Celebrating our differences - Debra Ruh [Interview]

Sneha Moorthy
I
39
min read
Celebrating our differences - Debra Ruh [Interview]
Celebrating our differences -Debra Ruh [Interview]

About Debra Ruh

Debra Ruh founded Ruh Global Impact in 2013. Her catalyst for starting RGC was her daughter, Sarah, born with Down syndrome. Debra has worked as a global inclusion strategist since 2001. Before she became an entrepreneur she was an executive in the banking industry for many years. Debra is a global leader and has worked with countries, UN agencies, national and multinational firms all over the world helping then create programs, strategies, and processes that fully include persons with disabilities.

Aishwarya Jain

Celebrating our differences -Debra Ruh[Interview]

We have the pleasure of welcoming Debra Ruh to our interview series. I am Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team, before we begin just a quick introduction of peopleHum - peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work with AI and automation technologies.

We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.

Aishwarya

Welcome, Debra. We’re thrilled to have you.

Debra

Thank you, thank you so much for having me, I am very honored to be part of the program. today

Aishwarya 

Thank you so much. So I want to begin with the first question we had for you Debra, which is

Tell us something about your work at the Ruh Global Impact and TechAccess. 

Debra

Well, we're all about the impact, we want to make the world a better place for all people for all inhabitants of our planet. 

So the work that we do is all about social good and social impact when we just think that especially in the time in the world when it is so confusing and so upside down and people are panicked and, afraid of what's gonna happen with the Covid-19.

Right now. I just think it's so important that we support each other and we help each other and we look at what works for all of us. We don't just stick to nationalism. I think it's very important that we see the world as filled with human beings that we want to support and help, and so TechAccess supports that. 

I'll step back even a little bit more. I was in the banking industry and I had a good career in the banking industry, but I had started to feel like I wasn't doing enough, and I wanted to have a bigger impact to help more people.

So, when my daughter was in middle school or we call it middle school or junior high school here in the States, she really wasn't reading. She wasn't doing math and I thought, I never thought she would catch up with all the students, but I thought she would be further along than she was at the time. 

And so I talked to experts about her future in the workforce and pretty much they were like, Well, she can't join the workforce. She has nothing to add to the workforce. She could bring shopping carts in from a big store, like a Walmart or a Target or something like that. 

And I just thought it was unfortunate that they didn't see the value that my daughter could bring to the workforce. And it started making me think, who else are they underestimating? And so I decided to create TechAccess in 2001 and our focus, the majority of our employees at the time over 80% were people technologists with disabilities from all over the world. Because we always telework which you mentioned - the future of work. 

Well, we're all experiencing, most of, a lot of us around the world right now are experiencing telework, telecommunications, and, or telecommuting, which is an old term, but meaning the same thing. And so the company thrived and built it to a multimillion-dollar business. It was great. We helped corporations make sure that their websites, their intranets, their software, their apps were fully accessible to people with disabilities. 

But when the financial crisis happened in 2009 and 10, I, like a lot of small businesses in the United States as well as all over the world, got in trouble because the bank we were with failed, because of the other banks being greedy. And, you know, they were the first line of banks that fell that had nothing to do with what had happened. 

And when they failed, they called my notes. So then I started failing. And so we merged the company with another company to protect the employees because once again, my employees were people with disabilities, and at the time, seven million Americans had been laid off, and my employees really just did not have a chance in that marketplace because still, we don't see the value of employing people with disabilities. 

So I went, I merged with the other company. All of my employees got jobs, which was great. And then in March 2013 I created Ruh Global Impact, really Ruh global Communications at the time. But we changed the name of Ruh Global Impact, and now about 85 to maybe 90% of my team are people with disabilities.

And we work, as you said, with major multinational corporations and UN agencies to really help make sure that the world understands that we all or better, we are all included. I mean, instead of deciding certain people don't add value because they're from a developed country, their skin is too dark, too light, too whatever. We really are trying to break down the barriers of what it means to truly be human.

