Scott Ready, Director Customer Success & Accessibility Evangelist at Verbit.ai.
If I feel we can eliminate some of the barriers, then I feel it's been a win. Because I feel it's a journey not a destination.
Scott Ready, Director Customer Success & Accessibility Evangelist at Verbit.ai. Scott has worked in the accessibility and effective communication space for over 25 years.
Interview with Scott Ready, Director Customer Success & Accessibility Evangelist at Verbit.ai.
Transcript for Interview with Scott Ready, Director Customer Success & Accessibility Evangelist at Verbit.ai.
John M Griffin: I will send this to you. Scott, we finally meet. We had this scheduled some time ago. I usually start out with asking people. I'd give them a blank check and say, how did you get to the ground you’re on? But in reviewing your background, you've got a degree in evangelism.
Scott Ready: I do.
John M Griffin: So, that is the sort of the seminal introduction into charity to charity's sake. So, you must have a charitable heart and an outlet. So, let's talk a little bit first about what drew you through evangelism and to where you are today and you found a spot that tremendous service comes out on a broadband very scale. So, it's an interesting road that you’ve travelled.
Scott Ready: It is. It's a very interesting road. And John, interestingly enough, that heart really began at birth. My parents were both deaf. And so, they were teachers at the school for the Deaf in Missouri. So, I had the awesome privilege of growing up in a community, a sub-community if you will, of individuals that were viewed as being disabled. Now, they didn't see themselves as being disabled. But the community at large saw them as being disabled so, it really started at that point of the experience that has led me through my entire life, both career and personal.
John M Griffin: Wow. I have a business background. I'm a publisher, professional publisher of my life. And when I was a kid, my grandmother used to use the expression, “You never know how things really feel until a hammer hits your thumb.” And in this business, one of the great privileges that I find is associating with people that are driven by compassion, passion, the drive to assist others, to participate and the intention of the American Disabilities Act in whatever format they can. Now if that turns out to be a business happen stands, well, that's great. But there's also that other side of it and there’s all the people in the.org section and the science section and so forth. But out here where accessibility takes place. Accessibility is, we look at it as the turning house for what happens between science and discovery and the application of opening up the door for the possibilities of whatever that other resolve is. So, across the years, imagine you participated in a lot more than just where you are right now where you’re on an adaptive technology trail which we’ll talk about next but let's talk about some of the more interesting, the other interesting aspects of coming out of a community where the disabled didn't consider themselves, to say.
Scott Ready: Exactly. So, John looking back, you can tell with the grey hair that I have but I had an opportunity to have some experiences and to look back at times when Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, a milestone at that time. But being able to be a part of setting up the relay center that was prior to Americans with Disabilities Act for the whole state of Kansas. Being able to work with legislature to get this through and then to work with the telephone companies in building that awareness. Working with communities throughout the state to understand what a relay center was and how a relay center operates in order to enable individuals who used a TTY back in that day.
John M Griffin: Yeah.
Scott Ready: Communicate with individuals that didn't have a TTY. So, being able to be the front runner of that too, being able to open the door in other areas for individuals that are trying to have a normal life but the barriers that society or technology has presented themselves has cause the challenge of trying to just have a normal experience. Without those barriers, being able to develop Interpreter Training Program that no longer is limited to just a location on campus but then to take an Interpreter Training Program where students were learning become sign language interpreters and take it to the world. It was the first Interpreter Training Program that had ever gone online. So, we put it online back in the day when we still had dial up. So, yeah, you can imagine the technical challenges that we had. But being an entrepreneur, I always looked for a way to work around those challenges and if the medical field was being able to do labs online, I was going to be able to put interpreter training online. And we did it. It was very successful. So, it was the first program that has ever gone fully online. There's been so many great experiences and to use your phrase, “Opening the door”, I love to open the door and say, “Let's go through this. Let's make this a possibility.” And before long, it becomes the norm.
