Episodes
Paul Paravano standing with his white cane in a building with white pillars. He is wearing a white striped shirt and navy pants, and is smiling looking off to the side.
13 Letters, Mar 11, 2021, Meet The Letterheads: Paul Parravano

Meet The Letterheads: Paul Parravano

Here at 13 Letters, we talk a lot about inclusive design and accessibility – but these terms mean nothing if we don't keep in mind the stories of the listeners who are most affected by bad design and most assisted by good design. That's why we're starting a new feature called "Meet the Letterheads," where we introduce you to a 13 Letters listener whose life is highly impacted by accessibility and everything surrounding it. Paul Parravano is the co-director of Government and Community Relations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and has been blind since birth. Listen in as he shares stories about everything from growing up in mainstream schools to meeting Andrea Bocelli. And tune in next week for a full new season of 13 Letters!

Episode Transcript

Will Butler:

And we're back. Hello, letterheads. How is everybody doing? I'm Will Butler from Be My Eyes. It's been months since 13 Letters season one. But my co-host Cordelia McGee-Tubb and I have been hard at work recording a whole new season of interviews about accessibility and inclusive design that we're bringing to you starting next week. I couldn't be more excited for some of the guests that we have coming up. To listen to past episodes of 13 Letters or the Be My Eyes podcast with full transcripts courtesy of our transcript sponsor atdiamond.la. You can check that out at bemyeyes.com/podcasts. To kick off the second season of 13 Letters, we're starting with a very special episode, our first ever listener interview in a new segment that we're calling Meet the Letterheads. We're talking to Paul Parravano who's a 13 Letters fan. He also happens to be the co-director of government and community relations at MIT and has been blind his whole life.

Will Butler:

He has a fascinating history, some wonderful ideas about assistive technology, and is integrally tied into many of our guests and many of the concepts that we introduced on the last season of 13 Letters. So take a listen to our fun uncut interview with Paul Parravano. And if you're curious about any of the things we reference throughout the episode, please feel free to go back and listen to the first season of 13 Letters in preparation for next week's launch of our regularly scheduled interviews. We start out our interview with Paul Parravano with him accusing me of not knowing my voiceover commands and demanding that I owe him a burger. How do you know about In-N-Out, Paul?

Paul Parravano:

Somebody told me about it out here, and I certainly read about it. And then when I went to CSUN a couple of years ago, man, I jumped in an Uber and I said, take me. Then I booked the trip back with the same guy so I could just eat in the back seat. It's the only time I've been. I frankly think it wasn't my favorite cheeseburger, but it was awfully good, and I was very happy to go there.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Do you ever get Shake Shack?

Paul Parravano:

Yes, they're quite good too. If you wanted to switch Will's bet to Shake Shack, Cordelia, I'll give you that power.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

All right. Yeah. I mean, they've got those good crinkly fries that In-N-Out doesn't have.

Paul Parravano:

Yeah, you're right, the fries. Now, I'm glad you reminded me of that that fries at In-N-Out were not great and Shake Shack does have really good fries.

Will Butler:

I was thinking, Cordelia, it's possible that Paul Parravano is our most prepared guest we've ever had.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

I think so. Yeah.

Will Butler:

Are you excited to be on the show, Paul?

Paul Parravano:

I'm really wound up because, I just started listening to 13 Letters just, I don't know, about three weeks ago, so I'm a real newbie to this podcast although I listen to a lot of podcasts. And I was completely knocked out of my chair when I heard this podcast and listened to about four episodes in a row. It's like binge listening that people talk about Netflix and all that kind of stuff. Not me, I'm tucked here in my chair with a Victor Reader Trek and I listened to four episodes and just was open-mouthed at how good the podcasts were and how great the guests were. I'm excited about what you guys are doing and very glad to be with you today.

Will Butler:

So you're a Letterhead?

Paul Parravano:

I guess so, I've heard you throw that term around.

Will Butler:

We're trying to make-

Paul Parravano:

As opposed to a leatherhead, which is something very different.

Will Butler:

Yeah, we got to be careful about that, we don't want any branding conflicts there.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

We are going to make some shirts, I think. Well, we've gotten a request to make custom shirts.

Paul Parravano:

Letterhead shirts?

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah.

Paul Parravano:

That's good. But we have to put Caroline Casey's picture on it or somebody that will help convey not just the name but the concept and what accessibility means so we can constantly remind people who are looking at us what we're all about.

Will Butler:

What does accessibility mean, Paul?

Paul Parravano:

I think for me, and again, I'm someone who doesn't work in this field, but accessibility is really my whole life and ability to work in a sort of mainstream job, went to mainstream schools as well as a kid. And it's really all about finding solutions to how I can participate at the workplace and in my personal life and having raised a family. Accessibility is really getting full access to all the choices one makes every day about how you get your work done, how you get around, and how you accomplish things to further your work and your personal life.

Will Butler:

I want to get through your whole story. But briefly before we go back in time, tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do. You said you don't work in accessibility, and yet you're on the accessibility podcast. What's your day job?

Paul Parravano:

So my day job is as a co-director of the office of government and community relations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, otherwise known as MIT. And I've been there for just shy of 30 years. So I help represent MIT in local, state, and federal government. So that's a job that I love, it's a big job representing a lot of very smart people, faculty and students. I did not go to MIT, so I'm in awe of a lot of the people that I work with and represent in Washington and locally. So that's my main job. I'm totally blind, so I need to use accessibility and assistive technology, accessibility solutions to get my work done, both to communicate and to write, to get around because my job is not sitting at a desk. I move around a lot in Boston, travel to Washington. So I have to maximize advantages that I find in different pieces of technology and different opportunities that are out there for mobility to get me places where I need to be to do my job.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Nice. And so you mentioned you're in Massachusetts now, but where did you grow up, Paul?

Paul Parravano:

I was born to Italian parents, they had just immigrated from Italy after World War II. And a number of years after World War II, they decided to move to the United States. My father was ended up being a college professor. And so I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was a professor at the University of Michigan. So I grew up in a small Midwestern college town, great place to grow up. And went to a couple of different schools there. One year, as a matter of fact, in high school, my dad was on sabbatical out in the Palo Alto area, so I spent a year out in California and went to a high school out there. My parents felt strongly ... I lost my sight as an infant due to retinal cancer, and I was the last of four boys.

