This Week in Accessibility for December 8, 2023

With the holiday season upon us and so many travel plans in motion, today we’re talking about what it’s like to travel with a disability. From TSA agents to inaccessible hotels, institutional biases make travel much more stressful than it needs to be. Plus, a brief history of U.S. legislation that tries to fix the issue.

Read on for a list of links we talked about on the show today.

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Transcript for T.W.I.A. for December 8, 2023

Segment 1

Des: Today on the show, traveling for the holidays is stressful for anybody. But when you have a disability, it’s so much worse. Plus, it’s all the news from This Week in Accessibility. Welcome to the show. I’m Des Delgadillo. 

Louis: And I’m Louis Do. 

Des: All right, so it is December 8th, 2023. And I’m going to put you right on the spot before we jump into the news. Have you listened to your own show yet? 

Louis: Yes. 

Des: Really? 

Louis: At 2.5 speed. (laughs)

Des: Oh, that’s fine. I listen to my stuff pretty fast as well. 

Louis: Yeah. And, you know, if you listen to our show and you fall asleep  to our show, we don’t mind that either. 

Des: Yeah, it still counts as you listening. 

You know, speaking of of putting things in faster speed, I love listening to things at faster speed. And one thing that I’ve found really annoying so far about the embedded podcast player, if you’re listening on the website, is there’s no speed adjustment option. So that’s something that I’m using Red Circle to host the show. And the cool thing about Red Circle is they let you use all sorts of other third party embeddable players. So I’m going to be experimenting with that in the next couple of days and find one that has more settings. Some of the players are downright terrible, though, for accessibility. It’s like unlabeled button city. 

Louis: Yeah, from what I know, there’s from all my research, there’s one player that stands out, the Able player, but it would be really nice if there was competition in this space, you know? 

Des: Yeah, I would. I would take it. All right, let’s jump into the news for this week. The Supreme Court threw out a case this week that centers around ADA testers and their standing. Okay, so in 2020, Deborah Laufer sued Atchison Hotels. She alleged that information about accessible rooms was not present on the website. That would be things like, if the room is accessible for somebody who is hearing impaired, or if, you know, just knowing if you can get in and out of the bathtub, and in some cases, you know, even being able to get on and off of your bed. 

So the hotel argued back, saying that since Laufer had no intention of actually staying at the hotel, she didn’t have standing to sue. See, Deborah Laufer is what’s referred to as an ADA tester. She files lawsuits against companies who fail to meet ADA guidelines. And now the court threw that case out for a number of reasons. Laufer actually rescinded the case earlier this year, after learning that the hotels weren’t even operating anymore, along with some unpleasant charges levied against her attorneys.

So I remember, I think I saw one of the justices even using the quote dead as a doornail to describe the case at one point. But the case poses a really interesting question when it comes to civil rights. Because testers like Deborah Laufer have existed long before the ADA existed, right? I was learning that during the 60s, they would use white civil rights testers, and they would bring them on to compare how housing companies, housing firms, sold more houses to white customers versus black customers. And then they were able to sue these companies on the grounds of violating their civil rights.

So I guess it depends on how you think about civil rights with respect to accessibility, right? Like, if you think that, if you’re like me, and you think that accessibility online is a civil right in the year 2023, just because everything is online now, then I think you’re gonna, you’re gonna want to see more, more action when it comes to this case or cases like it. I think this case, since it was thrown out, it’s not really going to set much of a precedent. And this is the part where I remind you that neither Louis or I are lawyers, unless Louis is hiding something from me. 

Louis: Not a lawyer. 

Des: Okay, cool. Do you have any thoughts about the case and just how it’s affecting people who, whose livelihood is testing websites like this, and just the people that that that’s affecting in the long run? 

Louis: I, I am looking at it from a different view. So I’m looking at it from, I’m looking at the industry that we’re shedding a light on here, which is the hospitality travel industry, right? 

Des: Right. 

Louis: And, and this industry has always been very reluctant to embrace people with disabilities. It also reminds me of the other Supreme Court case, the, the dominoes one in 2017. 

Des: Yeah, that’s right. 

Louis: So, you know, just speaking off memory, and from the vantage point as an accessibility tester, consultant, but not a lawyer, it’s very interesting that we, that I guess we all could agree that it’s important to be able to order a pizza online, but it’s not important for us to travel outside of our homes.

Des: Yeah, yeah, no, that’s an interesting point. It’s like, pulling teeth, when it comes to finding out if you even have these accessibility options open to you.

