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The following is a transcript of this episode: Why Access Matters: A podcast by Accessibrand (thoughts and talks about accessibility)

Farshid Sadatsharifi: Hello everyone. I am Farshid Sadatsharifi the Operations Project Manager at Accessibrand, and as a part of my job, I'm helping Jolene and Accessibrand, to launching a podcast. Why Access Matters is this podcast and today we are here to talk about this project with Jolene. So hello Jolene, and thank you for your time!
Jolene MacDonald: Hello. Thanks, Farshid. I'm so grateful that you're part of our team and that you're helping with this podcast. As Farshid introduced himself, my name's Jolene MacDonald. I'm the founder of Accessibrand. We are an accessibility-focused design, marketing and communications agency. We're located in the Waterloo region, but we work remotely. We have a team of all people with lived experience, whether it's they themselves or someone in their family or their children, and we offer flexible employment as part of a disability collective. My journey started, I would say; I guess it's 2011 when my youngest daughter was born with a rare form of dwarfism, and that's really how my passion for accessibility and advocacy started. And about four or five years ago, I was diagnosed with a condition called Ehlers–Danlos syndrome, which really caused my life to flip upside down, so to speak. With that happening, and my daughter, I quickly realized the need for improvement in our own industry of design, marketing and communications and the lack of focus on accessibility. With that all happening, I also realized the need for flexible work for myself but for many others, and that's basically how we were formed. So we're really excited about the opportunity of Accessibrand and, of course, this podcast. Yeah, so a little bit more about the podcast, right Farshid? We can talk about how that all started.
Farshid Sadatsharifi: Yes. The question is why you have decided to start a podcast, and after that, we can dig in about some details. Jolene MacDonald: Awesome. Thanks. So firstly, we want to thank C.C.R.W, which is the Canadian Council for Rehabilitation of Work. It's part of a grant that we got that we are gonna be developing e-learning, as well as a series of podcasts. Our podcast is called Why Access Matters, and it's about all things related to accessibility and it’s featuring discussions and chats with our team and selected guest speakers. And as we said, it's one of the new initiatives that we're doing through that grant, but to help educate others about the importance of disability and accessibility, but especially the value of lived experience. Farshid Sadatsharifi: Awesome. Thank you. So, the main question of this conversation is what is this podcast all about? Meaning what to expect and what we won't cover in this project, because the concept of accessibility is very big, very broad. And so it's better to kind of set the expectation about what [it] would be all about.
Jolene MacDonald: Absolutely. I think the biggest thing is that we want to keep it related to what we do [3:25, notification chime], you know, design, marketing and communications, but it's a little bit broader than that. With having guest speakers that come with the valued and lived experience, we have business owners, we have heads of accessibility. We have people from our team with their life experience. I don't think we'll cover certain specific of different disabilities in-depth, but we are looking at [it] sort of as a society and help people understand, you know, about people with disabilities and how important accessibility really is. And also, to really showcase that it's not just about people with disabilities; it's how it affects everyone and how beneficial it is to society as a whole. Farshid Sadatsharifi: So if I can add to that - and just you correct me or continue what I'm adding to your note - is the core of this podcast is hearing from different persons with disability or affected from disability, but not just for the community of persons with different disabilities, but also in a bigger picture in [the] grand scheme of the entire society. And just giving this message that whatever is accessible is usable for everyone. And it's better for everyone to invest in accessibility.

Jolene MacDonald: Yeah, I think we want to help shatter that glass ceiling, but we want to take people through it step by step. You know, a lot of people are afraid and don't understand; they're worried they're going to make the wrong decision. So then they don't do anything. So I guess we want to - call it, demystifying accessibility. A lot of people think accessibility is just, you know, elevators or access through ramps for buildings and things like that, or just for a website, but it's so much more than that. So I really hope that we'll be able to shed light on that, so to speak, and break it down into bite-size pieces. So we can encourage people to, you know, become advocates. And even if they don't, just to understand it so that they can start integrating it into their project plans and their businesses and seeing it from a different light! For so many years, disability has been like a bad word, and it's not, and they need to see that value and understand what it's like. When people see other people's lives, I think that light goes off, and people get it, and they can see it. So we definitely want to hold people's hands, but we also want them to see how integral it is and if they don't do it, you know, they're missing out on, you know, revenue, opportunity, employees and things like that. So we hope that when people are listening to this podcast, they'll see all those opportunities and go, “Oh, I can do that. It's not so difficult.” So we really hope that everyone will enjoy all of these chats and discussions.

