Canceling Accessibility Camp DC for October 11, 2014

After much thought and discussion, we are canceling Accessibility Camp DC on October 11, 2014.

We hope this does not cause too many people grief because they have already booked airfare and hotels to attend the event. I notified those I knew who were attending from out of town that we might have to cancel the event.

For those still coming to DC because you purchased airfare and hotel, we can still get together and talk abut accessibility. We could even have a wine and cheese tasting at my house, along with sightseeing if you want too.

A big thanks to our sponsors. I will look into the fastest way to get you your money back. It might take a bit with EventBrite, but I will figure something out.

Thanks for all those that did register and planned on attending camp.

We are looking into the possibility of re-scheduling the event for a later date. Most likely, the event will be in January or February of 2015.

Why I’m Building Hold An Event

I created Hold An Event because all the other event registration web applications are not accessible to those using assistive technologies, like screen readers (JAWS, NVDA, Window Eyes, etc.), along with voice recognition software (Dragon Naturally Speaking). They are also difficult to use even on smartphones let alone an lesser phones. I found this out while running my first Accessibility Camp DC back in October of 2009 and then with our follow-up monthly event, Accessibility DC. People would show up without registering because they deemed the service I had chosen not to be accessible, even though these people would be considered by most to be power assistive technology users.

After the first Accessibility Camp DC and a few monthly meetings, I started looking into event registration systems and everything I found was inaccessible in one form or other. I mostly looked at all the larger ones is all. So over the last two and a half plus years, when I have had five minutes here or a half hour there, at coffee shops, on the train, or wherever, I put notes into my iPhone about creating a web-based event registration application. At first, I used the iPhone’s built-in notes application, until a few people suggested I use Simple Note. This was because it had an iPhone application, along with a web application. By gathering all the different pieces of information you would need to create and run events over time, I had the time to really think about the roles/personas needed for an event.

The type of people I came up with could be people putting on the event, the attendees, paid attendees if that applies, sponsors, speakers, and even event staff. These roles work if you are holding a simple birthday party, the monthly book club, a tech event, or even a large conference. So we are talking a great amount of information, and I really had to think this through.

At times, I was like this is way too much work for just one person or I had other things to do and would do nothing about it for weeks or even months. No matter how hard I tried, the problem never seemed to go away and kept coming back to me. So after reading a lot of books, articles, etc. about start-ups, web applications, usability, and the like, as most would say I just needed to start and see where it would go.

When I Started

So over the summer of 2011, I finally started building the prototype to make sure I had the correct process, flow, and usability of the web application down before really starting the difficult work of making this a true working application. I even started with the mind-set of Mobile First (great book), which some are great ideas from Luke W. and others. My guess was that if I started coding the web application using web standards and accessibility in mind from the start, and if a person could do everything they needed to on their phone, then it should work wonderfully in a browser or on a tablet.

I started out simple and built a few of the needed input forms, which got me playing with responsive design and media queries. I made a concerted effort to get those few main screens right before building out a ton of pages. Once I got most of that complete, I moved on to the next set of forms.

My goal was to have the ability to make Hold An Event’s web application to seem like it was processing real information such as a search for events, to registering for an event, etc. This was done by passing parameters in the URL to tell each page what static content to place on the page. This idea seems to be working fairly well, since when showing friends lately what Hold An Event looked and acted like, they asked what kind of database, etc. I’m using. I would then explained what I had done to make it a look like a fully-functional application.

By the middle of October 2001, I had a bunch of pages that worked well enough to start showing people at that month’s Accessibility DC event and then more people at my annual Accessibility Camp DC event. Once those events were over, I didn’t do any more coding until New Year’s Eve 2011, sitting at my parents kitchen table coding from like 11 PM to 1:30 AM, because everyone else in the house more or less had gone to bed by 10:30 PM. Since then, I have been doing something to improve the Hold An Event web application just about every night and on the weekends too. Sometimes it was a little tweak here or there; other times it’s been to add a new page.

