AXSChat Podcast

AXSChat Podcast with Cam Beaudoin

July 29, 2022 Antonio Santos, Debra Ruh, Neil Milliken talk with Cam Beaudoin
AXSChat Podcast
AXSChat Podcast with Cam Beaudoin
Show Notes Transcript

 

Using his experience in program management, software development, and technical consulting, Cam brings a unique and refreshing perspective on how teams can tackle digital accessibility within their organization. People appreciate his hands-on knowledge of planning, executing, and delivering accessible results with practical, real-world solutions.

Cam sticks to down-to-earth stories and engages groups from the moment he meets them, leaving them with a cool confidence in their ability to handle the ambiguities of digital accessibility. Audiences often appreciate that he can speak the same language as their technical teams or senior business leads.

Cam speaks on recalibrating communication techniques for technical teams and accessibility consultants, ensuring that cross-functional teams include everyone in the conversation. 

This is a draft transcript produced live at the event and corrected for spelling and basic errors. It is not a commercial transcript AXSCHAT Cam Beaudion

NEIL:

Hello and welcome to Axschat. I'm delighted that we can be joined today by Cam Beaudoin, who is an accessibility talker, advocate, works with accelerated accessibility amongst other things. Cam, I first came across you because of some of the really nice content that you put out, explaining where accessibility should be in the process and that it is baked in, not added at the end, I thought that was great. Really good use of eggs. So, thank you for that. Delighted to have you with us today. You're in Canada?

CAM:

Yeah.

NEIL:

So, tell us, how did you come in to be working in the field of accessibility? What was your journey?

CAM:

That goes way back. I've been in the industry now for about nine years. And thanks for that. I think we should probably put a link to that video up later on. I've got a lot of questions about that. Is it French toast or is it adding an egg at the end of baking a cake? Just a spin on that, chocolate chips only go in while you're making the cake, right? But I started off as a developer and I joined IBM and IBM is really where I started learning about digital accessibility and the importance of it too. I came at it though from a little more of the socioeconomic reasons. Do you remember when mobile cheque deposits started to come out? Do you remember when you could take pictures of cheques with your phone. Well, we were developing that and there was a decision that had to be made, do we build this, to work with an iPhone 4 or do we build it using an iPhone 6 and decisions came down and made me think of like, well, why wouldn't we support from iPhone 4? It doesn't make any sense why we wouldn't. Yes, it takes a bit more time and a bit more technology to get that running. But that kind of started piquing this curiosity in, you know, to support someone, to support people who maybe don't have the means. This is the only way they can deposit their cheques. And all of a sudden, we're not offering them the ability to deposit their cheques just because of a business reason. I thought that was kind of odd and kind of wrong. Leading into that this is more for a big banking project too and I said well, I've now learned there's a whole segment of the population who can't even check the money that's in their bank account and that seems kind of wrong now too doesn't it? So, while I was being added to this project, I had six weeks to learn about the WCAG right? And I know a lot of us learn that way, we are thrown this book, right? We print out the WCAG and say, okay. Right 1.1.1i, right what's this one about? I can get that one pretty easily. 1.2.1, what the heck is an audio description. Right, that's how we learn this. But I continued. I burned down a list of 3000 accessibility defects with the team. We eliminated all of them from the project, there were some negligible ones that were left and I became the accessibility subject matter expert for IBM Canada and I went and did consulting after that for another company and suddenly said, well if I can do this, if I have a voice and if I know how to speak about this. I can learn how to do this professionally as well. So, now I go off and speak about digital accessibility, disability inclusion and advocacy as well. So, in a small nutshell, that is my claim here. That is why I'm sitting here today.

NEIL:

Excellent. And yeah, I think you know, everyone that we speak to, for the most part, so everyone, most part, those are contradictory. But a lot, unfortunately of the people, working in the accessibility business have sort of found themselves at some stage plunged in at the deep end wondering how do I swim and I think that things may change, you know as the industry matures, as we hope it gets embedded into the teaching and the pedagogy and the way that people learn about tech. But until then, yeah, people will be picking up the WCAG manual and sort of going, well, what is this?

CAM:

Right, using it as a check list, right? Which we all know doesn't really work.

