Transcription: Web Axe Episode 99 (Jennison Powers Up Silicon Valley)


Dennis: Hello and welcome to Web Axe Podcast number 99, Jennison Powers Up Silicon Valley. I have Jennison on the line. How are you doing?

Jennison: I'm doing really well. It's neat. We've done a couple of podcasts when I lived up in Toronto, and here we are now, two and a half months in. Thanks for inviting me to the Podcast.

Dennis: You're welcome. I haven't done [jokingly] too many podcasts recently on Web Axe, so it's nice to be doing another one and having you on again. It's been two years since we introduced Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

Jennison: Yes. I can't believe we're starting our third one this year. We just announced this morning that it will be on May 15. We moved it just because of some holidays in Europe. We wanted to try and see if we could accommodate that, so, hopefully we've got it. It's always challenging when you have an event because no date is ever the beat date.

Dennis: Yes. We'll talk a little more about that and a bunch of other events going on, new accessibility related events, but first, we could talk for a few minutes about your big moves. You want to tell us what's been going on with you and your change?

Jennison: After about seven years working on the Accessibility Team at the Royal Bank of Canada in Toronto, I am now here, in the Silicon Valley, giving a hand, leading the accessibility efforts over at LinkedIn.

Dennis: Cool. Congratulations.

Jennison: Thanks a lot!

Dennis: Sounds cool.

Jennison: Otherwise, I would join the...not having to deal with the weather in Toronto, and...


Jennison: ...the East Coast which is totally getting blasted by snow and freezing rain and just obscenely cold temperatures.

Dennis: Yes. It's been quite a winter over there. They've just had this ice storm in the Southeast, as well.

Jennison: Just this that we are recording the podcast, they have another ice storm in Atlanta.

Dennis: Welcome to Sunny California!

Jennison: Thanks very much!

Dennis: I've been here almost as long as you were in Toronto. It's getting a little old for me but there's something exciting always going on. Now, there's even more exciting things because you're starting up a couple of events.

Jennison: I am. There's two events that I've kick-started in the last short while. One of them is...I'm bringing Accessibility Camp to the Bay Area. That is happening on March 15, at LinkedIn. For those listeners who might not be familiar with these events, they're taking place in different cities around Canada at the US, and, most recently, in Asia, in Tokyo and Seoul.

They're less formal than a conference and they're an opportunity for people to spend the day participating in sessions on all different aspects of, at least in the case of the camps that I've been involved with, specifically around Digital Accessibility...web, mobile.

Our target audience is, primarily, the web designers and developers, and other high tech folks who cannot make it out to some of the larger accessibility conferences, all over the country. That's one of the big things. The other objective of the camps is to give visibility to some local folks who are experts or people who are doing interesting stuff in the field of accessibility.

This one, like I said, is...registration is open now and it's free. It's going to be in Mountain View, as I said on LinkedIn, and the URL for the event is We hope to see you folks out there, I realize it's a Saturday and it's out in Mountain View. For people in San Francisco, it's a schlep either by car or taking the Caltrain. Hopefully, some folks locally, in the Silicon Valley, will also join us. I'm really excited that we'll be having folks from outside of the Bay Area joining as well, who will likely be speaking. We've got folks like Luis Perez out of St. Petersburg, who's a big Apple accessibility guy, all about...

Dennis: Cool!

Jennison: He'll be there. Billy Gregory from Toronto will be gracing our presence, and just a whole bunch...Aaron Jorbin from New York, and some other surprises. It was scheduled somewhat deliberately ahead of CSUN just so that if there were people who are attending CSUN and wanted an excuse to come out to the Bay Area, they could have that.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention also that Derek Featherstone will be coming to Accessibility Camp. So, I'm so excited about that. We got Derek, Aaron, and I guess some other surprises. Really, this is a local event for folks in the Bay Area, so we hope to see you at the first Accessibility Camp Bay Area in March.

Dennis: I know somebody else who'll be there.

Jennison: Partic?

Dennis: No. Me.

Jennison: And you represent locals, I appreciate that.

Dennis: I didn't know the others were coming, I did hear about Billy, I think on Facebook or something...but that's awesome! I'm totally looking forward to that, I'm stoked. If you're on Twitter follow that that @A11yCampBay. That's awesome! That's just the start.

Jennison: Absolutely. There's the annual Accessibility Camp, which was something that I committed to doing when I got here. The other thing I wanted to do, which is something that I was inspired based on my experience in Toronto, was to start up a regular monthly meetup group. That was geared specifically, again, at the designers, developers as well as accessibility folks. It's called the Bay Area Accessibility Inclusive Design Meetup Group.

We are doing two kick-offs for that. The first one is going to be out here. I had to be careful how I do my geography because I've already been told that I've been describing it incorrectly. It's actually going to be at the peninsula, outside of San Francisco to the South, close to the Silicon Valley, in Redwood City. It'll be held there.

