Thoughts on SXSW 2009

Well, better late than never sharing my thoughts on SXSW! Thanks to Sharron Rush of Knowbility.org for organizing, I have been able to participate with her on accessibility related panels for the past two years. This year Sharron and I presented Ajax Accessibility: An ARIA Duet and I was also able to do a short presentation on WAI-ARIA at the More Secrects of JavaScript Libraries Panel. Presenting at the More Secrets panel gave me access to a large audience of JavaScript programmers to introduce them to WAI ARIA and explain how they can make their Web apps more accessible. I also got to show how Dojo has implemented ARIA and how other toolkits are adopting it as well. I think this introduction enabled us to pull more people into the Ajax Accessibility panel on the next day!

SXSW is a “cool” conference that combines the Web, Film, and Music and is thus very “youth” oriented with what seems an audience predominantly under 35 years old. Although, I was happy to see many faces in the over 40 and over 50 category as well! I heard that the attendance was up from last year which is a bit surprising but I guess indicates that perhaps tech hasn’t been hit quite as hard by the economic downturn. I was happy to see several panels and discussions that included accessibility:

I didn’t get to all of these, but I did my best! It is hard to get to all of the interesting talks at SXSW. I did attend Presenting Straight to the Brain and found it fascinating. I present code related topics often and do use many bullet points. The presentations by these folks were much more compelling and eliminated the bullet point overload. However, it did make me think how I would present something with less text, more talk and more pictures to a hearing impaired audience or to those who might rely more heavily on written words. I think the moral of the story is to have handouts with the full notes
for the session available to those who need it at the beginning. I’m hoping I can incorporate some of what I learned in my future presentations!

The Core conversation on Getting Things Done the Simple Way was packed – too many people squashed into a tiny room! I understand the idea behind conversations but when they get so large it kind of defeats the purpose. I know that Getting Things Done is popular but I guess I never realized just how popular and almost cult-ish it is! The misery of striving to say organized loves company, I guess!

There were plenty of “accessibility folks” at SXSW and it is nice to get a chance to see so many of my colleagues and meet new ones at parties and over drinks! There is a big Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference the following week which may folks also attend (this was my first time not attending after 5 consecutive years). Thus, some of the folks from other countries combine the travel and attend both SXSW and the technology conference (referred to as CSUN since it is hosted by the California State University at Northridge – CSUN).

The podcast to the More Secrets of JavaScript Libraries Panel has been published. I’ve transcribed my part and posted more info at SXSW 09 Presentations.

FYI: I’ll be speaking at Knowbility’s John Slatin Access U in May, 2009. This is a great way to gain Accessibility and Design Knowledge! Check it out – early registraton discounts end April 10!


About Becka11y

Web Accessibility Consultant with 30+ years in the software industry and 12+ years of direct accessibility innovation.

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