Tech the Halls with Access Tech Live

Tech the Halls with Access Tech Live

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Holiday Special", with Steven Scott and Marc Aflalo. The latest in tech and accessibility every week. Follow us and get involved now @accesstechlive. (hard rock music) - Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of "Access Tech Live", a special one this week, because we are gonna be introducing you to some of the people who work behind the scenes here at "Access Tech Live", because we wanted them to choose some of their favorite moments from this season so far. And we'll bring you those moments, not only this week, but next week on "Access Tech Live".

I am, of course, Steven Scott, Marc Aflalo is with me as always. How are you feeling this week, Marc? - I'm feeling so festive, Steven. So excited to have some people on who work so tirelessly and effortlessly behind the scenes to make this show were on a daily basis when I say were, or on a weekly basis, I mean go vroom, vroom in the background. So I'm excited to introduce you at home to everybody who works on the show behind the scenes and learn a little bit about them.

Maybe we can poke them and see what they want for the holidays or not. - Yeah, well, let's get right in then with Jordan and Stacy who are joining us here on the show. Great to have you on this side of the screen.

Jordan, let me start with you. Tell us about what you do here on the show. - I am an audio operator. So I take care of everything audio-related. - Cool, okay. - So does that mean that if Steven doesn't sound his best, then we point the finger at you? - Oh, that's cruel, that's cruel.

- You don't have to answer that. We don't want you to incriminate yourself. Don't worry about it, it's all good. Jordan, how did you get into this business? Why are you here with us at "Access Tech Live"? - So many moons ago, I actually started my career in entertainment on a series called "In the Dark". So I had actually worked with blind and partially-sighted individuals for quite some time now, and it was quite interesting transitioning into, I guess, more of a broadcast side of things opposed to traditional filming.

So yeah, it's always good to be in a familiar environment and yeah. - Great to have you as part of the team, Jordan, and thank you for all you do on the show. We'll get to your favorite moment from the show, just a moment. But I want to bring Stacy in.

Stacy, tell us what you do here. I know, because I have you in my ear all the time, and you can explain why. - I am the show director. So basically, I am in charge of calling the shots for the show, making sure that everybody looks good and sounds good, and just overall taking all of the ideas and making them all come together on the screen. - So basically, if you weren't there, we just see a bunch of colored bars in the screen. - Oh, I'm hoping not Marc.

We don't ever wanna see bars in this industry on the screen, but if we do, we do our best to get them off the screen as quickly as possible. - Now, what got you into this business? Because I know everybody has a special route in which they came to this show in particular, but what got you into it in the first place? - Wow, I was born into this business for the most part. My mom was a producer, my dad was a director. I grew up in edit suites and on sets and in control rooms from the time I could walk and talk.

So yeah, it was a pretty cool opportunity to be able to be part of part of television for my whole life. I wasn't sure if it was something that I wanted to do, so I stepped away from it for a period of time, but always found myself coming back and working on different projects and I would never, ever consider not being in this industry. I just love it and I love the people I work with. - Yeah, well, we love working with you too, Stacy, so thank you for all you do as well. I wanna get to your favorite moments, and I know that both of you have been discussing this.

So who's gonna tell me what your favorite moment was of "Access Tech Live" so far? It's okay if you say my name. - Of course, it's your name and Marc's of course, too. We don't wanna, it's both of you guys. Oh, very good, very good.

If I can jump in, I would love to just say that Stephanie Kadu was probably one of my favorite interviews. I think she is a champion of change and a beacon of light, and she is Canada's first chief accessibility officer, and she's just doing amazing things, and I think we should be proud as a country that we have this person, Stephanie, doing this role and really creating awareness and education. And so, I was really inspired by what she brought to the table. She shared some of her personal journey, but also she talked about how we can all learn from what it means to make change and make Canada barrier-free. - Stacy Jordan, thank you so much for being with us. Obviously every single week you make our jobs so much easier.

And without further ado, here is Stephanie Kadu from our first episode of "Access Tech Live" this season. - First things first, congratulations on a new show. - Thank you. - Well, I'm Chief Accessibility Officer for Canada, the first one, and that means we're really building the role in many respects, but the role was created under the Accessible Canada Act specifically, and my role is as an advisor, an independent advisor to the minister responsible for the Act, and I am there to monitor the progress that we're making as a country towards becoming barrier-free by 2040. - I think sometimes it's important to get a little bit of a backstory. And if you don't mind, what brought you to this role? What path led you to this role in the government? - You know what? When I took the role, I said to myself, well, I think this is it.

This is what I was meant to do, because, well, I was injured. I had a spinal cord injury when I was 18, that set my life on a super-different path than the one I had intended. But it's been a really interesting one. I was an online entrepreneur in 1998-ish, but then I ended up falling into a role in the disability sector working with Spinal Cord Injury BC. I was working as an advocate and there for eight years, which led me into a role in provincial politics.

