A view from the vendor expo at CSUN 2013

I just returned from my trip to the biggest(?) conference on accessibly in the county, CSUN 2013. I owe big thanks to Knowbility and Sharron Rush for making it possible for me to attend. They sponsored my ticket to the conference, and their kindness and eagerness to support my interest in Accessibility is a great example of what I found through out the conference.

CSUN brings together industry leaders, teachers, parents, start ups, and members of the community representing every disability you can think of: Cognitive and motor impairments, blindness, hearing loss, dyslexia, and more. It’s a full week of workshops, extremely emotional talks, and community  bringing people together from places as far as Qatar and Australia.

The attendees were an extremely empathetic and innovative group of people dedicating themselves to improving the lives of the too often marginalized. A few examples:

  • Tecla - Founded by 2 young guys in Toronto making an Open Source(!) device to make touch screens accessible to people with limited mobility.
  • Orbit Research - Created an add-on for TI-84 graphing calculators which makes them accessible to the blind. The add-on creates an audio representation of the graphed function, changing frequency depending on the slope of the curve (you really have to hear it).
  • Knowbility AIR - A yearly competition pairing web developers with non-profits in order to increase awareness about accessible web design, as well as providing a much needed service to underfunded non-profits.

Ingenuity is rampant in this community. They will work ceaselessly to make their lives better: from a father making a device to more easily communicate with his autistic son to a deaf/blind man, making a device to communicate without the need for an interpreter.

It was a truly remarkable experience, and if I’ve learned anything, the need for start up talent (and capital) outside of the consumer web is enormous. Like those building tools for agriculture, there are innumerable opportunities in industries not driven by display advertising, accessible technology not being the least among them.

In the end the conference was life changing in the most positive sense. However, there was one aspect of the conference which was not so great, one that I will go into more detail in my next post: the vender expo. 

PS. The highlight of the conference was all of the service animals. No matter how well trained they were, they always lose it when they meet another dog. (thanks @thebillygregory for pointing this out).

Next year I’m calling for a Dog meetup so all of service dogs can play together for a little bit.

CSUN 2013 - My First Accessibility Conference