If you’re playing a role, any role, in creating technology, Todd Stabelfeldt — AKA “The Quadfather” — has a message for you. (And when The Quadfather talks, you really ought to listen.)
The message is this. When you’re building your app or website or digital device, the principal of universal design should be central to that process. That means making sure that the technology is accessible and usable for everyone whatever their age, size, ability or disability.
Stabelfeldt made his case for universal design at the 2017 GeekWire Summit in Seattle. Stabelfeldt is CEO and founder of C4 Database Management, based in Port Orchard, across Puget Sound from Seattle. He has also lived with quadriplegia since he was 8 years old and his cousin accidentally shot him, severing his spinal cord at the C4 vertebrae.
“I don’t want to be some ding-dong disabled dude,” Stabelfeldt told the crowd. “I want to be real. I want to be independent.”
Stabelfeldt and his wife, Karen, have built a home and office designed for easy navigating by wheelchair. Dubbed the ‘Quadthedral,’ it’s outfitted with voice-activated lights, doors, window shades and sound system. He’s waited decades for technology to assist him in basic tasks and is eager for further innovation. (For more of Stabelfeldt’s story, check out this GeekWire article.)
“What you do and make and the decisions you make, you make my life real. I am the demonstration of universal design,” Stabelfeldt said. “You allow me to be married and be a father of two.”
Stabelfeldt explained that user-friendly technology benefits everyone, sharing what’s become a mantra for him: “Convenience for you is independence for me.”
“Your good choices impact me and the people I represent. So if you came here for a couple of days for a refresh, man, click it,” he said. “Grow up, because you make my life better. Serious.”
He also urged the audience to remember to use universal design not only because a family member or friend is injured in an accident or a child is born with disabilities.
“How are you going to apply your story? Because if you’re going to serve me right… typically you’re only going to do it because it impacts you,” Stabelfeldt said. “That shouldn’t be the motivation. The motivation should be doing it because everybody has the right and everybody has the opportunity.”
Stabelfeldt, cruising in his chair, sought to be a visual reminder for his fellow techies to be mindful when approaching their work.
“I’m just a dude and the dude abides,” he said. “I think that’s my part in the whole thing.”