Paul Parravano:

So I think my parents were pretty devastated and weren't really sure how to handle such a thing. And they were advised to put me in some school for the blind or an institution, and they resisted that and decided that even though I couldn't see ... By the time I was three, I'd lost all my vision. They thought, "Well, there's no reason why you can't get educated and grow up and be pushed around and tossed around like any good kid should be in order to get a good upbringing and socialization. I went to a couple of different schools. I started out in a Catholic school in Ann Arbor, went there for a few years. The class sizes were really big, so my parents wanted to put, not just me, but my other brother and I moved to a different school.

Paul Parravano:

And I ended up going to public schools for high school in Ann Arbor. And really enjoyed, and I think I benefited a lot from the fact that my parents without telling me really opened the door and convinced teachers and administrators that this was going to work. Back then, it wasn't very common. I'm talking in the 1960s. It wasn't very common for a totally blind person to be able to exist and move ahead in schools. My mom bought a book from the bookstore on braille and with the help I think of an occasional teacher, braille teacher ... There weren't very many of those around either in that time. But she taught me braille. And when I was maybe five or six and getting started with first grade, my mom used a slate and stylus to transcribe basic reading materials for me into braille.

Paul Parravano:

I should tell you that I know how to use a slate and stylus, but I never would be caught dead using one of those things. And I say that completely respectfully of the people who still use them and use them a lot. I admire them because I didn't have the patience to do it. And I was lucky enough that by the time I was in second or third grade my parents bought me a Perkins braille writer. So I had a braille typewriter. I followed along in school. There were a couple of funny stories you know. Back then people used typewriters, I'm not sure if either of what a typewriter is, but it has a regular keyboard.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

We're not that young.

Paul Parravano:

Okay. What's really great about this is that in first grade my parents got a typewriter, and the teacher put the typewriter in the closet. And whenever there was a quiz in the class, she'd pull out the typewriter and give it to me and I'd put in a sheet of paper. And many people listening to this may not know that a typewriter unlike a keyboard these days, the typewriter makes a fair amount of noise. The key comes up and slaps the piece of paper and puts ink on it, and that's how you created the hard copy right then and there. And most of the quizzes in first grade are yes, no questions. And whenever she'd ask a question, I would type maybe Y-E-S. Well, guess what, the whole class would write Y-E-S because I did pretty well in school in those days. So that method didn't work for very long.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Because they heard you type it.

Paul Parravano:

They heard three letters or two letters.

Will Butler:

If anyone ever listens to the 13 Letters theme song, which was composed by a renowned local composer.

Paul Parravano:

Will Butler it?

Will Butler:

It kind of sounds like a typewriter, I always think of it as kind of.

Paul Parravano:

You're right, it does. It really does. So there were a number of, shall we say, adaptations that needed to be made. The teachers had to come up with some different, shall we say, reasonable accommodations. That's the term now that people use, which was not existent at that time. I had teachers who were patient and showed me or tried to explain to me because they didn't know braille. And I would do things like long division and math on a braille typewriter. I had to figure it out as they explained to me what was going on. So I went through regular schools elementary and high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan and then moved to Boston for college.

Will Butler:

Paul, you said something about your parents kind of, what did you say?

Paul Parravano:

Opened the door.

Will Butler:

Well, they denied that you were 'blind' and just sent you to a normal ... I'm thinking about, we talk a lot about the negative role that denial can have in a blind person's life. If you're in denial that your vision is changing or that you need some sort of accommodation. But what is the positive side of it? Look at someone like Caroline whose parents just refused to call her blind or your parents who, obviously you were blind, but they refused to treat you in the way that blind kids were treated during that time. What are your thoughts about that?

Paul Parravano:

Yeah. It's such an excellent line of of question, I think, and thinking. I think about that a lot because my parents frankly kept a lot of the more negative stuff. I think people wonder, did you get bullied? They asked me later on, did you get bullied or did other kids bother you? And my recollection is that, and I probably switched schools four or five times from first grade to 12th grade. For the first couple of weeks, those students would be very standoffish like somebody would maybe be assigned to walk around with me because I didn't even use a white cane. I just would walk around with other people, other students. And my daughter's a teacher now and just very recently she told me that there was a blind child in the first grade and she had an aide assigned to her to walk her from class to class.

Paul Parravano:

And I thought to myself, gee, that's really different because the kids just, I just walked with them to recess to play. And the kids would find ways for me to participate in recess, it was just always a thing. I always felt part of the group. And I think it had something to do with the fact that my parents behaved in such a way, and my family was always very accepting of the fact that I was blind. Although it wasn't talked about it, you're absolutely right, it wasn't a topic that we talked about. One of the other things that we may or may not get to today is that the type of blindness that I had had a very strong impact on having children because retinoblastoma, which is the condition I had, you have a 50% chance of having a child with retinoblastoma. Which doesn't necessarily mean they're going to be blind, but you better be looking out for it when the kid's born.

Paul Parravano:

Anyway, not to get deeper into that, but my parents never talked about that stuff, never. I think my view growing up was this is the way the world is. Everybody is sighted, I'm not. But I'm in the classroom, I'm at the table. And in 11th grade because I liked politics and I'd been class president a couple of times, I said, "Hey, I'm going to run for student council president." And I was on the wrestling team. I felt like there were no activities that I wanted to do that were off limits. So I think that's the positive side of it. And I never felt ... I mean, there were times when math got harder. And I'd think to myself, gee, I'm really struggling with algebra or geometry, and there's no one that can really explain it to me in a way that I get it. But eventually it would sink in, I'd find a way to do it.

Paul Parravano:

I think that there's a real important aspect of having blind people, in my view anyway, blind people be segregated just on the fact that they're blind. And I think that that can be a very negative influence where people are protected and walled off a little bit from what the world is like. As I said, I don't remember being bullied or bothered by kids. But when they thought I was a jerk, they would tell me. I really felt each year when I went to a new school, after four or five weeks, somebody could say, "Paul, you're being a jackass." I thought, I'd really made it. I thought that's the kind of relationship I want to be in where somebody can can tell you that.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

So, Paul, you mention that you were the only blind person in this world of sighted people. How old were you when you first met another blind person?

Paul Parravano:

There were vague brushes with other blind people. I think I went to a summer camp once in another part of Michigan. And one of the counselors brought in somebody who was blind to play chess with me because I also like to play chess. That might've been the other blind person I think I ever met.

Will Butler:

What a strange moment that must've been.

Paul Parravano:

Yeah, it-

Will Butler:

Because they made you as their adversary basically.

