CSUN 2024 – The Sessions

View from the stage as we were setting up for our talk

This is an overview of the sessions I attended at CSUN 2024. I tried to support as many of my TPGi colleagues as I could, and I worked in a couple of others, as well.

Monday 18 March

Workshop: Using Generative AI as Your Accessibility Testing Assistant

Markku Hakkinen (Educational Testing Service), Shrirang Saharasbudhe (Educational Testing Service), Brionna Johnson (Educational Testing Service)

The main focus of this full-day workshop was on using ChatGPT to create JavaScript bookmarklets that could be used for testing the accessibility of web pages. The morning sessions focused on how to do this, from framing prompts for ChatGPT, to turning the output into bookmarklets with various functions. Both parts required some basic tuition, and then etchnique refinements by way of various examples of functionality.

The afternoon sessions were turned over to participants to work either solo or in groups to create their own bookmarklets. I worked on a bookmarklet first to identify content where the attribute was used, and then a more sophisticated version that identified where the attribute should be applied.

This worked really well. Once I refined my prompts, ChatGPT provided the JavaScript for a bookmarklet that successfully identified the use of non-English languages in web content specifically when the word or phrases would not be considered in common English usage and/or required non-English pronunciation. As an example, “restaurant” and “café” were deemed not to require a attribute, while “auf wiedersehen” and “entre nous” did. All in all, the bookmarklet made good, consistent choices that went beyond strict logic (e.g., “pizza” requires a specific pronunciation but can be considered English usage).

Tuesday 19 March

Breaking Down Barriers to Knowledge and Learning

Anne Scallan (TPGi), Rick Johnson (VitalSource Technologies)

A very interesting case study of how TPGi works with a client to address their digital accessibility needs, this explained the elements of the process with due consideration of the expectations and limitations from either side. In this case, the client was clearly very happy with both the immediate results of auditing and remediation and the way this created a bigger picture for becoming an “accessible” company.

Single Page Application Accessibility

Doug Abrams (TPGi)

Having written a TPGi article on this topic, I was relieved that Doug covered the same major points I did, offering much the same techniques for addressing accessibility issues in SPAs, but I was also deeply impressed that he went further into some issues specific to SPAs built on React frameworks and how they could be addressed. Mental note: review my article for useful additions, and talk to Doug about expanding our React guidance.

What AI Can Do For (and To) Web Accessibility

Hans Hillen (TPGi), Ricky Onsman (TPGi)

We had a full house for our talk, which was only a bit daunting. After having initially vastly overwritten each of our sections, we had to cut quite a bit out to fit covering our main points in the time available. I focused on how AI is being used in some accessibility techniques already in use: alt text generation, automatic captioning, and overlays. Hans then expanded into how AI is starting to be used to enhance experiences for people with disabilities and to improve accessibility testing and coding.

It all went very well (except for my inability to make my script on the Mac screen scroll) – people chuckled in the right places, nodded a lot, and seemed to be genuinely engaged and interested. We fielded a few questions (well, Hans did – I couldn’t hear any of the questions). Neither of us could hear the little rant by an accessiBe guy (I’d used accessiBe as an example of an AI overlay and was not nearly as derogatory as I could have been), but he wasn’t really asking a question so we just smiled and nodded.

The post-talk feedback was extremely enthusiastic, complimenting us on both our content and delivery – including from our own senior management. One woman came up to me and said she felt I delivered the talk to her specifically, which – truth be told – I did! An old trick, but a goodie. All in all, a success!

Wednesday 20 March

What’s New and Coming Up in JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion

Ryan Jones (Vispero), Roxana Fischer (Vispero)

I was very interested to see how JAWS is using AI, it seems very clever and polished, particularly in relying on not one but two ways of generating alt text. Both Ryan and Roxana were very articulate about various features, new and improved, in the Freedom Scientific products. I definitely have a better perspective on those products, which I think will be increasingly important for our TPGi work.

Designing Accessible Complex Data Visualizations

Charu Pandhi (TPGi)

Again, I had written an article for TPGi on accessible data viz, so was keen to see if it held up in comparison to Charu’s talk. Again, thankfully, there was nothing to contradict what I’d written and Charu covered many excellent points. There were a lot of questions at the end, and some discussions that went into the corridors (in which I took vigorous part).

