The Perth web accessibility community descended on the BankWest offices for the fourth Perth Web Accessibility Camp event with over 100 in attendance. With great presentations, a fantastic BBQ lunch and a lot of enthusiasm for access in the room, a great time was had by all. Here’s some of the presentations and points made by speakers that jumped out at me during the day.
To start things off, keynote Andrew Arch from the Digital Transformation Agency opened by discussing how government are endeavouring to provide an end-to-end online user experience. From an accessibility perspective a big part of this is due to the Digital Service Standard and point nine which focuses specifically on accessibility. Andrew also discussed the likelihood of Australia adopting the evolving standard focusing on public procurement. If the government were to adopt the standard once it is formalised it would mean that government agencies would purchase accessible equipment which in turn would support the employment of people with disabilities. Fingers crossed 2017 is the year in which this happens.
Sean Gardiner & Richard Giles from Hatchd provided a great insight into their development of the new bus port app. They explained that while the app was created in accordance with the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guideline’s (WCAG) 2.0 standard, it was also imperative that they did user testing which ultimately made sure it functioned well in the real world. Theimportance of user testing was a common theme throughout the day.
Amanda Mace from Web Key IT discussed the benefits of WAI-ARIA and how additional code specifically for assistive technology users can provide significant access benefits to people with disabilities. Matthew Putland from Media Access Australia built on this by explaining the importance of structuring headings in web content so they are logical and sequential. These presentations were great examples of both the importance of standards and also how best practice can improve the user experience.
Caine Chennatt from the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery at the University of Western Australia discussed a project relating to the creation of 3D printed objects based on 2D pictures, providing an opportunity for people who are blind or vision impaired to interact with the arts in a tactile manner. Rosemary Spark also provided an important perspective on the significance of accessibity in the provision of a flexible workplace.
Two other talks which particularly resonated in terms of food for thought were Vithya Vijayakumare from VisAbility who discussed the significance of the ePub3 standard going forward for digital books and how you can embed media into books such as videos which has huge potential. Julie Grundy wrapped up the day looking at her experience in addressing the accessibility of airline flight systems and mentioned a great quote – accessibility is about quality, not just a checklist.
In terms of my involvement, I helped with the overall organisation of the Camp and did a presentation about the future of W3C accessibility standards. The W3C are updating the terminology and tweaking the well-established WCAG 2.0 standard by creating WCAG 2.1 in the short-term while focusing on a more evoled standard in the long run, currently known as Silver. Through my role with the W3C Research Questions Task Force (RQTF) I’ve been providing some research support to these developments so it was great to have a chance to share the information. WCAG 2.1 is scheduled for release in mid-2018 which is remarkably quick for W3C. Silver, however, is very much a long-term project. To highlight the way in which technology is changing, I did a demo of the Google Home in action, a popular digital assistant tool that highlights the current interest in the Internet of Things (IoT).
Finally no Perth Web Accessibility Camp is complete without the Great Debate, a humorous-yet-poignant reflection on topical accessibility issues. This year’s theme was ‘Getting sued is great for accessibility’ and while some great serious and not-so-serious arguments were made on both sides, it’s no surprise that the negative team came out on top as voted by the audience.
To wrap up this article I’d like to acknowledge the extremely hard work of Julie Grundy and Vivienne Conway in making the camp happen, the many sponsors including BankWest and also the generous support of everyone in promoting my book ‘Outrunning the Night’. Which sold a number of copies on the day.