Few areas of accessibility technologies have generated as much publicity as web site accessibility overlays. This discussion will present key issues, concerns and challenges facing both the accessibility industry and people with disabilities as a result of web overlays. The session will further explore the business value proposition of web overlays in today’s digital economy.

Session Chair: Mike Paciello, Founder, WebABLE

Speakers:

  • Anil Lewis, Executive Director, NFB Jernigan Institute, National Federation of the Blind
  • Dominic Varacalli, COO, AudioEye

The session will be followed by a live electronic survey by the audience to better understand consumer usage and market implementation of web overlays.

Transcript

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We have another exciting discussion.

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There are few areas of technologies that have
generated as much publicity and I should say

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difficult discussions in the profession than
the website accessibility.

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We wanted during this summit to address this
question head on and make sure that we can

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have a good open discussion of those issues.

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So in order to have most effective and informed
panel, we asked Mike Paciello, expert in the

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and we recognized and joining him will be
Anil Lewis, Executive Director of the NFB,

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and Dominic Varacalli, chief operating officer
of AudioEye.

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I would ask them now to join the stage and
to start the panel.

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And I remind you again we will temporarily
use the poll application for polling questions

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during the discussion.

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Then the polling system will revert to the
previous question which was the input for

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innovation ideas that Kevin announced before
lunch.

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So with that, please welcome help me welcome
the next panel with Mike, Anil, and Dominic.

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I guess this is a sit down situation here.

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I prefer to stand.

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Being Italian.

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Moving arms and moving hands.

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I want to thank everyone for attending the
session, probably several of you have been

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anticipating it and thank you Accel for smoothing
the waters for our situation.

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You see words in the abstract about debate.

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Just the title of this thing being called
Hyde Park initiates the notion of perhaps

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some antipathy and acrimony.

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But that's not that's not our purpose today.

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We have Anil Lewis and Dominic Varacalli from
AudioEye.

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And we plan to have a rich and fulfilling
discussion.

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We have a little bit of a different agenda
and venue for today so let me go over that

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real quickly.

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I'm going to start with a three minute intro
which have started.

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Then we will ask Dominic to speak from the
perspective of the overlay organizations and

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his thoughts on that.

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And then we will have Anil speak to the situation
from individuals with disabilities, particularly

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those with visual disabilities.

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We will allow five minute period for questions,
Q&A.

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You will note that on your tables, I think
it's been explained a couple of times today

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you can post questions using the QR code that's
on your table as well as participate in the

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concluding aspect of this which is basically
a two minute opportunity to do some polling.

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We will do one question at a time.

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We have four questions right now that we have
cooperated with, the four or three of us have

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talked about along with Accel and others.

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So we will be looking at that.

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Let me give you a background on this discussion
because it is interesting.

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It's not the first in the timeline of emerging
technologies that have fundamentally disrupted,

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never mind the lives of individuals with disabilities
and the professionals in this field, but just

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the whole technology field as a whole.

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I can remember several years ago back in the
early 90s a runningback in the hall ways,

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the Marriott hotel for those of you that go
back that far, because Microsoft was about

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to announce the introduction of their screen
reader through an OS and their screen magnifier.

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So you can imagine all of the AT vendors at
that time this was their livelihood and people

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there was a big ruckus about press releases
and there was follow on arguments about what

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was going on.

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IBM followed up with their own so what you
had was the OSs, the operating system manufacturers

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and vendors.

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What turned out to be for a few years of,
aggressive opinions about where things should

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or should not be.

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Who had the right to do what or not.

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Then you go ahead in time and in the early
2000s and late 90s, we introduced to the first

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automated validation tools.

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We had companies like high soft or SSP Bart
and Tim is with a level access.

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Renamed.

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We also had DQ.

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Who had developed these automated validation
services and we were sure there is no way

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they no way they could work.

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They will fail.

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And here we are now some 21 years later and
we are talking about the same thing having

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the same kind of reactions over overlays.

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The question is, what do we do?

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That's the discussion that we are going to
have today.

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And we are going to put that in the context
of Hyde Park so folks will stand up in a virtual

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way and put their stakes in the ground and
let's see how it rolls out.

