Episodes

Will VR be Accessible?

13 Letters
April 16, 2020

Larry Goldberg makes sure every piece of media he touches is, to borrow a phrase, “born accessible.” 40 years ago there was no captioning, no audio description, no secondary audio channels on TV sets for foreign languages. For thirty years, Larry has presided over great changes in media accessibility that have blazed the trail for our entertainment and education to be more inclusive and accessible regardless of disability. Now working as head of accessibility at Verizon Media, Larry is overseeing the cultural ambassadorship that their accessibility team is so well known for, pushing innovative awareness and mentorship programs, and looking ahead to exciting new developments in virtual reality, augmented reality and other new media – to make sure those formats will be accessible, too.


Sponsor: Deque

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Episode Transcript

Will Butler:

Today's episode of 13 Letters is brought to you by Deque.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Deque offers training for every level of expertise in every area of expertise in digital accessibility.

Will Butler:

If you have a disability, you actually qualify for a scholarship for free access to Deque University's online in depth digital accessibility curriculum for one full year.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

For a full year?

Will Butler:

Yeah, a full year.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

That is awesome.

Will Butler:

That is awesome. Visit DequeUniversity.com that's D-E-Q-U-E university.com to get started. D-E-Q-U-E

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

D-E-Q-U-E university.com.

Larry Goldberg:

Hey, Will and Cordelia, Larry Goldberg here. Boy it seems like 100 years since I last recorded that podcast, and so much has changed for all of us and for people with disabilities the challenge are obviously significant. From the perspective of a technologist joining with our communities to assure access to information and technology, it proves once again what amazingly dedicated and mindful group we are and that we're part of. We're all joining together to share our lessons of a lifetime of working from home, and a lifetime of taking on the challenges of full inclusion and I think people are hearing about that a lot.

Larry Goldberg:

So as painful as our present crisis is to so many, the most hopeful outcome I see is in greater mutual support, and heightened awareness that we're all in this together and we're making progress despite. So take care, stay safe, and I hope to see you both again real soon.

Will Butler:

So you told me that your mom is listening-

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

She is.

Will Butler:

To the podcast.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Hey Mom, how are you doing today?

Will Butler:

What's her name?

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Mary.

Will Butler:

Hey Mary, but she had some constructive criticism.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

She did, she had constructive feedback, she didn't call it criticism.

Will Butler:

Oh, it's nice.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

But something that she mentioned was sometimes we just jump right into it of talking with our guests, and we don't really talk about who they are, what they do we just jump right into it cause we're accessibility nerds.

Will Butler:

Too nerdy, that was her feedback.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Well, she didn't say too nerdy. She was just like, "I want to know a little bit more about this, for people who are not embedded within the accessibility community. For people who are coming across this podcast." Maybe a friend of theirs was like, "You got to check this out because they're talking about the Bondi Blue Mac, and they're talking about duck eggs."

Will Butler:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

You got to check this out, so for someone who doesn't really know about accessibility.

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Whose coming into this-

Will Butler:

We have to assume they're new every time.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah, and it's an interesting challenge, right? We were talking about this earlier of when you make a niche thing that isn't actually a very niche. Niche, niche.

Will Butler:

Well, it's like when we were talking to Lainey.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Will Butler:

Even her as a disability rights attorney, when someone told her I want the Major League Baseball website to be accessible. She took pause because she was ashamed to admit that she was like, "Does that really need to be accessible?" Because I think there was in the past of really feeling entertainment is a luxury, and maybe it's not the highest priority thing when it comes to accessibility.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

But I don't think it's a luxury. I think entertainment isa crucial part of our society, yeah?

Will Butler:

What's cool about our guest today was that he was on the frontlines of looking at film, television, broadcast and saying, "How can we make this for everybody?"

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

It's crazy that there was a time when... I don't know, probably like '60s, '70s, '80s maybe. Where if you were deaf or hard of hearing, you just didn't watch TV. TV wasn't for you.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah, it's wild because my entire life I have known ofClosed captioning as kind of like that is just a part of media.

Will Butler:

But somebody had to make it.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Someone invented that.

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

Similarly there're things like audio description, which Iwould argue that Larry might argue differently. That it has not come to maturity yet in terms of awareness levels.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Will Butler:

Folks might not know the name Larry Goldberg, but he made this stuff happen in the '80s and '90s at WGBH, the broadcast station that innovated for media accessibility, and the thing that's cool about Larry is he didn't just stay in sort of research and development and nonprofit. He then took this step into the corporate world and said, "The people who are building this stuff have to make it accessible too."

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Yeah, I'm so excited that we got to chat with Larry.

Will Butler:

He's got all these other cool projects too.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Oh my gosh, virtual reality. It's not just the history of accessible media, it's the future of accessible media. He's like right there straddling this entire timeline of accessible media and it's so cool.

Will Butler:

Larry where are you calling in from today?

Larry Goldberg:

Well, I'm sitting in Acton, Massachusetts, which is a Boston suburb about 20 miles from downtown.

Will Butler:

Oh, okay.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

Nice, are you from that area originally?

Larry Goldberg:

I like to call myself a New Yorker. I was born in the Bronx and moved to New Jersey when I was three years old, but I feel like I'm kind of born and bred in New York City.

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

I feel the same way though I was technically born in Boston, but raised in New York.

Larry Goldberg:

Where did you live in New York?

Cordelia McGee-Tubb:

In Manhattan.

Larry Goldberg:

Oh, great.

Will Butler:

Are you working out of Massachusetts now, or are you working out of New York, Larry?

Larry Goldberg:

Well, I'm based in Boston and we have very nice office right by the Public Garden Copley Square, but I spend a lot of time in our New York office in Sunnyvale. Travel quite a bit but my home base is Boston.

Will Butler:

Cool, so what was it like growing up in Jersey?


Larry Goldberg:


It was pure Leave It To Beaver, it was very '50s '60ssuburban, very healthy safe environment. Everyone played with each other walking through their backyards, riding your bike. It really was kind of that idyllic sitcom childhood.


Will Butler:


Were you into technology and that sort of thing? Or were you hitting the baseball in The Sandlot?


Larry Goldberg:


I had an interesting introduction to technology. Both my grandfathers were very involved in tech, art, building things and so I had a workshop in my parents basement and I used to take things apart. Clocks, baseballs, any kind of piece of equipment I could find I would take it apart. Icould never put it back together, but I would love to take things apart and then very early on, I started making films, Super 8 Films.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Cool.


Larry Goldberg:


That was in junior high, and from that point on I was involved in every platform, every possible form of media. When computers came around those as well so I've been pretty well steeped in media technology since Super 8.


Will Butler:


Wow.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


What were you making movies about back then?


Larry Goldberg:


We were doing things like a walk in the park, we tried to do special effects through camera editing, making people disappear and appear.


Will Butler:


Yes.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Right.


Larry Goldberg:


Stop motion photography animation, I flushed my friend down the toilet using special effects. Any kind of trick you could play with the most rudimentary of tools.


Will Butler:


I love it.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


It's awesome.


Will Butler:


I was a big movie maker as a kid, very much like my number one passion iMovie. I mean I was making movies on that early iMac, reverse effects, slow mo all that stuff.


Larry Goldberg:


Boy if I had that in my hands, I physically cut film, glued it together. I would draw on the actual frames to do animation. Pretty advanced stuff you'd see that today in the in a high end museum of Modern Art.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Yeah.


Larry Goldberg:


When [Porterpecs 00:08:51] came out reel-to-reel videotape recorders.


Will Butler:


Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Larry Goldberg:


I had one of those. A three quarter inch editing, anytime the next gen came out that's what I got my hands on.


Will Butler:


Then did you go to film school? Or what did you do?


