DrupalCon Chicago and Accessibility



February 28, 2011

I don't know where the time's gone, but next week at this time I'm going to be at DrupalCon with thousands of other users & developers.  I've really enjoyed Boston, DC & San Francisco, and expect that Chicago will be just as exciting.  It's interesting to reflect that it was in 2008 at the Boston Keynote that Dries set the course for Drupal 7 challenged the community to embrace RDFa.  This was long before we became involved in making Drupal 7 more accessible, but making sites more machine readable will do a lot to making them more accessible to people too.  

William Lawrence gave the first Accessibility talk at a DrupalCon back in Szeged in 2008. I didn't get to see the "Accessibility: Best Practices In Drupal Theming" talk, but was happy to meet with William at other DrupalCons.  In 2009, we helped to organize two Birds of a Feather sessions on Accessibility.   It was a great start, but unfortunately there were no main sessions looking at this issue.  In SF, there was a great session by 

Katherine but and also some frank strategic discussions about how to enhance on Drupal 7.  We were fortunate that John Foliot was able to come in and that we were able to bring in Cliff Tyllick on Skype.  

San Francisco also had two accessibility talks which were wonderful.  Everett Zufelt presented first at the Drupal Core Developers Summit. He also became Drupal's first Accessibility Maintainer. It was a strong presentation to the key decision makers in the Drupal community and having him give that talk was an important indication of how important this issue is.  Katherine Lynch gave the talk at the main conference Accessibility in Drupal 6 and Drupal 7 - Write Accessible Modules and Themes and did an impressive job explaining the importance of accessibility considerations.

As Many Accessibility Presentations in Chicago As Ever!

Katherine Lynch is presenting again, this time on Advanced Accessibility in Drupal. Katherine's going to be talking about jQuery, HTML5, WAI-ARIA and a lot of other great stuff.   Brandon Bowersox, who is Drupal 7's second Accessibility Maintainer, will also be presenting an Intro to Accessible Site-Building in Drupal. This will nicely complement Katherine's talk.  Finally, Jon Gund will be presenting Free and Open Source Tools for Integrating Web Accessibility into the Design Process, which will talk about some of the great tools that you can download for free or operate through the web to check your site's accessibility.  There are so many great tools now for Firefox & Chrome to catch known accessibility problems. Like previous talks, I expect that these will all be available online for people who aren't able to make it. 

I know that there will be some great conversations in the halls at the conference and that there will be some great discussions in BoF sessions. I'm excited to finally meet folks like Bojhan who has been leading the charge on usability with Drupal 7. We all know that for Drupal 8 there needs to be greater cooperation, especially on colour contrast issues.  I'd really like to have an in person discussion to talk about what didn't get into D7 and strategies for Drupal 8.  I'm hoping that Brandon can help lead a discussion with others about the Forms API and Drupal 8.  It would be great to take this opportunity to bring together the people who are going to be reworking on this critical piece of Drupal's infrastructure.  Finally, I'd love to get a picture of as many of the 395 people who contributed to accessibility issues for Drupal 7.

Related to Accessibility

There are also some great talks about usability that I do hope to be able to attend. Leisa Reichelt will be presenting on From Usability to UX Strategy. Leisa contribution to the accessibility enhancements were particularly useful at the beginning when looking at how to address the challenge of hiding text for screen-readers.  Gábor Hojtsy also contributed a lot to accessibility patches for Drupal 7 and will be presenting on Drupal Usability for Developers: How to Get Real People to Love Your Work. Usability & accessibility are related in many ways and I'm looking forward to hearing this presentation.

Finally, how can we leave out HTML5 & Drupal 7?  Jen Simmons will be presenting Rockin’ HTML5 with Drupal.  The new HTML5 standard will do a lot for both accessibility & mobile browsing.  Jen's been doing a great job promoting HTML5 in the Drupal Community and I know that this is going to be another terrific session. 

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.