Knowbility at SXSW 2010

We at Knowbility had another fabulous year at Austin’s annual South by Southwest Interactive Media Conference.  There were so many awesome people to talk to from all over the country and even internationally.  We made several new friends who share our interest in accessibility, some of whom had never thought about it before in terms of websites and web content.  Our booth was a great success, offering information about Knowbility and our mission, as well as demos of ATSTAR, accessibility testing tools, and screen readers.  I visited so many websites using JAWS and Window-eyes, while my victims wore sleep masks/blind folds and listened along with me.  Some of the sites worked well, while others needed accessibility attention.  To give you an idea of what the experience was like, here are some of the sites I looked at and a little about my interaction with those who represented them.

I talked to Julia Hix, who does PR and marketing for the Zimmerman Agency.  We discussed social media and its accessibility issues.  Are there any guide-lines in place for social media accessibility?  Are there tips out there on how to build Facebook aps with accessibility in mind?  She was very interested in what we do at Knowbility.  One of her clients is VPG, who design vehicles for people with disabilities.

Hemen Patel with Crmmetrix stopped by and was interested in creating accessible content on his site, particularly surveys.  I looked at one of his surveys and he is off to a great start!

I got to talk to Photographer Riva Lehrer and visit her site.  She takes the photos for Access Living out of Chicago, but also has a lot of other art work and photography.  She gave me some fantastic resources for blindness blogs and podcasts to follow.

Dewey Winburn’s son Isac came by and we looked at the site for his band Mother Falcon.  We would love to see them in our next AIR Interactive!

I went to causes.com and spoke with its programmer.  Some of their flash content was not accessible, but what a great place to go to raise funds for your favorite cause, like accessibility for example.

I found a great possible resource at Volunteeract.com and talked with Bobby Saini who represented that site.  It looks like a good way to coordinate social media, volunteers and fundraising all in one place.

Speaking of social media and marketing, I visited Social Toaster.  This automated software puts all of your social networking tools in one place for tracking and easy access.

Brian Razzaque took me to Vision Multimedia Technologies, where people can get help in creating websites.

I talked about user experience testing with Felix Desroches from EchoUser-Experience Innovation.  Perhaps we can exchange ideas with them as we conduct our own user experience testing with people with varying disabilities.

Also regarding user interface and experience testing, I talked to Aaron Swan with Infragistics.

Alexa Wheeler from the University of New Mexico came by.  She teaches web design and would like to incorporate more accessibility into her courses.  I think listening to a Screen Reader in action was very helpful to her.

I looked at Visual Hero Design with Andy Vansolkema.  As they help people create visual design for their websites, they may think a bit about accessibility now.

I looked at several other sites and engaged in great conversation with so many!  Accessibility is an exciting topic, there is so much to talk about.  Every time a new technology is developed, there are challenges and opportunities just waiting to be explored.  I really enjoyed giving people a perspective some of them may have never before considered, so thanks to everyone who came by our booth and listened.

Along with our booth at SXSW, we also participated in many panels and workshops.  March 14 was entirely dedicated to accessibility and we made some great contacts throughout the day.  There were many other accessibility and disability advocates present.  Empower Everyone is an accessible shopping web site, that finds prices and stores for a specified product and shows them in a very easy to use format.  In the afternoon, there was also a panel featuring IGDA, a group that addresses the issue of accessible games for people with disabilities.  One of the films featured on March 15th was “For once in my life,” a story about a band whose members had different disabilities and are preparing for a once in a lifetime concert performance.  Knowbility was very privileged to have the band members at our awards party later that evening.  We hope to stay in contact with them as they share their talents!

An important part of the SXSW event is awarding our AIR Interactive teams and non-profits, as well as recognize this year’s Dewey honorees.  I learned a lot about Dewey Winburn, founder of the SXSW Interactive Media Conference.  In his memory, awards are given to those who spend their lives making a difference in the digital industry.

We offer big congratulations to our  AIR Interactive 2010 winners:  For people’s choice, which was voted on by our visitors at the booth as well as on-line: Team Unchain My Art for Diverse Arts Culture Works – End Cultural Heritage District Third place: Team Insane in the Membrane for Lisa Laratta  Second place: Team Unchain My Art for Diverse Arts Culture Works – End Cultural Heritage District And this year’s first place winner for the most accessible website for AIR Interactive: Team Water Gang for Outreach Productions

Overall, I think 2010 was a fun and exciting year for Knowbility and our communities.  Everyone’s spirits are high and we are motivated to think of new and advanced ways to make technology and the web accessible for all!