Notes for Running an Accessibility Camp

The following is a gathering of my thought for putting on an Accessibility Camp (BarCamp style event) here in Washington, DC last fall. Some of the items listed here were due to the fact that we had individuals that were either blind or visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, or had some other disability.

Accessible copies of these notes in both Microsoft WORD and PDF formats will be at bottom of this blog post. (<b>** UPDATED – 2010/09/12 **</b>)

The most important part after getting a few good helpers is to get yourself a location, location, location that is accessible to all first before worrying about a date. One of the hardest parts of putting on Accessibility Camp DC was finding a free location near the bus and the metro (subway).

I spent from about the beginning of May until the middle of August looking for a place to have the event. Then it was a few weeks to get all the approvals from the Martin Luther King Jr. library to have the event there. The library normally doesn’t allow people to have more than one room let alone a few for an entire day, it’s normally just a few hours. Luckily I had had someone that worked there and in the Adaptive Technology Center where part of the event took place.

They have a great deal of assistive technology for all the patrons that use the equipment on a daily basis. By having it a the library we had a whole other level of complexity, since they were sending notes out to all the people that attend their other monthly events. By doing so we needed to have CART (Communication Access Real-Time Translation) which is a device for people that are hard of hearing, Sign Language Interpreters (SLI), and the like.

The next thing to make sure you have at your location is some of the following that have to do with the facilities.

Facility requirements

  • screens and projectors
  • wifi
  • Ethernet connections for speakers at least
  • mirco-phones for speakers and ones to pass for questions (optional)
  • CART – “Communication Access Real-Time Translation”
  • Sign Language Interpreters (SLI)

Next thing to worry about is enough sponsors for the event. The more money you have the more people that can attend. We allowed a maximum donation of $250 so large companies could have try and have a say over the event. We also had a minimum amount of $50, so you did not lose a good chunk of your money to Paypal fees etc. We have found that some of the people/companies that gave the least expected the most from us. One even complained that they were not on the website list only a few hours after giving us the money. They forget that some of us have day jobs and can’t just get on the server from the office to update things.

If you have an over abundance of money you could get t-shirts with the events logo, date, location on front and list of sponsors on the back in alphabetical order so there are no issues. Also please don’t forget to put the people’s whose venue you are using on this list like we forgot last year for BarCamp DC.

You should create yourself a twitter account, purchase a domain, and figure out a short hashtag. We ended up using #AccessDC or was it #AccessCampDC, since #ACDC reminded meet to much of the band and would make it harder to search for on twitter search.

The next big item to start thinking about is food. We provided a small breakfast type stuff that we could use later in the day for snacks as well.


  • bagels
  • coffee
  • juice
  • OJ
  • doughnuts
  • breakfast bars


  • pizza or sandwiches
  • chips
  • cookies
  • fruit (banana’s, apples, grapes, etc.)


  • candy (chocolate seems to work best)
  • leftover breakfast bars
  • chips and the like
  • leftover fruit


  • juice
  • coffee
  • soda
  • bottled water
  • coffee creamer or half and half

Miscellaneous Items

  • paper plates
  • napkins
  • silverware
  • cups
  • butter
  • jam
  • cream cheese

Create a nice accessible website, which we can link to from once up I get it back up. We just used and placed a lot of information there. We had date, location, registration link, sponsors list on the home page at the bottom with links to their websites, a sponsors page, resources page for slides, links, etc. that came out of event.

Don’t forget to create an empty Google Excel type document the night before with talk times, room name or number, if it has a projector, and the like. This saves time and also allows you to create a URL that will give us statistics on when and where people click on the link.

While still at the event we asked people if they would like to attend a monthly accessibility meeting to keep what you started going. People really wanted to keep it going so we just had our third monthly meeting and have speakers booked for the next two or three months already.


You will need to find a place/website to take registration for attendees and money from sponsors. We used, which is not completely accessible (issues with e-mails for those using screen readers and other assistive technology), but allowed sponsors to pay with credit cards and put money in your or someone’s Paypal account. We have found it easier to get sponsors money once you have a firm date and location.

Do to the issues with attendee registration, sponsor money, and just admin for the worker’s, I have started wire-framing and gathering information to make my own conference registration web application. Hope to have it ready for our next big event sometime in the fall.

We started our registration with tickets for only a third or a quarter of the total number of people our location could hold. We notified people by twitter and word of month of the date event tickets would go on sale, this way people don’t grab tickets a month or two in advance and never show. We started with having 50 tickets available and said we were pacing them out over a few weeks up until 150 tickets as long as we got enough money. Plus, we wanted to make sure we had enough money to feed everyone. The following weeks we would let like 25 or 50 more tickets go at a time.

