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Accessibility in the Auto Industry with Alan Hejl

May 20, 2022


Welcome to 3Play Media’s Allied Podcast, a show on all things accessibility. This month’s episode features Alan Hejl and is about accessibility in the auto industry.

Alan Hejl is the Accessibility Strategy Manager at General Motors and a disability justice advocate. Alan has a passion for bringing people together and connecting different skill teams to ensure people with disabilities are included in the automotive design process, and promoting the accessibility of autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, and beyond to be inclusive for all. He brings his work in accessibility advocacy to his community, providing guidance and advice to local businesses and government on how to meet and exceed ADA standards for the true inclusion of people with disabilities.

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Episode transcript

ELISA LEWIS: Welcome to Allied, the podcast for everything you need to know about web and video accessibility. I’m your host, Elisa Lewis. And I sit down with an accessibility expert each month to learn about their work.

Every episode has a transcript published with it, which can be viewed by accessing the episode on the 3Play Media website. If you like what you hear on Allied, please subscribe or leave a review. Allied is brought to you by 3Play Media, your video accessibility partner. Visit us at www.3playmedia.com to learn why thousands of customers trust us to make their video and media accessible.

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Today, we’re joined by Alan Hejl, the accessibility strategy manager at General Motors and a disability justice advocate. Alan has a passion for bringing people together and connecting different skilled teams to ensure people with disabilities are included in the automotive design process, and promoting the accessibility of autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, and beyond, to be inclusive for everyone. Alan brings his work in accessibility advocacy to his community, providing guidance and advice to local businesses and government on how to meet and exceed ADA standards for the true inclusion of people with disabilities.

Thank you so much, Alan. We’re so happy to have you on the show today to talk about accessibility in the auto industry. Before we dive in to our theme today, I’d love to know a little bit more about you. What’s something important about who you are that’s not covered in your formal bio?

ALAN HEJL: Thanks for that, great question. And thanks again for having me today. I’d say something about who I am is, I have a low tolerance for injustice. [CHUCKLES]

And I was describing to a friend just the other day of when I was in the Scouts as a youth. And there were things that weren’t right. And so I helped start a new Boy Scout troop. And I feel like some of those early lessons in my life have translated to different moments in my career to where, if I see an opportunity for better inclusion to happen, I try to go at things from a few different angles to help promote that.

And as I collect all these instances through my life, I think I’ve realized that it really just comes down to this. I can’t stand for injustice too long if I see it happening. So it’s something I try to bring every day in helping make the world a better place.

ELISA LEWIS: That’s great. It’s pretty cool that you’ve been an advocate from your early days. Is there something that you would maybe attribute in your childhood to that? Or is it just something that you saw and just felt a calling to really help make the world a bit more just?

ALAN HEJL: That’s a very introspective question. I mean, maybe it’s too many cartoons, things like Captain Planet and others. I’m not really sure what the foundation of that was.

But I think it is really listening to history here, especially in the US. And also having role models, maybe both non-fictional and fictional, who also have low tolerances for injustice. I’ve also been told by my parents that my second word as a baby was Batman. So maybe that has something to do with it.

ELISA LEWIS: Cool, I also love the phrasing that you use there, a low tolerance for injustice. I think I’m going to have to add that to my vocabulary. Diving into our topic for today, from making General Motors more accessible for disabled employees to ensuring that your products are accessible for customers with disabilities, and then to also advocating for accessibility in your home community of Ferndale, Michigan, it’s clear that access has permeated a lot of your life. From your example that you just gave as well, it started at a young age. How did you first get involved in accessibility work in the auto industry and local transportation issues?

ALAN HEJL: Yeah, great question. A lot of it stems from the passion that lights my fire every day is, my partner is a wheelchair user and has a spinal cord injury. Her and I actually met while we were both at Ford Motor Company and quickly I got involved in the ERG alongside her. And I got to learn a lot through the employee resource group that Ford had of what accessibility looks like and what issues employees with disabilities were facing and how to start tackling those.

And then, I’d say during my time at Ford Motor Company and growing my career into autonomous vehicles, starting to see that opportunity of just talking about accessibility with people. And I’d say, that’s when it extended to my personal life and more of my community, is finding out that often, people maybe don’t discuss accessibility and don’t talk about how customers with disabilities use their products enough.

And where steering something like Ford Motor Company at the time seemed like an immovable mountain, I was able to get involved really heavily in the Metro Detroit region and my local city of Ferndale to start asking about how to handle accessibility and how to improve equity for people with disabilities in our community. And that opened a lot of doors. And people, I think, especially in urban planning and other areas, this is a hot topic for every city across the US. So people are really receptive to those conversations and just having a curious mind and asking.

