We now have a quick AHCCCS to the School and Work estimator. Young people in benefit sections include benefits for young, people start planning now, getting a higher education, finding a job, working and an article about Eric Goes to College, which is an example article to show how benefits work together.

>> In the benefits for young people section, we have the basics. Why benefits matter, key programs, eligibility for key programs, SSI eligibility for young people, AHCCCS eligibility for young people, AHCCCS Freedom to Work eligibility for young people, private health care and other programs and next steps. This provides some very good information to help people understand the complexity of benefits and young people. There are some very key programs that are different when someone is under the age of 18 and change drastically when they do turn 18. So this will provide a full overview.

>> We’re back into the young people section and we’re going to start planning now. In the start planning now section, there is a lot of great information for young people to move into independence. There’s also great information for anyone else who is moving into a more independent setting, or trying to find out more about their stuff and their options. articles within this section include how to understand yourself, how to communicate with your family and friends about your wants and your needs, learning about new responsibilities and how to handle your healthcare, how to manage Personal Care Assistance, options on moving out on your own, how to talk to your family, your friends, your communities, learning your new responsibilities.

>> And while these are responsibilities about moving into adulthood, these are also responsibilities to help everybody learned about managing money, tracking your money, paying bills, dealing with credit, avoiding debt, talking about the poverty and dealing with your benefit and financial planning. Some very basic information to get people starting to think more in depth about their financial needs. You can also learn about handling your health care. How do you talk to your doctor? What do you know about your disability? The Living on Your Own article has information about housing options, finding affordable housing, even information about finding a roommate and for individuals who have never rented before, some basic questions to help them understand the relationship between them and their landlord.

>> So very good information including a new responsibility checklist. And while it says after high school, I plan to live X, Y, Z, it also can be used for helping people think about what are they going to do to live independently. Will they need a personal care assistance? Do they need assistance with any of their functional daily activities? Do they drive? How are they going to get to really want to go? Speaking of independent living, in the Understanding Yourself Article, you move down a little bit past the Disability Worksheet, learning about the difference between a medical and social model, help people become empowered and start making their own decision.

>> So self-determination, independent living philosophies, speaking about what are independent living centers, explaining Ed Roberts and Independent Living Movement, which will also allow you to be able to connect with the independent living centers throughout Arizona. There are five independent living centers that can help with a wealth of information to help people live independently. Remember, independent doesn’t mean alone. It means finding the right support resources to live the life you want. One of those independent living centers is Ability360, which as we spoke about, is the Work Incentive Consultants that have been following us. And while this may not be a work incentive question, you can contact the Work Incentive Consultants to connect directly to Independent Living and maybe get some information and resources.

>> Getting a higher education, while it’s directed towards young people, can be very useful for anyone who’s going to school. You can learn about the difference between community colleges and universities, helping you understand where you want to study, help you figure out the application process, how to fill out applications, how to fund your education, including how to fill out Pell Grants, scholarships, and financial funding. It talks about getting a job while at school, and other financial considerations to think about, including debt that might come about when going to school. We also talk about the right accommodations for people in school, like how to use the Disability Resource Center.

>> We’re going back in finding a job section. Finding the job will provide whether you want to work or not. So even talking about that decision about work, deciding what to look for, getting that experience, finding a job and how to apply for a job. So some very basic skills of, again, focus for young people, very helpful for individuals who are moving into their first job. Working article, again, very useful for basic information on your first job. It even explains what FICA is, and how to explain what’s going on with the paycheck. Throughout all of this, there has been next steps to be able to provide additional resources, including how to connect to your one-stop centers, rehabilitation are always offered at the end of the articles.

>> I’m going back into our youth section. Moving into the parents focus, there are five articles to help parents understand the complexity of Social Security and independence for their child who happens to have a disability. So the articles are Four Ways Benefits Support Work, Work is Possible, Making Work Part of the Plan, Turning 18 and Managing Benefits. Four Ways Benefits Support Work provides basic information to understand AHCCCS and how a job plus SSI provides more money, how their child can save money, and how their child can stay connected to SSI. We want to remember we don’t want to tell people they’re going to keep their benefits. If someone is on SSI, they will have a reduction by going to work have their cash benefits. What we want to do is help them stay connected to their SSI, so if they need to increase the benefits they can and they maintain their health care.

>> We talked about how work is possible. So helping parents understand the myths. Don’t Believe the Myths have three of the main myths that a lot of parents worry about. The fact that their child won’t be hired because of their disability. Or they can’t work because of their disability. Or they’re going to stop getting their benefits because of a job. These provide you some basic information and lead you into more in depth articles for parents. Making Work Part of the Plan talks about how to get everyone on the same plan. To be able to talk about an individual education program or IEP, makes sure everyone understands, work is the goal, and how to bring everyone together to focus on that. So very useful and exploring different ways to help with self-confidence, independent living skills, the IEP program itself.

>> In the next steps, it brings you into learn more on DB101 which will take you to deeper articles for parents to look at. So it’s very great to be able to give them a checklist. These are some things to think about to help support that decision to go to work. Back on the youth page. We also have Turning 18. This article explains how rules change when someone turns 18. The SSI rules and the AHCCCS rules do change. Some benefits end and others start. This goes through that complexity and helps people understand the redetermination and what they need to help with that process.

>> The last parent article is Managing Benefits. This is a reduced discussion on benefits specifically towards young people. So it provides some basic information. It talks about reporting to SSI and reporting the AHCCCS, and will lead you into more in depth conversations that lead you back to the SSI and SSDI articles we’ve already talked about. On the youth page, underneath the articles, we pulled out three additional articles that we think will be helpful to be successful at work, including ABLE Accounts, Finding the Right Job for You, Job Supports and Accommodations. All of this is all under the youth tab or on the homepage in the youth panel.

>> And that concludes the AZ DB101 overview. Remember, you have additional trainings on estimators including the mini estimators and also how to use AZ DB101 to understand SSI and SSDI work incentives. AZ DB101 is there to support you in the work that you do. You can access AZ DB101 at az.db101.org.

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What’s Up WID: Latinx Disability Community & Access to Education

Ashley Inkumsah:
Hello everyone and welcome back to What’s Up with the World Institute on Disability’s biweekly podcast, where we discuss what’s up in the disability community across the globe. I’m Ashley Inkumsah and I’m so happy to be taking over hosting duties from the incomparable Nicholas Love. Now I’m super excited for you to hear the awesome conversation I had last week with Conchita Hernandez. Conchita is the founder and chair of Mentoring, Engaging and Teaching All Students also known as METAS. Now, METAS is a nonprofit that trains educators in Latin America, who work with blind and low vision students in addition to other disabilities. And she also engages lawmakers and policy discussions about people with disabilities and inclusion. Conchita is also the blind and low vision specialist at the Maryland School of the Blind. She is a woman of very many titles. And lastly, she conducts workshops for educators and professionals in the field of disability and advocacy in the United States and internationally.

Ashley Inkumsah:
Now last week we discussed her experiences as a disabled Latina woman and why blind and low vision students of color deserve access to a quality education. Once again, I am so excited for you to hear our conversation so grab yourself a snack and I hope you enjoy.

Ashley Inkumsah:
I am so happy to have you here today on today’s episode and I’m so enamored with all the work that you’ve done, surrounding of course education and the intersectionality between being Latinx and disabled. How are you doing today? That’s my first question.

Conchita Hernandez:
Thanks. I’m so glad to be here. I feel like there’s so much pressure to be like, oh, I’m good. But I feel like nobody’s really good. It’s a lie we tell ourselves.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Conchita Hernandez:
I think we are all having crises is every day. I would say I’m navigating the crises that are currently happening.

Ashley Inkumsah:
Exactly. And I feel like we’re getting back to some semblance of normal, which makes me feel good and the weather is getting better. I hope for this summer that it’s some semblance of normal in our world. Once again, I am so excited to have you here so we can just jump right into my questions. My first question for you is I know you were born in Mexico and you came to the United States when you were, I believe, five years old, and you grew up in California. I know you’ve also lived in New Jersey, Nebraska, Louisiana and now you’re in the DMV area. How were your experiences, firstly, growing up? And how would you contrast them to being in the United States and the various different states that you’ve lived?

Conchita Hernandez:
Yeah, you’ve definitely done your research.

Ashley Inkumsah:
I come prepared.

Conchita Hernandez:
I’ve lived all over the place. And ultimately I think what it comes down to is resources. When I was born, obviously the ADA wasn’t alive when I was born. I’m sorry, not the ADA, well both actually, the ADA and the IDEA. But in Mexico, there was nothing. My brother who’s also legally blind was already done with grade school by the time we came over and he definitely didn’t get any type of services in school at all. It was just kind of like, you figure it out or you don’t go to school. And 60% of people with disabilities in Mexico are illiterate because of the fact that there really isn’t access to education. Coming to the United States, I think, depending on who you ask, they’ll give you different answers. If you asked my mom, she was like, “Oh, it was amazing. You had services and you had IEPs and you were able to go to the doctor and stuff.”

Conchita Hernandez:
Because her comparison is Mexico where there was nothing. But knowing what I know now about education, about what I should have gotten, I got really basic services because I do have a fair amount of vision, and I had good grades so I got by and I really struggled, but because they were like, “Oh, you’re doing well academically then you don’t really need us.” I didn’t really learn anything in school accommodations wise. I didn’t learn how to travel independently. I always went with somebody every single place that I went to. I had struggled to read and stuff, but I didn’t know how things existed. And I grew up in a small town in Northern California that’s predominantly farm worker families.

Conchita Hernandez:
And so I think there’s a lack of people knowing what resources exist. But then also there’s a lack of explaining it to the communities. The disability rights movement started in California and I never knew about it. I was never introduced to it until I was in college. That’s what ends up happening. Unless you’re college educated, you don’t learn about the disability rights movement about your rights, about being an advocate. And that’s just ridiculous. It’s a huge loss to so many people that are not college educated, that may not speak the language, that don’t get access to the information. And across the United States kind of different places I’ve lived, I’ve seen the same thing over and over. Kind of the people that are marginalized within the communities that they live don’t really have the access to information.

Conchita Hernandez:
And so a question I get a lot is like, “Oh, can you tell us more about how communities of color are more ableist?” And I’m like, “No.” We’re no more ableist. Everybody’s ableist. It’s just we have less access to information. We have less access to resources. And when you have all these panels on college campuses, we’re not a part of them. We don’t even know you exist. It’s not that we’re apparently more ableist, it’s that we’re just not getting the resources and the information that you’re sharing with us. And you’re not even thinking of us when you’re creating these resources. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve seen it over and over again and really seeing my privilege as like, I’m very highly educated. I speak English well, I know about these resources. I’m definitely an advocate and stuff, but it’s kind of this, there are so many more people that we’re not reaching that we really need to.

Ashley Inkumsah:
I feel like it’s safe to say that literally every single country across the globe has been touched by toxic masculinity and misogyny. And in Latin America, the concept of machismo is so heavily imbued and ingrained into the culture and it only further marginalizes people with disabilities. I feel like they contribute to that ableist ideology. Would you agree with that? What were your experiences growing up as a Latin American with a disability? What were your experiences with that?

