SXSW Day 2: Even Better

After I dropped my son off in the interactive playpen, I headed over to my first panel. Everything I Know About Accessibility I Learned From Star Wars was conducted by Derek Featherstone dressed as a Jedi and armed with a remote control! Derek used clips from the Star Wars movies to spotlight accessibility issues.

He started off by telling us that while "good designers copy, great designers steal!" This he illustrated with images of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer's Abominable Snowman and the Wampa in The Empire Strikes Back. Derek noted that they are the same snow monster, but the Wampa has been upgraded—see for yourself below.

Abominable  Wampa4

If George Lucas is reading this, I got the wampa photo from Wikipedia. So when you steal, make it better. Derek's message: Use the latest technologies to increase the accessibility.

Another issue Derek touched on was over use, he noted that there was a huge rush to add headings to content when the screen readers first started using that as a way to get an overview of a web page. If everything has a header tag on it then there is no contrast on the page. You end up with too much of a good thing. His Star Wars tie in here… The Star Wars Holiday Special – way too much of a good thing!!

Derek had more examples. Remember the scene where Luke is using his lightsaber against a training droid to learn to use the Force (see picture below)?

Jedi Training

Han laughs and says "Good against a machine is one thing; good against the living is another." The point here is that even though we have several automated accessibility tools at our fingertips, (my favorites are the Firefox Accessibility toolbar and Fangs—in my view, nothing beats having a person with a disability testing your website.

OK, the last one, Yoda's dying words to Luke "Luke, when gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be. Luke, the Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned." Derek wanted everyone in the room to take Yoda's words to heart, to be an accessibility evangelist, to make believers of others and to teach what we learned.

Derek was a great speaker, he had a light-hearted way to introduce some important accessibility issues, and it was a packed house, so if everyone brings away just one detail from the talk, there could be a good deal of accessibility changes made!!

Oh, one more thing, just as Derek ended his presentation with a Jedi mind trick hand wave… There were no copyright violations committed here…

About the Author: Dodie Stillman