We really are trying to break down the barriers of what it means to truly be human

And excuse me for that long, long answer.

Aishwarya 

No, that is wonderful. Actually, it's a very impactful thing that you're doing because, you know, inclusivity is such a taboo sometimes because, you know, people don't really understand what do you mean by inclusivity, and we just keep talking about the world. But there's really no meaning to it. And I thank you for that.

Debra

Good point. 

Aishwarya 

I truly think that you know, you are an inspiration to a lot of people and the cause of people with disabilities.

So what I want to understand is that, of course, you know this cause is very personal to you. Can you share some experiences and how your journey has been so far? 

Debra

When my daughter was born with down syndrome, the doctors did not diagnose her with down syndrome right away. Typically, when a person is born with down syndrome, just looking from the lens you know, which was my world view at the time. Most babies with down syndrome are diagnosed before they're born or at birth. 

And so when my daughter was born, she wasn't diagnosed with down syndrome, but she did not perform well on. I think it's called the Apgar Scale where they determine how healthy the baby is. And she had low muscle tone and they had said there were some things that she did not rate as well. You don't want them to rate your baby right when she's born. But that's you know what we do. And so four months later, a doctor suspected that she might have Down syndrome.

And so they did the testing, and I remember them coming to my husband and me, which was four months old and telling us that she had Down Syndrome and just the way they presented the information was quite troubling because it was like, well, you have a broken baby. They didn't really say that, but in a way they did, right?

And so, it just was all doom and gloom, and by that time I had the joy of not only carrying my daughter for nine months but then my daughter four months old. So I knew who she was, and I just tried not to believe that she would have such a dire life that they were predicting. 

And, you know, we walked along the journey and I remember thinking that I didn't know people with disabilities, but actually I was surrounded by people with disabilities, as we all are, because we're all human beings and we all have abilities and disabilities, and some of them are more apparent than others. But it doesn't mean you can't contribute to society if society will allow us to contribute. 

And often in many countries, including my own country, the United States, people with disabilities, are underestimated. People are underestimated all the time. Women are underestimated. Women are still losing hundreds of millions of dollars every single year due to, the difference and the pay disparity that we're saying. 

So people that have darker color skin than I do, are often underestimated. It's just ridiculous how we decide who is and is not valuable. And I disagree with all of that.

It's just ridiculous how we decide who is and is not valuable. And I disagree with all of that.

So and then, of course, as we live our lives, more of us will become disabled. So my husband of 38 years has acquired early-onset dementia which is really to me a scary thing.

And we've been walking the journey a couple of years now. But my husband got a traumatic brain injury when he was a child. He was hit by a car when he was 11 years old. It was a very, very serious accident. And so his brain is aging differently than somebody that didn't have such a major accident like that. And it's, it's been very hard.

And also this is something that we're seeing a lot of people walk over a certain age, and so I also, as I've learned more and more about the work, have understood that I myself have disabilities. 

I know I've struggled with anxiety and depression due to a lot of things, it doesn't help with this COVID virus. I mean, the Coronavirus right now, scaring everybody to death, but it runs in my family. And also I was diagnosed later in life with ADHD more of a hidden disability. But at the same time, that impacts anxiety and depression, too.

So I think it just means that I'm a normal human being or, you know, an average human being or a typical human being, whatever word you want to use. But we keep, we keep deciding certain people aren't as good as other people, and I just think that's wrong. And I think that society disables people.

I think that society disables people

...and we need to work harder in making sure everybody is accepted included and given all the benefits of education, everything else they could do so that they can thrive. 

Aishwarya

Absolutely, and I think a lot of people, even though they're aware of this and literate, they understand all this, they just choose to stay blind. So that's really disheartening because you just really don't want to see that, you know, that they’re all human beings like you said, so treating them equally is the number one thing that we should see. And thank you so much for that beautiful answer. 

The next part of it is I want to ask you what do you believe are still the gaps that organizations have to, you know, think about to make disability inclusion, real and work for everyone. 