Conchita Hernandez:
Yeah, so I think absolutely like machismo absolutely intersects right with disability. And so my brother being blind, he had a lot of opportunities that I was never allowed to have. I never learned how to do some basic things, like ride a bike. And for him it was like, “Oh, let him do it. Let him explore it. If something happens to him, it’s okay.” But to me it was like, “Oh no, you’re going to get hurt. Don’t do that.” And so there was very different expectations about what we were supposed to be doing and not doing. And so a lot of those things kind of intersect and come together. But then at the same time, some of those things, not that machismo it’s very bad and very negative, but community structures are actually what help us continue to thrive in our communities.

Conchita Hernandez:
Because there’s a lack of services and supports within our communities, then our communities become the supports and become support systems. In Mexico or in other places, because there isn’t that assistance, then families take care of the relative and they become that support system. And so sometimes when you come to United States, it translates over to oh, the family is super overprotective and they don’t let the person be independent or whatever, but you kind of really have to understand the context that that was what helped the person thrive and survive because they had that support system. And so it’s really difficult to kind of move away from that. And even just, we hear a lot in the disability rights movement, this idea of being independent. It’s a person who is a white male, they’re expected to be this very independent, pull yourself up by your bootstraps type of mentality.

Conchita Hernandez:
But in our communities, able bodied people aren’t that way. We all create community in order to support each other, whether you have a disability or don’t a disability. And so how do we use that strength that communities of color bring where they have community and incorporate it? Instead of being like, oh, your family’s holding you back. I hear that so much where people are like, oh, we’re trying to help them be independent, but their family doesn’t let them. And I’m like, but because you’re not incorporating the family into the teaching, you’re just trying to teach to that individual.

Conchita Hernandez:
I actually, through my nonprofit, we do trainings and one of the trainings that we did was in Texas, in collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind of Texas. And we brought in Spanish speakers who were blind, who don’t have access to services either because they’re undocumented or they speak Spanish. And one of the things that was really important is we brought their families and we were like, we’re going to offer the training, not just to you, but to your whole family. And so we offered free hotel and free food for the whole weekend. And we saw the transformation that that made with the family being able to understand, oh, okay, this is how it’s happening. And then seeing that they have a role in that path of their family member. Whereas when we look at it individually, they really see it as, oh, you’re trying to set me aside and I want to support them, but I can’t now because you’re telling me they have to be independent.

Conchita Hernandez:
Taking that family support and saying, “You are a part of it. Not only are you a part of it, but you’re vital to your family member being a part of the community and this is how you can support them.” And that really shifts people’s way of thinking. And then it really has positive outcomes because then the whole family is on board. And we saw a huge transformations with family being like, oh, I now know how I can explicitly support my family member. Instead of being seen as a hindrance to their independence, I’m now a support system because that’s what they want. They want to support their family members.

Ashley Inkumsah:
Absolutely. I think, and within marginalized communities and especially within people of color, that sense of community, there are strength in numbers. When we unite, when we assist each other, because like you said, there is such a lack of assistance where there should be. Sometimes we really have to lean on each other and lean on our families. That’s completely true. As an educator, I’m wondering, and an advocate whose work centers around disability inclusion for the blind and low vision Latinx community, I’m wondering why is access to education for disabled immigrant students so important to you?

Conchita Hernandez:
I think access to information is so important because that’s what allowed me to kind of come to my own and just kind of be who I am. But also so many educational opportunities are denied to multiply marginalized students. There’s so much obstacles in education, not even higher education. K through 12 education for students with disabilities. And there’s so much inherent racism in education in K through 12 that when you’re both a student of color and disabled, there’s definitely a lot of barriers that you have to work through in order to succeed. A lot of people are like, oh, you’re so smart. And I’m like, the thing is, I’m not. There’s no such thing as being smart. I have friends who I went to high school with that are way brighter than I am that have way better ideas, that are brilliant, but they never had the opportunity because they were seen as being bad behavior because they had so much energy and it was never addressed or they didn’t do their homework. And research shows that homework is actually just a measure of your socioeconomic status. It actually doesn’t do much other than that.

Conchita Hernandez:
We’re marginalizing students in multiple ways and preventing them from reaching their education. I’m not saying every single student needs to go to college, but I’m saying we need to remove the barriers that exist, that don’t let students advance in their education so that they can, if they wanted to, graduate high school, if they wanted to, go onto higher education. What does that look like for our communities? I’m getting a doctorate in special education and I have super struggled in my program to get basic things such as accessible materials and accessible books. And I’m somebody who’s highly educated and I’m an advocate. And I still am like, I could have gained two degrees with all of the extra effort I have to do to navigate my program. And it’s just additional labor that you have on top of already kind of what everybody else has in going through school.

Conchita Hernandez:
And I really think it’s kind of the way of education will liberate us. You’re not going to be less discriminated against because you have more education or you’re not less likely to be a victim of police brutality because you have more education. It’s not going to liberate us from these social issues, but we should have the opportunity like everybody else to be able to navigate through them easily, without all the barriers existing.

Ashley Inkumsah:
I totally agree. I think we live in a world where access and while privileged really affords a lot of people opportunities that a lot of people can’t get. Education shouldn’t be a barrier for people who don’t have privilege. Everyone should be able to have an education. You’re totally right too, education will not save you. I always hate when people are like, so-and-so was a doctor, they shouldn’t have been killed by the police or something like that. It shouldn’t matter what someone’s education level is. Human life is a human life. Definitely I think education is important, but obviously it’s not going to save someone, but it’s an important thing to have access to.

Conchita Hernandez:
Absolutely. And I am light skinned and it has been a privilege for me. An example, when I was in high school, I took AP courses and I was never questioned why it was in the courses. It was just like, okay. And the majority of the people in the courses were white. It was the high school I attended was half Mexican, half white. And mainly the kids, there was a couple of kids of color, very few kids that were in those AP courses. But I was accepted. I was never questioned as to why I was there. Whereas my sister who is brown, she can’t pass the way I can pass, was always questioned by teachers. When she would go, because you had to go turn in a form and when she would have to go turn in her form her teachers would be like, “Are you sure this is the right class for you? Is this the class? Are you sure you can keep up?” And she’s one of the examples that she’s way brighter than me. She has so many great ideas, but yet her place was always questioned and mine wasn’t it.

Conchita Hernandez:
And so I think being cognizant of the fact that my light skin was absolutely a privilege in kind of my education. And when you look at, I’m friends with a lot of people in the Latinx community in higher education, a lot of us are light skinned. And so we’re systematically the ones making it through. And it’s ridiculous really, but we can’t deny that it did give us a privilege, enabled to advance in education.

Ashley Inkumsah:
Absolutely. And it shouldn’t be that way. I think it’s like that for really every industry, whether it’s the music industry or the television industry or whatever industry, you typically see the lighter skinned people who are placed at the vanguard where you would think Brazil, a country like Brazil, that’s majority darker skinned people, you would not know that if you turned on your TV. You think of Brazilians of being very lighter skinned and it’s a problem.

Conchita Hernandez:
If you watch a Mexican telenovela, you’d think every Mexican was blonde and blue eyed because all of the people on the shows are white. It’s a huge issue.

Ashley Inkumsah:
Yeah, it really is. It really is. I’m going to pivot to my next question is how do we begin to kind of rectify the disparities in education that exists for immigrants, low income people with disabilities?

Conchita Hernandez:
That is so complex. There’s multiple ways of doing that. I think the Department of Education tries. There’s certain data that states have to turn in to the federal government on disproportionality. And they’re supposed to turn in that data and then write up reports on how they remedy it. But the thing is you have the same people writing the reports on the remedies that have been in those positions forever. And it’s the same white women, white men who are in those positions, were not really being tasked to be creative about how to do it. Were not really bringing in who are experts on race in schools. It’s kind of same people being like, oh yeah, we’re going to hire someone to do professional development. We’re going to do somebody who’s going to do this.

Conchita Hernandez:
There’s two groups of people. There’s one group of people that is the most important change is done through legislation and that’s how we make things happen. And there’s another group of people that is the most important change is through advocacy and protesting and that is how we make it happen. And I really think both are vital to each other and they can’t exist by themselves. We need people who are actively working on legislation to make sure that good legislation is in place and that it’s moving forward and that it’s systematically creating change because unfortunately people don’t do stuff unless you legislate it. Students with disabilities didn’t have a choice of education until it was mandatedly legislated and even now we still have issues with it. But then we also needed the people who are speaking out and being really outspoken about issues on the ground, on the street and being advocates to push it through the other end because they get the attention that people who work legislatively just cannot and both are really crucial to each other.

Conchita Hernandez:
If we allowed students with disabilities of color to advance in our educational system, they could be these leaders holding these positions that have innovative ideas. People with innovative ideas need to be part of conversation. Because it’s not just like, oh, we have these people who are diverse, but what does that look like in practice? Do they have different experiences? Different people coming to the table and saying, “Hey, what about this?” In a way that nobody had thought of. And we really need people that have lived experience to be part of the conversation. There’s so many times where I’m the only person with a disability talking about students with disability. What important decisions are being made? And that’s just, why are we still doing this? But because we’re not letting those students with disabilities advance into positions where they can be making these decisions and then we don’t hire them. And then we don’t provide them with accommodations once they’re at the workplace.

Conchita Hernandez:
It’s a very complex thing, but there’s multiple ways that we need to be addressing these issues. And one of those ways is also teaching kids in K through 12 education about disability rights and about disability justice. And that will teach the educators because they have to teach the content. I never even knew there was a disability rights movement until I was in college. We need to be starting kids young so that they’re exposed to these issues and so that sometimes people ask me, “What’s the most important thing you wish a person with a disability or a student with a disability knew?” And I said, “For me, it’s that you’re perfect just the way you are.”

Conchita Hernandez:
I think so much when we’re going through school, it’s all about a deficit model of, oh, you’re not doing this correctly. Or you can’t do this or you can’t do that. And so being able to be like, I’m perfect, just the way I am. I just need to do things a little bit differently or I need to have accommodations or I need to have positive role models who I know that I can do things. That was a really long answer to your question.

Ashley Inkumsah:
No, that was a very comprehensive answer, I would say. That was an amazing answer. And like you said, it’s an issue that it can’t be unpacked, in one answer. It’s an issue that definitely is going to take a long time to address and to rectify for sure. That was a great answer. And I guess my next question is even beyond the school setting, why is it so important for us as a collective to eradicate racism, xenophobia and ableism that affects multiple marginalized people? Why is that so important?