ELISA LEWIS: Yeah, absolutely. It definitely seems like people are becoming more aware and really starting to question things in their environments and their communities. So that’s great. General Motors has a mission to be the most inclusive company in the world. What does this look like on a day-to-day basis?

ALAN HEJL: Yeah, I think this was a really big transformation at General Motors that happened around 2020 where we really took on this mission and added Be Inclusive as a corporate value. And what it really means is to step back and listen. And I think that’s at the core of it is taking a pause from what are maybe very stressful business operations and a lot of things moving at once and just taking a pause and listening to our employees and listen to their experiences and then lean into that. And I think our leadership has done a great job of becoming better listeners and translating that into action.

ELISA LEWIS: And can you share a little bit more about GM Able, General Motors’ employee resource group for people with disabilities?

ALAN HEJL: Yeah, so GM Able is a grassroots group that, it’s actually one of the older ERGs for corporations in the US where it was started as an affinity group in 1993 as GM People With Disabilities. And from there, it’s grown. It’s had its ups and downs. But again, since we adopted Be Inclusive, our group has more than quadrupled. We’ve gone from 200 members in 2020 to over 970.

And this is something that, as we build identity around what disability is and help expand people’s perception to know that it includes neurodiversity, it includes cognitive disabilities, it includes chronic pain, we’ve really started to build a strong identity around that then really making it clear too that we’re a resource for caregivers, so people who maybe don’t identify with disability themselves but care for parents or children or other family members. And then allyship is really important as well. So knowing that we can’t do it alone. And as anyone who works in the accessibility domain knows, it can be very emotionally tolling to work on something so vital for so long. And the role of an ally in that domain is just so important to keep the momentum and keep the support up.

ELISA LEWIS: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. And it’s fantastic that there’s a group like this that really brings people together and supports everyone in the workplace. I’m curious, just stepping back for a second, was it Be Inclusive, is that what you said? I’m curious, how did Be Inclusive come about as the company mission or goal? Do you know what the foundation or background of really bringing that to the forefront was?

ALAN HEJL: Yeah, there’s certainly some scholars in our diversity, equity, and inclusion team who could speak more to this than I can. But a lot of it came from the events that happened in June 2020 around George Floyd and the amount of response from the US and the globe. And I think a lot of corporations in the US took a look at what they can to do better. And that really fostered the spark and catalyst to what I described earlier of really sitting back and listening and listening to our employees who have experiences.

We had leaders at GM who are Black share their experience of teaching their teenage children how to drive and how to handle a police altercation and go through the ins and outs of that. And to a lot of our white employees, that’s not something every parent has to teach their children. And moments like that really build this culture of, all of us in every group and team in GM, whether it’s the three-person team working on some small widget or a massive program team working on the launch of the next truck, we can all step back and listen. And there’s a lot of power in that.

ELISA LEWIS: Absolutely, yeah, I think that’s great. And it’s interesting to hear a little bit of the background of how that came to be. And it’s wonderful, I think, that GM also is able to realize that all of these pieces of inclusivity, including accessibility, really all go hand-in-hand and are so important and have such a larger impact on everybody than a lot of individuals often realize. So at the time of this recording in May 2022, General Motors home page advertises that you’re making electric vehicles for all, with the goal of putting every driver in an electric vehicle on a scale previously unseen. This is really incredible. It’s very exciting for a future with possibly zero emissions.

And I’d love to learn more about how GM keeps disabled people at the forefront of innovation. I think we’ve seen, particularly over the last several years, technology can be great for accessibility. But it’s also easy for new and advancing technologies to create new barriers. So how is GM ensuring accessibility is at the forefront of this innovation? And what changes are being made to make sure that electric vehicles are accessible?

ALAN HEJL: Yeah, great, great question. And that story of GM launching our campaign for the tagline is EVerybody In with a capital E-V– that tagline has meant so much to our work ahead. I think it was actually the day I went in front of several vice presidents to pitch the need for an accessibility team is when our marketing and comms folks launched the EVerybody In campaign. And that momentum and that power of us committing to creating a future that includes everybody was so important for our work through the lens of disability, inclusion, and accessibility.

