At Mix ‘07 I watched Scott Guthrie’s keynote introduction of Silverlight, and it was a watershed moment in my career. Within 48 hours I had pivoted my consulting business to focus entirely on this new and game-changing technology; a few months later I ended 15 years as an independent to join Microsoft as Silverlight Geek, a job that has been immensely rewarding.
On a personal (and seemingly unrelated) note; while my older daughter was in high school she became fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) under the tutelage of two terrific teachers, one hearing, one deaf. She joined the school’s justifiably famous Pocket Players bi-lingual (ASL and spoken English) theater group under the direction of the incomparable and greatly missed Robin Wood, and the extraordinary natural-born-teacher Ron Galiazzo, (who has been patient enough to teach me a little faltering ASL as well). My daughter learned, and taught us, great respect for Deaf culture, and I had the incredible pleasure of watching her perform and then taking part with her in a celebration of Chinese American Deaf culture in Boston, where I spent the evening talking happily in broken-ASL with my tablemates.
The third piece of yesterday’s synchronicity touches on the person who most famously embodied the stereotype-shattering new awareness of all that the hearing world has historically gotten wrong about Deaf culture, and the abilities and supposed limitations of deaf people, Marlee Matlin. Her singular and award winning performances in Children of A Lesser God and The West Wing have had an impact on me and so many others, for over twenty years.
All of this came together spectacularly yesterday when I posted a small blog entry on the ability of Silverlight to support closed captioning and my commitment to including Accessibility in the design of the HyperVideo project. This was picked up, I’m incredibly happy to say, by Ms. Matlin who tweeted about it to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and “everyone.” I have to say, that not only made my day (week, month!) but brought home how much impact Silverlight can have.
I don’t want in any way to exploit Ms. Matlin’s tweet; this is not about promoting our technology as much as enjoying having made indirect contact with someone whose work I admire, and sharing that joy with the Silverlight community. It was very cool to see what she wrote, but it is also a reminder how vital it is, to get these things “right,” including remembering that adding Accessibility isn’t a trivial decision; but one that affects the ability of a great many people to use the products that Silverlight enables.