Make sure to ask the attendees at registration if people will need assistance (for individuals that are blind, need CART, SLI, Braille version of schedule, etc). We also asked for t-shirt sizes just in case we got them, this way we would not have all the wrong sizes and it would make ordering easier. We also stated that we might have them if enough money was not collected in time or at all, which is what happened with the slow economy.

Make sure the week before to send a note reminding people of the event etc. plus listing the sponsors. We also asked them to give up their ticket if they knew they were not going to be able to make it to the event.

We had 125 people register and the last week about 10 – 15 canceled, since ours was held over Columbus Day weekend. Day of the event we had a few volunteers to the MLK library keep track of who came and signed in. We ended up with 80+ people that we could verify. This is a huge percentage of people that actually showed, since at our three BarCamp DC events we get from 50% – 60% of the people registered to show up.

Amounts of Food and Drink

I also have a whole bunch of information about amounts of food to order from doing Accessibility Camp DC and three BarCamp DC events now if you would like as well.

It is really cool to see if you can donate the leftover food, drinks, etc. from the event to a shelter or somewhere that could use it. First year we did that we found that some places would not take leftover pizza even if it wasn’t missing any slice from the box. This year we left all the snack and drinks at the library for other events that they have.

Other Important Items

A few other things we did was spend twenty minutes having everyone there introduce themselves with name, job, three words that describe themselves. Also have them tell everyone the name of the talk they want to give and a short description, this way you can build the schedule while people get to know who is there and you can make sure all the design talks or whatever are not at the same time.

You might want to plan some sort of JAWS screen reader demo during lunch so people that never have seen one get a chance to do so. A lot of people in DC that watched one for the first time were just amazed at how much goes into getting around the internet with a screen reader.

Another thing would be to plan the talks to be about 45 minutes with questions so people have time to hang out and get to the next talk easily. You also might have people available to help individuals that need help (visual issue or the like) get from one room to the next, since they are in a strange place.

I know BarCamp’s are supposed to be an un-conference with nothing planned, but not knowing how many people were going to come to talk we made sure we had at least enough talks to fill one room for the entire day. We ended up with about 13 talks for the day in three different locations.

Finally you might need a location for after party, which should also be accessible. This allows you to use up any leftover money from sponsors, since BarCamp type events are not meant to make money, but share knowledge and make new friends.

My Cell Number

Hopefully this is what you were looking for and I did not miss anything. If you have any questions you can give me a call at 703-587-2458, anytime normally between 8 AM and 11 PM eastern standard time.

A few other groups have showed interest in me sending this to them so could you give me your opinion of anything I might have missed or over stated.

Microsoft WORD and PDF Version

Here are the Microsoft WORD and PDF versions of how to run an Accessibility Camp notes.

DC Monthly Accessibility Meet-up

After last years successful Accessibility Camp DC event I wanted to keep the momentum going and decided to have a monthly accessibility meet-up. I first talked with Patrick and a few others about having a monthly meeting if we got enough interest while at the big event in October.

Event Details

The monthly accessibility meet-ups in Washington, DC, take place every third Tuesday of the month to try and further the knowledge in the area of accessibility. The events are held at the Martin Luther King Library at 901 G St. NW, beginning at 6:30 PM and ending at 8:30 PM. Further information can be found at the Accessibility DC website.

Ideas of what it should be

Everyone liked the idea and we have now had three meetings starting in November, 2009. The first meeting was mostly to see what the other people had in mind for what the meetings should be and what I had been thinking about for a good amount of time.

What I had in mind was a place for designers and developers to learn from each other, along with getting input, advice, and first hand information from those that might use adaptive technology to view websites on a regular basis. So the long and the short of it was to be a place for people to learn from each other and make new friends. That seemed to be what everyone for the most part thought it should be as well. The audience for the events seems to be about a third designer and developers, another third business professionals that use assistive technology to work, and the rest are those that use assistive technology for everyday life.

November 17, 2009

The first meeting went well with everyone introducing themselves so we all got an idea who was at the event and what they did. After that was done, we had Eric Wright (@ewaccess) do a short demo of Dragon Naturally speaking, which was on how to set it up, along with demoing a few of the basic commands, functions, and showing it’s abilities.

December 15, 2009

The next meeting is when I presented my “Is Your Website Accessible? If Not Practical Ways to Make Them So.” talk, which I have done a bunch of times at other events. The really cool thing that happened before this meeting got going was that about a dozen different students with visual and others disabilities stopped in to talk with us. We talked about what we did and what they wanted to do when they grew up. There were a few very interesting sets of mini talks and questions asked by the students and people who attended.