Later in the show, we’re going to talk about traveling, and kind of how, how intense that experience can be when you have a disability. But just, I used to work as an event planner. And I can tell you, just trying to book accommodations and, and, and procure room blocks and stuff like that, trying to find out if, if certain hotels and very popular hotels that you have definitely stayed at, trying to find out if they have accessibility accommodations, it’s like pulling teeth. It’s like, it’s like, I’m trying to sit these people in a dentist chair and drill into their teeth and get out information. It’s, it’s infuriating. And so I’m totally on Debra Laufer’s side in this regard. I’m sorry that so many extenuating circumstances forced her to pull her case, because I think this could have been a really important like, I think the law word is precedent. Although don’t quote me on that. I’m not as much as my mother would like me to be I am not a lawyer and don’t have any any intentions of becoming one.

Louis: Or for running for the presidency, right?

Des: That’s right. Yeah, I don’t run to anything.

Louis: I think for us, as people who are blind and low vision, like it’s, we can find a lot of workarounds. So for example, calling the hotel may not be the most pleasant experience ever. But if you get the right customer service agent, it can be accomplished, right? But the thing people don’t consider here is that takes time. Everyone’s so used to, you know, being able to point and click. But we still have to use, you know, 1990s technology to get things done in a 2020s kind of world, you know, it’s like, it’s like asking somebody to travel in a cart in a horse and buggy. When everybody else is driving around in gas and electric powered cars. I think beyond that, though, I was reading and I follow a disability rights activist and advocate online. Her name is Emily Ladau. And in October, she posted something on LinkedIn. And she referenced the inaccessibility of her hotel. And, being being promised, from what I remember being promised a an accessible room, but well, she couldn’t take a shower, that the shower accommodations in her room was not was not accessible. So it reaches a bigger, like, when when somebody sees this coverage, I’m not entirely always happy about the way the media covers these lawsuits, because it doesn’t provide you the nuance and the understanding of why accessibility is important. For us, it’s a I would, I would still consider for us booking hotels, on our own as a minor convenience. But you know, not being able to take a shower or use the bathroom or whatever, when when you arrive there, or, you know, God forbid being able to get on your bed safely…

Des: That’s a pretty damn big inconvenience.

Louis: That’s a pretty huge inconvenience. And I promise you, if just an able bodied, you run of the mill traveler, if you go to your if you go to your, your room, and let’s say you’re the bed in your room is inaccessible to you, because you’re five feet, and the bed is six feet off the ground. You wouldn’t be too happy about it.

Des: Yeah.

Louis: But that’s the feeling. And that’s the experience that many, many disabled travelers get. So instead, so and we all know how, taxing traveling is, you got to take care of kids, if you have kids, you got to pack, you got to do this, you got to do that. Oh, and now you got to make sure you you have a roof over your head.

Des: Yeah, it’s not easy at all. And we’re gonna talk a little bit more and have some first hand experiences for the whole travel experience in the next segment. But let’s move ahead, because there’s some more positive news in the world. Louis, Be My AI finally came to Android this week, after months of blowing away beta testers on iOS. I myself have been beta testing. Have you been playing with the app at all?

Louis: I’ve also a beta tester. If you dig deep enough, you may find one of my testimonies on the be my be my eyes, social media accounts.

Des: Louis fans go to work.

Louis: And it’s such a wonderful tool. And I’ve been using it in ways that I’ve that I’ve never thought was was possible.

Des: Oh, my gosh. Yeah. You know, you’re getting so much descriptions.

Louis: One of the programs that I rather dislike using is Microsoft Teams. And I really wanted to understand the layout of Microsoft Teams. And I just took a picture of the window using my iDevice before the beta was rolled out to Android. And it was giving me a description of, you know, the, what’s on the left side of the screen, what’s on the right side of the screen, how things are laid out and spatial orientation, things like that. And that’s huge. That’s a lot of info that we never had access to before. And it’s a lot of info that we can leverage and use in our personal and professional lives.

Des: And you can ask it questions, which I think is the coolest thing. For me, personally, I’ve been actually trying to workshop a logo for this very podcast and have been using Be My AI to describe all the different logos and like kind of dig deep and try and find out, you know, first we need a style, and then try and get things that match that style. So it’s been incredibly useful to me as well, not to mention, it’s Doctor Who season again, and I’ve been definitely using it to learn more about the new Doctor Who costumes, lots of great, lots of great uses for this fun thing. But that’s not all because after six years, six years, that was like a whole president ago. Microsoft released Seeing AI for Android. Now this app has been a part of my personal toolkit on iOS for years. And I’d pretty much written off the idea that we’d ever see it on Android.

