Dr. Paul Michaelis

Dr. Paul Michaelis standing between the United States flag and Federal Communications Commission emblem

Dr. Paul Michaelis was born in New York City. His father was a career Army officer and mother was a lexicographer. Because his father’s career required frequent moves, Paul attended nine different schools before finally graduating from high school in Yokohama, Japan. While in high school, he had experience in military hospitals that treated soldiers and Marines who had been badly wounded in Vietnam. This is what motivated Paul to pursue a career in accessibility engineering.

After graduating from high school in 1970, Paul continued his education at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, earning a B.A. in 1974 and Ph.D. in 1978. He then moved to Dallas, where he was a Member of the Technical Staff at Texas Instruments and an Adjunct Professor at Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas, Dallas. A change in career brought him to AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1986. Paul was promoted to Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff in 1996, a position he continued to hold when his group was spun off from AT&T as part of Lucent Technologies, and then spun off by Lucent in 2000 as Avaya Incorporated. Paul was promoted to Consulting Engineer in 2003 and then promoted to Avaya Distinguished Engineer in 2011. He retired from Avaya in 2016.
Paul’s professional accomplishments include 120 US patents and 53 foreign patents, many of which describe technologies and products that support people with disabilities. He is a recipient of the Access Innovation Award from the Association of Access Engineering Specialists and has been an invited, a voting member of Federal advisory committees, including the Telecommunications and Electronic Information Technology Advisory Committee that authored the new Section 508 regulations.
A distinct aspect of Paul’s professional style is that, as an accessibility advocate employed by companies that manufacture mainstream products, he has always kept in mind that most accessibility-related laws and regulations do not require support for accessibility if the accommodation is not “readily achievable”, i.e., easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense. For this reason, the professional achievements that have given Paul the most satisfaction are the projects in which he has been able to embed support for accessibility into mainstream products without increasing the cost of those products. Notable examples include the TTY user interface he built for the Avaya AUDIX voicemail system and the UAPS software that provides by voice all of the information that is presented visually by Avaya business telephones.
Paul and his wife Sara live near Boulder, Colorado. Their eldest son, Dr. James Michaelis, is a scientist at the Army Research Laboratory in Maryland. Daughter Katherine is in an MD / Ph.D. program in Oregon, specializing in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Son Matthew is an undergraduate computer science major at the University of Colorado, Denver, and working part-time developing accessible interfaces for electronic voting systems.