That's on February 24, and then on March 26...the 24th, by the way, will be at Evernote, in Redwood City, with my buddy Ryan Burgess, who's actually a former Canadian from Toronto, a real accessibility advocate. He doesn't have a full-time role in accessibility, but cares enough about it. Brendan McKeon, over Yammer, was good enough to get me some space for March 26, for the 2nd kick-off which will be in San Francisco. That will be at Yammer.

The idea is that I'm going to...because I recognize that there are people who live and/or work on the Silicon Valley, who a Silicon Valley/Peninsula location wouldn't make more sense to them because of their schedules. I also understand and appreciate the fact that there's a large tech community in San Francisco, and I didn't want to miss that opportunity. I'm going to be making appearances both in San Francisco and outside to facilitate these meetings.

We'll figure how that will all work out, but for now we're doing the kick offs February and March, and then, who knows, in April we might just do one in each place, or I might rotate each month. I haven't quite figured that out. I'm going to get feedback, based on these events, and for that one people can sign up at

I have to tell you, Dennis, I was really heartened by the fact that, in the first week that the meetup group was announced formally through Meetup, we had about 85 members, right away. There's obviously interest in something like this. This really complements a meetup group that Ted Drake already runs, which is the Bay Area Accessibility Dinners, which to me is a great opportunity for people who are working in accessibility to network. I think, having been to two groups, we'll really do some awesome stuff to build and enhance the accessibility community that's here.

Dennis: Great, you've got a lot going on.

Jennison: I've got some other plans, which I'm keeping under wraps for the minute, but you'll be the first to know about them.

Dennis: So besides all those there have been some other meetups and accessibility groups popping up around the country.

Jennison: It's just amazing, and it's kind of neat to see them happening. The New York Accessibility and Inclusive Design Meetup, started up in January, and they're going to be having their next meetup on February 24th. That's being headed up by Thomas Logan, Cameron Cundiff, and Shawn Lauriat. New York City is certainly going to be well taken care of with those three folks at the keel, or at the helm, I guess, of that meetup group, so that's kind of neat. That's one that started up.

There's another one in Pittsburgh.

Dennis: Hold on, so the New York, the URL is, well, I'll put all these in the show notes, of course.

Jennison: It's Where did you want to go next?

Dennis: Denver I guess.

Jennison: Denver, your friend and mine, Justin Stockton, has just launched that one, and I'm just hurriedly looking at my notes here. That one, it's called the Front Range Accessibility and Exclusive Design Meetup. I guess that is honoring the fact that it's serving Denver, Boulder, and vicinity. They're having their first meetup on February 18th, so depending on when this podcast goes out, it will either be before or after that.

Dennis: Yeah, that will be cutting it close, we'll see.

Jennison: That one is a great one, and I know that there is a lot of technology stuff happening in the Denver, Boulder, Front Range area. We encourage listeners to check that one out at

Dennis: They're consistent with the naming, that's good, the meetup URLs, and on Twitter too. The New York one on Twitter I found is @a11ynyc.

Jennison: You've got it.

Dennis: And the Front Range in the Denver area, that's @a11yfr.

Jennison: Perfect.

Dennis: Right on and there's more.

Jennison: There's more, just, literally, before we went to Podcast, I just learned of the Charlotte Accessibility and Inclusive Design Meetup. They don't have that URLs a bit of a mouthful, so we'll add that into the show notes.

Dennis: OK

Jennison: That one hasn't yet moved to the...

Dennis: They haven't assimilated?

Jennison: I'll tell you how to get in touch with those folks.

Dennis: Assimilate.

Jennison: Yeah, and I'm madly looking through my notes, because their meetup is launching, as well. Charlotte just started up a meetup group, and their first meeting is on February 24th. The same day as the Bay Area Kickoff one, there's also going to be kicking off the one in Charlotte. They don't have a custom URL yet. We'll turn to the show notes for that one.

Dennis: That's cool.

Jennison: And one more if I could.

Dennis: Go ahead.

Jennison: The last one that's new, that I want to mention, and their name is a little different, but it's still a sister meetup and has the same goals and objectives. It's called The Pittsburgh Area Accessibility Meetup. They're having their next meetup on February 26th. Again, they don't have a custom URL quite yet, but that's being led by my buddy, Chris Morey, and Gabriel McMorland.

Dennis: Are you saying there are two in Pittsburgh?

Jennison: No, it's one in Pittsburgh, but with two people who are helping out with that one.

Dennis: Oh, OK.

Jennison: We'd be doing a disservice it we didn't just really quickly mention, and I know you'll add these in the show notes, that there are sister meetup groups. There's one in Boston, and then there are a bunch across Australia. Really, we were inspired by the stuff that's happening in Australia. They've got one going on in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Cambria, and Briseno.

Dennis: Nice.

Jennison: We'll add those all to the show notes. They all show the same title, like Accessibility and Inclusive Design Meetup. The last one I do want to mention is John Croston runs his Accessibility DC Meetup, which is not on Meetup, but they do meet the third Tuesday of every month, I believe. We can add that to the show notes also.