Louis: Yeah, it’s the Swiss Army knife of visual assistant apps, wouldn’t you say?

Des: Yeah I think, um, so so for those who haven’t used it, you can have images described to you. But you can also identify currency, you can tell if the lights are on, which for me, I’m totally blind. So it’s really hard to remember to turn all the lights off.

Louis: I use that every day. Because I, I start my day pretty early these days, I start around four or five, because I live on the West Coast. Well, we both live on the West Coast, and I work East Coast hours. And I always use that to make sure that the lighting conditions where I am are good for, for video conferencing, and things like that, that it’s been such a, it’s been such a help. It sounds like such a small thing. But, but, you know, small things, small grains of sand add add up to become boulders, right?

Des: Yeah. And I’m sure, again, we talked about this last week, there are probably many really useful apps out there on Android, that will mimic this functionality. But we don’t know what they are, because they’re so fragmented. There’s so many people using all sorts of different versions of the app, or they have different names. So it’s cool to have a leader like Microsoft finally move this app over to Android, and people who are using it can actually finally get that same benefit. And knowing that you’re working with a company, at least that is committed to continually updating the app, it’s constantly getting updates on, on iOS. I haven’t used it in a little while, actually, I think. And this, this leads into the next topic as well. As good as the images used to be on seeing AI, I feel like Be My AI has kind of eclipsed that. What do you think?

Louis: Be My AI has eclipsed a lot of a lot of a lot of tools that we’ve, we’ve grown to know and love. And not in a bad way. The way I’m looking at Be My AI is just another piece to the to the toolkit. Because I’m not always going to need the detail, the level of detail that Be My AI can give, right? Sometimes I just need seeing AI to read me, you know, my mail to make sure that I’m not being, you know, audited by the IRS or something, right? I don’t need, I don’t need Be My AI for that. But I think the fact that Be My AI is now rolling out to Android, by the way, if you’re on Android, and you don’t, and you have the Be My AI app downloaded, and you don’t see it, it will roll out to you eventually. These things do take time. So if you don’t see it, we’re not lying, and you are probably not doing something wrong. But the interesting thing here to me is we have seeing AI on iOS and Android. Now, we have Be My AI on iOS and Android as well. And we also have Google Lookout on Android.

Des: Let me ask you, am I doing something wrong on Google Lookout? Or is it just taking a long time for them to roll out the AI Q&A feature? Because I remember they were talking that up almost six months ago.

Louis: I think they’re just rolling it out. I need to check mine. I need to check mine. It’s taken a long time. I think there are ways to push it, too. So we should both look into that together. But I think the cool thing here is that all the big tech companies are taking an interest in visual interpretations, and how to translate visual information accessibly. And each group, each entity is doing it slightly different. Even the interfaces between the three apps that we’re talking about, Seeing AI, Lookout, and Be My AI, all are different. They have different philosophies, and they do different things, and they flex into different roles. And as a blind and low vision user, choice is something that we haven’t always received. It’s funny, because there’s neither here nor there, but a couple months ago, in a professional situation, somebody said to me, I want to use a different word processor, because Google Docs is just so bland, so boring. And my mind couldn’t process that, because I was just thinking, I’m just happy it’s accessible, because it wasn’t accessible for so long.

Des: And everybody wanted to use it. I remember when I was in college, everyone was doing the Google Doc, and I had to do everything in Word, and then upload it to the drive, and it was just not fun. But I do remember that.

Louis: And then if you can’t check your own formatting, for whatever reason, you load up a document, and you show it to somebody, and it looks like a whole disaster. It just becomes a really vicious cycle.

Des: Well, speaking about Google earlier, we don’t know too much about what is happening right now, but they just announced, this week, something called Gemini. The AI can supposedly be a direct competitor to GPT-4. I watched a few videos where Gemini beat GPT-4 in a number of tasks, but just keep all this with a grain of salt. This is really early times, and once Gemini is released into the wild on December 14th, I think assessments may come back down to earth. But this isn’t directly tied into accessibility, but I promise you, it will be very soon.

Louis: Well, I would disagree with that. I think it does tie into accessibility, whether we acknowledge it explicitly or not, because there are so many people using Chat GPT for accessibility, right? So, if Google is also going to compete for a slice of the accessibility market, which there’s really no reason they wouldn’t be, then you’re going to see folks flexing Gemini into those realms, too.