And you’re spot on. You have to be very mindful of new technologies as you’re launching to build something that’s truly inclusive or you run the risk of leaving people behind. And that’s always in the forefront of my mind with–

I’d say a moment that lit my fire in this space when we talk about opportunity new technology has was when rideshare services were just launching. My partner and I were in the Bay Area in San Francisco. And we had this day where we were trying to get the rideshare service. They hadn’t even launched in Detroit yet, so it was still a new experience for us. And it was a day in San Francisco that was just pouring rain.

And we just want to get from point A to point B to meet up with our friends. And they had all told us to use Lyft or Uber. And it’s the best way to get around San Francisco. And as we’re getting soaked in the rain, we had to go through ordering three different rides until one stopped to pick us up.

And one of those rides made it clear they wouldn’t pick us up because of my wife’s wheelchair. And others just silently passed us by. And that moment really also transformed my perception of, unless a company really sees and recognize how people with disabilities interact with their products, you get left on the curb. And so that’s one of the missions that really drives me is raising awareness and raising education as we’re going through our electrification transformation of getting people exposed to understanding how people with disabilities interact with their products. And that’s a core foundation of what our team set out to do.

ELISA LEWIS: Absolutely, and thank you for sharing that experience and that story. I’m curious, in addition to that personal story, what are some other examples of barriers in cars that can happen when we don’t include disabled individuals in every step of the design process?

ALAN HEJL: Yeah, a lot of it is also just maybe not recognizing what technologies are accessible and what contributes to better accessibility in a vehicle. The lowest hanging fruit and one that we use very clearly is, there’s a big up and down across the industry. And General Motors isn’t alone. There’s a big up and down of how grab handles are treated.

So something as simple as a driver’s side grab handle, and understanding the importance of that, where maybe to an able-bodied customer or a not disabled customer, that grab handle is maybe an inconvenience. Maybe their head brushes on it when they get in and so it’s easy sometimes for people to decide that that’s not important to have in a vehicle. But for some people with disabilities, having the ability to have perpendicular motion to transfer into a vehicle, that’s a make-or-break decision.

And it’s one of those things that, also as safety improves in vehicles, it’s harder and harder to ever add on a grab handle as an aftermarket add-on because now there’s maybe airbags there or other vital parts that neither a dealership or a third-party mobility upfitter could handle. So something as small as grab handles are one of those things that, unless people really see the value and experience in it, it can often fall to the wayside. And you can see this. You can walk in probably any dealership from any automaker today and see very mixed use of grab handles and how they’re placed.

ELISA LEWIS: Yeah, I love that you used that as an example. I think it’s something that I’ve always seen in cars and taken for granted. But it’s a simple technology. Like, when we think of technology now, we often think of the most innovative and most advanced.

But that is a piece of technology and a tool that, like you described, can have a very significant impact. But if you haven’t had the experience of using it, it appears to be pretty simple. So thank you for sharing that.

I’m curious, what some other modifications that General Motors can make to vehicles are to make them accessible for drivers and passengers with disabilities, thinking back to your example about Lyft and Uber. And non-disabled people might commonly think of a wheelchair accessible van for a disabled passenger. But I know that there are other things to consider and many more pieces of technology that can be pretty impactful.

ALAN HEJL: Yeah, so I’d say one that’s really interesting to me and it’s I was actually in the news just a few months ago where often, in automotive accessibility– we’re one of the most regulated industries from a lens of safety. And it’s because, unlike an iPhone, a vehicle is a 2 to 4 ton object on wheels that has a lot of power and a lot of opportunity for things to go wrong. So safety is really critical to everything we do.

And one of the exciting bits of news that popped up just a couple of months ago is NHTSA, the safety organization that we follow heavily, relaxed guidelines for rental car companies of providing things like hand controls to rental cars. And this is one of those examples of things that, in the past, when a person with a disability calls up a rental car company for modifications that allows them to drive, it can get mishandled. The rental car company can try to say, no, we don’t do xyz vehicles. But we can give you the large ugly one instead because that’s the easiest one for us to do hand controls in.

And often, it’s because it’s the only vehicle that they can do hand controls in, just because of safety regulations. They have to disable the airbags pretty often. And there’s usually a lot of mechanical parts that go in with hand controls. So sometimes, they have to cut certain parts of that foot well to fit them.

But now, with this new NHTSA guidance, I think there were three or four different pillars that really relaxed some of that and opened up opportunity for rental car companies to add these hand control modifications and other controls. And it’s things like that, that as we look ahead as General Motors, being prepared for that opportunity of it’s such a– nobody knows our vehicles better than General Motors. So having the ability to lean into that and find how to best reach customers so that next time a wheelchair user wants to rent a Corvette as they head to the Florida Keys, they can get that. And the rental car company wouldn’t have an excuse to say no.