NEIL:

Yeah, exactly. So, I like the socioeconomic angle, I think it's really important. I also come at a lot of the issues looking at it through a wider social lens. You know, I'm the worse auditor. Probably. You know because it's sort of not my thing, but I do really see the sort of big social picture and how we can link all of this to sort of ESG and environment sustainability, social mobility and all of those sorts of benefits for society and business. So, how do you, you know, how do you sort of engage with businesses on that sort of front. You talked a little bit about the checking example. What are the sort of the other things that you sort of find really sort of hit home when you're talking to businesses rather than you know want to be you know accessibility people or people who are sort of already interested?

CAM:

Well, this is sort of a really good question that I am figuring out, as we go on right now. I think one of the biggest things that is missing, and I'll get to answer your question in just a moment, after I just build up a bit of a bridge here. One of the biggest things that we are not really focused on as accessibility advocates or digital accessibility advocates or digital accessibility advocates is that whole idea of how we communicate this message properly to the business. We learn a lot about screen readers, we learn a lot about, well, this is how you do testing and hey, developer, if you would just install this software, this programme well, then you can fix accessibility. But the truth is if we don't equip our peers with the ability to communicate, what is accessibility to the business owners or what is accessibility to your teams or your clients, we're going to all of a sudden encounter problem, right? Because you can't go in and just say we'll fix all our problems just by downloading the software and if you don't do it that means you don't care about people with disabilities and that just turns people right off. It just sounds like a threat. It sounds like a challenge. And it sounds like well, that sounds too hard I'm just not going to do it. So, now what I do, I do a lot of speaking now and I do a lot of coaching on how we communicate this message properly and persuade business to actually care about digital accessibility and the best thing I can do now, is I tied into diversity, equity and inclusion. DEI because a lot of business are out there talking about DEI and posting these really big messages and putting on all their socials, like look, we have more women in leadership positions than any other company in our sector. Great. I'm sure you don't want to undiversify from that do you? No, no, no, of course, not. Well did you know that disability is an intersectionality between all, of all that. So, let's have a conversation about disability inclusion. And I will be able to have more successful conversation when I can tie it into business reasons. And I think that's a really big thing that we're missing. We come in in from a technical or design background, is generally how people come into industry I'm curious about it, I want to get into it, and this is how I come from consulting or maybe from a lived experience. But then as soon as I took off my developer hat and I started putting on my business hat, I started to say that business owners, they have got key performance indicators. They've got KPIs and targets and stakeholders and shareholders that they need to pay attention to, as well. And if I come in there with a sledgehammer trying to hit them on the head with accessibility, I'm going to lose people there. So, I try to tie it into business reasons. Goals that they may already have, and I try and take a much longer perspective because if we win the long game, right, I think this is what we are all trying to get to, more inclusive technology for all. Instead of just thinking, well, you didn't add alt text to this image on this release, you’re a terrible person. I try and say well, how do we just you know, help the entire team put accessibility in, put alt text in.

NEIL:

And may you burn in hell and don't forget to add the audio description.

CAM:

Right, right, exactly. And human translated ones as well. That's the only one that's acceptable.

DEBRA:

And then we also here in the States are going to sue you on top of that as well.

CAM:

Right, right, exactly, exactly.

DEBRA:

Just to let you know, we are coming for you because you're bad people. I agree with you and that is often what we talk about in Axschat because, I am in the States and I've had so many big brands come to me and say Debra, the accessibility community does not know how to support us. They don't understand the complexity that we live with. Like, come on Neil, make sure ATOS is fully accessible every single day. You know, so it's like, it has to be tied to business values and I remember when I first came in the industry, many years ago because I came into this industry in 2000. And I was really surprised at the conversations we were having with corporations because I was from corporations. And I knew, at least the corporations I was working for, there weren't bucket of gold laying around just waiting for them to ask us to give it to them. I mean we, my budget was cut every year and cut a little bit more and so, it seemed like our industry was not speaking in a way that corporates could really hear us and so, I am really glad that you are doing it that and you're looking at the intersections and you know, we're also looking at it from the lens of the social, the sustainable development goals and then we throw out ESG or CSR.

CAM:

Right.

