SXSW 2019

SXSW 2019 Show Summary

This year’s SXSW was historic for people with disabilities. First of all, we have a shuttle that is wheelchair accessible. Second, we have a number of movies based on the lives of people with disabilities. Third, we had an Accessibility track at SXSW; there were 12 presentations regarding accessibility and disability. And finally, we were introduced to technology for people with disabilities, created as a result of an accessibility deficiency at SXSW 2 years ago.  It’s called Thisten and it gives you a real-time transcript of the presentation you’re attending.  Make sure to watch our video to get full details.

SXSW Wheelchair accessible shuttle

ADA accessibility transfers are available between any two established SXSW Festival  To initiate a transfer, a request can be made of any of the shuttle staff members or by texting the Customer Service Line 512-675-0155. Once the request is received, an accessible vehicle will be dispatched to the location requested.


Come As You Are

We saw three great movies.  The first movie, Come As You Are, is inspired by a true story – three young men with disabilities (Grant Rosenmeyer, Hayden Szeto, Ravi Patel) flee their overbearing parents for a road trip to a brothel in Montreal that caters to people with special needs, in order to lose their virginity and embrace their independence.  Dave says it’s a ‘must see’.

Vision Portraits

Through illuminating portraits of three artists: this documentary is about a photographer, a dancer, and a writer. The film looks at the ways each artist was affected by the loss of their vision and the ways in which their creative process has changed or adapted.

Any One Of Us

The third movie we saw was also a documentary.  When professional mountain biker Paul Basagoitia suffers a devastating spinal cord injury (SCI), his life is changed in an instant. This movie has real-time footage of Paul and his first two years post-injury. This movie could be a bit raw and is not recommended for sensitive viewers.  Gene really likes it and encourages everyone to see it.

Community Service Awards

SXSW Community Service Awards

Our favorite program at SXSW is the community service awards.  We interviewed one of the award winners,  Sheena McFeely, founder of ASL Nook.  Her webpage has a number of videos for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.  In order to view the videos you must be a member of Facebook and give permission to Facebook to use cookies and website data while you are you browsing  See our interview with ASL Nook founder, Sheena McFeely on this Gene and Dave SXSW 2019 episode.

Sheena was born in Hong Kong to an Irish father and Asian-European mother. Shortly after her parents’ discovery of Sheena being Deaf, America called their names. After attending an oral school until she was 10, her parents made a life-altering decision to place Sheena in a dynamic program with sign language.  Being exposed to ASL, Deaf role models, and two beautiful daughters have molded Sheena into a trailblazing businesswoman, children’s book author, and sought after speaker. And on top of everything, Sheena completed a Masters in Sign Language Education from Gallaudet University.

The Trade Show

SXSW Trade Show

This year we didn’t see as many disability-related products as usual at SXSW. We are although, always happy stopping at the Knowbility exhibit. When we got there Jillian was playing a video clip of Gene and Dave, as we were teaching a class, on captioning, at AccessU, last year.  We’ll be doing that again this year.  See for more information. 

Xian Horn

One of the benefits of attending SXSW is the opportunity to meet really dynamic people that know how to get things done.  I met Xian Horn, who recently addressed the UN on IWD (International Women’s Day)  We had a great time interviewing Xian.

Xian Horn a woman who serves as a teacher, speaker, beauty advocate, blogger, and Exemplar for the AT&T NYU Connect-Ability Challenge toward the creation of Assistive Technology. She was named one of the 21 Leaders for the 21 Century by Women’s eNews in 2017.  Xian has Cerebral Palsy and often speaks on the empowerment of people, especially women, with disabilities.  Learn more about Xian by watching our interview with her.

Blogs for Forbes and Positively Positive

Contact Xian at


We summarized here a few of the presentations we attended. More information is included on our SXSW 2019 episode.  Feel free to download the transcripts of 12 accessibility/disability presentations/

Add Accessibility to Your Process the Easy-ish Way

James Green, at Visa, covered the basics of how people with disabilities use technology, what the basic requirements are, and how to find qualified help (how to avoid the fakers!). We’ll discuss how to evaluate YOUR users, (i.e., the members of your organization) and build a process they’ll want to adopt, as well as learn how to write custom requirements and tests that minimize stress on your team but cover all the bases.  This was a great presentation. Please read the transcripts via our link to learn more about Visa’s work with accessibility.

Accessibility: Designing for the Other Billion Users

Google Assistant team is working to increase accessibility and improve the lives of 1.3+ billion people around the world with disabilities. Google’s mission is to not only organize the world’s information but also make it universally accessible and useful – we’ll share our top tips on how to design accessible multimodal products.  Check out Google’s Design page.

Navigating the New Frontiers in Accessibility

Navigating the New Frontiers in Accessibility

The 21st century has brought forth technologies that are changing and improving the lifestyles of those with disabilities. Breakthrough developments in areas of AI and IoT are creating a new paradigm of accessibility. Join Adriana Mallozzi, Founder of Puffin Innovations and disability advocate, with Emre Sarbak and Cagri Hakan Zaman, Co-Founders of Mediate, a startup developing computer vision for the visually impaired, in a discussion about navigating this new landscape. In this session, they will discuss the importance of user-centric design and share their own experiences as founders of Assistive Tech startups while exploring both the entrepreneurial opportunities and challenges of developing assistive technology in today’s world.

Adriana Mallozzi

Puffin Innovations:

Adriana is developing and Innovative mouth operated and click device that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence so individuals who have limited mobility and their upper extremities can use all of their consumer electronics such as mobile devices and desktops and laptops.

Cagri Haken Zaman and Emre Sarbak

Co-founders Mediate Co-founder of Mediate, an MIT-spinoff startup developing computer vision for the visually impaired.

They are developing artificial Vision solutions for the visually impaired and blind and hope to enable them to have more independent and fulfilled lives by navigating new places by themselves using cutting-edge artificial intelligence technologies that were developed in this area.

Austin’s Blind Gaming Champ

Austin’s Blind Gaming Champ Shares His Amazing Story

Michael Espinoza is totally blind, yet developing mad online gaming skills. Espinoza will also reflect on what he has learned about tackling technology that isn’t typically geared for people with reduced vision.

Espinoza recalls, “I became hooked on these because they became a test of skill for me every game was a test of skill. But a lot of them were a test of memory fighting games became a test of reaction of listening of understanding I could hear when a character blocked and my weapon or my fist did not strike them but struck their blocking motion I could tell when I move hit and when I could seamlessly segue into another move in what’s known as a combo I could tell when characters were thrown from the edge of the arena or in games with good stereo. I could tell when the characters switched sides. So I knew if I was on the left or the right of the screen at any given time that’s very important in fighting games because directional inputs allow you to know which moves you’re doing at which times if I’m on the left side of the screen, I might have to press right and an attack button to do a move whereas if I’m on the right…”

Espinoza will amaze you with his compensatory skills.

We Are the Original Lifehackers

Disabled people are the original lifehackers. We spend our lives cultivating intuitive creativity because we navigate a world that is not built for our bodies. This presentation, by designer Liz Jackson, takes us through the evolution of her new technology, Thisten.  Thisten creates real-time transcripts of presentations.

Liz Jackson is the founder, The Disabled List and co-founder Thisten.  See our show to learn how Thisten got started. 

Link to Transcripts

Ben Grynol


The Blind Cook: MasterChef Winner, Christine Ha

Dave went to the presentation, The Blind Cook, a fascinating look at the award-winning blind cook,  Christine Ha.  I wish we had this video but Dave’s description, on the video, is rather compelling.