PR & Lattes

GAAD Special - A latte with Ashley Nemeth

May 12, 2024 Matisse Hamel-Nelis
GAAD Special - A latte with Ashley Nemeth
PR & Lattes
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PR & Lattes
GAAD Special - A latte with Ashley Nemeth
May 12, 2024
Matisse Hamel-Nelis

Send us a Text Message.

In this episode, Matisse chats with Ashley Nemeth, a senior communications strategist and writer for PR & Lattes, about accessibility and communications as someone who is Deafblind.

About Ashley Nemeth
Ashley Nemeth is a passionate advocate and visionary leader dedicated to creating a more accessible world for herself and future generations. With over a decade of experience in disability rights, human rights, and accessibility, Ashley’s work is grounded in the belief that inclusive communication is pivotal.

Her role as a Senior Communications Strategist for her city and her impactful presence online, through her long-standing blog at ashleynemeth.com and her Instagram @ashleynemethofficial, showcase her commitment to change.

Ashley’s professional journey includes significant roles with CNIB, where she has been a beacon of leadership and advocacy, earning her national and regional recognitions, including CNIB’s Employee of the Year and CBC’s Top 40 under 40.

A seasoned public speaker, Ashley addresses the barriers faced by those with disabilities, advocating for employment opportunities and societal inclusion. Her leadership extends beyond her professional achievements, touching lives through motivational speaking and active community advocacy and development engagement.

Ashley’s life outside work is filled with creativity and passion, finding joy in writing, reading, and crocheting, always with a coffee in hand.

Her journey is not just a career but a testament to the power of advocacy, leadership, and the relentless pursuit of accessibility for all.

Connect with Ashley:
Instagram
Facebook
LinkedIn

Connect with PR & Lattes:
Website: PR & Lattes
Instagram: @PRAndLattes
Host: @MatisseNelis

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

In this episode, Matisse chats with Ashley Nemeth, a senior communications strategist and writer for PR & Lattes, about accessibility and communications as someone who is Deafblind.

About Ashley Nemeth
Ashley Nemeth is a passionate advocate and visionary leader dedicated to creating a more accessible world for herself and future generations. With over a decade of experience in disability rights, human rights, and accessibility, Ashley’s work is grounded in the belief that inclusive communication is pivotal.

Her role as a Senior Communications Strategist for her city and her impactful presence online, through her long-standing blog at ashleynemeth.com and her Instagram @ashleynemethofficial, showcase her commitment to change.

Ashley’s professional journey includes significant roles with CNIB, where she has been a beacon of leadership and advocacy, earning her national and regional recognitions, including CNIB’s Employee of the Year and CBC’s Top 40 under 40.

A seasoned public speaker, Ashley addresses the barriers faced by those with disabilities, advocating for employment opportunities and societal inclusion. Her leadership extends beyond her professional achievements, touching lives through motivational speaking and active community advocacy and development engagement.

Ashley’s life outside work is filled with creativity and passion, finding joy in writing, reading, and crocheting, always with a coffee in hand.

Her journey is not just a career but a testament to the power of advocacy, leadership, and the relentless pursuit of accessibility for all.

Connect with Ashley:
Instagram
Facebook
LinkedIn

Connect with PR & Lattes:
Website: PR & Lattes
Instagram: @PRAndLattes
Host: @MatisseNelis

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Hello and welcome to PR & Lattes, the podcast where you can fill up your cup on everything PR and communications. I'm your host Matisse Hamel-Nelis. And I am so thrilled to have you join me today for this very special episode in honour of Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Before we get started, make sure you subscribe to this podcast wherever you're listening to it to get notified each week during the season when a new episode drops, and for this week, every day as we celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day. You can also subscribe to our newsletter by visiting our website prandlattes.com. On the website you'll find our podcast episodes plus our amazing blogs with new ones being uploaded every Monday morning. And of course make sure you're following us on Instagram at@PRAndLattes and on LinkedIn PR& Lattes. On today's special episode I'm chatting with senior communication strategist and PR and lattes writer Ashley Nemeth. Ashley is a passionate advocate and visionary leader dedicated to creating a more accessible world for herself and future generations. With over a decade of experience in disability rights, human rights and accessibility. Her work is grounded in the belief that inclusive communication is pivotal. Ashley's journey includes significant roles with CNIB otherwise known as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, where she was a beacon of leadership and advocacy earning her national and regional recognition including CBC's Top 40 Under 40. A seasoned public speaker Ashley addresses the barriers faced by those with disabilities advocating for employment opportunities and societal inclusion. Her leadership extends beyond her professional achievements, Touching Lives Through motivational speaking and active community advocacy and development engagement. I am beyond thrilled to chat with her today about communications accessibility and her own experience navigating our profession as someone who is Deafblind. So grab your latte, sit back and enjoy. I am so excited for today's episode. I am thrilled to be joined by Ashley Nemeth on today's episode to talk about accessibility and communications, particularly with the lived experience. So welcome Ashley to the podcast.

