Archive for April, 2008

How can I possibly explain the magic of SXSWi? Imagine you are high in the sky with Willy Wonka in the great glass elevator. Anything is possible. Magic is probable. (Sigh) That is how SX feels. What moments took my breath away in 2008? Let me share a few.

  • Sitting on the floor in the packed Browser Wars Panel and hearing Chris Wilson (IE), Charles McCathieNevile (Opera) and Brendan Eich (Firefox) explain that while they are at war, they are united on web standards. The point is to win by creating a better user experience, by building a better browser, not carving the web up into 8 different standards.
  • Closing my laptop, putting away my phone, and finding a quiet place to have a deep conversation with brilliant minds about dreams, hopes, and concerns like Henny Swan @ Kerbey Lane, Aarron Walter and Leslie Jensen-Inman @ the Libery Tavern, Jon Hicks @ Halcyon’s, Steph Troeth @ the SXSW coffee shop, Rob Weychert @ the Hampton Lounge and Kimberly Blessing @ Rio, just to name a few.
  • Geeks Love Bowling: Playing “Conjunction Junction” at the bowling alley by hooking up geeks and ideas and causes. You see, I am a connector and SXSW is my perfect playground. In fact, connecting is what SXSW is all about, not via Bluetooth, not over Twitter…but face-to-face over a shared passion, and a shot of Patron XO Café or perhaps a latte. A meaningful connection that forever adds human depth to all future digital interactions.
  • Dewey Award and Accessibility Internet Rally Celebration: Listening to stories about Dewey Winburne, one of the co-founders of SxSWi, and understanding why I can’t ever, ever get enough of this event. Hugh Forrest shared an idea on the current directions of new media technology he had learned from an attendee this year:

    The first wave of the new media boom was all about the gold rush. But, in this secondary boom, things have changed a bit. More people are now tuned in to the idea of making a very positive social impact with their new media creations. So, we’ve moved from the gold rush to the good rush. – sxsw attendee

    Hugh really liked this idea. His only disagreement was that he thinks:

    the good rush has always been with us, it just sometimes gets glossed over. In our best moments, the good rush is what we are all about at SXSW Interactive. Indeed, the Dewey Award celebrates this profound yet profoundly simple idea that new media can serve as a bridge between the haves and the have nots in our society. This is the good rush. – hugh

I paused for a moment, and looked up at Hugh and realized that SXSW is just a great big glass elevator and I’m really standing next to Willy Wonka.

If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world?
There’s nothing to it – gene wilder

Is your web site accessible to people with disabilities? Does it meet federal standards of accessibility? The John Slatin Access U is a two day training institute designed to provide needed accessibility skills to IT professionals. Classes offered at John Slatin Access U will help developers and policy makers create electronic information technology that is accessible to everyone – including people with disabilities. Registration is now open for the 2008 conference, held May 6 and 7 at St. Edwards University in Austin, TX.

The training institute, produced annually by Austin non-profit Knowbility is for anyone with IT responsibilities who believes that the Web should empower all people. World-renowned accessibility experts lead the classes, many of them hands-on, to help promote a better understanding of both the need and the techniques for inclusive IT design. From the basics to the bleeding edge, Access U will provide the resources needed to reach as many people as possible. On May 8th , Derek Featherstone will offer a post-conference session Real World Accessibility for AJAX and Web Apps. You can’t ask for anything better than this!

John Slatin Access U consists of concurrent classes covering subjects such as:

  • how to meet state and federal accessibility mandates
  • emerging best practices for Web 2.0
  • incorporating Flash, CSS, JavaScript while maintaining accessibility
  • accessibility techniques for Microsoft Office and PDFs documents
  • captioning and other means to include accessible multimedia content
  • methods for testing and evaluating Web sites fro accessibility

Participants may choose classes most appropriate to individual interest and need. Early registration discounts are available through April 10.

