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Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media


Event Review: Accessibility Camp Toronto & 15th Annual Accessing Higher Ground, Colorado

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Robert Pearson, who attended the 2nd Accessibility Camp Toronto in mid-November this year, gives us an insider perspective on the proceedings of the 'unconference'. Also read his note on the 15th Annual Accessing Higher Ground: Accessible Media, Web and Technology Conference that took place in Boulder, U.S. from November 12 to 16, 2012.

On November 17, 2012 OCAD University, home to the Inclusive Design Institute in Toronto, played host to the 2nd Accessibility Camp Toronto. Led by digital accessibility practitioner, community builder and the Global Accessibility Awareness Day co-founder Jennison Asuncion, the intent of the day was, as with all the similar camps and unconferences, to focus on accessibility (a11y) and knowledge sharing for digital inclusion and how it can be achieved.

Since the 1st Accessibility Camp Toronto, there has been a noticeable increase of interest in digital accessibility and inclusion in Toronto. Aside from the approaching deadlines related to Ontario’s accessibility regulations, a significant catalyst for this increase has been monthly meet-ups hosted by Jennison and his colleague George Zamfir. So, often those who are engaged in this field and who understand its requirements and importance lack the collegial support of those also focused on the same.

These meet-ups are meant to address these concerns, with the camps being the largest of these gatherings during the course of the year. It is this structure of having a large yearly conference with regular meetings in between that builds a localized society of professionals dedicated to the ideals of a11y in an effort to keep the conversation flowing and the knowledge emerging. There are groups that are similar to the one in Toronto, such as in Boston, Washington, London, and Sydney, with the potential for more. The Accessibility Camp movement expanded this year to Los Angeles and Tokyo, with plans for the U.S. Midwest and Vancouver and others in the coming 2013 #Supera11ySeason.

With increased attendees this year, the 2nd Accessibility Camp Toronto saw more structure than the first iteration of the conference.  There were numerous expressions of interest, prior to the commencement of the conference, by attendees hoping to speak on a topic of their choosing at the free, yet sold-out gathering. As a result, there was a decision to waive the classic camp structure of setting the schedule for the day on the morning of the conference. It seems that this will be a natural evolution for unconferences in the future, as interest grows, more individuals participate and the intent of the day can be managed within the time allotted. 

The topics covered throughout the day were focused towards audiences coming from all backgrounds, from beginner to practitioner. Technologies included web accessibility in general, PDFs, HTML5, Enterprise accessibility, ARIA, Office, Mobile, Drupal, and the work of local academic and corporate supporters and sponsors. For the second year in a row, Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) sponsored the captioning and CART translation for the day’s proceedings. We also spoke on the initiative that we have undertaken with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters to develop Canadian broadcasting industry adopted high-level Described Video (Audio Description) Best Practices.

Going forward into 2013, as the recognition and understanding of digital inclusion continues to grow and becomes something that is adopted within the process rather than in addition to it, conferences such as these will continue to grow in scope and depth. While it may be that limited time and resources are unable to produce any significant innovations as these events take place, the underlying intent will always be to build awareness, grow the movement and work towards a greater level of digital inclusion worldwide.


Accessing Higher Ground, commonly known as the accessible media conference (November 12-16, 2012), was once again a success and very well received again in its fifteenth year. The event brought together educational institutions and organizations focused on educational service along with industry professionals and others discussing advancements in this field, and was also complemented by an external vendor fair showcasing unique technologies.  

Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) spoke on the topic of international best practices for audio description to a receptive audience present in the room as well as those who were attending virtually from numerous viewing locations. This conference is very worthwhile for understanding accessibility requirements from an educational perspective at different levels and in different contexts. As an example, on the second day of the conference, those present participated in simultaneous roundtable discussions on topics ranging from the very technical, to the theoretical. This is an event for networking, showcasing new advancements in this field and for driving forward the understanding of the requirement for inclusion for all from an educational perspective.

Image: Participants at the 15th Annual Accessing Higher Ground conference

Image: Participants at the 15th Annual Accessing Higher Ground conference


Related Resource

Related Blog: Electronic Text and Law: Making Math Accessible for Students with Disabilities by Lucy Greco | Read blog.

Related Publication: Making Television Accessible: Ensuring that all of the world’s population has access to television services is one of the targets set by world leaders in the World Summit on the Information Society. Download the report.

Related Event: Web Adaptibility for Inclusion Conference 2012 - November 29-30 at Bundoora, Near Victoria, Australia | Details.