Michael Hingson, who’s been blind since birth, is joining the only company enabling an AI-powered web accessibility solution, to help achieve its vision of global web accessibility by 2025.
Web accessibility provider accessiBe, is driving an accessible internet through AI and automation has announced that international speaker and New York Times best-selling author Michael Hingson. Hingson will fill the new position of Chief Vision Officer (CVO), to help further the company’s mission of spreading internet accessibility around the world.
It’s a perfect match, since Hingson has effectively been an ambassador for Americans with disabilities ever since his childhood. For decades, he has transformed assumptions about people with disabilities, showing by example that there’s no reason why someone who is blind, in a wheelchair, or has any other disability should be excluded from public spaces.
Over the past 20 years, HIngson has established himself as an inspirational speaker and writer who’s single-handedly changing the perception of people with disabilities.
Pushing accessibility across the internet
Hingson’s new title of CVO may sound a little tongue in cheek, since Hingson is blind, but it’s far more meaningful than might appear. Vision goes beyond physical sight to refer to the ability to perceive what is around you and become aware of new possibilities. Hingson and the accessiBe team share a vision of an inclusive world.
Hingson’s compelling retelling of his personal experiences are an engaging and compelling way to remind fully-able internet users, website managers, business owners, and web developers and designers that users with disabilities deserve equal access to online content and interactions.
Shir Ekerling, CEO of accessiBe, has long been vocal about his goal to make the entire internet accessible by 2025. The tide of opinion is on accessiBe’s side, with disabilities rights activists using ADA title III legislation to sue businesses fielding non-accessible sites. Headline-grabbing cases like those around a blind fan’s inability to buy concert tickets from Beyonce’s non-accessible site have fueled awareness, and the 2019 Domino’s pizza case established clear legal precedent around web accessibility.
But despite these gains, there’s still a very long way to go. accessiBe’s own research in 2020 revealed that an astonishing 98% of current websites don’t meet WCAG guidelines in one way or another.
The snail-like pace of web accessibility is somewhat understandable. Most website owners genuinely wish to offer an accessible site, but they don’t see how it’s possible. They are stuck between manual solutions, which are prohibitively expensive for all but the largest of corporations, and low-cost automated solutions which simply don’t work.
This is the lose-lose situation which led to the development of accessiBe. Ekerling and his co-founders realized that the only way to build a scalable, cost-effective, and efficient accessibility solution is by using AI and automation. This approach ensures the process is simple for website owners, who just paste in a single line of code into their website template and don’t need any technical knowledge or capabilities. At the same time, the solution is fast and reliable, transforming the whole site to be fully accessible within 48 hours, and rechecking for changes every 24 hours.
With an accessibility solution that’s affordable for every website owner and truly works, all that’s needed to achieve a global accessible internet is to spread the word. And that’s where Hingson comes in.
Hingson is already well known to many people around the world, recognized as a trusted voice representing the market of people with disabilities. When Hingson talks, he puts a human face on a group who could otherwise be ignored as irrelevant or unservable, while his background as a hi-tech equipment salesman has left him with valuable business connections and the skills to clearly explain the solution and its benefits.
Breaking stereotypes and building possibilities
Michael Hingson entered the headlines after the devastating 9/11 attacks, when his guide dog Roselle guided him safely down 78 floors and out of the Twin Towers. Hingson has frequently said that his long experience as a man with disabilities trained him to always mentally prepare for a possible emergency, and that helped him to remain calm when this emergency hit.
Although Hingson’s escape from the World Trade Center is what brought him to fame, his life up till that point was no less remarkable. Blind from birth, Hingson’s parents nonetheless gave him the same upbringing enjoyed by his brother, allowing him to roam the outdoors alone, ride his bike, and participate in the Boy Scouts. Hingson learned to use his other senses, and to always be aware of his surroundings to keep himself safe.
As a result, Hingson grew up with the correct assumption that he should and could participate equally in the wider world. He studied alongside other students for a master’s degree in physics from University of California Irvine, and a secondary degree in teaching, and then enjoyed a successful 25-year career in sales, which brought him to the WTC on that fateful day.
Since 9/11, Hingson’s career has taken a 90° turn towards public speaking as audiences around the world wanted to hear his tale of resilience, determination, and hope. His first book, Thunder Dog, was published in 2011 and was an instant success, reaching the New York Times Bestseller list. Two years later, he followed it with another book, Running with Roselle, and continues to speak to many groups, on a number of TV shows, and participate in many media articles.
According to Hingson, the last 20 years and his new move to accessiBe haven’t really changed his career. He’s still in sales, only instead of selling data entry machines and braille readers, now he’s selling the deeper message that blind people and those with other disabilities have careers and live full and meaningful lives in the same world as fully-able people. All they need is a little help from solutions like accessiBe.