Des: Yeah, I mean, just the way they said that BARD will soon have Gemini, at least the medium tier of Gemini, built into it. I think it’s called Gemini Pro. And I mean, BARD already has your Gmail and your YouTube and your Drive built in. So, just the difference between GPT-4 and Chat GPT versus BARD, I think, is we’re still going to be using both of those ecosystems pretty differently, right? Because Google, like we said, at least in my experience, has everything that I’ve done. I live out of the Drive, I live out of Gmail, and I live out of Calendar. So, using that in conjunction with the AI that Google’s going to have, I think, is going to be incredibly convenient. But then over at the Chat GPT side, that’s where I do like – and I don’t know if this is an indictment on BARD or if you feel the same way – but this is where I do all of my writing work, my collaborative work.

Louis: Yeah, I feel the same way.

Des: Yeah. And I don’t know what that is about.

Louis: You bring up a great point here. And I want to head back to the idea of choice, because we have choices now, right? And we have tools in our toolbox. And the thing is, if all your tools are hammered, if every tool in your toolbox is a hammer, then all your solutions look like nails, right? And it’s very pleasing that we have wrenches now in our toolbox, rather than just hammers. By the way, I know nothing about tools. So, if a wrench isn’t a tool, don’t do it.

Des: I’m pretty sure a wrench is a tool. There’s also an Allen wrench, but I don’t know who Allen is. Okay, British Airways announces accessibility improvements for deaf passengers. The airline has partnered with SIGCODE UK to further improve its accessibility offerings for deaf and hard of hearing customers. Changes being implemented include new signed video content containing various helpful travel information being made available to customers, both pre-travel and while on board. This is, to me, showing my own ignorance. Because again, I like to say that I’m in the thick of accessibility. I didn’t know this was a problem in the UK.

Louis: I didn’t either.

Des: So, I’m glad that this is being taken care of. I’m sure SIGCODE is getting a big chunk of money from British Airways to make this happen. And I wonder if there was any litigation that made this happen, or any threat of litigation. I don’t know how the courts work over there. So, I can’t comment. But I’m just really happy to see stuff like this come across my newsfeed. And I go through a thought process of, this was a problem, and I’m glad somebody is putting money into the problem. The last thing today was a fun one that I wanted to bring up. Because it is the holidays, we are shopping for stocking stuffers. And in my family, we’re getting stocking stuffers for all the kids. But I keep reminding my fiancé that we need to remember our little dog as well. Now, Stephen Aquino over at Forbes interviewed one of the founders of Halo. And that’s a company that sells an accessible pet collar. Now, hold on to your microphone there, Louis. Because this device is $699 with an app on iOS and Android. It uses GPS and Wi-Fi connectivity in order to build a virtual geofence around the dog. In this way, the Halo collar becomes an assistive technology insofar as it helps people with limited mobility better care for their dogs. For $700, though. All right. Well, that’s the news for this week. We’re going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we’re going to talk about traveling with disabilities.

(Music plays and fades out)

Segment 2

Des: This week for our big segment, I wanted to chat about traveling during the holidays. Well, not specifically during the holidays. But since the holidays are coming up, I think it’s a really good time to talk about it. Because a lot of us will be going to either to visit family or friends or just to get away. So this is a story that kind of sparked this for me, Louis. Air Canada left the chief accessibility officer of Canada’s of the whole country of Canada. Her name is Stephanie Cadieux. They actually left her wheelchair behind when she went on a flight. And this happened like last month. And I remember there was like a big social media breakdown about it. But it hit me that A, she is literally the chief accessibility officer of this country. And stuff like this is happening to her. The same kinds of things that are happening to people that we know personally. And I wanted to kind of, you know, because I cringed a little bit. And I just kind of wanted to jump in and talk about those stories. Do you have any horror stories? Or any positive stories from traveling?

Louis: Horror stories? Too many to count. Last one was a flight attendant tried to take away my cane.

Des: What?

Louis: Yeah, I don’t know why. Wasn’t bothering anyone. And she’s like, Oh, but you know, we need to put it away for you. And I’m like, No, you don’t. This thing folds, lady. Yeah, she’s like, but you’re not. But you, she was trying to like, quote me the, you know, that little announcement, they give bags under the seat, and you can only have one item on you. And she’s like, that counts. So we need to take it away from you.

Des: That’s horrible.

Louis: And yeah, I was not. I mean, it was a short flight. So I, I handed it over, but I did not hand my cane over in a very willing manner.

