LightHouse Report from South by Southwest

Our South by Southwest panelists and partners: (L-R top row) Hans Jergen (BE My Eyes), Jacob (Be My Eyes), Will Butler (LightHouse), Dr. Rupal Patel (VocaliD), Ed Gray (Avid), Christian Erfurt (be My Eyes)  (L-R bottom row) BJ Epstein (LightHouse), Jennifer Sachs (LightHouse)This year the LightHouse has begun branching out in new directions, not just with our new San Francisco headquarters but in all parts of the world. One of the most important parts of our expansion is an emphasis on current and cutting-edge technology. As such, we were asked to coordinate a dedicated event at the mecca of all things tech, art and media: South by Southwest (SXSW) 2016 in Austin, Texas.

Throughout the conference LightHouse got to show-off our tactile maps, and in fact our Access to Information (AIS) Department created tactile maps of the Austin Convention Center for blind attendees to SXSW in trade for our SXSW passes (a value of $1,200 each).  We all made incredible connections and got the word out about LightHouse for the Blind at this mind-boggling convergence of minds.

LightHouse had a fantastic turn out for our convening entitled “Mainstreaming Accessibility”. We had an incredible panel of speakers: Christian Erfurt from Be My Eyes, Dr. Rupal Patel from VOCALiD, Ed Gray from Avid, moderator Will Butler of the LightHouse and Jonas and Paul from Pixar by video. Here’s some press about our panel published in the online tech and business publication, re/code. Though the headline is a bit tongue-in-cheek, the article in this uber-cool and important media site is truly substantive.

Here are the details on our presenters:

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 told 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 Jergen shared how their technology helps not only blind people, but everyone else, too.

Dr. 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 came back again this year to share how VocaliD makes 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 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 moderated the panel discussion.