Tag Archives: Sharron Rush

AccessU at CSUN 2012: Policy and Testing — Sustaining Accessibility Throughout the Organization

As AccessU at CSUN starts in less than a week, we have been profiling the speakers who will share their experience and knowledge, and themselves learn in the process.  I thought I’d close the series by telling you a bit about what I’ll be doing at the conference. I’ll also leave with a few tips and reminders for attendees that I hope will make your learning experience with us as meaningful and valuable as possible.

Developing Accessibility Policy and Procedures

On Monday afternoon, February 27, at 1:30, I’ll talk with attendees about the nuts and bolts of establishing policies and procedures in support of Web and application accessibility. It’s one thing for you to understand and believe in the importance of accessible development practices, but establishing such practice throughout the enterprise and creating systems to track progress and success is another thing entirely.  How do you create measurable, sustainable, consistent standards?  And when you want to out-source Web development projects, how do you hold vendors accountable to your accessibility standards?   What language should you use in RFPs, how do you verify responses, and how do you find prospective vendors who share your commitment to accessibility?

I’ll cover these questions and more, and you’ll leave with concrete examples and templates to enable you to begin implementing policy and procedures that support accessibility integration.

We’re looking forward to distributing complementary copies of Jeff Kline’s new book Strategic IT Accessibility to our attendees.  Jeff draws on more than 20 years with IBM’s Accessibility Center, most of them as manager of accessibility integration and transformation across IBM worldwide.

Testing for Accessibility

On Tuesday, February 28 at 10:30, I’ll share my techniques for manually testing the accessibility of web sites and software applications.  This will be appropriate for those who have QA responsibility but who are not necessarily programmers.  We’ll look at free browser plug-ins and compare results. These are techniques that Knowbility uses every day in our work for business and government agencies seeking to understand their current position in terms of meeting accessibility standards.

A few last thoughts and reminders

If you are attending AccessU at CSUN, we encourage you to come prepared with your laptop, headphones, and mobile phone. As you may have noticed, some of our presenters are going to be talking about the mobile web, and we want you to have hands-on experience.

Producing the AccessU trainings is a key part of Knowbility’s mission. Whenever we hold the classes, whether that’s in California, Texas, or hopefully in some new locations in the future, I always leave feeling exhilarated by the enthusiasm of attendees. I think of John Slatin and how after a few years of producing community AIR programs, John encouraged us to formalize the trainings and share the practical knowledge we had acquired.  In spring of 2003, Glenda Sims, Kay Lewis, John and I sat in John’s lab at the University of Texas, creating tracks and moving classes around on sticky notes plastered on a white board to envision what would become AccessU.  I know he would be pleased that we ended up at the CSUN conference.

CSUN continues to accept registrations so, especially if you know of people in the area who would be interested, please do tell them about AccessU at CSUN.

If you’ve been reading our posts about speakers, wishing you could be there, I’ll close by letting you know that AccessU is coming again in May and that registration for John Slatin AccessU, is now open.  It is produced annually at St. Edward’s University in Austin, so head on over and sign up! We look forward to meeting and learning with you in San Diego, Austin, or wherever our travels take us.

Everything you need to know about web accessibility

Join us in San Diego!

What could be nicer than San Diego in February?  Great weather, world class web accessibility training and a 50% discount to the CSUN conference too!

Register Now

Click to register!

Register Now for Knowbility’s world-renowned AccessU program, offered in Feb 27th and 28th in collaboration with the 27th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference.   This unique conference-within-a-conference is designed to provide useful, practical training for skill levels from novice to expert. The lineup of experts is amazing and they will teach you all you need to know about web accessibility whether you are a designer, a programmer, a project manager or an administrator.

What to expect?

AccessU will run two concurrent tracks tailored for different registrants’ needs

Track #1 – Administrative

Focuses on the business side and geared towards procurement officers, project managers, HR professionals and more.

Track #2 – Technical

Dedicated to materials and topics for technical staff, designers, and developers.

More information

Expert hands-on instruction by Jennison Asuncion, Margy Bergel, Denis Boudreau, Ann Chadwick-Dias, Derek Featherstone, Lainey Feingold, Shawn Henry, Molly Holzschlag, Todd Kloots, Sharron Rush, Jim Thatcher.

