Last month, I attended the 15th Annual Accessing Higher Ground conference in Westminster, CO.
Accessing Higher Ground focuses on media, web, and technology accessibility. From the About AHG page of the conference website:
Other topic areas cover legal and policy issues, including ADA and 508 compliance. The creation of accessible media and information resources, including Web pages and library resources are a particular focus of the event.
For institutions of Higher Education, there is a strong focus on campus accommodation. For businesses and other audiences, there are numerous sessions on best practices for web design, reaching untapped audiences through accessible design, and compliance with new Department of Justice rules regarding Section 508 and the ADA.
The conference was amazing.
Derek Featherstone delivered quite the keynote on the first full day:
Next week I’ll be presenting at Accessing Higher Ground — including “Everything I Know About Accessibility I Learned From Star Wars” #a11y
— Derek Featherstone (@feather) November 10, 2012
Confession time: I’ve yet to watch any of the Star Wars films in their entirety (I know, I KNOW). However, I do have a general understanding of the events and players in the series and was struck by Derek’s likening of the accessibility community to the Rebellion:
.@feather: “We embrace diversity over uniformity… we are the Rebel Alliance.” #ahg12 — MelissaFortsonGreen(@mbfortson) November 14, 2012
Recognizing the worth and value of every human being and celebrating the multiplicity of the human experience: these are the implicit values of the disability community that make it feel like home.
Another set of values was a recurrent theme throughout the conference.
DRM discussion at #ahg12 has me thinking about this post: Hacker Values≈Library Values bit.ly/X3r1nn . Defines hackers as ppl who + — MelissaFortsonGreen(@mbfortson) November 14, 2012
+empower selves w/info to modify enviro, make world better.Hacker Values≈Accessibility Values, too. #a11y #ahg12— MelissaFortsonGreen(@mbfortson) November 14, 2012
Todd Schwanke talking about repurposing Adobe Connect to provide synchronous access to students w/low vision in the classroom #ahg12— MelissaFortsonGreen(@mbfortson) November 15, 2012
I love how accessibility technicians aren’t afraid “hack” a device or software to better serve a student with a disability. #ahg12— seanmendoza (@seanmendoza) November 15, 2012
Hacking/ repurposing/ “I wonder if I could do that with this” a recurrent theme at #ahg12. Love it. — MelissaFortsonGreen(@mbfortson) November 15, 2012
Here’s the full quote from the Hacker Values ≈ Library Values* ACRL TechConnect post:
First, a working definition: hackers are people who empower themselves with information in order to modify their environment and make the world a better place. That’s it. Hacking doesn’t require intruding into computer security settings. There’s no imperative that hackers have to work with code, computers, or technology–although many do. Besides the traditional computer software hacker, there are many kinds of crafters, tinkerers, and makers that share core the hacker values. These makers all share knowledge about their world and engage in hands-on modification of it in order to make it a better place.
Sharing knowledge about the world and actively engaging in it to make it a better place: I read these words on the way to Colorado, and they provide an excellent description of what, to me, accessibility work is all about.
I’ve been a little sad since leaving Colorado. Being at Accessing Higher Ground felt like being with my tribe, and, while I’m thrilled to do some accessibility work in the Libraries, I hope to do more.
Here’s a Storify of some of my tweets from and about Accessing Higher Ground. Please let me know if the format is not accessible to you, and be sure to check out the #ahg12 hashtag for more tweets from others.