Uber must earn trust from all their customers

I was asked for my thoughts surrounding the implications of “sharing” services, like that of Uber, on people with disabilities at a workshop held at the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) today. And since I was unable to attend in person, I was kindly given the opportunity to have my written words represent my interests instead. What follows are those words…

In all honesty, my initial approach toward these thoughts consisted of little more than what I’ve heard/ read about Uber from various sources, namely from the news media. And I’ll admit, that was unfair. But also consider one “source,” a Blind colleague, who was denied service because she was accompanied by a service animal, and charged a cancellation fee on top of everything, was what I drew my impressions from most!

And this wasn’t an isolated incident, for her I mean. It’s happened to her before at least one time previous (turns out it has happened fourteen or fifteen other times). And what happened after – I have no idea what amends, if any, were offered – is of little consequence; it happened. What I’m driving at here is Uber has a public perception problem as a result. However, that’s a separate issue – one potentially solved with training.

But what concerns me more about Uber’s intention to provide its customers an accessible service is what this effort will result in when it comes to Uber’s reliability.

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Stranded between empathy and penalty

The idea of penalty doesn’t belong to the law exclusively. It’s a penalty when a person can’t use technology they need.

Hello! My name is Johnny Taylor. I’m a disabled web worker. And it’s my job to keep web accessibility non-elite! But first, I should paint you a picture concerning me and the reason I’m speaking to you, here, at the fifth iteration of Accessibility Camp Toronto today.

Way back, in the summer of nineteen ninety-six, when I was all of twenty-one years old, I was involved in a very serious motor vehicle accident, which left me in a coma for two months (or there about). And that, getting straight to the point, is my personal motivation for practicing inclusive design.

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Communication is often a challenge

Last month at Accessibility Camp Toronto I had a number of encounters with people I’ve had conversations with in the past. And for reasons I’ll touch on in a bit, communication between them and I was a challenge. But with the benefit of time, and an email exchange with one of the aforementioned conference participants, finally comes this post today.

I tend to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. Meaning I’m pretty hard on myself when it comes to assigning blame for anything not going as I intend. Or, better still, as imagine it could. This year’s camp is case in point.

Realistically taking all the  blame probably isn’t the most productive of ways to have handled this specific instance – as was put to me by more than one person who had issues understanding me. “Context is everything.” Point taken.

I’m not that loud of a speaker. And being in loud hallways or auditoriums isn’t an ideal place for me to be heard, let alone understood. It’s just I felt at Camp this year, every encounter I had seemed like I was the reason for it feeling a little awkward – whether rightly or wrongly. Thing is, I possess the ability to change. I really should work much harder to take better advantage of it. And I am.

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The use of technology will always require adaptation

This past Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) I was fortunate enough to catch part (as in a wee bit) of Inclusive Design 24 (#ID24). The Paciello Group held 24 one-hour webinars concerning various matters dealing with accessibility. It was really quite the productive gesture to, and I’ll quote, “celebrate efforts worldwide to ensure people with disabilities have full and equal access to the web.”

Remember — and not to suggest this was The Paciello Group’s intent when offering their statement about #ID24 — “if what one is unable to do continues to be used as a means of defining disability […] then every single individual on this planet is disabled.” That statement brilliantly sums up an intent of GAAD quite nicely, so says me. It’s all inclusive.

And one “webinar” in particular got my noodle cooking. The Billy Gregory’s talk, 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started in Digital Accessibility. Not that any talk I was able to tune into wasn’t great. But it was this one, however, that was personally relevant. In the sense I found myself thinking a lot about how I’d answer Billy’s proclamation.

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Automatic audio text transcriptions

In honour of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) today I’m throwing this method out in to the ether that is the web. However, it’s not the quote/ unquote “technique” I’m offering — in the sense I really expect anyone will use it. Rather it’s my aim to try and get people thinking about the content they consume and produce on and for the web, period. And thinking a little differently about said web content.

After all, that’s the point of going through the effort of raising awareness. To think about anything in a manner which you aren’t typically conditioned to think about them. Or in other words, it’s not so much the result I’m most interested in here, it’s the reasons for and process that give us that result. It’s my hope to draw some attention towards automatic text transcriptions of audio only podcasts, specifically.

And I’m aware such a solution is still a ways off from being practical — as in reliably useable. But it’s never too early to entertain prospects. And experiment.

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