Dennis Lembree: Hello and welcome to Web Axe Podcast 101, CSUN15 Review and Interviews. I'm just going to give a quick intro and then we'll just jump into the three interviews.
Last week, it was the CSUN15 conference in San Diego, another great success, the 30th Anniversary. I was able to catch up with Sandy Plotin, the Managing Director of the Center on Disabilities at California State University, Northridge.
She's basically in charge of the entire CSUN conference. It's great to hear from her. I also speak to David MacDonald and Steve Lee. Here it is.
I'm here with the infamous Sandy Plotin. Hi, Sandy.
Sandy Plotin: Hi, Dennis.
Dennis: Thanks for taking some time out to talk to me.
Sandy: No problem, always for you.
Dennis: Can you give everyone who may not be familiar your title at CSUN.
Sandy: I'm the Managing Director of Center on Disabilities. We are the people who are responsible for the CSUN conference.
Dennis: Right on. Thanks a lot for all your effort every year. How many years have you been doing this?
Sandy: This is my 10th year. My 10th anniversary in the conference is 30th.
Sandy: Thank you.
Dennis: Every year is a blast.
Sandy: Yeah, it is a blast. When we're done, we can look back and say, "It was awesome."
Dennis: I'm sure for you and Shawn it's a ton of work.
Sandy: And the rest of my team, but we're just happy that you guys enjoy it so much. It is a blast for you while you're here.
Dennis: Definitely. I've been coming ever since it moved to this location here in San Diego. It is beautiful. What do you think was maybe the most fun event this year?
Sandy: I would like to say, the 30th anniversary celebration was the most fun. I thought we had some great entertainers. We had some great sponsors who got up and said some very nice things about Harry in conference. I also thought the keynote was really great, that's not just because I get to talk there.
Dennis: It was good. The comedians were hilarious.
Sandy: They were good. It's hard for me to pick out one great aspect because there's so much stuff going on. Our exhibit hall was packed this year. We had more exhibitors than we did last year, which was great. As you know our presentations were overwhelmingly crowded.
That's a good thing for us. We'd rather have speakers who have full rooms rather than speakers with empty rooms. It just means that we're presenting the right topics. We're happy about that. There were some people who weren't particularly happy, but we're happy that obviously there's interest in what they're presenting and in the presentation.
Dennis: Obviously, it must be challenging to coordinate and schedule such a huge conference.
Sandy: It's no winning on that.
Dennis: I just was talking to Steve Lee, we mentioned how great it was that you were able to even reschedule at least one of the sessions that were really overcrowded. That was great.
Sandy: Actually, we're talking about doing it next year, probably in a call for papers to have them gone back to talk to my team about it yet. We may put something in the call for papers that says if your sessions overcrowded and we have an open slot, sign up and we'll see if we can find a re-run time.
Dennis: That's a good idea. Let me correct myself. It was a rescheduled that it was repeated. It was repeated the next day. That was great.
Sandy: Otherwise, we would be having sessions in the hallway.
Dennis: As we all know, that's where, in the hallway, in the bars, where a lot of the business takes place.
Dennis: I love that new little shopping area next door?
Sandy: The Headquarters.
Dennis: The Headquarters, yeah. That really makes it easier to find places to meet and to eat.
Sandy: It's terrific. It's the original Police Headquarters in San Diego.
Dennis: Oh, it was?
Sandy: The original jail's still there. It was when we first started coming into this dilapidated old building. We thought she was a lovely thing to look out from your window. Then last year, they built the whole mall right around the headquarters. When you go into the old jails, but now, there are some great places to go eat and drink and shop. It's really convenient.
Dennis: It is very nice.
Sandy: Other than Secret Village, which I still love.
Dennis: It may be too early to ask, but I'm just going to ask you anyway, are there anything for next year's?
Sandy: It's way too early. We don't have the Keynote yet. All we have are our dates. The only new thing I'll tell you, there's a couple of changes and one of them is we added exhibitor call for papers.
We're going to have three calls for papers this year, science research track, and general session and then exhibit hall for paper. Call for paper should be up for quite a while. We want to be able to let exhibitor have a chance, who maybe, booked late to get a paper in.
Dennis: That's new.
Sandy: Then, of course, we still have the challenge of session space. This is just an operational change for us. We're probably doing away with Braille for our programs.
Dennis: It's technology conference.
Sandy: It's technology.
Dennis: Let's move it on.
Sandy: We've had a mobile app for years for our website. Our website is completely accessible. Daisy does our other website and downloads and things, our disks. We are talking about going completely paperless, but I don't think we'll go completely. We are going to start to phase out. Probably have exhibit hall and quick guide only.
Dennis: That makes a lot of sense. It can save some trees at the same time.
Sandy: We'd love to save some trees.
Dennis: [laughs] Thanks a lot Sandy for joining me.
Sandy: Thanks, Dennis.
Dennis: It's nice talking to you.