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah, I started off at the State University in New Yorkand Binghamton and studied film. That was looking at documentary filmmaking, art films, a very personal form of experimental filmmaking, and after a couple of years I felt like I wanted to go a little more mainstream and get into the television side. So I transferred to the University of Southern California and finished my degree there. Not at the film school though my degree in broadcast journalism.


Will Butler:


Oh, interesting. So did you like living in L.A.? What was that like?


Larry Goldberg:


I didn't love L.A. at the time it was great, because boy you're right in the middle of the world of film and TV. My teachers were straight out of the industry, but for a relatively poor college student... it was exciting at the time, but as soon as I graduated I was quite happy to moveon.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Did you go back East after that?


Larry Goldberg:


I headed East but stopped in Madison, Wisconsin for a couple of years. Had a lot of friends who went to the university there, and it's such a really wonderful environment. Great college town, and I had the opportunity to actually spend time as a disc jockey on the local listener sponsored radio station, mostly focusing on jazz and eclectic music. Everything from Frank Sinatra to Frank Zappa, and got a job in the local public television station as well WHA. So I had an opportunity to actually do some local television documentaries.


Will Butler:


That's awesome, and eventually made your way back East?


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah, first to Boston where I got a job as... well, we called it media coordinator at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, but it was basically AV Squad. With some pretty high end tech there to the very first personal computer I ever got my hands on and that's 1978. So really early on, and a high end video projection. I had a pretty high end studio at a brand new building that Harvard built to house the Kennedy School Government. From Boston got involved in a motley crew of comedians, jugglers and musicians.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Amazing.


Larry Goldberg:


Quit my job at Harvard to manage this comedy team, andtravel the country with a group of comedians and jugglers called Slap Happy.


Will Butler:


Wow. What?


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


That's so cool.


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah, I know it's a totally motley background. Anyone who thinks you need to plan out your career from day one you know what, you got to just let it happen.


Will Butler:


How old were you when you joined Slop Happy?


Larry Goldberg:


Slap Happy-


Will Butler:


Oh.


Larry Goldberg:


Not Slop Happy.


Will Butler:


I thought he said Slop Happy.


Larry Goldberg:


So I would have been 25, 26.


Will Butler:


Wow.


Larry Goldberg:


We were discovered by a producer who moved us down to New York City, and we began playing a regular gig at the time it was called The Other End, The Bitter End in Greenwich Village.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Oh, yeah. I know The Bitter End, yeah.


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah, and so we were in residence at The Bitter End for two years, and then got invited by HBO to do a The Young Comedians Special with John Candy and Paula Poundstone. A number of big comedians and stardom affected the group and they sort of fighting with each other, and that was the end.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Oh, my gosh.


Larry Goldberg:


Pretty funny.


Will Butler:


Classic.


Larry Goldberg:


One big shot they had and that was the last shot they had.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Wow, and do you yourself know how to juggle?


Larry Goldberg:


I got some basic rudimentary training from one of the guys in the group so I can juggle three balls, and drop about 50% of the time, never got to clubs and never got to more than three.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


What about, like, flaming club?


Larry Goldberg:


Oh, no, no, no or swords or any of those things no, absolutely not.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


There's still time.


Larry Goldberg:


The interesting analogy was you get involved in this community of jugglers and no one really knows that there's this like underground of the International Jugglers' Association, and the top line juggler equipment makers and years later when I got involved in accessible technology I thought, "Oh, here's a bunch of people that no one knows about. They're very tight, very connected and doing a lot of esoteric work." And I felt very comfortable and at home when I wound up in the world of accessible technology.


Will Butler:


Yeah.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


We are a bunch of jugglers just in a different sense Ithink.


Larry Goldberg:


Exactly.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Yeah.


Larry Goldberg:


Totally, yeah.


Will Butler:


What was your role for the for this group again, you were doing AV?


Larry Goldberg:


Originally it was... they asked me to do their sound and lights, and then they asked me to manage which I had absolutely no knowledge or experience in, but it basically meant booking a group and collecting the money after the gig and mostly driving the van as well.


Will Butler:


Now you're managing jugglers somewhere else, right?


Larry Goldberg:


Totally, totally. It was a great experience and it got meto New York.


Will Butler:


Yeah, where did assistive technology and accessibility and all this stuff come into play? Was the word accessibility even a word?


Larry Goldberg:


We never used it, I wound up because I started in Boston with this comedy group. The one place I wanted to work more than anywhere was WGBH public broadcasting, and at the time it was quite a elite ivory tower organization. You just couldn't get a job, and here I was a media guy I was like, "Oh, I so want to work there." I could never get a job Iinterviewed, never did. So I moved to New York managing this comedy group did a lot of freelance video and audio production, and one day I was reading the classifieds in the New York Times and Will, Cordelia both you probably never seen such a thing.


Will Butler:


Sorry, what class?


Larry Goldberg:


Right, right. So Craigslist destroyed that at-


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


It’s coming back though, there's a movement-


Will Butler:


Really?


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


To bring it back.


Will Butler:


Craig classified?


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


I've heard that now dating apps are taking a classified approach.


Will Butler:


Uh-huh(affirmative)


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


So like you just see a paragraph of someone talking about themselves, and you swipe on paragraphs about people rather than their photos, anyway.


Larry Goldberg:


Oh, how retro so-


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Let's go back.


Larry Goldberg:


I saw an Ad at The New York Times four point type that said WGBH New York office of The Caption Center, looking for an Ops Manager. Well, in my college career I actually learned about Closed captioning, it had just been invented in 1980. [crosstalk 00:15:59]


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


You learned about accessibility in college?


Larry Goldberg:


There you go, yes I did.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


We'll talk about that later, sorry.


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah. Well, it's an interesting point because it's really the marriage of computers and television is what Closed captioning is, data embedded in video signals. So I went for an interview for this job knowing I'vealways wanted to work for WGBH and my interview was basically, "Do you know what captioning is?" I said, "Yeah, [inaudible 00:16:25],"and they said, "You're hired." And that began my career in of course now what we call accessible technology. At that point it was just Closed captioning, that was the thing and I was running the office that did Closed captioning on network television advertising.


Larry Goldberg:


So worked a lot with Madison Avenue and major advertisers.Captioning up to 132nd spots a day using some pretty rudimentary technology and authoring tool that was invented at WGBH, which is where captioning was invented and where audio description was invented at WGBH at Boston. So I was able to get in on that very early days having never met a person with disability that I knew of, no family connection. I really met my first deafperson at a National Association of the Deaf conference, and that is where Ireally got involved with the community and embraced by the community. First, the deaf community and then the blind community.


Will Butler:


So who did invent captioning? Or how did that get invented?


Larry Goldberg:


Boy you're dragging me into some great history. I just found out that we're approaching on March 16, the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast Closed caption TV show, which is really pretty awesome.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


What show was it?


Larry Goldberg:


Well, it was two shows. PBS aired a Masterpiece Theatre and ABC I believe it was Mod Squad. It was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology as a way of setting clocks universally across the country so that everyone could know exactly the right time by embedding time signatures in television broadcasts, and that's why closed caption data was invented. Except for one small problem and that is the latency of television signals, and the delays that a lot of TV stations had and they realized, "No one's going to be on the same clock if we tried to set it according to this data we're embedding in TV signals."


Larry Goldberg:


Some very smart people in particular at ABC television,and along with PBS engineers said, "You know what? This data that has the numbers of the time, we could turn those into words and letters and have people decoded it in their homes with closed caption decoders and we could make TV accessible."At the time the federal government was funding something called Caption Films for the Deaf, and this is a program that began in the 1950s as a way of providing some form of access for deaf people and they would actually take 16millimeter films and burn subtitles into them. Make multiple copies and send them out to deaf clubs around the country so they could actually watch cartoon films.


Will Butler:


Wow, like comic almost or something?


