CSUN 2014 wrap-up

  • Author: Robert Pearson
  • Date: 24 Mar 2014

The 29th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference in San Diego, otherwise known as the CSUN conference, has concluded.

The conference, the pre-eminent event taking place in the area of digital inclusion each year, explored many themes, including: Web, Mobile, Mathematics, Cognitive Accessibility, the United States’ Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), the launch of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), Documents, Social, HTML 5, Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA), Assistive Technology (AT), Gaming and Android versus iOS.

In past years the conference has been used by organisations dominant in the web and mobile accessibility fields to make major announcements, but this year saw few of these announcements. However, the conference was notable for its exploration of a few emerging trends.

For an overview of these trends and all of the presentations given at this year's conference, visit The Great Big List.  If you’re short on time, some of the more interesting discussions included:

  • Google's inability to focus on accessibility.  Google had intrigued everyone by hosting an exclusive offsite VIP event.  It was assumed that a major announcement would come from this; however, the event was a non-starter.  Nothing of note occurred.  Further to that, Google had difficulties in a few of their presentations while attempting to offer a non-visual perspective during more than one of its presentations.
  • Whether, if given the option to select a mobile device running Android or iOS, which one would people choose for its accessibility functionality?  The typical answer is iOS due to its built accessibility features such as VoiceOver and Zoom.
  • In the area of screen reader functionality, if people require the use of it, would they select Freedom Scientific's JAWS — an older and expensive system — or would they be able to complete their tasks with NVDA, a free option, or from a mobile device using VoiceOver.  Consensus seems to be on mobile and free options.  JAWS market share has dropped to 50% in the last Web Aim survey.
  • Alternatively, would they select Window Eyes, now a free add-on in to their Microsoft Office licence?  Most people have access to Office on some platform or another. Window Eyes has not been a mainstream option lately when selecting a screen reader, but given that it's free, it becomes more viable.
  • If someone was a Microsoft customer, including owning a Windows Phone, perhaps they may also require speech functionality on that system as well. Rumour has it that there may not be a need to wait much longer. Narrator is on Microsoft’s Surface device and something similar will be coming to the company’s Windows Phone.

Despite the lack of major announcements from accessibility vendors, the W3C did make a substantial announcement in the form of the release of the standards body’s official ARIA 1.0 recommendation which is expected to facilitate greater cross-platform accessibility. There was also information presented by the body about Cognitive Accessibility Task Force, which is exploring the accessibility needs of people with cognitive disabilities. Stay tuned to Access iQ for more on this news.

Other announcements include one from Comcast, the American broadcaster and telecommunications company, on its accessible television services. These services come with voice interaction technology.

In addition, the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), of which Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) — a not-for-profit multimedia organisation — is a founding member, was officially launched at CSUN.  We as an organisation are excited to be a part of this initiative, to contribute our experience and knowledge to the development and advancement of the practice going forward.  There will be more to discuss in this regard, in the weeks and months to come.

For notes and discussions on what took place at CSUN, follow the hashtag #CSUN14 on Twitter.

Robert Pearson is Director of Accessible Digital Media at Accessible Media Inc. (AMI), based in Toronto, Canada. Read more stories by Robert on Access iQ.