There are a bunch of different meetups happening, and I would really encourage listeners, if your city wasn't mentioned, it doesn't take much to set these meetups up. All you need to do is find an accessible location, where you can hold it, and what I mean accessible, I mean physically and otherwise, either maybe a public library or whatnot. It's just a great opportunity to meet regularly.

I personally like the Meetup platform, because so many tech folks are on Meetup, and they are just finding out about these Accessibility Meetups because of the hashtags we use to entice them over to check us out.

Dennis: Yeah.

Jennison: So that's that. There's a lot of great community building and networking. As more jobs become available there are more people want to learn about how to get involved in the digital accessibility space. These meetup groups are ways to get mentored, to network, to meet people maybe present about something. It's real neat stuff.

I could just keep going on and on, I won't, but there's some great stuff. I really encourage folks, I'm not going to call anyone out, particularly, but certainly there are folks in other large cities who could set stuff up. I forgot one, Los Angeles. Joseph O'Connor and Joe Devon are working on the Los Angeles Accessibility and Inclusive Design Meetup, as well.

Dennis: Excellent, yes, that is clearly a lot going on, and besides all that, we did allude to CSUN 14. You and I will both be there in mid-March, in San Diego.

Jennison: How many have you been to Dennis?

Dennis: I don't know. I'm losing track. I started going when they came to San Diego, so like five or something?

Jennison: I can't believe, for me, this is number nine.

Dennis: Wow.

Jennison: Now they weren't all continuous. I took a break between '94 and '98, so I go back to the Los Angeles days with the two hotels and all that stuff.

We are now at the Hyatt, which is a great spot. A lot of buzz. A lot of things gong on.

What are you excited about?

Dennis: [laughs] I don't know. There's just so much going on. It's just going to be another really good time. A lot of great speakers and a lot of great events.

Jennison: You're not excited about next week are you? I know you're going to edit that out, don't worry.

Dennis: I was trying to be politically correct.

Jennison: You know what I'm excited about, I'm excited about the keynote this year, Tommy Edison.

Dennis: Of course. Yes, that's going to be great.

Dennis: Yes, if people don't know who he is check him out on YouTube. "The Blind Film Critic."

I had the good fortune of getting to know him and his now, lovely, wife. I attended his Vegas wedding last year.

He's a great guy. I like the way he kind of helps those sighted people who might have questions and things about how blind people do things.

He does it in such a humorous way. He disarms people with that.

Dennis: Yeah, he's so frank but it's humorous at the same time. He's just really personable.

Yeah, that's' going to be great. The Tweetup is going to be happening again this year.

The SS12 Finals, the contest for college students. That'll be happening once again on the last day, on the Saturday.

Jennison: On the Saturday, yeah. Something I'm looking forward to, they haven't had Showcase Suites before, I don't think, but Google and Freedom Scientific will have Showcase Suites at this year's event.

Like I said I can't recall. I don't think Google has in the past. If they have, I stand corrected. I'm almost positive Freedom Scientific has not either.

Dennis: Yeah, not that I remember. That'll be interesting.

At the same time, I'm only giving one talk. But I know some people are giving several, and have some preparation to do.

Jennison: I'm talkless this year.

Dennis: Yeah, that's right.

Jennison: I am talkless this year, which is kind of a nice place to be, for me anyway.

Dennis: Yeah, give yourself a break, and do your networking, and all that.

This'll be the first year that I think we're both actually going to be staying at the Hyatt. Finally we've moved up.

We've moved up in the world. We could both, fortunately, actually stay...

Jennison: At the Hyatt. No, absolutely.

Dennis: In "The Manchester." That'll be nice.

Jennison: Just as a funny note for people who don't know, I've typically not stayed at the Hyatt and have usually ended up coming to the Hyatt at 6:30 in the morning, or 7:00 in the morning from the hotel I'm staying at. I can grab breakfast and at the Hyatt and do some networking, and stuff like that.

I can actually now forego that early morningness. I still go down for breakfast, but it's just right there.

Dennis: Yeah, it's great. I stayed off-site a mile, or two, or more away. If you can, try to stay within walking distance because sometimes the cabs...

Jennison: Although I have to say...Can I make a plug?

Dennis: The cabs service sometimes isn't too good in my experience.

Jennison: There is Lift in San Diego.

Dennis: Really? There you go. Forget the cabs, use Lift.

What's the other service?

Jennison: Uber.

Dennis: Yeah, are they in San Diego?

Jennison: They must be.

Dennis: All right, let's wrap it up. Jennison, thank you again for joining me.

Jennison: No problem. Let's make sure we don't do this in another two years.

Dennis: Yeah, or we'll see if we have a bunch of new meetups to talk about.

Jennison: Absolutely. I look forward to catching up with folks at CSUN, as you are too, I'm assuming.

Dennis: Of course.

Jennison: I will catch you on the other side.

Dennis: All right. I hope to see some folks in the new Bay Areas meetups or at the camp. If you can't make it then try to make one close to your home.

Jennison: There you go.

Dennis: All right folks, that's "Web Axe," Dennis and Jennison signing off. Until next time, take care.



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