For those who are unfamiliar with the annual California State University Network (CSUN) Conference, it is a conference which started 32 years ago with a vendor show displaying the latest and greatest in adaptive technology. Over the years it has grown to encompass lectures, networking events and even pre-conference activities.
This years session topics ranged from education to automated accessibility testing, from mobile accessibility to displaying graphics on Braille devices.
I had the pleasure of attending CSUN for the first time in its 32nd rendition in San Diego, CA and many people inquired as to what I thought, so here are the highlights…
Before the conference
Choosing the sessions beforehand was quite the challenge, there are any number of overlapping topics of interest and speakers, companies and related functions. After careful consideration all my sessions were selected, including first and 2nd choices, I thought I was ready for it- I was wrong.
After coordinating with colleagues to arrive at the airport at 5:30 AM, (yes that's not a typo, 5:30 in the morning) and being surprised by the numerous people milling around Pearson but still having the wherewithal to grab the last taste of home at Tim's we made our way to the gate, running into several people on the way to the conference.
We arrived in the San Diego sunshine and as the cab pulled up to the Manchester Grand Hyatt and I entered the foyer, I briefly wondered if the cab had gone in a circle and left me back at the airport. The space I was standing in was like stepping through the entrance of an airport terminal or into a shopping mall's main entrance, warehouse high ceilings and a front desk that seemed to stretch on forever told me this was not a large conference but a gargantuan one. I came to know the hotel housed some 1600 hotel rooms in two towers, the harbor which had 40 stories and the Seaport with 30 something. My room was assigned to the 30th, floor and as I entered the fastest elevators I had ever ridden in my life , I wondered what the first day would be like.
The drama of the first day unfolded as soon as I stepped from the elevator, a steady river of people flowing through the hallway, guide dogs, canes, and an army of volunteers in red shirts. I found my way to the first session on data metrics and realized I would have to stand despite my being fifteen minutes early. Another fifteen minutes into the session we were interrupted by fire Marshalls who informed us that anyone not in a seat had to leave and clear the hallways. Rather than mumble and groan I reasoned that there was now a slightly more competitive nature to the conference and I eagerly sought out where my next session would be.
I quickly realized that I wasn't the only one who didn't make it to the session in time, several people in small groups were networking in spaces designed for just this sort of thing and I decided to join in. One of the things you hear a lot about from veterans of the conference is the speed and steady flow of introductions and networking that goes on. I truly experienced this from the first day, and throughout the conference, meeting people on the sidewalk, at lunch, at dinner and everywhere in between, while getting into cabs, getting out of them and even on the airplane home.
Many people ask me what the atmosphere is like and what it feels like to be attending CSUN, and although many people warned me that it is overwhelming I found it a very aspirational atmosphere with a touch of spirited competitiveness and a whole lot of inquisitive minds thinking about inclusion, accessibility and technology.
Each session brought a new perspective either from experts or from those who had gone through the journey and wanted to share. Intelligent questions were asked and emerging practices were discussed. this blog would go on forever if I described each session I attended but here's what really stuck out for me from the conference.
when Pigs fly!
A company presented their Accessibility mascot, a flying pink pig named Floyd to fly in the face of the phrase "it'll be accessible when pigs fly" this company had a great presentation about being accessible not to just be better, but because it is essential for how people live their lives.
In god We Trust, Everyone else, Bring Data
There were more than a few presentations about how to quantify or manage accessibility from several different views, and the consensus is unanimous that however you measure or quantify it, its still worthwhile to do by a fair margin.
For anyone thinking of going out to the conference and wondering "is it worth it" I encourage you to take a look at the session list which is usually provided in advance of registration and determine if the topics suit your needs.
I hope you've enjoyed this post and that I've given you a glimpse into the CSUN Experience.