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Yeah.


Larry Goldberg:


Well, like subtitled films except that it was mailed out-


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Just mailed out.


Larry Goldberg:


After the deaf club would watch it, they'd return it back to the government and they'd send it out to another deaf club.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


The original Netflix.


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah, yeah. Blockbuster for that matter and except 16mmand the federal government really wanted a better way of doing it. So they approached WGBH with funding and in the world of public broadcasting you approach them with funding and they will do whatever you want, and the notionwas, "Would you be willing to put burned in subtitles on one of your television programs as a way of beginning to actually address the needs of deafand hard hearing people." So WGBH actually began captioning their TV shows with burned in subtitles in 1972. The best trivia question it's actually been on Jeopardy, do you know the first caption TV show?


Will Butler:


What is Lassie?


Larry Goldberg:


Ah, nice. It was a public television show however, and I'll cut to the chase Julia Child's French Chef.


Will Butler:


Wow.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


That's awesome.


Larry Goldberg:


Julia was open captioned or subtitled for many years while PBS and ABC we're working out this Closed caption technology. WGBH also launched with federal funding, the Captioned ABC Evening News, and what they would do is record the network broadcast of the ABC News at 6:30 PM Eastern and then a roomful of captioners using very... at that time probably state-of-the-art character generators machine called a chiron. Would between6.30 and 11.30 create a new version of ABC evening news, cut out the commercials and re-air it on the PBS Satellite Network, and that was the first access to television news for deaf and hard hearing people with a five hour delay.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Wow.


Will Butler:


Wow. So WGBH was really the absolute kind of frontier of this stuff?


Larry Goldberg:


Absolutely, many advances happen there and so I had that opportunity to work there and be part of all that from really 1985 with Closed captioning until I left in 2014. So do the math, that's 29 years.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Wow, and you were... when you were there you were involved in something called Rear Window captioning, right?


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah, yeah. That was such a magical time after spending many years originally as Ops Manager doing captioned Ads, then moved up to Boston to run the entire Caption Center. Launch real time captioning on local television in Boston [inaudible 00:22:41] sonographers that happened 1985. Media really began to evolve at that time. Through the late '80s, early '90s things were beginning to move online. Deaf and Hard of Hearing people realized they had won a major battle by getting a lot more captioned TV. So the question was,"All right, what else? What's next?" And-


PART1 OF 4 ENDS [00:23:04]


Larry Goldberg:


So the question was, all right, what else? What's next?And one of the oldest media technologies, film in theaters, I had never really been made accessible. Theater owners were not interested in showing open caption films. They felt it drove away their audiences, people don't want to see subtitles is how they felt. So we got a federal grant to figure out a way to create hidden captions in a movie theater so that only those people who wanted to see them could see them. That project was called MoPix, Motion PictureAccess, with a grant from the US department of education. We tried head mounted displays and heads up displays and hidden optics, and the technology that really emerged eventually was called rear window captioning, and it involves putting a clear plastic reflector attached to movie theaters seats by a gooseneck arm. And in the back of the theater would be a large LED display with the words reversed, they were backwards, and they'd run in sync with the film and you'd look in your reflector like you were looking at a rear view mirror and you'd see the words floating in front of you.


Larry Goldberg:


It was pretty awesome, and we began shopping it around to movie theaters and they were reluctant at first until the deaf community really put the pressure on. And then it began rolling out across the country and our biggest customer was Disney theme parks. They licensed 40 different systems for their theaters in Disney World and Disneyland. It was really a great technology, happened by pure chance. One of my co-developers was a guy who really knew his film and really knew technology, not at WGBH, he was an independent filmmaker, and he was also a bike rider. He loved biking all overBoston, and he had a pair of glasses with one of these little mirrors attached to it so he could see behind them. Little tiny round mirror. I'll give him a shout out. His name is Rufus Butler Cedar. Holds that patent with us. He said, "Why don't we attach little mirrors to people's glasses in movie theaters,and they can see behind them?"


Larry Goldberg:


And the problem there was if you move your head, you would move the mirror and you'd lose the reflection of the captions. So we said, "No, let's put something on the seat that doesn't move," but it was that same concept. Reflected captioning.


Will Butler:


So what happened? What's the end of this story, Larry?


Larry Goldberg:


Disruptive technology. This system required you to get a eight foot long LED display in every single auditorium in your multiplex, and that's pretty expensive. It also meant it didn't move. It was mounted on the wall. And right around that time wifi technology came out and portable devices became available and movie theaters realized that you could have mobile technology using wireless transmission in every single auditorium in your theater and you wouldn't have to get these giant LED boards. As much as the experience for users was way better with this reflected captioning, you couldn't beat the flexibility and the mobility of mobile devices. And that's what theaters have today.


Will Butler:


Do they really have that today? What's the state of movie theaters today with accessibility?


Larry Goldberg:


Amazingly, the two of you who are so deeply ingrained in accessible technology, I'd say virtually every movie theater in the country hasthat. And you have to just ask for it.


Will Butler:


I just know that from the blind side of things, it's pretty difficult to get audio description when you need it, but I guess captioning is pretty much-


Larry Goldberg:


Well, quite a few theaters have have audio description too and if you ask for it or you look on their website, there'll be a little AD signal. You'd go to the customer service desk where the high school students there would pretty much have no idea what you're talking about. But it's actually very widely available, amazingly enough, and the National Association of Theater Owners actually agreed to a rollout with the US Department of Justice, because way back, oh boy, I don't even remember what year, the Justice Department was considering issuing a rulemaking to require theaters under the ADA to have both captioning and description, and to avoid that they agreed that as digital cinema was rolling out, and that's right around that time, they would also install both captioning and description systems. And though it doesn't always work because of dropouts and wifi access, it's actually much more widely available than most people know.


Will Butler:


Yeah, it really is an awareness problem more than a technical problem, right?


Larry Goldberg:


It really is. It's unfortunate. And it's not well maintained because so few people know about it, so so few people ask for it,and then the movie movie theaters who agreed to put it in and say, "Hey, we put this stuff in and people aren't using it." Well you're not telling them it's available. So it's kind of back and forth, a cyclical problem, but it is out there and available and people just have to ask for it.


Will Butler:


Yeah. Can you take us back a bit to tell us how audio description was invented? How that came about at WGBH?


Larry Goldberg:


Audio description has a wonderful history too. There's an organization in Washington DC called the Washington Ear, and they, a woman named Margaret Pfanstiehl. That's PF-anstiehl, blind woman, who used to work with the legit theaters, live theaters around Washington, providing description on a closed circuit audio system at legit theaters in Washington. And right around 19, let's see, I would say 88, stereo TV came out. Boy, talk about old technologies. And some pretty visionary people at WGBH, my original boss, guy named Barry Cronin, came up with this concept that since stereo TV not only had left and right channels, but something called the secondary audio program, theSAP channel, that was originally invented for alternate languages, particularlySpanish. Most broadcasters weren't interested in the Latino market, unlike today, and it was going unused, this SAP channel, so Barry Cronin said, "Well, you know what? We should adapt what Margaret Pfanstiehl did for legitimate theaters in Washington and put it into the SAP channel on broadcast."


Larry Goldberg:


And once again, federal dollars came in and we began working with the blind community to develop this whole art form of describing motion pictures. Well, TV shows, actually. Again, Masterpiece Theater, Nova, alot of programming on public broadcasting with federal grants. We began developing this whole technique describing key visual elements in the pauses between dialogue and then recording that and broadcasting it out on the SAP channel throughout the PBS network.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


And it really is an art form. I, as a cartoonist, look a lot at audio descriptions as a inspiration for how I transcribe my own comics.As audio descriptions were becoming this thing, were people also developing guidelines around how to do audio descriptions well in those moments between dialogue?