DEBRA:

Or corporate digital responsibility or whatever. The reality is we do want corporations to be better corporations and more diverse and inclusive. So, I just want to applaud you for what you're doing because this is how we change things. I'll say one more thing and then I'll turn it over to Antonio well, to you Cam and then Antonio. I was recently talking to someone that is got $600 million for Metaverse and they are building it for certain groups of individuals that they assume have no disabilities and so, I was explaining this to person that you personally are going to fall off the sides of those bell curve that we are designing and developing for because you're over a certain age. And he was really shocked when I said that, and I said I'm not trying to threaten you but why are we not designing for humans because sometimes we're temporarily disabled and blah blah and then we go on.

CAM:

Right.

DEBRA:

So, let me turn it to you and then I know Antonio has a question.

CAM:

Yeah, I love that because also I try to make this fun and approachable. I know the four of us we were joking around a little bit before the show started here. But this is what it's about if this is all doom and gloom and how dare you and, in the future, this is going to be you know and I've air quotes here. Okay? And the poor people that this is happening to, right? Victimising that is not a persuasive argument. You know, this egg video that I had at the beginning. I cracked an egg on a top of a piece of cake and I tried to mix it in and afterwards, I had my son in there I don't want to eat that right? And so, that makes it a little more fun and approachable because if we can catch people and say, oh, I'm interested in this. Like, you can go and watch TikTok and they are talking about some pretty, like watching people throw a pencil inside of a bottle, like really, if I told you, hey I'm going to go and throw ten thousand pencils and try and hit inside the bottle but when it hits and everyone cheers for it, it looks pretty cool. Well, that is fun and approachable, isn't it? But if I told you I'm going to sit there for three hours, throwing pencils into a bottle, that is not fun and interesting. So, how do we spin this whole, how do we make it approachable in a way that people are going to understand, and I am talking to a lot of advocates these days who are getting burned out. And I know that is a topic for my show and I talk about that a lot nowadays. You know, what is burnout and why are we feeling like that, and I think really, it's because we are not speaking the same language as our clients the people that are going to receive the message.

ANTONIO:

So, following on that and considering that you know, countries, regions, even sometimes areas of business are at different stages of utilisation. How do you see the fact that sometimes some industries are not as utilised as others, some areas of a country might not be adopting digital as others, how is that affecting the successful of digital accessibility?

CAM:

Well, I like to think of it like, where are we putting our focus. Right? Where's the main focus need to be, and we said digital, right? And I really believe that our base services, banking, insurance, travel, or transportation rather, government, services these got to be your main focus and I've spoken to a lot of people who are in, let's say Brazil or in Africa and countries who we don't know where to go next because no one is listening to us from a, no one is listening to us from b, and I'll say what do you do and they say sometimes I help consult with government and I say, you can start there. You can start really small and what is the smallest nugget that I think that you can pass on to somebody. Don't try and take over the world, don't try and take over an entire website because not one single person, not even any of us. If we are plopped into a bank in the Philippines, you can't fix it alone. It's impossible to fix it alone. But if you're able to fix a small part, if you can focus on one small thing. I think you'll get a lot more success and you're going to start to see the business reasons for that too. When you can show someone, oh, did you know you can just search your entire code base and find all the missing I don't know labels and it just burns, one developer just fixed all the labels, right? List it out, I did that for a bank, and they were like, you just fixed you know, 700 tickets in the week. I was like, well yeah, because I had them all listed out. I just did a search. I used my brain, and I did this. And they're like, oh that didn't cost that much money. Yeah, we need to do a bit more testing. Otherwise, a focussed effort in a week and we got them all done. And so, it turned this problem amorphous, nebulous, ambiguous and it boiled it down to this one little thing that we could just tackle it and do that. That is how we focus in on things and that's how we get things done.

DEBRA:

So, I've a question and it's like, we don't know who is going to talk to I'm going to try to beat Neil too. But I really do love this article that you and Neil were talking about baking accessibility into your process and so, we are definitely going to make sure that we share that link with the audience so you can all see it can see it as well. So, this is often what we are talking about, and I find it does get a little discouraging, look here in the States just for example. It is discouraging because we have created such an us and them. We really have. And I remember one of our very large agencies, we have multiple agencies and foundations that support people that are blind in the United States and one of them was heavily engaged in law suits and I actually appreciated it even though I know law suits suck and they are hard but I also care about this community and I am part of this community and so, if you're not going to do it, that is why we have lawyers.