Attendees may move freely between the tracks. Participants may register for the full two-day program at $595.00; one-day program at $425.00.  And registration for AccessU provides a 50% discount for the regular CSUN conference!

Or you may choose to register for AccessU only by choosing the Pre-Conference Only option when registering.

More on the CSUN website about AccessU details and Registration.  We hope to see you in San Diego in February.

Photo of instructors

Sharron Rush

Ann Chadwick Dias

Marguerite “Margy” Bergel

Shawn Henry

Denis Boudreau

Molly Holzschlag

Derek Featherstone

Jennison Asuncion

Todd Kloots

Knowbility, AIR and September 11, 2001

AIR-Austin Participation BadgeOur local NPR station, the daily paper and countless other media spigots are asking for remembrances of 9/11.   As my mind goes back to that day and I allow the political to fall away, what I remember is the Accessibility Internet Rally for Austin (AIR-Austin). At that time AIR was kicking off its fourth year of bringing the community together around the powerful idea of access to technology for all.

If you have never competed or volunteered in a web Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) program – here’s how it works:  Knowbility recruits nonprofit groups who need web help – and in 2001 many were getting their very first web site.  The program also recruits teams of web developers – that year we had teams from IBM, from Dell, from St Edward’s University, Frog Design and many others.  Our chair was a VP from St. Ed’s, John Houghton.  With the help of the Judge Brothers – Jim Thatcher, John Slatin, Jim Allan and other advisors – we had recruited and trained nearly 20 teams and nonprofits.  On the evening of September 11, we were scheduled to meet at our historic local beer hall, Scholz Garden and announce which team was matched to what nonprofit organization and allow them to begin to plan their accessible web site. Rules were originally drawn up by Jayne Cravens who used to say that AIR was party that began at the oldest beer garden in Texas and ended up on the world wide web!

When the horrific events of the day unfolded, we eventually remembered our kick-off party, scheduled for 6pm that evening.  Our mighty staff of three made calls to each other and to the advisors.  We knew no one would come, and that we would have to postpone the kick-off and probably the Rally.  We might cancel the entire event for 2001, who could tell with the whole world upside down?

We decided that we would make our way to Scholz to provide some re-orientation information to anyone who might wander in.  We expected that a few people might come by.  Well, at about 5:30 a few did wander in.  They hugged each other gently and held on for longer than usual. They looked stunned and smiled gently, almost reluctantly at one another.  Soon there were more.  By 6:15 every single team and every nonprofit was represented.  The advisors were there, the judges were all there, the advisors and teams were there for the kick-off – it was clear they wanted the events to proceed!

John Houghton got on the little riser stage and prepared to go on with the match-up announcement.  We were clearly, each one of us in the crowd of people, surprised that we WERE a crowd.  John spoke for all of us, it seems, when he said,

“On this day when we have seen the worst that humans are capable of doing to one another, I wanted to be here.  I want to participate in the best that we are capable of.  I want to build a community that shares skills and knowledge and works to improve our capacity to help one another. That is what the AIR program means to me and it must mean that much to you too, because you are here.  Let’s get to work!”

We cried, we held each other, and we got to work.  In 2001, AIR-Austin volunteers built web sites for more than two dozen NPOs, including Austin IDEA Network (now the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas), Lone Star Girl Scout Council, GENAustin, SafePlace, Family Elder Care, Keep Austin Beautiful, Blackshear Elementary School, Girlstart and others.  Of course, the sites have changed with the times and for many of these groups, the momentum of that first AIR site carried them along.  Sponsors included IBM, Austin Usability, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, the University of Texas and Dell.

Since 1998, we have produced AIR programs all over the US, including Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Denver and Atlanta raising awareness of why and how technology access must be made available to all.   In all that time, we have not missed a year in Austin – not even when the planes took the buildings down in New York City.

Dedication of AccessU to John Slatin

Here is the text of the opening dedication of the 2008 AccessU, renamed to honor our beloved colleague and mentor, Dr. John Slatin who died in March. Following these remarks, Jim Allan and Jim Thatcher unfurled a banner with the new conference title. That banner now resides on the John Slatin AccessU web site.