Paul Parravano:

Yeah. The interesting thing was this person was pretty independent and had a white cane, I didn't. There was no independence in the sense that I relied on other people to get around. Now, maybe an elementary school, in middle school in a small town, that just seemed very comfortable to me. I always had my friends around, I had groups of friends that I hang out with, and getting around wasn't a problem. But when I got to Boston to go to college, it was a problem, and I had to rely on my roommates to get around. And that didn't last very long at all. And finally somebody said, "Hey, wake up, you need to figure out how to get around independently." And they helped me connect with a program at Boston college that had mobility instructors. I got with the program. And the first night at 2:00 in the morning, I was the one to go out sandwiches for the roommates instead of them going out. I figured I'd really made it.

Will Butler:

I've never thought about this before, but do you think there's a tension between independence and inclusion?

Paul Parravano:

That's a really good question. you know. I think that there is because ... Sometimes I think we blur the lines a little bit about independence. Independence can mean a lot of things. It can mean, yes, I can walk from here to the kitchen and feel around in refrigerator and find the right type of yogurt that my daughter doesn't like and that she likes. So I'm pretty sure by the shape that I'm getting the right thing. Well, that's independence. and I love gaining much more of that. But there are still times at work, and I'm fortunate I work with a team of people. There are times when I need to get help, either my screen's frozen. Nowadays, there's a variety of ways including Be My Eyes and other places that didn't exist for most of my life, working life anyway. In moments like that, you think, well, I may be independent, and I certainly feel included. But there are times when you think about that and say, "Gee, there are elements about this that don't always feel very independent."

Will Butler:

I'm just thinking about you being a mainstreamed kid, you're included in everything, you're part of the gang, you're part of the family. And yet you don't have mobilities, the ability to walk out and get the sandwiches at 2:00 AM. Whereas you meet this other kid who's got a white cane, presumably has good mobility, but maybe he's not being included. You know what I mean? It's really interesting to think about that as a dichotomy as opposed to ... We're so encouraged to strive for both of those things simultaneously.

Paul Parravano:

Yeah. That's absolutely right. And I think people have to find a balance and a comfort level that works for them. I don't mind occasionally asking, I try to be very careful about asking my family to do things for me because, man, that would get old really quickly. And I think they would view blindness and me differently. So as a result, I don't ask them very much. And when I do or when I need to, they're not always excited about doing it, about responding. And I say that in a way that ... They understand who I am, but you know what ... Here's a good example. When my kids were small, I have two daughters, when they were small, everybody would say to me, "Gee, I bet your kids are really good about keeping stuff out of your way or picking up."

Paul Parravano:

Nothing could be further from the truth. They left their toys everywhere. Every now and then, I have to say, "Hey, don't leave that thing on the stairs, either I'm going to step on it and break it, and it could be your computer." They grew up in a house where my blindness didn't interfere with their being sloppy, they just didn't think about it. And I hope that part of my approach with them is, hey, look, the main thing about me isn't that I'm blind, it just isn't. Blindness has a large effect on how I do things. And, yes, the kinds of things I'm interested in and how I get to those things, how I access those things. But the real joy and pain and difficulty in the world. I just don't think it's connected necessarily to the fact that I'm blind.

Will Butler:

How accessible is parenting? Or is being a dad, what are the accessibility barriers?

Paul Parravano:

Issues? Yeah.

Will Butler:

I'm thinking about our listeners who develop solutions, you know what I mean?

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

I'm also just thinking about stepping on toys and how absolutely painful it is to step on a Lego when you're barefoot.

Paul Parravano:

In your bear ... Yeah. That's true. I mean, they just left everything anywhere. They didn't particularly care. And you know what, it never crossed my mind to say to them, "Hey, you better pick up because your dad doesn't see. What, are you being inconsiderate, you don't think about the fact that your dad's blind?" That's a game I never wanted to be in with them. While I regretted sometimes stepping on things, I mean, I never fell or had any major accident. Maybe I'd feel differently if I did. I just didn't want that to be part of the equation. Your question about parenting is a good one. Let's see. I changed diapers, which that's really the depth of fun and using your hands in ways that are not tolerable for a lot of folks, so I did that.

Will Butler:

Got to be willing to get dirty.

Paul Parravano:

Exactly. There were times when my wife would be at work or she would travel occasionally when my kids were really small. And I'd have to be pretty creative about making sure I always knew where my little one was. I caught myself a few times, more than a few times. When the older one got to be a little older, when she was maybe six and the younger one was maybe two or three where I'd say to the older one, "Hey, where's your sister? Help me keep track of her." Which I thought at the time, maybe I was cheating already and relying on her to help me as a blind person. But I also thought there was a little bit of a trade-off because big sisters, older siblings sometimes do that, they are given lots of responsibility to do that kind of thing.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah. I don't think that's cheating at all, that's teaching your child responsibility and looking out for-

Paul Parravano:

I think so.

Will Butler:

Paul, you just underscoring what a high standard so many folks with disabilities hold themselves to. And we're under so much pressure to perform, quote-unquote, at the same level as everyone else. It's like sometimes we put ourselves through way more mental torture than, quote-unquote, a normal new parent would. Any other parent would just do whatever worked, you know what I mean?

Paul Parravano:

And you know what, I think a lot about, jumping a little bit far field, but I think there's a connection, in other types of civil rights issues. I think with gender issues, for example, I think women are often forced to do the same thing, to over-perform in order to try to be perfect in the balance between career and home life. And yet some of those standards that we try to reach as a young woman trying to get into a field and decide about having a family, and disabled people who really want to be included and fit in and contribute. Those are similar and very hard pressures to live under. For example, I get pretty dressed up at work. I wear a coat and tie, maybe not every day, but often. And if I go someplace, I put on a coat and tie.

Paul Parravano:

And I have devoted a lot of time and energy and care and money to making sure that the stuff I wear goes together. I've got everything labeled with little braille number tags and a file on my braille device that says, okay, suit number 46 goes with the following tie numbers and shirt numbers.

Will Butler:

Wait.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Do you have 46 suits?

Paul Parravano:

No, it's the way the number thing goes.

Will Butler:

Yeah, otherwise we were going to have to go a whole different direction.

Paul Parravano:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Those are things I care a lot about, and there are a lot of sighted people that do and a lot that don't.

Will Butler:

Talk more about that. I want to hear more about this system and why you care about style.

Paul Parravano:

Well, because, you know what, people don't expect it. And somehow when they see a blind person who dresses well, I think it has an impact on people because I understand how the world runs, how it works. I know when I get on the train or the bus every morning that people are watching and they say, "Hey, this guy is incredible. How does he put one foot in front of the other? How does he not trip? How does he do anything? How does he know which bus this is? I remember when I first moved to the neighborhood I'm in now some kids stopped me after about a week of being here and said, "How do you know which house you live in?" And I thought, these are great learning opportunities.