I got myself elected as an MLA in the legislature for almost 14 before taking this role. - Wow, when I think about a job that might have a lot of red tape and a lot of hurdles and roadblocks, I don't think that there is any other job I could possibly think of other than yours that might have as many challenges in front of it as one that you're taking on. Do you feel the same way? Do you feel like it's a hard task at hand, or do you just embrace a challenge and just hit on straight like a freight train? - Oh, I love a good challenge, but you're right, there are a lot of complexities.

As I said in my role though, I'm really the cheerleader. I'm the champion for the work ahead. I'm there to say to people, why is it important that we include accessibility and think about accessibility from the start? Why do we care about including people with disabilities in every aspect of society? - Do you find that a lot of it's education really just, because I find, listen on my side of things when it comes to this show, I don't have a disability, so I come from the point of view of someone who asks a lot of questions. I try to understand the perspective. I never will understand it from the point of view of someone who actually has a disability, because I'm just not in their shoes.

But I'm the father of an autistic son, and I can speak to that point of view in various things like that. But I find that I'm educating a lot. I'm spending a lot of time just trying to break down what people might think is complicated into sometimes logic and just plain English so that the light bulb goes off and they go, "Oh, that's why we need to do this." And it just becomes logical.

Is that a similar situation to you, what you're doing? - I find that, I find that in life, I find that a lot. But yeah, in this role as well, and as I say, it's a learning curve for everyone. Nobody has all the answers here. It's hard to individualize everything. It's not even possible. And so, as we go through this, there are things that people are learning and questions that people are having to ask or be asked in order to get it right.

And sometimes we're not gonna get it right on the first try. Maybe not even on the second, but the important thing is being open to it, asking the right questions, being open to the feedback, not taking it personally if we get it wrong, but instead learning from our failures, so to speak as we move forward. - Yeah, and the Accessible Canada Act and just, I think accessibility in general, people sometimes think it's, oh, it's only for people who have a disability, but that's not true. Accessibility means that anybody can have equal access to everything. There's no barriers, as you said, a barrier-free Canada. So where do you feel, and I say from that perspective, because you can only do as much as you can do in terms of advocating, but where do you feel we are, when it comes to the Accessible Canada Act? Do you measure it by a percentage? How do you measure it? Where do you feel we stand kind of today? - We're working on that actually, trying to figure that out.

- What the metric is, right? - Exactly, what are the metrics and how do we figure that out? We're at a starting point. In some cases, and in some places, we are ahead of other jurisdictions. We are the first country to have a chief accessibility officer. So the fact that we're thinking about it at that level, and we're making a commitment at that level as a country, is really big. It doesn't mean that people with disabilities have access to everything at all. We are recognizing we have a long way to go.

The built environment, we have a long way to go. It's easiest to think about the built environment I think in terms of accessibility, that's where our minds naturally go. We think about wheelchairs, we think about ramps, we think about power door openers, and we say, "Okay, we understand this." Understanding it and doing it are two different things.

When we move along the path of accessibility and start thinking about things that are a little less obvious technology, access to all aspects of technology and whether or not they are inclusive and accessible. What about thinking beyond that? What about policy design? What about program and service delivery? What does accessibility mean in those contexts? It's much more complex and difficult work. We have to be asking a lot of questions all the time.

And how do we get that right? Ultimately, we will get it right if we include people with disabilities. And that is at the core of the Act, at the center of the Act is nothing without us. Not nothing about us without us, just nothing without us. And that means including people with disabilities and all the perspectives from the beginning and asking those questions. And so, in and of itself, we're starting from scratch there, but it's so important.

- And that was Stephanie Kadu speaking to us on our first episode of "Access Tech Live" Canada, Canada's first chief accessibility officer. Marc, an incredible role, and an incredible woman. - An incredible conversation here on the show as well.

Okay, we're gonna take a quick break and when we come back, we're gonna meet two more of our favorite teammates right here on our holiday edition of "Access Tech Live". Do stick around. - [Narrator] The latest in tech and accessibility. This is the "Access Tech Live: Holiday Special" with Steven Scott and Marc Aflalo.

The latest in tech and accessibility, this is the "Access Tech Live: Holiday Special" with Steven Scott and Marc Aflalo. - And we're back. And it would seem odd, Marc Aflalo, to sit down here and come up with what we think are the best features, the best interviews, the best conversations we've had here on "Access Tech Live". So instead what we thought we'd do is we'd ask the team, right? Because that seems more appropriate, I think.

- I call it deflection, Steven, I call it, not wanting to make a decision. So let other people do it for you. - And then if they're bad decisions, they're not our problem, right? That's that's the mood I'm going for here. Okay, so let me bring on two more wonderful members of our team here. We've got Kaitlynn, and Eliza, great to have you both here on this segment of "Access Tech Live".

Kaitlynn, tell us what you do on the show. - So I am the technical director or switcher, so kind of just going through all the shots and listening, working with the director to get what shots need to be on screen, on screen. - So you're the one who makes sure that when we're on screen that we're there when we're supposed to be. - Yeah, yeah. - Eliza, tell me about you.