John M Griffin: Yeah. It becomes the norm and it moves across the landscape. And as much as everything is advanced, there’s still a long, long way to go. And where that long way to go is probably more than, most segments is in the business community. The business community, you alluded to the past and how things were then. We passed civil rights law back in the 60s. We're still debating that. We’re still seeing the negative ramifications that have not yet been dealt with in that category. The disabled, Judy Heumann led the charge from the 70s to the 90s and got that done but it's still not over. It’s a long way from the finish line.
Scott Ready: Right.
John M Griffin: So, you're now channeling your emotion and your passion into a category that assist in a very, very productive and favorable way. What are the drivers that pushes Verbit ahead and then what are the barriers that you run in to as you make that movement?
Scott Ready: Great question, John. A friend of mine used to say, “What cranks your tractor? What gets you up in the morning? What really motivates you in doing what you do on a day-to-day basis?” And I would have to say in my field, it is really enabling education to be experienced by all with as low of a barrier as possible. I can't say that we remove all barriers because there are so many barriers that are out there. If I feel we can eliminate some of the barriers, then I feel it's been a win. Because I feel it's a journey not a destination. Having said that, when we look at a challenging and oftentimes, I'm in the digital world but oftentimes, I like to go back to the physical world. Because oftentimes, people can relate to a physical world easier than they can to a digital world. When we think of individuals sitting outside of the library because the library has steps and the individual uses a wheelchair and they're not able to enter a library, a Public Library because this building doesn't have a ramp. We think, wow. That's a shame. But yet in 1990, with ADA and everything that passed, then public facilities had to have ramps added to them. But the interesting thing about that is that now, today, how many of us have pulled a suitcase up a ramp, pushed a stroller up a ramp? Pulled a cart up a ramp? We've all use ramps. What really gets me, wakes me up in the morning and excites me is not just providing captioning in our industry to students who may be deaf or hard of hearing. But hearing how many students all across the board used captioning to better comprehend and engage with learning. It's amazing to me how many people when they watch their movies on Netflix or watch TV at home, just automatically turn on captions because it's a much easier way to digest what's being said. They are able to understand a British accent better that if captioning is on. All the various reasons that individuals turn captioning on in their personal life. We go into a restaurant. We go into a bar. There's captioning already playing. The same thing’s true in education. Research has already been proven that they are able to better understanding and comprehend what's being said when the captioning is being played. Now, to apply that to businesses and how does that impact businesses? While businesses are able to ensure that all of their training is just automatically captioned. Don't wait until you might have that one deaf employee or those few deaf employees to then make sure that your training videos are captioned. Because it really benefits all your employees. So, that really becomes my platform. And what gets me excited is that when that becomes the norm, then no longer is it the one or two or the few that turn on the captioning. It's really all of us.
John M Griffin: Yeah. On that score, do you make compensations for integrated languaging? Yeah. Okay.
Scott Ready: Definitely. So, English as a second language or incorporating in Spanish or other languages into that…
John M Griffin: Right.
Scott Ready: …is definitely a huge part of the becoming inclusive, if you will.
John M Griffin: Yeah. Well, inclusion is like the United States of the world. I had a situation recently where I was dealing with a woman in Uganda. And she only signed. She could understand English but she couldn’t convert to English signing. And she uses Ugandan signing. So, it really got complex and we haven't yet worked it out. We may never because I don't know how to. We tried, we contacted the Red Cross to see if we could get her in English but they haven't responded so, it became an issue. And captioning was involved, but it just wasn't enough.
Scott Ready: Right. John, that's a great point to bring out in that. Oftentimes while we might address a general accessibility need…
John M Griffin: Yeah.
Scott Ready: …oftentimes, there’s very unique needs within the individual. So, when we think about providing accommodations, we think, “Well, we've got it covered. We’ve captioned it, we've done this, we've done that, it's all covered.” Don't be closed off to those unique needs that individuals might have that aren't covered by the general umbrella of making things accessible.
John M Griffin: Exactly. And this takes me back to your role at Verbit. You're the director of customer success. How do you measure success?
