This weekend, I attended Boston's first Accessibility Unconference
. I expected to be going only for the networking opportunity, but I found the whole experience fabulous. Certainly there were some frustrations -- the location, for example, could have been more accessible by public transit. But overall, it was a great day.
I spoke about Dreamwidth, not surprisingly. Just as others have talked about the rich developer community that's built when you provide a development environment which is welcoming to women and encouraging to newbies, I talked about the accessibility gains that you get from creating a nurturing environment in your open-source community for people with disabilities. I talked about how being encouraging not just developers with disabilities but also newbies with disabilities made it more likely for your project to have a rich and motivated pool of testers using adaptive technology -- which prompted one participant to say something along the lines of, "you should rent those people out; everybody wants actual disabled testers!"
Other people's talks were also compelling. Jeanette Beal talked about low tech solutions for improving independent living, and gave us all a good reminder that adaptive technology isn't all about Web 2.0. I was sad the session on HTML 5 video was pretty brief, although that was all of our faults, because it shared a session with Flash video and we all asked too many questions of the people discussing Flash.
And the networking was nothing to sneeze at, either. I was thrilled to finally meet the blogger behind Dis/positional
. I had long, enlightening talks with Judy Brewer
(who was puzzled by my starry eyes) and Mike Gorse (lightvortex
), a developer who works on Gnome accessibility. I learned that Patrick Timony, adaptive technology librarian at the DC public Library, is going to be presenting at SAA
, and I promised to send those of my coworkers who will be attending the conference to talk to him. I didn't have enough time to talk to him about his interesting ideas about accessibility and archives, but I made the connection!
Above all, I was overwhelmed with being surrounded by more professionals with disabilities than I had ever in my life met offline. More programmers with disabilities. More female programmers with disabilities
. At one point I was hard pressed not to start crying. Dreamwidth has been great for introducing me to other professionals, other techies, other female professionals and female techies disabilities. But I underestimated the emotional impact of being surrounded by that many of us in one room.
(ETA: One glorious moment happened when an attendee of the conference was chatting with me (note that my disability is mostly invisible) and she said "I see a lot of visually impaired people here. Are they here to learn about what kind of adaptive technologies are available?" And I responded, "No, they are mostly programmers and accessibility professionals," and she looked thoroughly taken aback. I think my little heart grew three sizes.)