[Photo: Basketball]

March 22, 2011

My March Madness

I am home from an intense 10 days of SxSW, CSUN and W3C Face-to-Face meetings. I am happy if tired.

How I Spent My Weekend

[Photo: Members of the W3C Accessibility Task Force at our Face-to-Face meeting]

L to R: Silvia Pfeiffer, Masatomo Kobayashi, Janina Sajka, Sean Hayes, Frank Olivier

The W3C Face-to-Face meetings this weekend in San Diego were very productive, and some good work was accomplished. I was pleased to see people such as Denis Boudreau and Rodger Hudson sit in and participate in the discussions. As Denis said to me later, it’s just people who really care, sitting around and talking about our problems, and trying to fix them. It doesn’t take a special invitation, just participate. It was also good to see old friends such as Steve Faulkner, Rich Schwerdtfeger, Janina Sajka and Cynthia Shelley. Other friendly faces included Mike (TM) Smith, Michael Cooper and browser engineers from the media sub-team who flew in to attend this meeting: Eric Carlson (Apple), Sean Hayes and Frank Olivier (Microsoft) and Silvia Pfieffer (who has done work with both Mozilla and Google/Chrome, and flew in from Australia to join us). We covered many important topics, including how to support Sign Language Captions and Audio Descriptions (a very tricky problem it turns out), and one that I have been closely aligned to: longdesc. I could (and likely should) write a whole blog post just on that, but one of the work efforts that was accomplished was that Steve Faulkner and I (mostly Steve!) worked on draft text for the Authors Guide that defined longdesc clearly, and offered examples and suggestions on implementation. Comments welcome.

South by South West (SxSW)

SxSW was both fun and interesting. It has become an overwhelming event that cannot be experienced in it’s entirety – I missed a few sessions as they were simply too far away from where I was at the time, and late arrival often meant refusal at the door. Who wants to walk 10 blocks to be turned away? (The shuttle buses, while earnest, had issues) Mobile is big, with lots going on there, and TV on the Web and TV on the Mobile is exciting and coming. My guess? 3 years.

[Photo: Chaals and I after our SxSW panel]I was also on a panel with my buddy Chaals and one of the co-chairs of the HTML5 Working Group, Paul Cotton, that was called The Politics of HTML5. It was an interesting and at times lively discussion, with some good participation and feedback from the audience.

New friends? Sandi Wassimer and Ian Pouncy, two fellow accessibility practitioners from the UK, Lisa Herrod from Australia and Cliff Tyllick from Austin. I also finally got to meet Patrick Lauke in person, after knowing him for many, many years on line, and enjoyed seeing many familiar faces (including many long-time accessibility folk based in Austin).

The 26th Annual International Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN)

This annual gathering of accessibility professionals truly is global in scope. I had rich and informative discussions with colleagues old and new from England & Ireland, Australia, Japan, and from every corner of North America, including a large number of fellow Canadians.

I attended a number of interesting sessions, including one with a nifty accessible HTML5 player and implementation from my buddy Terry Thompson, a heated discussion at Jon Gunderson’s review of on-line accessibility at Higher Education (that also included Peter Wallace of Oracle), and an informative session comparing the accuracy of mechanical enterprise verification tools against a manual review of the same pages. These tools have gotten quite good of late, and I was impressed. Jared Smith’s Screen Reader Web Accessibility Face-off was both fun and informative as he compared JAWs, NVDA and Apple’s VoiceOver.

[Photo: Me talking about HTML5 Video]I was also involved in 3 panels at CSUN. The first session was on accessible media players and requirements (with a peek at HTML5 Video) with Jim Allan and Jeanne Spellman from the W3C. The second panel (HTML 5 Accessibility) was with Rich Schwerdtfeger [IBM], Steve Faulkner [TPG] and Cynthia Shelley [Microsoft] (again all W3C members) where we reviewed the accessibility enhancements we will be getting in HTML5, the status of implementation and support, and a review of canvas and video progress today. Even though the session ran long, the room was packed to the end, and I know that they had to turn away a number of people at the door.

[Photo: the Gameplan Session panel]The final session turned out to be quite powerful. Organized by long-time friend and web accessibility hero Jared Smith, Do We Need to Change the Web Accessibility Game Plan? was more a moderated discussion, where fellow panelists Jennison Asuncion (Adaptech Research Network), Sandi Wassmer (Copious), Jared and I brought our chairs out in front of the table, and had an old-fashion town hall meeting that covered a wide range of topics and ideas. It proved to be one of the highlights of the conference, with on-line discussion continuing long after the hour was up that also included comments from participants thousands of miles away (via twitter, etc.).

New friends? Too numerous to mention you all, but great conversations with James and Michael from NVDA, Leonie Watson, Lisa Herrod and Makoto Ueki. Old friends? A list as long as my arm, but all of you special to me in so many ways. I was very glad to finally meet in person another long-time associate and friend of many years Joshue O’Connor, who flew in from Ireland to join us.

The Magic of CSUN

While the sessions of CSUN were interesting and exciting, it is the social interaction with the various attendees of the conference that were the most powerful and inspiring for me. For while we all came from different places and even perspectives, we were all united by a common bond, the desire for inclusiveness and universal accessibility, and that is a commonality that has a certain noble cause to it. As I spent those 5 days talking with friends old and new, I reveled in the power of what my friend Wendy Chisholm once dubbed “The Tribe”. For that is what we are, a tribe of folk from far and wide, invigorated and re-charged by coming together united by that bond. I know from talking with many at CSUN that they were leaving San Diego inspired to continue, to go out and continue doing what it is we do. I know I did, and for that I can only thank my fellow tribes-people for making those 5 days the highlight of my year.

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