Ashley Nemeth:

Thanks for having me. I'm so excited.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Oh, this is gonna be so good. Okay, so let's dive into things and let everybody get to know who Ashley is. So can you tell the listeners about your own journey within marketing, content creation and public relations?

Ashley Nemeth:

Yeah, so I didn't have like a, I guess, like formal plan or formal way of getting into communication. I think I just kind of fell into it. Sort of. So I have always loved to write, like, ever since I was a kid, I love to write and read and you know, all of those things. And then, as I got older, and started working, I really really wanted to be able to, to write in some form some way for my work. Actually, when I was in high school, I was going into university, and I was going into a journalism program. And I had the opportunity to go and like do a shadow of a reporter. Back when newspapers were a big thing. And so it was a newspaper, here in Saskatchewan. And, you know, I was able to ask questions and see how it worked, and all of these things, and I was so excited. And then at the end of the day, I kind of got an opportunity to ask questions. And I asked the question, um, you know, do you think that someone who is blind would be able to be successful in this industry? And she told me no, and went on this big long spiel about how, why I wouldn't be able to be successful in this, you know, in this industry. And so, I was devastated. You know, 17. And so I went on, you know, to go to university for a bit and my career kind of took me down, you know, business ownership, and, you know, a bunch of different places. And then I, at a point in time, when I was 20, ish, I lost all of my vision. And then my career path drastically shifted, and out of frustration, I started a blog. And at that time, I was like, I'm just gonna read it, like, just like, use it, like a diary, typing away. And then people started reading and I was like, Oh, whoops, I probably wouldn't have said that if I thought people were gonna read it. And so kind of like just evolved over over time, you know, content creation and just, you know, playing with it a little bit and then taking it a little more seriously. And communications, as I worked through a non-profit was a part of my role, but it wasn't like my specific role. And then I wanted to change in careers, and I've landed in a communications role. And, you know, over the last couple of years, I've really been getting to know more about communications and like, and the role and like some of the differences. And yeah, it's just it's been a really exciting time. But I've definitely not had, you know, a formal like, went through a program, planning and communications, by any means. But yeah, it's been a, it's been an adventure.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

It's been a journey, right? Not your traditional journey, but a journey nonetheless. So you mentioned about your sight loss, and your when you were in your 20s, that it went away. And, more recently, also, your hearing has started to deteriorate to you had mentioned. So how has your experience with Deafblindness shaped your approach to communications and PR?

Ashley Nemeth:

It's really shifted it I think, you know, before my hearing loss, it was easier, I would say, because I was just so used to be taking everything in, like, through audio. And that was how I experienced, you know, all of the communications and things like that. And then with my sight loss, a lot of the time, I ended up using braille through my through, you know, devices, which limits, or adds an extra layer of challenge to consuming the material, because it always isn't possible. So, you know, as I've been, you know, working in the communications side of things and creating content, my goal is always to ensure that it can be accessed not only through, you know, just a screen reader, I think people often think that that's just the iela know, if you're blind, you use screen reader.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah.

Ashley Nemeth:

And so, you know, really pushing for, for it to be accessible in all ways for all people. And you know, just because, you know, a screen reader exists doesn't mean that it's going to work for everyone, I think there's not a real understanding that individuals could have multiple disabilities, like, it's not just blindness, and just hearing loss or, you know, just, you know, some other purpose that a lot of times there's, there's other things, and so, been really trying to, like educate people that I work with, and through content around, you know, some of those challenges and removing as many barriers as possible.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

And I think that leads into the next question really well, you know, in your work, and I think this comes across in many, many cases, the people just don't know what they don't know. Or they have preconceived notions of how somebody let's say, with Deafblindness would engage or interact with technology and that sort of thing, and how they would get their job done. So how do you navigate the digital space and your technology and ensure accessibility not only for yourself, but others around you?

