Techshare 2009

Techshare is a series of events hosted by RNIB, that focus on digital technology and people with disabilities. People from around the world gather to present their ideas on web and mobile platforms, access technologies, digital content and much more. We presented a case study with BSkyB, and had a wonderful time meeting with people and listening to other presentations.

I co-presented with Jennifer Aengst from BSkyB. We gave our presentation at 9.30am on Friday, the first slot of the second day. Jen explained BSkyB’s motivation in commissioning the rebuild of their accessibility website. She went on to talk about their commitment to delivering accessible TV services, and providing information about those services on an accessible platform.

I picked up the thread, and spoke briefly about our user centred design methodology. Taking the process from user interaction, through to creative design and into technical development. I then focused on a number of key requirements for the project, and discussed how we met each one with our Content Management System (CMS), Defacto.

After our presentation we wrapped up with several questions. People were interested to know more about Defacto’s accessible interface, and in particular the editor. We were also asked about Defacto’s hosted service model, and our future plans for the CMS.

When we finished our session, I hooked up with Alastair and we went to meet the guys from Adobe. We exchanged ideas about Flash and PDF accessibility with Andrew Kirkpatrick, Matt May and Marc Straat. The conversation was typical of the day, combining ideas, suggestions and possibility.

We agreed to try and find ways to work together to promote best practice in Flash and PDF accessibility and we came away feeling very positive.

Techshare is a great event for networking, and over lunch we caught up briefly with Henny Swan of Opera. We also saw Saqib Shaikh of Microsoft give his lunchtime seminar on Silverlight accessibility, and later caught up with Saqib for a quick chat. Silverlight accessibility is certainly making headway, but for the moment it’s got a long way to go before it threatens Flash’s foothold.

Staying on the subject of Flash, Alastair and I went to Andrew Kirkpatrick’s presentation on Flash, Air and Flex accessibility. We've been interested in Flash accessibility since we developed an accessible Flash game for the RNIB back in 2003, so this was a subject close to our hearts.

During the day we managed to grab snatches of conversation with many friends from across the industry. Artur Ortega from Yahoo!, Sally Cain and Bim Egan from RNIB, Jonathan Hassel and Damon Rose from the BBC, Andrew Arch from the W3C and others. Conversation ranged over many topics, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, mobile interface accessibility, the challenges of one web for everybody and discovery of emerging access technologies. What a day!

For the last slot of the day, Alastair went to a talk about open source access technologies, and I found time to grab a coffee with Richard Orm of RNIB. Richard is spearheading the campaign for access to digital books and ebook readers in the UK. With recent controversy surrounding Amazon’s decision to withdraw Text To Speech (TTS) capability from the Kindle in the USA, it’s clearly an important issue for print disabled people here in the UK.

Techshare 2009 finished in typical style. Everyone we’d been talking to during the day decanted to the pub and carried on talking. For me it’s one of the wonderful aspects of events like this. The conversation just doesn’t stop. Ideas, suggestions and collaborations spring up and take shape throughout the day, and people leave feeling inspired and motivated to change the world!