DrupalCon with Vincenzo



June 10, 2013


We did it! The Drupal community successfully fundraised to bring Vincenzo Rubano to DrupalCon Portland. Vincenzo is a blind Italian student that has been contributing to Core for the last year. This was one of the first successful crowdsourcing efforts in the Drupal community and we were really happy to show that it can work. This proved that Drupal developers and shops are willing to use alternative means to bring folks to DrupalCon.

The week went fast, but I wanted to highlight a few key elements of our discussions from the conference.

The first person we wanted to meet with was Jesse Beach from Acquia. She has really helped to innovate in adding a centralized implementation of aria-live implementations in Core for Drupal 8. As the Drupal framework gets more powerful, and people start using it to build truly rich interfaces, this component is going to be a critical part of any site working to be inclusive. Being able to talk with Jesse casually about her vision of improving the aural interface to Drupal was great.

Jesse also led a Core Conversations discussion and one with Wim Leers on Aural User Interfaces.

We were also able to introduce Vincenzo to John Albin, who has done so much with the Zen. Zen is a great base theme that has a number of accessibility features and over 100,000 reported installs. John works for Palantir, who contributed to the campaign.

Shortly after that we met with MortenDK who is pushing for the Dream Markup issue with Drupal 8. We talked about the goals of having clear HTML and it was very useful that Vincenzo was able to talk about how his screen reader is able to give him a better user experience when the markup is semantic. Having opportunities to meet with people with disabilities is really important for developers and themers. So often there are assumptions about what is necessary and how tools are being used.

There were so many people who had contributed to Vincenzo's campaign and we tried to set up brief meetings with everyone who was at DrupalCon. Was great to be able to talk briefly with Phase2's Jeff Walpole as they are playing an important role in the government space with OpenPublic, and they contributed to the campaign.

We definitely benefited from corporate generosity.  Staff at both Acquia and the Commerce Guys also promoted the campaign internally to help give. However, I didn't expect that individuals within the Drupal community would provide the overwhelming majority of the contributions. I did reach out to both the non-profit sector and government to try to raise funds for Vincenzo's trip, but to no avail.

I didn't have enough time to spend in the Coder lounge and unfortunately, didn't get to the pre or post conference sprints. There was some opportunity to do so, but this photo here (with Tim Plunkett) was actually part of a photo shoot that the Drupal Association asked us to do. Vincenzo was able to spend Friday at the sprint talking with people and working through technical problems. There are so many incidental conversations and stories that come from unstructured time in the same physical location.

Vincenzo was able to have a few conversations with the Drupal 7 Accessibility Maintainers. Brandon Bowersox-Johnson was just in for the one-day CXO event, where a number of people were talking about Drupal's accessibility as an important sales feature. Everett Zufelt has started taking leadership in the project management track.

I'm sure that one of the biggest thrills for Vincenzo over the conference was meeting with Dries. After an interview with Jeffrey McGuire, Dries was coming from the Acquia booth when Jeffrey pulled him over to meet with Vincenzo. Certainly without support for accessibility from the Core team and Dries, there is no way that we would be able to make Drupal anywhere near as accessible as we have. 

So many meetings just happened in the corridor as we were walking between sessions. This is a meeting with Dan, Donna, Vincenzo & Peter outside the main auditorium. Donna's on the Drupal Association board and has been a strong advocate of open source in Australia. She may well have been talking about Inkscape & SVG graphics formats. Dan has contributed to the issue queue for accessibility so it was great to meet him in person too.

It wasn't really until the last day that we participated in the Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions on accessibility & government. It's usually in the small coversations that the most interesting work gets done. There was a great opportunity to talk about the use of the QUAIL JS library and how to integrate that into an automated testing platfrom to help identify and fix bugs in every contributed patch.

This is just featuring the "official" versions of DrupalCon, but we had a great time talking to some of the 3300 Drupal developers who were in Portland that week. It was a really inspiring event and really need to thank everyone who made it happen.

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.