At one point, I added a few different smaller non geek/tech events to be able to show people different types of events types and how the process worked. I also had to add in some code to display the different navigation paths people used, depending on what type of user they were. For example, is the person running the event or attending the event, which are the two types I’m worrying about now.

How You Can Help

The next step is to let people play with Hold An Event themselves instead of me demoing it on my iPhone, which means making it look and act better on a tablet or in a computer browser. Currently it’s not the prettiest thing in a web browser, but it will do as a prototype.

Other big tickets items I’m going to have to think about are the security of peoples’ information like name and e-mail address to start, along with taking money, once I get to that point, which is far off in the future. I’m only working on this a few hours some nights after work and then 6 hours max on the weekends, for a total of 10 to 15 hours a week.

So here’s to making more progress over the next few months.

Where to find the Hold An Event Prototype

For those wanting to look at the current prototype, start by using the “tab” key on the Hold An Event’s home page, doing so will let you find the link to the demo/prototype web application. Remember this “prototype will not save” anything you place in it at all. So please don’t try and create an event to invite people to it and think it will work because it won’t. Once you’re there, use the search box to find events in “DC”, which will currently give you a list of nine events to view.

If you want to sign in to see the process of creating and viewing current events you’re running, your past events, or ones you’re attending, all you need to do is make sure you place at least one character in the user name and password fields. It doesn’t matter what they are, just as long as there is something there.

Feedback Welcome

P.S. Have fun and please send me feedback about what needs to be done, improved, etc. I’m a big guy and can take the the bad with the good. I’m mostly looking for ways to improve things.

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 Camp DC – October 9, 2010

For those that were wondering when the next Accessibility Camp DC is, it will be on Saturday October 9 , 2010, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM in Washington, DC. This year we plan on getting more people out if we possibly can and there is already a nice sized group of out of towners coming as well.

For those that have never attended a BarCamp style event, which this is, the speakers and subjects for the event are decided the day of the event by everyone in attendance. Also in true BarCamp fashion the attendees can register for the event for FREE.

Some of the subjects we are hoping people can and will talk about are the following:

  • Section 508 Compliance or WCAG 2.0
  • Practical Ways to Make Your Website Accessible
  • Accessible PDF’s
  • Making Flash Accessible
  • What is WAI-ARIA – (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications)
  • Accessible Video and Transcription
  • Panel Discussion on “Issues Effecting Individuals with Disabilities on the Web”
  • Captioning
  • Screen Reader Demos – JAWS and NVDA
  • Mobile software accessibility

Please pass this information on to others so we can have as many people as possible to learn and make needed connections about accessibility.

Hope to see you all there.

snOMG – Washington, DC, 2010

Finally, getting my,  great snow storms of Washington, DC, in February, 2010 blog pot out. This storm left even more snow than I was ready for, being from Buffalo, NY. We ended up with about a total of 25 inches of snow over at my house. We ended up backing the all time snow record for DC and a lot of the surrounding areas. The record was back to like 1889 or something like that.

Snow Photos

Here are seven photos I took of all the snow we got in Washington, DC, over the two giant snow storms in February. Starting with ones of my driveway and all the snow I had to shovel to get my car out to the driveway. There are even a few of different other parts of my neighborhood.

The view of snow in my backyard from my deck

View of snow from my deck

Looking down my driveway the first day towards the street

Looking down my driveway towards the street

Large tree branch blocking the road just down the block from me

Large tree branch blocking the road

Pile of snow plowed in front of large branch blocking road

Other side of downed tree branch blocking the road

My side street with three cars covered in snow

My side street

Tree in my front yard being dent over in the weight of the snow

Tree in my front yard with lots of snow

My driveway starting to melt after a few days

Partially melted driveway

What Did You do with Your Snow Days

While the Federal government was closed for the first four days of last week I had to at least work from home or take time off to cover those days. So between shoveling and just getting out of the house for a short bit I was able to do work from home, because of all the software, e-mail (home and work), and IRC chat software.

Mostly spent me time doing different accessibility and usability testing of a new work web application. That’s all I can say about it, sorry. Ended up doing a review of a new micro website and mostly keyboard testing, along with other 508 testing using different adaptive technologies.