By Kristina M. Launey

In the past few years, the barriers faced by people who are blind, deaf, or other disabilities in using websites and other emerging technologies has increasingly become the focus of  new laws, regulatory initiatives, and lawsuits.  The annual CSUN conference is the largest, and considered the most important, annual gathering of thought leaders and advocates in the field of digital accessibility.  We therefore had to attend.  We thought you might be interested about what we learned at last week’s conference.

Attendees came from around the world, and represented the wide diversity of the digital accessibility community, from developers teaching and learning best practices to users learning about the newest technologies.  The substantive sessions were numerous and varied, and the agenda packed.  As a small sample, the sessions included the following:

– developments in assistive technology

– WCAG compliance and best practices

– choosing an automated accessibility testing tool

– sophisticated web coding sessions by web developers

– accessible apps

– using technology and new media for employment

– presentations by companies about how they integrated accessibility into all aspects of corporate culture, including their web presence

– announcements by WebAIM and Deque about new products to improve digital accessibility

– updates on the state of laws, litigation, and settlements on the topic of digital accessibility by leading accessibility civil rights attorneys Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian

CSUN was also a place to NETWORK – in person and electronically.  We were so impressed how every conference attendee was open, welcoming, and eager to share their experiences in the web accessibility area.  Although many attendees were business competitors, at the conference they were all collaborators, sharing new ideas and best practices.  Many attendees took notes of sessions they attended, blogged (such as Paul Schantz and George Zamfir about them, and tweeted them – all before we were able to walk to the next session!  There was some fanfare as well, such as an appearance at the Deque-hosted party by blind surfer Derek Rabelo, about whom a movie is soon to be released.

Since this blog is an accessibility law resource, we should talk a bit more about the legal update session Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian presented to a standing-room only crowd.  Clearly, it is a hot topic.  They discussed applicable U.S. (Rehabilitation Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Air Carrier Access Act, Communications and Video Accessibility Act) and international accessibility laws (such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities [link to] and the Accessability for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, as well as the status of pending Department of Justice regulations to implement a standard for accessible websites for private and public entities under the ADA.  (See our blog post on that topic here.)  They highlighted significant digital accessibility cases from 2012, including in the areas of website accessibility, e-reader accessibility, and reading rights, as well as significant 2012 settlements.  We’ve blogged about some of these in the past (see here and here, and will continue to bring you updates on these laws, regulations, cases, and settlements in coming weeks and as more news develops.

We thank CSUN 2013 for the hospitality and look forward to CSUN 2014!