We’d like to take a moment to thank the sponsors for the upcoming John Slatin AccessU here in sunny Austin, TX. It is an honor to have the support of these incredible companies and organizations as we work together toward a more inclusive technology world!
I’d rather let Kel introduce himself, however, so I called him up on Monday and asked a few questions. If his responses to this 30-second interview are any indication, we’re in for a real treat during his keynote presentation:
Who are you?
I am Kel Smith, and I have dedicated the last 10-12 years to developing emerging technologies, specifically looking at how technology can include disenfranchised populations. This has involved a lot of disability research, obviously, but also considering persons with particular diseases, the economically disadvantaged and the like.
What will you be doing at AccessU?
I have been asked to do a Keynote to the fine folks who are attending AccessU; I was asked by the fine folks at Knowbility, who I admire and respect, and I will be talking about innovations in accessibility and what we can learn from the people I call “digital outcasts.”
Why do you care about accessibility?
A number of reasons. Number one, because I have a deep belief that if you make things easier for people with the highest degree of physical and cognitive challenges, you make things better for everybody.
Selfishly, I also believe that we are creating a prototype for our own future. At some point, we all will take advantage of ramps and curb cuts. We’re all going to get older, and all of us fall on the spectrum somewhere. We all have things we’re good at and not good at. If we’re going to talk about “user-centered design,” we have to look at all the users.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned recently?
About accessibility or in general? There is still a surprising polarity between people who believe in web accessibility. It’s better than it was five years ago when I was laughed out of board rooms for bringing it up. But there’s still a polarization in expectations for what makes a site accessible and what that means.
Last week I was in a meeting and an art director brought up section 508 compliance. At first, I thought “Great! This is a creative type, talking about accessibility.” It turns out, their concept of compliance just involved putting “those three A’s up there” to change the size of the text on the page. It’s getting better, but there’s still a long way to go.
What would you tell people who don’t think accessibility should be a priority?
If you’re designing for a group, you have to understand how they’re going to use it. You can’t do that sitting in your office. You have to talk to people who have experience with it, or better yet, talk to people living in that realm, people who use it every day.
If people tell me it’s not important, I ask why. Because you already designed it and you don’t want to redo it? Because you don’t believe there’s a need or a rationale for it?
One thing I never tell them is “You’re going to get sued.” It doesn’t actually happen very often. But I do tell them that they’re leaving money on the table. This is a group of people that is shopping from home; if your site isn’t accessible, they’re not buying from you.
Any last words?
I’m really looking forward to doing this, and I’m happy to do this. I hope I do a good job and represent Knowbility well!
I’m certain Kel will have no problem with that. You can catch his keynote presentation at 12:30pm on Tuesday, May 15th at the 10th annual John Slatin AccessU training conference in Austin.