Ashley Nemeth:

Yeah, that's definitely is exhausting. Like, you know, I don't even know how to like, explain it other than like, it's exhausting. Mentally, it's exhausting emotionally. I spent a lot of my time, unfortunately, in my current role at, you know, in a formal communications role, trying to get things in an accessible format, so that I can do my job. I would say, half of my time is spent fighting the accessibility in the digital space. I think there's a thought that because it's digital, that anyone can access it, you know, it is inherently accessible, right? You know, like, when we talked about, just had a conversation recently, you know, at work where, you know, they said to me, Well, you can just use like the Adobe, like the read function, you just push it, and it reads all the text. I was like...okay... You know, but I can't read that in Braille. So, you know, as someone with hearing loss, I'm only getting 30% of what someone says. So I'm taking a lot of effort to like, piece it together. Social conversations, that's easier. When I'm reviewing material that I don't know, and needs to be right, I need to be able to do it in braille. And I can't do that through the Adobe read function. You know, and then there's also the Adobe read function skips over all the images. You know, sometimes those graphs are important. So, you know, it's it's definitely been been a huge, a huge journey, moving out of the nonprofit space, because before I went into this formal communications role I worked in like the disability world, right. So it was on the minds of everyone because that's what we did. Whereas now that I've moved out of the disability, you know, work. It's not at all on people's minds, and they're often surprised that I can't access it. I don't know how to fix it. And I've kind of been approaching it as I'm fixing it for those coming behind me. Right? And that's, I think that's the only way that like, keeps me going, because I'm the only totally blind individual that works in the organization. And I am definitely the only Deafblind person. And when I came into this role, it was very clear that they were not prepared for my level of disability. And didn't know and still don't know how to, you know, ensure that I'm an equal wheel valued member of a team. I've had to deal with a lot of like discrimination and people not thinking that I'm capable. I remember like, when I first started, like, a month or two, and someone said to me, Oh, you don't need to, you know, worry about not about, you know, having to fight with accessibility, you know, like you, you have far out exceeded any expectations that we had of you before you started. And I remember thinking, that's not a compliment.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

No.

Ashley Nemeth:

So, you know, like, so are you surprised that I got here? And like, I could turn on a computer, like, where are we talking? Like, how low are these expectations? Right. And so, not only do people, you know, have these biases that they don't realize that they have. But in the communications, you know, side of things, when I'm giving advice and recommendations, a lot of the time I'm not taking seriously, because I don't think people think I know what I'm talking about. Right? And so it's been, I would say in this last year, like I've had to fight harder for accessibility and access than I've ever fought in my life.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

That, that breaks my heart to be honest with you, because, you know, everyone likes to say that they are inclusive, diverse and equitable. But when accessibility is an afterthought, you aren't being inclusive, you aren't being diverse, you can't be diverse, because you're alienating a portion of the population. And clearly, you're not being equitable in what you're presenting and providing. So, you know, it comes across more as a performative measure to say, you know, we have our DEI practices and this is what we do. But when accessibility is that afterthought, then really, you know, you're not, you're you're not doing what you say you're going to do. Do you think that there needs to be more push within our profession to upskill and train on accessibility, not just for the sake of while we might have somebody work for us who has a disability, but rather for broader reach of their content in general?

Ashley Nemeth:

Yeah, I think so. I think there needs to be more education. On like, both sides, because, you know, as I've been, you know, going through this journey, and I've had this conversation, because I was hired, because of their DEI plan, it was the role that was specified for someone with a disability. So, like, let's be real, I was a checkbox, righ? And so they didn't, they were just looking to check that box, which a lot is what we see a lot of the time, right? We talked about accessibility, and they're like, Okay, well, where's, you know, I just need to check off, you know, as I go, externally, right, especially externally, yep. But if you can't create, if you can't have an organization or a culture of accessibility internally, you're never going to get it right externally.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah.

Ashley Nemeth:

Right? You know, like, you can't, it's kind of like that, like old saying, you know, like, sweep your own doorstep first.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah.

Ashley Nemeth:

Right? And like, and so a lot of the time, when we talk about DE and I and access to communication, their focus is on the external. And it's not about the internal and ensuring that you, you start at home, right, and you and you make sure that your things are accessible to the best of your ability. Will it ever be like 100%? No, they're like, there's always going to be things that you know, have to change and have to you have to figure out but the basics, there needs to be more more effort, more effort, you know, put into it. Like, I don't understand everybody's love of PDF. And then like, what I like, hey, like Joe in a different format, and they're like, no, no, we don't know like, it started in a Word document. Where's it?

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah.

Ashley Nemeth:

And so like, it's just yeah, it's been interesting. It's been...It's been a challenge. And I've had a lot of moments where I've just had to be like, nothing nice to say say nothing at all.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

