Accessibility as Agency Opportunity, with Joshua Basile
On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by accessiBe—Kelly talks with Joshua Basile, a C4-5 Quadriplegic who shares his inspiring story and life’s work as an advocate for web accessibility. Together, they uncover the opportunities that inclusivity provides for agencies worldwide.
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Kelly: Welcome to Thrive, your agency resource, the only podcast for creative media and technology leaders who are ready to dive deeper into conscious leadership and agency growth. I’m your host, Kelly Campbell. Thrive is brought to you by accessiBe, the leading web accessibility solutions provider. Join thousands of agencies that are already incorporating web inclusivity into their service offerings, visit accessiBe.com today. Happy New Year, everyone. And thanks for joining us today. I’ve got a brand new season of Thrive for you this year. And I am incredibly excited to announce that the new official sponsor of the podcast is accessiBe. They are on a mission to make the web inclusive for all and to that end, my very first guest of the year is Joshua Basile, the community relations manager for accessiBe, who is going to share his story with us. So wait for that. You’re going to be really excited about that. And we’re going to talk about why accessibility is really an opportunity for agencies. So welcome, my friend. It is so good to see you again.
Josh: Happy New Year.
Kelly: So Josh, when I first heard about you, and how you’ve made accessiBe, pretty much your life’s work, I was inspired. And I was also kind of humbled by all that I was taking for granted as a user of the internet. So will you do us a favor and share your story and kind of just the journey that you’ve been on?
Josh: Absolutely. And so my story started, when I was really 18 years older, my life kind of was flipped upside down. I was on a family vacation at the beach, I was a an active college athlete, and I ended up going in the ocean. And a wave picked me up, threw me over my boogie board under slamming on my head. And that day, I shattered my neck and became a C four or five quadriplegic and I was paralyzed below my shoulders. And you were a freshman in college at that point. Yep, I just finished my freshman year. And it was that summer going into the sophomore year. And after I broke my neck, I ended up going to a local Trauma Center to help stabilize my neck and keep me alive. And for the first five weeks, I was on a ventilator. So I was unable to breathe on my own. And my only way to communicate was by blinking. So blink, once for yes, twice for now. And that was the way I communicate it for five weeks. And when I regained my voice after being weaned off the ventilator, I decided to make sure that every word from that moment on counted. I guess that day is when I became an advocate for life.
Kelly: I love that story. I got chills I do every time. So, you know, I would imagine, well, actually, let’s talk about how that kind of led you to becoming involved with and a community relations manager for accessiBe.
Josh: So after my injury and after kind of regain my voice, I wanted to strengthen my voice. And I ended up going back to school. I went to community college. And then I went to undergrad at University of Maryland, graduated as communication major. And I wanted to bring it to the next level. So I ended up going to law school and ended up graduating manukan Loud a from law school near the top of my class without ever flipping a page with my hands. It’s a testament to technology and allowing your ability to be able to access the world through technology. It was a game changer. And it got better and better with time since 2004 when I was first injured.
Kelly: So I would imagine that most people when they think about web accessibility or technology accessibility, they think about people who are blind, right? I think that’s kind of like the default. But when we think about technology and web in particular, being inclusive for all what other kinds of disabilities are we talking about here?
Josh: Absolutely. And there’s so many different disabilities abilities, however you want to name it, it’s, we have, you know, persons that are blind we have persons with limited vision. We have people with paralysis, motor disabilities, we have people with cognitive disabilities that are have learning disabilities processing disabilities, we have people with epilepsy that you know, if they see something that’s flashing it can trigger an epileptic event. We have so many different types of abilities in this world. It’s a matter of understanding that, you know, we’re we want to be welcoming to all it’s not just one population that we want to be to serve with businesses or with information products and services, there’s so many people that we want to welcome into our doors, we welcome into our websites and say, Well, you know, what we’ve gotten an important product or service to be able to provide for you. And like being, being within the disability community, and being a, you know, community leader within the disability world. I live outside the Washington DC area. So I’m on Capitol Hill, very, a lot. And I love it. And you know, the fact is, is that we, as disability rights advocates, there’s so many different communities or organizations that fight on Capitol Hill every day to make sure that their voices and their communities are heard, and being able to have representation and opportunities to be able to be included in the world. So it’s, um, there’s a lot to the disability community that people just know, they think maybe one or two different disability groups, because that’s all they know. Right? Other disabilities, but it’s a it’s a very diverse group.
Kelly: Yeah, I was actually kind of struck by the idea that I know so many people with like, ADHD, for example. And, you know, including that on the list of like, you know, creating websites for people with disabilities, I didn’t even think of ADHD as a disability from that context, right. But it makes all the sense in the world that if you could change the way that a screen looks, or how something functions or, you know, a slows down, or whatever the case may be, yeah, it just it, it was one of those things that one of those moments where I was like, Oh, wow, like, there’s so much that I take for granted and that I didn’t actually consider. So it just, it was like a moment of awareness for me for sure.