The other low hanging fruit too is when we look at digital accessibility in our vehicles, where the head unit and the HMI is more important to the customer than ever before, leaning into that with– I think there’s a lot of quick wins to be gained of focusing on digital accessibility through the lens of those interfaces in the vehicle. And that’s an opportunity for us to really explore. And it’s something that, of course, anyone who designs software knows, it’s not magic and it takes time and effort. But to an automotive company where often our biggest limitation is mass and physical parts and that delivery, software is actually just one of the biggest quick wins we can get.

ELISA LEWIS: Yeah, I think that’s such an interesting thing that you brought up, I think, in this conversation, even thinking about accessibility as just being able to access the car. But accessibility is really being able to access all features of the car and having that equal experiences as any other individual. So I’m glad that you brought up the point about the interface.

And that’s a big piece of cars nowadays is the technology. And from not just the car functioning as a vehicle, but all the different pieces that come along with it. So I think that’s a really great point.

I’m curious. We talked a little bit about electric vehicles. In addition to electric vehicles, I know that you do a lot of work with autonomous vehicles as well. I’m curious, first, if you could give a little bit of a definition of what autonomous vehicles are.

I know that there is still a little bit of mystery and uncertainty there. And then, while it might take a long time for driverless cars to become ubiquitous, it certainly seems that autonomous vehicles have the potential to increase automobile accessibility and certainly independence for individuals with disabilities. So I’m curious to hear a little bit more about your thoughts there.

ALAN HEJL: Yeah, I guess to unpack the first part of how we define autonomous vehicles, I think the industry has really rallied around the SAE definition. So there’s the SAE level one through five, where level one is kind of like your basic cruise control that we have today in just about every car. Level two is that adaptive cruise control, where it’s like the added safety systems that still definitely have to have hands on the wheel, full attention, but it helps a little bit.

And where we see, I think, the industry largely is at in systems that exist on the road from some newer electric vehicle companies are really leaning into what’s defined as level three, where it’s that really robust self-driving system, but only in limited areas that have been clearly defined and mapped, and your vehicle maybe has some awareness and intelligence of the place it’s in, so usually, very simple highways and freeways where driving is pretty simple.

Level four is where we start to get into emerging things, so really, from beginning to end, a self-driving system that can get you most of the way, but can’t handle all the cases. And so it still requires driver participation a little bit. But maybe it’s as simple as geofence. I think this is where the industry is still redefining what those SAE levels are as SAE level four is going through a transformation and some solutions are hitting the market.

SAE level five, now that’s the dream. And that’s where this is the fully self-driving vehicle that never requires a person. And you just get in and it takes you to where you want to go. And that’s where I think we’re still in a little bit of science fiction for the future. But it’s one that we know is going to be here before we know it.

So I hope that defines what autonomy is at a high level. And I think what we see is, through the lens of disability inclusion, is really listening to the customers who want that experience. They want a safe ride that can get them to the things they love without having to be judged, without having to face discrimination.

And this is when we look at how paratransit systems and a lot of public transportation in the US works today. It’s not easy. And anyone who’s navigated the system knows, it takes almost as much time to schedule as it does to take a ride. And then, if you get through scheduling, maybe you get a driver who isn’t properly trained or doesn’t have the right attitude or maybe asks intruding questions. And when a lot of people, I think, get excited for autonomous vehicles, it’s just being able to go out do what you want without somebody there to get in the way or judge.

On the flip side too, this is where we get into the future of autonomy. And what we need to be aware of is, a lot of what’s defined in things like the ADA are all based on fixed route transportation that assumes that there’s a driver there. So when we look at the horizon of new standards, so much of that is assuming that there’s a person somewhere in the mix to help you get up the slope defined for, like, how buses work.

It’s assuming that there’s a person there to help you tie down a chair or help get to your seat. And a lot of that is transforming right now. And that’s where it’s really important to include people with disabilities in the process all the way from early design, early customer experience mapping, all the way through execution.

ELISA LEWIS: Yeah, so on that note, it’s a great segue to what I wanted to ask next which is, we’ve seen many articles pointing to the fact that individuals with disabilities are continuously being left out in the planning process of autonomous vehicles. And I’m curious if you can share a little bit about how General Motors is approaching autonomous vehicles and accessibility together.