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Our first speaker today again is Dominic Varacalli.

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Dominic is with AudioEye.

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Take the stage.

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Thank you, Mike.

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I appreciate the introductions.

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Let me start by saying that I believe the
term overlay has become muddied in a conversation

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that is truly about the place of automation
in our industry and ethics of some companies

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operating in this space.

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When I use the term overlay I will refer to
overlays as a piece of technology for applying

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for remediations whether automatically or
manually generated, delivered in realtime

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to a user's browser as well as a toolbar for
applying visual changes.

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Vastly different the importance of each of
those but when I speak of that solution I

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will speak of the whole solution.

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There are three key areas I will touch on.

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First is the problem in the overlay or the
automation, second, is the shortcomings of

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the solution and lastly ethics of operating
in this space.

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First, let me ask a question.

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If the experience to the end user is the same,
why should it matter how it's delivered?

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Some might argue that if hunting on the responsibility
of the site owner to bring that accessibility

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and knowledge in house.

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Companies are doing this every day in hundreds
of different ways whether that's out sourcing,

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common problems for things like search or
chat or others.

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And second, developers even at the source
code level are outsourcing by bringing in

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their party libraries.

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If I'm building a date picker on a calendar
site, why would I build that myself when on

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MPM there is over 2500 results with a quick
search.

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To assume even at the source level developers
have access and knowledge of all of the code

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they are writing is just denying the realities
of common web development practices today.

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We can't forget every one of us is always
adding content to the web every day and millions

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of websites are created by those who aren't
writing code.

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This for me clarifies that the problem must
be some overlays haven't delivered the same

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experience as other solutions have.

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So let's turn them to the short comings.

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When it comes to the shortcoming there is
both automation and the breadth of the overall

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experience.

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In terms of the automation, we all had the
experience our phones auto correcting something

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crazily or Siri coming back and saying here
is what I found on the web for that which

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is rarely what we ever ask for.

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But I can walk into my house today and say
command out loud and lights will turn on,

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robot vacuum can sweep the floor and some
people have cars that can start to drive themselves.

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All of this relies on imperfect automation
and yet we continue to invest as a society

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in this because it makes our lives easier.

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As mike mentioned.

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In our own industry it was once frowned upon
to use automated testing.

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Today it's a corner stone and even in industry
peer recently said over 57% of issues could

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be tested for automatically.

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Let's set that aside.

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What would it take for any solution to be
successful?

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Every solution must be ongoing because the
web is constantly changing.

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Every solution must also handle the variety
of site creators because not everyone will

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have source code access.

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And lastly, every solution must be able to
scale to the entire size of the internet.

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All viewings have their shortcomings.

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Some may be costly or hard to implement ongoing
especially for small businesses.

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Others focus on one type of site creator versus
another.

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And lastly, to scale to the entire size of
the internet some solutions will take years

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to train and embed enough people and companies
across the entire world.

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Overlays and automations have their shortcomings
as well and can make significant end roads

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in these areas.

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The question is, should we throw out automation
all together or continue to invest?

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On the breadth of the solution I will touch
on this quickly but overlays only solve web

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accessibility.

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They don't handle document, audio or video.

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There are plenty of vendors in that exhibit
hall today that focus on one of those niches

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so the argument I have heard because overlays
own solve one problem, means they are not

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part of the solution at all.

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Is a false comparison.

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Only yeah, the overlay company claims that
it can solve all of these problems when it

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cannot is there is an issue.

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That will turn me to the last point around
ethically operating in this space.

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Companies must deliver on three key promises.

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To un, one, be transparent what they can and
not remediate in terms of media types.

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And ideally offer their customers solutions.

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Second, provide end users with the way to
provide feedback and when there is an issue

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to remediate it quickly.

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And lastly, to provide manual audits and manual
remediations because we know that automation

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has its shortcomings and will fail and when
it does we need the fallbacks.

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Ideally companies should offer transparent
reporting so that the customers can choose

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to make progress at source over time or they
can continue to outsource for remediation.

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This is a big problem and digital accessibility
is hard.