CAM:

That's right.

DEBRA:

The lawyers are going to make a lot of money, so, I just appreciate the way you're talking about it because it is not. It isn't rocket science, it's not that hard if you make it part of the process. But I still see many accessibility consultants not explaining that, not understanding it themselves. I see people now getting sued because they said this, and we won't go there everybody that follows A11Y know what I am talking about. But I just, you know one thing that Dr. Greg Vanderheiden said years ago was at a IAAA meeting was the accessibility industry had to stop eating our young. And I remember when he said that I was like oh my God.

CAM:

That is so powerful. I never heard that before.

DEBRA:

Isn't it true?

CAM:

Absolutely.

DEBRA:

We are not very welcoming, and we attack each other and so, I think we have accidentally created some of the problems and dramas and Neil and Antonio said, when I first started working with them, 8 years ago, that is right. Something about the cowboys of the Wild West, the accessibility cowboys in the United States. And we all know who we are talking about. But it's like, it really causes confusion with actually the customers that are trying to do this.

CAM:

Right.

DEBRA:

And I'm always in there going this is not just about the US, you're global. You're global what are you doing? Yeah. So, I just really am grateful for the work that you are doing because to the four of us this is the only way forward. It's not about hot dogging, I don't dare, what are you doing to help society?

CAM:

Right, and I like to talk about if you can increase, if you can improve the world by one percent, half a percent. What a difference that would make. How many websites are there out, like how many possible, like it is impossible for humans to go and fix all of those by hand. There's just so much out there and if we can improve it by one percent, then why wouldn't we do that? I was just speaking to somebody yesterday and they were getting stuck on the fact that some tools out there, and this is a very well-known tool, they had a new guided tool and they said well, I'm not going to use that because I'm already an accessibility expert and I'm like yeah but the other 10,000 people who work at the organisation you work at, they are not and they may need this. Well, they can call me. And I said, yeah, yeah that is great, but you can't pick up the phone when 10,000 people need to call you. How do we multiply and scale our voice and our message and our knowledge because all of it is locked up here and I'm tapping my temple right now? Saying that like, it's all in this grey matter, how do we get that out there? We have got to create these baselines. We've got to create these levels of you know we are here, we are here now and I've got the line, two thirds of the way up on screen. And I've got you know, the line two thirds of the way up on screen and I said, we are here and if we can increase that by one percent, we are going to make technology and life better for so many people out there, so we've got to figure that out.

DEBRA:

I agree and I'm just curious about something and I know I'm hogging the mic, I promise I'm going on, yeah Neil doesn't look like he believes it but there is a lot of money that has flowed into the some of the accessibility companies, including Canadian we have a Canadian company that made a lot of money and in the United States and I just will tell you first, I've been sort of discouraged with how some of that money has been spent and I would like to see and I talk to all of those investors before they invested because they came to me. So, but I just wanted to make sure. It's like, I don't mind you all making money, but can you care a little bit about our community, just a little bit. We are aging and I was speaking at a wireless conference the other day about aging, and you know, they are very well-known corporations for example which I'm not going to say I've worked with, that call people over a certain age laggers, but we find out that you're calling us laggers.

CAM:

Right, right.

DEBRA:

Because that sort of pisses us off. And yeah, so, I was curious about what you thought about that because I'm all for money being infused into our industry, but I hate when they don't seem to care about the community behind it.

CAM:

Yeah and I'll admit I used to work with a company like that too and in fact, that is probably one of the reasons I left because there's a lot of promises of, you can go back and contribute, you can go back and do this but don't ever mention anything that we are doing here and it was like the anti, like if I compared to someone like a Google, who I've never worked for by the way but Google, if you want to call, just give me a shout. If like, working with Google like they are always at every conference, no matter what and we are talking about tech conferences in general. They pump a lot of money out externally. And, I know there is shareholders and I know there's you know, investors and things like that, that need to be given their dues as well. And this is how the world works in tech, money is given to companies, they grow very quickly and they're still getting their footing. It takes a couple of years before they get their footing. And are able then to give money back to the community. I would say to anyone listening, if you work for one of these companies, if you work for one of these auditing companies, it's, this part of our responsibility. I would say, to get out there and attend these conferences and convince your bosses to say, you know 300 bucks, can we expense that? Where you expense it on tech, you know, already my internal technology, to get a new mouse. Apple mouse of something like that. Can we just expense that to go to the next See song conference? Can we do that to go to Access You, can we go and learn and have a presence there. Because once you have a presence by the way, you're going to be able to attract talent. It's amazing, when I started to being more public on LinkedIn and I started to say that I'm hiring or I' m working for an organisation and they're hiring, all of a sudden I got people in the community, that I give back to come up and say, how can I get access to that opportunity and man the talent that comes forward is so good it’s so good because you never know. I'm not going to know everyone who is looking, I'm not going to know everyone whose looking for a job and it's great to be able to give back and I think that us as pros, as accessibility professionals, it's our job to help bring that out.

