Tag Archives: Keynote

Tommy Edison at AccessU 2015


Knowbility is excited to welcome Tommy Edison as keynote speaker at AccessU 2015 this May.

“Being blind since birth, one of the greatest challenges I faced was accepting that I’m visually impaired.” Tommy told us.  “As I became an adult, I was forced to face my own reality and needed to make a choice – either embrace my blindness and live a happier life or do something I might regret. Eventually I chose the former which led me to a long career in radio, living my dream of reviewing movies, and sharing my experiences as a blind person to a worldwide audience. In my talk, I explain how I faced my greatest obstacle – myself.”

Popularly known as The Blind Film Critic, Tommy’s YouTube channel, TommyEdisonXP (https://www.youtube.com/user/TommyEdisonXP) has 195,000 subscribers and garners a million views per video. By addressing the barriers he faced, Tommy will illuminate the AccessU theme of “Put People First.”

In my talk, I explain how I faced my greatest obstacle – myself.

“I watch movies and pay attention to them in a different way than sighted people do”, says Tommy, who offers a unique take on movies, audio and daily life through his signature sense of humor.

In addition to being the Blind Film Critic and a YouTube celebrity, Tommy has been a radio professional for nearly 25 years, having spent the last 19 at STAR 99.9 FM in Connecticut as a traffic reporter.

Tommy Edison was endorsed by film critic and journalist Roger Ebert and his reviews were posted on the Chicago Sun-Times blog and on Tosh.0, Comedy Central’s blog. Tommy has also been featured on various TV and news channels including CNN and Headline News. Visit his website http://blindfilmcritic.com/ for more information.

“I’m not distracted by all the beautiful shots and attractive people. I watch a movie for the writing and acting.”

Tommy will also host a special event “Film & Audio Description with the Blind Film Critic” at Alamo Draft house as part of the conference.

AccessU participants are invited to events organized as part of the conference including a Film & Audio Description with Tommy Edison at Alamo Draft house, a bicycle pub crawl in Austin and networking luncheons.

More than the 3 A’s: 30 Seconds with Kel Smith

The 2012 John Slatin AccessU training conference is just a few weeks away! As we look forward to the start of the program, we’d like to introduce you to Kel Smith, this year’s Keynote speaker. Kel is the author of the upcoming book, “Digital Outcasts: Moving Technology Forward without Leaving People Behind” and the owner of a digital accessibility company called Anikto.

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?

Kel Smith Headshot
Kel Smith, Keynote presenter, AccessU 2012

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.

Not registered yet? It’s not too late! Just visit www.knowbility.org/accessu to register today!