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OpenWeb Conference 2013

Over a weekend in mid-July several members of Stanford IT Services turned up at the OpenWeb conference held at the Paypal Town Hall in San Jose. This conference, the brain child of John Foliot,  had its roots at Stanford.  Although a variety of sessions were available, this conference seemed to concentrate on accessibility.

Why accessibility?

What I found amazing and wonderful was the number of white canes at this conference. This conference welcomed an amazing number of blind and otherwise disabled people, a group of people whose needs we must consider when developing our web sites and applications.

In his presentation, Ted Drake from Intuit Accessibility, says that for an app or website to be accessible, it must be perceivable, operable, and understandable. That is, a screen reader can read the text; there's no text in the images; you can swipe, tab, and use the buttons even when the screen reader is enabled; and the order in which you navigate the page makes sense.

Have you tried navigating your website or app with just a screen reader? Could you do it? My guess is that unless you built your site with accessibility in mind, it'll be challenging or even impossible to navigate with a screen reader.

As I consider this man who sat next to me with his white cane folded up under his arm, navigating his iPhone by listening to the screen reader through his headphones, I realize that for me, the big take-away from this conference was that accessibility must become one of our priorities as we develop for the web.