It's funny, you bring up the PDF, so I love a PDF. But I also am fully aware that you have to properly format the PDF for it to be read. And I think people think as soon as I change it in Acrobat into Acrobat and make it a PDF, I'm good to go. Yep, there's more that needs to be done. There's a whole ISO standard, right in terms of the technical backend on what you need to do to a PDF in order for it to be accessible. I'll give a quick shout out here, then, you know, if you have a PDF, and you want to see if it's actually accessible, at least, at a glance, I would say because you still have to manually check it. But from an automated standpoint, that there is the PDF Accessibility Checker 2024 from Axes4 that you can download for free, it works on PCs, that you can just drag and drop your PDF document to see if it's accessible, again, from an automated standpoint, but you still want to make sure you're testing it yourself. You know, going through the reading order of your PDF, and for some people means just saying a reading order and a PDF might be What are you talking about reading orders a thing and a PDF, having it be tagged as a thing in a PDF, you know, adding alt text to your images or image descriptions, a thing and a PDF having proper heading structure there, it's more than just simply, you know, take a Word document and change it into a PDF. And also when it comes to the Word documents, making sure that those are accessible in themselves, right using the Styles pane. And you know, Ashley, you and I are doing presentations on this sort of thing, and could go on and on and on about it. But there's more than just simply pushing a button and making it accessible. And I think that's what everybody's hoping for is that easy button when it comes to accessibility. And we see this now with websites, right with overlays. And I'd love to hear your thoughts on overlays on websites. For the viewers out there, actually, that was just one really, really big me like, Oh, don't get me started. But you know, companies and organizations, I think, have the, for the most part, they're not intentionally trying to alienate or trying to keep people out of either their organization or you know, engaging with their content externally. I think it's what they don't know what they don't know. And when they are told about a quick fix. And I think that's the big issue in accessibility right now is that there are these quote unquote, quick fixes that actually don't fix, they cause more issues, and that sort of thing. And one of those is overlays. So I would love you from your perspective, you know, when you engage with a website that does have one of these overlays, and we're not going to mention any names, because we don't want to get sued. But I am talking to Karl Groves as part of this series for Global Accessibility Awareness Day. And we are going to talk about all things overlay. So stay tuned for that later this week. But you know, actually, from an end user perspective, you know, as somebody who uses your own assistive technology to engage when you engage with overlays, what does that experience like?

Ashley Nemeth:

That's funny, you should bring up overlays actually just had a conversation somebody had sent me it well, couldn't we just do this to our website and make it more accessible? And I was like, Oh, heck no. So you know, like, I'll go to a website, and it's like, click here to make your site more accessible. And I'm like, Oh, that's cute. No, they just, they add a layer of challenge, they actually add a layer of like, less accessibility in some ways. You know, especially for someone who's trying to use it with a screen reader or braille display. A lot of the times that overly, like, makes weird layers, like within the website, and so you're not able to really, like navigate it, I find. Yeah, I actually find that makes them worse, in some ways, like, they're, they're terrible. Like they really are. And I think they, they do just give people like that quick fix, and they think that it's great. And I have noticed, you know, as I'm working to help, you know, the organization I'm working for, you know, increase accessibility of, you know, websites and documents and just knowing about accessibility, there is this desire to have that quick fix because, you know, every organization I feel like nowadays doesn't have doesn't have the capacity right to add more things. And so it's like, well, I Googled this and I put my website in and it said that it was fully accessible. They got a good score, but yet none of your form fields are labeled. You know, none of like I can't you don't headings lists, you don't have a links list. And there's so many organizations and organizations, websites out there claiming to give you like an audit in like three seconds, you know, and then like, you know, fix your website or, you know, make it accessible. And it's a huge, it's, it's a huge problem because all these people are, they're just taking advantage of, of organizations and people, right? And they're trying to capitalize on on the DEI side of things, and there's huge money. And so they're not trying to capitalize on it, but it does make things a little more challenging for sure.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

So, you know, let's overlays being the negative, what are some tools and technologies that instead have been game changers for you, particularly as a communicator that have helped, you know, bring positive change both whether to yourself in terms of being able to do your work, or even for an organization who's trying to be more accessible and inclusive for their staff and potentially external folks?

Ashley Nemeth:

I think that like, the biggest positive change is that even though we see, you know, a lot of these DEI plans and things like that, especially in like communication, you know, they're starting these plans, because they're being mandated to or because, you know, now it's being kind of like this, like the thing to do, right, the right thing to do. And even though sometimes they are lip service, and in some ways, the fact that there is a plan, and the fact that we're talking about it, I think is a huge change, right? Because we it never used to be talked about, if you wanted to have something fix, like you need to email a developer, like, you know, like, there was not an easy way to give feedback or talk about it. So I think as we talk about it, I think people are becoming more and more aware and are asking the question is this, you know, can you access this or, you know, do you need in a different format, you know, those kinds of things. And then you know, with things like the accessibility checker in a Word document, or the accessibility checker within PDF, I think those are huge. They're not, you still have to go in and fix it. It's like to know what you're doing, unfortunately, but, you know, there's there. So then, you know, when someone says, Well, your documents not accessible, and they can kind of get a better idea of what that means.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah.

