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Two years ago, Sheri Denkensohn-Trott and Tony Trott decided to take the biggest risk of their professional lives. They would each resign from their jobs and build a business oriented around disability advocacy.

Tony committed to stepping away from a career in special education and peer mentorship, while Sheri would leave behind her 25-year law career.

After 12 years of marriage, Sheri, who has a spinal cord injury of quadriplegia, resulting in paralysis of her limbs, and Tony, who has Friedreich’s Ataxia, a neurological disorder that affects his hearing and impacts his movement, launched Happy on Wheels, an organization dedicated to inspiring others with and without disabilities to live their happiest lives. Sheri and Tony knew that overcoming society’s stigmas about disability was often the biggest challenge for disabled individuals—even more than the disability itself.

So the couple began traveling around the East Coast advocating for universal access in an unequal world. They raised awareness about equal employment opportunities, accessible public facilities, accessibility education in medical and nursing schools, and the need for accessible technology at health care centers. As a breast-cancer survivor, Sheri began advocating for more accessible mammograms, knowing that getting a mammogram in a wheelchair felt like “being a contortionist.”

Launching Happy on Wheels tested Sheri and Tony in ways they didn’t always anticipate. It required a new set of skills and approach to communication, all of which could be unlocked with the help of accessible technology tools. Sheri considers herself the talker of their operation, and would manage the organization’s social media handles to get their brand name out into the world. Tony works the operations, solving problems and navigating IT and HR issues.

To do all of the above, each turned to the accessibility apps on their Android phones, noting that the mobile apps were easier to use than similar desktop applications. Tony took to using Live Transcribe, which transcribes speech-to-text in real-time, during video conferences and webinars. He opens up his phone and activates the app’s real-time transcribing feature to read along with conversations and keynotes.

“We hope to help people, with and without disabilities live happier lives, both financially and humanly, through the way we live our lives. Communities of happy people tend to be more successful communities.”—Tony

For Sheri, the voice typing capability of Gboard — Google’s virtual keyboard app she downloaded onto her phone — has become an essential part of her work. Because Sheri doesn’t have mobility in her fingers, she uses Voice Access to open up her phone’s email app and dictate messages to clients. (She previously could only operate email on her desktop computer.) She also uses Speech-to-Text to write posts on social media so that she can interact and engage with the Happy on Wheels network. She simply speaks into her phone to leave comments on different Instagram pages, respond to tweets, or answer queries from the Happy on Wheels community on Facebook.

“Gratitude, helping others, being able to ask for help and not think that you’re weak: These are all themes that go across the trajectory of what we do, whether it be speaking, writing, mentoring, or consulting”—Sheri

Both personally and professionally, the couple has maximized Live Transcribe and speech-to-text on their Android phones to accomplish their goals and overcome obstacles. “This sounds cliche,” says Sheri, “but [using my phone] has become like getting on a bike and never remembering that you had to learn how to ride. It’s so much a part of my daily routine and how I operate.”

How Sheri and Tony do it.

Live Transcribe.

Tony, who is hard of hearing, uses Live Transcribe to participate in workshops he leads. He can open up his phone, turn on Live Transcribe, and follow along with conversations in real time.

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Voice Typing.

Sheri, who has paralysis in her hands, uses Voice Typing to email and interact with the Happy on Wheels social channels on a daily basis. Speaking into her phone makes responding to emails, setting up meetings, and communicating over social media “like getting on a bike.”

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