The web should be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities thanks to assistive technologies. Once you have claimed that, you should be on the right side of the good-thinking people, but it may happen that this would not change anything to your life. Not being neither deaf, sighted person or blind, I am part of the people who accepted this notion of accessibility as a must have, but kept it purely theoretical … until ParisWeb 2012. This was my first time I actually realized that accessibility was needed and possible. Let me share with you few concrete actions that Paris Web deployed to make everyone on the same page during the event.
Sign language all day long. The conference was held in different rooms and each of it has a team of 2 or 3 people providing all day long live translation with sign language.This support was completed by velotypie (meaning, a screen displayed on stage, where each and any words pronounced by the speaker, including jokes, was typed) and french live translation via headsets when speakers where expressing themselves in English. As you can guess, this is simple to organize : what you need is people with appropriate skills such as sign language, english translation (@porteneuve made the job), good typers… The best challenge here was to make the choice (and associated investment) to make the event accessible.
People with disabilities on stage. Several conference were related to accessibility, and some of the speakers witnessed their experience about being sighted person or deaf.
Tanguy Lohéac @TanguyLoheac shared with the conference room his experience of getting support from mobile application as sighted person. He made a live demo of using several applications on his iPhone. All of them were relying on a special browser which had the capability to speak, meaning, pronouncing each of the action button, or text field label of the user interface application. As such we navigated into the RATP application (to catch the closest paris tube). We used wikipedia and its braille transcription. We experienced the automatic recognition of money (to check change), text (to read a menu) or barcode product (to make sure you cook rice and not pasta). Finally we followed Tanguy’s twitter activities. Most of the used applications took benefit of the combination of geo-localization, voice support when the user typed some entry (braille is not always as easy to type, and it is always better to check what has been typed), camera and online connection. The presentation ended with a wise report : technology can greatly support people with disabilities, but this should not prevent them from keeping a real social life.
Another example of great speaker was Sophie Drouvroy @cyberbaloo_, part of the ParisWeb 2012 team. Sophie, editor of “vis ma vie de sourde” (live my life as deaf) blog went on stage for the most dangerous exercise of the conference : Lightening Talk. 4 minutes on stage, the public applauds to rate the talk. Sophie presented ways of organizing an event with the appropriate details to make it accessible. She performed a great talk and her recommendation should become a standard in terms of conference organization .
This was one other aspect of ParisWeb 2012 that struck me. More should come in few days about society related aspects.
 Sophie Drouvroy slides about organizing an accessible event : [fr] http://www.slideshare.net/cyberbaloo/comment-rendre-un-minivnement-accessible-avec-les-moyens-du-bord and Sophie blog about her ParisWeb 2012 experience [fr] http://www.vismaviedesourde.fr/javais-un-reve-paris-web-la-refait/