NEIL:

Excellent. So, I don't know whether Antonio had a question if so, I'll go but just nod if you do. But I totally concur with what you just said being active in the community and being able to attract talent. One of the reasons you know we started Axschat was a, to be positive. Right, we wanted to be positive, we wanted to focus on actually stuff that was actionable for businesses, I don't call them cowboys, I call them the accessibility Taliban because they were hard lined, and they like to blow stuff up and they didn't care about any collateral damage.

CAM:

I love it.

NEIL:

They were the A11Yban. But, you know A11Yban and there are still people, there's a hard-line about stuff and they burn bridges and unfortunately we need to be building them, right and so the whole point of Axschat is to build the community, to build the bridges, to really make that connection to business and through doing so, build those connections and you know, a rising tide lifts all boats as the cliche goes but we have attracted people to our team within ATOS, which is the organisation where Antonio and I work, as a result of the work that we do through Axschat and on social media and so on and it also has a positive impact on how our organisation is perceived and so on and so forth. And we do participate in conferences. Could always do more. But also, we are located on the wrong side of the Atlantic for some of them which makes it, you know. It's not the cost of a mouse, you know, it's the cost of an alien ware gaming machine, you know, to attend. So, these kinds of things you know, they do have an impact. But we are active in the community and so on and so forth. So, I hear you, you know. We definitely need to engage, engage in a positive manner and really sort of help people grow. Antonio I'll hand over to you.

ANTONIO:

No, I just, you and Debra, you know me from some time in relation to this topic, but I believe we should be talking about accessibility at conferences that often don't talk about accessibility, you know?

CAM:

Yes.

ANTONIO:

So, what is the point of you know going to a place where we know each other very well and we end up talking about the same topics. You know? I think we need to go to mainstream conferences. You know, just a few weeks ago there was a big event in Toronto called Collision.

CAM:

Yes.

ANTONIO:

Where, so that is where people need to be talking about accessibility.

CAM:

Absolutely.

Antonio:

You know, CES, those big events is where we need panels to talk about these subjects or if sometime this is what I do when I have the chance. When there is no panel on accessibility and they have the chance to be in the panel, I bring the topic forward. So, it's not independent. But you're able to bring the topic in a very subtle way. And then, that's I believe those are the places where you need to be. And then something else that I feel that is also important is when you are at this type of events, and you are creating content. You differentiate your content by making your content as accessible as possible.

CAM:

Absolutely.

ANTONIO:

I know that you know, we know that sometimes, some tools that you need let's say to caption the videos on the go, to do things in a fast way are not as perfect as you would like but by showing that you are captioning, you are bringing alt text to your content, you are able to differentiate from the other crowd that are not doing it and I think that is some of the things that we should be doing more often, you know, I've never been in an accessibility conference but I've been in all the others.

CAM:

Yeah, the last accessibility conference I went to I think it was more hugging people that I hadn't see or met online. And you know, Meryl Evans, I only chatted with her online for two years, like almost two year and when we saw each other, and I just gave her a big hug. And we hung out, more than going to any of the talks. But you're right, these other conferences if they're tech conferences and maybe, I would love to spit ball here for anyone whose listening. Like, what kind of conferences should we be speaking at. And it can't be everything right? But basket weavers conference of LA doesn't really care about you know or maybe doesn’t have anything relevant to accessibility but maybe they do. But let me go first, HR. What other kind of conferences could we go to?

DEBRA:

Entertainment.

