Kel Smith

Barrier Remover
Impact Technologist
Benevolent Gadfly
Word Arranger
Artistic Dabbler

me in a hat

About Me

I once was introduced at a conference as a "barrier remover." I've had a number of job titles, but that one feels the most natural to me.

For nearly twenty years, I've removed barriers as an entrepreneurial digital channel leader across multiple industry verticals: technology, product strategy, user-centered design and business development.

My primary emphasis is on emerging health IT products for the disability sector, although I consider it a privilege to anticipate that rare opportunity when industry trends align with my social conscience.

I have an art school background and a mind for numbers. This presents avenues for weird creative diversions, the results of which comprise my contribution to cultural blight.

Along the way (and most importantly), I've mentored and been mentored by numerous colleagues who have become lifelong friends. Barrier removal is more successful as a group effort.

Public Speaking

me presenting at CUSP conference

Public speaking is a great way to see the world's airports. My list is long.

I've delivered presentations for Google, the White House, Royal National Institute of the Blind, SXSW, Interaction Design Association, World Future Society, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Society for Technical Communication, MAXIMUS Center for Health Literacy, Future Insights Live, MEDx Stanford, CUSP Conference and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, among others.

Here are some examples of me standing on stages and talking:

Written Publications

Cover of the book Digital Outcasts

I'm the author of the book Digital Outcasts: Moving Technology Forward Without Leaving People Behind. It was published by Morgan Kaufmann in 2013 and is currently available on Amazon. Here are some nice things people said about it:

"Kel Smith makes a significant contribution to the subject of user experience in this easily read but important treatise ... the book makes a compelling case for universal design, a concept far more expansive than the more common notion of handicapped-accessible technology. The information here will be challenging and profitable, not only for designers but also for anyone associated with advancing computer technology." ~ Brad Reid, ACM Computing Reviews
"This is a wise book that accepts that disability, like ability, is abounding with nuances and variation, and Smith admits that it is behaviour that has to be focused upon rather than any device ... Smith draws this excellent book to a close with the ethics surrounding the technology, along with current and future developments." ~ Dr. Mick Phythian MBCS, CITP, BCS Chartered Institute for IT
"While the accessibility of technology is getting better every year, there are still many challenges ahead. Digital Outcasts articulately and passionately details the groundwork, itemizes what needs to be done, and implores the reader to do something to ensure this trend continues. This book is an important read for everyone." ~ Ben Rothke, Slashdot
"Where this book succeeds the most is in its ability to cast accessibility as an inclusive design principle—which, if properly wielded, could lead to revolutionary technologies that addresses the needs of all populations. While illustrating this again and again, [Smith] returns to the foremost concern that matters when we consider product design ... that is 'people.'" ~ Pratik Patel, EZ Fire

I've additionally written a number of scientific papers that have been published in The World Future Review, Springer-Verlag's Universal Access in the Information Society, Intercom Magazine, The International Journey of E-Politics, User Experience Magazine, The Practical Lawyer, and probably a few others. Where appropriate, I support the use of the oxford comma.

Media Appearances

Open Page of Oliver Russell interview

On occasion, I get asked to say a few words about what I do and how/why I do it. I've been told that I'm a reasonably candid and insightful interviewee.

I've appeared on CBC Radio's "The Current," The BBC Ouch! network, National Public Radio (Baltimore & Austin), The Globe & Mail Canada, WBAL Radio, The Austin Chronicle, Fast Company, Healthcare Informatics and Baltimore Magazine.

For the CBC, I was interviewed on live radio about the impact of technology on the lives of people with disabilities.

In 2015, I was named one of 48 "Change Makers" by Oliver Russell and interviewed on my efforts to empower people living with economic and physical challenges.

Creative Pursuits

I'm fascinated by the ways in which technology can be manipulated into formations that appear to be organic in nature. That's a fancy way of saying that my "artistic process" largely involves bludgeoning the capabilities of everyday machines. Here are a few examples.

Orthogonal Lightspace

I photograph objects with a customized camera, built from a defective Epson 4180 scanner duct-taped to a Wollensak 135mm lens and two pieces of glass. Subjects include eggs, light bulbs, contact lenses and tissue paper.

The Universal Language

Images are created from classic album covers. I wrote a mathematical algorithm that assigns a variable number of concentric rotations based on the running time, release date and highest chart position of each album or song.

False Affordances

Images are output by a malfunctioning photographic film recorder. The title is derived by psychologist James J. Gibson to describe information that has no function yet influences behavior.

Cathode Implicit

I have a box of educational filmstrips from the 1950's, once used to teach vocational students how to repair television sets. I digitally removed all the words, leaving only visuals with no context or meaning.

DIY Instruments

I build homemade synths that make weird noises from light, temperature and touch. Sometimes I make videos demonstrating how they work.

In summer 2021, I was interviewed by Maker Faire Philadelphia about such topics as DIY instruments, the significance of being “crepuscular,” and the best approach to feeding migratory birds.

Suss Müsik

I compose music that soothes children and confuses adults.

Entire discography at Bandcamp.

My other project Egret Zero got two nice reviews.

Get in touch

Please don't try to sell me anything.