Ashley Nemeth:

Right? Because I think a lot of the times, that's the problem is, we throw around the words accessible, like, you know, like, it's nothing, but a lot of people don't even really know what that mean. Like, if I say this isn't accessible, they have no idea, right? Like, I'm speaking a different language, you know, for them. And so the more we talked about it, and the more it's, you know, integrated into technology, I think it you know, it's helpful to get people more aware.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah, one thing I like that you brought up are the accessibility checks in like Word and PowerPoint, and even Excel, the Microsoft suite, they've really done a great job in an in trying to educate folks on the accessibility as long as they know that that buttons there, right under review, Check Accessibility across all Microsoft platforms there. But it not only tells you what the error is, it also tells you how do you fix it, and why is it important to fix. And I really like that versus just saying, This isn't accessible, it needs to be fixed. Okay, but why, right? Education is such a big part in it. Because, like you said, we people tend to throw the word accessibility or inaccessible, around and the other person doesn't really understand what it is that we mean by that, you know, because to them, Well, I can see it, I can, you know, I can scroll down, I can click on things, I'm fine, but not everybody engages with the content in the same way. And so I think that education piece, I really love that you flag that because that's key, and, you know, kudos to Microsoft, for ensuring that it's not just here's the error and how to fix it. But here's why it's important to fix it.

Ashley Nemeth:

Yeah, I think too, like I've run into a lot of the times where people when I explained like, why it's not accessible. And they're like, Oh, well, couldn't you just go in and like, fix the reading order? And I kind of giggle because I'm like, I can't fix what I can't see.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah.

Ashley Nemeth:

Right. And so I had to say that so many more times than I ever thought like, I honestly never thought I'd say it in the first place. But I've had to say it quite a few times, where I'm like, I can't I can't do that. I can't see it.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

I had somebody when I was working on a document once they were putting a bunch of information in the footer. And I said, you know, just as an FYI, a majority of folks who use assistive technology, particularly text to speech software, like JAWS or NVDA or voiceover, have it turned off to read the header or footer and they were just blown away and they said, Well, why I'm putting content there. I said, Okay, think about a magazine or a book. Right? What if you are sighted and you are reading yet, as it is, do you read the header and footer on every single page as you go through your pay the document? And they're like, Well, no, I just skip it because it's a repetition. And I said, so why would you inflict that on somebody who wants to just engage with the content as anybody else, you'll access it differently. But that's the thing. So you want to make sure any of the important information that isn't a repetition, like a page number, the name of the book at the bottom of every page kind of thing. Anything that's important is actually in the what I call the work area, or wherever you put your regular stuff, versus in the header or footer, and they were just blown away by that concept. And like, oh, all the time we've put this information in the footer, I'm like, Well, now you know, right. So moving forward, you won't do that. And it will provide a better access. And you. And my philosophy has always been you never know who's going to get a hold of your document, or your presentation or your Excel sheet. So by ensuring that you are practicing accessibility best practices and creating them, no matter who gets it, they'll be able to access the information.

Ashley Nemeth:

Yeah, I think there's a big misperception, I guess, you know, I've had a lot of conversations, you know, in, in my communications role were like, well, like, it's only like, how many people would be accessing it? Right. And I, it's a frustrating conversation, but I guess like, in, you know, most people have never interacted with someone who's blind. And most, and I, that number is even smaller when we talk about deaf blindness. And so in their eyes, right, like, it's not a huge, a huge community, a huge audience. But the reality is, is that it is.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

It is yeah.

Ashley Nemeth:

You know, like, it's very significant. Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it's not there.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah. And not only that, like, for myself, I wear glasses, I'm sorry, I would consider myself sighted. However, I tend to learn or absorb information better when it is audible. So I'll take a document, and I'll have it play through assistive technology to read it out to me. So I know that I absorb it better. Right? So I'm not the, quote unquote, typical user of assistive technology, but I utilize it to better understand and absorb the information given to me. Right, and others would be like, Oh, well, you know, you don't have sight loss. So why are you using it? But it's, it's there to help. Right? There's so many features and technology advancement, technological advancements that have been made for, you know, accessibility purposes that other people have used and utilized, like captions.

Ashley Nemeth:

But I think that's that conversation too, right? Like, we, when we talk about accessibility, we look at like, permanent, right, like people who have permanent disabilities, but the reality is 100% of people will be disabled at some point in their life. Whether it be the only difference is if it'll be temporary, or permanent. Right? So like, you're using your phone, and it's sunny outside, and you can't see it. Right. So then people will, you know, kind of use some, you know, assistive technology that to manage with that, right? You know, people use zoom all the time on their phones, right? Because the screens are small, or the words are small, right? Or, like you said, like, you take things in easier through, you know, through auditory feedback. So, you know, you're using the, you know, technology to, to read that back, or even like the read function and Adobe or you know, like, so we all have uses for these things, whether it's just if it's temporary or permanent.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Exactly. So then how do you see the future of accessibility and communications evolving? And what role do you hope to play in that?