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However, it will take a variety of solutions
we've seen automation make progress across

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industries including our own and that's why
I believe it is worth continuing the investment

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to overcome the shortcomings.

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Thank you.

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Excellent.

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Thank you, Dominic.

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Appreciate that.

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I should have given I think I mentioned Dominic
you are the COO at AudioEye.

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So same thing to out of respect for our fellow,
Anil Lewis is the Executive Director at the

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it doesn't use it's just Jernigan institute
national federation of the blind.

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Anil can we have your thoughts?

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Sure.

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First I appreciate the opportunity.

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I love putting this together.

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I think this is when it gives us as a consumer
organization and an opportunity to speak to

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individuals who are invested in innovating
technology in a way that will create a way

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for us to better live, work and play in our
communities.

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On behalf NFB, thank you.

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I want to state from the beginning that this
is not an either/or debate.

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The national federation of the blind supports
innovative technology.

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We want to make sure that we as blind individuals
to capitalize on whatever is out there that

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mainstream technology that everybody is using
we want to be able to exploit it as well.

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Our focus is to make sure that as that progresses,
that accessibility has taken into consideration

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so we will have the ability.

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So to the question of whether we should or
not, I don't think that's the question.

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It's not if we should, it's how we should.

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I think that's important.

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I want to differentiate before the overlay
discussion in general.

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You may have seen a lot of social media traffic
what we have been doing but I want you to

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recognize that it's been happening in to silos.

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One is we as a civil rights organization fundamentally
we will always fight for the rights of blind

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people and make sure the messaging this out
there is not done in a way that limits opportunities

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and definitely does not take us backwards
from the progress we have made.

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But most importantly, I think most people
recognize that we are better partners than

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most people think.

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Yeah, we sue people.

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That's what we do.

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But that's not what we default to.

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That's too expensive.

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We sue people and we are good at it and are
proud of that fact but we can't sue everybody.

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Many of you in this room already know we are
better partners than legal adversaries.

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And that's definitely what we prefer to do.

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In this whole overlay discussion we have been
working to make good partnerships.

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And to make sure in messaging all of this
and working toward capitalizing on this innovative

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technology because we believe in artificial
intelligence in a real way that overlays are

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not presented as an alternative to inculturating
accessibility.

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We believe that the inculturation of accessibility
throughout the whole development, design,

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implementation and process is key.

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Because when you do that, it's baked in.

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There is no third party.

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As my friend Dan Goldstein says, it's not
like building that 20 story sky scraper and

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looking back at this wonderful thing you created
and saying, hmm, we should put in an elevator.

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No, that's backwards logic.

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We do recognize that overlays currently are
an option.

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We want to support the development of that
option to the place where it could potentially

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become an alternative.

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The key is we have to make sure that people
are well informed so they can make an informed

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choice.

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Not fall subject to the misrepresentation
of $49 and your website is WCAG compliant.

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One WCAG compliance.

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One WCAG compliant.

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Fighting against separate spaces for us to
exist.

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You all remember the days when it was a website
and accessible website.

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No, we aren't going backwards.

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We aren't going to do that.

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So in developing this, we have to make sure
that whatever is created is created in a mainstream

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environment that doesn't separate us off to
end up getting second hand support, second

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hand participation and second hand access
to information.

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First and foremost and all of this as we progress,
the solution must work.

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It's one thing to say it and we have and I
don't want to make this contentious and we

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have done research and seen there is an inaccessible
website and implementation of an overlay and

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then it's still inaccessible website.

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But the people who are making these decisions
to get the overlay, don't know.

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They are just falling subject to the marketing.

225
00:16:21,820 --> 00:16:23,529
It must work.

226
00:16:23,529 --> 00:16:28,660
And that's when we will make sure it works.

227
00:16:28,660 --> 00:16:32,560
Let me to make this more probably for you
guys.

228
00:16:32,560 --> 00:16:37,269
I just took down the notes from Dominic.

229
00:16:37,269 --> 00:16:40,829
And I agree with the three points but I would
like to just elaborate a little bit.

230
00:16:40,829 --> 00:16:41,980
Transparency, absolutely.

