Helen Chamberlain and Ken Salaets, both Principals with Accessibility Strategies, discuss where the ADA is as it celebrates its 28th Anniversary in 2018.


 Hi, I'm Dave Gardy from WebAble TV, from our studios here at Washington D.C. for another interview around the ADA's 28th anniversary webcast that we do here on Web Able TV. With us in the studio right now is Helen Chamberlain and Ken Salaets. Thanks for joining us.

Our pleasure.

Helen: Thank you.

You guys have a storied career as accessibility experts and I want to just get a perspective, a quick bio, what's your experience and, we'll talk about your business, what you're doing now.

Okay, well, I've been with the federal government for 31 years. I retired in December. And I am busily trying to get a consulting company together with Ken as my partner. And a lot of my background is in procurement and training. I did a lot of training, worked for the general services administration for about 25 years and all of it was in the accessibility field. And so I was there in the very beginning when they created, when Bill Clinton first put out the presidential memo to create the, through the access board, to create the law, or the standard, as it is now. So I've been with it since that point.

Excellent. Ken, how bout you?

I started off working for congress for a brief period in D.C., then switched over to the tech industry. And spent the better part of 27 years working on an array of issues. Around 2002 I believe, I took on accessibility from a procurement angle. I worked closely with GSA in developing some tools and the like that were designed to assist in the process of identifying and acquiring accessible technology. I am now semi-retired, as I say. I retired from metro, primarily. And working with Helen and some other folks to see if we can take this experience and put it to good use for other people that are in the field.

Okay now, you guys started a company called Accessibility Strategies, accessibilitystrategies.com if I'm correct.

Helen: Yes.

And can you give us an overview of what that company's gonna do?

Well, basically what we want to try and do is tap into both of our expertises because I've got all the government background. Ken has the industry background, and we feel that we have a very unique perspective to bring forward to the community. Because a lot of what people concentrate on right now is the technical part. And we feel very strongly that it should be the whole ball of wax, so to speak.

So, from an administrative standpoint,

Yes, administrative standpoint, training, awareness, helping people with their procurements, helping people get their organizations together and things like that.

Ken, what's your vision for the company?

Well, there's various motivations for addressing accessibility. Some people get it as a technical or regulatory mandate that they're now required to incorporate into their marketing so to speak when they're selling to various governments, university assistants, but also to some private companies. For the most part, these individuals are really trying to get it right. But it's a complex issue, and for some folks, they have no clue about accessibility. Maybe they've seen captioning on TV, they've seen curb ramps and the like. But what we're trying to do is help translate sort of the technical and legal environment into something that's practical and simpler for them to digest and be able respond positively to that market demand.

Excellent, now, we always talk about taking the temperature at these anniversary webcasts of what the community of people with disability is, the ADA is at this particular juncture. Can you give us each of your perspectives on where do you think the ADA is at in 2018 in August after the 28th anniversary?

Well, obviously it's a lot more visibile than it ever has been, I think. And it's also starting to cross over into the section 508. Because within the ADA, not only are they dealing with physical accommodations for people like Ken was talking about the curb cuts and the accessible bathrooms and things like that, but they're also dealing with kiosks that people use, bank machines, and even websites. Because to accommodate a person in order to be able to use a website is where the ADA comes in. With your 504, which is part of the ADA, which deals with physical accommodations for people with disabilities.

Ken, your thoughts?

Well, I mean, every aspect of life, almost every aspect, is being digitized, basically. And the ADA initially, as we know, is looking at physical barriers and endeavoring to address those. And I think did so fairly successfully. Now, the government is starting to look at the internet, the World Wide Web, as part of that physical representation of businesses and governments services, and the like. So as it transitions into that space, I think the government and been fairly and correctly aggressive at starting to address web accessibility. Making sure that individuals have that full access, that full experience. That really now, essentially, the representation of the ADA, I think, in the United States, and other countries are looking to our experience to follow that. So in terms of what our business is looking at, we're looking global to see where we can assist. But, the ADA has probably, maybe, a little bit of a mixed record. Some successes, but new challenges. But I think all in all, our future looks positive.

And speaking of the future, what would be each of your visions for where you see some of the challenges that are gonna be faced in the 29th anniversary and beyond? I mean, do you see things that are popping up on the radar screen now that somebody's gonna have to address?

Wow, that's a good question.

I just mean, throw it at ya.

Yeah, no no, that's fine. You know, there's always something with the way technology moves, and these days it's moving so incredibly fast. There are always challenges. But I think, in my opinion, I think that now, people are more aware, especially in industry. They're more aware of the challenges that they have to meet. And they're more aware of their customers and how they need to make sure that all their customers, whatever their ability is, can have access to their products and services.

So, do you think companies are only reacting to government, or beginning to take it on as a mandate themselves? That internally they have a commitment to it rather than being forced by the government to comply?

It's still, you know, there's a mixed reaction.

Helen: Yeah.

If you're an SME, for example, small medium-sized enterprise, maybe you are having to address this for the first time. And you don't have that level of expertise, or even an understanding of what the law might require. Whether it's ADA or the federal section 508. There are some that have transitioned to the point where it's no longer a compliance, but it's a commercial issue. Where they see this as an opportunity to brand the company as being all things, and accessible, and enabling other individuals to use that technology for their benefit. So it'll take some time, but we really wanna promote the companies that are genuinely pursuing that side of the equation, so to speak, so we can use that as a way to leverage success in the commercial market and motivate more people to do that.

Excellent. Well, we appreciate the time you guys have taken. We've been talking with Helen Chamberlain and Ken Salaets, accessibility efforts from a company called Accessibility Strategies at accessibilitystrategies.com. Thanks for joining us.

Helen: Thank you.

I'm Dave Gardy here from WebAble TV, from our studios here in Washington D.C. for the ADA 28th Webcast interviews, thanks for joining us.

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