Des: So let’s back up for a little bit, because traveling is really stressful for people with a disability. But it’s, it’s, it’s stressful for everyone. But I want to show you how it can get compounded. So first of all, traveling requires, it’s a project, right? To plan out a travel, you’re probably looking up things like nearby restaurants, or fun tours, or gift shops, that sort of thing. But when you have a disability, it’s much more intense, because you’re looking up info, like accessible bathrooms, making sure your hotel rooms are ADA accessible, which how we just talked about in the last segment isn’t always on the website. So now you’re having to call these people and hope they know what you’re talking about. And that’s all assuming you make it past the first big obstacle for disabled travelers, the airport. But airports have always been a nightmare. For people with disabilities, there are stories of TSA agents demanding people take their harnesses off their guide dogs. There are other stories about people with feeding tubes, and you have to have bags of liquids in order to survive. These stories have people getting padded down, they’re having their holes where their tubes are inserted searched. I mean, it’s unsanitary. It’s infuriating. I mean, these things are, they’re unreal.

Louis: It even gets to the point where there are people who literally have watched baggage handlers destroy their wheelchairs and mobility equipment on the tarmac, because they just throw them, right? I’ve heard from travelers with mobile mobility impairments, who, as part of their planning, they wear adult diapers, because they know that the chance of finding an accessible bathroom is a toss of a dice.

Des: That’s incredibly hurtful. Yeah, I can totally imagine that. Especially because I have not actually flown like a really long distance. I think the longest I’ve ever flown is like five hours.

Louis: The longest I’ve flown was like 18 hours.

Des: That’s right, because you went to England.

Louis: Oh, that was 10 hours, but I went to Vietnam before.

Des: Oh, okay.

Louis: And that’s like a 15-hour flight to Taiwan, and then a three-hour overlay, and then a three or four-hour flight into Vietnam.

Des: Yeah, good luck holding it for that long.

Louis: Yeah, and that’s a lot to deal with.

Des: And people shouldn’t have to hold it, and that’s what Congress thankfully decided. So this is from NPR. Congress in 2018 issued the FAA Reauthorization Act, and that told airlines and the TSA to fix air travel problems like these, and demanded more training, better and faster service, and taking better care of equipment such as wheelchairs. The act required the TSA to add training for how to handle the different needs of passengers with disabilities. One in four U.S. adults has a disability, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and to understand various disabilities requires comprehensive and repeated training. But the key there is the TSA actually has to follow through on that training. It’s been five years, and we’re still hearing stories about this.

Louis: And keep in mind, there was an Air Carrier Access Act passed in 1986. So how much progress really have we made in the field of travel and hospitality for people who have disabilities?

Des: There was one more thing in the NPR article that I forgot to read that I thought was pretty interesting. And the training for the TSA that Congress was mandating includes five and a half hours of instruction on screening people with disabilities and medical conditions. What if you’re just not at work that day? How are we enforcing this kind of training? I’m just thinking out loud. I don’t work there.

Louis: And it’s just, there’s really no guarantee that you’re not going to meet as a disabled traveler. There’s really no guarantee that you’re not going to meet somebody who’s having a bad day. And then they’re going to decide that you’re going to be the one they take it out on. And please don’t ever tell me, oh, nobody picks on people with disabilities. Please don’t ever tell me that. Because we all know that’s not true.

Des: There are some stories about, oh, I think I mentioned earlier about this one lady had to have her guide dog’s harness taken off because the TSA agents were being hostile about it. And so not only did she take the harness off, of course, if you take the harness off the guide dog, he’s just going to be a dog. So he started running all over the airport. Guess who got blamed for that? This lady who was trying to warn them in advance.

Louis: But keep in mind, she is somebody with an actual guide dog, you know, a certified guide dog with all the training and everything like that. But then there are people out there who are getting fake doctor’s notes to bring their little puppies on board. So, yeah, let’s not, let’s really get our priorities straight here, right? Like people with disabilities should not be punished because we decide that it’s our weekend to fly out of state to visit family. It shouldn’t feel like, travel shouldn’t feel like, let’s go through Dante’s circle of hell, you know, the nine levels of hell. Sorry, Don Quixote is escaping me right now. But let’s not go through Dante’s circle of hell to reach your ultimate destination. If you’re willing to get hazed by airport employees, TSA agents and wherever else, then you might get where you’re going.

