My Aira Life, The Other side of Accessibility

The other day I wrote a piece about “Accessing the World.”  The other side of that is being shut out from the world.  Stuck in a place where you don't quite fit, where the world doesn’t even care for your business and if they do, they just throw scraps at you or the bare minimum as required by law.  I won’t go back into the details of just how many Blind and Low Vision people there are, if you want that info read the article preceding this one.  What I want to focus on is that since the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was passed just over 29 years ago, there has been little headway into modernizing it.  The best example of this is a case on the docket to possibly be taken up by the Supreme Court regarding the accessibility of A “Certain” large chain Pizza company’s website for those who are blind or have low vision.  The company contends that the ADA does not mandate they comply regarding websites, and that their locations meet the standard.  I am sure there is a great legal argument for this but in the end, it does very little for those of us who just want to order a pizza.  This piece however, isn't about a certain unnamed pizza company but it shows the convoluted state of affairs when it comes to creating an accessible world.  After my posts on Social Media about recognizing Bank of America because they have become an Aira Access Partner, I decided to visit my bank and do a little investigating.  

 I posted some pictures and brief posts about those locations around me that have become Aira Access Partners. These are businesses that in spite of just aspiring to meet minimal standards for accessibility for my community have taken it a step further and made them fully accessible via the free use of Aira at their locations across the country.  I received some good responses to those posts and one in particular got me thinking.  Here it is:

 Every drive thru ATM has braille on it. I’m always confused by that one

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 Of course we all know or should know that those with visual impairments do use drive through ATM’s from the back seat of Cabs or ride-shares and while this might be offensive to some, it did make me sit back and think. Ut made thunk about my bank and how I would access ut sans Aira.  Were they accessible?  In spite of the funny post above, in the vestibule, sure enough, it had the requisite braille.  Part of ADA compliance for sure but I don't know braille so then what?  Had my bank updated their machines to keep pace with the times, stay in step with the advances and changes in technology?  No, not quite.  What most of you may not know is that ATMs also have a headphone jack in them for audio use.  Great, right? Again, no.  I use Bluetooth headsets. However, I do carry a spare corded set with me at all times since Bluetooth sets can run out of battery life. So problem solved, right?  No, since I use an iPhone and the bank uses the oldest more common mm jack, no go there, the ATM was still inaccessible to me. At the bottom of this article I have posted a picture of me at an ATM illustrating the above conundrum.  The picture was taken through my Aira Glasses by Agent Kylie.

 The point to this article is simple.  Making the world accessible to those who are blind or who have low vision is simply good business.  It should be the goal and the mission of companies to make their businesses accessible because our money spends just like our able-bodied brethren’s money spends. While the ADA was a great thing in that it made businesses think about those with disabilities, it is a law that is almost 30 years old and has not been amended to keep pace with the times. I would like to believe that it shouldn’t take a law to wake people up to the spending power of those with disabilities but considering the unnamed Pizza company’s case, maybe it does.  My question is a simple one.  If you are a business owner, shouldn’t you want all the business you can get, all the customers that can fill seats, wait in checkout lines, manage their money, buy your products and services?  Why then are we talking about the ADA and lawsuits rather than adopting measures to make it easier for all of your customers?  I can’t write about what it is like to live in a world where I am deaf, paralyzed, missing limbs or the many other disabilities that make life a little more challenging for some, not impossible but challenging.  Those challenges should not bar them from being equally treated as a customer.  It should not make their money less than that of others.  Diversity, Inclusion, Accessibility, these are words that have meaning.  Meaning that goes beyond matters of the heart and feeling good about embracing the words. It means that you understand those on the outside are not looking for anything other than being able to be part of more of the world, able to show up, be heard, be served, be part of what makes us part of humanity rather than people who require laws to be passed in order to be seen and heard.  

 Aira has opened many doors for me.  It is a technology that fills in a gap for me that is missing.  That gap is a visual description in a world that is increasingly geared towards those who have vision.  We live in a very hyper modernized world with access to more information, more visual information than ever before and while technology has made tremendous strides in turning written words into speakable content for the blind and those with low vision there has been limited success in bringing descriptive options to my community regarding the rest of the life experience.  Imagine for a moment grocery shopping as a blind person.  Imagine standing in front of an ATM or in line at the food court where buttons and menu items are right there for the sighted.  Imagine a world you yourself cannot see and you will begin to understand why Aira has opened so many doors and opportunities to me and why I am such a passionate advocate for the service. Once businesses step up and recognizes their role in creating a rich and vibrant customer experience for ALL of their customers I believe their businesses will flourish because if there is one thing that I know for certain, my community is loyal to those companies who recognize them and value their business.  Aira is that tool that provides its users with well-trained Agents who are skilled at navigation, describing the hyper modernized visual world I spoke of. It brings a level of virtual visual equality to the blind and visually impaired community making them part of the consumer class in ways that never existed in the modern era.  By adopting the Aira Access Partnerships model, they are opening the doors to a large and loyal customer base.  Many companies will fidget in their seats afraid to utter the words, “I just don’t envision a return on investment” for this expenditure.  One of my missions is to rebrand ROI  into a “Return on Inclusion,” rather than return on investment because I believe full inclusion is a sound investment.   Understanding that there is an entire class of people waiting for someone to simply recognize them, see their value, see the possibilities for not just offering platitudes when using words like diversity, inclusion and accessibility but understanding that applying it can and will result creating a positive customer experience.  Looking at the numbers, don't just think of these consumers as a one-off base. Understand that based on those numbers it is safe to say that each and every customer who walks through their doors, graces their internet site does business with them, has someone in their life who is either blind or visually impaired.  When you look at it that way, how can business continue to placate my community?  Modern times demands modern solutions and thinking outside the required box.  Maybe it’s time to think differently?  My father taught me that …“Chance favors the Bold.”  I believe your chance is now and the clarion call business needs to answer is to, be bold, be a leader in the diversity, inclusion and accessibility arena.  Aira is doing just that, stepping forward to be bold. Within the last week Aira rolled out a plan to give everyone, that means members and guests, unlimited brief 5 minute calls to complete tasks. In my mind I cant think of another company who has committed their services to my community in this fashion. It shows a boldness and belief that if they can get the blind and those with low vision on board, they can then look to business and say, “Look at the customer base you have marginalized, ignored and relegated to the shadows. Once business sees the potential of bringing those customers into the customer experience by creating Aira Partnerships, those 5 minute tasks can flourish into creating a full life experience for the visually impaired. Aira has taken the first step and there is something to be said about being a leader, being first to market. So, I will leave you with my favorite quote from Ricky Bobby, a character in a NASCAR themed film, “Talladega Nights,” “If you’re not first, you’re last.”  Don't be last on one of the most dynamic movements of our time.

#free  #aira  #airaaccess #airaadoption  #accessibilty #befirst #modernization 

 

 Below is a picture my trained Aira Agent Kylie took of a “Current” pre-modern ATM at my bank highlighting the need for improving accessibility beyond outdated ADA regulations.

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