Paul Parravano:

This may be too much of a degression, you guys can decide. I think that people want something to look at and to see, and when a blind person walks ... Although, there are fortunately many more blind people working. Especially in Boston now, there's just a lot of great, smart, capable, blind people who are working. So it's probably less of a unusual thing. But I got on a subway once, I don't know, seven or eight years ago. And it's a stop, I know well, I went in. If the train is really crowded, I'm not going to look for a seat because everybody will stand up and say, "Oh, let the poor blind guy sit down." I don't go through that, I just stand up and politely refuse to sit down when somebody offers me a seat.

Paul Parravano:

On this day, it didn't feel very crowded to me, so I went and was able to find myself a seat. And the woman sitting next to me leaned over and said, "I'm blonde and beautiful. I have to say that a number of the wrong things to say came into my head, but fortunately you don't often think of the right thing to say. But I was happy that I quickly came up with, "I only like red heads."

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Amazing, Paul.

Will Butler:

I have so many questions.

Paul Parravano:

It was an amazing thing. And I had three stops with her on the train. And I thought to myself, what possessed her to be that bold and to go out there and say something like that? I think it was her way of trying to level the playing field. Whether I'm beautiful, she may have said to herself, whether I'm beautiful or not, I want him to know that I'm cool. Maybe she thought I would be an interesting person to talk to, and that was the first line. I tried to figure out who she was without being inappropriate. I tried to figure out where she worked or whether we had anything in common because we were both headed for Cambridge, Mass. I didn't, and I never saw her again.

Paul Parravano:

I was interviewed once on the local public radio station, and I told this story. And I got lots of fun reaction to it because people were shocked that somebody would do that. I think this individual was just bold enough to say, "Hey, I want to draw this blind person out and eliminate from our conversation the fact that he can't see." Because I think that's part of how people measure one another when they get on a bus or a train. Going way back now to getting dressed up. I think that it's something I care about because the sighted world trades on that in many ways. And I want to be a player, I want to be in that. That's the kind of work I do. I'm representing MIT, and I want to look my best and look well put together. It's important to me.

Paul Parravano:

And one result of this, and we can get into talking about this later on maybe. As part of my work at MIT, I've had the honor of meeting Andrea Bocelli because Andrea Bocelli's foundation has funded some research on navigation for blind people being done at MIT. Andrea Bocelli's wife said to me once, I'll never forget it, she said, "You're the best dressed of anybody from MIT." So I thought somebody who can shop wherever she wants saying that to me, that meant something.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah, that's high praise. Let's talk about that now So how did you two get connected? What's the story?

Paul Parravano:

So what happened is-

Will Butler:

And for those who don't know, Andrea Bocelli is also blind, correct?

Paul Parravano:

Yes, that's correct, totally blind. And the way that happened is I got to know this wonderful professor at MIT who is a computer scientist, an international robotics expert, been on the faculty may be 15 or 20 years at MIT. I met him quite accidentally. We had a group from the House of Representatives in Washington, this is back in 2008, 2009. And they were just going through their healthcare debate when Obama became president. Somebody from the administration that runs the House Office Building got in touch with MIT and said, "Hey, our communication system is from the 1970s, and we're about to go through this incredible debate. And we barely have email, and we're really behind. Can we come up to campus and get some ideas on how to fix it, how to improve it?"

Paul Parravano:

So I arranged for some faculty to meet with them, that's how I met this one professor. He got up and they each had 8 or 10 minutes to talk about their research. And at the end, this professor said, "I have done work with an independent living center, I have developed some devices for people in wheelchairs." I think he was just wanting to give them the idea that he did a variety of things. Well, I went to see him after, and it turns out he had this huge interest in assistive technology. And within two years, he started a class at MIT. Puts a lump in my throat to think that I've lived at a time when MIT has a class called principles and practice of assistive technology. And he started this class. The way he arranged it is he would have three students team up each semester with a adult with a disability, and they'd work on a particular challenge. He asked me to participate the first time, and I can talk to you about that if we get to it.

Paul Parravano:

A few years later, he called me up and he said, "Hey, I was at a conference in LA, and I met somebody from the Andrea Bocelli Foundation. And we want to talk to them about maybe funding some research on navigational devices for blind people." So the first meeting you know, Andrea Bocelli doesn't speak much English, I speak Italian. So he invited me to come, and he was very happy to say to Andrea Bocelli, "We have Mr. Parravano here who speaks Italian." So I did the translation. And somehow we communicated to the Bocelli folks that I was blind because it wasn't one of those meetings where I said, "Hey, Andrea I'm blind too, what's it like?" We didn't approach it that way.

Will Butler:

Was it in person?

Paul Parravano:

No, I'm sorry, it was over a conference call, it was on the phone. And then later on as the relationship developed, Bocelli invited us to go to a workshop near his home in Pisa in Italy. So we did that. And then Bocelli came to MIT, he and I were on a panel together to talk about accessibility and use of braille and different things. So that's how I got to know him. And I've seen him a couple of times since then.

Will Butler:

What's he like? I don't know much about the guy.

Paul Parravano:

Well, he's really now the voice of Italy, he's really quite accomplished and sings at soccer games. And he had a wonderful Easter Sunday, a solo concert in a church in il Duomo in Milano on Easter. That was really beautiful. At this moment when nobody could go into the church, he was just there by himself and the organist I think.

Will Butler:

He's such an icon, but I don't know much about him as a person.

Paul Parravano:

He's got this foundation that is devoted to two things, disability and poverty. He's got a number of poverty projects in Haiti. I think the blindness stuff is in my view, he funded the research at MIT. There's a very sad piece of the MIT story, which is that the professor I've been talking about died just a couple of years after all this got started. So he's no longer with us. And while the class at MIT goes on, he was really the face and brains behind the specific kind of research that Bocelli was interested in.

Will Butler:

What was his name?

Paul Parravano:

I'm sorry?

Will Butler:

What was the name of the professor?

Paul Parravano:

Seth Teller. And just really a wonderful guy. I'll just drop in this little snippet. When he asked me to participate in his class, he asked me what I wanted the students to work on. And I said, "Gee, Professor teller, I have to think about that because I don't really spend my days thinking about what I can't do." I called him the next day and I said, "Okay, there's a stove we just bought at home that has a touch screen oven," this is back in 2011, there were many fewer things than we have now. It wasn't wifi enabled or anything like that, so I couldn't use it with Alexa, which didn't exist. I said, "That's one thing." It was before Uber, I said, "I can't hail a taxi. And I think the thing I'd like best is my daughter is a gifted soccer player, and I would love to have a tactile tablet with a chip in it synced with a chip in her Jersey so I could follow her around the field," because I've been to hundreds of her games.