Good morning and welcome. I am Sharron Rush, Executive Director of Knowbility, the nonprofit organization that collaborates with St Edward’s University each year to bring AccessU to you. Thanks for being here so early. And indeed, thanks for being here…thanks and congratulations on caring about access to technology for everyone, including people with disabilities. We hope you gain skills and information you can use and we always learn from you what your challenges are in implementing accessibility in the world of government agencies and businesses.

AccessU is hosted here at St. Edward’s University for the fourth year. It’s not possible to think about producing this training institute without the steadfast support, encouragement and leadership of St Ed’s. Bill Cahill, the visionary Vice President of Information Technology here at St Ed’s entrusts the campus to us and then Brenda Adrian and Cousett Ruelas and their colleagues make it happen. Please help me thank them for their hard work (applause).

Knowbility’s staff, led by Teenya Franklin have also worked tirelessly to bring together all of the great information and hands on learning that you will have over the next couple of days. Please help me thank Teenya, Kim, Jeff, Anneka, Mike and Steve (applause). There are also dozens of volunteers, who help produce AccessU because they care about this work and are generous with their time – thank you all. (applause)

The instructors you will have here at AccessU are among the brightest lights in the field of accessibility research and innovation. You will get to know them well over the next couple of days and I will ask them to wave or stand so you know who to look for in the hallways. Please feel free to talk with them and take advantage of their experience and presence here. We are fortunate to have their enormous talents and skills and will talk at greater length with several of them at the forum tomorrow at lunch. Today’s lunch will feature a talk by a wonderful speaker named Beth Finke who I met at a conference last year and have been scheming to bring to AccessU. She is bright, funny and so engaging I know you will adore her.

It is exciting to be with so many people who understand the importance of this work and who themselves are working so brilliantly in so many ways to make sure that everyone has access to the opportunities afforded by advances in telecommunications technology. And it is at these times when we are all together that we miss our friend, our mentor and our dear comrade, John Slatin. We miss him terribly.

Jim Allan the webmaster for the Texas School for the Blind and John Slatin’s “Judge Brother” for many years, suggested that we name this conference in honor of John because these three days are all about teaching one another and learning from one another. Teaching and learning…among the things that John Slatin excelled at. As many of you may know, Professor John Slatin of the University of Texas helped start Knowbility, the AIR program and all of the work that we do around the issue of access to technology for all. John’s ability to see decreased throughout his life due to retinal disease. For the last three years he also gallantly battled leukemia. He died in March of 2008 and our community and each of us individually is bereft.

John’s eventual blindness was certainly one motivating factor in his interest in accessibility, but his appreciation and understanding of the power of technology came long before he lost his sight. Many people forget or never knew that John was an English professor.

In fact, I wasn’t sure I would tell this story, but I told it to Kathy Keller this morning and we decided that John would enjoy sharing it. John’s wife Anna Carroll told me at breakfast the other morning that many of their friends from Body Choir did not know that John was a UT professor until they attended his memorial service. Body Choir is a group that meets weekly or twice weekly – an improvisational, amateur dance company where friends gather and move as they are inspired to the music chosen by a facilitator. They dance solo, in pairs or in groups. Anna often facilitates and is very much at the center of the amazing energy that is Body Choir.  John loved to dance with the group and he and his guidedog Dillon were often on the dance floor with the group. 

Surprised by her friends’ ignorance of John’s profession, Anna asked them, “Well what did you think John did?” “Not sure,” they replied, “Thought maybe he was just a happy unemployed blind guy who like to dance.” (laughter) John was so good at meeting people where THEY were and joining them in the things that were of interest to them.

