AEGIS Conference wrap-up

Last October we held our first AEGIS Conference, in lovely Seville. And after a whirlwind of travel (both personal & professional) I finally have a moment to reflect and write about the very many events of that week in Seville.

Overall I feel the conference was a great success. Some 33 papers were presented over the course of the 2 day conference itself - in the key topic areas of:

  • "Access on my desktop" - desktop & application accessibility
  • "Can I too?" - accessibility from the end-user perspective
  • "Rich RIA!" - technologies and solutions around rich Internet application accessibility (also known as "Web 2.0 accessibility")
  • "Going mobile!" - technologies around mobile accessibility
  • "Coordinating research" - European accessibility research activities
  • "Standardisation and valorisation" - standardizing and realizing accessibility solutions

We had many distinguished speakers - both giving talks in the various parallel sessions, as well as plenary talks. Micaela Navarro, the Regional Minister for Social Welfare for the regional government of Andalucia gave a powerful and moving speech about the importance of accessibility. Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden presented a vision of a Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure. And in a talk that was particularly close to my thoughts, Jutta Treviranus spoke about "Changing the world - on a tiny budget". The conference closed with an awards ceremony, recognizing the best conference presentation, the best conference paper, and the best software project "in the spirit of AEGIS" (I got to give out this last award, which was great fun).

The day before the formal conference, we held a morning user forum in Spanish that attracted a quite a few local & regional users with a broad range of disabilities, discussing their needs and the related solutions being developed in AEGIS. This was followed by an afternoon pan-European workshop which began with a set of demonstrations of AEGIS solutions, and concluded with a lively panel discussion - with many questions coming from (and interacting with) the audience attendees.

In parallel to the conference itself we held a series of "eSpeak text-to-speech tuning sessions" conducted by AEGIS partner SingularLogic. I understand that they got a lot of excellent feedback from native speakers, some of which has already resulted in speech quality improvements which have been contributed back to the eSpeak project.

Finally, I would like to mention the GNOME Accessibility Hackfest which took place during that entire week. I managed to briefly sit in on a few of the discussions - particularly the one on the AEGIS-sponsored GNOME accessibility testing work. I understand a lot of very good progress was made on GNOME accessibility at the hackfest. And I was particularly happy we managed to have this hackfest in Seville, as it not only connected many of the AEGIS desktop folks with the GNOME accessibility community in general, but also with the very active GNOME accessibility efforts happening in Spain - home of GNOME accessibility companies like Emergya and projects like Guadalinfo which provide hundreds of accessible telecenters enabling people (with disabilities) who cannot afford their own computer and access solutions the ability to get computer and Internet access. In fact, I had the pleasure of visiting a local Guadalinfo telecenter while in Seville, and learned a lot about their work and the challenges they face - as well as the enthusiasm behind their work.

For folks who missed the conference, or who were there and are interested in reading some of the papers behind the presentations you attended, I invite you to download the recently published AEGIS conference proceedings - running at nearly 300 pages!

And I invite you to start thinking about attending (or even presenting at) our next conference, which we expect to happen in the fall of 2011.

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Peter Korn

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