Paul Parravano:

And he loved that story. He really took it. He said, "Paul, that's probably doable, but it's more than a semester's worth of work." So we ended up not doing that. But the reason I think about it all the time is that when professor teller died, I wrote to his wife about this. And she read that passage in my ... Oh gosh. In my email to her, I described this whole soccer thing and how excited he was about it. And she read that at his memorial service. Oh, it just really tore me up.

Will Butler:

You had a really special relationship.

Paul Parravano:

I did, I really did. He had a strong sense of what assistive technology was and what the potential of artificial intelligence and machine vision and machine learning might have on this field. I miss him a lot because MIT just in the last two years has announced the opening of a new school, it's actually called the college for computing. And what it means is that every undergraduate now at MIT is going to have a basic foundation in computer science and artificial intelligence, everybody, even if you major in literature or whatever. Seth Teller would have been really proud of that.

Paul Parravano:

And I'm working a little bit to get assistive technology really wound into this college for computing with help from people like Larry Goldberg who's local. I think we have a shot at convincing faculty and leadership of the school of engineering that this topic can have and will have real traction in a college like that. I want to say one more thing about the class that Professor Teller started in 2011. It is the only class taught at MIT in the school of engineering that every year is, A, oversubscribed, and B, actually B should be A, has more women in it than men, the only class. And I think it says a lot about how to attract young women ... We have half of our incoming class at MIT are women. And yet it falls off in graduate school, in science and engineering and those fields. And I think that if we were smarter about attracting young women who really want to change the world and build a better world for others, we would pay attention to that and we'd have a lot more women in engineering I believe.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Just speaking personally as a woman in tech, if my college had offered a class on assistive technology, I would have jumped to take that. Why aren't there more schools teaching? Because it sounds like such an important, it's a timely topic, it's something that bridges the gap between technology and people. It just is this perfect mix of humanities and sciences. Why isn't MIT offering a million version of this class because it's sounds like it's oversubscribed? Why aren't other schools also doing it?

Paul Parravano:

I agree. I told our VP for research who's a woman about this, and she said, "No one's ever brought that to my attention." I think I've got to work harder to get that story out. One of the students in that class that I worked with at the very beginning now works in accessibility at Google, Cordelia. I think I told Will about this. And she came to me at CSUN a year or two ago, and she said, "Working with you Paul and that class got me to go into this field." And she now works in the New York Google office on some aspect of Google's big push now in accessibility.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

That's awesome.

Will Butler:

I think there's been a lot of innovations out of MIT. Even if MIT doesn't necessarily have the accessibility education programs established yet, there've been a lot of innovations that have fed into accessible solutions, right?

Paul Parravano:

Yeah, you're absolutely right. Basic speech technology happened a long time ago, maybe 50 years ago. One of the big companies that spun out of MIT was Digital Equipment Corporation, DEC. And they used speech very early on, this might've been in the 70 or 80s. And the way speech really took off for them is that they wanted their sales force, their salespeople to be able to call in and not have to bother somebody and get account information over the phone with a speech system. And that's how Ken Olsen the founder of DEC really began to bring speech into the mainstream. So speech is one thing.

Paul Parravano:

There was a mechanical engineering professor who worked with the National Braille Press where on the board of trustees to computerize braille transcription so that NBP, which has been around for 90 years now could, I think in the 1980s and 1990s begin to use high-speed braille transcription with a computer. Professor Bob Mann helped with that. But it's not even limited to those things. If you think about prosthetics, there is another professor named Juha who is developing ankles and joints using all kinds of newly engineered materials that are lighter and less prone to infection and some of the other problems that people who have to wear artificial limbs. He lost his limbs in a frostbite problem he had skiing as an 18-year-old and has made huge contributions.

Paul Parravano:

But I think that working with Seth Teller, I began to understand how much wearable technology and small cameras and the kinds of things that we're see in vision AI and Aira, and some of the other things that really help us understand what blind people can connect with, the kind of information you can connect with and get from your iPhone. The fact that you can get a picture described now by voiceover and other apps really demonstrates that artificial intelligence is making just a huge impact, and we've only begun.

Will Butler:

We always quote Sara Hendren in all technology is assistive technology.

Paul Parravano:

Yes.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

For sure.

Paul Parravano:

Absolutely right.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Now I'm just thinking about how you mentioned every student at MIT is going to have at least a little foundation in computer science and AI and how that's just going to unlock all of these new possibilities for people in the way that they think about how their fields can use tech to enhance experience.

Paul Parravano:

I don't think that there's a semester where a group of students don't come to me and say, "We've got a project that we want your advice on." And it probably has to do with blindness. And I think what's happened is that the professors who teach some of the introductory and senior engineering courses have gotten to know that, A, I'm easily available, very happy to meet students and to work with them on these things. And often MIT has these really major design competitions so that the seniors in mechanical engineering have this huge event every December at the end of the first semester where teams of eight students present a business case and an engineering solution. I've been at that as part of a team probably three or four times.

Paul Parravano:

One team developed a device to teach braille to children, a very updated mechanical thing with batteries that you push a button and different dots would show up in a different letter configuration. And I remember we did a little video of me holding a small piece of wood that my dad made for me, which I still have that has six holes in it. And my mom would give me six marbles to make the different braille letters. That's how I learned the braille alphabet. So the students went from showing this to what their project was all about.

Will Butler:

And now we have wifi dishwashers.

Paul Parravano:

Yeah. Exactly. Now we have an app on my phone that tells me which cycle my dishwasher is in. I do all the dishes in my house, so I insisted on finding a dishwasher that was wifi enabled and Alexa enabled.

Will Butler:

So to our listeners out there, Paul Parravano claims he doesn't work in accessibility, but you get the idea, right?

Paul Parravano:

I maximize the advantages of having learned a lot about accessibility. And I go to CSUN, which is a wonderful gathering of manufacturers and vendors and people who are smart about these things. I think the two of you have done such a great service in bringing together some of the smartest and most successful people in thinking about assistive technology and who've really accomplished so much in the different roles that they've had. It's really been impressive work that you guys have done.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Well, thank you.

Will Butler:

Thanks.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

I'm just boggled by, my mind is boggled by you're like, "Oh, I don't work in accessibility." But I think to use the modern hip term, you are an accessibility influencer.

Paul Parravano:

I've worked with Lainey Finegold.