231
00:16:41,980 --> 00:16:48,380
That's what we are fighting for, transparency
in messaging and the problems with the overlays

232
00:16:48,380 --> 00:16:51,889
and the solutions because then we can work
together with you, right?

233
00:16:51,889 --> 00:16:56,920
To help find those solutions to those problems.

234
00:16:56,920 --> 00:16:59,339
Providing a way for users to get feedback.

235
00:16:59,339 --> 00:17:00,690
I like that.

236
00:17:00,690 --> 00:17:01,690
That's important.

237
00:17:01,690 --> 00:17:05,690
But I would enhance that to say that people
with disabilities need to be involved throughout

238
00:17:05,690 --> 00:17:08,409
the full development design process.

239
00:17:08,409 --> 00:17:11,089
Not just at the end to give you feedback.

240
00:17:11,089 --> 00:17:18,069
That means you get to know us as litigators
not partners.

241
00:17:18,069 --> 00:17:19,069
So reach out to us.

242
00:17:19,069 --> 00:17:23,850
We want to be active in this process and we
have the skills and expertise and knowledge

243
00:17:23,850 --> 00:17:25,309
to do it.

244
00:17:25,309 --> 00:17:30,549
Then absolutely, the manual audit and the
manual participation and the manual testing

245
00:17:30,549 --> 00:17:31,670
is key.

246
00:17:31,670 --> 00:17:36,780
Until what time we get to the place where
it is more seamless and automated process

247
00:17:36,780 --> 00:17:38,470
but we aren't there.

248
00:17:38,470 --> 00:17:40,910
We have to be honest about that.

249
00:17:40,910 --> 00:17:44,980
I appreciate the opportunity and more so I
appreciate the panel prior to us because now

250
00:17:44,980 --> 00:17:49,370
I know this was seen as a weapon and when
I came back to Italy they took me to that

251
00:17:49,370 --> 00:17:51,970
little room and made me get undressed.

252
00:17:51,970 --> 00:17:54,710
Thank you.

253
00:17:54,710 --> 00:17:59,299
Gives a whole new connotation for a white
cane.

254
00:17:59,299 --> 00:18:00,730
All right.

255
00:18:00,730 --> 00:18:02,149
Very good.

256
00:18:02,149 --> 00:18:04,289
Yeah, thank you.

257
00:18:04,289 --> 00:18:05,289
Excellent.

258
00:18:05,289 --> 00:18:10,660
So I heard three words, common threads between
the two of you.

259
00:18:10,660 --> 00:18:15,549
I heard the importance of innovation in technology.

260
00:18:15,549 --> 00:18:21,840
I also heard the importance of collaboration
between individuals with disabilities in the

261
00:18:21,840 --> 00:18:26,799
technology companies regardless of whether
it's overlays or otherwise.

262
00:18:26,799 --> 00:18:29,750
And I also heard the importance of transparency.

263
00:18:29,750 --> 00:18:33,610
That we have to be transparent about what
it is we are creating.

264
00:18:33,610 --> 00:18:40,950
What it's capable of doing and perhaps because
of this convention or this event, how critical

265
00:18:40,950 --> 00:18:45,549
and crucial it is that technologies really
serve the people that we claim that we are

266
00:18:45,549 --> 00:18:48,460
designing to help and we are developing to
help.

267
00:18:48,460 --> 00:18:49,460
Individuals with disabilities.

268
00:18:49,460 --> 00:18:54,650
That's really what's critical to both of you
to your respective organizations and to everyone

269
00:18:54,650 --> 00:18:58,890
that is here in the audience and I have no
doubt about that.

270
00:18:58,890 --> 00:19:02,690
We only have a couple of minutes left here
and I know we are running over a little bit

271
00:19:02,690 --> 00:19:08,360
but we would like to entertain a couple of
questions, I think, if we have them.

272
00:19:08,360 --> 00:19:10,730
Nicholas, do we have them?

273
00:19:10,730 --> 00:19:17,909
And while we are doing the Q&A, then following
that we will take maybe a couple of questions

274
00:19:17,909 --> 00:19:19,630
and then start the poll.

275
00:19:19,630 --> 00:19:22,070
Shall I go?