To Checklist or Not to Checklist, That is the Question

Zoë Haughton (Intopia), May-Fei Lee (Intopia)

Zoë and May-Fei are former colleagues of mine from Intopia and gave a terrific talk about the pros and cons of using checklists to assess and remediate web accessibility. Zoë was standing in for the originally scheduled Sarah Pulis, who stayed in Australia as she and Stewart had just moved house, complete with dog, from Sydney to Melbourne. I wasn’t at all surprised that the talk was a entertaining as it was informative, with comprehensive coverage of the issues. In case you’re wondering, the answer to the question was “Yes, and no”.

Women in Tech (or Intersectionality in Tech)

Anne Scallan (TPGi), Kashana Bridgeford (TPGi), Lori Samuels (NBCU/Comcast)

Noting that this talk was also for “allies”, it was disappointing but not surprising that pretty much all the obstacles, hurdles, and unfairness that women face in most white collar occupations are just as prevalent, if not more so, in tech industries, including the digital accessibility industry. Some progress has been made at an individual level, but the overall sexism and misogyny that dominates our industry continues to be frustrating in the extreme.

The Intersection of Cybersecurity and Digital Accessibility

Leilani Mason (TPGi)

This was another talk that had me thinking on how we can expand our Knowledge Center guidance. Leilani did a great job of exploring how some – many! – functions meant to ensure security and privacy online act against the interests of digital accessibility. She provided some excellent examples of the quandaries raised, with advice on how they might be resolved. Lots of good questions at the end, which Leilani fielded with aplomb.

Thursday 21 March

Beyond the Button: Making Complex Interfaces Accessible

Ian Lloyd (TPGi)

Another highly entertaining presentation from Lloydi, complete with puns, jokes, a Steve Faulkner soundboard and a mocked Steve Sounds album cover by the Beach Boys. It’s to his great credit that Ian still manages to simultaneously make great points about the use and misuse of the <button> element, including markup that uses anything but a button. Some of the examples found in the wild were truly wild. Ian has become a master of making you laugh and think at the same time.

Lessons Learned from Mobile App Accessibility Testing

Rachele DiTullio (Citizens)

Rachele is a TPGi alumnus, and this talk was a cracker. Delivered at high speed in order to cram in everything she needed to say (I did pity the live captioner trying to keep up), this covered in great detail the process Rachele uses to audit the mobile applications used by her banking employer. She was frank about the issues she found, both their nature and their number, and I have no doubt that Citizens mobile presence will be vastly improved by her work. Once again, I’ll be using my notes and her slides to see how we can improve the mobile testing guidance we offer.

Simplifying Accessible Data Visualizations

Ted Gies (Elsevier), Øystein Moseng (Highsoft), Marita Vindedal (Highsoft)

More data viz! Ted Gies from Elsevier explained how the Dutch information analytics company specializing in health and science content uses visualisation to analyse technical data, and then Øystein and Marita detailed how Highcharts makes the resulting graphs and charts accessible. The techniques they covered were very sound, pragmatic, and sensible, but I would have liked them to go into more detail about making the data relationships being visualised accessible as well as just the representation of numbers from tables. I guess you can only cover so much in 40 minutes, and it doesn’t hurt to leave your audience wanting more.

The Accessibility of User Consents

Alicia Evans (TPGi)

Another very interesting presentation, in which Alicia explored how the ways we ask for and gain the consent of users can create significant accessibility issues. Again, there was interesting post-talk discussion, including from a lawyer who pointed out that legislation often user consent must be obtained, including in user authentication, privacy concerns and online safety, regardless of accessibility. This talk, together with Leilani’s the day before, gave me much food for thought.

And that was it for the presentations. I couldn’t stay for any talks on Friday as my poor travel planning meant I had to leave by 10am in order to make connecting flights back to Australia.

I know from my time working with Web Directions and UX Australia that it’s easy to overwhelm yourself by attending too many consecutive talks, so I deliberately paced myself. I used the time in between to have good chats with people like Derek Featherstone, Matt May, Doug Schepers, Stewart Hay, and Ross Mullen, each of which delivered tremendous value in their own ways.

For that matter, I also gained great value from chatting with many people over breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks while I was at the conference. Working in digital accessibility is a deeply focused activity, and I’m not surprised some people feel burnt out after a while.

For myself, working in the web design and development industry for over 25 years, the last 12 focused on digital accessibility, I’ve never felt more energised about what I do than now.

Attending, and speaking at, my first CSUN conference has only sharpened my perspective and increased my appetite for working toward positive change. Onward!

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