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah, I am so in awe, and they're still at it today, and the people who write those descriptions at WGBH, they're amazing. They'recreative, they're always connected with the blind community, taking guidance from the users. And after a while a few other companies got involved and then we were able to actually get some legislation that would require it on certain percentage of television programs. But it was still just a handful of companies doing it. And then along came streaming media and when Netflix moved from circulating discs, DVDs, to streaming, the deaf and blind communities both said, "Well, you're providing this to the public, we absolutely want captions and descriptions on streaming media as well." For a few years there was actually a special collection of VHS tapes and DVDs with description.They were a separate product.


Larry Goldberg:


But then with pressure from the community, and I tell you it's amazing how well this advocacy worked, eventually, the law got passed,which I'm sure we'll get to. The 21st Century Communications and VideoAccessibility Act. And that required a certain percentage of broadcast and cable programs to have descriptions. But then the pressure was applied toNetflix and Hulu and iTunes and they began adding more descriptions and is even available on a broadcast, Amazon Prime. And I'm guessing you know the story of Daredevil, the Netflix show. Netflix, which was getting pressure from the deafcommunity, agreed that they would caption everything eventually, and then theblind community approached them and said, "Descriptions too." AndNetflix said, "Ah, we're just trying to get our handle around captioning.Eventually, sure, we'll consider description."


Larry Goldberg:


And then they made this great mistake of actually putting a show about a blind superhero on their service and the blind community said,"Really? You're going to put that out there without descriptions?" By the third episode, Netflix had launched description not only on Daredevil, but they began rolling out description across their entire collection. Pretty Awesome. Other companies began providing description. They all learned from WGBH material and I am very impressed with the quality of description now across all of these platforms. Really well done and tremendous amounts of description on all those services and on broadcast and cable.


Will Butler:


Yeah, we really are in a sort of renaissance fordescription right now and I can't wait until it hits a critical mass. I'm curious to learn, what do you think about amateur description?


Larry Goldberg:


Not a fan. Not a fan of crowdsource-


Will Butler:


Yeah. Tell us why.


Larry Goldberg:


Well, as Cordelia said, it's really an art, and to know how much to describe when and where, when to stop describing, that was a big learning period for us, because we really want to describe everything possible. So if you had three seconds, you described just the key visual elements. But I remember when we described Terminator, Terminator 2, and there'd be these longchase scenes and fight scenes and our describers would go, "Right, I've got four minutes, and I'm just going to pack in the description here." And so folks in the blind community said, "Would you give it a rest? I really would just like to hear the sound effects for a minute. So how about a little bit less description for a little while?" It's like, "Oh, right, good point."


Larry Goldberg:


So it really takes training. It really takes knowledge. It really takes involvement with users. So at some point some companies tried to do a little bit of crowdsourcing or volunteer description. I appreciate the effort, but this is not a service to be taken lightly, and the people who do itare really well-trained. They're wonderful writers. And I think this is really a job best left to professionals.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Has there been any explorations around having different levels of granularity or verbosity, like you could listen to one audio description that's just bare bones and one that is very elaborate? Is that thing in the audio description world?


Larry Goldberg:


Well it has certainly been something put forward by researchers, some interesting work done up in Canada and England. The problem there is, as interesting as a option is that would be, no streaming service, broadcaster is going to pay for multiple levels of description. Basically they feel they're doing their job by doing one really good level of description, but practically in the commercial world, now being part of the commercial world myself, it's just really not likely you're going to get multiple levels.


Larry Goldberg:


It was also tried with captioning. There was something called easy reader captions for a while, because the data, the capacity was there for multiple levels of captioning. So how about verbatim at one level and edited for young readers, and it was tested and researched and launched as an experiment, but no one was interested in paying for multiple streams. So there's some really interesting alternative presentations, but it just practically wasn't going to be adopted in the commercial world. Though I got to tell you, I don't know if you realize this, but on iTunes there is up to 11 description languages made available by Apple and that's pretty awesome. I mean really, kudos to Apple for doing that level of description.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


I learned about that on Will's other podcast, the BeMyEyes podcast.


Will Butler:


It was when they rolled out SEE for Apple TV Plus. Theyreally pulled out all the stops on those languages. Pretty incredible.


Larry Goldberg:


And you know, I believe, and Apple could tell you, you should certainly have a Sarah Hollinger from Apple on your show. I believe they're doing all that work in house with their own people. I'm not absolutely sure, but maybe only on their own promotional materials. I think they've actually got their own trained skilled staff.


Will Butler:


Wow. You mentioned young readers, Larry. Where does ASL and other sign languages dovetail with captioning technology?


Larry Goldberg:


We worked with Gallaudet University quite a bit in the early days, and in other countries, Canada and UK actually has a minimum level of requirement for sign language programming. But for the broad population of people who have hearing loss from moderate to profound, only about 10% of that population actually uses sign language. So when it came down to what is going to be adopted and required of the US, even people who are very strong supporters of sign language realize that text is more universal, that when you can provide sign language that would be great. But you can't really encode even today digital sign into a TV signal. So text is really easy to handle. Very low bandwidth, low payload. Having digital video embedded into a distributed...It's just really hard to do. So for young readers, back in the early days of captioning, deaf education was still working hard to get the literacy levels up. So that's where we were considering multiple levels of caption.


Larry Goldberg:


Many, many people in the deaf community said, "Don't edit those captions. It's up to us to be able to comprehend the verbatim level of what's spoken." They didn't want caption agencies deciding what words should appear on screen and what shouldn't, so it became pretty much an accepted rule that verbatim is the way to go and if people need to pause and reroll and go back, even for young kids, there is a bit of editing done in very young programming, Sesame street, early programming for kids, but it's a lighttouch. And editing captions for hearing level is absolutely a high level skill because you really need to know linguistics and language acquisition for young kids to really know how to rewrite captions and not lose anything in translation, but to really get the gist while reducing the word level.


Will Butler:


Yeah. It's not the same thing at all, but in the blind community, braille literacy rates only hover around 10% right.


Larry Goldberg:


Very similar data. So that's parallel situation is recordings for the blind or braille. We know that in the blind community, to be considered literate, for many, it means being to read braille on your own and not listen to a digital audio version of a text. So it's kind of a similar parallel in the deaf community, but mostly among people who are born deaf,what's called big D Deaf. Children of deaf parents, they will be raised with sign, that'll be their first language. So yes, quite often that will be the preferred language.


Will Butler:


So how do big D Deaf children watch movies? Do they have family members standing next to the TV signing along, or what do you think is common?


Larry Goldberg:


In this country? I think it's still, you read the English words. Because no, a parent is really not going to sit down there and sign the program. That's an exhausting task. So it's really parallel languages that are needed.Your native language might be sign and your second language is going to be English. Both spoken and written.


Will Butler:


Yeah. It's just hard to think that young deaf kids can't enjoy movies until they have that literacy rate with English.


Larry Goldberg:


There's a nice collection of stories told in sign, invideo and in books. I'm not an expert in the field of deaf education. I've just been exposed to it quite a bit, but there's some wonderful video collections that are with the sign language interpreter foremost in the foreground or in a box or a bubble.


Will Butler:


Yeah. We could probably talk about WGBH for several hours,but what what happened in 2014?


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah, that's a wonderful story too. When I was at GBH and we watched media evolving into all these new formats, we realized we need an R&D group to keep up with what does it mean to make media accessible as streaming and DVD was coming out. So I was able to work with my boss who I mentioned, Barry Cronin, and get some funding to establish the National Center for Accessible Media, NCAM, and with the development of NCAM and the funding from both the federal government and Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation we created NCAM and I moved over to head up that R&D group, and one of the things we did was start building standards for a streaming media and online captioning and online description and doing some policy work. And I am a real political animal, so I really took to the notion of "can we get some laws passed and some standards and guidelines embedded so that we can scale up, wecan be much more pervasive in how we can make media and technology accessible."


