Volume 2, Episode 2 - Interview with Luis Perez

The IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast

This week on the IAP, Mark Miller interviews inclusion learning evangelist Luis Perez.

Show Notes & Links


Announcer: Welcome to the IAP, The Interactive Accessibility podcast, bringing you the people, technology and ideas helping to make your world accessible to everyone.

Mark Miller: Hey welcome to the IAP. Thanks for helping us keep it accessible. Do us a favor. If you're enjoying the IAP, share it, tell someone about. Hey, even link to it from your accessible website. We'll we have an exciting show today. I've got a very special guest, somebody that I met at Boston accessibility this summer and we became a fast friends, I'd like to think and that is Luis Perez... how did I do?

Luis Perez: You did pretty good, pretty good Luis Perez that's as close as anyone has gotten so thank you.

Mark: Luis Perez... so we had a little bit of a conversation about your name before we went on and it's a bit of a challenge because, as somebody with an American accent it's difficult to a piece together but...

Luis: and get and how that is I'm sure I butcher other people's names too when I try to do it in English, so no problem

Mark: There we go. Um, so I'm excited to have you on. You do a lot in education, which is interesting to me because a in our world at interactive accessibility we're dealing with sorta corporations a lot and often we don't stop and think about kinda the next generation coming up or the people who are really out there trying to learn about accessibility or who need accessibility in education. So, can you just tell me a little bit about exactly what it is that you do and, kind of, where your heart is with all this?

Luis: Sure, I currently, I work as an Apple Distinguished Educator. I'm an inclusive... I call myself an inclusive design consultant for education. And so, what I see as my job is to take the accessibility information that's out there and kinda translate it into more of a lay audience, so educators, administrators... those who work in the field education where accessibility is not... a lot of times not in their primary job responsibilities. But, over time they, you know, they've had to pay attention to it because a different mandates that require them to make content accessible to all learners. And so, one of the challenges, if you go to through the guidelines, you know, at the w3c, sometimes those documents can be a, kinda, inaccessible –pardon the pun- to the lay audience. So, that's really what I try to do is bring that information to an educator audience and then translated for them, if you will?

Mark: Yeah, well I agree that sometimes those WCAG 2.0 guidelines are difficult for somebody who's not in the industry to really, kinda, sort out. When you say that you bring it to the educators, who in the education field are you bringing it to? Is it actual teachers... like K through 12 teachers? Is it the, sort of the, administrators in management?

Luis: It can be both depending on the setting when presenting it could be a variety of them... both audiences - the teacher's, classroom teachers. What happens in educational is that sometimes you have a classroom teacher who shows a..., I don't know, a liking to technology and off of a sudden that teacher gets to be the website administrator... And so, the problem with that is maybe they didn't have training in things like usability and accessibility. And so, you end up with some very interesting looking and behaving web sites out there for schools...

Mark: ...for the education. Yeah, well too... I think that's how it used to work right? Back, I guess, in the early late 90's... is people were just thrown into this. So, we're still seeing that with education where you're not dealing with trained web masters you're dealing with people who, kind of, involuntarily volunteer for the job.

Luis: Exactly! You got it.

Mark: Well, and I think that there's still a lot of that out there even in the small business world. So, it's great that you're working so closely with people to help them understand accessibility because accessibility even today - and I know that people like you and I in the industry try to turn this around - but it really is an afterthought. Do you see that in education as well?

Luis: Yeah, absolutely. It's something that still needs to have a lot of attention dedicated to it... specially a from an educational perspective and raising awareness. And, I think, I'm... like part of my job is... it's not just about making information accessible, but that there's also component learning that I try to address. And, so, I also focus on Universal Design for Learning as an approach to making learning accessible. So, it's not just about providing the information in a format that's accessible, but also creating at learning environment where students can show what they know in a variety of ways and so on. So, it goes beyond just the accessibility piece into other aspects of universal design.

Mark: Yeah, well and it isn't that the soapbox that were all on anyways, right? I know that we're always talking to companies about the need to integrate accessibility into their best practices and make sure that everybody across the company understands accessibility, so that it just becomes part of their design philosophy and not something that's often its own corner. You know, the question that I have for you is: Do you ever get a chance to, kinda, see your results? Do you ever get to go back and, sort of, see how what you've done... the work you've done with an educator... sort it, manifests itself in the classroom and for a student?

Luis: Absolutely... and that's really what keeps me going. I have to say, those of us who work in the field – because I also do work with assisted technology - and those of us who work in the field, you know, we call it those magical moments. It's when we see a student who has not had access before and you put a technology solution in front of the, that all-of-a-sudden, in a second, just transforms their lives.

Mark: Aw, that's great...

Luis: ...and it's because all-of-the-sudden - and this happened to me as well cuz I'm legally blind – and the first time that I heard a screen reader on the Mac, I call that a magical moment because it changed my life in a way that I didn't really expect. And, it wasn't that I needed a screen reader at the time because I still have some vision, it was really the promise that it represented for me. The promise of, you know, having a full life ahead of me and being able to do everything that I wanted to, you know... With the help of technology.