Ashley Nemeth:

I think I see. I think I've seen like, sometimes it feels like we've like 10 steps forward, five back.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah.

Ashley Nemeth:

If that makes sense, right? Because Because we're a society who very much is like, wants to follow the trend, right, we want to be relevant, and everybody's fighting to be relevant. And there's so much going on. Like, it's, you know, it's 24/7 you know, media and content. And so, as people strive to be relevant, sometimes that takes over. And so I see communications getting better in knowledge around accessibility and what that means and how to create more accessible content. But at the same time, some content and trends take us a step back, right or a couple of steps back, you know, like when we we've now become very reliant on like, especially like social media over the last, especially for like to say like last six months for me that I've really noticed. That is like videos. We have come very reliant on videos, but videos that don't have any speech. Like they're doing something and there's like sound, or they're like pointing to something, right, but they're not speaking. And so that is, that's something I've come across a lot lately, even with organizations. And so like I said, like, it's it feels sometimes like, you know, one step forward one step back. So you know what, it's funny though, because in order to win or making those videos, they're really making captions.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah.

Ashley Nemeth:

Right? So like, it's like, just, like, speak. Yeah, words to, you know. So yeah, it really feels like 10 steps forward, one step back. But I think my whole career no matter what I've been doing over the years, has always been about trying to make things better for those for others coming behind me. And so, you know, throughout, as I continue, in my communications career, my goal is to really have an impact in the in the industry around accessibility of content, and materials. But on a bigger side, accessibility for people to be in the industry. Yeah, I don't think there's a lot of people who are blind or Deafblind who work in communications, people are very surprised when I tell them what I do. Very surprised. And, and this shouldn't be right. Like, we, as individuals who are blind or you know, individuals disability, we, we want to consume all the content to, you know, like, we are normal, people who want you know, to consume all types of content, we're all types of people, like, we don't all just want to, you know, consume disability content either, right? We want to consume all of the content. In fact, as someone who's disabled, a lot of them, I don't want to consume disability content.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah.

Ashley Nemeth:

Because I live it. And so you have to find ways to like escape from that, in some ways. You know, so, yeah, that's what I hope to happen. Who knows? We never know what will happen. That's my goal.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

That's the goal. That's the goal. And that's all you know, we can think positively about the future and where things are going and hope that that's where they'll go. Do you ever get annoyed as somebody who has lived experience, that you are sort of the person who has to do all always has to do the educating to your colleagues and potential clients about accessibility and inclusion? Versus it sort of be woven in naturally into that culture, if you will.

Ashley Nemeth:

Yeah, definitely. I've been an advocate for a very, very long time. And because I'm not someone to stay quiet, no, someone to just write an email. I'm very open. And I'm very, you know, honest. And I will say, what needs to be said, hard or not. It does become exhausting. You know, like, people will say, Oh, well, you know, you're doing such an amazing job for the blind, you know, and deaf blind communities, you're really paving the way for for others and, you know, changing as changing people's minds or perception. And there is times where I just want someone else to pave the way for me.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah.

Ashley Nemeth:

Right? I don't always want to be the first. But it feels like I very much am. Especially in Saskatchewan, where I live. I feel like in Saskatchewan, we're like 20 years behind when it comes to accessibility, disability, understanding all of that. And so sometimes they get really, really frustrated. Like, remember to filter what comes out of my mouth. You know, like, Oh, don't say that out loud, actually. So... So yeah, it it really is that and I will say like, it has a huge impact on my mental health has had a huge impact on my mental health. And so it's something that I have to really careful in some ways, right? Because I it does become personal because I'm fighting people see me fighting for those coming behind me. But at the same time, I'm, I'm in it, I'm fighting for me to have access. And it can really weigh on your mental health when you're always fighting. It seems like every day you're fighting not only within the workplace, not only with you know trying to consume content, but just in your daily, your daily life. You know, trying to be a parent trying to be a wife, trying to just get your hours to work.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

So with that sort of in mind, you know, and you flagged a couple of times where, you know, you mentioned that some of your colleagues were like, we weren't expecting that, and you kind of become the phrase is inspiration porn. And for those who have never heard this phrase before, and are just listening, going, What the heck are you talking about? You know, inspiration porn is when you basically put somebody with a disability on a pedestal, for doing something that is an everyday task, but they just do it differently, right, then maybe what you would expect, but it is a day to day tasks, you're doing your job and you know, day to day task. So what are some misconceptions that you think are out there that you would like to squash when it comes to sight loss and deaf blindness? Particularly in the professional world?

