Scripting Enabled – an accessiblity driven hack event success

Last week around 100 developers came to the Metropolitan University in London, England to hear about barriers faced by web surfers with disabilities. A day after around 40 hackers came back to build hacks that work around these issues.

Antonia Hyde showing a video of a learning disabled user using a video playerArtur Ortega showing off what the Yahoo homepage sounds like in his screen reader

I've had the idea for an event like this for quite a time as I realized two problems:

  • Hackers are happy to spend a lot of time on proving a point, but don't always create things people need and
  • People that really need to find a way around problems they face accessing the web will never hear how easy it is to work around them

In other words, geeks and non-geeks don't talk enough. This is especially the case when it comes to accessibility. Web developers see accessibility as an annoyance and charities and disabled people simply don't know the lingo to talk to developers or really want to understand what they do - all they want is solutions.

The main driver of organising Scripting Enabled was seeing how happy people were when I created Easy YouTube and realizing what a big impact these two hours of hacking had. The charity that inspired me to do it told me flat out that they had asked for a video player for people with learning disabilities for a long time but simply could not afford it to commission the development.

I showed Easy YouTube and a similar, new hack at the open hack event Mashed08 earlier this year and promptly won a prize - initial funding to organize an accessibility hack event.

The rest was a blur of getting to know the right people, asking speakers to come and hackers to attend and before I knew it, here I am, a few days after with 12 GB of video footage, all the presentation slides and a list of hacks to report on. I cannot believe how easy it was and how quick it went.

I am not going to report about the event here myself, but instead point you to some other blogs that did great write-ups about what happened:

What do we have now?

Right now, Scripting Enabled is available for those who haven't been there via the web site, where you get the latest news about it. There is also a full list of the presentations (also downloadable from SlideShare), there are a massive amount of cool photos available on Flickr, most thanks to Marco von Hylckama-Vlieg, the main photographer of the event. There is also a Yahoo Group you can join and there is a wiki with information about all the hacks.

The very near future

I've edited the video and we're right now getting them transcribed (all in all 4.5 hours of presentations and Q&A). They will be available soon for you to watch - most likely here on the Yahoo Developer Network.

What now?

The success of Scripting Enabled made me realize that this can go places - but I need your help. As I cannot organize events all over the globe (in addition to my real job) I've chosen to make Scripting Enabled an unconference and allow anyone to organize similar events granted you follow some rules:

  • It has to be free
  • It has to be a mix of information and hacking around accessibility
  • Everything has to be released as CC or Open Source
  • is the source of truth - I want to know about events
  • Use the social web to store the photos, slides and links

You can read the details of the rules and nice-to-haves on the Scripting Enabled site

Christian Heilmann
Yahoo Developer Network