276
00:19:22,070 --> 00:19:23,700
Yeah, please.

277
00:19:23,700 --> 00:19:25,820
So let's entertain the questions please,
first.

278
00:19:25,820 --> 00:19:28,279
Albert from my blind spot.

279
00:19:28,279 --> 00:19:31,720
Dominic, I have the utmost respect for your
organization.

280
00:19:31,720 --> 00:19:38,010
Have watched it over the past number of years
of however, again to the point that Anil spoke

281
00:19:38,010 --> 00:19:43,620
of, the transparency and I'm not sure if this
is something we can point to audio but the

282
00:19:43,620 --> 00:19:49,539
overlay companies tend to misrepresent their
usability and functionality and equate it

283
00:19:49,539 --> 00:19:52,490
to the minimal accessibility compliance issues.

284
00:19:52,490 --> 00:20:02,540
Where does audio eye stand on understanding
that overlays are a temporary fix to a much

285
00:20:02,540 --> 00:20:09,480
more complex solution that requires manual
implementation of code at the core of a platform

286
00:20:09,480 --> 00:20:15,460
so solutions like overlays aren't the norm?

287
00:20:15,460 --> 00:20:19,290
Yes, let me address that.

288
00:20:19,290 --> 00:20:24,610
So we do believe that it's a journey and we
work with people in the disability community.

289
00:20:24,610 --> 00:20:29,590
That was one of the biggest initiatives since
I have been there in the past year or so bringing

290
00:20:29,590 --> 00:20:33,870
people with disabilities and testing with
us every week.

291
00:20:33,870 --> 00:20:35,750
So we bring that feedback in.

292
00:20:35,750 --> 00:20:41,120
When we have an overlay solution with the
company, we make sure we are doing a few things.

293
00:20:41,120 --> 00:20:44,669
One, educating them and their employees.

294
00:20:44,669 --> 00:20:48,330
And then long term helping them down the journey
to implement fixes.

295
00:20:48,330 --> 00:20:52,370
We usually do that first with our technology
through the overlay.

296
00:20:52,370 --> 00:20:57,020
There is plenty of companies we work through
detail level of reporting, giving them feedback

297
00:20:57,020 --> 00:21:02,070
on what are the most important issues they
can fix and we understand the reality that

298
00:21:02,070 --> 00:21:08,130
a software development life cycle has multiple
priorities that are pulling in.

299
00:21:08,130 --> 00:21:12,610
One product manager wants to build this new
signee feature and another person is building

300
00:21:12,610 --> 00:21:13,820
these accessibility feature.

301
00:21:13,820 --> 00:21:19,930
We are there to help them to to prioritize
and if they don't get to it in the short term

302
00:21:19,930 --> 00:21:22,230
we covered it in the overlay.

303
00:21:22,230 --> 00:21:26,580
We believe it's a whole partnership for the
companies and the overlay is one piece of

304
00:21:26,580 --> 00:21:27,580
it.

305
00:21:27,580 --> 00:21:31,600
Our reporting and manual audits help them
long term.

306
00:21:31,600 --> 00:21:32,750
Thank you, Dominic.

307
00:21:32,750 --> 00:21:38,200
How about can we have Susan over here on the
left.

308
00:21:38,200 --> 00:21:39,549
Microphone down here.

309
00:21:39,549 --> 00:21:40,960
Thank you.

310
00:21:40,960 --> 00:21:45,919
That was Albert from my blind spot.

311
00:21:45,919 --> 00:21:55,490
I just want to express my personal feeling
about this.

312
00:21:55,490 --> 00:22:00,860
I look at overlays from a civil rights perspective.

313
00:22:00,860 --> 00:22:05,850
And when I hear overlays, I think the back
of the bus goes the same place as the front

314
00:22:05,850 --> 00:22:10,540
of the bus goes but I don't want to be rel
relegated there.

315
00:22:10,540 --> 00:22:12,590
Thank you, Susan.

316
00:22:12,590 --> 00:22:13,960
Appreciate that.

317
00:22:13,960 --> 00:22:17,409
And one more question then we can go on to
our poll.