Ashley Nemeth:

I think the biggest one for me is the lower standards or expectations of people who have disabilities, I think there's a big misperception that we're not educated, we're not skilled, we're not knowledgeable in in, you know, lots of different areas. And you know, it, you're always feeling keep to prove yourself, and so like, the biggest change that I would want is that individuals disability of any kind are not having to prove their worth, right. We don't ask all employees to prove their worth every single day. We would never, like it just wouldn't be a great work environment. And so, you know, asking, or making people feel like they need to prove their worth and prove their skills and things like that, like, and increase the standards or expectations of them is a huge one for me. The one thing we talked about, like inspiration porn, and I have to I have to remind myself that not everybody knows that phrase. So when I say it to like, non-disabled people, they I'm, it's a good thing. I can't see their faces, because the noise that they make us enough where I'm like, oh, no, everybody knows what that means. So they just hear the word porn and think all sorts of things. But I remember I don't remember the company what we shouldn't say companies anyway, because that's about you can get sued. There was this, remember, there was these like advertisements. And it was like disabled individuals. So like an amputee running a track. Or someone with one arm playing tennis. A blind person hiking, like, there was all of these different things. And it was like, What's your excuse?

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

I remember that.

Ashley Nemeth:

Right? And I was like, excuse, you know, right. So like, those types of things. They really, really drive me like, so you think I'm not capable, sir. Like let's have a conversation.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah.

Ashley Nemeth:

Because you need to be educated.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

I remember, I want to say was the I think it was 2018 Summer Olympics. I think that was a year that we had Summer Olympics. And a channel in the UK was going to air them both the Olympics and the Paralympics. And for the Paralympics, they created this video that was we are superhuman, superhuman, and it featured now any Olympian Paralympian Olympian, to me superhuman, I cannot do what like I would I like to joke around like, I have six gold medals and sitting in my closet, I don't know we're close, could never. So you know, an Olympian or Paralympian, to me, you're superhuman. It's just amazing what you can accomplish. But in this commercial, which was to promote the Paralympics, again, they had people woven in with disability to or just doing day to day tasks, taking care of their child brushing their teeth. Like that one really got me it was like, and I remember thinking at first, this is such a commercial. And then I took the Accessible Media Production program at Mohawk College, and my teacher said, introduced me to this concept of inspiration porn, because I had never heard about it before. And I was just, you know, taken down for sure. And I was like, I feel disgusting. For being like, this is such a big commercial. Everybody. Look, it's so inclusive. Right? No, like he was promoting that, you know, just doing day to day tasks is, you know, a huge accomplishment. You should be so proud. When really no, you're just living life day to day now. You know, swimming and winning a gold medal at the Olympics or Paralympics? Yes, superhuman, kudos to you. You deserve the commercial but the day to day stuff. It sort of demoralizes I guess, and diminishes the what people with disabilities do every day. Right and puts it on like the oh my god, you're so brave. That's the other phrase, you are so brave, that you hear a lot of right. So I feel like that's something particularly as communicators, we need to be cognizant of when we are creating campaigns, and when we are creating content overall, are we doing it because it's tokenism? Or like, oh, we just need to we need to check a box? Or is it being authentic to what we're trying to do? And do we have those policies and things in place within our organizations that speak to like, we were hiring people with disabilities, they have access to the information they need, versus we're just hiring them, and then we're, like, well, figure it out. Kind of situations. Right? So yes.

Ashley Nemeth:

Yeah. That the tokenism that tokenism piece like, and I think one of the problems that I've noticed in communications, you know, in it, when we talk about like inclusion, right, is that, like, we're talking inclusion, oh, we got to make sure that we have, you know, an individual using a wheelchair in that photo. And then we have someone of colour in that photo, somebody who represents, you know, the queer community in that photo. And they're trying to, like, make sure like these staged photos have all of these people.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah.

Ashley Nemeth:

The reality is, is that a lot of disabilities are invisible. So, you know, putting someone in the photo who utilizes a wheelchair, I mean, a great like, but is it true representation? Or are you just trying to show that you consider these things, right? Like, when you have, you know, ads and things where it's like, an individual in a wheelchair, and they're kind of staged? You know? Why, like, What's your intention for that? Like, what do you what are you trying to get across? Because that's not inclusion?

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

No.

Ashley Nemeth:

Right? Like, by any means. It's not, it's absolutely not inclusion, and that's, you know, in the disability community, you know, for, you know, people of, you know, different races and ethnicities, you know, that's the thing, right, like, inclusion isn't making sure that there's one of us in a photo.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

We can talk about that for hours and hours and hours.

