I’m Not Dead Yet (In a British Accent)

I know a few of you have asked if I had written anything on my blog in a while and I have had to say no I have not. After reading @Nacin‘s blog post yesterday about it being months, since his last post I figured I might as well work on one myself.

After checking I found the last time I blogged was on September 19, 2010, and it was about “Accessibility Camp DC – October 9, 2010”, which was a great time in case anyone wanted to know. I had wanted to write a blog post a month or so ago, but it probably would have been about Accessibility Camp DC 2011 and it would have looked like I only post when I’m pushing one of my own events, which I actually need to do more of so we get more people attending. By attending the monthly event was so people can learn from each other as well as make new friends.

For those wondering how long it’s been, since I blogged last it has been 443 days or 1 year, 2 months, and 17 days.

To give you a better idea of how long it’s been, we have had our third Accessibility Camp DC, started our third year of monthly Accessibility DC meetings, and I even started working on my web based event registration prototype “Hold An Event”.

Information about Hold An Event

Hold An Event” is going to be an accessible web based event registration application. The most important part of the application is that it will be accessible as possible when completed, since the event registration system we are currently using now is not accessible. Need to make sure this web application is usable by screen reader users, those, using voice recognition software, voice over (iPhone and iPad), and any other assistive technology.

I’m starting by building the mobile part first. I figured if you can register for an event or even create an event on your cell phone, then it should be even easier to do those tasks in a browser or on a tablet. I have spent most of the last two plus years gathering information about the different people that are likely to use the system and what types of functions they will need from the start and those that can wait until later.

More to come about “Hold An Event”, once the prototype is a bit further along, so I can get feedback on it from others.

Events Attended

During 2011 I attended the following events/conferences:

That’s enough for now.

P.S. For those that don’t know the blog post title was a play on the Monty Python skit “Not Dead Yet”.

Accessibility DC Meet-up and Other Events

At this months Accessibility DC event (February 16, 2010) Eric Wright (@ewaccess) will be discussing and demoing how to navigate the Web hands free on a PC. He will showcase speech computing software including Dragon Naturally Speaking, KnowBrainer, and Windows Speech Recognition. Eric will talk about what elements are important for ensuring speech accessible HTML, and show some basic HTML tags that will help people talk to your Website.

At the first Accessibility DC event Eric do a short demo of Dragon Naturally Speaking on how to set the software up in just a few minutes. He has a great knowledge of the product and seemed so at ease talking to the crowd while being put on the spot to help us kick-off the meeting.

The next few months it seems we have some cool talks and demos planned or at least almost finalized. Next months talk on Accessible PDFs by Carol Klinger and Dona Patrick, will be not be on third Tuesday of the month, because I will be at SXSW in Austin, TX. Their talk will be on March 23, 2010, starting at 6:30 PM same as other months.

In the last few weeks that has been a lot of talk on Twitter by others that they are  starting the planning process to do their own Accessibility Camp’s in Seattle, WA, Boston, MA, and London, England. Hoping that the ones in Boston and Seattle are not the same weekend so that I can maybe go out to both events

Please make sure to register for this months event and follow @AccessibilityDC or @jfc3 on Twitter for monthly information about the events and other accessibility news.

Hoping to have more information about this falls Accessibility Camp DC in the next few weeks.

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:

January

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.

March

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.

April

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.

May

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.

July

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.

August

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.

October

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.

November

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.

December

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.

2010

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?

Some Thoughts from SXSWi 2009

The last few days I have been trying to recover from SXSWi in Austin, TX, and also figure out what I learned this year at SXSWi, lack of sleep being the biggest problem. It might take a few more days to figure it out to a greater degree. Right now I have to spend sometime getting in contact with those that I met to try and cement a strong bond/new relationship. Final set of notes on SXSWi will follow in a few days.

Things I Learned

Some of the big things that I learned was that it is about the people, the relationships, and the contacts. That’s not the only reason I go to SXSWi, I do enjoy going to panels to learn new things. I went to one that talked about WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications) and felt like I did not know anything really compared to others in the room. That was until I thought about it and realized that most of the people had helped right the specification or might have helped review it. That kind of makes me feel like being a BIG fish in a SMALL pond back home and then a SMALL fish in a BIG pond/ocean out in the real world. It just gives me more drive and reason to learn more and put myself and my ideas out there to help others learn.

As my last blog post mentioned I have a few ideas I want to accomplish in the next few months. I will need help getting a bunch of them completed, but was able to run a few of them by others while at SXSWi and get their opinion of them. While trying to explain what I was thinking of doing with the Accessibility Camp idea one person that works for Knowbility suggested I just put the accessibility talks into the next BarCampDC event we run (hopefully May or June). To which I explained that I’m usually the only one talking accessibility at these type of events and that I thought if we did an event that focused mainly on accessibility we might get more people that were just interested in web accessibility to come and participate, that have not as of yet.

Who Can Help

Going to try and make an announcement at Refresh DC on Thursday night, that we are starting to plan the next BarCampDC and the new Accessibility Camp. Hopefully while talking at Gov 2.o Camp on Friday and/or Saturday I can mention it to others to get some more interest of those not normally attending the local tech events. Being a government based BarCamp might get a great deal of people interested or not.

Later on another member of the Knowbility team suggested that I (we) might want to run an AIR Interactive contest, which is were a group of developers, designers, etc., get together to create an accessible website in one month for local non-profits and they give out awards and prizes (have to check on that part) to the most accessible ones. They also suggested doing something that Wendy Chisholm and others did in Seattle, called “Scripting Enabled Seattle“, which had non-profits pitch example problems they had to developers, designers, etc. and then have them create stuff to solve the problems that night and the next day.

Here is more information on how to run your own “Scripting Enabled” event. This is a great way to do “Pro Bono” type work with a group to help people/organizations that might not know how to go about getting the work done or can not afford it. Was even able to talk to Wendy Chisholm herself at the event and hope to get more pointers from her later on.

Conclusion

I went to a bunch of panels and found a few interesting ones. The one that got me thinking the most had nothing to do really with my everyday work (web accessibility). The one that stick in my mind right now the most is “What Can We Learn From Games“, whose panelist where Henry Jenkins, James Gee, and Warren Spector. Their panel got me thinking about how to make a game one of the guys at work made, accessible or to be able to change tiles. This game is similar to four across or one that give you points for all like squares that are touching each other.

Lots to think about from what I learned and talked to people about at SXSWi now it’s time to get started finishing up a plan and getting to work on it.

What did you learn at SXSWi, while you were there or while the rest of us were gone that you can start doing the web better place?