Debra

Well, I think there's still a lot of work that needs to be done all over the world. And here in the United States, even though my work is global, I do live in the United States, as I've said, and so we sue each other in the United States. We create laws, and then we sue each other, and we sue each other for a lot of money. And so we're seeing a lot of litigation, a lot of lawsuits in the United States because websites are inaccessible and apps are inaccessible and things like that. 

And now that more people have been sent home to work so that we all can stay safe, we're seeing a lot of accessibility issues that we've been talking about for years and years. And accessibility, when done right, it improves access for all people. So it's really good. And there were a lot of people that are having access issues. 

So we actually expect during this Coronavirus that we're going to see lawsuits pick up after a while because people are realizing they don't truly have access as they need. And our rural areas still don't have good access to even the Internet. And I've written about that before and these are problems that we, of course, are seeing in developing countries. But it's happening in developed countries too. 

So I think a mistake sometimes we make as people is that we assume developed countries have more knowledge than the developing countries.

We assume developed countries have more knowledge than the developing countries

...and I think that's absolutely not true. I see the developing countries often are more innovative and they're more creative and there's more diversity in the discussions when developing countries get involved. 

I think at a time of great stress and fear and everything, this is an opportunity for us to really look at how are we including people? What is diversity? How do we make sure things are accessible to people with disabilities but to all people? 

And so you, once again, you just use the term future of work. Well, it is certainly the future of work. It's the NOW of work, right? Is that if you don't have a diverse workforce, if you're not including women with different backgrounds, intersectionality, women with disabilities, women from India, women from Central America, women from Africa, women, you know in all those places. If you're not including women, that are part of the LGBT community, women that have different religious experiences.  

So this is truly about what does it mean to be truly human? What does it and how do the employers protect us and encourage us to be our best selves because we know that diversity really really plays well into innovation and creativity, which equals productivity. I think we still have a lot of work to do. But that's why the work you're doing is so important because it's gonna take all of us doing this. 

Aishwarya 

Yes, that's correct. And again, you know it's all about inclusivity, global inclusivity and, you know, just not talk about what color you are, but actually look at the value of work that you're doing right? That's what's more important. 

Debra 

And also age, you know, I'm joining you today at 61 years old and I celebrated turning 60 by coloring my hair purple. You know it's gray because I'm 60. And really a woman can have whatever color hair they want. But why not celebrate where we each are? And honor the beauty of the human experience. 

Aishwarya 

Absolutely everyone has freedom. Then why not women? Why? Why is there bias? Absolutely. 

Debra

I agree. I agree. 

Aishwarya

I love your hair, by the way. 

Debra

Thank you. You know, it's fun. I was blonde for a while? Well I had dark, dark hair as a young woman and then it got more blonde, and I found that I was having to dye it every four weeks.

And I thought, I think you might be doing a disservice to younger women, and I have a special place in my heart for women and women supporting women. But I thought I'm gonna let it go gray. But I was afraid this was gonna look terrible. And then I started looking at, you know, maybe I could add blonde with gray, and I saw a woman online that had purple with gray, and I thought, Oh, now that's pretty. Why can't I dye it? But I'm 60 years old. Darn it. I'm gonna have purple hair. 

So I think it's about owning our power, right? And then allowing other people to be empowered. And this man, the silly man, who I just ran into that I know from my neighborhood. He said, “I hate your hair”. And I said, Well, you know what? I love my hair. And you should never tell a woman that you hate their hair. It's just, very silly for you to do that as a man. “Well, I was thinking”, and it's like I don't care if you hate my hair. I like it and that's all I need, right? So I think, and yes, I'm focusing on women and people with disabilities.

But we keep disenfranchising certain parts of our population and we’re bad about it as women. And then you start the Intersectionality. Women that are gay, women that are disabled, and it goes a little worse, a little worse, a little worse. But why do we keep deciding people are broken or people don't matter?  

But why do we keep deciding people are broken or people don't matter?