Conchita Hernandez:
I think what people don’t realize is that very few people feel fully welcome and fully themselves in spaces. And that tends to be white, straight men. They can show up fully how they are to any space and not feel any which way about it. Everything is defaulted to their needs, to their wants, to who they are. And they don’t feel like, is this a place I can fully be myself? And so it’s very liberating when you have those spaces that you can have. And for some communities, it’s very minimal spaces. A lot of people can not fully in their work place, be fully who they are. They can’t talk about a lot of these issues with their families. I feel like, definitely in the Latinx community, these issues are not talked about enough. And so I think being fully able to show up in spaces and be yourself is something that a lot of people take for granted that so many communities just cannot do. Not because we don’t want to, but because there’s real repercussions when we do.

Conchita Hernandez:
And also, we should want to live in a society that’s just an accepting of all people. And we have a long way to go for that. Especially when we have a country that was built on these issues. We were a country built on racism, built on ableism, built on marginalizing folks. It’s not as simple as like, oh, there’s a couple of racist people or there’s a couple of ableist people. We’re all really racist and really ableist. And how do we dismantle that and learn to do differently so that we can have a better society for our children and everyone we live in? And there’s a lot of other reasons that are very, you can sell more products to people that are very capitalist and stuff. We’re a huge population. People with disabilities are one fourth of the population. And so when companies don’t make things accessible or cater to us they’re hugely missing out. But above that, it’s just having everybody feel like they’re welcome everywhere they go I think it’s just so important.

Ashley Inkumsah:
Yeah. I think specifically, for the disabled population, sometimes it’s hard for people who are not disabled to kind of relate to that, but having a disability is the one thing that could happen to literally anybody and will probably happen too, because everyone’s going to get older at some point in their life. And this is exactly why it’s so important for us to come together and unite around the cause of disability justice and disability rights. And allyship is so important. It’s so important to have people who are non-disabled alongside the disabled community. And even beyond that, people with disabilities deserve to be valued, loved, respected, accommodated, et cetera, et cetera. It really shouldn’t be as difficult as it is, but it’s just a human rights thing. It’s just it’s a justice thing. It’s a rights thing. People with disabilities just deserve to be valued, just like people who are non-disabled do. What would you say is your driving force to do the work that you do? What inspires you? Why did you choose to be an educator? And what are your aspirations for the future?

Conchita Hernandez:
I would say community for me, for sure. Community is kind of what drives me and what gives me energy and gets me excited. When it’s building community, it’s not I’m not building my platform so that I can be popular, important or educated, but rather the work that I do, how does it serve my community? And how does it improve the lives of other children who are currently in school so that they can do all of these things? I think for me, it’s definitely kind of the driving force is my community. I’m doing my doctorate and I’m planning when I graduate to do a huge party. And that’s what I look forward to when I can’t finish, I’m like, oh, how am I going to get this done? It’s definitely I’m going to have a huge party where everyone’s invited and that’s just what keeps me going. And I feel like that that’s kind of what drives me, just having that connection to my community and being able to make a difference that’s bigger than myself.

Ashley Inkumsah:
Absolutely. I love that. Are there any projects that you’re actively working on that you would like to discuss? And where can our audience find you on social media? Where can they keep up with you?

Conchita Hernandez:
Yeah. I feel like Twitter is probably the best place where you can find me, I’m Conchita HDZ and we can share it, I guess, however, the podcast is being shared. Something I’m working on, through my nonprofit METAS, we’ve been for the last year, really providing resources and information to Spanish speaking communities around blindness and disability. And we’ve really created a big network of folks across the world is really what’s happened during the pandemic where people didn’t have resources even before the pandemic. But now we were able to connect and share information and resources and we’re planning some really exciting events coming up that are not super public yet. I can’t exactly tell you but we’re really, really excited about kind of the work that we’re doing and the families that we’re reaching. And a lot of the families that we work with are in Latin America and they don’t have IDA or ADA. And so what are ways that we can share with them on how they can educate their schools to let their students attend school with them or try to advocate to pass some legislation that doesn’t necessarily exist where they’re at.

Conchita Hernandez:
And then we’ve also had having community help build. We’ve had great partnerships with different people, but in a university in Mexico, they really wanted to partner with us. And their students have been creating amazing videos for us where any parent, wherever they are, can create tactile materials for their students, with the materials they already have at home. We have a ton of videos on characters in books, or how to teach your child how to count with this you can make at home. It’s just been a really, really exciting kind of people’s creativity and how it’s built on kind of all of us coming together and trying to support each other and seeing the needs that we have. The nonprofit’s called METAS, M-E-T-A-S and you all can find us on Facebook is probably the best place. We always share information on there. But yeah, that’s kind of the exciting thing going on I guess.

Ashley Inkumsah:
That is amazing. I can’t wait to find out what the events are that are upcoming and all the exciting things that you’re working on. Once again, I am just so enamored with all the amazing work that you’re doing and you’re just such an inspiration really for the entire disability advocacy community. It was just so wonderful to chat with you today. I really appreciate it. Is there any closing thoughts that you’d like to leave our audience with?

Conchita Hernandez:
Thank you so much for having me. It’s always fun to just kind of have a conversation and think things out loud with people. And I think the kind of, I was thinking about when we kind of first started talking about kind of the whole idea of coming back to normal and what does that look like for people with disabilities. When pre-COVID we weren’t normal, like we have so many barriers and so many things that we were asking for accommodations that all of a sudden you can do because of COVID that you told us you never could do. Working from home, I was definitely denied at that before and all of a sudden, oh, you can do it now. Just so many things that people with disabilities don’t have. At my university, they finally put a bunch of books electronically and they’re like, oh, it’s because of COVID.

Conchita Hernandez:
And I’m like, so are you going to continue this after COVID? Because it’s the only way I can access the materials. I just really hope that people, I hope we don’t go back to normal. I hope we take the lessons that we’ve learned from COVID and really apply them to real world and stop pretending people disabilities don’t exist and really take what we’ve learned and apply it and continue to provide accommodations for people, continue to provide all of these great things that came about during the pandemic that we can continue to do that. And then we can continue to build community based on what we did because of COVID how so many people came together and supported each other and fought for each other and spoke up for each other. How can we continue to do that in a post COVID world in a way that we had never done and that we were forced to do in the last year. I guess that’s my hope for all of us as communities and as people kind of moving forward.

Ashley Inkumsah:
Yeah. Yeah, definitely I think instead of building back better, we need to build forward better. That’s what I’ve been saying is that you don’t want to go back to before, we want to build forwards. We want to take what we’ve learned from the past year and go forward. That’s definitely the trajectory that I hope that we’re going to be on.

Ashley Inkumsah:
It was such a pleasure to speak with Conchita and I really admire all the work that she’s doing to ensure that blind students of color have access to an education. Too many times, disabled students are not even given so much as an opportunity to thrive and to flourish in the school system, especially those who are of color. And we already know that even beyond the school system, the world is just not built for disabled people. And I feel that people with disabilities spend so much time trying to navigate a world that was literally not built for them and we need more people like Conchita who are fighting to make the world navigate to accommodate people with disabilities, honestly. It’s so amazing that Conchita has parlayed her own lived experiences into fighting for inclusion and for access for the Latinx disabled community. It’s truly amazing and something to marvel at, for sure.

Ashley Inkumsah:
Now, thank you all so, so much for tuning in, you can find transcripts in American sign language interpretations for today’s episode and all of our past episodes on our website at http://www.wid.org/whats-up-wid. That’s W-H-A-T-S hyphen U-P hyphen W-I-D. And to paraphrase the words of our wonderful Nicholas Love and one of our founders at Roberts, we need to get out there and change the old attitudes so we can build forward better. Thank you so, so much once again.

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, Kat@WID.org.  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, Kat@WID.org.  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)

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Black Disabled Global Disaster Experiences: Action Strategies

>> MEGAN LANG:  Welcome to our Global Alliance for Disaster Resource Acceleration town hall.  My name is Megan Lang, and we would first like to announce that we are recording this webinar.  It is also currently being live streamed on WID’s Facebook page, which is Facebook.com/World InstituteonDisability and we have put the link in the Zoom chat.  For starters, everyone has been muted.  You can activate captions on your toolbar located at the bottom of the Zoom window, or use the URL we just put in the chat box.  And I see that has been put there.  Lastly, we do hope you will share and tweet about this WID town hall listening session and the very important issues you’ll raise today.  We would love it if you use #DisabilityDisasterAlliance on the various social media platforms.  I think that’s all the housekeeping, so let’s get started.  I will turn it over to Priya penner, who will kick us off.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Thank you so much Megan, hello, welcome everyone, my name is Priya Penner I’m with the partnership for disaster inclusive strategies as well as with GADRA my pronouns are she, her, and I am a Brown woman with curly black hair.  Today I’m wearing a pink shirt and a red cardigan, in addition to my black over the ear headphones.  So welcome once again to the Black Disabled Global Disaster Experiences action strategies webinar.  We’re so excited that you’re here today to continue this conversation with us.  This is a continuation of a previous conversation and previous panel that we held in February that I do hope that you all were able to attend.  During that event, we discussed the experiences of Black disabled individuals all across the globe from different perspectives our five panelists, Anita Cameron, Dikko Yusuf, Vivienne Isebor, Kaman Kelly Wasup, as well as Leroy Moore, these panelists had a great discussion on what they believe to be the roots of black disabled folks are experiencing around the globe when experiencing disasters. They touched upon lack of resources, specifically financial resources, the lack of education, specifically for people with disabilities and Black individuals with disabilities.  We also discussed how integrated and systemic the ableism and discrimination and racism were.  So we had a really in-depth conversation in February on the roots of the issues that Black disabled individuals experience when facing disasters, I do hope that you go back to the GADRA Facebook page or Twitter page to review that post production, as it is archived for folks to review so you can have an idea of what that first conversation really looked like.  Today the conversation is going to be centered on “how do we move forward?” and “how do we take what we learned from the first session and continuing that conversation so that we can address these issues?”  As I previously mentioned, we have five amazing panelists, panelists with us today, that’s Anita Cameron from Not Dead Yet who is based in the United States, her pronouns are she, her, hers.  Dikko Yusuf, who is with the Special Needs Initiative for Growth based in Nigeria.  Their pronouns are he, him, his.  We have Leroy Moore from Krip‑Hop Nation based in the United States, pronouns, him, his, Vivienne is with us from ADHD Babes based in the United Kingdom, pronouns are she, her, hers, and finally but certainly not least we have Kaman Kelly Wasup from Papua New Guinea, Assembly of Disabled Persons and PNG Blind Union, Papua New Guinea, Kaman prefers to have their pronouns as their name.

So we are going to run ‑‑ excuse me.  We are going to go ahead and get started.  We have the first question, which is, I’m going to start off with Anita, which is, how do we address the roots of these issues?  Anita, we had this amazing conversation last time and you really discussed in depth the resources or lack thereof for disabled Black individuals in the United States and all across the globe.  How would you suggest that we really address the root of the issue?

>> ANITA CAMERON:  Thank you.  Hello, everyone, my name is Anita Cameron.  Quick Description: Black woman, long dreadlocks, sky blue shirt with a globe and various people with disabilities on it and the shirt says Disability Pride.