Will Butler:

That's what I was going to ask you about. You were involved in one of her key negotiations-

Paul Parravano:

A big space. I'd heard about her back in the early 2000s, and I started to request braille statements from utilities and my bank. And I was an early American Express card holder. And I called them, and for the first time, I got a really hard ass, "No, we're not doing that, period." That's when I decided to get in touch with Lainey. I had to figure out a way to reach her, but I finally did. And she took it on, and it took a couple of years to get this done. But she got to the right people at American Express through her structured negotiation process, which is such a winning approach. I just can't say enough about that.

Paul Parravano:

Right now that agreement with American Express to produce high quality braille statements, I've been getting them for maybe 10 or 12 years. My braille statement arrives, listen to this, before the print statement gets to my house.

Will Butler:

Now that's service.

Paul Parravano:

Lainey really nailed it. Bank of America has, as other banks, have ATMs that work and that are very reliable. They have braille statements that are very well done. So I credit Lainey with a lot.

Will Butler:

For those that want to hear, Lainey's interview is I believe episode five.

Paul Parravano:

I don't remember, it's-

Will Butler:

So you can go back and check out that whole interview.

Paul Parravano:

It's one of the great ones, which they all are. So it's hard to put numbers on them. She is really pretty magnificent. The only thing I haven't been able to engage her on, which I've taken on myself and I know this is a dangerous topic to bring up, but I'm going to say it anyway, is slot machines, accessible slot machines and gambling.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Tell us about accessible slot machines.

Will Butler:

We have to [crosstalk 00:54:40] gambling. Gather around, children.

Paul Parravano:

Well, the thing is-

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Spicy.

Paul Parravano:

I think accessibility suffers sometimes from people thinking somebody needs to sink some money into the technology and get us there. And a lot of that happened with ATM machines, the basic kiosk touch screen or even keyboard operated, but with a screen. A lot of the solutions to how blind people could get access to that happened around the late 90s and early 2000 with a guy named Gregg Vanderheiden. And Lainey's work to help convince the bank that this is something they ought to do. And so I thought if that technology exists, how come we don't have accessible slot machines? I go to the consumer electronics show every year in Las Vegas, and I love going there, but gambling is just something I don't do.

Paul Parravano:

And I have to confess, I'm really not interested in gambling. But I know that if somebody sat down and worked out how to make slot machines accessible, it would drive a hell of a lot of innovation in access to other kinds of devices, including touch kiosks and point of sale machines and all that kind of stuff. I heard that Boston was finally going to get, well, Massachusetts finally decided, they had a big struggle in the legislature they were going to build some casinos. And when resorts in Vegas won the right to build a big one right next to Boston, and so I reached out to some of those folks because I go to a lot of events in Boston. So I met the people who were running that effort. And they sounded interested, but didn't really do too much about it until I met the chairman of the gaming commission for the state.

Paul Parravano:

And he was really taken with this, and he called Steve Wynn. And Steve Wynn said he wanted to talk to me about it. So I talked to Steve Wynn and he said he was very interested in doing this.

Will Butler:

When was this, Paul?

Paul Parravano:

This was about two years ago. It all runs together because clearly Steve Wynn's life took a very different turn. There are aspects of Las Vegas and gambling which are not pleasant and very seedy. But I know that, I hear tell that what drove a lot of development on the internet was hate to say it, but was pornography. That's what I understand. And so I figured, well, if that happened, then maybe slot machines and gambling can drive some innovation on ...

Will Butler:

Oh my God, you really do know politics, Paul.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Just playing into everyone's vices to make this a better world.

Paul Parravano:

There you go, there you go.

Will Butler:

I love it, I love it.

Paul Parravano:

Probably not something that's mentioned at that class at MIT, Cordelia.

Will Butler:

So the gaming commissioner in Massachusetts gets in touch with Steve Wynn.

Paul Parravano:

So we ended up having some conversations, but it never really got off the ground. I went with somebody who Gregg Vanderheiden suggested to me who knew the technology. We went, and the Wynn folks arranged for us to meet with some slot machine manufacturers. And we talked to them. This gentlemen who Vanderheiden had suggested and I just got the impression that there wasn't enough fire in the belly to make it happen, that the manufacturers were curious, but not really convinced that this was a money maker for them. And then not too long after that, Steve Wynn's life completely fell apart.

Paul Parravano:

I said to the Boston people, "Listen, you could be the first casino in the world open and have accessible slot machines." And they got pretty excited, they said, "Gee, we'll have you there, we'll do a lot of publicity around it," but it just never happened. I may have to go to Macau or something to make it happen.

Will Butler:

Steve Wynn also visually impaired.

Paul Parravano:

That's true. And I spent a little time with him and his current wife. Well, I don't know if she's still there. He had been an iPhone with voiceover and no one showed him how to use it. So I spent my time with him demonstrating how voiceover works.

Will Butler:

Oh my goodness. Did he get the hang of it?

Paul Parravano:

He did, he did. And then he took a call from some banker, so I spent the rest of the time showing his wife who hopefully was going to show him how to do it. He was very interested. He loved Alexa, he said that most of his hotel rooms, you could walk in and tell Alexa to raise the shades or lower them. He was all excited about that. I'm not sure he understood the difference between speech output, which I was talking about machines that talk to you. He thought that speech commands were like you do with Alexa would help run the machine. I'm not sure he ever completely bought the concept. The fact that blind people ought to be able to gamble, I think he seemed to connect with that even though I was never going to gamble.

Will Butler:

And then the whole scandal erupted, and that was that.

Paul Parravano:

Yeah, that was pretty much it. All of a sudden I get a notification on my phone from the Wall Street Journal that there are allegations about Steve Wynn, a horrible behavior. One might have a certain amount of willingness to push the technology, but after a while there are people and behavior and other things that you really have to say, "I'm going to try to find this in a different place."

Will Butler:

Absolutely. What a fascinating ... Again, Paul Parravano doesn't work in accessibility.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

But is it accessibility input?

Paul Parravano:

I've just incorporated it into my life. If I want to get something done or if I buy something that I think I want to have in my house, I'm going to do a lot of research to find out how I can make it work for me. And I've got friends and a brother in particular who's retired now, and he loves doing this kind of thing. And he'll track something down for me, and then I might call the manufacturer. It's one of the things I do when I go to the consumer electronics show is go talk to manufacturers about my use of voiceover. So here I am, I'm in Las Vegas. I've got a tie on, my name tag says MIT. So I'm not exactly the audience that these senior manufacturers are looking to talk to, but they're kind of curious about it.