Larry Goldberg:


And I began working with advocates and with lawyers down at Gallaudet, and with my Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey. At the time he was a Congressman. I can never be more grateful to Senator Markey for having pushed through this, what became the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. Got it through Congress, got it signed by president Obama ata celebration at the White House that was one of the best moments of my life. Stevie Wonder was there, the deaf community, the blind community, all the people who helped push this bill through, and I was appointed to a co-chair thevideo programming advisory committee at the FCC to write the regs that came out of the CVAA. We delivered that in 18 months, and very soon thereafter I was at a American Foundation for the Blind Conference in Brooklyn New York, and I was approached by Mike Shebanek, who was at that time at Yahoo, and you've had Mike on. I had been working with Yahoo quite a bit through NCAM because we were consulting with many major companies on accessibility.


Larry Goldberg:


And Mike came up to me at a reception at the AFP conference,said, "So you've pushed this law through and now we have to actually comply with it. You wouldn't actually ever consider leaving WGBH, would you?" It's so funny he asked that question. It's like, "Yeah, I think the time has come for the research, the advocates, to hand off the responsibility to the companies who build this stuff." And the timing was just beautiful. And there's a line I'd love to quote, which is "Reach, and the net will appear." And the net did appear cause I was ready to move on after 29 years at WGBH, and there was Mike offering me a job right then and there and it was just so perfect.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


That's awesome.


Larry Goldberg:


I left GBH and joined Mike's team in charge of media accessibility for Yahoo, and Yahoo had realized-


PART2 OF 4 ENDS [00:46:04]


Larry Goldberg:


And Yahoo had realized that having just licensed the rights to 40 years of Saturday Night Live to stream on the Yahoo screenservice, that under the CVA, they were required to caption 40 years of Saturday Night Live online. They realized, we're moving. Yahoo was moving heavily into video, at the time. And they really needed someone who knew video and knew accessibility. Well, there I was. Actually the word is leap.


Will Butler:


What was it?


Larry Goldberg:


Leap, and the net will appear. And the joke of course is I didn't realize it was the internet that would leap.


Will Butler:


Nor did you realize that you would be captioning for your old friends at SNL, right?


Will Butler:


[crosstalk 00:46:53]


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah. And it was so great.


Will Butler:


They're like, Larry. Slap Happy Larry?


Larry Goldberg:


Right, well, that was HBO that Slap Happy was on, not Saturday Night Live.


Will Butler:


Yeah.


Larry Goldberg:


That and, so kind of like, all right, wind back to Mike's story on your first two podcasts, and you'll hear about the Yahoo accessibility team, which was originally founded by Alan Brightman, another dear, dear friend, who was originally at Apple and then moved to Yahoo.


Larry Goldberg:


So after Alan left and then Mike took over and then Mikeleft and I took over. So I have like, what an amazing legacy?


Will Butler:


It really is an amazing legacy, and I'm kind of honored that we get to help bring that story out for the audience. I wonder if you could just go back a second and tell me, why is that handoff important? That handoff you're talking about from the R and D and the nonprofits and all that, to the companies who build this stuff. Can you talk a little bit more about that?


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah, that's a pretty interesting point. Because when it comes down to it, what we all work towards is making mainstream technology accessible. And that means the websites, the apps, the media. And that has tobe done by the people who are creating it. And it has to be embedded in the way they create their technology. And you can't really have outsiders doing that. It needs to be onboarded and in house.


Larry Goldberg:


And so the work done by the advocates and then the legislators and then the regulators and the standards creator, eventually has to wind up being embraced and embedded in the work that the people who are creating technology do. And to get it done at scale across all of these tech companies and all of the media that's pervasive out there, there's no way you can cover it by some nonprofits who are unfortunately underfunded and understaffed. And it certainly shouldn't be done by the government who set the guidelines and set the rules, but basically the answer by the time all that advanced work was done, and eventually it comes down to, this is the job of the people who are creating the tech. And they need to embrace it and know how to do it, and build it into their process.


Will Butler:


There's the pull quote right there.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Yeah. For sure.


Larry Goldberg:


And that's what we're doing. That's what we're doing at Verizon Media now, is working every day that we have our team of accessibility specialists, and they're amazing people. But there are six of us and there are something like 11,000 employees at Verizon Media. So we can't do it all. And we really do need to work with those teams of people who are creating it way, wayback at the source. And that's where it needs to begin. And that's what the company has embraced. Especially because we're so user focused, and so user centered, and everyone's come to the realization that our users are really a diverse community, globally. And that diversity includes people with disabilities.


Larry Goldberg:


And if we're going to really be so user focused and it's like virtually every other word spoken at the company, then we need to pay attention to all of our users. And our developers and our designers and our executives have come to realize that. And that's going to make it so much better,so much easier, and so much more effective, sustainable and effective, and constant. If we really have the people who are creating it, actually understand those users. What they need and had to code what they're doing, and code it right.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Absolutely. Yeah. That awareness is really, really important. So how, with your team being so small and Verizon having so many media brands, how do you scale that?


Larry Goldberg:


It's been a multiyear process, and we're not at this moment taking on the parent corporations needs, which is Verizon, 185,000 people. We're Verizon Media. We're one of three units at Verizon. Verizon Consumer,which is what most people know. Wireless broadband, the consumer-facing side of the world. Verizon Business, which is enterprise technology. And then VerizonMedia, that's us, that's the former Yahoo, AOL Huffpost, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Fantasy Sports, all of those apps and contents. That's who we are at Verizon Media.


Larry Goldberg:


We spent many years going back to when Alan Brightman started and then Mike, doing a tremendous amount of outreach. We built ourlabs, which Mike talked about, where people can come and learn about assistive technology, learn about how people with disabilities use tech. And did a lot of the groundwork just raising awareness, raising connections with our users. And building on that base, we don't have to sell it anymore. We don't have to talk about the billion people globally who have disabilities. People are now ready in our designers and development side who say, "Yeah, I'm sold. Just tell me what to do."


Larry Goldberg:


And so we're, been working really since I came on as head of accessibility, to educate and provide very, very explicit requirements that will be adopted and are adopted by the people who have to worry about privacy and security and good user design. When they're building their materials, they will have accessibility in their launch calendar, in their product review documents. All the standard operating procedures, we're working towards this sort of like next level of having it built right into standard operating procedures.


Will Butler:


That's exactly how, it's exactly how it should be.


Larry Goldberg:


It has to be. I mean, it's not going to be done well otherwise. As Gary Moulton, one of our leaders on our team says, we need to break the launch, fix, break, fix, break, fix cycle.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


That's a lot of breaks.


Larry Goldberg:


Or more succinctly, stop the madness. And though tech companies like to fail forward and launch fast and break fast, it should never reach the public broken, not on accessibility. And so that's really the goal. And if we don't do it, systemically and systematically, then we're just going to keep doing the same thing over and over again. You know the Einstein quote, “The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It's absolutely true.


Larry Goldberg:


So we can't be a team that simply just keeps fixing broken apps. We need to focus our efforts on building accessibly. Or you've heard the term born accessible, born accessible are words to live by.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


I have not heard that term before. I like that. It's really-


Larry Goldberg:


Developed by Benotech, in Palo Alto. Wonderful people. Founded by Jim Fruchterman. They came up with that term, born accessible, and it's a really good one to use.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Yeah.


Will Butler:


Something tells me Cordelia's getting a new tattoo.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Oh yeah. I wasn't born accessible. It's been a journey.


Will Butler:


Okay. It'll be my tattoo. So, Larry, for those people that don't know, maybe are new to the accessibility world, the team, the accessibility team at Verizon Media, once known as Oath, once known as Yahoo, you're kind of all some rock stars. Can you brag about your team for a second?


