What do you get when you cross the industry leaders in accessible, lawmakers from governmental agencies, disability advocates, and of course, a ‘your mom’ joke? The M-Enabling Summit, of course. This two-day conference and exhibition showcase now in its third year, is located in the Washington, DC region and aims to bring the technology and disability community together. In two days, everyone comes together to facilitate a productive, informative, and often humorous dialogue (comedic conversation was prevalent) between technology developers, people with disabilities, and legislators.
As a participant to the conference who works for an accessibility technology consulting company, I was eager to attend to watch history unfold. The aim of the conference, according to the organizers, is to promote mobile accessible and assistive applications and services for senior citizens and persons with disabilities leveraging the latest operating systems, handsets and tablets based technologies. It did not come as much a surprise when Axel Leblois, the President and Executive Director, G3ict provided the exhilaration introduction. Entitled “Mobile Accessibility: The Sky Is the Limit! – 2014 Trends and Innovations That Are Transforming Accessibility Forever”
Following his passionate words, the first plenary session, “The Accelerating Pace of Innovation: What’s in the Works?” began. Moderated, or should we say co-hosted by Julie Kearney, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and Paul Schroeder, Vice President, Programs and Policy Group, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), this talk was centralized around the future of mobile technology and current developments in the work. Their panel consisted of members in the mobile industry, as well as research and non-profit sectors.
As with many terrific conferences, the networking and conversational sidebars that occur in the hallways are critical to continuing to share information. I had a few discussions with corporations about what their companies are doing. We naturally talked a lot about mobile platforms. A big question we asked was about if the developers are considering accessibility while creating their mobile apps?
My colleague and I enjoyed chatting with various exhibitors such as Rock Creek Strategic Marketing, Code Factory, Gallaudet Interpreting Services, and Capti and learning about innovative services and products for people with disabilities.
I was really impressed by Capti. They offer a new kind of way for people with disabilities to enjoy digital content. Instead of looking at the screen on your mobile device, a person can use Capti to listen to anything they want to read on the go. I thought it was neat because I could listen to web content while I’m driving in the car or hiking in the woods.
One session on that stuck out for my colleague and me was making meetings and events accessible in the afternoon on Tuesday, June 10th. Some helpful information about being inclusive for all participants when planning an event. “Nothing about us, without us,” said Gerry Ellis, from Feel the BenefIT, when putting on a conference and making it accessible. This is essential to consider when planning an event. One must always include people with disabilities on the planning committee.
Andrea Saks, an International Telecommunications Specialist for the Deaf and Chairperson for Joint Coordinating Activity on Accessibility and Human Factors, ITU shared some other event planning gems to consider. Saks said, “It’s a learning process when planning an accessible event or conference. Give information in advance to the interpreters. Also make the event websites accessible.”
These amazing takeaways from this session and many others, coupled with the networking and exhibits made M-Enabling one of the premier East coast accessibility events this year.