Well, certainly the issues of ableism and disability discrimination, the lack of access to resources, the lack of funding, for me, you know, also the lack of effective, or lack of a better word, use of someone’s talents, the problem is a lot of times as Black disabled folks, we’re not at the table, so to speak, or on the ground floor, and when we are, we are either underutilized or overutilized or tokenized, so we really have to ‑‑ and it stems from this kind of inequality and inequity.  So for me, those are the roots of the problems.  They’re not all, but it’s certainly the ones that I see a lot in my experience.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Wonderful.  Can I ask you to elaborate on the resources and how the resources could really, you know, address the roots of the inequity in these experiences with disasters?

>> ANITA CAMERON:  Well, I think, you know, so often between being disabled and being Black, we’re seen as lesser, and so the talents that we may bring, you know, into the picture aren’t utilized because people are so busy dealing with their emotions of I don’t really want them around or do we really need to have them, or do we really need to listen to them, you know, because so many individuals, agencies, entities, you know, don’t really want to hear from us, if you will, or think that it’s okay not to hear from us, that they’ll make the decisions for us, and that clearly does not work.  So what ends up happening is I’ve been in situations where, okay, so we’re allowed to participate, but the environment is so toxic that it drives us away.  We don’t want to ‑‑ you know, we don’t to want deal with that.  You know, or people are so in their heads, you know, with this attitude of, you know, what value that they have that they just kind of dismiss, you know, what we have to say, don’t really listen, talk over us, you know, and all of that.  So that’s what I mean as far as people resources, human resources.  That’s a failure to effectively utilize people’s talents and gifts when you’re so busy in your own ableist, you know, or racist views and in your minds questioning what we have to bring, then it causes you not to want to effectively utilize that.  So, you know, people have to sit with themselves, breathe, and know that if you’re talking about disabled and disabled Black people, the experts on this are disabled and disabled Black people, so deal.  And that’s the problem with disaster, in disasters, disabled people and Black folks, we die needlessly.  You know, we die when there’s no reasons we should be dying because of ableism, because of racism, because often we are poor and we don’t have access to, you know, the things that wealthier communities have.  So, you know, folks need to sit with us, listen with us, you know, listen to us and work with us, take our suggestions because we’re the ones that know.  Thanks.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Beautiful.  Thank you so much, Anita, that is so important to hear.  Dikko, I’m really curious to hear your perspective on this question, and again that, question is, how do we address the roots of these issues that we’ve previously discussed?  I’m really curious to hear your response from your corner of the world.

>> DIKKO YUSUF:  I’m Dikko Yusuf, Black male wearing a pair of glasses, got black hair, short hair, cut low.  Yeah, it’s good that you say from my part of the world because I do consider that some of the problems that we have in Nigeria can be a little bit, well, not in the same way relatable to the ones that you might have in the U.S. or in the UK or even in Papua New Guinea, where Kaman is from and with us today, it’s very important to pick up from the last question asked and the last conversation we had which was about the disaster cycle.  So this is a cycle, I mean, that’s something that’s very key to remember, if the cycle is not broken, you know, if that continuous recurrence of this kind of situation that we find ourselves in is not broken, it’s not stopped at some point, it’s going on keep happening, right?  So the way I see it, we cannot keep, we cannot always keep taking reactive measures every time there’s a disaster.  We have to make sure that disaster response does not start when disaster strikes because this is almost the thing that happened with the COVID‑19 pandemic, and I hear this a lot.  Whenever I’m in a conversation where people are discussing the pandemic, they say, well, it’s an eye opener, right?  They keep saying it’s an eye opener.  But before the pandemic, remember, we had several other disasters.  Why were they not eye openers?  So I think for me at least, the best way to address the roots of the problem now, the roots of the problem, very important is to make sure that we learn from current events and we’re in the middle of one right now, we’re at the height of this problem right now.  So what I think is very important is to learn from the problems that we have seen during this pandemic and even during previous disasters and to make sure that they’re integrated into the next disaster planning preparation, you know, for subsequent disasters that probably, you know, will come and I think most global people who know stuff and predict stuff would say, yeah, sure, you know, one will always be around the corner, so we’ll be better prepared.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Thank you, Dikko, I really resonate with that.  I know others both on the panel and in attendance really do as well.  Thank you for sharing that.  Vivienne, I want to turn to you because I know last session, we talked about, specifically you talked about education specifically for Black disabled individuals and I think that really connects nicely with Dikko’s point, and I want to hear from you in your little neck of the woods over there in the United Kingdom what your response is to this question.

>> VIVIENNE ISEBOR:  Thank you.  Hi, I’ve Vivienne Isebor, I’m wearing a blue head scarf and T shirt with a black necklace.  I agree with what’s been said already kind of being preemptive and not being kind of reactive to things that happen because if you’re already on shaky ground and then something shakes you, you’re more likely to fall even harder, so I think having that Foundation to start with is really important.  So I guess here in the UK, we have really clear statistics that show that our community have poor outcomes across the board, so we look at the education where before the age I think it was five, Black children, especially Black girls do really well and then beyond that, you start to see that there’s a dip in how well we do, and we think that that’s linked with how teachers treat us and how we’re viewed within society.  You start to realize your race and that starts to impact you, and then you have what we call PRU, which is a pupil referral unit for students who might be permanently excluded. And there’s a really high correlation between going to those PRUs and then ending up within the prison system. So a lot of young Black boys are kind of excluded or they’re seen as disruptive and it it kick starts a reallt negative root for where they go in the future, when they’re disruptive.  We look at employment and we have the same difficulties where a lot of people who are Black might express might experience discrimination in the workplace or there’s higher statistics with us being unemployed and then you look at mental health statistics and there’s poorer outcomes, in regards to psychosis , in regards to getting support and talking therapy and even within the general healthcare there’s a lot of difficult statistics that show that people from the Black community especially Black women, aren’t listened to and believed when they’re in pain.  So there’s a lot of different aspects to how difficult it is to be Black in Britain, and then when, you know, add that all on top of a pandemic, that just for a general person is going to be difficult it just makes recovering from that and even just sustaining that really difficult.  So I think to address the root of the problem, even though it’s such a wide spectrum, I think it is kind of looking at those wider difficulties, how can we kind of address all these different obstacles that are put in front of Black folk as they’re going through life and how can we kind of safeguard them against those things and I think community services do that really well.  I know that for me, managing to get through school was because we had things at the Duke of Ellington program where we were taken camping and we were, you know, taught about Black history and we had loads of things that intersected with all the difficulties that we were experiencing, and again, it’s difficult because funding for these things have been cut over the last five to ten years.

So I think yes, it’s about addressing those kind of all those multiple things are getting in the way of us having a good quality of life, pouring money and resources back into the communities that are providing these safe spaces for people to recover from what we’re having to experience just for being Black.  So yeah.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Thank you, Vivienne.  Yeah, that’s a very important perspective.  We all know that education, specifically for disabled Black folks, is simply lacking, and that absolutely does contribute, as you said, to the perpetuating nature of the inequality within the disaster cycle.  So thank you, really, so much for that.  Kaman, I’m going to turn to you because I’m really curious to see your perspective and hear your perspective on how, you know, we address the roots of these issues, you know, in your corner in Papua New Guinea.

>> KAMAN KELLY WASUP:  Yeah, I’m Kaman, yeah, I’m wearing a black sunglasses. I just want to extend on the conversation which the other panelists alluded to. We’ve been discussing about some of the issues facing Black disabled people.  In Papua New Guinea, it’s a Black country so pretty much sometimes it’s similar, sometimes it’s not similar, so some of the things that we’ve been seeing the lack of accessibility that support us, it’s not related but sometimes international donors or partners they know that persons with disabilities organizations are on the ground to carry out things, but they use the other international organization to come down to come down to the ground programs and that’s one of the challenges we face.  Going on to the question we are discussing right now, I see this building on from the other panelists, I see the importance of identifying where are we in terms of our participation and engagement in driving closer to be on the table or to discuss or to put some of the resources forward for them to participate in discussing the decision‑making process, so where are we and how do we get there?  So it’s good to identify, you know, it’s good to identify some of the barriers that are creating or limiting our opportunity, our chances to be on the table, to participate.  So once you identify the barriers, it might be systemic barriers or it might be some institutional barriers causing problems for us as Black people to be at the table to discuss, once we identify barriers, it can give us an opportunity to put the steps together, mechanisms to strive to be included.

So my point here is just building on the panelists’ discussion forward is to identify the barriers and how we can get there, how we can remove the barriers that are causing us to participate effectively despite, you know, if we are Black or despite our region or our colors and disability as well.  That’s how I see it, thank you.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Thank you, Kaman, thank you so much for your perspective.  It’s so important to recognize the barriers and realize that we can’t move forward and address the roots without initial identifying the roots and barriers.  Leroy, I’ll turn to you, and I know in the session in February we had discussed together and you had mentioned specifically the lack of financial resources and lack of financial support for Black disabled leadership and turn to you with this next question, which is how can other leaders best center Black disabled leadership in local, national, and global emergency management, planning, response and recovery?

>> LEROY MOORE:  Thank you for having me here.  I’m a Black man with salt and pepper hair, sitting in my room.  I’m going to be honest.  I’m going to be honest.  You talk about how you get people involved, well, it doesn’t make sense to get people involved when our government doesn’t implement our laws.  So when we had Joe Biden ran for President and disability campaign, you know, fully fund the IDEA plan.  That law has been in since 1975, so he just woke up one day and said “oh we fully fund this.”  The thing is we have laws on the books, they’re not fully implemented or fully funded.  Same thing in the UK, the UK does studies after studies after studies on Black disabled people.  It’s called implementation.  So we can have support and fund our group and do activism all day and twice on Sundays, but if the government does not implement our laws, then we’re left out so we need to really put pressure, and this goes back to the UK too, put pressure on these governments to implement our laws, because if we don’t have that, then we don’t have anything but a piece of paper.

So we can advocate until next Christmas but we need our government to really implement and fully fund our laws.  But I can keep on saying that IDEA be fully funded.  And that goes to education.  When you can’t get an education, then you can’t get a job, and you can’t get a house, so it’s a trickle‑down effect.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Absolutely.

>> LEROY MOORE:  So let’s pressure the government, and if we have to sue the government, let’s sue it.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Thank you so much, Leroy, absolutely.  I think the panelists agree, we have heard from several individuals already, Vivienne and Dikko, about the importance of education and ensuring that Black disabled folks from the beginning are educated so that we can have ‑‑ so that Black disabled folks can have the support to be able to, you know, go through the disaster cycle.  If you don’t have those initial tools, you’re already at a disadvantage, absolutely.  What I’m really, you know, I really want to hear more about and I think I’m going to turn to Anita on this because you mentioned this as well during the last session, is, you know, when centering Black disabled leadership in local, national and global emergency planning response and recovery, the leaders are there.  Leroy says, you know, as Leroy said, leaders are there and we need to listen to them, but for folks who are wondering on, you know, what else, yes, listen to Black disabled leadership, but what does that look like to you, Anita?