Ashley Nemeth:

Oh, yeah.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

But let's get to the question that, you know, tries to bring in hope and inspire, you know, what advice would you give businesses, and this is, again, not being like, actually, you're the expert in all things. But rather, you know, from your experience, what advice would you give businesses who are looking to improve their communication strategies to be more inclusive?

Ashley Nemeth:

I think it's hard to say, I look at your content from all kinds of angles, right? Like, try to put yourself in the shoes. Like, if I couldn't see this ad? What is it? What is it? What is it? What am I say? What am I conveying? Right? You know, and try to really, like, look at your content. And I always say, like, I've always said, like, you know, when someone says something really stupid, I'll say, you know, I think you should just say that back to yourself out loud, and just sit on it for a moment. And, and I say that, like, you know, kind of tongue in cheek, but it's true, right? Read your content out loud. And, you know, just kind of sit with that does it? Does it really conveyed the message that you want to convey? Right. And I think, you know, the other one is just to, like, learn, and be open minded and take small steps. It's not about changing everything overnight. It's about you know, making little steps like, using how to, you know, using styles and word or, you know, like, just, you know, learning and changing behaviors slowly and integrating it in authentically.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah. Yeah. And I think that really answers my next question is what's one step that they can take to make their communications more accessible to everyone? And it's educating yourself. And, you know, I like to say, the lowest hanging fruit, because you see them everywhere are with images, add your alt text, right, unless it is decorative, right, you know, and what we mean by decorative and and correct me if I'm wrong here, actually, if it's literally a circle, on a page, because you're like, it just adds a little bit of colour. It's pretty, that is decorative. You don't need to hear that. But if it is something that is, it's being used as a way to provide more context, or provide information in some way, give it all text. And if it's on social media, if you're using an image, you're using it for a reason, it is not decorative. It needs it's all text or image description.

Ashley Nemeth:

Yeah, and you know, I think like those are that's like, one of the easiest for accessibility is to add alt text to any image, right? Like, if it's a photo, add alt text, it's a graph, alt text. You know, like, what are you trying to convey? Alt text.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah. Is there another tip or step that you would say you know that they can start to people can start to incorporate right away to help them be more accessible in what they're creating, whether it be on social on web or in documents?

Ashley Nemeth:

I think just be like mindful, I think we've really come to a place where we over design. We've overcomplicated like, you know, it's like a poster contest every day. When it comes to content, you know, like, less is more, right? It's really more readable for everyone. So I think just like being cognizant of, you know, over decorating, you know, it's like, it's like when you like, go into someone's house, right, like, your accent wall of roses is great. Would you do your whole house and it? Probably not?

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Yeah, yeah. It reminds me of that quote from Coco Chanel, where she basically says, before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one piece one article, because less is more. So Ashley, I can't thank you enough for being on this episode. I have, you know, I love talking to you about this stuff and learning more and getting more perspective and how I can be more accessible and inclusive and what I do. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I do have one final question. And I promise this isn't a doozy unless it is and you're just like, I have so many options. But what is your favorite caffeinated, go to beverage.

Ashley Nemeth:

Well, I have a problem? A real caffeine problem. It doesn't really affect me anymore, because I feel like it's just part of my bloodstream. So I'm a coffee girl. Definitely, but not like a fancy coffee girl because I want to taste the coffee. Right? So like, I don't want my coffee cake. So I so I'm very much like you got a really good cup of coffee with a little bit of cream and a little bit of sugar. But I want to taste like the coffee. I don't want it to be dessert.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

I love that. I love that. So again, Ashley, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. If people want to get in touch with you or follow you on social where can they find you?

Ashley Nemeth:

Yeah, they can. I'm on Instagram at@AshleyNemethOfficial. And I do have a website. It's in the process of being changed over and added to through some help of some amazing people. So that will be changed by my website is AshleyNemeth.com and I'm on Facebook is Ashley Nemeth as well, same with LinkedIn.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

Amazing, and I'll put all that information in the description for this episode. Again, Ashley, thank you so much. I really appreciate the time.

Ashley Nemeth:

Oh, thank you love it.

Matisse Hamel-Nelis:

You've been listening to a special episode of the PR and Lattes podcast. Make sure you stay up to date on all things that are happening with PRN lattes by visiting our website prandlattes.com. You can also follow us on social media PR and lattes on Instagram and PR and lattes on LinkedIn. Thank you so much for listening to this special series in honour of Global Accessibility Awareness Day. We'll have a new episode for you each day this week focused on a different aspect around digital accessibility and communications. So make sure you're following PR & Lattes, wherever you listen to your podcasts. I've been your host Matisse Hamel-Nelis And I can't wait to share our next episode with you with a brand new latte. Until then, bye for now.