I feel like this is some kind of performance review that's going on here. Eliza, what is it you're doing on the show? - So I have the amazing task and responsibility of kind of creating all the graphics. So all of the little names you see in the corner, all of the titles and what they talk about on the show. I've had the pleasure of making all those templates as well as just kind of creating the initial body of the show. Right now, I just kind of keep things updated with what Marc and Steven would like and occasionally, I jump into other roles as needed. - I love it, I love it.

I gotta ask you, Kaitlynn though, how did you get into this business in the first place? What brings you to "Access Tech Live"? - I kind of stumbled upon this business by accident. I went to school for film and I was like, "I'm gonna be like a director and get an Oscar." And then my friend basically needed people to come and help with the broadcast and she was like, "Do you wanna give it a try?" And so, I came and I gave it a try and I just fell in love with it. And yeah, I've been doing it ever since. And then I found Accessible Media and I was like, "I need that job." So I love the idea of being able to do what I love in broadcasting while also being on a channel that I feel like actually makes a big difference.

- And what about you Eliza? What got you into the whole graphic world? Was this something you'd always been interested in? - So like Anastasia, I grew up in the industry. My dad worked at a major broadcaster in live shows, and I was also homeschooled, so I was just there. That was my school. I was there all the time, 24/7. So I felt like I was in this industry before I really was.

When I actually started, I started in film and bounced around a while until I got more into live productions. I also am part of this research group for accessibility and diversity on screen. So when I came across AMI, I was like, "This is perfect." It really pairs both of my interests together in a beautiful way.

- Well, you only mentioned Anastasia there, you meant Stacy, because that's what we referred to who earlier, as people might be wondering who we're talking about. So Eliza, what segment have you picked for us this week to profile on the holiday special? - So one of my other interests is fitness. I really love exercising, doing all bunch of activities. So I was really interested in the Apple Fitness Plus series.

I've never thought about kind of the marriage of accessibility with fitness was really interested and intrigued when this came up. - So here it is, without further ado, Jay Blahnik, the Vice President of Fitness Technologies at Apple. In March, 2014, Apple first unveiled its Fitness Plus platform instantly making its service available to Apple users worldwide. Now, since that time, the platform continues to grow and is and always has been and has always taken inclusivity to whole new levels. Joining us now is Apple's Vice President of Fitness Technologies joining us live from Apple's Fitness Plus Studios. Jay Blahnik, thank you so much for joining us here on "Access Tech Live".

- It's an honor to be here. Thank you very much for including us. - Now Jay, you've been at Apple since 2013 before Fitness Plus was even a thing. This was before the Apple Watch was even really a thing.

So I've gotta ask you from your background and your experience when you came to Apple, was Fitness Plus something that was even on the radar? - That's a great question. When I came to Apple, we were working on launching the Apple Watch and we knew from the very beginning that this was going to be the most personal product that Apple had ever designed, because you wear it on your body. But we didn't have any notion in our mind about building out a fitness service.

We were really focused on making the Apple Watch a great experience for many things. But obviously, fitness was one of the things at its core to help people be more active, to help them measure their workouts. And we were thrilled by the response we received. Believe it or not, this coming April will be the 10th anniversary of the Apple Watch.

So time has really flown. After a few years of the Apple Watch being in the market and seeing how successful it was for our users and helping them be more active, we started hearing from our users, they were asking questions like, "I love the measurement and the motivation that the watch provides me, but how do I get started in yoga? Or how do I run my first race? Or I wanna build more flexibility or more strength, how do I do that?" And we started thinking it might be a great idea to provide content that went along with the Apple Watch. At Apple, we really care deeply about not just going into areas because there's an opportunity. We really want to go into an area when we can contribute something very unique. And so, we spend a lot of time thinking about what we can contribute. There's many great fitness services out there and we're fans of many of them, but we really wanted to think about what we could do uniquely.

And after a couple of years of really ideating on it, we came up with something that's really core of what Apple's all about. And it was based on a very simple idea. And that is that we believe gyms and hospitals are two of the most intimidating places on the planet. And we really felt like it would be amazing if we could build a fitness service that was the most welcoming and accessible fitness service on the planet. And so, we set out about doing that and that's really in line with what Apple's always been about and it's about democratizing technology. We really wanted to use technology to democratize fitness and wellbeing with Apple Fitness Plus.

And it's still Apple's newest service. We've only been out a little over two years, but the response has been incredible and we're thrilled. And of course, as you know, it started as something where you needed an Apple watch, but now the service has expanded to invite even users in that just have an iPhone. - Yeah, and using the service without actually needing the hardware is actually opening the door to a whole new audience. And I can see the use cases right there as well. And of course, especially with people with iPhones, because they can do it from anywhere, whether they're traveling on the road, et cetera, et cetera.

