Why I love Becky Gibson

In her day-to-day identity, Becky Gibson is a Web accessibility architect in IBM’s Emerging Technologies Group, but to me she is an accessibility super hero.   At a time when I was becoming discouraged about the future of web accessibility, Becky’s work showed me a clear path forward.

If you are reading this, you are probably familiar with the basic issues of web accessibility – why it is so important in the modern world and how accessibility improves life for millions of people with various disabilities.  But confusion and misinformation continue to cause developers to hesitate to embrace accessibility.  Those of us who advocate for a truly open and inclusive web are often challenged to demonstrate how developers can integrate accessible design techniques while keeping pace with the rapid rate of technology change and innovation.  In 2004, Jeff Veen famously announced at a SXSW Interactive panel that had accessibility as its subject that he “did not think about accessibility” and did not have to because he used Web Standards. Well, the following year of course saw the introduction and dissemination of AJAX by Jeff’s company Adaptive Path – and there went that argument.

The challenges seemed to increase overnight. It became much more difficult to defend the statement that inclusive online environments could also be as dynamic and responsive as inaccessible platforms. Assistive technologies lagged behind and HTML did not provide the tools to successfully deliver dynamic, AJAX enabled experiences to all.

Enter IBM, the WAI-ARIA initiative and the subject of this post, one of my most valued inspirations – Becky Gibson.   In 2005, I attended the annual CSUN conference on assistive technology and found a session called “DHTML Accessibility – Fixing the JavaScript Accessibility Problem” presented by IBM and the W3C. The presenter was Rich Schwerdfeger supported by Becky Gibson.  Not only did she talk about the problems from the point of view of a working developer – with practical understanding of the struggles of reconciling the competing needs – but she presented solutions and ongoing challenges with excitement, true engagement,  and a sparkling sense of humor. I became a life long fan.

Becky has been engaged in identifying accessibility barriers of emerging technologies for most of her stellar career.  She is one of the originators of the ARIA framework. She approaches the challenges of dynamic interfaces with enthusiasm and imagination.  Being in her classes is just plain fun. In addition to the CSUN talks, Becky is a featured presenter at tech conferences all over the world and has led workshops and Core Conversations at the SXSW Interactive Conference.

Becky taught with us at AccessU from 2006 – 2009.  Woefully, her schedule did not permit her to return for a couple of years.  She was assigned by IBM to help Dojo integrate accessibility into their toolkit widgets, and Becky is now focused on mobile accessibility. And… she’s back! We are thrilled to welcome Becky as she rejoins John Slatin AccessU this year. She is teaching two classes – Accessible Javascript and Singing the Praises of WAI-ARIA, both on May 16th. And one of the sweetest things about AccessU is its limited size so there will be plenty of time for you to talk one on one with Becky and the other instructors.

So if you are challenged to create cutting edge applications that meet accessibility requirements and have been looking for resources, here is one of the best.  Come to her AccessU classes – no one knows more than Becky Gibson about the scripting needed to be successful; no one talks about it more clearly or more practically. Her class is fun and always enormously informative.

And if you have not yet enrolled in AccessU, what are you waiting for? Sign up today and make sure to get a seat in Becky’s class. You’ll see why I love her and just might fall in love yourself.

 



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