ALAN HEJL: Yeah, great question. So we work really closely with crews on a breadth of things to address accessibility and our autonomous future. I think the biggest thing is really taking the mantle of where so many discussions about autonomous vehicle have happened through the lens of maybe public policy or from communications. And I think what we see as the biggest opportunity is to put it in the hands of engineers.

Engineers are the ones who know how to solve problems. We also at General Motors, we have some amazing engineers with disabilities who truly understand what it takes to achieve this. We have just an awesome community, too, of people who have shared their stories and have connected with leaders in our organization.

And when we think of the future of bringing disability inclusion and accessibility to autonomous vehicles, taking a strategy of including people with disabilities at every stage of the way is the only way to get there. And it’s got to be done, I’d say, by engineers with disabilities, customer experience experts with disabilities, and that’s the only way it’s going to happen. It’s not going to happen through public policy. And it’s not going to happen through PR and comms. But having engineers at the table and meeting with the community and getting out there, I think that’s going to really transform our industry.

ELISA LEWIS: Yeah, that’s a great perspective. I think you’re right. At the end of the day, it really is about people, and the right people being in there, and people being open to feedback and to learning and to making sure that what they’re creating works for a wide range of individuals with different needs. I know we started the conversation a little bit about some of your personal life and interest in advocacy and justice. I’m curious if you could share more how your professional career has impacted your approach to disability justice in your community and vise versa.

ALAN HEJL: Yeah, I see a lot of it building on each other. And it’s one that, I’ve gone through stages of keeping them separate and tying them together. And I think with my new role at General Motors as our accessibility strategy manager, I truly get to fulfill that mission of bringing my whole self to work. And that’s a part of our Be Inclusive and sense of belonging that GM is driving. And it’s where, so often in engineering and in the automotive industry, it’s sometimes easy to forget really how people get from point A to point B.

So having that experience of being able to interact with my community and fighting for accessibility on the front lines with just my local city government and local businesses, I’m able to build those experiences and funnel that lens in through General Motors and the work that I do. And it also provides just a lot of passion and relief to me as well where, if I’m not able to get something through in accessibility at General Motors, I can come back to my community and I can help a restaurant get some low-top seating to mix in with their high-top seating on the side. And that, to me, helps really keep up my personal momentum of, there’s always wins to be had. And it’s always an opportunity to grow and learn too.

Maybe one experience that– this touched, I’d say, all layers of both the community side, my role in leadership in GM Able, our employee resource group, and what we’re doing for product, is around last year’s Autism Acceptance Month where we’re in this transformation of going from Autism Awareness Month to Autism Acceptance Month, to really sit back, listen to voices with autism, and embrace how we can do better, and taking some lessons learned from my community where we worked a lot with the local police department on some of their messaging around Autism Acceptance. I was able to bring that up through the ERG to transform. It had been labeled awareness. And we relabeled it acceptance.

And then it was also able to listen to our employees with autism who wanted to share their experience of how they interact with a vehicle. So this is kind of like the chain of being able to take that community work and translate it into action in all these different domains. And I look at that lesson as something I try to sustain as much as I can.

ELISA LEWIS: Yeah, that’s a really cool story and I’m sure very rewarding to see everything tied together and come full circle. Yeah, it’s like a little bit of a cycle, like, taking what you’re learning from one place and implementing in the next is super exciting. So on that note, I’d love to learn a little bit more about some of the work that you do in Ferndale to make the city a more accessible place. I know you also focus on advocating for inclusion over compliance. And I’m curious to hear a little bit about what this means and how it impacts your work in Ferndale.

ALAN HEJL: Yeah, thanks for asking, and maybe one of my favorite topics. We just had our commission meeting on Monday so it’s fresh in my mind. But when we started our commission– and our commission had existed in the past, more with a mission in the mid-2000s of getting our public facilities and buildings to really start to meet ADA requirements.

When our commission was rebooted in, I think, it was late 2018, where we sat down with a few council members, we really talked about there were new businesses opening in Ferndale at the time that weren’t meeting ADA standards. But then, having such a diverse commission where we have neurodiversity represented, we have mobility disabilities represented, and we had the deaf community represented as well. We know that ADA has some gaps. And when it comes to neurodiversity and what a deaf-friendly space looks like, those aren’t necessarily captured in building code today. And they’re not captured in the ADA today.

So as we look at our commission of really promoting that the ADA is there to ensure that people with disabilities feel equal in the spaces that they’re in. That’s really the root of it. And some of that gets translated into building code to support mobility disabilities. But ultimately, it’s about the feeling that people experience.