Larry Goldberg:


Well, they are amazing people. They are absolutely amazing people. Gary Moulton, who I just mentioned, was with Alan Brightman at Apple's disabilities solution group in the mid eighties, and was there for many years. And Gary is just this incredible human being. He left Apple and went to Microsoft where he was for I think it was 15 years, and Microsoft, quite a power in the field of accessible technology. And then was recruited by Alan to join Yahoo.


Larry Goldberg:


So between Gary and myself, you've got probably a century of experience. And then, let's see, who's next? Margaux Joffe, our director of accessibility marketing. This woman is a marketing expert, started our neurodiversity employee resource group. ERG. She herself has ADHD and is an advocate for people in the neurodiversity world. She was assigned to do somemarketing work for the accessibility team and approached Mike and said, "I want to work for you." And Mike said, "Well, what would you do forus?" And within a week she had written her own job description, to be head of accessibility, marketing, internal and external. And she is quite an amazing person. She developed this thing called the Kaleidoscope Society for young women with ADHD, and she's a rock star.


Larry Goldberg:


And then we have Kisiah Timmons, a blind woman who's been doing consulting work for the VA and many other major, both public and private institutions. And she's a specialist in mobile accessibility. And here's the interesting part, Samantha Soloway who runs our New York lab was our intern a couple of years ago from Vanderbilt University. And that was in the summer between her junior and senior year. She's only 23, and we offered her a job after her summer internship because she was so awesome. Studied special ed, got involved with technology and now we've got that next generation.


Larry Goldberg:


And then Denise Olagy, also involved in education, highered accessibility. Got a degree at Berkeley, she's on maternity leave right now,but she'll be due back in April. And she came to run our Sunnyvale lab. So small but mighty, amazing group of people. Did I forget anyone? I don't think so.


Will Butler:


And spread, it's pretty cool to see a team that's that remote from one another who like, you guys show up at the conferences and whatnot, and you're all just so clearly a tight team nonetheless.


Larry Goldberg:


We are. And I don't love corporate jargon, but in this case, somewhere in between a team and a family. We are extremely tight, even though we are Boston, New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Sunnyvale. And yet we're just constantly in sync with each other.


Will Butler:


So the newest effort that Verizon has been a part of, andI know that there's other companies involved as well, is this idea that virtual reality, augmented reality, group together what you call XR, could be accessible to people with disabilities.


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah.


Will Butler:


Who thought up that wild idea?


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah. Not only can be, has to be. What a great story there. Years ago when AOL was an independent company, they had given a very large grant to Cornell Tech, which is Cornell's technology campus on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan. There's a woman there, Professor Shiri Azenkot, who has low vision. And as part of the grant money that AOL gave to Cornell Tech, she wanted to do research into all kinds of user experiences.


Larry Goldberg:


And she had started this thread on virtual reality and how you could use it to help people with low vision. And that's actually now come about in many ways. In some ways, Be My Eyes is part of that.


Larry Goldberg:


I got to know Shiri, and she approached me. Boy, I guess it was last February. Yeah, right around a year ago. And she said, "Sowe're in the last year of that grant from AOL. We're thinking about doing alittle symposium on virtual reality and accessibility. What do you think?" And I was like, yeah, except not little. This is the kind of crazy ideas I love to jump in on. I said, "Yeah, let's make it big."


Larry Goldberg:


And we had this little back and forth. She said, "I don't know, maybe we can get like 40 people to show up." And I said, "No. Once we announce this, we're going to have hundreds of people who want to come." And in this crazy, crazy blast of time between February of2019 and July, we put together a coalition of advocates from the community,academics, and companies, to come together and knowing that the gaming world had done some really amazing work on gaming accessibility, which is very, very closely related to the field of VR AR XR. We reached out to all the major companies and being around in this field long enough, you get to know a lot of people. And we started reaching out and as we expected, hundreds of people wanted to come. And we only had room for 120, so we had to be very careful on who we could invite.


Larry Goldberg:


We had some amazing assistance from a group called Pete,this employment and accessible technology project funded by the Department of Labor, and being very forward thinking about new technology and employment, Department of Labor said, "Yes, we would like to support your project through Pete." And we put together a series of keynote speeches and roundtables, an intense day on Roosevelt land, on this beautiful setting. You can see the results of that and the working groups that came out of it, XRaccess.org.


Larry Goldberg:


And in the room, we had advocates for people who are blindand deaf and mobility impaired. We had people from Oculus and Hollow Lens, Magic Leap, which actually hired a full time accessibility manager. The first company to do that. We had Google, we had Facebook, so many companies, Adobe,everyone just said, yes, this needs to be done. It needs to be done now.Though, virtual reality is on the brink of mainstream acceptance, it wasn't quite there yet. Kind of expensive, kind of a little unwieldy. And we said, if we don't do it now, by the time XR becomes mainstream, it'll be too late to make it accessible. And everyone agreed. It was just like an idea whose time has come.


Larry Goldberg:


That then became the XR Access initiative, with six working groups. Very active right now. Totally volunteer-driven, with a little bit of funding here and there, but not a lot yet. And we just agreed that we're going to do the second annual XR Access symposium again on Roosevelt Island.


Will Butler:


Yay. Yes.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Awesome.


Larry Goldberg:


Invitations will be going out with them the next week. I don't know when this podcast will be streamed, but word will be going out very soon. Again, we'll have limited space, but we want to gather the, just the best people and put together a great day of demos, keynotes and break out groups, onJuly 20 and 21.


Will Butler:


It's such a cool thing that you guys are doing.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Yeah. That's so awesome. What are you, man, my head is going in all these different directions about things that could happen in this space. What are you most excited about for XR accessibility? It sounds like there's a million things, but if you had to pick one or three things.


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah. Well, one of the big focus that we have is on education, and that's going to be one of the first places that we're going to need to make it accessible. Because there's real interest in using virtual reality and educational environments both in the classroom and online. And as far as we're concerned, you don't introduce a new technology like this in a classroom and then tell little John and Mary who are blind or deaf, "Go sit in the cafeteria while everyone else gets to play."


Will Butler:


No.


Larry Goldberg:


No, that's not going to happen. So it's also happening on the workplace and in training, and just like our workplaces have to be more accessible and more diverse. If you're going to introduce this as a training,key, it needs to be accessible.


Larry Goldberg:


What we're most focusing on, we're absolutely focused on, is the actual mainstream infrastructure authoring tools, hardware. We're not looking at special purpose AT uses of virtual reality. That's great for a lot of developers who are doing it. We want to make sure all of the mainstream high profile platforms and technology will be, again, more accessible. And great,great support from the big VR companies. Like I said, Magic Leap, and their accessibility manager used to be at IBM accessibility, so he knows his stuff. And Magic Leap is very dedicated, as is Microsoft HoloLens, Oculus, Facebook. We're getting HTC and Sony involved. HP.


Larry Goldberg:


God, there's so many things that are excited about. Of course for me, because of my background, the research that has been done by two companies overseas, the Immersive Accessibility Group from the EU, based in Barcelona,and the BBC, have done research on how do you display captions in a virtual world? Where should they be? How do they, should they move around? If you're walking up to someone talking, should the captions be small and then grow? Whatif you turn your head and want to hear a conversation that's going on behind you?


Larry Goldberg:


All of these different implementations of captioning are so fascinating. And then description as well. Virtual worlds are kind of infinite. So where and how do you provide descriptions there, and how is the user going to experience that? So I kind of go back to my roots in captioning and description and figuring out how you could make the sensory disabilities users these virtual worlds.


Will Butler:


And it seems like a playground, like a sandbox for inclusive design, for so many other things too. Right?


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Totally.


