April 15, 2016 CSUN 2016 Attendance Report

Azusa Uezu
Accessibility Team, Accessibility Engineer

I joined Mitsue-Links on a graduate entry scheme in April 2015, currently most of my work entails performing diagnostic analysis on corporate websites ensure to ensure compliance with accessibility guidelines such as JIS X 8341-3 and WCAG 2.0. In this report, I give my thoughts on CSUN 2016 participation as well as a brief overview of accessibility support measures that I came across in the host city of San Diego.

About CSUN

CSUN, this year in its 31st year, is the world's largest international conference on accessibility. The event's official name is the 31st Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, however an abbreviation of, California State University, Northridge, the organizer, name, is often used – therefore the event is known as CSUN.

To give an idea of the scale of their conference, there were 388 sessions held over 3 days - at one point 21 rooms were being used simultaneously in order to accommodate all of the concurrent sessions! Furthermore, even though there were over 150 sessions on Web accessibility alone - it was necessary to confirm participation in advance.

The presenting companies and researchers did not only come from the American host, they came from Japan, the United Kingdom, China and many other countries. In past CSUNs, we, Mitsue-Links, have given a total of 5 lectures, however, this year Kazuhito Kidachi, our President, gave a joint presentation with Makoto Ueki, President of Infoaxia.

High Interest in Web Accessibility Evaluation

There was high interest in the sessions related to evaluation reporting and check tools - so much so that the sessions became fully-booked and some entry limits were applied.

In the session called Creating Accessibility Reports Designers & Developers Will Love, evaluation report best practices for developers and designers were introduced. In this session, I gained knowledge on the best techniques to create easy-to-understand reports - such as listing tasks and using screen captures. Also impressive, was the sophisticated design of the evaluation report itself.

In the Automated Testing Tool Showdown session, there were comparisons between different evaluation tools. From the perspective of cost/free, ease of use, robustness and whether it is possible to perform local analysis etc. - there were overviews on the features and functions of WAVE, Alnspector, aXe, and Accessibility Developer Tools.

Difference in Commitment to Accessibility

I was surprised at the commitment of the participating companies. In 2010, the United States published the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design – the standards state that all electronic and information technology must be accessible to people with disabilities. As a result of this, many organizations in the US either have specialist accessibility departments or employ web accessibility technicians. An example is amazon.com, which held their own session on accessibility features at CSUN 2016.

In addition to the high commitment, another difference was the assertive questioning and commenting from session audience members. Time was set aside after the main presentation for a question and answer session, however, in spite of this, it was quite normal that audience members, when unsure of something during the presentation, asked questions and gave opinions. This surprised me. Furthermore, as there were many specialists in the audience, the question and answer sessions provided some very passionate debates.

Thoughtful Urban Design

When walking around San Diego before and after the conference sessions, I discovered a number of accessibility measures adopted in places such as shopping malls, pedestrian crossings and other public facilities. Below, I give an overview of the measures.

Tactile paving:
In San Diego, tactile paving, of which Japan was a pioneer, could be found in various locations around the city. The bobbled tactile paving was mostly laid in areas of increased danger, such as in front of the road or tram crossings. However I did not see any blocks with that convey “proceed” to visually-impaired pedestrians, I think this is different from Japan.
Push Button-activated Pedestrian Crossings:
When comparing the buttons for push-button activated pedestrian crossings, those in San Diego are much larger than what is typical in Japan. Furthermore, as many American cities have been planned and built on a grid layout, at crossroads there are two sets of push button panels for pedestrians – one panel for crossing in each direction. To ensure that pedestrians with impaired vision select the panel for their desired direction of travel, each panel has an indented arrow pointed in the direction of the crossing to which it corresponds. Furthermore, the name of the road which can be crossed is announced by the traffic signal - for example, when it is possible to cross West Market Street, the signal machine announces "market." Stating the name rather than just using beeps etc. clearly states which street is safe to be crossed. I thought that these design features were very considerate.
Motorized hinged doors:
When going to shopping malls and other public facilities, I often came across motorized-hinged doors for use by wheelchair users, as well as elderly, and those with baby strollers etc. The motorized hinged door has can be opened with the simple push of a nearby button. Something else which left an impression on me were the wheelchair stickers placed in door windows and accompanied with the words “if you require any assistance, please ask staff.”
Digital Screens:
When visiting shopping malls and other places with digital information screens, I noticed a wheelchair-marked button toward the bottom of the screen. When clicking this wheelchair-marked button the screen display shifted down so that the information could be easily accessed by wheelchair users.

Changes to My Thinking after Visiting the US

As a new graduate in my first year of employment, I think that attending CSUN was a difficult challenge given my knowledge of web accessibility and language skills. Experiencing the intense enthusiasm of participants as well as seeing the state-of-the-art technology in the field, my mind has been positively influenced. I did not imagine I would have the opportunity to learn about web accessibility overseas, in the future I would like to continue developing my specialist skills and deepen knowledge and information exchanges with specialists overseas.

CSUN 2016 Attendance Report Seminar

This year, we will again hold a CSUN Attendance Report Seminar. The seminar will open with a joint lecture from Makoto Ueki and Kazuhito Kidachi, this seminar is a Japanese language version that was given, by the aforementioned, to delegates at CSUN. The second part of the seminar will introduce interesting sessions and exhibitions from the conference, as well as an introduction to accessibility trends.

We are currently accepting applications, however please be advised that we will stop accepting applications once all seats are full.

We look forward to your participation.

Note: The CSUN 2016 Attendance Report Seminar was held in late April.

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