I've gotta ask you something, because from the get-go and anybody who tunes into Fitness Plus, any program, you'll notice right from the beginning there's sign language, there's inclusivity, there's people without limbs, and that representation has been there since the start. When you developed this service, when you were thinking of Fitness Plus as a whole, was that representation important from the start or is it something that developed over time? - We know our North Star, as I mentioned, was always about making and building a service that was the most welcoming and inclusive service on the planet. And at the core of the service as you know, are the trainers.

And so, when we went about recruiting the team of trainers to be a part of Apple Fitness Plus, we really wanted to think deeply about how to make sure that everyone in the service would feel seen and heard and see that in their trainers. And so, we obviously recruited trainers that were incredible experts that were masters at their craft, but one of the things that was very important to us was that they also had a real heart for the beginner. And to us, that does not just mean a beginner who might be new to fitness or new to meditation, but anyone trying something new. So for example, we hear all the time where you might be a really fast runner coming into the service, you might be an elite runner, but if you're brand new to yoga, you demonstrate all the same, intimidation feelings with yoga as any beginner might that's maybe not even worked out before. And so, we wanted a team that really had a heart for the beginner in whatever that meant to our users. And then we also wanted to make sure that the team represented all walks of life.

And so, we're the only fitness service that has trainers in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, even when approaching 70, all shapes and sizes, many of them have been in fitness and sport their whole life. But we felt it was really important to have trainers that have also been on their own fitness and wellbeing journey and maybe came to fitness later in life, because they can bring that to their experience as a trainer in the service. And we love hearing that you notice it, we hear all the time from our users that they notice it as well.

It's a big part of what makes the service tick is just knowing that when you see the trainers working together, that we're doing our best to try to make everyone feel included. - Yeah, and Jay, you really do feel that. You really feel that it's just catered to absolutely everybody. And that's important too, because there are so many different types of people out there with different levels of experience who want a harder workout, a softer workout.

And in every program that I see on Apple Fitness Plus you're catering to all the different levels at the same time, which is a unique challenge, but at the same time, you guys do it quite intelligently and it doesn't come across as something that's just overly in your face. So I'm curious, how do you develop these programs knowing that the audience is not gonna be all at the same levels? How do you make sure that you're catering to everybody you could possibly be tuning in at any given point in time? - We love hearing that feedback, thank you. Yeah, it's on our mind every single day that we're in the studio, because every single workout and meditation is crafted to try to make sure it's as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. One of the things that makes the service unique for those that haven't tried it is the first service where the trainers actually appear in the background of each other's workouts.

So you may come in thinking that you're going to do a yoga class with Jessica or Dice and you'll see one of the other trainers in the background. And that does two things. Number one, it it allows you to really feel the brain trust of the whole trainer team, the motivation and inspiration from the whole trainer team, which does encourage you to try other things. You almost feel like you get a chance to meet them before you venture into let's say a new workout type or meditation. But the other thing it does is it allows us to ensure that there's always one trainer in the video demonstrating a modification for someone who may not be able to keep up with that particular move or with the entire workout.

And so, if you're brand new to yoga, you can always keep your eye on the trainer who's on the left, because they will be demonstrating an easier version of the move that you just saw. So whether it's something where you might be struggling with your balance or maybe you're just not flexible or you don't have the strength to do it, you'll always know that one of the trainers has got your back. And our users tell us all the time, they love seeing that mix of trainers doing that.

Oftentimes the trainer's doing a modification, because they themselves need to make that modification and it really makes them feel even more human and really connected to our users. So you might see in a HIIT workout that Greg is not jumping, he's one of our strength trainers and that's because jumping is not comfortable for him. He may also be the walker in a treadmill workout. And that really sends the message, which is important to us that everyone's welcome, we are all on our own journey and we're at different levels of that journey and it's all okay. The other thing that you may have noticed and something that was really important to our trainer team from the very beginning was they all before the service launch, they all began learning sign language and they take lessons every single week and they have so for since the service launch and they use that sign language in their openings throughout the workout, in their closing for their inspirational moments, those power phrases that every trainer has.

And we worked with our accessibility teams and what they told us was it wasn't essential to use sign language throughout the entire workout or meditation, because obviously it's a visual medium and you can follow what the trainer's doing. But that it was a really important way to send the message that if you were hard of hearing or deaf that you were also welcome and that it was an important place for you to be able to, it was an important way for you to be able to see that. And we hear all the time from our users that say they love seeing that, 'cause it reminds them that this is a place where everyone's welcome.

The trainers even do something else that's really great. And that is they've learned special techniques to teach with just their voice in case you are low vision or are blind. You'll even see them in the rehearsal space inside the studio where oftentimes the lead trainer will be in front of a curtain and the background trainers will be on the other side of the curtain and they will be attempting to cue their workout where the trainers can't actually see what the trainer's doing. And we're looking to see whether or not the words resonate in a way that allow you to actually follow along. And so, those are just a few examples.

We're constantly pushing on as many things as we can do to make the services accessible as possible. We know it's a journey, not a destination. We'll continue to keep doing everything we can, but we're really thrilled about the response we've received so far. - And that was another of our selections here on "Access Tech Live" this week.

That was Jade Blahnik of course, the Vice President of Fitness Technologies over there at Apple. Again, a fantastic conversation, really focused in on the work that Apple are doing in the world of accessibility, just brilliant. - I love the fact that we make other people choose the highlights of the season, Steven, so that we don't have to. Too much pressure, too much pressure. When we come back, two more of our teammates are gonna be joining us to lend us their insight on what their favorite moment was from this season thus far. Stick around.

- [Narrator] The latest in tech and accessibility. This is the "Access Tech Live: Holiday Special" with Steven Scott and Marc Aflalo. The latest in tech and accessibility.

This is the "Access Tech Live: Holiday Special" with Steven Scott and Marc Aflalo. - And we're back, this is "Access Tech Live". I am Steven Scott, he is Marc Aflalo. - Hello. - And this week we're doing something a little bit different.

We're asking the members on our team their favorite interviews, their favorite conversations that they've been watching alongside us over the past season. Not quite a year yet. We still have a long way to go, but we thought we'd did dive in, because in these short months we've done a lot and we've spoken to a lot of interesting people. And we're gonna continue that here on the show, because we're introducing you to more members of our team. Kingsley and Madison are here.

Hi guys. - Hi. - Hey, how we going? - Hey, good to have you here. Now Kingsley, tell us all about you.

What is it you do on the show? - So I am the live graphics operator for "Access Tech Live". And I am the production assistant for AMI overall. So I do have different roles. I support Michelle, the producer of the show, and I have various roles with other shows with AMI.

- So you're a busy bee as they say. Kingsley, what got you into this business? - So ironically, just like Stacy and Eliza, I grew up in theater. My mom and my aunt and a few of my cousins were part of a theater troupe. So I grew up around acting and along with acting, there were also singers. So I grew up in music studios and stuff. And this is all back home in Uganda.

This is before I moved to Canada. So when I moved to Canada, I kind of just kept the family business going. I initially got into videography, my dad bought me my first smartphone in high school a Nokia N92. And from then I was just learned how to edit videos and I knew how to record audio and I just kind of did it as a side gig. But then I eventually went to school for design and once I graduated, I came across AMI through Alicia Yardley, been in love ever since.

And it's like important work that's done here and I have to reiterate that. - But we are excited to have you on our team and I'm sure that echoes all of our sentiments. Let's, let's move on to Madison for a second. Madison, you came in a little bit late, you're leaving a little bit early, why is that? What do you do in the show? - I am the TV production intern or apprentice. So I've only been here for around eight weeks and I'll be leaving shortly, which is really upsetting. - Aw, well, instead of, you know what, asking you where you came from, why don't you tell us what you want to be doing in this business since this is obviously something you wanna be doing.

- Yeah, so I'm currently a fourth year student at Guelph Humber and I'm studying journalism. So I wanna be in any form of media. I really love it and AMI has just offered a perfect merge of accessibility and media and it just is a feel great place to be. - Well, we wish you all the best with that, Madison. And we thank you for your time. And I imagine that one day you'll probably be our boss.

That's usually how these things work. So I wish you all the best with Madison. - Fingers crossed. - Kingsley, I'm coming to you, because you are gonna tell us your favorite interview of the season so far.

- Okay, so as you may know or may not know, I am a huge gamer. I love playing sports video games to be exact, I love playing shooting video games, because I kind of suck at them and I get upset when I lose. So to find out that there's this crossover that Xbox has done with accessible gaming and providing accessible controllers, we got to speak with Tara Voelker about how this project came along and it was just super-interesting to see that side of gaming. - Well, without further ado, here is our conversation with Tara Voelker Senior XBOX Game Studios Accessibility Lead on Access Tech Live - Tara Voelker, thank you so much for being with us this week.

- No, thank you so much for having me. I'm also joined by another accessibility specialist, Leon the Cat. - Oh, I like Leon. - So he's also, yeah, he's gonna be here to answer questions as well. Isn't that true, Leon? Yeah.

- I'm sure he's a great interview. I'm sure you have many a conversation when you're quiet. I also noticed the cat ear is on your headset, which is pretty cool as well. - [Tara] Oh, he's literally turning off my camera. Okay, you don't have to be so good about it.

- This is why we do this show live, Tara. It's so that you can try to push us to our limits and see if there's ever a breaking point and we're not gonna get to that, I promise you. Thank you so much for being with us. You're gonna be with us for a while today, I appreciate that. And before we dive into the news, I gotta ask you, because that title on your business card, not only is it a long one, I'm sure, I gotta know what it's about and what you do on a day-to-day, not only with of obviously on the Xbox side, but also on the Game Accessibility Conference, because your world is definitely way more fun than mine. - First off, your world is also very, very fun, so don't put yourself down like that, but yeah, it is a lot and it's a very long title.

So within the worlds of gaming at Microsoft, at Xbox, one of our business units is the Xbox Game Studios and that is all of the different independent studios who make all of our video games. They get published under Xbox. And so, I work with all of those studios to help them make their games as accessible as they can be. And so, it's learning, it's teaching, it's consulting, it's running a champs program, a little bit of everything. And I'm really lucky 'cause I get to work with some really amazing teams.

But when I'm not doing that, yeah, I'm the co-director of the Game Accessibility Conference and that is a conference that happens twice a year, once in the U.S., once in the UK fully dedicated to just teaching devs about accessibility and disability in the video game space. And that's the putting together a whole event, which you run a TV show, you understand how hard this is. - Tara, hi, it's Steven here.

And I just wanted to ask you about your feelings about other companies like Sony, because of course we've been hearing a lot about adaptive controllers, Sony, Xbox, of course, very similar, what Sony's bringing out to what Microsoft did over a year ago, what's your take on that and what's your feelings about that level of development we're seeing bringing in accessibility into more games companies, into more companies generally releasing games? - I think it's absolutely amazing. One of the things I love about the controller that Sony is releasing, which I have pre-ordered, because I wanna check it out and I wanna play with it, is that it's not the exact same as we built the adaptive controller. We have always talked about, hey, this was our go, but it's not perfect and we want to continue our accessibility journey and it's great to see another company building a controller that's trying to reach the same goal of inclusion of people with mobility disabilities. And they solved it in a different way. So now there's so much that we can learn from each other, but it also means there's more choice for consumers. And when you get to make a choice and pick the product that works best for you, that's when you're gonna have the best experience.

So I want more of these controllers, 'cause there was also the Nintendo released one that came out I think via Hori, so it's not quite the same, but the fact that there are now multiple controllers that you'll be able to choose from, I think is amazing, 'cause if you would've asked me five, six years ago, like, "Oh, do you think there'll be multiple accessibility controllers available?" I probably would've laughed at you, I didn't see it coming. This is fantastic and I want more. - No, absolutely. I think so, it is often good at this point, especially with you here, Tara, to kinda stop and take stock a little bit.

So for people who don't live and breathe gaming, and I'm one of those people to be perfectly honest and there are reasons for that and we'll get into that later. But I want you to tell us if you can, where we're at at the moment with accessible gaming in 2023? - Right now we are at this sort of watershed moment. We are seeing more accessibility for more companies in more games at a higher level of investment that we've ever seen before. So we are on a peak of exponential growth in the industry. And I'm saying here today, wow, there's so much accessibility that didn't exist even a couple years ago. I'm sure that I'll say the exact same thing two years from now, oh my goodness, there's so much accessibility today that didn't happen a couple years ago.

We're seeing new hardware, we're seeing new options in game, we're seeing even just gaming events being more physically accessible to gamers with disabilities. And all of this is still relatively new as a phenomenon. - Why do you think it is that it's moving so fast in this particular area? Because if you look at everything else in the world and you look at, whether it's consumer hardware or just the world in general, it seems like it's always little baby steps and we're always having to force the subject. But gaming, at least in my perspective, and I'm kind of with Steven where I'm not a hardcore gamer, but my son is. The amount of stuff we're hearing about accessibility in gaming, whether it's the gameplay, whether it's people like Steve Saylor or just it's in our face more and more, which is phenomenal. But why so fast? Because it feels like it's taken decades to even bring up this conversation, what's changed? - I think the biggest thing is that game developers are trying to create experiences for everyone to enjoy.

Game developers are creating not just entertainment, but really art in sort of a way. And we want everyone to be able to play our games. We want everyone to get to have that narrative, that experience. And I think because we are so connected to our consumer base, 'cause we are also frequently our consumer base that we have much larger empathy for other players in our products.

And so, we want to engage. And I think the other thing that also is starting to happen is some of the earliest game devs, like they're starting to age, maybe they're starting to get some arthritis, maybe they themselves don't have the dexterity they used to have when they first started making games. And so, I think there's also a bit of future protection happening.

I think a lot of game devs are like, "Oh man, as I grow older I want to continue playing. So we need to invest in accessibility now so that as I age I can continue to game." Have they been receptive to accessibility in gaming? Is it something that they're feeling they have to kind of go back and figure out how to make it happen? Or is it like, I use Microsoft as an example, It's in the DNA now, it's from the start, accessibility is an issue and they make sure they're building with accessibility in mind. Is gaming, is that industry the same now? as an industry as a whole, we're getting a lot better about being aware of accessibility, but there are definitely people who are in different stages of their accessibility journey. So there are some studios, Turn 10, Naughty Dog, some of the ones in Ubisoft, who do have it built into their DNA. There are other studios who are just starting and they're still kind of in the retrofitting phase, they have made a game and realized that it has gaps in terms of accessibility.

So they're trying to go back in and patch it, which is going to still result in a more accessible game, but not the level of accessibility we see from some types across the industry today. But overall, I don't think there is any game development team out there who's sitting there being like, "Oh, I don't want disabled players to play my game. I don't wanna invest in accessibility." I don't think that's a thing. I think that if there are studios who are doing less accessible work, it's normally that they're just earlier in their accessibility journey and they're trying to understand the problem. Accessibility challenges in a title are really just a problem to be solved.

And normally if the problem isn't being solved in those titles, it's just that they don't fully understand the problem space yet. - That is our conversation with Tara Voelker from Xbox Game Studios. More to come, one more person to introduce you to, but we take a quick break before we do that. This is "Access Tech Live: Holiday Special", - [Narrator] The latest in tech and accessibility. This is the "Access Tech Live: Holiday Special" with Steven Scott and Marc Aflalo, The latest in tech and accessibility.

This is the "Access Tech Live: Holiday Special" with Steven Scott and Marc Aflalo. - Welcome back. This is our holiday special of "Access Tech Live" and we are introducing you to some of the team. Now listen, we are playing you some of the conversation that we've had. Of course, we've had many conversations over the past couple of months and much longer conversations as well.

You can catch up with all of those right now at AMI Plus. But when I say right now, what I mean is in 10, 15 minutes or so when the show's done, right? - Finish, at least finish the show with us at least. - Yeah, exactly. Stay here first. Now listen, we have one more person to introduce you to. Marc, I think we have to be careful here, because she is kind of important, right? She's the really important one, because she's the one in charge.

- Well, the people who have the long titles are the ones that seem to be the most important. But as you said, Steven, Madison's gonna be our boss soon anyway, so I don't think it matters. - That's right, so it doesn't matter.

Yeah, it's true. Hi Michelle, how are you? - Hi Steven, hi Marc, thanks for having me. - Michelle, what do you do on our show? - My title on the show is a supervising producer.

And so, what I do is I work alongside the two of you, Marc and Steven, on basically the big picture of what we want to say and do with the show. And then we meet weekly to discuss what's going to happen on each episode, who our guests are gonna be, and the different topics that we wanna hit. - So Michelle, I have to ask you the question I've been asking everyone else here, what's been your favorite interview? Do you have one? - Steven, it's tough. I really, I wanna say that I've loved all of them, but I have chosen one and the one that I chose for as my favorite I guess so far this season was the one that the conversation we had with Greg Westlake, actually.

I'm a huge fan of Greg anyway, but he, in this episode we were talking about technology and prosthetics and I've actually, I've seen a lot of interviews with Greg and I've heard and witnessed a lot of interviews with Greg, but I've never actually heard him speak on this topic before. And it was a really fantastic conversation and if I didn't like him enough before I grew to like him, a lot more after that. Obviously, he's also the host of "Level Playing Field", he's a five-time Paralympian. So there's always a lot to talk about with Greg. But again, this was a topic that was unique for me and I hope for the audience and those who follow Greg. - Well, Michelle, on behalf of everybody here, thank you so much for everything that you do for us in the show.

And without further ado, here is a clip of Greg Westlake as Eric earlier this season here on "Access Tech Live". - I wanna ask you a little bit about computerized prosthetics, because this is something we're starting to hear a little bit more about. Something I wasn't as aware of as I would like to be.

And maybe you can tell us a bit more about it. In sports, it does make sense, I guess for these kind of prosthetics to be used, but what would that impact on you? How would that impact on you day-to-day? Do you use them? - Well, it's again, another great question for me. I don't, because I have all of my, I'll say joints major joints, elbows, and knees. And where the computerized chips are really helping amputees are for the people that are missing an elbow. So it's an arm amputee that's above the elbow or it's a leg amputee that's above the knee. That's where these chips are making a huge difference, because we did a feature on Ottobock and I'm sure you're gonna talk to Ottobock and so, I don't wanna step on their toes, but what they can do with these chips now is it basically replaces your knee.

And so yeah, you're wearing an artificial leg, but where the money and the tech is, is in that chip that's replacing your knee. That can simulate kicking out the lower portion of your leg so that you don't fall over when you're walking on a downhill, an uphill, a side hill. As we all know, once we leave our house, the world isn't safeguarded for people with disabilities. You gotta adapt to the terrain, you have to adapt to the outside world, not everything's done for you. And so, that's where these chips are just absolutely massive is I'm around a lot of other amputees and it's the people that are missing major knees and elbows.

So that is just where it's incredible. And where it makes a difference in your life, to be honest with you, is just comfort day-to-day. And so for me, growing up as a kid, I had a whole different system that I used to use.

And the big thing it was me against me. I'd play hockey all day, I'd work out, I'd be active at recess, I'd come home, my legs would be so sore. I would just be in so much pain. So it was like one day of fun meant two days of me not being able to have some fun, as a kid.

Now the legs are so good and the systems are so different that now I can be so active and I can wake up and do it again the next day and then I can wake up and do it again on the third day. So what's nice about the tech now is for me as a guy in my late thirties now, it's all about comfort. It's all about being able to go with my kid, my dog, my wife, and I can do that and not miss days too, I'll call it a quote unquote "Sick day."

I don't have to take a sick day anymore, 'cause my legs are in too much pain. And that's all because of the technological advancements that have been made on prosthetics. - Greg, you talked about the environment and the world out there not being safeguarded for obviously people who are walking around with prosthetics.

Do you think technology has improved the safety and the performance, especially when it comes to athletes? I think in sport, that's a major concern. It's not only about actually performing the act, but it's about doing it safely and making sure that you're not hurting yourself even more. - 100%, and I think, away from the field of play, away from sport, 100%, way safer. So much work. And again, when we were with Ottobock, I witnessed it firsthand, but they had the computer, the chip processors on the computer and they had the amputee going up and down stairs and ramps and all these different terrains and what the knee could do was just incredible. And so, for day-to-day that is just making such a profound difference in people's lives.

Now when it comes to the actual field of play, that's where it gets a little bit different, because like a lot of things in life, when you give something, you take something away. And so, for technology, for me, I play a full contact sport for para ice hockey. Well, the faster we go, the harder the collisions are. And so, as we make things faster, better, picture a downhill skier, okay, we're gonna make this apparatus for you on an artificial leg that now you can go down the hill 80 kilometers faster. Well, now that collision when you do fall is gonna be a lot tougher as well. So on one hand, I think we're really helping the sport performance, but to say that it's safer, I would say the collisions are more intense.

I would say that some of that, you open yourself up to some catastrophic collisions. So it's a hard one to say, but that's also, isn't that what sports is about? And people with disabilities are no different. We wanna push our bodies, we wanna push our boundaries, we wanna set world records, we wanna go down the hill the fastest, reach the finish line first, score the most goals. That's no different. That is just high performance sport to a T.

And if you love high performance the way that I love high performance, you'll take any edge you can get. - So obviously, for more of that and more of any of the interviews that you heard on this week's show, head on over to AMI Plus you can catch full episodes of everything we've done this season thus far. If not, even back in our closet from our early days, Mr. Scott.

- Yeah, that's right. Well, there's no shortage of conversations for sure. And you know what? Every one of them is an absolute joy to do and it's actually a really nice time to just go back and look.

And it's only been a couple of months, but we've done so much. We've had so many interesting conversations. And as we've heard, one of the things that I love most about doing this show is that we actually get the chance to delve into sides of stories we don't often hear about, like Jay Blahnik talking from Apple about Fitness Plus and the way that they're able to make these products accessible as many people as possible. These are stories you don't hear in the mainstream tech media, but you will hear here on "Access Tech Live", which is wonderful.

- We're gonna take a quick break here on "Access Tech Live" our holiday special and come back and wrap things up, stick around. - [Narrator] The latest in tech and accessibility. This is the "Access Tech Live: Holiday Special" with Steven Scott and Marc Aflalo. The latest in tech and accessibility. This is the "Access Tech Live: Holiday Special" with Steven Scott and Marc Aflalo. - Hey everyone, welcome back to our ho ho holiday special of "Access Tech Live".

See what I did there. You know what, Marc? It's been a fun show, right? Meeting the team's been great at having the chance for everyone to shine. - It's nice, I thought some people might be camera shy, wouldn't wanna come on and do it, but when we put the feeler out, everybody's like, "Yeah, we want to get involved."

So I'm glad that we put the onus on them to pick some of their favorite moments from this past season thus far. But next week, Steven, we're gonna kick off the new year with an another little best of episode, but we're gonna pick some of the segments. So if you want to blame somebody next week, blame us. For now, blame everybody else on the show, okay? - Yeah, well listen, a huge thank you again to everyone who works in the teamwork and worked so hard behind the scenes. I'm really glad we got the chance today too, so turn the camera around, as it were. And showcase the work that they do, because frankly, if it wasn't for those guys, we would not be here.

It's as simple as that. We wouldn't be able to be here. We wouldn't know how to, I don't know how all the buttons work.

You gotta push buttons. - Well, Steven, we'd be here, we just wouldn't be with you at home on your television right now. - That's right, exactly. We would just be sitting in a respective location- - Talking to ourselves. - Talking to ourselves,

if we even manage that. (Marc chuckles) - Well, on behalf of everybody here at "Access Tech Live", everybody that you've met today, and of course, everybody at AMI, have a very safe and happy holiday season. I hope it treats you well and Happy New Year and wishing you all the best.

We'll see you on the other side of 2023. 2024 is around the corner and we promise exciting things are coming here on the show. - [Narrator] Thanks for tuning in to "Access Tech Live", follow us online at all, social media @accesstechlive, email us Hosted by Steven Scott in Glasgow and Marc Aflalo in Montreal. Written by Steven Scott and Marc Aflalo. Live show director, Anastasia Spalding-Stenhouse.

Technical director, Kaitlynn Robinson. Audio, Jordan Mulgrave. Live graphics and playback, Kingsley Juuko. Graphics coordinator, Eliza Rocco.

Integrated described video specialist, Em Williams, Supervising producer, Michelle Dudas. Copyright 2023 Accessible Media Inc. An AMI original production.

2024-01-03 15:04

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