On Saturday, September 8, the Chicago Digital Accessibility & Inclusive Design Meetup hosted its first Accessibility Camp event in Chicago. A one-day “un-conference,” the camp focused on digital accessibility and hosted seven presentations by experts in the field (including Billy Gregory, TPGi’s Director of Training–though he was not there in his official capacity). The talks covered various facets of the digital space, including user experience, coding and inclusive design.
TPGi sponsored tickets for underrepresented groups for four lucky attendees who submitted applications describing why it meant so much for them to attend. The winners (Beth Finkle, Hina Graves, Imelda March, and Rosa Santiago) were excited to attend along with 157 others who congregated in the Windy City for seven inspiring hours. Here’s what the winners had to say about their experience:
“As a junior developer it was nice to hear all aspects of accessibility. We really don’t know these things unless we know someone or there is a team designated for this. It has definitely opened me up more as a developer…Every speaker was an inspiration to me. Each person who spoke on the panel contributed to my learning experience, and moving forward in my career I plan to keep everything in mind when I build…Bring a friend with you [next year]. The topics are so universal I feel that many people could use this information in many aspects of life!”
“I liked that the event was interactive and had a great wealth of information for people at all levels, from entry level to advanced accessibility professional. The topics covered were very diverse and in depth…I always wanted to meet and attend the Chicago Accessibility meetup that he [Dennis Deacon] started, but since I live so far away from Chicago I never got the opportunity…Liz Davis was amazing, being in a wheelchair; she was very optimistic and had a great sense of humor. She knew a lot about different groups and resources that can help someone in the field.
I am an Accessibility Consultant but live in an area where opportunities in this field are next to none…The great thing is that you may meet people who could play an important part in shaping your career. So it can be a great networking opportunity.”
“I was inspired by Liz Davis because she is friendly and upbeat. She was witty in presenting her material. Her presentation was a 5-star delivery…I would strongly suggest people attend next year because they can learn many aspects about accessibility that is not widely discussed in industry circles. Further, it is a well-organized event and the passion of the topic is evident with the organizers and volunteers.”
“[I was surprised to learn] that many more user groups could use the technology if developers just spent maybe another 10 minutes, or another hour, just planning it a little bit better. I also learned that little by little, designers and developers are starting to understand that bringing more users to their sites – and keeping them there – is good for business. Hearing things like that said at the conference makes me feel like I needn’t be so sheepish about pointing out some of the problems I have using my screen reader to access stuff online. Maybe, just maybe, my pointing such things out would be a *help* to businesses. Why wouldn’t you want more people to be able to use the stuff you worked so hard to design?…Liz Davis [inspired me]. I had the great fortune to sit next to her for one of the presentations; she was so friendly and positive and easy to talk with. Very open, and it was interesting to hear about her move from a small town (where she was just about the only person in the school system with a physical disability) to Chicago. I connected with her on the aspect of how comforting it is to be anonymous in a big city, you don’t stand out as “the handicapped girl.”
Dennis Deacon, accessibility engineer at TPGi and one of the organizers of the camp, declared that the event was “an overwhelming success. A great barometer of the level of interest in digital accessibility in Chicago and beyond.” Attendees seemed to agree with his sentiment, unleashing a flurry of positive tweets after the event.