January 19, 2010

Just the other day Leslie Bobbitt (@Dreamweaver78) did a wonderful talk and demo on JAWS. She talked about what the product was, how you can use it to do many things on a computer from WORD, browse the internet, and a lot more. She talked about Freedom Scientific’s Surf’s Up tutorials, along with going over different pages examples that I created. There were two types of pages those that were less accessible and then pages that were much more accessible. Here is the link to the accessible test pages.

Future Plans

The next big obstacle is trying to get more people to come and learn from each other. We are currently getting about 15 – 20 people per meeting. I would like to add some more people to get us closer to about 35 – 40 or thereabouts. If we get anymore we will not have enough room in the space we are using now.

Now comes the fun part were we are looking for talk ideas, along with people to do those talks. So if you have ideas for talks or want to present an idea now is your time to speak up by adding your ideas to the comments below.

Project 52 Plans

I’m still working on my plan of how to complete Project 52, but I first want to thank Anton Peck for coming up with the idea to get himself and others to blog at least once a week for a year. Anton at first thought that maybe 25 or at most 50 of his friends would participate and ended up with over 700 last time I checked the list.

When Anton first came up with the idea on his blog I was all for participating, because I didn’t do a whole lot of blogging last. Instead I attended a few web conferences, ran a few (Accessibility Camp DC and BarCamp DC) with help from others, along with starting a monthly accessibility meet-up here in Washington, DC.

Donate to Charity

In the comments of Anton’s blog post about Project 52 I even talked about why not try and do some good out of all this by donating $10 to charity for ever week I miss blogging, creating code examples, making a “How To” videos of either accessibility related items or whatever. So each quarter I will donate $10 per week of missed blogging to a local charity like Martha’s Table or to Kiva.

Blog Post Ideas

Some of the things I plan on blogging abut this year are listed below:

  • Accessibility related issues and best practices
  • SXSWi – spring-break for geeks in Austin, Texas
  • Access U – accessibility conference in Austin, Texas, put on by Knowility
  • Accessibility Camp DC
  • BarCamp DC
  • Accessibility DC monthly meet-up
  • Food and wine
  • An Event Apart DC – great web standards conference put on by Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric Meyer
  • creating my web application (more to following in a future post)
  • lessons learned from things I have done or from others (friends and experts)
  • book reviews – mostly technology
  • spending more time with friends
  • more writing

So those are some of my ideas for blog posts and plans for the next 50 weeks. Might have to write a few accessibility best practices or code examples posts in advance for times like when I’m at SXSWI for a week and won’t have much time to blog. I already have six or eight subjects with titles and a short outline started from ideas from last year, now to just do the writing and coding required.

Are you planning on doing more blogging this year or just more reading and other work?

Please tell me what you are doing or suggestions for me to do in the comments.

Wish me luck.

2009 Has Come to an End

2009 was a very interesting year of change and learning new things. Looking forward to 2010 to even be more fun and productive.

Some of the 2009  highlights for me were:


Started new job as “Web Content Accessibility Manager” (big fancy title) for the United States Army, which means that I’m responsible for making sure the Army’s main website www.ARMY.MIL and the 45+ micro websites we are responsible for are accessible to as many people and devices as possible.


Attended SXSWi (spring break for geeks) for the third year in a row now. Had  great time as usual speaking with old friends and new ones I made this year. Still continue to learn each year that I attend. A lot of the new things I learn is from having conversations in the hallways, at dinner, in the bars late in the evening, or just relaxing in the Hampton Inn’s lounge on the second floor.

Upon returning from SXSWi needed to start planning for the next BarCamp DC, along with another event I heard about on twitter a few weeks before SXSWi. A small group in San Antonio, TX, did an accessibility camp. I spent a great deal of time and some conversations while in Austin, TX, about doing one here in Washington, DC.

Upon my return I spent more time I’m looking into when we might have the next BarCampDC, along with contemplating, doing an Accessibility Camp here in Washington, DC, in more detail. These events took over a lot of my spare time trying to find venues for both events that were both free and cost to metro.


Took a trip out to Denver to visit my brother and his family, along with attend BarCamp boulder which got canceled do to 18+ inches of snow the day before. That is a lot of snow for even the Denver area for mid April. Ended up still having a nice time visiting with my brother’s family.