>> ANITA CAMERON:  Listening to us, well, my feelings on, you know, if you’re truly listening to us, the way it’s going to show or manifest itself is that you really listen to what we’re saying and then implement the things that we’re saying, and make it so that things are accessible, you know, for us, like I said.  I mean, we’re on these committees and commissions and it is absolutely true to you have to ‑‑ you can’t just wait until a disaster to start doing things, you know.  You have to plan before the disaster so that you can do things during and after the disaster, you know, and recovery phase and all of that.  But truly hear us, implement the things that we are saying, value us, you know, don’t tokenize us, don’t put all the work on us, you know.

But then on the other hand, don’t give us little busy, busy work to do.  Don’t give us busy‑busy work to do.  You know, give us real, effective things to do so that we could really, you know, listen to us, do things in a culturally competent fashion.  That’s another thing that has to happen.  Look at the way, you know, I think that people, that it will be clear that people are listening to us.  When you implement the things we listen to us, take notes, implement the things awe say and do things in a culturally competent fashion.  So I mean, to me, the biggest thing on show that you heard us is to put what we say in action, in motion.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Wonderful.  That’s very similar to what I’m hearing from Leroy, and it really sounds to me that the best way to center Black disabled leadership is to recognize Black disabled leadership.  Dikko, would you say that’s true?

>> DIKKO YUSUF:  Yeah, I think it is true, it very much is true.  And building up on what Anita and Leroy have said also, I think part of the implementation is, because I’ve seen this firsthand here in Nigeria where I am, my local government decided that it’s going give away scholarships to disabled students, but the problem is they were not able to identify the target audience.  So they put out the scholarship, it’s out there, and they said that only two people applied, the slots are there, but people are not applying.  So I think one of the things that you do if you want to send to Black disabled people in local, more general, and national politics or leadership is that you need to have them individually within the holds of power, so where power resides, as these decisions are made, for example, the scholarship decision, there’s somebody there with a disability that can say or suggest the best channel to make the people with disabilities aware of, you know, the targeted audience and do it in conjunction with organizations and associations for persons with disabilities because this also happened in Nigeria during the COVID‑19 pandemic where relief materials were being distributed but because associations and organizations for persons living with disabilities were not really consulted, so many people with disabilities were not able to go to the places where these things were being distributed because it was so crowded and people were pushing other people and it’s not really accessible to someone with a wheelchair or even in the implementation of stay at home orders, some people were Deaf and they were unable to hear when they were being shouted at stay at home or blah blah blah, so in terms of the implementation, it is important to implement them, but also it is important to have disabled people where the decisions are made individually within high positions where the decisions are made, sort of like advisors telling the people in power how to implement these things, because if you leave it to the government and say okay, we have written papers and so on, go and read the papers and it will help you, you know, in taking your decision, from my experience, what I’ve found is that it often doesn’t work that well.  When you have somebody and like I liked what Leroy said, pressure, pressure is important so also along with that keep the pressure, and I think when you have somebody there and people the and organizations and the people who campaign for these things are also backing him, I think them, whoever they are, I think it’s going to be very helpful in terms of implementing it.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Thank you so much, Dikko.  I wanted to live Leroy an opportunity to respond to that, and then I’m going to turn to Kaman for our last question.  Or not our last question, one of our last questions.


>> LEROY MOORE:  Yeah.  I want to give a really good example, on the ground example, because we can talk about government all day but really what’s on the ground is what we’re really doing.  So disability justice social club and really is kicking butt on the ground, you know, during the PG & E outage.  They came out with a fund to help other disabled people, and be this on the ground.  That’s number one.  Number two is POOR Magazine, and POOR Magazine has this project called Homefulness and they are building homes for low‑income, no‑income people, and they do this all with no funding.  Some am there’s answers on the ground, and we need to pick up and bring to the state level and the federal level because essentially during these emergencies that are happening, we need alternative platforms, especially now if we want to come out of COVID and come to a new place in society, then we need some new radical ideas.  Thanks.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Thank you, Leroy.  What I really heard from that is the answers are there.  We have the answers.  The Black disabled community has the answers.  So one of the best ways to center Black disabled leadership is recognize Black disabled leadership, listen to Black disabled leadership, and follow Black disabled leadership.  That’s really what I’m gathering from the five of you.  So thank you guys so much.  Kaman, I’m going to turn to you for our next question, and that’s, how do we build a culture where truly inclusive and equitable disaster preparedness, response and recovery is the norm?

>> KAMAN KELLY WASUP:  Yes, how do we build a culture.  It’s only when we effectively participate in the process, you know, in the designing, when we’re talking about disaster, when we are talking about leaders, our Black disabled people are not missing out on service delivery in terms of responding to whatever the disaster is, rioting or whatever.  To build a strong culture, it’s only when we are participating properly in the decision-making process.  So how do we participate, to recognize us, to recognize Black people in the process and also to participate in whatever, you know, discussions or whatever strategies they are putting forth, whether it be the government or development partners.  So I think, I strongly think that if only we are participating effectively, if we are participating effectively from the designing of the projects, right from the designing of a disaster and preparedness response and planning of things, then we’ll know and we’ll ensure that we can tick the box.  If we’re not participating all across the cycle, as some of our panelists have alluded to, we’ll be missing out.  So the important thing is to see us participating in the process.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Absolutely.  That is so important.  And, you know, it should be noted again, and what I’m hearing from you guys really is that participation is there.  It’s really important to recognize that participation ‑‑ excuse me, that participation and encourage other disabled Black folks to participate.  So thank you so much, Kaman.  Vivienne, we haven’t heard from you in a while.  I want to turn to you.  What are your thoughts on how we build a culture where truly inclusive and equitable disaster preparedness, response and recovery is the norm?Ly.

>> VIVIENNE ISEBOR:  Thank you for including us in the conversation and the wider context what I was saying before in terms all the wider determinants that might impact our lives as Black folk but also disabled, yeah, considering all these wider things that might impact us and having that in mind when we’re trying to understand and support people, so I think looking at the Hierarchy of Needs.  So if somebody having a difficult time finding housing, it’s not really going to do them justice to offer them a study skills coach for work because the home they’re going to is not stable.  So I think it’s considering people, yeah as a huge ‑‑ as an entire person and sometimes I think with support services, they can just focus on one element.  Person and they don’t consider the whole.  So I think changing that narrative where we see the bigger picture and work across services so, you know, if it’s a service that supports women who might be experiencing domestic violence, is there also a service that supports young people, so those children in the family can also get support.  So having ways to work together so there’s a community of support around people.  I also think there needs to be some kind of, I guess, in terms of the idea of recovery, we need to subscribe to the disability model, so not placing the problem on us, is society accommodating us, is it accommodating our difference and if not, that’s how we move to a recovery norm, actually this person isn’t the problem, we’re just not providing them enough space, we’re not giving them the right tools and resources to improve their quality of life and I think if we change that narrative it takes away a lot of shame and takes away the fight to get support because that becomes a standard that this person needs a leg up, they need a helping hand, and that becomes normal, it doesn’t become their problem.  Yeah, and I think that just needs to be held in mind a lot more and that can be kind of rolled out across different services.  So yeah, I think that’s the main thing for me.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Wonderful.  Yeah.  Absolutely.  We don’t live if a bubble.  You know, humans don’t live in a bubble, and we don’t live with one specific identity.  We know that can Crenshaw has coined this term intersectionality, and really keeping that in focus, keeping that idea in focus so that, you know, people are supported in every way they need and not just one specific way.  Is that about right?

>> VIVIENNE ISEBOR:  Exactly.  And not placing the problem of them because the problem is not them, the problem is that there’s not enough resources to support their difference.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Absolutely.

>> VIVIENNE ISEBOR:  And diversity is within the scope of humanity, we exist as a ‑‑

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Absolutely.

>> VIVIENNE ISEBOR:  So it’s not a problem, it’s a difference, and that needs to be heavily included in our systems and how we set up structures.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Absolutely.  100 percent.  That shift is so important.

Dikko, I want to turn to you because I know that you have some thoughts on this specifically on what Vivienne said.  So did you want to jump in here?  On what Vivienne said.

>> DIKKO YUSUF:  Yeah.  I almost don’t want to jump in here because Vivienne has so beautifully.  Like changing the narrative and making sure that it’s not about like I’m the one with a disability, so I’m the problem obviously and I’m the burden.  It’s all about having this kind of more balanced approach to what we want to become appears a society, recognize the difference ‑‑ as a society, recognize the differences that exist, and Vivienne talked about this beautifully.  So I do not want to hammer on this too much, but I do think it’s a very important point and it’s worth emphasizing as much as we can because the key point that I also to want stress is, if we start looking at society as the one or society as the thing that is not designed well to fit our own different kinds of abilities, then we start recognizing that okay in a school we should have more accessible learning for students, in a place of work we should have more accessible work for a person who works there and also in general daily living we start recognizing those little bits of improvements that we have to make in the design of our world and then when there’s a disaster we don’t have to start talking about okay, how do we quickly evacuate, okay, now we’ve evacuated everyone put somebody’s wheelchair is still up 20 stories, so just leave the wheelchair.  When next are they going to have a wheelchair?  We don’t know but that he is not our problem.  So if we ‑‑ but that’s not our problem.

So if we start looking at a society to say okay is it really designed to accommodate the differences that we have, think we would have a more better, you know, appropriate and more efficient response, if you like, to disasters as a whole.  I’m very excited to be part of this, because yeah, you learn from things like this, and I think partly probably the bigger, larger point of having these kinds of conversations.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  I want to specifically note, Dikko, that your comments are definitely not only welcome but highly respected and I’m so glad you did add your comments because what I’m hearing from you, that Vivienne alluded to, is, you know, when we are really meaning to actively meaning to support Black disabled folks and other multiple marginal individuals we are better be supporting the community as a whole, everyone’s needs will be met.

>> DIKKO YUSUF:  That’s another aspect, disability is making things not just better for us but the larger society, you’re absolutely right.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Thank you so much, Dikko, I really appreciate your thoughts.  We have about two minutes before we ‑‑ before we jump to the Q & A portion.  I want to get to the last question, we’ve discussed this during this webinar as well as a webinar in February, we’ve discussed how racism and ableism really impacts Black disabled people’s experiences during disasters and how it perpetuates the inequalities within these systems, so we, meaning GADRA, we are establishing a Working Group that specifically focuses on ensuring that our work is led by and accountable to Black, Brown, Indigenous and other disabled People of Color globally.  And as future members of this Working Group, which we’re all very excited to have you on, what is one thing you want to focus on as we build equitable disaster responses?  I’m going to turn to Anita and then to Leroy.