I think we've got to stop doing that, and your country is one of the biggest countries in the world, you know, I think you are right there with China and there's so much beauty coming out of India. I listen to spiritual work all the time to keep me sort of balanced, especially during these crazy times.

Well, whom I'm listening to. I'm listening to the Indian gurus because they comfort me and they give me hope. "we all can learn so much from each other if we really value who the person is and corporations need to embrace that and we need to celebrate our differences."

And so I think...

We all can learn so much from each other if we really value who the person is and corporations need to embrace that and we need to celebrate our differences

Aishwarya

Absolutely, just remove those borders and talk to each other as just mere humans. 

Debra

Yes, and try to figure out who are you? and what do you like? And let's figure out how we're the same before always focusing on why we're different. So I have to hate you because it's ridiculous.

And, I think a lot of women aren't like that, but I think there are quite a few men that aren't like that either. And more and more, we need to support our male allies that are supporting the work that we're doing with diversity. 

Aishwarya

Absolutely. I completely agree, just blow those smoke mirrors, right? Just break that glass. 

Debra

Yeah, because you can get a beautiful experience and must protect each other, so... 

Aishwarya 

Yeah, agreed. Alright, moving on to the next one that I have for you.

How does employee experience design need to change to include aspects of disability inclusion? 

Debra 

Well, I think that we really need to focus on, there are multiple terms that we can use that have some overlaps. But certainly, we need to be accessible. We need to focus on inclusive design. We need to focus on universal design, and they're certainly some overlaps with all of those. But the really good news is, every time you do those things, you caption a video so that somebody that is deaf or hard of hearing or in a noisy environment could still enjoy the video. 

And it’s critical to people that are deaf and hard of hearing because they need access to the same information everybody else does. during this time of crisis, putting out emergency information that's not captioned is irresponsible. And because there are segments of our population that don't have access and then you go back to what I said earlier in that when you do something that's accessible, we all benefit.

Well. I remember Facebook putting out a study a few years ago that said between 80 and 85% of all videos are watched with the sound off. Well, if you are not captioning your videos, which most people aren't, you would lose potentially 80 to 85% of the audience.

If you are not captioning your videos, which most people aren't, you would lose potentially 80 to 85% of the audience.

That seems really bad for you, right? And so I think what we have to do is we have to step back and we have to say, well, the good news is, when we're all included, for example, in times of crisis, more people are gonna go to the Internet to use your services.  More people are, for example, and Amazon has done a great job with accessibility. And of course, everybody can always do more. But I still applaud their efforts. 

So as we go online to purchase toilet paper in the United States, we are freaking out about toilet paper over here. But as we go to buy products online, we need to be able for these online platforms to be fully accessible, and so maybe just stepping back when we know how to do this. 

We know how to blend accessibility into the DNA of the design process. Accessibility should be as important to you as privacy because if people don't have access, it's just ridiculous. I mean, there are so many reasons why that's a problem, especially once at a time like this. 

So corporations spent a ton of money on building, maintaining, being creative with technology. And if you don't have it, if accessibility isn't part of that design life cycle, you're leaving out so many people, including people, that just now are teleworking. Now we're going to find so many internal applications. So many benefit systems, HR systems, all customer service systems. They're not accessible. 

And we've been telling people for years and years and years. We've been suing people for years in the US, and yet now we're seeing it, and as people age, they start losing their eyesight. They start losing their hearing, we start losing our cognitive, but still, we're in the workforce. And so they, taking the time to make accessibility, inclusive design, universal design, whatever words you want to use, part of your efforts, it's going to be critical. 

And we find that when you do that, your diversity rises and the more diverse your workforce is, the better your employees can actually answer the questions, solve the big problems but they're not solving it just from a lens, which doesn't include most people.

The more diverse your workforce is, the better your employees can actually answer the questions, solve the big problems

And I'll give you an example. This is an example I've talked about, but to me, it's so relevant, and it’s from a few years ago. But Mattel, the maker of Barbie dolls, they wanted to give one of the Barbies, artificial intelligence. And so a small group of developers worked on programming this one Barbie doll to answer questions. And so they went to a conference, and they had some little girls ask Barbie a question. Now, little boys play with Barbies, too, but this just happened to be a gender thing. 