Des: I have a pretty sad and just frustrating airport story to share. It was one of my first times flying on my own. I got to the, I got there with time to spare, honestly, to the TSA checkpoint. And they stopped me because I had a BrailleSense Polaris notetaker. And I think everybody knows what that looks like. It’s just a little black box with six Braille typing keys and a Braille display.

Louis: Wait, you had the U2, didn’t you?

Des: Um, well, I’ve had both. I don’t know. I could have had either one at that time. I had that in my bag. I wasn’t even wearing it. And they brought it out. They demanded that I take the battery off, which started a whole other issue because I never learned how to take the battery off that model of BrailleSense. I don’t think it’s even possible. So they delayed me for a long time. I assume thinking that somehow my Braille device was a threat to America or I don’t know. But by the time that I got to the plane, the doors had closed and I had to wait six hours before I got another plane to go visit you, in fact, in San Francisco.

Louis: Des wasn’t the only one who had to wait for six hours because I had to wait for six hours because I went to the airport to pick him up.

(Des laughs off mic)

And as we all know, arranging transportation wasn’t all, wasn’t that easy. So it was either go back home and then 30 minutes later, drive back to pick you up or hang out at the airport for six hours.

Des: I don’t think I ever asked you, what did you do for all that time?

Louis: I had some work to do and another friend of ours joined us after, remember?

Des: Yes.

Louis: Yeah. I found ways to fill my time, but it wasn’t what I expected to do that day.

Des: And this is a good advocacy moment because during the time, that six hour stretch when I was waiting for my plane to arrive, a supervisor from the airline actually came up to me and asked, you know, if I was okay and if I had any sort of distress and I said, no, it’s fine. I have to wait for, or, you know, I’ll just wait for my plane. But I could have, you know, I could have started something there, I think. And I could have probably gotten, if not like free airline tickets or something like that, I could have definitely gotten the ball rolling on some sort of justice for people who are going to go through something like that. But it was a really different time for me. So I was kind of more of like, not wanting to rock the boat. And that’s one of the things I wish I could go back and just make myself, you know, because that was horrible. It was humiliating.

Louis: Yeah. But there’s definitely two thoughts on that, right? In the moment when you’re going through stress, to expect someone to have their advocacy hat on at that time is not, I don’t think that’s a fair expectation. But of course, like, it’s always hindsight, it’s always 2020, it’s like, I wish I could always handle that advocacy situation differently. I wish I could have done that accessibility thing differently. But again, it shouldn’t. Why do we have to think about these things in order to have a bit of fun? It was not fun waiting for you at the airport.

Des: No, I don’t blame you. Yeah, I’m glad you did wait, by the way.

Louis: Yeah, you wouldn’t get home otherwise.

(Louis laughs)

Des: Well, we have one last story to share that was sent in from our friend Carrie over at Carrie on Accessibility, the YouTube channel. I recommend you check that out. She was really candid with this story. So I do appreciate it. She says: “About 7 years ago, I was traveling from North Carolina to Detroit for the holidays. I had a three month old baby with me and they forced me to use a wheelchair. They informed me that they would not serve or help me if I did not get in the wheelchair with my son and used “safety” as an excuse. They also informed me that they would need to take my son away from me and carry him for me if I would not. It was an absolutely horrific time for me as a new mom. How could they even think of taking my son, my baby away from me? How could they expect a mom of an infant to hand over their baby to perfect strangers? I could not believe my ears. It infuriated me then and when I recall the memory, that fury still bubbles up. I’m sure that they would not even dream of making such a suggestion to passengers without disabilities.”

That’s heartbreaking. I don’t, I always complain about their, they try to make me sit in a wheelchair. I’m, I can be intimidating if I want to, right? I can bully my way into, I’m not going to sit in this chair, I can walk, right? And I’ve had to raise my voice and be intimidating. When you’re a mom, you have a child, and there’s so many horror stories already of people taking their children from disabled parents. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s at a point where you’re at somebody’s mercy now.

Louis: And being at somebody’s mercy, when it’s kind of disguised as kindness, or safety, or any other BS excuse you like you have, like, in those situations, it’s also very insulting, too. And it’s, it’s very hard to like, you’re not given a lot of choice of discussion. If you don’t get in the chair, we take your kid away. Well, what choice did you leave me?

Des: Yeah, there was nothing there for me to choose.

Louis: If you don’t get in a chair, you don’t board your flight. What choice did you leave me? And I, and one airport employee told me once that the reason we do this, we know you don’t, we know you guys don’t like it. But the reason we do it is, it’s easier to keep track of you.

