accessiBe is the world's first and leading web accessibility solution that uses AI and automation to convert websites to full accessibility and ADA compliance.

Michael Hingson
Michael Hingson Michael Hingson

The company has announced that internationally acclaimed lecturer and New York Times bestselling author Michael Hingson has agreed to join the company as Chief Vision Officer (CVO).

As CVO, Hingson will play a key role in helping accessiBe spread awareness about the immense impact that non-accessible websites have on people with any kind of disability. It's a task that meshes perfectly with Hingson's decades as a living stereotype-breaker, demonstrating every day that people with disabilities can live a full life once artificial barriers have been removed from their path.

Hingson, for his part, is enthusiastic about proving that everyone can and should be able to access online content, as long as they're assisted with the right tools.

Working towards an accessible internet

Shir Ekerling, CEO of accessiBe, has always been clear about his long-term goal: to make the entire internet fully accessible by 2025. It's no small challenge; there are millions of websites, blogs, and apps, and according to recent research conducted by accessiBe in 2020, only 2% can be considered fully accessible.

The goal of an accessible internet has been blocked for a long time by technical challenges and high prices. Manual accessibility solutions are very expensive and take months to implement, making them impossible for all but the largest of organizations, while affordable, automated alternatives simply don't do the job.

Growing understanding about the importance of accessible internet, improved disability rights activism, and a wave of ADA title III lawsuits against businesses with non-accessible sites pushed the desire among website owners to make their sites accessible, but they lacked an effective and affordable solution. SMBs, non-profit groups, and well-meaning individuals alike felt they had no way to make their websites accessible, despite their best wishes.

This is the context that gave rise to accessiBe. Ekerling and his fellow founders had previously worked in a web design agency and had an inside understanding of the difficulties of building accessible sites. They agreed that only a combination of AI and automation could enable an efficient, cost-effective, and scalable accessibility solution that could handle any site. In this way, accessiBe developed a simple process that requires just one line of code to be pasted into the website template, without any coding or techie knowhow. The solution does everything else by itself, fixing the whole site to be fully accessible within 38 hours and scanning for and fixing new issues every 24 hours.

Now that accessiBe has a truly affordable and functional accessibility solution, all that remains is to roll it out to the world — which is why the role of Chief Vision Officer has been created.

Hingson's many business contacts from his 25-year career as a machine salesman in the hi-tech world, his solid reputation as a trustworthy thought leader, and his own powerful communication skills make him the ideal person to represent people with disabilities to an able-oriented world. When Hingson speaks, he helps businesses and website owners remember that people with disabilities are another equal target audience who should be included and not marginalized.

Although Hingson's physical sight is damaged, there's nothing wrong with his ability to perceive new possibilities, something he shares with the accessiBe team. As CVO, Hingson will work to realize their shared vision to build a more 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.

Disabilities are no barrier

Hingson shot to fame when he escaped from the Twin Towers during the 9/11 attack. Together with his guide dog, Roselle, and a number of fully-sighted colleagues, Hingson descended 78 floors through smoke and dust to reach safety, just before the tower collapsed behind him. This dramatic experience has been retold many times, as Hingson abandoned his career in sales to become a public speaker, addressing conferences, groups, TV and radio shows, and numerous journalists.

Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, Hingson published his first book, Thunder Dog, about his life with Roselle and the trust between them that enabled her to lead him out of the collapsing towers. It shot straight to the New York Times Bestseller list, and was followed by another, Running with Roselle, 2 years later.

But Hingson deserves fame not just for his astonishing escape from the World Trade Center, but also for his lifelong determination that his lack of sight wouldn't be a barrier for him. He enjoyed an active and fun childhood, roaming the outdoors, riding his bike, and serving as a full member of the Boy Scouts, where he rose to become an Eagle Scout. His parents gave him the same freedom that they offered his fully-sighted older brother and wouldn't hold him back.

As an adult, Hingson continued along the same path. He studied at the University of California Irvine, graduating with honors and earning a master's degree in physics as well as a secondary teaching credential. Hingson enjoyed a successful sales career for 25 years, selling braille readers and data entry machines in the world of hi-tech, right up until that fateful day in the Twin Towers.

Hingson insists that he hasn't really changed his profession. He's still in sales, which he loves, but now he's selling messages about trust, hope, and adventure. At the end of 2020, Hingson began life coaching to help people overcome their fears, and with the new partnership with accessiBe, is also educating people about the importance and ease of an accessible internet.