Attended “Access U” put on by Knowbility in Austin, TX, in mid May. Again it was a great place to meet new friends and learn more about accessibility. Spent an extra two days down there after the conference was over so I could see Austin, when it was not filled up with over 10,000 web geeks from around the world.


In late July got a direct message from @v (William Lawrence) another local accessibility person and a good friend about going to an accessibility event at Ben’s Next Door. Decided to go and hoped to meet some new local accessibility people. Got to meet and talk with a lot of new people throughout the evening. Later in the evening I got to talk to my good friend Patrick Timony who is a great resource of information about Adaptive Technology equipment and software. He works at the Martin Luther King library here in DC.

During that conversation a big old light bulb went off in my head. Why not I ask Patrick about having Accessibility Camp DC at the MLK library.


After a bunch of talking with him later in the month to explain more what BarCamp style events are, we started looking into what it would take for us to have the event at the library. Normally the library only lets you have one room for a few hours, we were looking to use at least two spaces besides Patrick’s for an entire Saturday. Luckily Patrick and his boss were behind the event so we were able to secure the space.

While working on final preparations for Accessibility Camp DC, also started looking into having BarCamp DC at the MLK library. Planning and attempting to get rooms for this was even more involved, since we were looking at getting six spaces for a Saturday. In the end we managed again to get what we needed with the help of Patrick and his boss.


On October 10, 2009, which was the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend we had the first Accessibility Camp DC event. We had 110 people sign-up and over 80 people attend, which was just great. Most other BarCamp events we have run 40% – 50% of the people sign-up but never show up.

People came from all over the country (Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and a few other states I can’t remember) and even Jennison (@jennison) from Toronto, Canada. Even Shawn Lawton Henry, who leads worldwide education and outreach activities promoting Web accessibility for people with disabilities at the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) attend.

She even did a talk that was attended by about half the attendees and widely talked about as one of the best talks of the day. Was sorry, I missed it because I was running around doing work to make sure the rest of the day ran smoothly. I gave my “Is Your Website Accessible?” talk, along with a peared down version of Jared W Smith of WebAIM’s WAI ARIA talk.

We had 13 planned talks and one or two impromptu screen reader demonstrations during the day. There were like 30+ people at the first one that a few people mentioned opened their eyes to what people with visual issues go through to do things on the internet. Jennison did the first one and Leslie Bobbitt (@DreamWeaver78) did a wonderful one the second time as well.

End of October attended Peter Corbett’s (iStrategyLabs) Tech Art’s – Spooky Union, Halloween event. Had a great time and met a lot of new people, along with seeing a bunch of old friends.


On November 14, 2009, we (Justin Thorp (@thorpus), Shaun Farrell, Patrick Timony, Peter Corbett, and a few others) had our third BarCamp DC. It was a rousing success with over 125 people attending. We did not have to many problems.

If memory serves me correctly I think we had 36 talks on great many different subjects. We instituted a Twitter swear jar, that meant if you mentioned twitter in your talks it cost you a dollar, which was then donated to charity. I think we ended up collecting over $125.

We also attempted to have people not use PowerPoint and the like slides so there were discussions at the event than people just talk at or present information to others. This made the event more active than years before.

Only three days after we got done with BarCamp DC, Patrick and I put on the first monthly Accessibility DC event at the MLK library on November 17, 2009. We will be meeting every third Tuesday of the month for those wanting to attend.


nclud started the holiday season off right with their annual end of year holiday party. There were a ton of people as usual. I don’t think I got a chance to talk to half of the people I wanted to. Still had a great time none the less. Got into a little trouble, since I had another wine event at a friends and brought extra wine after they had to go get more from local store down the street.

Spent Christmas weekend with different friends and just relaxing.

New Years Eve was a quiet affair with some friends at a Japanese Steakhouse, with a few of them coming back to my place for wine, cheese, cure Italian meats, shrimp, and some Creamant de Bourgogne to usher in the New Year. All while watching the Food Network most of the evening. Creamant is a champagne style wine from another region of France that is not from Champagne.


This years looks to be an even more exciting one than last year, with more monthly accessibility meetings, SXSWi, working on my different web applications (more on my change of plans later), hoping to attend Access U again, and attending An Event Apart DC when Jeffrey Zledman, Eric Meyer, and their great speakers here Washington, DC, on Sept. 16–17, 2010.

More details of me plans for this coming year to follow over the next few weeks. I am participating in Project 52, that my good friend Anton Peck started, which is to do a blog post or some equivalent each week for a year. When I signed up I figure he would get a hundred or so people to sign-up. Last time I checked he had 488 people signed up.

So how did your 2009 go and what are you’re plans for 2010?