Monday, May 8, 2017

An Ode to Jason Becker: 30 Days of Accessibility Testing

The Ministry of Testing has declared that May should be "30 Days of Accessibility Testing". As in the days of yore when I used to take on these challenges and blog regularly, I'm in the mood to get back to doing that. Therefore, I am looking to write a post every day around this topic and as a way to address each line of their checklist.

I was away for the weekend and with limited Internet, so I have a couple of entries to do to get back up to date. Therefore there will be some doubled up entries. With that, here's #6:

6. Learn about assistive technologies, and share one you liked (hardware).

Whenever I hear about Assistive Technologies, I can't help but think of someone that was a contemporary of mine in the Bay Area music scene who, due to developing Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), had his musical career and ascent cut short, but never stopped. That person is Jason Becker, an amazing guitarist that first came to my attention as part of a group called Cacophony. He grew up in the San Francisco East Bay area same as me, and we played in many of the same places. I saw him play several times in the mid to late 80s. I had the chance to talk with him just one time, briefly, after Cacophony played The Stone in San Francisco back in 1988. I was 20. He was 18. Shortly thereafter, he became David Lee Roth's guitar player and helped write his "A Little Ain't Enough" album with him.

That was when he was diagnosed with ALS.

Over time, his mobility would be greatly diminished, but his spirit and determination just would not quit.

Jason's Dad, Gary Becker, develop a system of communication called Vocal Eyes. Gary describes the process in this YouTube video:

Basically, it's a board with a movement tracker that allows Jason to quickly spell out and create words to communicate with others. The eye tracking method lets him quickly put words together and, while not seamlessly communicate, it's actually quite fast and he's definitely proficient with it.

In many ways, Jason was the person that first inspired me to want to learn more about Accessibility, and Gary inspires me to always look for ways to keep moving forward when it may seem impossible to do so. 

Jason still inspires me today, and thus, it gives me great pleasure to pay tribute to him as part of this Accessibility testing challenge. 

If you'd like to know more about Jason and the absolute unwillingness he has shown to give in or give up and to do all he can to keep making music and communicating, I highly recommend seeing the documentary "Not Dead Yet". The trailer can be seen below:

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