Paul Parravano:

And when I go to Honeywell and say, "I've got this great thermostat that you make that is partially accessible through your app. Is there anyone here who can talk to me about how to make it more accessible?" And they bring out this young woman who is the app developer, the head person. And she said, "Let's go someplace where I can hear your phone," because you're out on the show floor and there's a lot of people around." I demonstrated to her right then and there why the app called My Total Comfort wasn't tagged properly, the buttons weren't tagged properly." And she said, "I can't fix that right away, but I'm going to fix it." And in a couple of months, man, there was an update, and there it was. And it said right in the update, voiceover enhancements. Man, I just had a big smile.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

That's amazing.

Paul Parravano:

I've increased now, there's a whole accessibility section at that consumer electronics show. I've been going for 15 or 20 years, I never dreamed that I'd see that happen, and now it's happening.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

So for folks who might not be able to go to these big shows and talk to people directly, do you have recommendations for our listeners about how they can best reach out to companies with their ideas?

Paul Parravano:

I think that letting companies know, and sometimes you have to figure out the best way in, you have to think carefully about. Because sometimes you'll just get a stock letter back, which means that nobody has really understood or cares about what you've written. So sending communications, it used to be sending a letter, but I think emailing somebody in charge sometimes is one way to do it, somebody at a high level. There's a travel troubleshooter who I read in the Sunday Boston Globe every week. And people write in complaints they have about the travel industry or problems they've had. And he always says in every answer he says, "You should write to the executives from the airline or the hotel, I've listed their names and emails on my website," or, "I keep a list of everybody."

Paul Parravano:

So one has to do a little homework and write to the right people. And I think that that kind of communication still works. Phone calls don't work anymore because people wall themselves off. But I think carefully, respectfully written emails that reflect maybe a little loyalty and a positive approach saying I love using this thing, but I'm not able to do this, or I know that you have an app for your washing machine, but it's not compatible with voiceover. Apple publishes guidelines for you to follow. You want to make it easy for them because otherwise they're going to say to you, "Do I have to hire a whole new staff of people to fix this?" No. For the engineering folks who bothered to look at the Apple guidelines could go a long way to make it accessible to voiceover or with Android, with Google.

Will Butler:

That's great advice. I'm wondering about the dishwasher and the refrigerator and all this stuff. It sounds like you have a pretty connected home. How is the state of the smart home, and where are you at with that?

Paul Parravano:

Yeah, I'm getting there, and a lot of it has to do with my visits to various manufacturers. It's influenced what I bought. I bought a couple of new appliances last year. This is still new, the smart home thing is still new. I'm not really drawn to whether the lights are on or not, I frankly don't care. I sort of wish they were always off so it would save me some money on electricity, although lights are a lot cheaper to run than they used to be. I'm more interested in the appliances that are big draw on your energy like refrigerators and washing machines and dryers and dishwashers. I have a dishwasher now that I can, not 100%, but I'd say 75% run from their app. It's made by a company called JennAir, which is owned by Whirlpool. Whirlpool now is an umbrella for a number of big companies.

Paul Parravano:

I'm told that they make these smart refrigerators which tell you when you're out of mayonnaise or some stupid like that. I just can't get interested in a smart refrigerator. I always want to be smarter than my refrigerator.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

That's a good goal I think, and an easy one-

Paul Parravano:

And there are great things. Amazon has got a very reasonably priced microwave oven that connects with Alexa. In our house, we don't cook with a microwave oven, but we reheat things and make popcorn and do simple things, which the Amazon thing is perfect for. Washing machines and dryers, I haven't had to replace them quite recently. And when I last did, the dials and knobs and things that blind people depended on for many years to, that you could figure out how to run them properly, I did that for many years. But now they do have touch screens. I think there are wifi enabled ones now, but I don't have one yet. But in my house, my job is to carry the laundry down, carry it back up when it's done, and to help in some other ways. If somebody says it doesn't have to be sorted because some stuff goes in the dryer and some stuff doesn't, then I let them do it.

Paul Parravano:

But if they say to me, "Dad, it's in the washer, and everything goes in the dryer," that's my job. So I try to pitch in. I don't do too much of the cooking. I like to bake, but I don't do much of the cooking at all, that's just me.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

What do you like to bake?

Paul Parravano:

Pies and bread. I'd love to make a pie crust, it's just a wonderful hand thing, tactile thing. Making a crust and when it's ready and in proper shape to be rolled out is something you learn after having done it for a while. So making apple pie or cherry pie is-

Will Butler:

I wanted to ask you about accessible baking tools, Paul, because I've been baking some too. Do you have a talking scale?

Paul Parravano:

I don't, I don't. I have measuring cups. Over the years, I've just accumulated so many different things. I do have braille measuring cups, but I have to say that picking up a measuring cup from another set that's not in braille I can tell which size it is. Especially if it's just four, if it's just one cup, three quarters, half, and a quarter, I can tell by feel what it is. I have a pastry blender, nothing accessible about that. Measuring spoons, same thing. I tend to use the set that just has four or five, and I can tell by the size. But I think if I were starting out the fact that there are more of those things now with braille on them, since I'm a big braille user, I think I'm so happy to see that that's an option there.

Paul Parravano:

As I said, I use braille. I don't think I could do my job without braille, I should really say that. So I use it in my daily work. But I use it on my clothes is a big thing, the night before I pick out what I'm going to wear. It's all about looking at my braille file and then reaching into my closet and checking the number at the bottom of the shirt tail or in just inside the sport jacket. What other things do I use for baking?

Will Butler:

I just got a talking scale that's been really awesome.

Paul Parravano:

Really?

Will Butler:

It was pretty cheap, it was pretty cheap on Amazon. It just makes a big difference to know exactly when you're doing bread mostly.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

What kind of accent does it have, if any, Will?

Will Butler:

Like a 8 Bit accent.

Paul Parravano:

You need an Italian accent so you think you're doing something really mouth watering.

Will Butler:

We need to compare bread recipes sometime.

Paul Parravano:

Yeah, yeah. How to make gnocchi.

Will Butler:

Yeah, yeah, hat's great. We just hit the 75-minute mark. Cordelia-

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

All of this conversation about food is making me realize-

Will Butler:

You got to eat lunch.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Didn't eat lunch.

Will Butler:

Cordelia, do you want to [inaudible 01:11:47] any final questions before we wrap up?

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah, I did. Paul, you're so cool, you're doing all sorts of cool stuff and advising on all of these fantastic projects, and you have so many ideas floating around for other ones. So I guess I'm curious, what's next for you? Are there any projects that you're excited about that are going on in your community? Do you have any unofficial or official accessibility ambitions that you're working on?