John was a poet. He loved language and the arts and saw in technology the potential to amplify an individual’s ability to tell his or her story, to share the narrative and even to share the structure and telling of the story…hyper-narrative he called it. The promise of interactive storytelling and multi-sensory experiences were all tremendously exciting to John and he explored these avenues adventurously. At his memorial service, John’s UT colleague Peg Syverson recalled her days with him,

“John used to joke that he used technology because he wanted to make English expensive. He meant he wanted to make English count, in ways that the University can recognize and appreciate….John was not merely an innovator; he was a visionary. And he was not a visionary who merely saw into the future, he brought the future he saw into being. And the future he brought into being was dazzling and entirely unexpected. The advent of technology into our field was poised to mechanize routine activities such as grading papers and giving exams. John saw it differently, that technology could become a vehicle for liberation and transformation in the humanities. It could liberate teachers and students from stale, predictable pedagogical practices, and it could transform the humanities from a musty archive into a world of dynamic and creative possibility.”

I took English at UT during that time, leaving my empty nest as my kids were grown to finish a degree started many years before. I took an English class from Tonya Browninga brilliant teacher whose graduate advisor was John Slatin. She mentioned John’s influence consistently as she seamlessly integrated technology into her teaching. The fusion of discovering the Harlem Renaissance writers or Walt Whitman or Wallace Stevens as we learned the narrative potential of new technologies was thrilling. Of course I had no idea that the “John Slatin” that Tonya referred to so often would become such a mentor in my own life and work.

So it is no wonder that when someone with the brilliance to understand so well the revolutionary potential of technology, when someone like John Slatin raised his voice to insist that he not be shut out…well, who could fail to listen?

John’s voice was undeniable and yet not strident and I rarely saw him angry. He became an accessibility expert as a way to ensure that he too could use technology to pursue all of his many interests. He volunteered and served with Knowbility, on University committees and on standards boards. He became a leader because leadership was needed. And that is one of the tragedies of his too too early departure from this life. It seems to me that John was still becoming. He was always learning and sharing and helping us all to learn from him.

So I could tell stories and stories about John…and I am sure I will. I will tell them to you and I encourage all of you to tell me and to tell each other your stories about John during this conference we are naming in his honor. And if you have not yet done so, read his blog the leukemia letters.

Remember him through your stories, our stories and through his work. John would like that. John’s wife Anna is gathering ideas for a long term memorial for John on the John Slatin Wiki, so please feel free to submit any ideas you may have.

And now I will ask John’s two Judge Brothers, Jim Allan and Jim Thatcher to come up and unfurl the banner that we will hang today and for the rest of the days and years that we teach accessibility here at John Slatin AccessU. Thank you.

What was I thinking?

Kelsey Ruger convinced me that Knowbility needed to blog as a way to participate in and share all the great momentum around accessibility these days. But to start a blog during SXSW was one of the least thought-through things I have done in a while. Sooooo much is happening and time to write about it is a challenge…but here is a quick tour of the last few days…

Friday, my panelists arrived and I got to meet these great women in person…Susan Gerhart, Lisa Papas and Becky Gibson met at the Knowbility office and we spent a few hours going over the content for the “Accessible Rich Media” panel that we would deliver the next morning. Our approach was to set up the problems by having Susan demonstrate barriers (she is a software engineer who has become increasingly visually impaired). Then Lisa Pappas of SAS would take us through a look at testing tools and the approach industry has taken through the collaborative work of the Accessible Rich Media Initiative (ARIA), recently adopted by the W3C’s WAI . Finish up with Becky Gibson’s code-slinging demonstration of the Dojo toolkit and their support of WAI-ARIA and we will have packed the hour with as much of an overview as possible. Turned out great, except for the timing. Each of the panelists has so much great info to share, we had no time for questions and so followed up with others excited about accessible rich media at the Knowbility on the trade show floor. Podcasts will be available soon and we will post here.

Gez Lemon hosted a Core Conversation – Get Rich, Stay Accessible – on Sunday around the same concerns. It was well attended and sparked great exchanges that will be useful in the days/months/year to come. A central concern is that accessibility should not stifle innovation. Developers who care about accessibility may still want to use cool Javascripting, AJAX, and DHTML widgets and other applications. One of the issues that came up during the conversation was the fact that the WaSPs initially rejected much of the ARIA work as unacceptable hacks. But that seems to have changed, as this WAI-ARIA article by Martin Kliehm WaSP member and co-host of the SXSW conversation, indicates.