Sandy: Keep coming every year, we love to have people like you at the conference who tell everybody how great we are.
Dennis: I appreciate that. I enjoy doing it. Thanks again.
Sandy: Thank you.
Dennis: I'm here with David MacDonald at the CSUN 2015. Hello, David.
David MacDonald: Hi. How are you doing, Dennis?
Dennis: Good. Thanks for taking a few minutes to talk. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
David: Yeah. I've been doing WCAG. I've been on the WCAG team since about 2001. I'm kind of an old timer. I've been a fly on the wall. I knew every argument that went into every success criterion. I can tell you all the compromises and the digging in and all that stuff that went along with each of the success criterion. It's been a great experience.
I'm also a consultant and I help organizations come into alignment with the WCAG standard and to go the extra mile to actually make it really accessible. We all know that just following WCAG, it's a consensus document. It's not an advocacy document.
Dennis: Right, it is guidelines.
David: Yeah. It gives you a baseline on where you can start. It's so much more, particularly when you get in the application world. I help organizations. We're trying to make applications to make them more accessible when they put on a HTD [inaudible 08:35] .
Dennis: Great. We appreciate all your help and effort with and sacrifice with week WCAG.
Dennis: Thank you. I'm really disappointed. I missed you gave two sessions, I believe at CSUN this year. You want to just tell us a little bit about those?
David: The good thing is, is all the findings from the talks are online. I'll tell you where those are in a moment.
Dennis: I have the link to one of them.
David: We'll get them both to you. The first one was four hot topics. Those of us who have been around in this field for a long time, in 1999 onwards, we know that the things that were important back then were the things like link text, table headers, that basic stuff, long descriptions.
Dennis: It's still important now.
David: They are important now. The interesting thing is, we haven't actually solved a lot of them in the sense that the level of consensus in the disability community, in the accessibility community, in that it wasn't as high as we'd like.
I took four of those issues and I did a showdown between all the techniques. The "click here" links, all the solutions on how you fix an on-screen text and labeled by and in the area labeled describe by, and all that kind of stuff.
Dennis: It's a great idea.
David: Just put them against each other. Then we put up a matrix of test and results in. Then we have everybody vote. The big findings on that one was, and some of them were a little bit of a surprise to me, which was good.
The clear winners were when you're doing a read more, make sure you use an area labeled by, if you have text you can refer to. You're putting the two IDs, one ID on the anchor itself and the second one on a previous, whatever the description is probably an heading before it, which was maybe an article title or something like that.
That was a big finding. There were some other solutions that we could have chosen, but that was a clear winner, won about 90 percent of the votes. The other one that was an interesting finding was that when we voted for long desk versus putting just the technique...
Dennis: D- link?
David: No, D-link didn't get anything.
David: Just putting it on, not even a link underneath, that didn't get very much either on the vote. What really won was putting the descriptive text below the image, a long text below the image and folding up with an inaccessible expand/contract region. That really won the day, that wasn't a surprise to me, because that's what I've been recommending for a while.
The big surprise to me there was, not one person in the room of 40 people, who are in the middle of this field, voted for long desk, even though it's back in the HTML5, standard file as an extension.
Dennis: We can have a whole other session about that. The other session you gave, I remember it was a lot of fun. That was about, what's it called?
David: Mapml, it was really about what works today in map. I have to tell you, coming into CSUN we really didn't know where was it going to fall, because we were waiting for the next release of map player.
We couldn't announce until they announced it. We knew they were moving in that direction, but we didn't know if they were going to release it this year or next year, whatever. The big deal with that was it actually works with MBDA without any map checks on the page, just street map. It's just amazing.
Dennis: With Firefox?
David: Yeah, with Firefox and MapPlayer installed. MapPlayer is a free download. It works now without any extra stuff right in Word also and in PowerPoint. We're expecting in the very near future a PDF also.
You can do it in PDF, but you can't author in PDF without being quite a programmer. We're waiting for one of the tools, like InDesign to introduce a way to actually dump the Mapml into the PDF document.
Dennis: That would be great. Maybe if you have some parting thought here, what in CSUN did you find especially interesting or fun this year?
David: One of the most amazing things that struck me on the floor when I was doing a demonstration was this very cool arm on a wheelchair. This is a robotic arm, it's 50,000 right now, but it will come down in price.
The way it moved was just so amazing. It was my most exciting thing I saw at CSUN. This thing was really moving like a hand, and all the multiple angles that it can get at was just remarkable to me.
Dennis: Is that a Toyota?
David: It wasn't Toyota, no. I don't even know the name of the company. You will have to look afterwards. I have the literature with me, but I don't have for this interview. It was just amazing. This is a cool thing happening for people with mobile disabilities.
Those of us who are software designers and stuff with that, we never have to forget the end-user, that there's people with disabilities on the other end of our web pages who have other issues too in life and really get excited when things go well for them in those other areas also.