>> ANITA CAMERON:  Thanks, but I quickly want to go back on something, and it might even be applicable to this.  I’m a community response team member, a CRT, I’m a CRT, I teach CRT, I design CRT programs.  When you look at training materials and you don’t see people or situations that represent you, that makes you feel like you’re forgotten.  So in all of my CRT training, I never saw disabled people in the training materials, pictures of us, I certainly never saw Black people, and I certainly never saw disabled people.  So, you know, I’m thinking that one of the things that we could be doing, you know, here at GADRA as we’re coming up with things and whatnot and designing and certainly these webinars are a great response, a great start, but if we are, for example, if we are designing training materials and things of that nature to reach out to different communities and whatnot, please don’t fill it all up with white able‑bodied folks.  You know, use, you know, incorporate us into that.  First, incorporate us into that training.  I would say reach out, you know, GADRA, I think you can reach out to more Black and disabled communities, you know, not only around the world, but in like rural, poor areas because all of us kind of doing this, we have a measure, I would like to see us like really reach out to like really, really impoverished communities and getting them am to be on that ground floor and be at the table in that.  And when we’re dealing with people with disabilities, don’t just, you know, include those of us with the privilege to be able to speak or talk or whatnot.  I want to see people with intellectual disabilities in on this.  I want to see people who are nonspeaking or nonverbal in on this.  I want to see those people that we usually leave out in the disability community in on this.  So I think that, you know, us, GADRA, I think we really kind of need to be kind of far‑reaching in our efforts, and, you know, I think we need to work on some funding because this is going take some money.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  100 percent.

>> ANITA CAMERON:  There are poor groups and poor folks out there who manage to do this without funding, but I think that it can happen, but on the other hand, don’t leave that all to us.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Absolutely.  Anita.

>> ANITA CAMERON:  Because a lot of us don’t have the access to money, funding, grants or anything like that, you know, to help us out.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  1,000 percent.

>> ANITA CAMERON:  So see us, have us, use us, use us in trainings and education and fund us.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Thank you so much, Anita, that beautiful summarizes this event, honestly.  It’s actually really interesting, you answered and Andrea’s question in the chat ‑‑ Andrew’s question which was how do we collaborate recovery and CRT teams around the country and I think you spoke to that Anita and it starts with inclusive trainings and inclusive representation.  So thank you Anita.

That I know we do have a couple of questions in the Q & A, I want to turn very quick toll Leroy.  Leroy, you have about two minutes.  I know you had a previous comment and then to answer the question as well.

>> LEROY MOORE:  Yeah, I’ll make it quick.  I’ll talk about what Krip‑Hop is doing.  What Krip‑Hop is doing.  Now we’re going to write a book together about African people with disabilities in our world.  We have to realize that Black disabled people have movements before this crisis.  So you them in UK, in Toronto and South Africa, and all of them were crushed because of a lack of funding and white voices but that I think we need to tell these stories, to tell these stories about these movements that started out that really nobody is writing about, you know, so that’s one thing, telling the stories and getting the stories out there.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  That’s so important.  Absolutely.  When we don’t know the stories that are out there and the experiences out there, it’s really hard to address those inequal experiences.  Thank you, Leroy.

In the next five minutes I want to jump to our Q & A.  I’m going on start with Kaman.  We have a question, what should the global effort for inclusive and ‑‑ I am so sorry ‑‑ clearly I need to put my reading glasses on.

Let me start over.

What should be the global effort for inclusivity and diversity?

>> KAMAN KELLY WASUP:  Inclusivity and diversity globally.  Yeah.  It’s a progressive realization, not just seeing us especially as disability but seeing us as important person in the society that can contribute towards the development of the society in the country as a whole, so recognizing the importance of everyone to play in the society, then we can participate in inclusivity taking into consideration.  Some of the times too, some of the times too, it’s good to embrace, you know, like for me I come from Papua New Guinea, and our cultural practices, how we carry the cultural practices from our traditional, you know, ancestors forward and we continue, it’s very, very strong.  So it’s good to realize that and embrace it and gets it forward and bring to the table on discuss how do we embrace and realize that a Black person with disability but embracing how you live and how you do things, it’s part of the inclusivity when you embrace, you know, everyone equally despite how they grew up and things like this.  So it’s good to embrace and that you include that.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Absolutely.  Perhaps and I would love to hear your thoughts too, Kaman, but perhaps it’s even ‑‑ I would dare say take it a step further and say, you know, people with disabilities are important, A, period, right, as people we’re important, but we’re important, our perspectives are important to disaster management and recovery because we are disabled people, right?  Because we have that perspective.  We are important because of our disability and our perspective.  So I’m sure you would agree with that as well, Kaman.

>> KAMAN KELLY WASUP:  Yes, definitely, definitely.  An important thing to realize is, you know, everyone, every Black person with disability especially on here, so you cannot be substituted or represented by anyone else.  You have to bring a perspective to the table on inclusivity and disability.

>> PRIYA PENNER:  Thank you so much, Kaman.  That is such an important perspective.  Thank you.  So we do have a couple more questions focused on individuals.  I’m happy to share these questions with the panelists themselves.  Because we are at the top of the hour and I am going on wrap us up, I want to first and foremost say thank you to our five panelists.  This was such an amazing discussion, and I really truly hope to see you on our GADRA Working Group so that we can continue this very necessary and important work that we have now and we’re doing now.  Secondly, I want to thank our access team, that interpret this team for ASL as well as our CART captioner, Lori, who on CART today.  So thank you all for your presence and your help today.  This event would not be nearly as successful without you all.  And lastly, I want to thank the attendees who are here today with us.  This conversation really is so vital, and we’re so glad that you’re here with us to have it.

Please stay tuned for the post‑production of this video.  It should be out within the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime, you can view this webinar as well as previous webinars on our GADRA Facebook page, as well as review other material on our GADRA Twitter page.  Thank you guys so much, and have a lovely day.

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What’s Up WID: Whole Community Disaster Preparedness & Response

Nicholas Love:
Hello everyone, and welcome back to What’s Up WID, the World Institute on Disability biweekly podcast where we discuss what’s up in the disability community across the globe. My name is Nicholas Love, I’m honored to be a director at The World Institute On Disability. Today’s guest is Dawn Skaggs, which emergency disaster and climate resilience specialist. She is an international subject matter expert, consultant, and speaker on disability in community includes of emergency, planning, preparation, response and recovery. For over two decades, she has provided training and presentations at hundreds of events locally, nationally, and international audiences including radio, television, and university platforms. Her written publications include over a dozen articles on inclusive community emergency management.

Nicholas Love:
On today’s episode, Dawn and I will be chatting about whole community disaster, preparation and response for people with disabilities. I’m excited to have you as a guest today Dawn, how are you?

Dawn Skaggs:
I’m great. Thank you, Nicholas. I’m really pleased to be here and spend a few minutes exploring how we move forward towards improving the experiences of people with disabilities, both in steady state and at disaster events.

Nicholas Love:
Wonderful. Let’s just get right into it. As you know, during both natural and man-made disasters, people with disabilities in marginalized communities make up the majority of fatalities. How can government adequately prepare for disasters to better protect these communities?

Dawn Skaggs:
Nicholas, it can actually be capsuled in four words; planning with and not for, is the way that they adequately plan to better protect the communities that are currently not being adequately cared for. It’s the role of the government to facilitate preparedness for all people. So there’s multiple levels of government, each with its own roles and responsibilities but the challenge is that governments cannot meet the needs of all the people in a disaster. It doesn’t mean that the government should not plan for all of the people, it means they need to plan differently than they’ve been planning. Time and time again through multiple disasters, we’ve seen that governments must plan with the people with disabilities and with the whole community. The government agencies then become the planning facilitators in conjunction with their community.

Dawn Skaggs:
The government’s role is, in adequately preparing for disasters to best protect the communities is to use the skills and expertise that exists already within the community. People with disabilities know their needs and their capacity, but the government does not. Governments need to prepare jointly together with and not for individuals with a disability by partnering jointly. When they do this, it accomplishes three goals that support fully inclusive preparedness planning. The first one is that individuals, groups, and agencies from the disability community are able to inform and direct the planning and the response and the recovery, so that it is inclusive. So that there isn’t something being done for or about them, it’s being done with them because they have that expertise. They need that seat at the table.

Dawn Skaggs:
The second impact is that governments have the access to skills and assets of the disability community. And using that, they can align their planning with what works on a daily basis, rather than what they think is going to work in a disaster. In a disaster, if we want to be most effective and most protective of the individuals in our community, we need to be addressing what’s working on a daily basis? Where are those skills and resources? How can those be leveraged within their existent system to really create a true partnership where the skills are utilized in the way that they need to be, to maximize on that capacity? And the third impact is that, the governments can address real gaps in planning, rather than their perceived gaps and perceptions of the needs of the disability community. So really in essence, if the government want to truly, adequately prepare for disasters to maximally protect their communities and the individuals with disability in their communities, they really need to join forces together.

Dawn Skaggs:
Beyond the traditional planning in silos where emergency managers and planners are expected to know what needs to be done. They need to open those doors and really become the facilitators of the activities together with and under the direction of the people that are really going to be impacted. Otherwise, they’re not going to be able to really effectively meet those needs and the plans are going to fall short every time because they don’t know what those needs are. They don’t know how those needs are met on a daily basis and they don’t know how to integrate that into the disaster scenario.

Nicholas Love:
Thank you, Dawn. What I’m hearing while you’re talking, I’m hearing the independent living battle cry. Nothing about us without us. That’s so simple, yet, here we are. Dawn, disabled people with multiply marginalized identities such as people of color, LGBTQ+, women, and those living in poverty, are disproportionately effected by disasters. How can we create a whole community, inclusive culture, so that these groups are not forgotten, ignored, and are included during the disaster preparation response and recovery? You talked about bringing us to the table, how do we do that?

Dawn Skaggs:
As I mentioned in the previous question, the use of the whole community approach really requires the representation of all facets of the community to include those with a disability. And when I say a seat at the table, I don’t mean literally a seat at the table, I mean a voice. It’s possible to be invited to the conversation and really not be heard. So when we’re talking about inclusive whole community approach, it really requires a public, private, personal partnership that’s critical. And the basis of that is mutually honoring and respecting the voices that do come to the table. So that they’re not just voices, but they are contributors to the plan. And that’s not an easy thing to do. It’s easy to say we all need to come to the table, it’s easy to say everybody needs to be represented. But it’s not a touchy, feely, let’s all feel good together process. It can be very messy and it can be less than linear.

Dawn Skaggs:
The struggle comes when we all come to the table with our agenda. With an expectation of the other members of the table and we really need to transform that into a paradigm shift of everyone coming to the table for a mutually agreed goal and mission and that being the maximum health and safety and survival of the community members themselves. That can’t be done in a response. That can’t actually be started in the preparedness conversation, that begins before any of those things come to the table. That begins when the community manager engages with the community. When the agencies and the government agencies really participate as community members, not as community directors or managers or someone separate. Integrating into the whole community strategy includes truly that; integrating. Everyone’s bringing strength and everybody’s bringing needs, including the government agencies and we all need to be coming to this whole community strategy with the goal of creating an inclusive culture where there is equitable and equal respect and contributions and skills and expertise.

