And a darned good one, at that, so that he’s temporarily unable to use the seemingly endless collection of gadgets that he is so renowned for owning. But why should I say such a mean-spirited thing? Isn’t this person a national treasure whom I’m suggesting doing a frightful mischief to? And why, pray tell, is the very way that I am writing this post somehow being imbued with the very embodiment (oh that I should be so bold) of Mr Stephen Fry? If I’m not mistaken, I can even hear him saying these very words in my ear as I type and picture him mouthing the sentences that appear to be spewing forth on to the page. I’m not quite sure if I can keep up these linguistic gymnastics.
I’m referring to the wossy effect and by that I mean that after Stephen Fry appeared on Jonathan’s return (inaugural?) Friday Night show discussing Twitter, he is now the darling, nay the poster boy, of microblogging service Twitter. He was, by all accounts, a must-follow celeb long before that TV appearance - and one who does really seem to get what he’s talking about. When Stephen Fry talks, 84,000+ people listen (at the latest count). Or read, if one is to keep the pedantic nature of this blog post up. Or do they all read? Perhaps there are people who hear Stephen Fry’s tweets, albeit from a rather robotic voice that really doesn’t do the chap’s fine speaking voice the justice it truly deserves. Of course, there are such people - blind users, primarily, but perhaps others with less severe vision impairments who may also need some other form of assistance also. But I am rather going off the point here, that being that Stephen Fry has, by design or by accident, become a rather unlikely voice for the technorati of the world. Who would have thought that this mellifluously-voiced thesp could, with just a small handful of (sub 140-character) comments (to wit: "shockingly bad") about a mobile phone cause such a worry to the marketing people at Blackberry? Just as well that another much-followed Twitter user is able to counteract the negatives with his apparent love for said device?
Getting back to my point - not that it’s clear I even have one yet! - what I’m alluding to in the headline is that if someone like Stephen Fry were to suddenly lose the ability to use one or more of his much-loved gadgets, laptops or whatever, his frustrations with inaccessible devices and web sites would very soon become very public knowledge; he would, I’m sure, soon be explaining to the world at large exactly what these frustrations are and would possibly even have a solution or two up his tweed-clothed sleeve.
We may have our ‘web accessibility rock stars’ who have their respective followings, but it is still somewhat akin to me saying “I’m world famous … in Swindon” (also not true). Outside of this little bubble, we have no real power to speak of and can quite easily go about our shopping chores without being bothered for autographs. Even bona-fide web standards gods like Jeffrey Zeldman are unknown to the vast majority of people, shocking as it may seem to some, making it a genuine surprise when ‘normal’ people recognise them!
Stephen could talk about accessibility issues and 84,000 people, at least, would listen (or read). And perhaps some of those 84,000 people would the re-tweet what they learn, others might go and investigate further. A large majority would still ignore it and carry on searching for the next Twitter-spawned link to that day’s YouTube must-see funny, but the message of what it is to be denied access to information on the web would spread further. It wouldn’t be the first time that Mr Fry has found an unfortunate injury get in the way of using some piece of technology or other (I believe this broken arm caused some problems in getting together an episode of his podcast, or ‘podgramme’ as I believe is the moniker he prefers).
So, what I’m saying is if you see Stephen Fry, give him a poke in the eye (preferably both) but after you do, ask the good chap if he wouldn’t mind awfully conjuring up a blog post (or blessay) about the dashed awkward consequences of this terrible eye-poking incident.
Want to help? Share this link, Twitter it, pass it on however you see fit. If Twitter is, like Mr Fry, your cup of Earl Grey, please add this hashtag: #accessiblefry
Legal bit - of course I’m not suggesting anyone actually harm him! Stephen - if you want to skip the injury part, that’s cool, but we’d really love it if you were able to spread the word about web accessibility on different devices/platforms.
Credit where it’s due - Henny had this idea at the beginning of the (Chinese New) year, and I was just inspired to put a little something together that might, with any luck, go some way to achieving one of her New Year’s Resolutions