So they were asking little girls to ask Barbie questions and one of the little girls, her question was about employment. So, Barbie, you know, talks to this little girl says, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And the little girl said appropriately, “I want to be a computer scientist”, which is a good answer for a little girl. 

And Barbie said, “Well, have you thought about the fashion industry?” Well, needless to say, the women in the conference were furious, and it turned out that the group that had programmed this Barbie was a small group of men. A little girl could be a computer scientist. A little girl could be president. A little girl could be whatever she wants to be. And it's little, it's barriers like that when you hear it, you're like ugh, but we still are always an afterthought. 

A little girl could be a computer scientist. A little girl could be president. A little girl could be whatever she wants to be. And it's little, it's barriers like that when you hear it, you're like ugh, but we still are always an afterthought.

And that's why the intersection of diversity is so important, that we all be included in these conversations once again, including men, men need to be in these conversations, too. Let's not throw them out. There was at the beginning of the year, a report about the top technologists in the world, the 50 top tech digital technologists, I think. 

Well, they were all men, Really? There's not one woman. So once again if we’re not even including women, how do people with disabilities have a chance? How do people that are gay have a chance? So the diversity groups all need to come together. We need to protect each other.

We need to say to business - You want to hire us? You want the best, the smartest, the brightest among us, which often are the younger people? Well, then, the younger people, they don't want to work with you if you're not including everyone. So they're not going to. And I love that about the younger generations. 

Aishwarya

Yeah, I agree with that, because the workforce is gonna be about millennials and millennials are rebels, and they just want their own way. 

Debra 

Thank you. I appreciate that. And I appreciate the younger generation behind the millennials too, because they don't see the labels like my generation has and we've been trying to break all the rules by baby boomers ever since we started growing up, but still, we were very bad about labels and Labels were important if they help us understand, but not if you're going to discriminate.

Labels were important if they help us understand, but not if you're going to discriminate

And you know I have an employee that works for me. She's a young woman. She is blind, and I should really say first, she's brilliant, she's an amazing talent and she works in the Philippines and she wasn't allowed to get a bank account because she was blind. And I said, well, that's ridiculous. Well, go to an international bank. And she said, “I did”. 

I was like, Okay, so that's one thing I'm scolding corporations with, if you're really focused on accessibility and disability inclusions, say in the states or in the UK or in Europe or in Australia, but you're not doing in India and you're not doing it in China and you're not doing it in your global footprint, you know that gives us pause, and we think - so you're only doing this in the United States because we're going to sue you. It's not really who you are and your generation, the millennials. We're saying we're gonna pay attention to who you are, but we don't want to work with you if you're not a good corporation. 

We're gonna pay attention to who you are, but we don't want to work with you if you're not a good corporation

Aishwarya 

Absolutely. I mean, that is ridiculous. We'll have to be more aware of this, I think.

Debra

Yeah, that's why I think these conversations are helpful. 

Aishwarya

Absolutely. And that gives us so much empowerment as women, as females. We talk about all of this, but there's nobody that actually goes out and takes action on it. So I think this is really important and thank you so much for including that. 

Well, with that, we go to the next question, So, how important of a role will technology make in the inclusive workplace of the future? 

Debra

It's so critical, and it's here. It's not the future anymore. Technology is critical. Digital inclusion. I talk about digital inclusion. I work with Huawei and Huawei has got an interesting reputation in the United States right now, but to decide that a billion, 400 million people are all wrong, it's ridiculous because we're in this together and so technology, access to affordable, reliable internet for everybody, the technology that works. If you  a big corporation, you need to be focused on tech for all, tech for good.

If you  a big corporation, you need to be focused on tech for all, tech for good.

You need to be helping with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. You need to be telling us your stories. I wrote a book called “Inclusion Branding” and I said in the book, If you're a corporation, and you're doing these great things, but we don't know about it, then you may as well not be doing them.

