Every year the accessibility conferences kick off around March. The 2023 year is no different. The PacRim conference was held March 6 and 7 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The CSUN conference was held March 13 thru 17 in Anaheim, California. Converge Accessibility supports both conferences and, as we have regularly in the past, we had the privilege of presenting at both these conferences this year.
Unfortunately, Ken was not able to join me, so I had to represent all on my own! Before you pull out your very small violin, play a sad song, and exclaim, “poor baby!”, you should know that it rained while I was at both conferences and it was sunny in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), where both Ken and I reside. Now you can play that sad song on a very small violin.
You don’t need to feel sorry for me. While it rained at PacRim it was a warm rain and did not rain all day. I will happily take that kind of Honolulu weather over a cold yet sunny PNW day. CSUN was in Anaheim, California. As for the rainy weather there, I will just say “meh” and that I miss the San Diego location, rain, or shine.
But what about the conferences themselves?
The 38th Annual Pacific Rim International Conference on Disability and Diversity marks the return of the in-person conference. The last in-person conference was in March 2020, and we are happy to see this conference return to an in-person event instead of virtual only.
This year’s conference theme was “Coming Together and Moving Forward”. Or in Hawaiian, “Hoʻokahi ka ʻilau like ʻana”, which translates to “Wield the paddles together”.
Judy Heumann was scheduled as a featured speaker at this year’s conference. Sadly, she passed away just prior to the conference on March 4, 2023. Judy was a lifelong advocate for the rights of disabled people and an internationally recognized leader in the disability rights community. If you work in accessibility and do not know who Judy Heumann is, you owe it to yourself to find out. You can start at Judy’s website: https://judithheumann.com/
This year I presented a presentation on the topic of:
- “Creating a Simpler and More Useful ADA Self-Evaluation”: We covered why an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title II Self-Evaluation is critical to ensuring equal access to programs, services, and activities. Then we outlined a simpler and more useful approach that caused one Title II ADA Coordinator to exclaim “you just saved me a year of work!”
Some of the presentations I had an opportunity to join were:
- “Coming Together and Moving Beyond: Magnifying the ‘Silent A’ of DEI”: This presentation was presented by Kristi O’Neil-Gonzalez and Tiina Itkonen from the California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI). What I appreciated about this presentation is the focus CSUCI is placing on including designers and content creators in the early staged of the digital accessibility content creation process. They have also created several internal resources to assist with this effort.
- “Leveraging Usability Checklists to Foster Accessibility Growth in your Software Delivery Team”: This presentation was presented by Jessica Schultz and Carolyn Chesler, both from the Boeing Employee’s Credit Union (BECU). I missed the first presentation by this duo which was “Leveraging Organizational Values to Drive Accessibility Implementation” which was too bad for me as I am sure it was a great session. What I appreciated about this presentation was the effort BECU is placing on including designers, content creators, and just about everyone involved in their digital content and services. They have created several internal resources to help with this effort.
- “Best Practices in Creating and Remediating Accessible Documents”: This presentation was presented by Harris Rosensweig from TSC Access. Harris provided a great walkthrough of the end user experience when accessing an inaccessible documents vs an accessible document. He also provided some great tips and insights that I plan to use when creating accessible documents.
The 38th CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, also known as the CSUN Conference, is the ultimate community experience and the premier forum on technology for all persons with disabilities. For over 37 years, California State University, Northridge's Center on Disabilities has sponsored the conference, providing a platform for researchers, practitioners, educators, exhibitors and more from around the world, where they can share knowledge, innovations, and best practices to promote inclusion for all.
This year I presented two presentations at CSUN. They were:
- “A Quick Path to Web Accessibility and Avoiding Liability”: The purpose of this presentation was to help newcomers to accessibility and CSUN understand how to initiate an accessibility review of their existing websites based on a logical approach that has worked for others. This way attendees could go back home with a basic actionable plan to jump start their digital accessibility efforts instead of still wondering where to begin and at the same time help reduce their legal risk of an accessibility complaint.
- “Align WCAG to Organizational Roles to Achieve Accessibility”: Since accessibility is often considered a “developer issue”, this presentation outlines a process to break the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) into better understandable core concepts. Then we take it a step further and demonstrate how to further provide specific role-based guidance for designers, copy authors, graphics & multimedia creators, developers, and QA & test teams. This allows everyone to align their focus in creating and maintaining accessible content and empowers all to contribute toward the goal of conforming to WCAG and providing an accessible end user experience. Accessibility is a team effort, not just a developer issue.
Some of the presentations I had an opportunity to join were:
- “A Systematic Approach to Accessible PDF Forms”: This presentation was given by Chad Chelius of Chax Training and Consulting. This was a great review of what can be done to create an accessible PDF form. Lots of good tips and takeaways from Chad.
- “Evolving the Design Process with Accessibility Annotations”: This presentation was given by Daniel Henderson and Kevin Oliveira from CVS Health. Not only was this presentation lively and entertaining, Daniel and Kevin provided some great insights into how CVS has worked digital accessibility into their design process and how they have leveraged accessibility annotations for their web and mobile app designs.
The PacRim and CSUN sessions this year were great! I wasn’t able to stay for the full week of CSUN but what I was able to take in was worth the trip. For both PacRim and CSUN, it is encouraging to see so many sessions focused on helping designers build accessibility into their designs.
We didn’t even touch on some of the cool tech that was presented by the exhibitors this year, which is always fun to check out. If you were not able to attend either of these conferences this year, plan on doing so next year. And when you are there, be sure to look us up, come to our presentations, and say “hi!”
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