Dawn Skaggs:
That has a foundation really in a true paradigm shift and what that looks like is the actual self responsibility of each and every community member to acknowledge they are their own first responder. They are their own first source of support. After that, are their friends and family and neighbors and that conversation can only really be had when the people coming to the table, the representation coming to the table, represents personally prepared community members. Personal preparedness is not something that comes easily, naturally, or without fear to a lot of us. And there’s been study after study that demonstrates individuals with a disability most often are not adequately prepared. And even when they feel they might be adequately prepared, the reality is they have not had the supports, they do not have the resources to really, truly come personally prepared. Unless the community members are personally prepared, when they come to engage with the government and NGO and VOAD agencies, they don’t have that same foundation of being able to communicate and share and exchange expertise with the government agencies that will be able to make a difference.

Dawn Skaggs:
So taking on that sense of my safety and my preparedness is my responsibility is fundamental to whole community engagement. The reality is, as much as they would like to, as much as we have been taught that, government agencies don’t have it all together. Our job is not to wait for the government agency. Our job is to assess our own personal needs and our own personal assets and access those first and foremost to say, this is me, this is my life, and I’m taking responsibility for it. That then carries through to a second phase of people feeling safe and empowered to participate. And what happens when that occurs is that individuals with a disability, representatives from various community groups, service providers, come to the table without that expectation of someone else solving their problem. They come with the expectation of, I have an expertise and an area of knowledge that you don’t have and we need to put those together so that we can have the same goal and we can collaborate on an equal and equitable and fair playing ground.

Dawn Skaggs:
And that really, Nicholas, is the paradigm shift from our traditional approach of expecting the government to care for us, to us coming as empowered contributors to our community with an incredible set of expertise that doesn’t exist if we are not at the table and we are not sharing and we not being effective in partnering with the government agency for that same goal. On the flip side, it is the government’s responsibility to keep that door open. To make sure that the table is a playing field, to make sure that there is the expertise that’s being brought to the table, is honored and acted upon and not just put in some meeting notes or put in a plan and put on the shelf. That there is truly a building of an equitable partnership and relationship. That relationship has to proceed the partnership in order to garner that mutual respect and understanding that individuals with a disability, whether it’s for themselves, their family, their neighborhood, or their jurisdiction. As a representative, they have something to contribute and they’re in a place to be able to contribute that as a participating partner.

Dawn Skaggs:
And that those areas of expertise prove to be beneficial to the grander scheme. They’re not layered on, but they’re embedded within the plan itself. And they are then embedded, after the plan, embedded into the community culture. So building that sense of, I have something of an expertise that I can help myself and help others for every individual is really critical. It prepares an avenue to participation that really ensures inclusion because it’s not something we’re doing for a population group, but it becomes the way that we operate on a daily basis, which is then replicated in how we operate in a disaster scenario. So really looking at it from the group up, rather than as a trickle down effect, embeds that inclusive culture into not only our plans, but our thought process and our actions.

Nicholas Love:
Absolutely wonderful, Dawn. I mean, the self empowerment, being able to embrace change and that change then affecting all. The winter storm is earlier this year in Texas wreaked havoc on the disability community, marginalized communities, and communities at large, leaving millions without power, gas, or water for several days. As a Texas resident, what are your thoughts about the lack of disaster preparation prior to this storm? And if you could also, as part of that, could you tell me what happened to the people with disabilities during the storm specifically?

Dawn Skaggs:
So Nicholas, to the first part of your question, as a Texas resident, I was personally impacted and that changes the experience of a disaster. When it’s about you and your home, it’s different than when it’s about someone else. So speaking to that as a Texas resident, I would say that what I observed predominantly was what can be capsuled as universal impact. In that particular storm and that particular disaster, everyone was impacted. Nobody had a preferred way to do things because when there were no roads, there were no roads. There was no transportation, there was no electricity, there was no water. And it put things on a very level playing field. So although public and private partnerships as I discussed in the previous question and their role in emergency preparedness are important. What we saw is, unfortunately something that is difficult to navigate and even more difficult to avoid. We’re all tasked with an all hazards planning approach. However in reality, there are limited resources. And hazards are always prioritized based on probability.

Dawn Skaggs:
When you’re talking about a storm that happens every 100 years or so, it doesn’t get prioritized. And often, what that means is, it doesn’t get planned for because in Texas, we’re thinking about the hurricanes and the tornadoes and the other natural disasters. Not thinking about a storm that shuts down entire cities instantaneously. So this only emphasizes the need for the disability community to be personally prepared and to be collaborating with their government agencies. The more those relationships are developed in advance, the more we can navigate where those gaps happen because those gaps are going to happen. No jurisdictions can plan for all hazards all the time in all ways for all people. It’s not a realistic expectation. So the disaster preparedness was lacking because we all followed the standard prioritization strategy and those things are going to happen.

Dawn Skaggs:
Emphasizing the need for those partnerships and relationships. The takeaway lesson from this is that disasters have a universal impact to individuals with a disability and the need for self preparedness and self advocacy regarding their needs cannot be overstated. We saw individuals in institutions who were stranded in the institutions, as were the workers. When the roads shut down, they shut down very quickly and they shut down totally and completely. So individuals in an institution who were reliant on other people for their sustainability, for their preparedness, for their wellbeing, where all aspects of their life were incredibly impacted because those individuals who typically, in steady state, provided those services and that support had other priorities as well. They had their own lives. They had their own homes and their own families and they could not be there in the way that the individuals in the institutions required them to be.

Dawn Skaggs:
That resulted in second and third level tragedies where individuals were missing medication, individuals were going without water. And with no flowing water, there was no proper sewage and all of those things compounded to impact. Not to mention, this happened during the COVID crisis. And that had a tremendous impact because we’re not talking about people who came into the storm with resilience. They came into the storm coming from a steady state that they were comfortable with where they were getting the support they needed. All of the resources were taxed already and then to add to the storm, the personal resilience and the personal, institutional, organizational, and government resources weren’t there. Similarly, for individuals with a disability who were living independently in the community. They did not have access to the resources that they were typically reliant on. Individuals who did not leave their home were reliant on meal delivery. If they did not have those personal preparedness strategies in place already, they went hungry because there wasn’t the food there.

Dawn Skaggs:
Only serving to emphasize again, Nicholas, the importance of each individual preparing to the best of their ability. Now, it’s common for all of us not to be prepared, particularly as I mentioned, individuals with a disability because it’s a scary thing. It seems like a great, huge task that is insurmountable. Particularly, if we have individuals who have medical needs, who rely on personal assistant services, who have other devices that are dependent on electricity. To think about becoming prepared for 72 hours on your own is frightening. And that fear often stops us in our tracks. But if we take this strategy of each, individual person needs to be self prepared, if your personal assistant service provider is late, you take the initiative of finding out where they’re at. You reach out to your point of contact, you access your natural supports. You do the things on a daily basis to address a potential emergency. That’s the strategy that each individual with a disability needs to take in preparation for their own personal preparedness and resilience in a disaster.

Dawn Skaggs:
The role of the government, the service providers, the agencies, the NGOs, is to facilitate that. To find out what needs to be done and support individuals with a disability to become personally prepared because the winter storm is the perfect example of how critical that is. When there are no first responders, there is you, your resources, your natural network of supports, and your ingenuity. Not to say that it’s all on the person, but it’s on all of us to ensure that we develop that strategy, integrate it into what we do on a daily basis, so that an emergency may not become a full fledged disaster. And when the disaster is large and beyond your control, you have some redundancy, you have some resilience, and you have the ability to maintain while we engage with the agencies who are actually never the first responders. We and our natural supports are always the first responders.

Dawn Skaggs:
So the takeaway from the Texas storm really was that we need to be strategic and we need to be intentional in building our own resilience and building our natural resilience within pockets of communities. If the first responder is not able to get there because the roads are closed and there’s no gas, then it’s up to the neighborhoods to really be the first responders. Those people who you can trust to know what the needs are and exchange and support each other. Not instead of, but in addition to the obligations and roles and responsibilities of the government agencies.

Nicholas Love:
So Dawn, this once in a 100 year storm, what did we learn from that? Has there been changes or improvement in the disability inclusive preparedness as a result of the storm?

Dawn Skaggs:
As in most cases in a disaster, the lessons we learned don’t have an immediate and observational impact. Three months later, there is nothing in the community that we can point to and say, “This has changed.” We should have learned the lesson of survival and creating those natural supports and the critical preparedness component for the entire community. What I do see that we can learn and should be learning is building on these lessons that we experience every disaster. And step by step, piece by piece, building a relationship, tying, planning for people with disabilities into the plans that are done by agencies, the plans that are done by jurisdictions, the plans that are done on state and national levels. Making sure that our thought process is fully inclusive. Looking at the things that happened during that storm where individuals were stranded, where people’s lives were in danger, simply due to the temperature. And identifying, what can we take away from that besides the gaps? How do we fill that gap? And how do we develop those collaborations so that, that gap doesn’t happen next time?

Dawn Skaggs:
Or, we can identify the gap at the beginning of the disaster to access all of the capacity and resources within the community. Beyond just relying on government solutions. When the disaster like the Texas winter storm happens, as I started to say at the beginning, it impacts everyone and it’s not enough to say there was a gap. It needs to be the beginning of a conversation, which I think those conversations are beginning where we start to identify the roles and responsibilities, beyond the roles and responsibilities, identifying how we empower people to take on those roles and responsibilities. How we educate our agencies to, what are the needs in the community? What are the needs of the disability community? And just as importantly, where is the capacity? And where are the assets in the disability community?

Dawn Skaggs:
By looking at the assets post-disaster and saying, how did people manage? Where are the success stories? Where is the story of the woman who lives alone, who has multiple disabilities? But who prior to the disaster, built relationships with her neighbors, built a relationship with the people in her building so that they had a strategy to identify who was safe and who wasn’t and who needed assistance. One example of that would be a building of seniors in a relatively closed community where they had strategized in advance of the disaster, a method to hang a little note on their door. They door hangers similar to what you might see in a hotel and they were color coded so that with a brief look out of their door, they knew which of their neighbors were doing well, which of their neighbors needed some support, which of their neighbors were struggling.

Dawn Skaggs:
And creating those resilience tools are things that happen in every disaster and we need to be looking for those and sharing those beyond the borders of the disaster so that as a country, we can start to integrate best practices and promising practices that grow inherently and organically within the community to build that sense of whole community inclusive culture. Where, you don’t know where the promising practice is going to come from, because most often, it comes from the most surprising places and a lot of times, it’s interesting as you look back over disasters, a lot of the things that we do now as promising practices, were lessons learned from experiences and expertise within the disability community. There is a rich plethora of expertise and problem solving and innovation within the disability community and the lesson that we need to learn from the winter storm as well as all the other disasters that are still to come, both human caused and natural disasters, what are the things that we’re doing that are meeting daily needs that are innovative? That are working?

Dawn Skaggs:
And look into the disability community as a source for an immense capacity, rather than allowing government agencies to continue to look at the disability community as recipients of resources and recipients of care. We need to be turning that around 180 degrees and looking at the disability community, the experiences of individuals with a disability in disasters and finding out, what were the things that worked. How do we generalize that, so that they can be used on a regional and national level? So that we come to educate the government and power the government and help them do that facilitating role that they really should be doing to address the needs of real people, real needs in real disasters.