Because if you're not telling your story in an accessible way, that includes all of us, you should understand that the younger generations, they're not gonna work with you and if they hear you're doing something really bad, like ignoring women, being sexually abused or things like that, your employees, they're gonna walk out on you and they're gonna leave you in a second. 

So the fight for talent is here now, and I think we have to continue to speak up. And I tried to, always. I've actually been criticized online (I don't care) saying that I should support big corporations while the reality is big corporations employ a lot of people, and so we need corporations of all sizes. But we need you to be good. And I understand that in all companies there are probably some bad players. 

But deciding that I'm not gonna work with you because you're from a different country or something else. Ridiculous, I think, is bad for society. And so technology and technology that's good and sharing the technology and supporting each other. I mean, look what's happening in the world.

The world is shutting down. I mean, the stock markets and my country are flipping out as around the world, but technology is more critical than ever before, but it still has to be smart technology, and it has to be inclusive and accessible technology. 

And you better be telling us the stories. And something else I'm noticing during these really scary times is what corporations are stepping up and helping. And so I'm gonna give another shoutout to Amazon.

The other day, I tweeted about Amazon bringing on another 100,000 workers in the United States, and Uber is hiring 60,000 for Uber Eats because, you know, people aren't supposed to be going out. And so, I said that and somebody came back and said, “Oh, yeah, more slaves for the galley floor”. And it’s a friend of mine. And I said, Really? 

So Amazon, no matter what they do, it's just not good enough. We're just gonna be so mad at them, even though, thank God we have Amazon right now. When my country's being shut down, how are we gonna get food to people? How’re you gonna get medical supplies? How are we gonna get help? But I think we gotta stop that garbage. 

We've got to stop being so mean to each other. And I know people that are, like, especially millennials and stuff there. Like I'm not on social media anymore. I can't stand the nastiness of it. But I think you know, technology is critical. It’s here. It's not going away.

And it's just gonna continue to be more and more important, but it's got to be accessible to everybody. Or the digital divide will continue to widen, which we've already seen to start to happen. It's very frightening to see what's happening. 

Aishwarya

Yeah, I think technology must be leveraged. And you know, this will really help us. There is a lot of noise about how AI will destroy a lot of jobs, but really, if you did it in the right way, I think it's gonna help us a lot. 

I agree with you, you know, and kudos to such organizations that are, really leveraging such technology. 

Debra

And I'll tell you another one. Google is doing so much in this crisis. They're trying to figure out how they can help more and how they can go in there and help make sure that videos are more accessible and they're looking at it from a really enlightened frame of mind.

And I appreciate their efforts that are being made. I appreciate Clorox donating $5 million dollars and someone, like Clorox, is making a fortune. They're still helping people during a time of crisis, and so we should reward the brands that are out there supporting us.

They're still helping people during a time of crisis, and so we should reward the brands that are out there supporting us

And you know, AI is so interesting because we keep talking. People say it's gonna kill us all. Well, AI is very important to where we're going, and  - We can't stop it. But I remember a story. One thing we thought that we could do with AI was we could use it to help care for the elderly or people with disabilities. 

And so I remember there was a really interesting study. They created AI as a seal, that's like reality but it's artificial intelligence, and what they found was they brought into nursing homes with older patients.

But the patients actually used or the residents they used the artificial intelligence seal differently than what they thought was gonna happen. They thought this seal would entertain the person, the elderly person, and they could amuse themselves. But what happened was when families and friends came to visit them and they saw this artificial intelligence, it became a way to socialize. 

Well, what could I do? Oh, that's so cool. And so, even though maybe a resident had it that wasn't part of that family, it brought people together to amuse themselves. So it was a socialization tool as opposed to a tool that is going to stop the isolation, the loneliness. So I think we're still gonna learn a lot about artificial intelligence as we walk the path.

Aishwarya

Well, thank you for that example. That is very enlightening, actually. And yeah, a lot of people should be more aware of this. I think that's really important going forward.

