“We Are Unable to Accept Your Lotusphere 2009 Birds-of-a-Feather abstract”

This year I put in two Lotusphere abstracts, a BOF and presentation on ‘accessible web design‘. To be honest neither abstract was very good having been put together at the last minute. If I’m honest, I’m relieved that I won’t have the worry of presenting and can just relax and enjoy the week. But I’m always uncomfortable attending conferences when I’m not presenting, especially at such an expensive conference (why doesn’t IBM sponsor educational establishments – most academic conferences are half the price of this one?)

Accessibility is extremely important in my job. A large proportion of ‘Web 2.0’ sites are designed without any real consideration of accessible design and I have a concern that Domino 8.5 will encourage the Domino community into adopting Web 2.0 technologies without understanding the problems they might be creating.

When I was a design student I visited the ‘Royal National Institute for the Blind’ and met one of their designers. He explained that the RNIB believed that spending some time with a student designer to explain some of the of the issues surrounding designing accessible products, would be repaid many times over, if that designer adopted sympathetic practices in industry. So I’ve always tried to show as much consideration as possible when designing websites, for the issues faced by people with disabilities.

At Lotusphere 2008 there were lots of wizzy AJAX being demonstrated. Not once in any of the session I attended, did a presenter discuss the accessibility issues created by the inappropriate adoption of AJAX. For example, the excellent ‘Great Code Giveaway’, showed developers how to make views exciting through AJAX. The fact that if you had Javascript disabled, you got nothing, wasn’t mentioned. Looking at the code afterwards, there were simple approaches that could have allowed the code to degrade to a more basic accessible design. I imagined Domino designers rushing back creating a whole host of inaccessible websites.

After chatting to some of the Designer and Domino teams, I wasn’t filled with confidence that Lotus are really tackling accessibility in Designer 8.5. So although I’m relieved I don’t have to present, it’s clear to me at least, that Lotus should have scheduled one of the accessibility sessions.

I hope it doesn’t come across that I’m bitter for not getting my sessions on to the agenda, I’m really am not. There was a far better accessibility abstract posted to IdeaJam that also hasn’t been included in the programme. It’s just I know how frustrated I was at last year’s Lotusphere that accessiblity issues were completely missing from the agenda, I’ll suspect this year I’ll be be doubly so.

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