Josh: With all the different abilities that exists out there, if you can provide kind of customized options for them on how to absorb content, or how to navigate a website, you’re giving them like a power, nibble experience it better. And that’s, that’s what I love about technology and everything that’s out there today. It’s just, it’s getting better and better over time to be able to give more choice more power and how to experience something. Yeah, yeah. I’m kind of a triple threat in the disability world. Before my paralysis, since the second grade, I’ve been diagnosed with a reading disability and ADHD. Oh, and now I’m paralyzed. And it’s like, being able to, you know, be able to keep my attention is one thing on a website, and being able to have the ability to choose a, the ability to do that is fantastic. But I also use screen reader technology to read for me on websites, and but then I also use an on screen keyboard to be able to navigate a website. So there’s all these different things that I use. And there’s, you know, it’s, it’s very interesting, a lot of people don’t know how persons with disabilities navigate and experience websites.
Kelly: Did you know that one out of five people in the US is living with some form of disability, I’m proud to partner with accesiBe as they work toward the mission of making the web accessible to everyone. It’s time to prioritize inclusivity ensure that your own website and your client sites can be accessed by all and that they’re ADA compliant. Head over to accessiBe.com/thrive, to learn more about their agency partner program. Now, back to the show.
So to drill down actually into your personal experience with that, when you navigate a website, or have navigated a website in the past that is not accessible or not necessarily built with you in mind or built with inclusivity in mind, what does it actually like? Give me some examples of like, what does it actually prevent you from doing so then the navigation is a big part. Being able to be able to get explore the website is important so like when someone builds a website, they want people to be able to click buttons or do drop downs or things of that nature. If I can, you know, scroll through a site properly, I’m not able to like hit that drop down menu to see you know, what their products or their services, their contact us I won’t be able to get to that point if it’s that, you know, made accessible or if it’s not built out the right way. Or let’s say there’s a form that I need to fill out my personal information or my credit card. If that’s not done correctly with my unique you know, I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking I use an on screen keyboard. So I use voice dictation to type my voice for forms that are filled out properly. I can’t type into that form. There’s so there’s a lot of different things where like, I wanted to go buy a pair of shoes. I was able to get find the shoe I wanted. But during checkout I couldn’t come payment information. And then I had to wait for a family member or caregiver to come by to help me which, luckily, I have no credible support system. A lot of people with disabilities don’t. Right? So it’s like, what is the experience you want to create to be able to kind of welcome people to be able to have that good experience and want to come back again and again.
Josh: Right, right. And so this is interesting, because it kind of lends itself to what we’re really talking about is the value of consumers with abilities or disabilities, however you want to say it, every fifth person who enters your website, right, or your clients website, if you’re an agency has some form of disability, we know this, right? Statistically, we know this. And what was kind of astounding to me was that the like the disabilities community as a whole represents a whopping $490 billion in disposable income. So can you talk a little bit about that from like, the loyalty perspective of the community?
Kelly: So yeah, studies have been done, that have shown that the disability community is the most brand loyal community, you know, what we’re taking care of, and we’re recognized, when we’re welcomed into the doors, at any business, we come back as repeat customers, because, unfortunately, a lot of the world isn’t accessible. So when we find something that is accessible, that works, we not only come back, we also our natural mentors, we recommend it to our friends, our families, we advocate for it. But like if we’re treated, right, it’s just like, we’ve got your back. You know, if your back we got your back. Yeah. And it’s in the amount of money that the disability community has to spend, like we want to spend our dollars. And when we do we want to spend it on people that show that they care.
Josh: Do you know offhand how many websites like let’s say in the US alone, or like companies that are based in the US how many websites are actually accessible at this point.
Kelly: So right now, we’re probably looking at around 7 million websites, wow. But we want we want to keep growing, that we want there to be more and more because more websites that are accessible, the more doors are open, the more opportunities are open, to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. So like I’m, I’m excited for that number to keep growing and growing and growing. And it’s an opportunity right now for businesses to recognize that diversity, equity inclusion is in a really important subject that businesses are really diving into right now. They want to do better, because they know they can do better. This is an opportunity right now for businesses on their websites to make sure that web accessibility is a must integrate, because it’s that you know, you’re going to eventually do it. So might not why not doing now? Yeah. The other thing that that kind of brings up for me, which, you know, I just want to put a pin in this for a second, because you’re talking about Dei, right? So, yes, there’s been so much and obviously, we’ll talk about consciousness leaders at some point, but there’s been so much focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. I mean, for probably, I don’t know, a couple of decades for sure, but really concentrated and accelerated in the last few years, for obvious reasons, right. But I think the conversation about dei doesn’t always extend to accessibility. Right? So it’s almost like we have to add an eighth to the acronym. But yeah, it’s fascinating that most agencies, they’re focusing on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in terms of culture, or talent that they bring in, or, you know, from a recruitment standpoint, maybe even the clients that they serve, or the types of businesses right, so that they’ve got, like a diverse roster of clients, whatever the case may be, they’re focusing on it from an internal perspective, but they’re not thinking about the accessibility aspect of their own website, or the clients websites that they’re building. So it’s just an important point.
