We’re just a little under a month away from the biggest conference in ICT accessibility, affectionately known as CSUN, but officially titled ” International Conference on Assistive Technology and Persons with Disabilities”, so I figured I’d put up a list of my sessions. As is the case with all conferences, exact times & locations are subject to change, but that’s unlikely. Here’s my full schedule of sessions in one convenient list, and the individual sessions are listed below:

Choosing Automated Accessibility Testing Tool

(Wednesday, February 27, 2013 – 8:00 AM PST; Del Mar AB)

Automated accessibility testing is the use of a tool for the purposes of assessing web content against predefined heuristic criteria for web accessibility. Automated testing tools provide many important benefits toward understanding your organization’s level of compliance with major industry standards and do so in an efficient manner. In this presentation, we outline the requirements one should look for in a tool.

I Never Knew a Website Could Hurt Someone

(Wednesday, February 27, 2013 – 10:40 AM PST; Del Mar AB)

Typical attitudes surrounding accessibility tend to focus on users who are visually or hearing impaired, as disability rights advocates for these groups are more vocal and more likely to engage in litigation to enforce their civil rights. Accessibility advocates and those experienced in accessible web design & development often include motor impairments, speech impairments, and cognitive impairments in the list of disabilities users may have which will impact their successful use of the Web. A population often overlooked is those with chronic pain.

The types and causes of chronic pain vary significantly and can include things like chronic back pain, joint pain, headaches, neuropathic pain symptoms in diseases such as multiple sclerosis diabetes, pain disorders like fibromyalgia, arthritis, and more. Chronic pain can also occur as a side effect of the treatment of other diseases – for instance, as a reaction to chemotherapy for cancer.

As is the case in visual impairment or hearing impairment, the severity of chronic pain can vary significantly, as can how impactful it is to browse an inaccessible site. For users with chronic pain doing anything, including doing nothing, hurts. Moreover chronic pain isn’t merely parts (or all) of one’s body hurting but can also be accompanied by lethargy, muscle pain and weakness, mood disorders, sleeplessness, depression, and impaired mental and physical performance. Because of the myriad of challenges facing users with chronic pain, attempting to interact with a poorly designed and inaccessible website can actually hurt them. To help eliminate causing pain to these users, we’ve developed 4 core principles for providing accessibility to users with chronic pain.

Agile & Accessibility Case Study

(Wednesday, February 27, 2013 – 3:10 PM PST; Maggie)

Among the many criticisms levied against Waterfall software development is the requirement that all possible features of the final system including its design and operation are intended to be planned out in detail prior to any code being written. Proponents of the waterfall method approach each step of a project from planning to requirements then to design, development, and implementation in linear fashion. In such an approach, each step must be completed before the next step can be begun. Persons who are big proponents of planning appreciate the fact that the waterfall method plans everything explicitly along the entire lifecycle from planning to market.

Proponents of accessibility see natural locations in which to integrate accessibility into the Waterfall approach. In the planning & requirements stages, specific accessibility requirements can be included into the specification for the final product. In the design phase, the design comps and functional mockups can be evaluated for accessibility and specific implementation guidance can be given to prepare developers. In the development phase, work can be checked to ensure accessibility has been integrated. Finally, in the implementation phase, the final deliverables can be validated prior to launch. The pitfalls to this approach are the same as those for Waterfall as a whole – namely that it is impossible to know all the business and user requirements up front. More importantly it is impossible to stop a moving train. Once a waterfall project has gone a certain distance along its path, accessibility issues in the end product are likely to be irreparable. Just as with other issues in Waterfall projects, accessibility issues caused early in the project will have a lasting and often magnified effect in later phases of the project. Finally, as it relates to accessibility, stakeholders in Waterfall projects are very often not actually included in the regular work of the project. In many instances, stakeholders within the project are often separated in their own silos and only asked for their input during milestone exit meetings which only adds to the impossibility of any real change happening when accessibility problems are found. Agile software development offers much greater opportunity for an accessible end product and it does so in a number of ways.

A11yBuzz: A Crowd-Sourced Body of Knowledge

(Thursday, February 28, 2013 – 12:00 PM PST; Del Mar AB) co-presented with Mike Guill

The fact that there is no single source to get good, clear, peer-reviewed information on this topic is, in my opinion, a very huge barrier which prevents “outsiders” from participating in accessible development. This problem may, idealistically, be addressed by creating a single, cohesive, authoritative Book of Knowledge, much like the PMBOK Guide produced by the Project Management Institute. Doing so would require the formation of an organization which can manage such an effort and the involvement of experts to create the Book of Knowledge. As a project of such magnitude would undoubtedly take a considerable amount of time, long term involvement of experts in this project would require the funding to pay said experts. Absent the necessary funding such a project is unlikely to get off the ground.In light of this, two developers – Karl Groves and Michael Guill – have chosen to create a social link aggregation website dedicated to Web Accessibility, called “A11yBuzz”. This website is, essentially, a crowd-sourced body of knowledge.

If you’re attending CSUN and you’re interested in attending one of those sessions, the conference organizers have included convenient links to download an iCal appointment at the bottom of each session description. You can also activate the link titled ‘Interested?’ at the bottom which allows conference organizers to gauge interest in each session. Last, if you’re going and you see me there, come by and introduce yourself!