Blind at SXSW 2016: Join Us to Talk Movies, Music, Voices and More

LightHouse's SXSW 2016 flyer with date, time, location, and logos of companies

Above is a flyer for our event, “Mainstreaming Accessibility” at SXSW 2016. Click here to download the flyer as text. We’ll be in Austin all week; Come hang out with blind innovators at our Access House by getting in touch at

In 2016, the LightHouse is branching out in lots of new directions, not just with our new SF headquarters but in taking our contributions to parts of the world that may have not heard of the LightHouse. One of the most important parts of our expansion is an emphasis on current and cutting edge technology. As such, we have been asked to program a dedicated event at the mecca of all things tech, art, and media: South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. SXSW is where every industry leader wants to premiere films, perform music, and get people excited about the next big tech advancement. Finally, due to our efforts this year with the help of the good folks at SXgood and SXSW Eco, the blindness community will have a strong and exciting presence.

That’s right — next week, we’re coming to Texas for SXSW. We’ve worked hard over the past few months to assemble a dynamic group of speakers and innovators who are thinking about accessibility from a new perspective — a mainstream perspective that includes rather than excludes. At our event, there will be something for everyone: Professional recording studios and audio engineers, film buffs and producers alike, and of course the passionate advocates for accessibility who want to see both personalized and mainstream technology merge into one seamless integration.

This is a major first for SXSW — a forum on disability hosted, moderated, and programmed solely by blind individuals and joined by others who think daily about mainstream accessibility — diving deep into nuanced discussions of a mainstream future for accessible tech. We’ll have a hands-on lab session where conference-goers can actually touch and experience the great stuff we’re building. When we’re not at our event, we won’t just melt into the crowd, either: We’ll be roaming the streets of Austin and hosting gatherings at our very own Access House, a hub we’ve built specifically for those with similar interests to meet, get to know each other, and exchange ideas.

Join us at Palm Door on Sixth this Tuesday, March 15 for one of the most diverse and unusual panels SXSW has to offer. As part of the SXgood Hub (or ‘social good hub’) our event is open to anyone with festival credentials of any kind (Music, Film, Interactive, wristbands), and we promise a grip of engaging, never-before-told stories about what goes into truly great design. What’s more — after the panel we have an hour-long dedicated lab portion where you can get hands on with the tech we’re talking about.

Here’s a bit more about each speaker:

Jonas Rivera and Paul Cichocki and the Academy Award-winning production staff at Disney•Pixar have been working tirelessly for years now to make audio description for blind moviegoers better — not just in quality, but in the tech that delivers this important audio track for those who can’t see the screen. They’ll tell us the origin story of their brand new feature from Disney Movies Anywhere, and why it’s so important.

Ed Gray has been working at Avid for more than twenty years, and never imagined he’d be an accessibility leader until he became blind later on as an adult. Now, he has helped take ProTools, the industry standard for recording, to a peak of accessibility, making sure that once again, blind people can be audio engineers.

Christian Erfurt is the CEO of Be My Eyes, the video assistant app that first launched just sixteen months ago out of Denmark. Now living in San Francisco and pushing Be My Eyes’ technology to the next level, Christian and founder Hans Jørgen Wiberg will share how their technology helps not only blind people, but everyone else, too.

Rupal Patel is the founder and CEO of VocaliD, Inc., an east coast based company with a big goal: To create a million voices, literally. If Be My Eyes crowdsources eyesight for those who need it, VocaliD does the same for those with speech disorders. The winner of an innovation award at SXSW Interactive last year, Rupal is back again this year to share how VocaliD can make custom voices to fit any human, and why that’s important to society.

Will Butler is the Media and Communications Officer at LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco, and has worked with all of these companies in some capacity over the past few years, whether it’s as a journalist, critic, or collaborator. He will be moderating the panel discussion.