Nicholas Love:
Thank you, Dawn. People with disabilities are so resilient. We have the ability to overcome quite a bit and we have so much that we can share and I love how you bring together simple suggestions and stories to show what a great impact we can do. Let’s talk about beyond our borders, right? Let’s talk about recent disasters in countries other than the US. And the impact of the culture and the preparedness of people with disabilities. What could the disability led organizations do to respond? And how could they have been more supportive?

Dawn Skaggs:
When I talk about building the capacity and accessing the capacity within the disability community, that’s exactly what I’m referring to. What we see across the globe in every disaster is examples of disability led organizations or sometimes even individuals themselves who have a disability, coming to meet the need, to fill the gap that they can see because of their expertise. And we see that in every disaster. We saw that in the Saint Vincent’s Volcano, where at the grassroots level, people who knew disabilities, people who knew disasters, people who knew the real need in the community, came in to the fill the gap. We see that on the micro level within each disaster and we see that at a macro level. In the Japan tsunami, we saw independent community residents and service providers traveling hundreds of miles to provide evacuation assistance because they knew the need was there. We need to be integrating those resources into our global planning. And doing it in a culturally competent manner.

Dawn Skaggs:
There are some fundamental priorities that we see around the world and that is the value of human life and the need to care for others that we care for. And we need to be able to identify, what are the core skillsets? What is the core priority? And how do we make that flexible enough that it can be applied within any culture? How do we demonstrate value of human life and resilience in the face of risk and apply that to the diverse cultures that we have around the globe? One of the things we can do is really to identify those, glorify those, magnify those, and share those around the world. When we see best practices, when we see people taking the initiative, when we see disability led organizations who identify a gap quickly because they’re familiar with it, and taking the initiative to stand in that gap. Even if the system is not meeting the needs, they meet the needs.

Dawn Skaggs:
We can support those people and those agencies around the world by creating a culture where that skillset is valued be integrating that intentionally and strategically into the emergency operations plans of their particular government and agencies. That’s going to look different in each place because it has to take on the cultural relevance to wherever that’s happening, but in essence, it begins with effective communication. It begins with making the government aware that those disability led organizations are filling the gap and reminding them that really, they need to be a part of that process. They need to be a part of the solution, beyond just identifying the gap and analyzing it. Really taking action. And when they cannot take action due to limited resources or limited knowledge or limited reach and scope, to strategically and intentionally integrate those disability led organizations into their process. That accomplishes a couple things, not the least of which is acknowledging and partnering with those disability led organizations, nor the least of them is, having them a part of the system so that is not a financial and capacity drain on those disability led organizations.

Dawn Skaggs:
What we see most of the time is that happening outside of the strategic system in various parts of the globe, but we need to integrate those into their government process so that they do get those reimbursements. They are part of the funding chain. They’re an intentional part of the supply chain, so that they are a natural piece, they’re an acknowledged partner, instead of being the people who fill the gap for free on the side. And we saw that in Puerto Rico, we saw that in The Virgin Islands, we saw that in Saint Vincent’s Volcano, we see it time and time again. Bringing that back again, Nicholas, to where we started, which is supporting those disability led organizations through finding an avenue for them to build a relationship with their government in a culturally competent manner so that they can come alongside and create and fill a mutually beneficial, common goal. Which is, the thriving of their community, both prior to, throughout, or the response to a disaster and just as importantly, but not nearly so glamorous, the recovery from a disaster.

Nicholas Love:
You talk about these disasters are happening, these storms, these volcanoes. There’s another disaster happening with COVID. The COVID-19 vaccinations are finally becoming more readily available globally, but across the globe, nearly three million people, most of whom who’ve had preexisting conditions, which means technically they have a disability, died after contracting the virus. In our last episode, we talked about building forward better and creating more equitable disaster planning response and recovery so that the needs of the people with disabilities in marginalized populations are addressed to prevent such deadly outcomes in the future. What inequities remain as a barrier to build forward towards more resilient disability communities?

Dawn Skaggs:
I’m glad you asked, Nicholas. There is inequities that remain. Those inequities really carry across all disasters, all emergencies, and unfortunately across a lot of daily experiences in communities. One of the primary roots to that is effective communication. If we want an equitable community, if we want a level playing field in the response to a disaster, be it a short term disaster or long term, like COVID-19, we need to learn how to diversify and pivot our communications. There is no one strategy to build forward towards a more resilient disability community. We have to be flexible, we have to be resilient, and we have to be able to adapt our communications so that the equity that we’re desiring comes because we have provided the opportunities for each and every person with a disability or organization representing people with disabilities. Or Nicholas, even more generally, some of those communities that are also disproportionately impacted who are not part of the conversation, who are not maybe willing to actively engage with their government agencies. If they’re not there at the table, they get left out.

Dawn Skaggs:
And when we have long-term disasters and pandemics such as COVID-19, they cannot survive, they cannot be resilient internally. And when we have closed communities that are not involved, we need to be reaching out. We need to be diversifying our communication, we need to be thinking about, how can we create the most redundant multi-motile communication strategies possible? Because if individuals do not receive the information, they cannot act on their own behalf. If we are not effectively sharing, what are the access methods to a vaccine? What are the methods to stay safe? What are the things that you need to be doing on a daily basis in this new frontier of post-COVID-19? We cannot be expecting or counting on communities such as the disability community to be resilient because they simply won’t have the information.

Dawn Skaggs:
So in order to break down some of those barriers, we need to start with our communication strategies and make sure that they are reaching all of the community groups, including the disability community and various other subgroups that we see in all of our geographic communities. We don’t want to be recovering back. We don’t want to be recovering at all. We want to be taking the opportunity that we have in each disaster, even the pandemics to identify, how can we build a stronger community in general? And again, how can we look at what’s happening on a daily basis to maximize on that? How can we use our communication strategies and our new technology and the diversification and the pivoting that is being done in the community to more effectively bring our communities together? To more effectively address the needs of the disability communities? And really looking at, what is it going to look like in the future? Not, how do we go back to the way things were, but how can we improve?

Dawn Skaggs:
And that essential assumption of an equitable respect of realizing that each and every individual, each and every community group, brings something to the table. And looking at the disability communities as leaders, as asset providers, as innovators, which they are.

Nicholas Love:
Yes, yes. Thank you Dawn. So much to think about. Thank you so much for joining us today, Dawn. And thank you all for tuning in to today’s episode of What’s Up WID. Transcripts and ASL translations for today’s episodes are available on our website at http://www.wid.org/whats-up-wid. To paraphrase the words of one of our founders, Ed Roberts, we need to get out there and change the old attitudes so we can build forward better. Thank you. Have a good day.

An Overview of Internal and External Disability Inclusion

> Kat: Our Accessibility Consulting Specialists work with our clients to operationalize inclusion by examining and recommending accessibility and disability inclusion policy and practices for both your company’s internal and external practices. Internally, WID works with our clients to increase their disability inclusion work practices, such as employment opportunities. implementing disability employee resource groups, accommodation policies, and auditing office systems with accessible technologies.

> Externally, WID provides consulting services that assist companies in targeting people with disabilities and the disability community within their marketing initiatives. We work with our clients to identify their market opportunities and provide guidance around messaging and imagery that is inclusive of people with disabilities.

> When aspects of an event are not accessible, people with disabilities are left out of the discussion and ultimately their needs and perspectives are ignored. To this end, WID assists companies that hold conferences, events, or trainings by implementing accessibility upgrades for both in-person and remote convenings that allow for greater participation and contributions from people with disabilities and disability community leaders.

> If you’re a company looking for accessibility consulting experts to help you expand your  organizational disability inclusion efforts, contact me today at kat@wid.org.

> In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we will be continuing the conversation about digital accessibility. Join us on Thursday, May 20 at 4PM Eastern Time, 1PM Pacific, 8PM Coordinated Universal Time. You don’t want to miss it!

Sign Up to Be a WID Usability Tester

> Kat: User testing refers to the evaluation of products and services by users from the general population or a targeted population with the goal of determining ease-of-use and user satisfaction. With these same aims, WID’s user testing sessions focus specifically on accessibility for people with disabilities as consumers and workers throughout the digital and built environment.

> WID regularly customizes user testing sessions in order to improve the accessibility of your products and services for people with disabilities. During testing sessions, users are given a list of tasks and asked to provide feedback as they attempt to complete them; meanwhile, WID researchers, who are trained in accessibility best practices, observe and note “pain points” and highlight areas in which users experience a high level of difficulty completing any of the assigned tasks. Notes and observations are then organized into a formal report with specific recommendations so that improvements in accessibility can be made.

> WID is always looking to expand its roster of people to participate in our usability testing program. All user testers are paid for every session they are selected for. As user testers, you are the experts on accessibility, including by utilizing your assistive technologies and devices and we aim to learn from the experience you bring to the testing lab. WID currently conducts virtual sessions in your home and in-person at a variety of locations.

> If you are interested in participating, please complete the WID user testing application on our website at http://www.wid.org/user-testing-application/. It is important that we have as much information as possible via this application in order to place you in the appropriate user testing or focus group session.

> Thank you for your interest in contributing to improving accessibility!

> In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we will be continuing the conversation about digital accessibility. Join us on Thursday, May 20 at 4PM Eastern Time, 1PM Pacific, 8PM Coordinated Universal Time. You don’t want to miss it!

An Overview of Training and Technical Assistance

> Kat: WID provides training and technical assistance to companies of all sizes on a variety of topics, such as disaster preparedness and evacuation, document and building accessibility, disability-specific marketing strategies, and accessibility topics generally.

> WID has a variety of Subject Matter Experts on staff that serve as thought leaders in their areas of expertise. These experts are seasoned in providing comprehensive and customized trainings for companies looking to optimize their disability inclusion efforts.

> Our Disaster experts are global leaders on emergency preparedness, disaster risk reduction, humanitarian relief, resilience, climate justice response, and recovery for universal physical, programmatic and communication access and accommodations.

> Our Accessibility and Universal Design experts can train key staff in creating accessible documents including; Word, PowerPoint, and PDF accessibility. WID Subject Matter Experts can also introduce your team to website and App accessibility.

> Our community living experts provide training on how to effectively use WID product Disability Benefits 101 with clients that would like to better understand the transition from benefits to work. Additionally, this area covers financial health and empowerment, peer mentoring, and community living policy. 

> Lastly, WID offers disability inclusion trainings that cover topics such as; disability bias and etiquette, workplace inclusion practices, and inclusive marketing that touches on language and imagery.

> All of WIDs subject matter experts are also able to conduct keynotes, lead or contribute to panel discussions and other speaking engagements.

> If you’re a company looking for training and technical assistance on disability-specific topics, contact me today at kat@wid.org.

> In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we will be continuing the conversation about digital accessibility. Join us on Thursday, May 20 at 4PM Eastern Time, 1PM Pacfic, 8PM Coordinated Universal Time. You don’t want to miss it!