Paul Parravano:

That's a really good question. There's a couple of things. Assistive technology has made such a big difference in my life. The fact that I've had a good employer who's provided the tools that I need, whether it's a computer or a braille embosser or braille note taker. And I've gone to CSUN, have talked to manufacturers. It's an area I want to learn more about and push manufacturers more on developing this kind of opportunity for people who are blind. Braille has been, A, unaffordable, and B based on old technology. You can still buy a $5,000 braille device that's based on windows CE, which Microsoft doesn't even support anymore. But now there are ones based on Android that are more open source-ish. And I think that provides a much greater opportunity for third-party developers to do more to bring braille technology into the 21st century.

Paul Parravano:

I'm really devoted to the teach access model. I want to get MIT involved in bringing assistive technology and accessibility into the curriculum. This new college for computing that I talked about earlier is a great opportunity to get them. And I've written some things now to promote why assistive technology belongs in a place like that. And connected with the fact that MIT has made such a difference in my life both with an opportunity to work and to prove myself and to use the tools, many of which the tools weren't developed there. But as I said, the basics of the foundation for some of the technology was. And I think MIT ought to understand that a lot of what it does has the potential to really liberate many people from the impact that a disability can have.

Paul Parravano:

And then on a more practical day-to-day level, I just was appointed to the commission for persons with disabilities in my town here in Massachusetts. It's something because of my job, since I travel and work, involved a lot of night meetings and events, plus having a family, I just didn't feel like I could get into it in that way. But now I feel like I want to contribute, and I've learned a lot. I've told the commission that I'm interested in talking about voting. And I was propelled into that thinking by a certain 13 Letters podcast that I heard a few weeks ago.

Will Butler:

Nice.

Paul Parravano:

And voting and pedestrian issues, sidewalks and getting people to maybe think about cutting down the branches that overhang the sidewalk that soak you when it's raining.

Will Butler:

I will fight that cause with you until the day that I die, Paul.

Paul Parravano:

I hate that.

Will Butler:

I'm 6'7".

Paul Parravano:

Are you really?

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Paul Parravano:

And I'm not.

Will Butler:

And the other branches are my worst enemy.

Paul Parravano:

Yeah, it's terrible. And people need to do is just walk on the sidewalk, and people just don't care, they let stuff to grow. And if it's a leafy thing, man, you're going to get soaked.

Will Butler:

Poked, soaked.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Will is going to get whacked in the shoulder.

Paul Parravano:

That too.

Will Butler:

It ain't no joke, soaks and poke-

Paul Parravano:

Soaks and pokes.

Will Butler:

No joke.

Paul Parravano:

That's it.

Will Butler:

There's our campaign.

Paul Parravano:

A t-shirt for that too. And then the last thing is transportation. There are lots of towns that have the council on aging give you a taxi voucher if you're a senior citizen or a disabled person, and that model just doesn't work anymore. I looked into it when I moved into this town that I live in, and they had this taxi voucher system and you'd have to buy a card every year to qualify. But you could only use the coupons between 9:00 and 3:00 weekdays. Where the hell do you think I am 9:00 to 3:00 on weekdays, I'm at work. If I want to take advantage of that-

Will Butler:

People with disabilities work, really?

Paul Parravano:

Yeah. I want to change old fashioned ideas like that.

Will Butler:

What town are you in, Paul?

Paul Parravano:

I'm in the town of Arlington, Massachusetts just right next to Cambridge.

Will Butler:

Wonderful. Well, they're lucky to have you on the commission. And we're going to need you to report back to us, Paul. This has been a real joy to have you on. And Cordelia, if this is just one of our listeners, who else is out there?

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

I don't know man.

Paul Parravano:

You've got to start digging around because I'll bet there's some wonderful stories out there.

Will Butler:

Folks, email us. This is how Paul got in touch. Paul, what motivated you to send us an email in the first place?

Paul Parravano:

I was just completely knocked out by the quality of guests and just the superb flow of the questions and the two people. You're not bombastic or loud, but you're just very comfortable, and the flow was just marvelous. I just really was captured by how the two of you talked to Lainey Feingold, who I know well. And I know Lainey's story really well, and yet I didn't want to miss a word of that interview or Michael from Apple, Shebanek, is that his last name? Yeah. I'd never heard Michael before, so that was the opposite. I didn't know that story or him, it knocked me out.

Paul Parravano:

And there's a guy who graduated from MIT who took that class on assistive technology, he went to work for Apple. I think he's working on Siri. And Larry Goldberg again who I know, I learned a lot from listening to that one. I just think you guys have a really powerful and positive way of getting these people's story into our lives and illustrating what impact they've really had. Other than reading a book sometimes where you can get that, I just don't see that happening. I listen to a lot of podcasts, and by far 13 Letters has had a major impact on me more than the others.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

My goodness. I'm blushing over here.

Will Butler:

Yeah, we're leaving all of that in.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

You mentioned you started listening like three weeks ago. I feel so lucky and glad that we've gotten to know you in the past few weeks and now have you on the show. It's been so great to hear your stories as well, and it's been a real pleasure. So thank you for being on the show, being our guest today.

Paul Parravano:

Cordelia, I have one assignment for you, I want you to verify that a three-finger double tap turns off speech.

Will Butler:

Oh God, I'm never going to live that down.

Paul Parravano:

You and I are getting a lunch.

Will Butler:

I'm never going to live that down. You're probably, Paul.

Paul Parravano:

I don't know, we're going to see

Will Butler:

Check back on the next episode-

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

We'll have to get Shake Shack.

Will Butler:

Of 13 Letters to find out if Paul Parravano is buying me a burger.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Or if Will is buying burgers for, I think both of them.

Paul Parravano:

Yeah, that-

Will Butler:

Do people say your full name a lot. It's an alliteration, and it's got that Italian roll to it? They must say your full name a lot, right?

Paul Parravano:

Cordelia., we have to find out if there is an In-N-Out in Anaheim next March.

Will Butler:

You guys, I'm trying to change the subject, I'm trying to change the subject.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Wait, I'm pretty much it's a debate between you two about this triple-finger, double tap, but I get a burger either way?

Paul Parravano:

Oh, absolutely, no doubt about that.

Will Butler:

And burger is the least.

Paul Parravano:

Well, no, maybe not the fries, maybe a shake because if it's the fries we'll have to go someplace else to get.

Will Butler:

All right. Thanks, Paul.

Paul Parravano:

It's been a pleasure.

Will Butler:

Thank you so much.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Really has. Thanks, Paul.