The conference took place in the City University's Oliver Thompson lecture hall and had about 175 attendees waiting for the presentations and Q&A sessions.
The day started with Robin Christopherson - the host - explaining the housekeeping and health and safety setup (with Kath Moonan pointing out the nearest exits flight attendant style) and introducing the line-up of the day.
First up in terms of speakers was the keynote by Jeremy Keith, who didn't have any presentation but gave a "prepared speech", available on his blog covering the history of data portability and arguing that good data preservation also means accessibility.
After the coffee break Steve Faulkner of the Paciello Group explained about the accessibility problems of Ajax showing twitter as an example and what would need to be done to it to make it work with assistive technologies. Steve is one of the bloggers of the Paciello Group blog with great information about assistive technology and how to support it.
I was up next with my talk on how to do accessibility wrong. For years I've been consulting companies in terms of accessibility and my experiences are summarized in this talk. I wanted to write this for a long time and I am happy that I finally found a conference that went for it. The slides are available on slideshare:
The presentation covers all the things we do to seemingly support accessibility but really just makes us feel good. It also covers ways to sell accessibility to business stake holders taking their ideas and needs into consideration. We will hopefully be able to have it as a video soon.
After lunch Antonia Hyde from United Response talked about a disability need that is not covered that often when it comes to web accessibility: learning disability. The United Response site has some very good stories about users with learning disabilities and her presentation covered some of the basic things you need to be aware of:
Like my presentation, Antonia made sure that the audience understands that supporting the needs for people with learning disabilities will make for better products for all users.
Jonathan Hassel, head of Audience Experience and Usability at the BBC talked about user generated content and the issues with it. Right now there is a problem that not enough user generated content has text alternatives and descriptions but at the same time the tendency to use online video more and more makes it easier for people with learning disabilities to consume and people that only know sign language to participate in social networks. Jonathan also showed some games the BBC has developed for children with disabilities that explain for example science with sound instead of imagery and lots of text. The really nice part of those are that they come with an interface and parents can play together with their children, one using the graphical interface and the other getting the audio feedback. Other games showed how you can do an English to sign language translator in a game fashion.
Next up was Stephen Eisden of Precedent Communications talking about "Building a social network for disabled users" and the user testing, accessibility audits and technology decisions that come with it. The network they produced based on WordPress is currently in a pilot stage and will become available at http://www.dip-online.org/.
After yet another coffee break Ian Forrester of BBC backstage talked about "Tools and Technologies to watch and avoid" when it comes to accessibility. He talked about how Web2.0 is all about participation and how we should make it possible for anyone to add information. He also pointed out problems with certain technologies like Flash and what should be done to make them more accessible.
The day concluded with a panel discussion on Accessibility 2.0 moderated by Julie Howell with the panel members Mike Davies of Yahoo! UK, Kath Moonan from AbilityNet, Bim Egan from the RNIB, Jonathan Hassell from the BBC, Antonia Hyde from United Response and Panayiotis Zaphiris from the city university.
All in all the conference was a great success and initial feedback from attendees was that they learnt a lot to take back home with them. The main consensus seems to be that accessibility is not about following guidelines but about testing with real users. Furthermore it seems to be time to not think about content guidelines but instead make a change in where the content comes from: the authoring tools.
You can find out more information about the conference at the AbilityNet web site and they promised to release the podcasts and videos over the next few weeks. Jeremy Keith also live-blogged the conference, giving his feedback directly in-line.