Moving on to the next one. How did you believe the gig economy is going to evolve, especially when you consider the growing ranks of millennials in our workforce? 

Debra

Well, I think it’s so interesting to me once again about the millennials. And I have two children that are millennials and I know that my age group, the baby boomers like to trash the millennials, but I think that we actually can learn quite a bit from the millennials. So I once again believe that we're stronger together, but I think that more and more the generations need to learn from each other, and one thing that we need to understand, the baby boomers, is that the millennials - the way they're thinking, it's very different. And sometimes my age group gets offended by that. 

And so, like the gig economy, it's a lot of people that I know that are millennials, they don't want to work for someone else because they see the way their parents and the grandparents were treated. And so the very distrustful of big corporations in a lot of ways, working for them, buying from them, things like that. And so the gig economy is going to become more and more and more and more important. 

I don't think this is going away. I think the millennials are going to cause a sweep of even more gig jobs and we're seeing it already

I think the millennials are going to cause a sweep of even more gig jobs and we're seeing it already

...and then once again, as our world continues to change with the Coronaviruses and things like that, I think the newer, the younger generations, they're starting to want to control their destinies a little bit more rather than having other people control their destinies, especially when they've seen what has happened to people that are older than them giving all their faith to, you know, some of the big corporations.

Aishwarya

Right! Absolutely, I agree with you. The gig economy is here to stay, and we just have to find a way to include them, you know.

Debra

Yeah, because, It's us. There are a lot of people in the gig economy, and it is very innovative. And one thing that's good about human beings. I could talk about what isn't good about us. But one thing is we're adaptable. And so right now we're having to adapt because we have emergencies everywhere.

So we're having to adapt. But I'm hoping that we'll learn from these adaptations and use this to make the world better for everybody going forward even after the Coronavirus scare has gone away. So yeah.

Aishwarya

Yeah, really hope so, fingers crossed

Debra

Yes, yes, yes

Aishwarya

All right.

So with the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus, how do you think our way of life and work will change once we come out of the crisis?

Debra

Well, I think one thing that we're gonna learn from your country is that shaking your hands is a stupid idea. And so I like the Namaste and blessing a person you know, whether you bless him or not, so I believe a lot of cultural things, like shaking hands - they need to stop, we need to stop doing that. But I think one thing I believe that's happening right now is that we are going to understand how much we're really in this together. 

And I always have been saying I'm proud to be an American. But I'm proud to be a global citizen because I travel a lot to other countries and I see that all over the world people love their families. They love their friends. They want to do things that make a difference in the world. 

Yeah, there's a small minority of selfish people in the world. Obviously, some of them are leading whole countries, but I won't go there, but I think we're going to learn that we're in this together, that we're stronger together, that we have to support each other. We have to stop making other people the enemy and understand we are all the same.

We're all so much more alike. And I don't believe we're gonna go back. We're not going to go back. 

You know? I'm a big hugger. I want to hug you. Well, maybe you don't need to be hugging all the time. Men are getting in trouble hugging, you know? So I think we're completely rethinking societal things like that. Social contact. Not that we shouldn't be around each other. Maybe not right now, but I think, and also little things like deciding that young people don't have the knowledge to be in the conversations. 

When I was a young woman, I was always blessed, it's very helpful right now, to look a little younger than I really am because I have a round face and I don't know why we equate. I don't know why society sometimes looks at somebody that has, you know, robust cheeks and think you're younger than they are, but whatever. But when I was younger, because I was always curious about the world, I was pretty much always told to shut up and sit down and be quiet and let the elders talk  My whole life. 

Children aren't to be seen and not heard that type of thing. And now the millennials just won't play that game. And so I was talking to some of my peers and baby boomers and millennials,  those darn millennials! They think they know everything. 

And I said, well, how did it feel to you, baby Boomer, when you were told to shut up and sit down because you were young? Oh, I hated it. I hated it. I hated it, too. Then why would we do that to them? Why? Because it's not true. You can have a Greta Thunberg that's going to change the world regardless of how young she is. We have so many examples of it. So couldn't we just honor that people have natural knowledge and national beliefs to add to the conversations, no matter what age they are? 

