Monday, March 27, 2006

Biggest Disability Tech Conference of the Year

Last week's CSUN conference was great. It's the biggest disability tech conference of the year in the U.S., and there was lots of exciting things happening.

The biggest highlight was talking to Jim Barbour of Google. I've been working on Google's accessibility opportunities (and problems) for some time, and their CAPTCHA (the distorted letters you need to type in to get access) has been a huge problem for access for blind people. I had heard from other Google people (like Larry Page) that this problem was being actively discussed, but Jim confirmed that efforts were really proceeding to fix this.

Susie Mckinnon of Bookshare.org and I gave a talk called NIMAS 101, designed to demystify the upcoming new NIMAS standard (hey, it's just HTML plus some extra tags that help navigation, and works great in your browser). NIMAS is the new format that all K-12 textbooks in the U.S. will be delivered in starting at the end of 2006. After the talk, I found that Prof. Norm Coombs had recorded the session and provided me with a copy. You can listen to the talk by downloading it here.

George Kerscher of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic and I had a rare chance to do a joint presentation, called "Scan (or Create) the D*** Thing Once!" George is the driving force behind the DAISY format and the father of the field of electronic books for people with disabilities. Our point was that (A) let's scan the book at most once and (B) wouldn't it be better if we didn't have to scan it at all!

Jim Fruchterman at CSUNI enjoyed the Bookshare.org community meeting, where we had users, assistive tech vendors, staff and volunteers. gave an update on Bookshare.org in the coming year: better funding, hiring, more book permissions (equals pub quality and usually global rights), quality upgrades with the new NIMAS standard and going international. gustavo galindo smiling at CSUN with wine bottle in foregroundIOne of the great aspects of the social sector is that these events are informal and fun.
We are all on such common ground, it is easy to get together and talk shop while drinking a glass of wine. Jim Fruchterman and David Andrews seated at a table at CSUNIt is actually crucial for a community-led, volunteer-driven project like Bookshare.org to engage hearts and minds to make the impact we intend.

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