Dennis: Great. Thanks again for joining me, David. It was a pleasure finally meeting you in person this year.
David: Thanks very much, Dennis.
Dennis: Take care. I am here with Steve A Lee. How're you doing, Steve?
Steve Lee: I'm fine, thanks.
Dennis: Can you tell the listeners just a little bit about yourself and what your day job is and such.
Steve: I work for myself as Open Directive. It's a UK based SME, basically involved in accessibility. My main interest for a long time has been bringing open development or open source to the accessibility world and the assisted technology world.
Basically, it just seems to me that it enables innovation and sharing. The potential of speeding up the good features that meet user's needs and getting it to them. That's my focus.
I'm involved with a number of projects, not Web accessibility. Although I'm aware of that because everything is Web these days, that's important. What I'm more interested in is getting new solutions in front of users, sort of innovation there.
One of the things I'm involved in, as we've just left it, is the SS12 competition. I first came along to see some years ago, courtesy of Mozilla, who had a booth there. No one was quite sure why Mozilla were there, but it was really cool to be there and who were giving away free assisted technology.
I met Chris Leon, who set up Project:Possibility He was very inclusive and I hang out with him, and we looked around. I'm still on the board, but we have now set up a European branch for that as well, which is doing very well.
Dennis: I heard it's doing pretty well.
Steve: It is, yeah. It's a slightly different format competition. They get a longer time to work on stuff. It means we've got to find sponsors, it's little bit more difficult, but Klaus Meisenberger and Andrea Petz are driving that really well. It's coming up to its third year now and it's going really, really well.
Dennis: That's awesome.
Steve: It's exciting.
Dennis: Thanks for making the long trip across the Pond and across the US to CSUN here in San Diego. You gave one presentation, correct?
Steve: That's correct.
Dennis: Tell us a little.
Steve: In fact, since I gave a presentation I was taxed on the A & R and asked people if they wanted to join in as contributors, we would welcome them. It was the Gregg Vanderheiden's GPII concept. It was the global public inclusive infrastructure. The concept there is really to make it so much easier for users to find technology that will work for them.
Possibly to buy it as well, for a marketplace, then to be able to configure it in such a way that it's optimal for them. Then they should be able to go to any device and that device will configure in the best way it's able to, to their preferences.
Finally, there's an eco system trying to be created to help developers more easily create and market their solution. That includes open source components that people can use as developers.
We were demonstrating one part of that. It was the middle bit of those three threads. The automatic personalization from preferences and we were talking about that. After three years in a European project called Klaus Rule, we've come up with, and it's just been tried out in the libraries, a Sony Vaio touchscreen device, which has a built-in RFIV tag reader.
We had a bunch of tags representing different users with different requirements. By just touching the tag to the device it would reconfigure to on-screen keyboard magnification, whatever settings that particular user wants.
Dennis: That's really cool.
Steve: It is, it is great to see.
Dennis: At CSUN this year, can you think of something you found that was very interesting or really fun?
Steve: Really fun was the faceoff, WebAble's faceoff.
Dennis: That's a good session.
Steve: Yeah. I haven't seen that at all. Obviously, like most people are aware of their surveys and it's really good data. I just love WebAble, they use these fantastic resources for pointing people at. That was a lot of fun. The pictures men in Speedos.
Steve: Not really my thing. [laughs]
Dennis: That was a really good session.
Steve: It was, it was good fun.
Dennis: Not only fun, but like you said, a lot of valuable data and information about its creators and how they are all so different in interpret our area differently, et cetera.
Steve: The other session which I really enjoyed, because the area I'm working is mention personally is the cognitive accessibility space. Which is great because that's taking off now, at last we've got a task force, W3C.
Dennis: Yes, finally.
Steve: I'm looking at creating a product and components that work for people, probably disabilities or loaded literacy. The pre-boomers, I don't know what group they are, older people who don't know technology.
We had Jamie Knight who now works for the BBC, who I've met before. He's a developer, and he's on the mild end of the autistic spectrum. He gave a fantastic, very genuine open, entertaining and lots of quality information.
Dennis: That was a hit, I must admit.
Steve: Yeah. You were there as well were you?
Dennis: Yeah, I was lucky enough to get into the first one. That was great. He and CSUN coordinators were able to get a repeat on the next day, on Friday as well.
Steve: I saw it, I missed the first one.
Dennis: That was just tremendous.
Steve: It's great because the W3C cognitive accessibility staffs are having a meeting at the BBC later in the year, face to face, where we were hoping that maybe he'll give another version of his presentation. He says he's happy to, he's got to ask his boss.
Hopefully the rest of the people who couldn't make it over here will be able to see that as well, because there's a lot of valuable. He's great because he's technical and a user he can very well explain and describe the issues and the plans and things that work for him. That gives us a real insight.
Dennis: Thanks again for joining me, Steve.
Dennis: Hopefully I'll see you next year.
Steve: Yeah. Hope so.
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