Scott Ready: Great question. So, from a business perspective?
John M Griffin: Any perspective you have. Any perspective you want to start with.
Scott Ready: Well, from a business perspective, it would be low churn so that our customers are our feeling that they are getting quality, had a good price and that they are meeting their objectives. And there's the business success but then there's also the individual success. When we have a student that sends us an email telling us what an impact this has made in their life because we have opened the door for them to come in to their local institution, to their local university and be able to graduate and be a productive citizen in a career that they want to do. Not limited to a career what society thinks that they should do. And I'm talking about doctors, lawyers. I'm talking about careers that oftentimes society does not think that an individual with a disability can do. When you get that kind of ladder, that’s success.
John M Griffin: Yeah. And repeat business with the other companies that's easy to measure…
Scott Ready: Exactly.
John M Griffin: … but the human response, sometimes that's invisible from where you sit.
Scott Ready: Exactly.
John M Griffin: There is so much more than money involved in what we do in this business.
Scott Ready: I have to agree.
John M Griffin: Yeah. Where is the technology headed? Of course, you're going to see an expanding horizon. It's five years from now. Take me there. Take us there, too. What do you see?
Scott Ready: John, you're touching on an area that I absolutely love and I call it possibilitizing. Where are we going in five years from now? Technology is changing at such a rapid rate. And I think about how life used to be before a mobile phone. And then when I got my bag phone, how life totally changed and now your phone is everything and this is over a short period of time. Relatively short period of time. And where are we going to be in five years from now? Well, I would love to say that technology is just going to open the door for everything. Unfortunately though, as my experience has been, is that as doors are open, barriers are brought in with technology. And so, it's a constant. As we continue to evolve and continue to improve in creating a more accessible, greater access, more inclusive, there are other barriers that get thrown in there. And so, in my world with captioning, as you would see in the bottom of my email signature, Captioning is not just an accommodation feature but it's a learning feature. How can we incorporate? Because we use artificial intelligence. We use automated speech recognition. A lot of technology is in our sausage making if you will, and in the back end of our processing. But if we left that just a process captioning, then we're not really utilizing artificial intelligence. Are we?
John M Griffin: No.
Scott Ready: So, how about if we take that artificial intelligence and now, we look at how can we create this transcript that's been made from a captioning or a transcript of a class and now, how can we make that a learning feature? How can we take? I know when I was in college, I spent most of my classroom time taking copious notes. Just trying to capture everything that was being said. But now with the transcript, what was said, I no longer have to do that. But let's then take a step further five years from now with technology. What could that transcript be? Because we have a recording of every class for the last eight weeks and now, its midterm. Why can't we use artificial intelligence now to then give us a summary of different topics that were discussed over these past eight weeks? Now, we’re using technology to open the door in order for me to be able to spend my time truly learning rather than having to process through all of my notes. Those are just some of the things that I am seeing as to where I'm pushing to get technology to better enhance the educational experiences because again, my vertical is education, so that's where I eat, sleep and dream about. But how does the technology come in in order for that experience to be greatly enhanced not just as an accommodation because if we enhance it for everybody, the accommodation is going to automatically take place.
John M Griffin: Artificial intelligence can read every transaction on the internet every 24 hours. And the yield from that is beginning to recraft the shape of the world.
Scott Ready: Right.
John M Griffin: It's influencing economies, it's influencing all, health and science. It's really changing the game in ways that I mean it's been said that technology is reforming so fast that the human mind can't keep up with it anymore. So, is this a threat to the institutionalized education system? As we knew it or know it today. The concept of moving away from the standard learning facility. When will universities stop needing books? When will students stop responding to books? When will teachers be at any level outdone by what's available inside the technology that we're talking about? Do you have some thoughts on that?
Scott Ready: I definitely do, John. And…
John M Griffin: I thought you might.