Des: Wow. So, so like a number on a spreadsheet?

Louis: Well, as well, more than that, a piece of luggage. So, you know, it’s, it’s, how do we, how do we ask, I guess the, the big dilemma here, the big challenge here, just stripping everything back and getting all the emotions out of the way, and everything like that is the, how do we get the assistance that we need in order, in order to travel independently, but also, you know, appreciate the people who, who, who do the right things, appreciate the right assistance, appreciate the people who go above and beyond to treat us with dignity and respect when we’re in public. Any thoughts on that?

Des: There are some absolutely incredible people out there, make it out like, like everybody who we encounter in our travels is horrible and ableist. But there are actually some wonderful people out there who are kind and, and patient and will ask what before assuming and it’s sadly, refreshing when that happens, because we experienced so much of the other thing. And you’re right, it’s, it’s, I think it just comes back down, at least when we’re talking about the airport. I think it comes back down to revisiting this whole training that TSA people have to go through. Because I don’t, I personally don’t think five and a half hours is enough. It’s going to go one year in one ear out the other ear. It’s all today’s disability day, you know, like, that’s how I’m imagining the reaction at TSA training and extend that out. I mean, we need to be giving that same level of education to people who run hotels. We were talking earlier about the lady who was suing the hotel because they didn’t have their accessible accommodations on the website. There are still so many hotels that are so well known, that don’t have this information. And if you call and try and get the information, you’re going to get transferred to this person and that person. And when that happens, they’re just handing you off because they don’t know what you’re asking. And that, that stops, that stops with training, in my opinion.

Louis: Well, the thing is, when people talk about training, like the, as we discussed in last week’s podcast, education and training are two things we do find important, but they are only a piece of the picture. You’re not looking at the whole picture, right? Okay, we just had the training, but now there’s no accountability. You don’t have an accessibility person on your team. You don’t have an accessibility team. Accessibility isn’t built into your yearly or in your annual plan. You don’t have accessibility goals. Then whether you’re the government, which moves at the speed of a turtle, or you are a big hotel chain that moves quicker because you need profit. If you’re not looking at the entire picture of what disability rights and accessibility actually means, then we’re all just spinning our wheels. Every year you’re going to come up with a new training. Every five years, you may come up with a new training. You may cycle people in and out. You may have a campaign dedicated to Global Accessibility Awareness Day, but if you’re not looking at the whole picture and you’re not building out your program, then you’re just spinning your wheels over and over and over.

Des: Yeah. That’s a great message I think we’re going to end on. I really am sending out all of my great vibes to anybody who’s going to be traveling this holiday season. Just remember, you are your own person and your autonomy is important. I know it’s hard, like we talked about earlier, to keep that advocacy hat on, but just make note of the way you’re treated and start to think about how that can change and how we can start to fix that. Even if it’s a small way, I think eventually it’s going to scale because this has been going on for too long and it’s just too much.

Louis: On the other side of that, I can’t stress enough to show your appreciation, especially during the holidays and the beginning of 2024 when a lot of folks are traveling. If you get good assistance at the airport, you get great customer service at a hotel, you get a nice room, your room met all your expectations and it was completely accessible. Treat those customer service people with dignity and respect. If you can, even throw them some monetary compensation, tip them. The service industry keeps the societal engine running and when we get good service as people with disabilities, I think we need to celebrate that and those people need to be recognized because it’s so easy. It’s so easy. We just spent, I don’t know what, the last 10 minutes detailing how the negative experience is, but it’s so easy not to talk about the good ones. Keep everything in balance and you’ll do great during your travels.

Des: All right, when we come back, we’re going to send you on your way with our accessibility wins and fails for the week.

Louis: Yes.

(music plays and fades out)

Segment 3

Des: All right, before we get out of here, we’re going to share our accessibility wins and our accessibility fails for the week. I’m going to get my negativity out of the way and start first. So this week I’ve started uploading more videos to YouTube and the auto captions that I’ve observed on YouTube are horrible. I mean, I’ve heard things about them in the past, but I did not realize how bad these things were. They transcribe an entire video as one sentence. There are no punctuation marks. There are no commas. It is awful. So I immediately started looking for something to do because I want everybody to be able to watch my videos. So thankfully, Whisper API, back to the rescue. You’re able to upload the audio of the video and it does it in real time. So it’s not the speediest thing in the world, but when it’s done, not only does it come back with a text file of the transcribed audio, it gives you an SRT file, which I had no idea what that was, but I looked it up and it is a time coded subtitle file that you match up with your YouTube video and it does that automatically for you. So if anybody is struggling for a caption solution right there, man, OpenAI’s Whisper, so good and very easy to use. Very, very minimal coding knowledge. So check it out. Louis, what do you got for us?