Mark: So, then, you get a chance to see that same experience for a young person that that you've influenced the way that they're learning now somehow. That's going to be fantastic.

Luis: Now, it is... it is. It's, like I said, it's what really keeps me going and it keeps me investing time and resources in what I do. It just seemed a life change that happens in an instant.

Mark: So, one thing that you and I, kinda, brought up before... before we heated up the mikes her, was this Super Bowl commercial that Microsoft aired during the Super Bowl. And, I know that we wanted to give a little bit of time to that here during this podcast, and what you're saying is a really a good tie into this commercial. And, the one thing... aside from the great things, you know, in terms of Microsoft giving such important air time to this subject of accessibility and... which really is what it was, right? - People with disabilities they really showed all sorts of assistive technologies throughout this commercial. But I also think that it underscored how much more independent people with all sorts of disabilities are becoming nowadays, because of how high-tech assistive technology is now. It's really giving people freedoms that they didn't previously have. And, I was explaining to, kinda, some laypeople earlier that this... what this is doing, is it's making accessibility - in terms of the kind of digital accessibility we do deal with, in terms of the kinda things that you do in education and with mobile accessibility - even more important because as people, who previously may have been kinda on locked down because I'm in a daze disability, get out there and are experiencing the world again. It becomes more important things like airport kiosks, the mobile devices they're carrying with them, you know, all these experiences that a person without a disability may take for granted. It's important that those things become accessible to them because they're gonna get... they're gonna get it to get to the airport. They better be able to check in on their airplane without the need of a lot of assistance. So, what did this Microsoft commercial during the Super Bowl mean to you?

Luis: Well, I think that the most important message is, if you pay attention to the ad, at no point did they use the word assistive technology. It was all about empowerment. That's really the message that I preach when I talk about technologies for people with disabilities. You know the goal is not to assist you in doing what I want you to do. The goal, really, is to empower you to do what you want to do.

Mark: Right...

Luis: ...and to, you know, as it shows in the ad, to get out there and do what you want to do as a parent, what you want to do as an employee. So, it's really about empowering people to, kind of, lead self-determined lives were they're in control of their futures and so on. And, I thought that message came through loud and clear in the ad. And, it was great to see it in, you know, a prime viewing...

Mark: Absolutely...

Luis: ...context- to see that message come through.

Mark: Well and as a person with a disability yourself, and somebody who is working so hard in education - to bring that empowerment point across that just had to be an incredible thing for you to see...

Luis: ...it was absolutely.

Mark: Yeah, that's great! And, I love what you say about empowerment I've always found... I understand the need for the term assistive technology, because we've, gotta kinda, have some way to describe these things that people with disabilities used to do what somebody else would do, really, another way. But I've always argued that everybody uses assistive technology out there. I mean just a computer in and of itself is an assistive technology. So, to some degree, it's just technologies and one technology may empower you and one technology empower me, you now?

Luis: And that's really the buzz that I've seen with regard to the ad in social media circles - is that, you know, it is right makes that point in a way that it's all about technology...

Mark: ...and how it brings us all together as people and it really does close that divide, I think that sometimes we perceive, between people with disabilities and people without disabilities, which is what I wanna see, um, to be frank ,you know.

Luis: Same here. That's really why I do what I what I do in terms of education, is to bring that lay audience. Raise awareness of technology and how powerful it can be for everybody. We all are, you know, we could be situational disabled at one point in our lives. Or, we're all getting older. So, it's not technology for those people. It's technology for all of us.

Mark: ...for all of us, yeah... universal design

Luis: Correct.

Mark: So we have to wrap things up here, but if somebody wanted to, kinda, follow your work and your efforts and see where you have to offer out there, how they do that?

Luis: The best ways to go to my website, which is luisperezonline.com. And I just said it in the English way, but its luisperezonline.com. And, you can also follow me on twitter. I use Twitter quite a bit to share resources that I find on the web. And my name is @_luisfperez. And the reason for that is Luis Perez is like John Smith on America so I had a hard time getting a Twitter handle that was my name. So, just remember there's an underscore in front of it and then it is Luis (L U I S) F Perez (P E R E Z).

Mark: And, We'll put that in the show notes and transcripts so that people can now find that easily.

Luis: Sounds good.

Mark: Well, Luis... I hope I said that right finally.

Luis: You got it!

Mark: Alright, I really appreciate you being on the IAP and I look forward to seeing you at another convention soon!

Luis: Absolutely, a pleasure and thank you so much for having me. And thank you for the work that you are doing to raise awareness about accessibility.

Mark: Well, thank you.

Announcer: The IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast brought to you by Interactive Accessibility, the accessibility experts. You can find their Access Matters Blog at Interactiveaccessibility.com/blog


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