Josh: It is important and as you build out those websites, you’re bringing it into the DNA of your business, the DNA of your website, you’re kind of spreading it out so that it all it touches all the right areas. And it’s you know, your website in so many way and so much is your branding. It’s your ability to share with the world who you are as a business but you believe it where you believe in who you want to serve, who you want to welcome into, you know, your business family, and, you know, having making sure that your website’s successful as accessibility components built into create more customization, you’re really just, you’re saying I’m really proud message. And then also it’s just you’re tapping into, you know, billions of new customers that you’re saying, I see you, I feel you I’m, I want you to be a part of our business journey. And that’s just so important. Yeah,
Kelly: I love that. So some of the takeaways that I’m hearing from this conversation are like, that an agency shouldn’t necessarily focus on accessibility for compliance. Like it’s important. But it’s not. It’s not the be all end. All right. In fact, I would probably say, it’s almost like the least important thing. So it’s not just the compliance, it’s like, it’s the right thing to do. In the world, as much as, as it is the right thing to do from a business perspective, from a revenue generating perspective, right? He talked a little bit about that, it’s the right thing to do. Because you’re, you want to treat your customers, right, you don’t want customers to have bad experiences, right? And, and you also want to be smart at business, open your doors to more people, allows for more revenue, it allows for, you know, to be able to focus on the right conversations, rather than having conversations about people having bad experiences. So it’s just it’s smart business to bring accessibility into, into your model. So it’s a I full heartedly support businesses that that do something about it. And so those billions of people around the world that are waiting to have the opportunity to experience your website in a more accessible way. So it’s, um, we’re talking about billions of people around the world. And then we’re talking about billions of spending power and dollars with people that are very Bramwell. It’s just it’s smart business. Yeah, absolutely. So as we start to wrap up, Josh, what is like the one you know, as, as an advocate, and someone who’s like, incredibly passionate, and doing so much good work in the world, for, you know, people with various abilities, what is the one thing that you would leave our audience with, if you had like, one little nugget of gold for us, just to kind of end the episode,
Kelly: I’m just we’re on this journey together. And it’s, you know, I’m, I’m a big believer, so I’m in Capitol Hill, and I advocate for so many different things. And when I will, down the street, you know, I might turn a few heads, but if I will, down the street, with friends with family, with other persons with disabilities, I’m gonna be turning a lot more heads. So we’re on a, we’re on this journey together. And if we can do it together, we’re gonna make a bigger impact together. And it’s, you know, disability is not something that, you know, we can run away from, it’s not a matter of if, but when, at some point, disability catches up to all of us, whether it’s personally to a friend or a family member, you know, there’s so many people, we’re, we’re part of this world together. So it’s like, let’s, let’s do something about it, let’s do something about it now. And for all the agencies in the world, it just, you have a special opportunity to have like, really make a decision for moving forward in a really beautiful way. And I can’t wait to be going to many more websites that are accessible or being included and welcomed in businesses all across the country, all across the world. So just, I just want to thank everybody that takes a step forward. And that we do this together. Really, really beautifully said, Thank you so much, Josh. And I just want to have the moment to say a quick note about the fact that you are actually available for speaking engagements and things like that, and that you are newly represented by my other company, consciousness leaders. So anyone who’s interested in bringing Josh into speak, please like, feel free to reach out to me. And you know, I’m happy to collect connect to you directly for your organization. Really, really excited to have them in the collective. So Josh, thank you so much. This was an incredible start to the new year, and I couldn’t be more happy that it was you who helped me kick it off. So thank you so much.
Josh: It’s been a pleasure being here today. And these are just such important conversations to have, and to continue to have.
Kelly: I agree, and I really, really appreciate you. Thanks. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to subscribe wherever you watch or listen. And a final note of gratitude to the official sponsor of Thrive access to be the leading web accessibility solutions provider. Learn more about the Win Win proposition and keep your clients websites inclusive and compliant. Be sure to check out their partner program for your agency today. At accessiBe.com/thrive.