Access U, offered since 2003, was renamed this year to honor Dr. John Slatin, a true accessibility pioneer with an intuitive and early understanding of the power of technology. Slatin was a founding instructor of Access U. His contributions to the field include participation in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines working group as they rewrote the World Wide Web Consortium’s global standards for accessibility, leadership of the University of Texas’ Accessibility Institute, and inspiration to countless technologists and advocates to take up the cause that he championed with brilliance and passion.

Dr. Slatin’s work provided a touchstone for Knowbility in creating programs and delivering services toward the accomplishment of the mission that he shared with the organization. He died March 24th after long illness, and the institute will be offered in his memory .

Today is CSS Naked Day! How can I resist? I’m gettin’ naked by shedding my css and showing nothin’ but deliciously semantic mark-up. Reminds me of when I look in the mirror with no make-up on and love the bare bones me.

Thanks Dustin for this creative way to strip down, while emphasizing the importance of separating content from presentation.

Come on, it doesn’t hurt one bit. Let your design down, just for 24 hours!

John Slatin

Live your life with courage and though you are often afraid, never fail to take that next step forward.

As many of you know, John Slatin passed away last week, and in celebration of how his life has touched so many of us in the accessibility arena a project is being launched that will both honor his memory and assist his family with significant expenses that remain from his long illness. There is a new project designed to help.

The basic idea is this:

  1. We get accessibility experts to volunteer a few hours of time to perform a brief accessibility review of a company or organization web site.
  2. We get companies to sign up. They will contribute a minimum of US$500 to “The John Slatin Fund”.
  3. The expert and the company are paired and the review takes
    place, spreading the word on accessibility.

This review will not be comprehensive but serve to provide an organization with enough information so that they can understand what the strengths and weaknesses of their site are and what course of action is recommended. Some site owners may need a more rigorous audit in order to completely understand all accessibility issues, but such an audit is out of the scope of a review that takes 3-4 hours. This is intended as an introduction to accessibility for the site owner who is interested in learning about this important topic. Accessibility experts will need to conduct a short review, using combinations of tests to provide a document with an overview of accessibility to the site for
users with various disabilities.

What we need is for people who are willing to donate a few hours of their time to sign up as reviewers.

In addition, we ask that everyone help spread the word about this project to help us get companies interested in an accessibility review to sign up and to donate to The John Slatin Fund. If you have a blog, please blog this project. A short description:

The John Slatin Fund Accessibility Project matches accessibility experts with companies that would like a brief review of their site for accessibility. In return, the site owner is asked to contribute a minimum of $500 to The John Slatin Fund. The John Slatin Fund was established to help John’s beloved Anna offset the medical expenses incurred during John’s long illness. The goal of this project is to raise $25,000 for that purpose. Learn about the project and sign up at knowbility.org/business/john-slatin

This is a project developed and managed by friends of John. All proceeds go directly to John’s family. Please join us in honoring John and helping his family.

If you have questions, please let us know.

Imagine that all of your media devices suddenly and permanently went mute. Would you have access to the information you need? For some, this situation is already a reality. And the current state of captioning is…well…let’s be honest, “Captioning Sucks!”

People with disabilities deserve full access to rich media content. I think captioning is one of the biggest challenges in making content accessible. Oh, don’t get me wrong; captioning is technically easy to do. So, what is the problem? Captioning is time consuming and does not happen auto-magically. How do we fix it? A wonderful starting point is the Open and Closed Project. What is the Open and Closed Project?

The Open and Closed Project is an independent, nonprofit body that will write and test a set of standards for captioning – and also for audio description (for blind and visually-impaired viewers), subtitling, and dubbing.

We’re going to write these standards on the basis of research and evidence. If the research or evidence we need isn’t there, we’ll do our own research and gather our own evidence. Unless we’re legally required to do otherwise, the entire process will be carried out in the open, and everyone, without limitation, may contribute. (But because we’re writing a standard, which has to be an unchanging document, this is not an open-source project.)

We’ll publish our specifications. Then we’ll spend a year testing them in the real world to make sure they work. Then we’ll train and certify practitioners, meaning it will finally be possible to become a certified captioner. The whole project will take four to seven years.

How can you make a difference? Head on over to the Open and Closed Project and find out how you can help.