CAM:

Entertainment, what other kind of conferences could we go to? DEBRA: Hospitality. Hospitality.

DEBRA:

Travel.

CAM:

Travel.

NEIL:

Sustainability.

CAM:

Sustainability. How about...?

ANTONIO:

Mobility and transport.

CAM:

Mobility.

DEBRA:

Mobility, yeah. Justice.

CAM:

Technology. We didn't say technology. Government. That is a huge one, government. Right, we're at eight or nine now, did we miss any?

DEBRA:

Yes.

NEIL:

Did you get smart cities; did you get transportation?

CAM:

Smart cities.

DEBRA:

We got transportation and...?

ANTONIO:

Yes, somehow smart cities and transportation they are close. Transport is a very important of it.

DEBRA:

But all of the education.

CAM:

Education of course, there's a big one.

DEBRA:

Yes, I know, I'm thinking of the...

CAM:

Right, right, right. Shall we plug in and say, if anyone is listening to this later on, put it in the comments. Put it in the comments, if there is a conference or an industry that we're missing.

DEBRA:

And invite us. The four of us will come and speak and we'll kick ass.

NEIL:

I've to say, in the UK, the biggest sort of education conference has a massive contingent around accessibility and assistive tech.

CAM:

That's so cool.

NEIL:

It's called BET and actually I worked for around ten years for an assistive technology company, supplying AT and supporting users and so on and the BET show was our big show of the year and yeah, I mean people come in from all over Europe and sort of Middle East to check out the conference.

CAM:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

NEIL:

And there is that sort of accessibility element. But what we are not doing is, we are talking about assistive tech we're not talking about how we teach accessibility.

CAM:

Absolutely.

NEIL:

How we connect out of the same codes as Special Educational Needs Co coordinators and teach them about sort of assistive tech. And then how do we teach about disability and accessibility to the kids. All they're really talking about is, is there specialist software that you can integrate into your you know, your interactive white board?

CAM:

Right and then, why else do companies get frustrated when they say, well, I just downloaded or paid for this plug-in, and I expected it to do everything.

DEBRA:

Right because they told me.

CAM:

They told me. That's what I've been hearing at tech conferences for the past x number of years that I can just download this thing, get my QA to just run it and then fix it and then it's done right?

NEIL:

Yeah.

CAM:

And then it's done, right? And I think that is our job to remember to communicate to organisations that hi, what I'm here to do is help shift your culture, just like the way we have started to think about shifting to include more women in leadership positions or people of colour in leadership positions or caring about the environment, like this is a shift in culture and that is what we are doing. We're shifting culture, we are not just there to give you a Band Aid solution. But if we approach it like that, yes, there's a place for tech tips and yes, there's a place for learners but if we go in there with the mindset of I'm going to change your culture and we're going to do this in the best way possible, I don't know, I've had this conversation more than, in the past year more than ever before and I think it's possible that we can all kind of get in there instead of, we've got one minute for a quick story, I used to walk into companies with the Darth Vadar music playing, you know, dun dun dun dun da dun dun da dun, oh the accessibility guy is coming around. Like, in what world was I thinking that that was going to change people's minds and making it better. Like, I don't do that my more, but I also don't play My Little Pony or anything like that. And I just, you know, I go in there with the thought of hey, let's change the world together. Not, I'm going to change the world, let's change the world together and let's make a big difference in this company we're going to do it, because you already care about this, you just don't know about it.

DEBRA:

Right. I think we need to make sure that one of the questions that we create for Cam is where should we all be speaking, you know where? But at the same time, we do want people to speak, anyone listening to this, we would like people that really represent the issues that we are talking about here. If you have met one person with a disability you've met one person with a disability, please make the time that you are talking to the right experts. That's we're very careful about who we put on this show, and we all love Cam so.

CAM:

You can't see the blush, right.

NEIL:

We are working on it. I mean I always wear the blusher. So at that point. We've hit the end of our time unfortunately. It's been a real pleasure. I don't think it will be the last time we are talking. We look forward to the conversation on Twitter Cam. And I need to say also, thank you very much My Clear Text for keeping us captioned and accessible.

DEBRA:

Yes, we appreciate My Clear Text so much. And Cam thank you. Thank for being here.

CAM:

Thank you. Thank you for having me on, yeah.