In Conversation with Lucy Greco, Accessibility Evangelist

March 13, 2024

Sometimes when businesses talk about increasing accessibility, it can feel like jargon or more buzzy words to add to the laundry list of year-end goals. But the truth is, accessibility isn’t “just good business.” It’s personal. 

Accessibility levels the playing field of life, and Lucy Greco knows this better than most.

Lucy describes herself as fully blind from birth and somewhat dyslexic. As the Digital Evangelist at the University of California, Berkeley, Lucy provides accessibility evaluations, accessible procurement, developer training, and policy improvement at the school. She also authored UC system-wide electronic accessibility policy and accessibility purchasing requirements.

When Lucy’s not leading the Berkeley campus and UC system to a new, accessible future through digital accessibility, Lucy researches, tests, and reviews consumer products for blind people in her YouTube series, Know Before You Buy. She also makes one hell of a lasagne, but you’ll need to read her blog — — for that and many other recipes.

Assistive technology and accessible websites and products help Lucy at work and home. And she knows all too well what it’s like to live without them.

From Liquid Paper to Word Processing

When Lucy gives talks about accessibility, she tells the story of being in junior high back in the days before personal computers and the internet. 

Growing up in Calgary, Alberta, she benefited from a school program that integrated special and general education students. By junior high, she attended a Catholic school and was in class with her peers and a dedicated resource teacher. 

While many of us can relate to feeling “different” in middle school — angsty tween and teenage years are a fact of life for people with and without disabilities — it was writing papers where Lucy felt the biggest divide. 

Before computers Lucy would sit at her typewriter and transpose her compositions from her work in Braille to write papers. An assistant teacher would sit behind her, acting as her screen reader and applying liquid paper to any mistakes. They had a system: only two liquid paper applications would be allowed per page. Any more than that, the sheet of paper would be crumpled up and thrown out, and Lucy would have to start again. 

The process was brutal. It was frustrating to toss out otherwise decent work and made each paper incredibly time-consuming. Because each assignment took so long to type, Lucy’s papers were often shorter works that didn’t convey everything she had to say. Her peers handed in 500-word papers, but Lucy was lucky to get 100 words turned in (with minimal touches of liquid paper).

A computer changed Lucy’s whole relationship with writing and schoolwork. 

Suddenly, spell check identified and fixed typos, a delete button erased other mistakes, and best of all, no drafts wound up in the trash. Starting over was no longer necessary. 

Access to technology allowed Lucy to express all of her thoughts, share her knowledge, and do her best work. The playing field was leveled.

Early Internet Tools 

In college, Lucy participated in an early internet research project aimed at getting Canadians online. That network was appended to the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) system, empowering Lucy and her peers to chat through real-time text messages. Now Lucy had access to an online bulletin board, where she could connect with a greater community of blind people and share about life, learn about technology, and discuss accessibility. 

The best part was that the network also had Gopher, an early searching tool that would pull up articles relating to searched terms. Gopher delivered content in plain text, making it very accessible. Since pictures and videos weren’t used to convey messages, Lucy got all the content. Before Gopher, Lucy would have to sit with a patient librarian to find books and articles for her papers’ bibliographies, trusting the librarian to help her find appropriate information. Sometimes that work would prove futile, and professors would deem Lucy’s resources inadequate. 

Using Gopher drastically reduced the hours Lucy spent researching for college papers, gave her more content to use, and gained her more autonomy in selecting resources. Once again, technology leveled the playing field.

Using Tech to Help Students Open Their Brains

In 2005, Lucy’s tech-savvy skills brought her to U.C. Berkeley, where she began working in the disabled students program. Her role was to teach students with disabilities about the technologies that could help them throughout and after their college careers. She told them about all the options and helped them find and test the right solutions. 

Working one-on-one with a student to find software or tactical tools to help them unlock something brought Lucy pride and joy. She loved witnessing students’ brains “open up” and beams as she shares stories from her time in this role. 

Once, she helped a quadriplegic student who wanted to go into computer programming combine the proper switch control and speech control software. And together, they got funding for it. Another time she found the right literacy software for a graduate student with undiagnosed dysgraphia and dyslexia.

“It’s like they were given keys to the castle,” she says. 

Because that’s what access does: it unlocks doors, opens brains, and levels playing fields. While Lucy no longer works one-on-one with students at Cal Berkeley, she’s now the evangelist for accessibility for that campus and the entire UC system. Today Lucy’s work benefits all students, staff, and vendors, ensuring everything from building signs to servers to Covid responses are as accessible and inclusive as possible. 

The Heartbreak in the Accessibility Space

It’s crucial work especially, as Lucy notes, there’s “a lot of heartbreak” in the accessibility space. Meaning, people with disabilities get filled with hope and anticipation when something, anything – websites, experiences, consumer goods, services – are touted as “accessible,” but often reality falls short of expectations. 

For example, web pages might not be designed with screen readers in mind, or the desktop experience is accessible but the mobile one isn’t. Often consumer goods get updated but the accessible functionality is removed in the process. 

“Sometimes we get a beautiful product and then it breaks. Or in the pursuit of making a product ‘better’ it stops working for folks who were blind. This happens all the time, with everything – dishwashers, InstantPots, phones, coffee pots. Suddenly the app that I used to run my dishwasher was updated and now I can’t navigate it. And you have to ask yourself, this is supposed to be better? Better for whom? This backslide happens repeatedly, and the message becomes: We didn’t think about you. You don’t count,” says Lucy.

The community also has countless examples of attending events that were advertised as accessible, only to learn upon arrival that they in fact aren’t. Such as what happened to Lucy’s friend’s child who is blind and wanted to attend his best friend’s movie theater birthday party. The parents called to confirm the movie theater would have audio descriptions and were told everything was working and would be set up for him. On the day of the party, the audio descriptions weren’t working and the child went home. The parents called the movie theater chain’s executive office to complain and after a bit more digging, learned the audio descriptions hadn’t worked for many months. Which means the child’s parents had been given lip service. 

“Another example of us being told, ‘you don’t count,’” notes Lucy. 

People with disabilities live their whole lives being told there are limits to what’s available for them, so when products, services, or experiences advertise, “this is for you” the frustration and hurt hits harder when they aren’t.  

“Does everything have to be a battle?” Lucy asks. “How much more do we have to fight to get products, experiences, and even websites that work for us?”

Lucy hopes that more awareness around disabilities will continue to increase accessibility, but she’s well aware our society has a long way to go. 

Luckily for all of us, Lucy Greco has long been a powerhouse in the accessibility space and is nowhere near done. 

Learn more about Lucy’s work by visiting her website,, and follow her YouTube series, Know Before You Buy, which strives to minimize heartbreak and help other people who are blind find consumer goods that truly work for them.