Louis: Thank you, Negative Nancy. We’re going to go to the win portion of the show, which is the release of Mac Sonoma 14.2 is about to come out. And there’s great news for people who are on Mac because recently posted on Applevis, which we will link the article to the show notes, the busy Safari bug may be solved in Sonoma 14.2.

Des: This bug. Okay. This is why I left Mac. I hate this bug. And it was one of these things that you cannot, no matter what website you go to, you can’t pinpoint what is causing this. Like, I would be fine if I learned that, oh, there’s just one type of website and there’s like a certain type of code injection that makes Safari wig out. But this is everywhere. Gmail, Google search, even Apple pages. So I left. I went back to Windows. I haven’t looked back. Is that why you left too?

Louis: I also left for that reason. That was one of the big reasons. And speaking to that, in the article, the person who wrote the article, his name is David Goodwind. He also stopped recommending Mac OS as an accessible solution because you couldn’t be productive on it.

Des: It’s the proprietary screen reader, man. I mean, it’s the proprietary screen reader on the browser that their company makes. That’s the most frustrating part of all.

Louis: It’s the only screen reader on Mac. It’s the only screen reader on Mac that can’t work with the default browser on Mac.


Des: So frustrating. Oh, come on, Vosh. I’m rooting for you.

Louis: Seriously.

Des: But I’m glad to see that because if that actually ends up coming into the public release, man, I might reconsider it because I’m always watching those keynotes and seeing all the cool new things that the Macs have. And I want to play with those things, but I’m not going to drop $2,000 on something that is going to work like 40% of the time. That’s not for me.

Louis: I have a Mac here for accessibility testing purposes, but that’s all it gets used for. And it’s a beautiful machine. It’s a thin MacBook Air. And I’ve always found the MacBook Air to be very attractive devices. I really like their form factors. You can toss them in a bag. They’re powerful. They’re really perfect machines in many aspects of it. But if I keep on hearing busy, busy, busy, busy, I can’t do anything. So as perfect as that hardware is and as much as I give Apple kudos for making wonderful hardware, I just couldn’t do it anymore. So when the official release of Sonoma 14.2 comes out and we’ve determined that it is true that the busy bug has been solved in the wild, I will be spending more time on the Mac.

Des: Me too, probably. That’s going to do it for this week in accessibility. Thanks so much for listening. And we’ll talk to you next week. Louis, tell the people goodbye.

Louis: Stay classy.

(music plays)

Des: Time for the credits. The research was done by myself and Louis Do. The music was produced by Kevin MacLeod and is called Rollin at five. Thanks to The statements and opinions expressed on this podcast are personal and do not reflect the views or policies of our employers, partners or other associated third party entities. Talk to you next week. Bye.

(music swells and ends)

Links Discussed on the Show

Segment 1

Hotel website ADA case dismissed by Supreme Court, declared moot – The Washington Post

The Robles v. Domino’s Settlement (And Why It Matters) | Bureau of Internet Accessibility

Be My AI Comes To Android As Open Beta Feature – Double Tap

Seeing AI App Launches on Android – Including new and updated features and new languages. – Microsoft Accessibility Blog

Google Just Launched Gemini, Its Long-Awaited Answer to ChatGPT | WIRED

GEMINI 1.0 Beats GPT-4 | AlphaCode 2 is better than 90% of coders | Gemini Nano on Pixel Phones! – @WesRoth on YouTube

British Airways improves accessibility for deaf passengers – Aero Time

Halo Collar’s Ken Ehrman Talks Pet Tech Study, Making Pet Care Accessible In Interview – Forbes

Segment 2

Air Canada Leaves Nation’s Chief Accessibility Officer’s Wheelchair Behind On Flight From Toronto – Simple Flying

Traveling While Disabled: Challenges of Accessible Travel – Thrillist

TSA and airlines make air travel a challenge for people with disabilities : NPR

About the Air Carrier Access Act | US Department of Transportation

Segment 3:

Do YouTube’s Automatic Captions Improve Accessibility? | Bureau of Internet Accessibility

Workflow for generating full-text transcript and captions with Whisper – API – OpenAI Developer Forum

Could Apple Have Finally Squashed the Longstanding “Safari Not Responding” macOS Bug? | AppleVis