While this blog post comes a few weeks after the CSUN 2015 conference, I have had many opportunities through multiple customer engagements in the past month to reflect on and re-affirm some of the insights from the event. My key takeaway from this year’s event was that the overall awareness and understanding of the Accessibility landscape is finally evolving and maturing to a level that will lead to a much required tangible impact on the community. Companies are now more educated on the needs of the disability community and their buying power, the risk of lawsuits, and more and more organizations in the government and private sector space are beginning take proactive measure on Accessibility while also considering the concept of “inclusion” vs. “accommodation”. This is a welcome change, not just for end users, but also for people within the Accessibility community who have been tirelessly beating this drum for some time now. The sound is finally being heard!
A New CSUN
CSUN has always been well-known, but has really evolved into the premier conference for Accessibility, and the quality and number of attendees this year is a testament to this. I understood that there were over 6000 attendees in 2014, and it seemed there were as many, if not more this year. I’ve attended CSUN for 10 years, and I’ve noticed a significant shift in how the event has been perceived in the past – from being primarily an end-user event to one that is now attended by prominent global private sector companies in the technology and telecommunications space in addition to government agencies, higher education and financial service organizations.
Companies are finally recognizing that the disabled population is not helpless, but that they are tech savvy with their assistive technologies (AT) and the web, and can be highly productive in society. Of course this requires the companies to provide content that is compatible with the AT. I was therefore very pleased, but not entirely surprised, to see the presence and high-level of engagement from telecommunication and technology companies. AT&T was a showcase sponsor, and the conference itself hosted specific information sessions on legislation affecting Telcos (Telecom Act Sections 255, 713). I also noticed this year presence from a number of health care insurers looking for solutions for both web public facing documents and secured personalized documents for insured members and clinician practice patients.
This year, as always, the sessions were extremely relevant and packed with attendees. Several sessions filled up to capacity 20 minutes prior to session start and people were still trying to get in after the doors had closed. An example of this would be Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian’s “Digital Accessibility: 2015 Annual Legal Update” and the Access Board’s “Public Hearing” session.
I had the pleasure of presenting on a couple of high impact topics, including “Accessible PDF: The future for Consumer Statements, Bill, and Notices” and a Freedom Scientifc Showcase session “Creating Accessible Word and PDF Documents – Best Practices” co-presented with Freedom Scientific’s Dan Clark. Both sessions were very well received by a broad spectrum of attendees including private companies both big and small, local, state and federal governments, higher education organizations and industry professionals. The crowds were definitely smarter about PDF Accessibility than in previous years.
It was extremely gratifying to be at the CSUN 2015 conference, and to see all the positive steps in the right direction that push the Accessibility conversation to greater heights. CSUN is the who’s who collection of Accessibility professionals, latest technologies, what’s what on legislation, etc. – the must be place to be every March in San Diego. See you again in 2016!