[Linux-aus] Accessibility and conferences (Re: grr)

Mary Gardiner mary at puzzling.org
Tue Oct 22 08:33:06 EST 2013

Michael Still <mikal at ...> writes:
> Last year we went out of our way to help people with special
> requirements. There was a box on the registration form to request
> various forms of assistance. I have just checked, and zero people
> mentioned hearing aid loops or requiring audio assistance of any form
> on the form. That's why we didn't provide a hearing aid loop -- no one
> asked for one.

Disclaimer: I'm aware this all requires work. We do some of it for AdaCamp*.
And no, I am not volunteering to do that work for LCA, at least not in the
foreseeable future. Research is the limit of my volunteering, right now.

I want to be clear that I've stumbled over this badly as an event organiser
more than once, and hardly consider myself well-placed to throw stones at
LCA! But I thought passing on ideas from other events that I am aware of
could be useful.

One possible approach to such things is to work through accessibility
checklists in advance of the event and to publish the results (including
things you won't or can't do) on the event webpage. There's a few advantages
to doing this over getting people to make accommodation requests (where

(a) some things (like hearing aid loops, ramps, microphones) may be so
commonly needed and provided (at universities, at least) that people may not
think to request them

(b) not everyone who needs accommodations is aware of what good
accommodations for them are, and having a list of "we are providing X, we
will provide Y on request, we cannot provide Z, other requests will be
considered and provided if feasible" might help them recall/imagine that Q
would actually be nice. It also shows that the event is fairly serious about
accommodations so asking would be worth their time.

Examples of Y might be large-format print or Braille programs, say, where it
may cost money to produce them and you need to know if there's demand before
they're commissioned.

I don't know what the best accessibility list is, but there's a couple of
examples at:


(although it being in PDF and DOC formats only is more than a bit

The yearly SFF con Wiscon has a team of volunteers who work year-round on
accessibility, so you can review their stuff as an example of what's
possible with comparatively large commitment:


Some notes on the process of developing that page, and the accommodations
described therein, are available at:

Some especial notes:

1. it can be particularly hard to ensure access for speakers: rooms may have
ramps but stages not, for example; or microphones are at podiums only, which
means speakers must both stand and be in a range of average heights.

2. as regards captioning in particular, it's not live, but coordinating and
publicising a post-event crowd captioning effort through http://amara.org/
could be good. In years the videos are going to Youtube you can then take
the subtitle files from Amara and put them directly on the Youtube vids
(perhaps for other sites also). I know the LCA2012 keynotes are fully
captioned at Amara already.


* For AdaCamp San Francisco, the most recent one, some of the accommodations
we provided (full disclosure: some only after not only requests but also
complaints) included marked walkways — with blue painters tape, referred to
in the Wiscon links — in which people shouldn't stand still thereby blocking
wheel users' paths; a quiet room; a screenreader tested website; and a
written description of the venue that tried not to rely on visual markers as
well as a tactile map of the venue.

We had a short accessibility statement at
http://sf.adacamp.org/attendee-information/accessibility/ : one of the big
outstanding problems is that the unconference model can be pretty hard to
access, hearing-wise.

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