Will Butler:


It's got so many cool backwards effects that it could have. With the [inaudible 01:07:10] people are describing the world all day long. The real world. And I just think, if we figure out certain things in the virtual environment, we can apply them back to the other products we're making.


Larry Goldberg:


Well it was great that Be My Eyes was at the first symposium, and I'm sure he'll be at the second. I mean this notion of, how are you going to pull that off? Prerecorded? Live? Guided assistance. So many possibilities. It's wide open. And I always say that we really need to learn from, but not be confined by, how other forms of technology have been made accessible. I don't want to necessarily figure out how to make a screen reader work in a virtual world. I want to go far beyond that.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


I remember we were talking with Mike about sci-fi, and I'm thinking about Star Trek and going into the holodeck and going wherever you want and how these digital, virtual worlds that we create shouldn't have the same barriers that our physical worlds do. So VR is really cool.


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah. Star Trek come true. I mean, remember there's ablind guy in Star Trek, Geordie, who wore those special glasses. I mean, that's what we're building.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Yeah.


Larry Goldberg:


Having an earpiece that can automatically translate, or eyewear that can put captions in front of your eyes. We're there, we can do that now.


Will Butler:


So for the younger folks who are still in school and I hope will one day be taking on these tasks, I mean, I know that all you, pardon me for using this term, this is Lainey's term.


Larry Goldberg:


Old timers.


Will Butler:


Accessibility elders. You don't really retire. I know that. But how do you make sure that the new generation coming up?


PART3 OF 4 ENDS [01:09:04]


Will Butler:


But how do you make sure that the new generation coming upis diving headlong into this work with even more enthusiasm and knowhow than you had when you started?


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah, well that's where Teach Access comes in and it kind of sprung out of the fact that all new hires come into our labs in Sunnyvale, New York. And we would give them a very brief introduction to the world of accessibility and then we would ask them, "How many of you recent college graduates learned any of this in college?" And it was so few. And then I had a conversation with Jeff Whelan at Facebook. He said, "Yeah, this is our problem too, our new hires know nothing about this. We have to train them all from scratch."


Larry Goldberg:


And we basically said we need to do something about this. And as we began talking to our friends across all the other tech companies,alphabetically, what Apple, Adobe, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Intuit, PayPal. I mean, all the companies like, "Yeah, we're all feeling this pain." We need to bend together and find a way to get higher ed to be teaching this in their mainstream computer science, human computer interface, design classes.


Larry Goldberg:


The power of just collecting those logos and putting them in front of these universities who are competing for the best students. Well,it was kind of a natural. And so I think it's now coming up on four years ago was our first kickoff meeting in our lab in Sunnyvale. And we banded everyone together and say, all right, how are we going to do this? What is it going to take to convince universities to build this into their mainstream required courses?


Larry Goldberg:


Not special seminars, not special ed, mainstream. We were looking at going horizontal, which means we don't need everyone to become an accessibility expert. But we would like everyone to be introduced and familiar with it so that when they move on to their career, they at least will have turned on VoiceOver on their iPhone. They will realize that there is such a thing as a refreshable braille display. And so began Teach Access and you can see our progress on teachaccess.org. And one of the best things, and you ask about what about this next generation?


Larry Goldberg:


We launched something called Study Away Silicon Valley. It was the brilliant idea of our now executive director, Kate Sonka at Michigan State. Who was doing a lot of study away programs with her Michigan State students and said, "Can we bring some students out to Silicon Valley for a week and have them go to all your companies?"


Larry Goldberg:


And it was like, "Oh, this is an awesome idea."So Laura, Allen at Google and Kate put together our week long study away. We're coming up on our third year now in May. We've got six universities sending 30 students and just imagine the experience of an undergrad spending a week going from Apple to Google to LinkedIn to Verizon Media to Facebook, to Walmart watching and learning from the accessibility specialists at each of these companies. Well, obviously the students were exhausted by the end of the week. But the light in their eyes and their enthusiasm, they will never forget this experience.


Will Butler:


I bet every accessibility specialist listening wishes they could do that. Right?


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Yeah, sign me up.


Will Butler:


That's a rare privilege.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


I'm in grad school. Can I be part of Study Away Silicon Valley?


Larry Goldberg:


We definitely had some grad students there and it's our member universities who get to send their students.


Will Butler:


Wow.


Larry Goldberg:


And as we meet more students and I go to a lot of colleges and spend time with a lot of young people and I think it's kind of like the most important thing I do right now. I am so impressed by how driven toward accessibility these students are and how much they love it.


Larry Goldberg:


Here in Massachusetts I've spent time at MIT and Harvard and Olin College. Babson College I'm going to be visiting soon. His students are engaged. I think even more than the generations between when I went to college and the ones that were there now I'm not worried at all. I am quite happy to hand off this responsibility to this next generation of students because they're so good. And as a matter of fact we were planning at the CSNconference, which unfortunately is shrunk mightily because of the coronavirus.We were going to do a dinner called accessibility the next generation and have our study away alumns talk to these veterans or elders and share this knowledge because we think it's pretty much the most important thing we can do.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Yeah. And I got to thank you and everyone else at Teach Access. My company, there was an intern who wasn't interning on accessibility, but he went to a college, he went to University of Washington, which I believe is part of Teach Access. And he actually-


Larry Goldberg:


They sure are.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Yeah, he sought me out and he was like, "Hey, I've learned about accessibility at school and I am wondering if I can somehow kind of work that into my intern summer project." So it wasn't even an accessibility intern, wasn't even working on UI and sought out our team to be like, "Hey, this is something cool I learned about, how can I spend the rest of my summer doing this?"


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


And we suddenly got an intern for half the summer because of Teach Access' influence. It makes me so excited because yeah, even if these folks don't go into decide to do accessibility as full time career path,they're learning that this is something that they need to consider in any line of work, in anything that they're contributing to society.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


So I'm like, I'm so stoked about Teach Access and I'm so sad that that didn't exist when I... When I was in college, I got a computer science degree from a liberal arts school and that seems like a perfect kind of environment to learn about accessibility because I was learning about computers in context of society, but I didn't learn at all about accessibility until I got out into the real world.


Larry Goldberg:


Well, we're looking to find ways to scale this. One of the things that we loved being able to do last year was give grants to faculty to build a module or a lecture into their mainstream courses. And we gave them a grant and they developed it over summer and then they taught this just like we wanted them to by giving them a small grant and then sharing those modules publicly. And those will be put up on the Teach Access website soon. And we're hoping to launch another round as an incentive for faculty to build this into their courses. And we'd also love to find a way to scale up the Study Away program because this is three years of 30 students a year, which leaves just another 10 million to reach. So we need to find a way to give that kind of experience to many more people.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


No big deal, it's 10 million.


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah.


Will Butler:


Larry, I'll put you on the spot here. I'm wondering as you become an elder in this field, how your feelings about accessibility have evolved and your experience with disability. I mean even just starting out the call, you mentioned that you're a little hard of hearing.


Larry Goldberg:


You ask my wife, she'll tell you it's not a little. I wear hearing aids. Yeah.


Will Butler:


As disability has come more close to home. Can you speak to the importance of this for the aging population?


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah, for sure. Oddly enough, in my many years working in this field, it's a great time to be disabled because the technologies are theirway more than they ever had been. And they're being embedded in mainstream technologies. What's interesting as older folks and people who basically live and breathe technology and the older generation coming in now, they've been there, they've been using technology for years.


Larry Goldberg:


Well, so they, we have been using technology for years.We're not going to let go of that. So as we begin losing some of our faculties,we are not going to go lightly letting go of the technologies. The folks who are even a bit older, maybe in their 70s or 80s maybe not as familiar and comfortable with smart speakers, internet of things, the kind of apps you can see on a phone or a pad. So we have to think about ways of making those user interfaces much more and the grand concept and definition of accessible.