And when we look at city government, a lot of folks hadn’t thought of it through that lens of the compliance part. When we talk about accessibility, conversations would often jump to ADA compliance. But then when we asked if they’ve ever reviewed this with someone with a disability before, they said no. And there’s examples all over of curb cuts placed maybe 50 feet away from the accessible routes. And things like that are just common-sense improvements that, if they included people with disabilities and really thought of how a person with disability would interact with it, it would easily change.

So that’s something we’ve gotten to sit down with most of the city departments in Ferndale to have this kind of discussion. And we’ve built some just amazing allies in the DDA and our public works department, across the police department. And I think every city council member has touched our commission at some point for some topic.

The thing we’re really looking forward to coming up in just one month is we’ll be operating a sensory space at Ferndale Pride, which is one of the largest Pride festivals in the state of Michigan. And we get to build out a space where people with neurodiversity can feel welcome and can escape the crowds for a little bit. So when we talk about inclusion over compliance, there’s nothing that mandates the sensory space today. But adding our experience and telling that story and working with others to build out this space where people can feel comfortable, that’s what inclusion looks like.

ELISA LEWIS: Yeah, that’s really exciting. I’ll be curious to hear more after the event and would love to hear how that sensory space goes. I think to your point, the ADA is great and the mission and goal of it is great. But certainly, there have been so many changes since the ADA was written.

And so really, using it as that guiding mission, but not as the end-all be-all, and really thinking about people and what individuals need and actually what the experience is like is so important. So I think that’s exciting that you’ve been able to help others take a step back and think, well, have you actually tried this or asked someone who has a disability how this works for them rather than just like going off of a set of guidelines. So that’s really exciting.

ALAN HEJL: There’s another part of it too. And it’s, when our commission first formed, we had the conversation of, are we going to offer the carrot or the stick, and figure out how we can approach that because, I’d say, when we were born is out of frustration of, there were buildings that weren’t accessible and there were processes that weren’t accessible. But through some wisdom of people in our commission, we really wanted to take a proactive approach and one that was welcoming.

So we went through our first mission and one– again, we’re doubling down in advance of Disability Pride Month, is offering businesses an award to highlight themselves, allow customers to nominate businesses, but also businesses can self-nominate. But we define some criteria that, if you think there’s effort that’s been had to include people with disabilities, that’s something we want to recognize. And it’s not about meeting ADA minimums. It’s about really taking the extra step to do that.

And our first and probably the biggest award was to a local cannabis dispensary, which was controversial a little bit because no one knew how they interact with the community. But this cannabis dispensary took time to train all of its 80-person staff of how to use basic sign language. And they hosted classes every Saturday morning to do that.

And if you go to this place, their security guards out front are trained to ask if you need any help. They have a foldable wheelchair ready to help if somebody needs it to get in. And there’s no other business in our city that’s as proactive as that. So it was a surprise to find it in that industry segment. But it’s one that tells a really vibrant story of what inclusion looks like.

ELISA LEWIS: Yeah, absolutely, that’s really cool. So as we wrap up, I’m curious if you could pick one or two pieces of advice to share with our listeners who want to make their company or their community or products more inclusive for people with disabilities, what would that be?

ALAN HEJL: Yeah, I think it was in the question of the community part is really important. And it’s sometimes thinking about accessibility and how to improve disability inclusion, it can feel sometimes like it’s you against the world. And it can feel like maybe you’re the only one really pushing for it or thinking of it. And it can be lonely and isolating.

But where you can find success is in finding community. And I can guarantee you that you have neighbors, you have colleagues who are passionate about accessibility. And finding ways to seek those people out– at a company like General Motors, we have GM Able, our employee resource group where we’re very open about sharing those experiences. But taking time to find community, both at work, in where you live, or in your region, just, it’s so important.

And I can’t stress that enough of, no one’s alone. And you’ll find your tribe. And you’ll find your people who can help you on your mission to build a more inclusive future. So without sounding too hokey, it’s all about those relationships and the community you build.

ELISA LEWIS: Thank you so much for that advice. And lastly, where can our listeners find you and connect with you online to stay on top of everything that you’re doing, both in your community and at General Motors?

ALAN HEJL: Yeah, I want to offer, probably LinkedIn is the best place to find me. My last name is spelled H-E-J-L. And it’s very unique. I think I’m one of two maybe in the globe, Alan Hejl, but that’s a good first step. And then I try to find out how to meet people where they’re at. So whether it’s a quick morning phone call or just connecting over email afterward, but LinkedIn, I think, is a great start spot.

ELISA LEWIS: Perfect, thank you so much.

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