Series: Aira’s on a Mission to Change the World and I’m Thrilled to be Part of It

Sevana Massih named Vice President Service Delivery, to scale delivery of agent services, meeting the growing demand for visual interpreting as an accommodation by public, private, and higher education organizations.

We’re on a mission to help people find their gold.  


“When we know why we’re here as individuals and leaders, when our people know why they’re here, a sense of purpose carries us forward, and we can do what needs to be done. People want to work on big ideas that matter to them and make a difference. When they do, they find gold.” This is my favorite quote from former Starbucks President Howard Behar that I lived and breathed for almost 19 years.


Finding gold takes on different forms at different times. When I learned about Aira from someone in the blind and low vision community, and I heard about their experiences and the potential of this technology, Aira became that “gold” for me. I had no idea my passion to bring visual interpreting to the Starbucks community would eventually lead me to join Aira.  


Over the course of my tenure at Starbucks, I spent time in retail operations in one of the most diverse, complex, and competitive markets, where customer and community experience is vital for the company’s success. Eventually, I joined the Starbucks Accessibility Office to help lead the company’s accessibility strategy. 


Two achievements of which I am particularly proud are delivery of the first Starbucks Signing Store and launching Aira in all U.S. Starbucks company locations. The Starbucks Signing Store is an inclusive and distinct retail experience for customers that promotes career advancement opportunities for employees who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Launching Aira in all U.S. Starbucks stores created an accessible experience for Starbucks blind and low vision customers. These were ‘gold’ for me. 


Everyone should have the opportunity to find their gold.


I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “What does she mean by ‘find their gold’?” I see two sides to this. Employers find gold by making more jobs accessible to more people, opening up their talent pipelines, and widening their pool of potential workers. Individuals find gold by enhancing their independence and their employment possibilities with purpose-built assistive technology.


I joined Aira to help others find their gold.


Great services and products are founded on the principle of integrating three domains that I am passionate about: business, inclusion, and accessibility. It’s been 31 years since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and yet the unemployment statistics of people with disabilities have remained much higher than the general population. New analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the civilian noninstitutional population aged 16-years and over shows that in 2021, 1.2 million more people were identified as having a disability than were in 2020. Only 21% of people with disabilities participated in the labor force in 2021.


The workforce is changing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the labor movement we are witnessing today is creating a talent drought. Many organizations have an even greater opportunity to leverage this untapped group of talent as part of their broader diversity strategy. The barriers to entering and remaining in the workforce are complex for disabled people, and often lack of better accommodation solutions are one of the barriers in the workplace.  


All it takes is passion and the right tool.


Humans alone can do incredible things but with technology as the force-multiplier, the combination of humans and technology is even more powerful. Like mining for gold, assistive technology initially relied solely on humans, and slowly evolved to include tools. As technology became more sophisticated and more widely used, my lived experience as a person who uses accessible products and services has also evolved. Common accessible technologies such as video relay interpreter services, real-time caption, and voice-to-text apps have been an indispensable part of my personal and professional life. Options to choose different tools at different times has been  nothing short of empowering. I am sure the same could be said for colleagues who use magnifiers, screen readers, and Braille displays. However, despite access to once unimaginable advances in technology, I have found that the human-to-human experience will always be the preferred method of access to information. The human component provides a rich interaction that includes the emotion and intonation that is often missed by technology. 


Enter Aira.


For me, this role is as much personal as it is professional. I have had access to tools and resources, and the power to choose based on my need. And now, I can bring this same empowerment to others. I am grateful for the opportunity to join this incredible team of passionate, talented, and brilliant people who are each committed to the mission of changing the world and improving lives! 


Aira is “GOLD”! 


Joining Troy Otillio, CEO, Kevin Phelan, CCO, and Sandra Marcus, Vice President Marketing, Aira is leading the digital transformation of assistive technology.