318
00:22:17,409 --> 00:22:22,230
Let's see if I can see hands up.

319
00:22:22,230 --> 00:22:24,649
No other hands up.

320
00:22:24,649 --> 00:22:25,649
Reserved opinion?

321
00:22:25,649 --> 00:22:30,230
You just don't want to voice yourself?

322
00:22:30,230 --> 00:22:31,230
Okay.

323
00:22:31,230 --> 00:22:33,500
I don't see any more hands.

324
00:22:33,500 --> 00:22:35,840
Why don't we start with the poll.

325
00:22:35,840 --> 00:22:42,399
Nicholas, so the first question when asked
now, let me pres have the poll.

326
00:22:42,399 --> 00:22:47,029
The purpose of this poll is not to be divisive
in anyway.

327
00:22:47,029 --> 00:22:49,950
It's just kind of data collection, if you
will.

328
00:22:49,950 --> 00:22:55,370
Try to get some sense in how we feel and what
we think and what some of the issues are that

329
00:22:55,370 --> 00:23:02,279
are important to you and then use that as
a bridge, or a stepping stone to move into

330
00:23:02,279 --> 00:23:04,490
further discussions.

331
00:23:04,490 --> 00:23:07,210
So that's primarily the purpose of this.

332
00:23:07,210 --> 00:23:13,940
So let's put up the first question and I think
it's you or your own organization uses web

333
00:23:13,940 --> 00:23:14,940
overlay technologies.

334
00:23:14,940 --> 00:23:17,890
Yes or no, is that the first one up there?

335
00:23:17,890 --> 00:23:22,289
If we all can take that and try to get an
idea.

336
00:23:22,289 --> 00:23:27,880
You or your organization use web overlay technologies.

337
00:23:27,880 --> 00:23:45,320
About 30 seconds to respond.

338
00:23:45,320 --> 00:23:48,890
Let's try for the second question, Nicholas.

339
00:23:48,890 --> 00:23:57,620
The second question is can automation play
a role in accessible website.

340
00:23:57,620 --> 00:24:03,110
Can automation play a role in accessible website?

341
00:24:03,110 --> 00:24:13,480
Ask everyone to vote there.

342
00:24:13,480 --> 00:24:25,320
If I'm going too fast let know

343
00:24:25,320 --> 00:24:36,390
The third question do you believe overlays
can play a part in accessibility strategy.

344
00:24:36,390 --> 00:24:43,200
Do you believe overlays can play a part in
an accessibility strategy.

345
00:24:43,200 --> 00:24:49,580
You heard Dominic and talked about the development
life cycle.

346
00:24:49,580 --> 00:25:01,880
It's part of that strategy.

347
00:25:01,880 --> 00:25:08,919
Last question, you or your organization would
be interested in participating in an IAAP

348
00:25:08,919 --> 00:25:15,580
advisory committee better understand overlay
technologies and what to expect or not expect

349
00:25:15,580 --> 00:25:16,580
from them.

350
00:25:16,580 --> 00:25:17,580
It's a little long.

351
00:25:17,580 --> 00:25:18,790
So I will re read it.

352
00:25:18,790 --> 00:25:25,840
You or your organization will be interested
in participating in an IAAP advisory committee

353
00:25:25,840 --> 00:25:32,960
to better understand overlay technologies
and what to expect and not expect from them.

354
00:25:32,960 --> 00:25:36,740
And that's the last of the poll questions.

355
00:25:36,740 --> 00:25:43,429
So I will give you a minute.

356
00:25:43,429 --> 00:25:51,190
Well, on behalf, I want to thank everyone
for being good listener and thank Dominic

357
00:25:51,190 --> 00:26:00,799
and Anil for participating and let's see if
we take it forward from here.

358
00:26:00,799 --> 00:26:05,809
Thank you very much all the panelists and
we will have a break for a half an hour and

359
00:26:05,809 --> 00:26:12,330
reconvene in both this room and next door
in salon 123 where we will have two different

360
00:26:12,330 --> 00:26:13,700
talks in parallel.

361
00:26:13,700 --> 00:26:15,009
Enjoy the break.

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