And so I think a lot of those cultural barriers are gonna be broken down. I know it's not all of them, but I think a lot of them are gonna be. We're not gonna go back. We're not gonna go back to where we were. But I do believe evolving is a messy business and so it's gonna be pretty bumpy. It's gonna be bumpy.

And it's very sad. And the other day, I was doing an article about the elderly getting abused. Young people were making comments like, Well, they all deserved to die. Well, you know, that's not helpful either.

You know, people don't deserve to die. Instead, you know, why don't we just be smarter about what it means to be human and accept that little babies have things to teach us and toddlers and people of all ages. Let's honor where people are and that we can learn from each other. I think that's one of the biggest things we can do.

Let's honor where people are and that we can learn from each other. I think that's one of the biggest things we can do

Aishwarya

Absolutely.

But in your life have you seen the rate of acceptance of, you know, millennials and all these people with disabilities gone up? Have you seen that improvement over time?

Debra

I really have. I've really seen quite a bit happen over the last 10 years. And I know that a few years ago. Well, even more than, around the time when my first company, TechAccess, was failing in 2009 and 10. I remember looking at the world and trying to think about what was happening and where we were going. And I remember being concerned that the direction that I thought the market was going to go was not where we were prepared to go.

You know, my employees and you know what they brought to the table and things like that. And I remember thinking, I don't think we're prepared for what's gonna come. I could nowhere have predicted what has happened. Oh, my God. Thank goodness I couldn't see all this. 

But I decided to make changes in my company a few years ago and we actually lost business. I mean, we lost money for two years in a row as I changed directions. But I just knew in my heart, we had to change directions because I saw that the world was gonna change.

And then in January 2020, we closed more business that month than we had the whole last year and it's kept going and it's because I think the world is caught up with the vision that I saw. I think a lot of assault was happening and the millennials saw it coming and the millennials are like, Yeah, yeah, yeah, I hear you, I hear you. I hear from you. Shut up. 

We're not gonna do that. We're not going to do that because we know that the world could work better. And so we see right now, like with our elections in the US, we see the generation beyond the millennials, the GenZs and stuff. They're not voting. It doesn't matter. My vote doesn't matter. Hilary won three million over Trump. It doesn't matter. It does matter. It does matter.

GenZs and stuff. They're not voting. It doesn't matter. My vote doesn't matter. Hilary won three million over Trump. It doesn't matter. It does matter. It does matter

And so I'm actually very excited that the millennials are leading like they are and that I think the world's gonna continue to be a better place and corporations, they need to lead and let their younger people lead and all the different generations lead and their voices be heard. If you really want to make a difference, you've got to be the path forward.

Aishwarya

Oh, thank you for that wonderful message, Debra. I think it's amazing that you’re so outright and so outspoken about all of this. You know, we need so many more people like you.

Debra

People need to talk about these things and we need to not be afraid to talk about them. And some of the things I talk about, I sometimes wonder about that, I have had some backlash. But don't feed the trolls on such social media. If somebody’s gonna come out and be nasty and negative, don't feed him. 

Don't encourage them to get in stupid fights with you that you're not going to win because they don't want to hear from you. They just, you know, want to be in denial. We've got to show the world the way forward, and it's gonna take all of us doing that.

We've got to show the world the way forward, and it's gonna take all of us doing that

Aishwarya

Yes, I think we need to help such people. We need to be together in it. And we need to encourage, you know, everybody to stay on the same page because that's how we move forward, right?

Debra

I agree with that.

Aishwarya

And that was absolutely wonderful. You know, it was a complete pleasure talking to you, Debra. Thank you so much for taking out the time for us. And I really appreciate you being here on our channel. I think it's been an enriching experience. So thank you so much, Debra

Debra

Thank you so much. And you stay safe too. I will learn from your country.

Aishwarya

Thank you. Bye, take care.

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