Scott Ready: Having been in this field for 25 years in education, definitely. The biggest challenge with the amount of technology I love exactly how you put it is that technology is recycling the masses of information that's out there. All you have to do is to go and google something to see how much stuff is out there on any specific topic. And then you get lost at trying to figure out, is this the right information or is it the wrong information? How do I bring this information in this information together in order to come out with the results that I actually am looking for? That's where the professor comes in. The professor is the one that crafts the learning path in order for you to take all this information. It actually end up with the end result of the objectives that you are looking to achieve. There's nothing more frustrating than being just bombarded with information and not knowing how to sift through it.
John M Griffin: Yeah.
Scott Ready: The role of the teacher isn't as much as it was in the past being the sole owner of the content but rather now, the navigator of content. So, how can I as a professor impart my wisdom, my experience, and all that I have gained in this subject matter but then pull in all the relevant content that's available now in order to keep it current for the learners that are going down this path of education? So, I don't see the professor ever going away. Yeah, the days of Rosie from the Jetsons, being the one that leads it. I don't think again I just dated myself, but…
John M Griffin: I was going to say that you walked right into that trap.
Scott Ready: I did. But John, you're right there with me, you laughed, so you felt, you knew exactly what I was talking about. So, when I look at the educational system when online education came into play, professors and instructors were all concerned that online was going to replace the instructor and was like no, it's just a modality of delivery. That's all it is. The same thing with technology when it's coming in. Now we're saying that we can bring most relevant information to the learning path rather than it being an encyclopedia that sits in the library that you've got to go in and look at a book. We're bringing it all into that learning path and making it very easy to access. But yet, we still need that person that's going to drive the navigation of learning.
John M Griffin: Well, most of my career was spent in publishing high-tech publications and observing a technology from the front row. And of the one of the giants of a publishing businesses who’s since passed away as Pat McGovern. Once, I asked Pat McGovern. I said, “When do universities no longer have to rely on the education system that we have now. And he said, “Well, I would probably think that it would be the last university to still teach from books.” That hasn't happened yet. Yet when you think about how short the time is from going back to the proliferation of the microprocessor and the portable access to that, that accessibility has accelerated everything and every influence on the planet. That is positive and, in some cases, negative. We developed weaponry now with information and skill sets that didn't exist 100 years ago. Modern warfare has changed, space discovery and so on and so forth. It's a whole new environment, and Andy Grove used to say, “I can't see the horizon.” There was a time when I used to be able to look out and think I saw the horizon. That's not possible any longer.
Scott Ready: Right.
John M Griffin: So, it's a joyous time and I had the sense and a lot of people agree with this that accessibility is at a turning point. That accessibility is being recognized for the value proposition that it offers to all of the systemic effort that it touches. Yes, it can invade capitalism. It can cause cultural issues and change and accommodations that are we think are reasonable but to the person providing it, they may or may not agree with that. On the other hand, since coming to this chair that I sit in, I have not heard a single whisper of anybody that doesn't agree that accessibility matters and accessibility is in its time today.
Scott Ready: I agree. I whole heartedly agree. And there's been a lot of things that have caused society to wake up and to come to the realization. And I do think that COVID has had major impact.
John M Griffin: Yes. That is silver lining. That's been a silver lining in a very ugly cloud.
Scott Ready: It has.
John M Griffin: One of the first things that became that all civilians who will became aware of was persons with disability people with that are housebound. Couldn't just call up, Uber. Couldn't just get a door, delivery. Couldn't get to the doctors and so on and so forth. They survived. Not only did they survive but the same kind of assistive technology that helped them get through that also prevented the corporate world from auto-collapse.
Scott Ready: Right.
John M Griffin: The two are inextricably intertwined. Those things are not coincidental but not accidental.
Scott Ready: Right.
John M Griffin: They have great meaning and form in terms of bringing together all of these special interests that they will share. And so, this has been a really interesting conversation.
Scott Ready: I've thoroughly enjoyed it, John.
John M Griffin: So, and to those of you that are looking in, this is why accessibility matters. You've heard a good dose of it today.