Farshid Sadatsharifi: Yes. And so, is there any other note or last sentence that you want to add to what you said before I talk about our schedule of publishing?

Jolene MacDonald: Well, I think again, we're just really grateful for the opportunity to have this platform and to be able to share the knowledge of our team and the people that we've met through this, and that we encourage everyone to share it. So we can get that message out there and again, just really appreciate [6:52, notification chime] everyone's insight and, you know, just the value of being able to educate everyone. So I think that's, that's it for me; I'm just excited for where this is gonna go.

Farshid Sadatsharifi: Yes. So, what I can add is, because we have a very important week about this accessibility stuff, which is [the] national accessibility week designated and named by [the] government of Canada, which is starting from the last Sunday of every May. We decided to publish this pre-episode [on] the last Friday of May, which is just two days before that. And we will continue publishing this podcast on a monthly basis every last Friday of [the] upcoming month after that. And in the first season, we will have five episodes after this pre-episode.

Jolene MacDonald: Absolutely.

Farshid Sadatsharifi: Yes. And also, I want to say again thank you to C.C.R.W. not only because of this podcast and the grant that they could give us but also because of all of their amazing job that they are doing to help people with disability be accommodated - feel comfortable - starting their work and how they look at the empowerment, which is the most important component of every good relation, including in our workspace.

Jolene MacDonald: Absolutely. And we highly encourage other companies and employers to take a look at the Canadian Council for Rehabilitation and Work. They are doing amazing things. They've been so beneficial to us. So we're very grateful for them.

Farshid Sadatsharifi: Thank you so much, Jolene, and we will see you more and more in more episodes of this podcast. And also a note about videos. These videos of interviews will be published in our YouTube channels, in tandem them with the Podcast Voice, which is a bit different, and it will be available in Podcast Catchers. Thank you so much, Jolene.

Jolene MacDonald: Yeah. Thank you. And thank you, everyone, for listening. And we look forward to hearing from everyone. Thanks!

Farshid Sadatsharifi: Thank you. Why Access Matters: A podcast by Accessibrand (thoughts and talks about accessibility) And now, a small selection of words from those we have interviewed so far: Jolene MacDonald, Dave Dame, Maayan Ziv, and our own Jessica Oddi and Andrew Tutty.

Jolene MacDonald (Founder of Accessibrand and Accessibility advocate): “We are looking at sort of as a society and help people understand, you know, about people with disabilities and how important accessibility really is. And also to really showcase that it's not just about people with disabilities; it's how it affects everyone and how beneficial it is to society as a whole.”

Dave Dame (Director of Accessibility at Microsoft): Work with the community specifically. Too often, people that don’t work with the community assume they know what to do to make it compliant and accessible. And really, you truly don't understand until you work with them, right? And begin to iterate with them to understand, in your area what are the problems you can solve.”

Maayan Ziv (Founder of AccessNow): “When you have no experience or no exposure to what accessibility is, it can seem like this odd kind of after fact thing that, you know, you need to do to kind of tick off a box and, and that doesn't invite people to be part of this world that, you know, once you've converted, once you learn about the magic and the creativity and the opportunities that accessibility offers, it's a completely different response that, that people gravitate towards.”

Jessica Oddi (Designer and Illustrator at Accessibrand and Accessibility advocate): “For me, the very core of what accessibility is, is me watching all the other disabled people be so darn clever just to exist. Like we create so many solutions on a daily basis. First of all, accessibility benefits everyone. It benefits everyone. And what people don’t realize, everyone has access needs. You just don’t realize it because they’re accommodated by society.”

Andrew Tutty (Tester and Auditor at Accessibrand and Accessibility advocate): “When I tell people I’m blind because they may not know right away when they first meet me, [Yeah] Their first response is, “Oh, I’m sorry.” Well, why are you, sorry? [Yeah, ,] You didn’t do anything. And I’ve lived with this, and I’ve learned to live with this, and it’s who I am. It’s part of who I am, but, being afraid of accessibility, we’re all going to become disabled eventually. So why be afraid of something that’s going to help? So many thousands and thousands, millions of people. Don’t be afraid of it; embrace it because one day, you’re going to be disabled and will require some accessibility tools to help you manage.”

Why Access Matters: A podcast by Accessibrand (thoughts and talks about accessibility) This podcast is published thanks to funding from CCRW (Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work) CCRW’s mission is: to promote and support meaningful and equitable employment of people with disabilities. Check out their services at: