Why design apps with accessibility? Meet Todd Stabelfeldt, founder of C4 Consulting, who has lived with quadriplegia since the age of 8. Over his decades-long struggle for increased independence in both his personal and professional lives, Todd has become a noted expert in technologies for persons with disabilities, which he has found can offer not only a level of autonomy but also empowerment and dignity to the mobility impaired. Leading by example, Todd runs a successful business but his real passion lies elsewhere. Hear how apps designed well with accessibility in mind have changed his life as a husband, father and as owner of the “Quadthedral“, his family's HomeKit-enabled smart home.
I'm glad to see you all here and I'm very pleased to welcome you to today's lunchtime session, Convenience for You is Independence for Me.
So, hope some of you were able, or many of you were able to attend yesterday's session with the amazing Dr. Christine Darden . I'm glad you enjoyed that. So, I have to prepare you hold onto your seats. Today's speaker is incredible. Todd Stabelfeldt was injured at an early age in an accident that left him paralyzed.
Some might have considered that an insurmountable obstacle.
Not so with Todd.
He is simply a force into himself.
So, I found personally from working with him, that to know him is to love him. And I'm the only thing standing in the way of you getting to know Todd. So please, it is my privilege to introduce to you Todd Stabelfeldt.
Todd Stabelfeldt. AKA the Quad Father.
When you go on Facebook and you click on the Quad Father hashtag, you're just going to see my big harry face.
And a bunch of dudes with enormous muscles. And I'm going to assume those are quads. I have no idea how muscles even work, OK? So, yeah I'm Todd.
Back in the day, back in kindergarten days it was Stabelface, but we promoted to Stabelfeldt. So, that's how we call it. What am I doing, right? This is a moment, this is a bucketlist moment for a dude. Especially a nerd. You know, I've years dreams wouldn't that be radical to go to WWDC. Now, I'm actually here. So, I will, oh, thank, you. Yeah. So, if anything I don't really care if I suck or not, this is my moment . So, I'm sorry folks.
OK. All right.
Let's do this.
I want you to see me.
I really, really want you to see me. Once you get passed the big facial hair, this incredibly lush mustache, and past the disability, I want you to see a dude. A dude name Todd from Port Orchard. Who's a nerd.
Wants independence. And has found a platform to get him that. And not just me, but the millions and millions of others who sort of fit in that demographic. So, yeah, I've got a PhD in pain and suffering.
Deal with it, handle it.
So, I'm going to walk you through a couple of videos. No pun intended on that walk part. You can laugh, go ahead. How dare you laugh, that's horribly offensive .
All right. Two quads walk in a bar. Oh, no. That's a joke too.
Quad, quadriplegic. All right whatever you get it. We'll stop there. The jokes begin to fall apart after that. I'm going to go ahead and show a couple of videos today, and we're going to talk a little bit, and then we're going to do actually a live demo. And that's what we're going to do. So, as I sort of kick up this next video, I'm just sort of, let's sort of see some of the older stuff and get a sense of where we're at today, OK? So, we're going to take a few minutes and watch this first vid.
Hi. I'm Todd Stabelfeldt. I was paralyzed in 1987 due to a gunshot wound. My cousin and I were playing with some guns, and unfortunately, that resulted in what's called C4 quadriplegia. I'm able to move from my shoulders up, and from the shoulders down is essentially gone. Once you're paralyzed, you're almost sort of reborn. And you start all over again. Because now you can't do anything for yourself. I learned quickly as a young kid, what my life was going to be all about, putting solutions together. Back then, it was really, really crude approaches to just try to have any shred of independence. And one of the real systemic problems was communication, especially at that sort of mobile level. You know, with a spinal cord injury, essentially we are reduced to our voice. Voice recognition has come a long way. It's been amazing. It's been awesome. The one piece that was always missing, you had to press a button to start. You had to press a button to engage. So, something that was so amazing, and always so close and oh, you could taste it. To me was never going to be a reality, because I can't put the button. And then, something fascinating occurred. iOS 7 was released. And in that operating system, came this concept and reality that says, hey you know what, you don't have to put this button. How about you push your button. Whatever the configuration that your story is, we are adapting our operating system around you. For me, communication is a big deal. Being intendent is a big deal. And when I worked with Siri for the first time, to interact with her and understand how she works, and to create a calendar appointment with a colleague and then check my computer to make sure it was real. I was blown away. I mean, Apple is now touching people at this human experience level. To be a part of texting my wife without somebody else doing it. Words, in this current language do not even identify that feeling.
That was a very difficult film to create. And a wonderful film to create.
And my buddy Mark McNight and I did that.
It was a couple years back now.
But let me tell you real quick, how I sort of got to that video. Because that's where it sort of explains sort of the situation. So, I was born, now it seems weird to say, a long time ago.
Back in the seventies, can you believe it? And mom, dad, sister normal routine. Grew up in a very Navy, very southern, and very German household; the trifecta.
Failure wasn't an option.
Everybody was valuable.
Everybody was responsible for putting groceries on the table. And you always told the truth. That's the way I was brought. That's the way I was raised.
Four years into my story, unfortunately my dad died in a horrific motorcycle accident.
Four years later, now in it's in the eighties, mom decides to remodel her bedroom. She puts all these old antique guns and bullets into a spare room. It was the eighties. Come on man. We had Bruce Willis Nakatomi Building. We've got little baby Sylvester doing his thing. And we had Commando, right. WW 3 wasn't anywhere around the corner. Chewed my graham crackers into a gun. This is what we did back then.
So, sadly without knowing anything really about guns and how they worked, I got shot. And that was at 8 years old. Fast forward a bit more, when I was a teenager, my mom got remarried. And in that process I got a dad.
Dan Alberts. I got a dad.
And also in that acquisition of marriage I got two brothers and a sister. That was cool. I'm good with that, they call me the baby, the broken baby.
That's what I was with the siblings. And about that time, it was like well, what are you going to do? My mom made it very clear, you have until the age of 20. You have to be out of the house. She was going to give me two years of the grace. She called it tough love. I either needed to be in college, or I needed to have a job, but that she didn't shoot me.
I got shot. Some might say today that might be a little weird and tough. But it was tough love. And it was yes ma'am, no ma'am. And I thought, well what am I going to do. I always wanted to be a Navy Seal. I wanted to be in the Secret Service.
That was the plan.
And then my body got robbed.
So, what became the plan, well I'll become a psychiatrist. I wanted to go to med school. I wanted to go to Berkeley. And about that 15, 16 years of age, parents sat me down, dad and mom and said, hey, what are you going to do. What if something like med school doesn't really work? I said, OK. You've got to have a marketable skill son. And I thought, well I'm not sure what I'm going to do.
So, in that process of just sort of being open and learning, there was this thing called the internet. This was the mid-nineties. And there was just over 100,000 websites. And I begin to go to school outside of my normal high school process. Actually, had to move away, about 2.5 hours away from my parents. I had to become emancipated from my parents as well, just because the way some of these rules work. And I began to go to college and high school at the same time. And at the age of 17 years old, I was done with my associates, learned software development, specifically in the client/server platform relationship. And after that it was, well, but I want to go to Berkeley.
Well, just go get your GED and then maybe you can make it happen for you.
Berkeley's not going to accept a GED.
Well, you got to get a diploma.
I got to go back to high school? So, I ended up actually doing that. I don't even know the high school I graduated from. I know its location Renton, Washington.
But I actually never stepped foot in that school.
So, I graduated high school actually after I graduated college.
Exactly. Completely jacked up, right. My degree wasn't even valid until high school was over with. So, I did that and during that process did I find, wow. I sort of like software.
I like this process. This is really interesting.
So, then began the process of well, get a job.
I'm 17 years old.
What do I know as a 17-year-old? Plus, I'm a C4 quadriplegic. Who was going to hire a dude in a chair? Again, just, you know you look back and you sort of laugh. 173 resumes sent. Every single tech job in the Seattle PI. I did a dozen interviews or more, I can't remember now. But they all ended with, you're just not the right fit. You're just not the right fit. One was, you just don't have the sort of the office skills that we need. Yeah, you got that right, you know I can't staple worth crap you know? I can't even pick up a damn phone. But OK. And I won't mention the name of that company. Then it was like, how am I going to get a job? And I remember sending a fax through my computer. And the modem connected at 14.4 bod .
And I went, oh, yeah.
This place is legit. I sent my res, and my cove. And I got hired. This big old dude, he's 6' 7". He's huge, named Steven.
My attendant knocks on the door, opens the door. He looks down at me. I'm, I'm here to apply for the software develop job. He's like yeah come on in. He had to move his office all around so I could fit in his office. And he goes, how did you get paralyzed.
Man, I think that's; you're not supposed to say that .
That's the one rule they told me they wouldn't do. That's the first, the core first question.
Second question, how much money you want? Well, they told me I could make 50 grand coming out of the school. No, you ain't going to make that here. Well, what do you want? How about 25? OK, sounds good. I think I was 18 for about five days. I had no idea what I was doing. Two days later got my job. So, I'm 18 years old. I'm working as a software developer for a medical company. Serving in the industry called pathology.
Think of blood, think of sputum, think of autopsies, right? Things removed from the body. And I begin my career as a software developer.
About a year later, maybe 2 years later something profound hit me.
I'm valued. I have purpose.
Now, I can only speak of my story folks, but man you give a man respect and you give man purpose, that man is going to do. And he's going to do it right. At that same time, as always, did the government come by and say hey, Todd, no more Social Services for you. And I'm like well, yeah but I've got to; you've got a job. Yeah, but I'm not like, I've still got a lot to go. No, you're done. You either got a job or you don't. So, they pulled the funds. I had to go to my boss and say man I've got to make a lot more than 25K.
He said, no problem.
Done. What? Why couldn't we do this two years ago ? Later he told me he took advantage of me because of my disability . Ain't that tight. Man, way to go Steve. Mad respect. I learned a ton from that dude. I worked for that company for years. And I loved every minute of it. I worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I was mad sipping and puffing on that software.
Just hitting it hard.
Fell in love with databases.
Every aspect of the Microsoft SQL database. Hope I can say Microsoft. I just did.
Legit. Hardware, software the marriage of ray to rays.
Straight up hard core nerd.
But, I don't know after about 15 years, you tend to get the, I want to be an employer, I'm an entrepreneur. I don't know if I want to be that employee anymore.
One thing leads to another and it looks like I'm about to make my exit. And this really, really cool lady named Judith, my lateral, diagnosed with stage IV. Move from the chest to the brain. A few months before she exited her earth suit, she told me I had to bounce. You better leave that job, T.
You were made for something different.
So, she died. And I quit. And I did the one thing my parents never told me, they never said to do you quit a job before you got another job, you've got a problem. And I straight up did. What am I going to do now? No problem, we'll be a comedian. I'm going to write books, I'm going to blog. T, you better not do punctuation. I'm doing a good day if I putting a full sentence together folks. And I don't think my jokes are too funny.
So, I made this business called C4 consulting to make fun of my disability.
I'm like ha ha. I can do this. Come to find out, that's not so marketable. Someone said to me, what's your marketable skill, bro. What you going to do for a job? You all got to put groceries on the table. You know how it is. I love databases. Well, go be a DBA. All right cool.
So, C4 consulting became a DBA service, subscription model. Rent, pure play 24/7, I'll be your DBA to the end. What's the name of your company? C4. Wait a minute T, you going to be a DBA but your company is called C4? That's an explosive .
Yeah, that cool? You want to hire me? I hope I don't blow it up. And they did.
About that same time did I need to go a wedding.
And I asked one of my staff, I said I don't want to go to this wedding, I'm crying like a baby right now because it's real.
And she says to me, well who do you want to go with? I don't want to take an employee. I don't want to take a family member. I want to take a woman, and if she's hot that'd be great.
You know Karen? Who's Karen? Then I met Karen. And I fell in love with her the moment I met her.
And what was cool was she did the same. And we went to that wedding and it was like we were the only two there. She got up to go get second rounds on bread and food.
This strange lady leans over and says, hey, she's laughing at all your jokes. I said, is that a good sign? She said, yeah .
Your jokes aren't so good . She says you also flirt real well, too.
That's right. I've got some skill. So, Karen comes back and I'm blown away, she got some bread, she got some wine, and there was more butter on the piece of bread than bread. And folks I've got to tell you right now, I'm all about that butter. And I was like oh, I've got to get this one. A couple months later she says something like this, when you ask it will be a yes. What? Does that mean? I got to grow up.
And I married Karen.
Karen Lynn Regal.
She became Karen Lynn Stabelfeldt.
And about that same time, I saw my boy, Samuel Jackson on a commercial. He says something like, 'Siri, find me a recipe for gazpacho soup. I was like, what's gazpacho soup? And I tasted it, what a horrible choice for soup .
Who would want that. I was like, I said I can use that phone. And the button. Well I can't press the button. I can tell you all right now, I tried hacking and rewiring that headset thing. That just didn't work. A few months later, I'm at a quad squad meeting.
Yes, it's a meeting with quads. We're a squad.
And by day we're horribly disabled, and by night, we're still horribly disabled.
But we do fantasize about fighting crime. My boy Cody, he goes well check this out, he turns his head and his iPad does this and he turns his head the other way, did something else. What's that? It's called switch control.
Switch control? What's that? Don't know but I can do this with my face. And that's cool. I said what's external? I have no idea. A few weeks later, I'm with another friend and his mom goes you hear about that TechLa? I said, TechLa? TechLa's crap. And she said, no the new one. I said, oh what's the new one do? She said it works with a thing called switch control. And I'm like huh.
TechLa, iPhone, external. Let's try it. So, I went out and bought some things, we hooked to together. Me and baby girl, that's what I call my wife Karen, deal with it baby girl.
Baby girl all plugging stuff in, flipping switches and doing what nots.
And I text her.
I'm like man, I'm done with the Blackberry. That Blackberry had voice signal on it. I could do like three things. Check my signal strength, okay it's still bad . Check my battery level, it's still low. You all don't even know what the old days were like. Real deal.
Baby girl says, you know you got to tell people some stuff. You got to get other people on this. I said no man, we just married. We got three dogs, two cats. I just got this little business called Start Up, might not even be named right. She's like you got to tell people, it's what you do. And I'm like, oh, and then I went OK. Because every good husband listens to his wife. I got her, folks.
And so, using the charity that we were part of, the TSF we got a grant.
And we got to make that video, which you saw part of. And now you get to see another part of it. Because this is where it gets really great, it's when you begin to share it.
This ain't me folks.
This is us.
And my boy, Dreadlock, Ian McKye comes on scene and he says, I want what you got man.
You demonstrated independence bro.
So, you want to watch another video, check this one out. This is my boy Ian.
We no longer can manipulate the physical world around us as much, these digital devices, it doesn't require fingers, it doesn't require legs. It's awesome, the power that that gives you.
I've always been, you know an outdoors person, and I find that I really regain my energy from being out here. Just being in the sun and it really makes me feel a lot like I did before my accident. Having a communication system, I can leave the house and be gone for a couple hours. If something arises, I make a phone call. It's made my life more fun and it's opened up the world to me.
So, that began this race of switch control. Switch control. Independence buttons. Joysticks, sip-and-pulls, head raise. And man, did my wife and I, we got on this like maniacal focus.
All day every day. I'm on LinkedIn, friend requesting every Apple employee I can find.
I'm sending that video. I'm writing personal letters, right, I'm doing a lot of sipping and puffing, folks.
Baby girl come in, what are you doing? I'm finding more friends.
We were afraid it would go away. Straight up. And it was too precious. It was gold. It was a game change. We would go to every Apple store we could find and just mob up in there and go, hey we got a video, can we just pull this out real quick? Check this out. I was looking at these headphones. You watch this video real quick? We're on vacation to Pennsylvania, DC. Guess what we're doing, Apple stores.
Right, Saturday downloads before the store even opens. We just got to make sure everybody knows the game change. And then we got those really cool, sweet words, which was Apple ain't taking switch control away brother.
It's just going to get better.
And it was like, it was a breath of air right there, like something so good. And then the focus changed, which was, oh man now we got to start telling everybody who makes an app, everybody needs to know how to develop these apps with accessibility. See, I say like this. Apple brought me to a phone, and they did a radical job of that.
But everybody out here in the room, you bring me, you bring us to the world.
Because you all smart people in this room.
You got brains and you're making apps.
And when you make an app that's convenient for you, written in just the manner of rightness, it could be independence for me. I'm not one person. I'm a part of millions of people.
So, baby girl and I, we build a house.
We call it the quadthedral.
And we begin to focus and change, how do we make sure we talk to app developers, where do we go with that? How do we help them? What do we do? And over the last couple years it's just demonstration.
It's a video, it's this blogging. It's getting more people. There's well over 20 people now in this country that have a setup, which I'm going to explain to you here. I'm in a wheel chair called a Permobil F5. Black on black. West coast.
this is Luis and Clark stuff man. Ok, cool you've got a phone on your wheelchair, how is it charge. Well, back in the day, and back in the day that just means like 2 years ago. This thing was plugged into a you know cigarette adapter plugged into a battery on the back of the chair.
Permobil is like well maybe we should do something different. Sounds good Permobil. So, now there's integration.
And TechLa, the Bluetooth device that pairs to the iOS. I can do buttons which I'm going to show you here at any second. It was like people started realizing, well this is legit.
This is real.
We need to keep moving forward.
So, now I'm going to show you how this works.
You dig? So, I use a TechLa, go for it. I use a TechLa and an eye device to control my wheelchair, my phone and everything. All right. So, we got that there, we got that coming up. Now you about to see my big ol' hairy face. Now, I'll tell you right now, my company we had to do an app real fast, back in November. And I don't know who puts an app up in a month and a half, but we did. And I told myself I'm going to grow out my hair. So, this right here, I'm just going to move my mustache hair. That's how I do it, OK ? That's for you Felice.
All right. All right.
There's a lot going on folks, but I'm cold old school. I'm going to call it direct access. So, what I'm going to do is explain some buttons and show you some things. Okay, so give me a second here.
All right starting from my left to right, I have buttons. And I'm going to use my tongue, and now you just all got to handle it.
Button number one. It's called move bad, move previous.
OK? Middle button or second button, select.
Third button, move next.
OK? Get all that? Another button on this side for the wheelchair. Another button, wheelchair. Another button volume down, volume up. Woot, woot for long press.
Water straw for drinking.
And it's just water, folks. Okay, it's just water. No smell no tell. Here we go.
I'm so glad the front row's laughing . I don't have no idea if any other rows are laughing. Legit. OK, so.
If I also want to, I can go into a particular mode in my wheelchair for Permobil it's called in eye device. Now, I can use my joystick to drive.
OK? This is legit people.
This is harnessing everybody. You have a workforce that is disabled, that could be employees if given the opportunity to do so.
All right. Here we go. Now, we're just going to go through some apps and we're going to show you some things. So, we're good on the face unless you just want to stay here, bro. You can keep going. All right.
So, for example, I'm just sort of navigating a bit, so you can sort of see how some of this works.
Leveraging all these fantastic apps to do fantastic stuff. Emails, right. I'm not going to go into my email boxes people. OK? I'm sorry.
But just to show you that you know that you can. All right. Standard menus. I can do everything you can do. I want to say that again.
I can do everything you can do.
Now I'm going to do something fun. I saw TC do this the other day. I want to do it too.
Sorry folks, I got make sure baby girl's in this one. And I have to find her though.
Where you at? The other way? Am I almost there? Oh girl. Yeah now.
This one is for Felice. There it is sister. All right here we go, on three, ready? Big faces. And just because this is my moment.
So, I can message, I can email, I can do the whole thing. Okay, bottom line. But then we got to go next level. Which is what independence, independence, independence.
I'm a grown man. I want to be able to take care of my girl. And my kids. And my two dogs, Olivia and Beatrice.
So, we'll check out HomeKit. Again, folks.
convenience for you is literally independence for me.
All right, Office light's on now, the office, right, up in Port Orchard, Washington.
Hopefully nobody's in there looking, going oh no what's happening . HomeKit changed the game. Now, what? Now I can do doors and security, and oh. I get to do this from the phone. We'll let that one just marinate for a moment.
This one's legit. And now let's show another video.
Because this one was actually a lot of fun to make.
Go forward, pull me, pull me, pull me girl . You're Todd, but since we're friends, I get to call you Quad Father. Hey, Siri, unlock the front door.
Okay, the front door is unlocked.
Let's go girl.
We all got a pen man, we all writing it down and putting out the chapters. So, what's the story about. Hey Siri set business time. I refuse for this story to be a bad read. Hey Siri, play dinner playlist. Have you tried any of this? No, is it Bueno? it is delish.
I like the jam. I think somebody's here. You're going to see tonight, you're getting a whole group of mugs up in the room. We got people. We're all different, you know ventilators popping off and sip-and-puff drivers. All right we're going to gather around the TV so you can a demonstration. I love it. So, good, act normal. Now, what's really dub show about those lights, watch this. Hey, Siri dining table lights 25%. You got it Quad Father.
That's how you do it.
I feel like it's my job and my responsibility to go down to the valley and to hang with that brother that's in that space. That's just the way you do story. You interact with others, and you learn from others and I think that's really, really righteous.
That was a lot of fun to make.
Apple brought me to the phone, you bring me to the world.
please name out loud accessibility when you make your apps.
Please. Name it.
Shouldn't be a side thing. It should just be a part of it.
If you could interact with Siri in your app, then do so. Because it is quicker. And the last thing I would say is have somebody test it . And if that person happens to be disabled, then real cool because you know it's legit. It's boots on the ground, right? Speech rec for the quad by the quad is what? Speech rec for the whole world. Because it's not convenience for us, it's independence. I'm Todd and I love you and thank you so much. [ Applause ]
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