Friday, January 18, 2008

Web Accessibility and Global Competitiveness

There are too many concurrent events happening with SIGCSE 2008 that I now find myself often stuck between the classic "fish or cut bait" -- something my brothers loved as they took their time fishing (not me, I hate fishing). Conference registration is open online, so please register soon, and consider a set of workshops, many offered to help educators get the most out of their time.

Perhaps more importantly, visit our conference hotels page and make your reservation at one of the three hotels -- it seems that rooms are going quickly at the Red Lion and the Inn at the Convention Center, and the Portland Hilton is filling as well -- the ACM and the SIGCSE 2008 chairs have been in contact with these hotels weekly, and are working to make more space (and it's still early!) -- also, the sooner we fill, the sooner we can make the case for more hotel space for the attendees.

Also, the Kids' Camp will run, which is great for the kids! Thanks to Pam Cutter for diving in the deep end and providing this service.

But back to the topic -- today I saw an announcement that multiple groups in the ACM believe, basically, that increasing awareness of the need for web accessibility is a good thing -- OK, they said "global competitiveness," a nice incentive to make the web a tool that as many people as possible could use. The stat that stood out to me was, "97 percent of Web sites [were found to be] failing some basic accessibility requirements." Seriously, I was surprised that 3% passed.

Accessible teaching in any discipline is challenging because students are so diverse; there needs range across multiple spectra. Plus, even when the needs are pretty well defined, it is hard to develop the right supports (consider the issues in SW engineering for mainstream customers; now try for someone who may not be able to convey all the details!). Same for accessible websites -- I learn more each time I attend something like SIGCSE (or ITiCSE, CCSC).

The usual suspects were in the press release: SIGACCESS, SIGCHI, SIGWEB, and even CSTA signed on. Hopefully after SIGCSE 2008 and ITiCSE 2007 the ACM will consider SIGCSE for such releases in the future.

In any event, all efforts to increase such awareness are needed, and perhaps the discussion at SIGCSE 2008 will provide even more motivation.

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