Joe Sehwani Talks Accessibility and the Charitable Impact of Hotline Sehwani

Back in 2018, I wrote about a client named Joe Sehwani who hired me to write blogs for his non-profit organization called Dreamscape Foundation. That gig and his own life story pulled back the curtain on the topic of accessibility for me. I wrote numerous blogs and articles for Dreamscape, which deepened my exposure to the world’s accessibility gap and the many ways we, as a society, can help bridge it.

In 2021, Dreamscape Foundation continues to try to reduce that gap through providing tools, resources, and assistive technology for individuals with disabilities, as well as businesses. They do this with funds they raise through various creative outlets, from its early days of selling personal artwork to today’s charity streams on Twitch. But recently I learned of a new and unusual platform that is feeding into the pool of funds driving this charity’s mission. It’s called Hotline Sehwani, and it’s a YouTube channel that produces Sonic-themed LoFi videos. All the funds gained through the monetization of this channel feed directly into Dreamscape Foundation and its mission.

A mission that is deeply personal for Joe Sehwani. For those who don’t know, Joe is a shining example of how accessibility tools can break down barriers in the lives of someone with a disability. In addition to running a non-profit and fostering the growth of his fast-growing YouTube channel, he also runs a full-time IT business. He does all of this despite his visual impairment.

Recently, I connected with Joe to learn more about how he accomplishes all of these things, and to get an inside scoop on his LoFi channel with an upbeat purpose. Here’s what I learned:

Elli: Last time I wrote about Dreamscape Foundation, I covered how it taught me the importance of accessibility in today’s world. As someone with a visual impairment who uses accessibility tools to help you with everyday tasks, can you share how these tools have impacted your life?

Joe: I think it boils down to independence. Accessibility tools give back a part of your independence to be on your own and make sure that you’re able to handle things in a sufficient manner. That was one of the toughest things for me in having a visual impairment and first losing my eyesight. There was so much that I felt that I couldn’t do. With accessible tools, you might need to do different things, and learn a different way of handling things for your school, or work, or just extracurricular activities, but you can still do them and you can still be sufficient.

How do accessibility tools play a part in the numerous projects you work on, like your Hotline Sehwani channel?

There are tools like Zoom Text and Mac accessibility tools that I definitely can’t live without. Especially in our world today, where it’s so technology driven. Everything today is digital; everything has gone online. People are working remote from home. Without any accessible tools, it would be very difficult for me to continue my day-to-day life.

The accessible tools help me get through the day and work on projects, whether it’s for my professional work in IT or my non-profit projects. It also helps me communicate and work with others on projects, like Hotline.

Again, everything and everyone’s online. The people we work with who are helping with artwork [for Hotline Sehwani] are working with us on computers. We’re dealing with a lot of visual artists and music composers online, which involves coordinating a lot of meetings online. That’s something that couldn’t be done without sensible tools on my part.

Hotline Sehwani is a cool and creative way to support a cause like Dreamscape’s, but the channel wasn’t originally made to be a vehicle for funding your charity. What inspired you to start Hotline Sehwani in the first place?

When Hotline first started, it was something of a passion project. I already understood Google Ads and how the search engine works, and I had a lot of experience with Google for a non-profit program, but YouTube was always something I wanted to give a shot and try to see how it worked. It just wasn’t something that I had time for until COVID, when a lot of things came to a halt. We were bored out of our minds, and that’s when this project came to be.

At first, we were trying to see what worked. A lot of the music content that we were putting up was passive content to help bridge the gap between videos, but it was ultimately what really picked up and got people excited.

Although viewers can find other game-themed LoFi tunes on the channel, Hotline Sehwani has a very heavy Sonic-theme to its channel. What made you choose Sonic as its focus?

I decided if I was going to go into the YouTube space, I wanted to choose a topic I knew. For me that was Sonic. I grew up with Sonic. I always loved it, so when I was honing down the answer to “What’s my niche?” and the key wordings and what I understood, I was like, “I’m gonna stick with what I know.”

Then it became a way for me — someone with not much free time — to turn a passion into something that can create a revenue stream, help the non-profit, and be something I enjoy.

How does Hotline Sehwani benefit your mission and drive to increase accessibility for the disabled community?

One of the struggles I noticed for non-profit organizations is that they have difficulty fighting in the realm of social media. Things go viral on something like YouTube or on the internet for one of two things: either it’s entertainment value or it’s something education-based. And I think with a nonprofit, sometimes it’s tough to grow beyond your following or the people who care about what you care about.

So how do you reach those new people?

I’m not just looking at how to reach the new people who want to care about what we care about. I’m looking at how to reach and engage an audience to help us raise funds. There could be people who support and listen to [Hotline Sehwani’s] channel, and they might not even know or care about the affiliation with the charity. But at the end of the day, they are going to help the non-profit and that’s what matters.

An Invitation to Connect

Would you like to keep up with Hotline Sehwani’s LoFi media? If the answer is “yes”, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel or follow them on Twitter to stay up-to-date with new content.

If you would like to learn more about Dreamscape Foundation, you can visit their website or reach out to them on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook.

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