Larry Goldberg:


Just better user interfaces. But for those of us who might be in our 60s we use technology every single day and we're not going to let go of it. And so I think that the kind of the bulge in the snake is coming through and everyone coming after us is simply going to expect this.


Larry Goldberg:


There's not going to be any choice for the companies designing for anyone. It was using their check. One of my favorite companies that's got a very deeply embedded accessibility group is Fidelity, Fidelity Investments. Think about it, people who are retiring, who are putting their money at Fidelity, they need an accessible app and Fidelity knows that, that's their sweet spot. That's where the money is. So any company that is got a population of users. Yeah, we know Facebook's population is aging. That's why Facebook focuses so much on accessibility both for younger people and for older, same thing for Microsoft.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Yeah. Over 50, people over 50 is the fastest growing demographic of Facebook users.


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah, and so you better find a way to make sure you can magnify the page that if there are videos on Facebook, they better be captioned and Facebook's worked that out.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


And I think going back to virtual reality for a second, Iknow there's been a lot of really cool stuff happening in the VR space, particularly for older adults who are experiencing memory loss. There's a lot of really cool virtual reality companies that are emerging to kind of help slowdown Alzheimer's and dementia.


Larry Goldberg:


Well, if you saw that beautiful Google ad during theSuperbowl where using Google search as a memory device, that's really meaningful and that idea of simply using the technology is surrounding yourworld to just enhance your life. A woman named, I guess it came from Sarah Hendren, a great leader in the field of inclusive design said, all technology is assistive technology.


Will Butler:


That's right.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


I want that-


Larry Goldberg:


That's a great concept.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


I want that tattoo.


Will Butler:


That's your tattoo. We're definitely going to have Sarah come on at some point. She's wonderful.


Larry Goldberg:


She is awesome. She is so awesome. And she's nearby. So I love spending time at Olin College. The other concept of a good design isaccessible design, accessible design is good design.


Will Butler:


You can teach all of these people and if we can reach that younger, that next generation, give us a sense of what the results can be. What are the things happening at Verizon Media and other places that where you're seeing accessibility wins?


Larry Goldberg:


We are looking at whatever is the next emerging technology and that's one of the goals of XR Access is not just to make virtual reality accessible, it's to have a template for whatever is next. So we don't get caught short. For us at Verizon Media, we are following what our users are interested in.


Larry Goldberg:


So if they're interested in live video apps, that's where we'll be. If they're interested in augmented reality, well, we're working on making those augmented reality advertising fully accessible. So stay tuned for that one. That's going to be way fun.


Larry Goldberg:


We've talked about this superstar team we have and how we are working with our designers and developers and a couple of things that have came out recently are the things that really just knocked me out. In Yahoo Finance he's a developer, her name is [inaudible 01:22:01] whose father is losing his vision. And she wanted to make our Yahoo Finance charts, the stockcharts accessible by audio, and working really hard with her team over more than a year.


Larry Goldberg:


We now have accessible charts in Yahoo finance. You can turn on VoiceOver and hear your stock results read out to you over any period of time you want and you can even look at a line graph for how your stock performed over a day, a month, a year, and play tones that will follow the ups and downs of how your stock did. And that's built right into the app on both iOS and Android. And it's just like that's so incredible.


Larry Goldberg:


Yahoo fantasy sports. We've got blind people who just love it because it is the most accessible fantasy sports app. They've got leagues and as a blind commissioner of one fantasy league. As accessible as you can imagine, a fantasy app being. Yahoo Mail, which is our biggest product, you can change and personalize it by doing the drag and drop of the icons on the screen.


Larry Goldberg:


And we've even made our Yahoo Mail drag and drop function accessible to a screen reader user. These are not easy things to do and it's not just my small team who did it. It's really the designers and developers who figured out this really challenging accessibility features. And that's the kind of stuff that not only drives our user connections, but it really energizes the development team to see that they can actually make this stuff happen. Yeah,we're about monetizing our products and selling ads, but when they can accomplish something like that, it's really great for their own professional development,their morale and our executives love it too.


Will Butler:


What about in some of the media brands? Anything cool going on over there for accessibility?


Larry Goldberg:


What's wonderful is that we are 100% captioning all of our own videos what we create ourselves, across the board, and by the way, that's not required by law. These are web original programming, so on HuffPost and Yahoo News and In The Know and Yahoo Sports. Everything captioned on every one of our platforms, including our OTT platforms. That's over the top on Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV. If you had download one of the apps from Yahoo finance sports and you'll see a video, those are captioned not required.


Larry Goldberg:


So wherever there is media and video on all those brands,if it's our media, we caption it. We also aggregate for many partners, Bloomberg, Fox, AP, Reuters, and if they caption them, give us your captions and otherwise we'll work it out in other ways. But we're working towards all of that content being fully accessible.


Larry Goldberg:


And then even on our own virtual reality, there's something that just got launched on Friday. It's a virtual reality experience of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech. It just opened at the DuSable Museum in Chicago and you walk in and you are in a sound bath that you hear the entire March going on around you and then you put on a virtual reality headset. We haven't finished, but we are going to provide both description and captioning on this virtual reality experience. And that was developed by our RYOT Studios. That's R-Y-O-T in cooperation with the Time Magazine.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


That's incredible.


Will Butler:


That's really something.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Yeah.


Larry Goldberg:


So wherever we can kind of push the envelope, we have this really pretty amazing permission to explore these things. I think it was last year at the XRX symposium when I opened it up. I said, "You know what? If we have the ability to do these things, we have the responsibility to do them." If we have the tech tools that can make these things happen, we actually have to do it. That's our job. And I think a lot of people in the room agreed. Particularly the big tech companies. We know what the power of our technologies can do and therefore we pretty much have to do accessibility.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Born accessible.


Larry Goldberg:


Born accessible. Shout to Benetech. Betsy Bowman is the CEO of Benetech. You should have her on this show.


Will Butler:


So many wonderful names came up during this conversation as well. That's what's so incredible about this community, the way that everyone collaborates with each other across these big corporations.


Larry Goldberg:


Yeah. It's tight as much as we may compete when it comes to accessibility. Nope, we share a lot. Like our Sunnyvale accessibility lab, we probably had more than a dozen different companies come in to learn how we do it and they built their own accessibility labs based on what they've seen in Sunnyvale or New York.


Will Butler:


Well, thank you so much Larry. Thank you for joining us. It's been, really been a wonderful conversation.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Yeah, this has been fantastic. Thank you Larry.


Larry Goldberg:


I enjoyed it thoroughly. My wife's been over hearing what we've been talking about and she said, "You're not a humble man." And I thought, great, no need, why bother.


Will Butler:


Podcasts are not for the humble, unfortunately. I think you've done a great job of not only walking us through what you guys are working on now, but the history of all this stuff, which I think, I'm sure some of it's written down, but I know not all of it is.


Larry Goldberg:


Not enough. I'm trying to convince Alan Brightman and Mike[inaudible 01:28:08] to write a book together.


Will Butler:


That would be very cool.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Well, it will be written down in our transcript, so that's a start. You can use that as your outline for a book.


Larry Goldberg:


Well done. Well, I appreciate what you guys are doing with the 13 Letters. It's a great service. Carry on.


Will Butler:


Thanks, Larry.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


Oh thanks Larry. All right, [inaudible 01:28:34] our show for today. Thank you for listening to 13 Letters.


Will Butler:


Thanks to our consulting producers, Sam Greenspan.


Cordelia McGee-Tubb:


People can get in touch with us by emailing 13 Letters, that's 13letters@bemyeyes.com.


Will Butler:


We love reading your reviews on Apple podcasts and any other podcast app. And if you write one, maybe we will even read one on the podcast.