There were more accessibility panels, and mentions of accessibility in other presentations than at any other time that I recall. Susan Gerhart is a software engineer who was at SXSW for the first time as a panelist. She has lost her sight to eye disease over the past several years and is living in a city, Prescott AZ, that is not rich in support as she adjusts to the new world she lives in. Blogging at As Your World Changes, her observations are astute.
Shawn Henry introduced accessibility basics in an engaging and thorough overview, although when she mentioned that John Slatin had been scheduled to present with her, many in the audience felt the pang of his absence due to his ongoing health issues.
Several folks told me that Becky Gibson’s accessible Dojo demonstration was the highlight of the panel presentations because of its strong, usable content. We have really turned a corner as we see accessibility increasingly folded into basic development technique, and the ARIA techniques and Dojo toolkit that Becky demonstrated are great support for that effort.
I missed a few of the other accessibility panels while preparing to welcome Marta del Rio and Javier Hernandez, representatives from the University of Monterrey and the government of Nuevo Leon. They had come to SXSW for the first time to talk about the creation of the Mexican Manifesto for Accessibility and Usability, scheduled for Tuesday – right up against the keynote. But there was a surprisingly large crowd of people interested in how the Mexican government was incorporating accessibility, usability and citizen language into communications between the people government agencies. Speaking in Spanish with real time translation, Marta and Javier spoke about the need for transparency and ease of navigation from one level of government to the next across a broad range of devices, bandwidth and literacy. Ending with a tequila toast for the success of the Manifesto, it was a fascinating presentation.