June 16 marked another successful digital accessibility conference co-organized by the Digital Accessibility Office (DAO), a unit of ITS.
The NC Higher Ed Accessibility Collaborative, a group of accessibility advocates from UNC system schools, organized the free conference for a second year in a row. UNC-Chapel Hill is a founding member of the collaborative and Brad Held, Team Leader for the DAO, is currently co-chair.
“We were thrilled with not only the turnout, but the variety of people and professions that attended,” said Chelsea Porter, Digital Accessibility Consultant with the DAO and member of the conference planning committee.
Largest participation from Carolina
This year’s conference, titled Join the Journey, drew 450 registrants and 310 attendees, with 200 simultaneously active at various points in the day. The event was open to everyone — students, faculty and staff — in North Carolina higher education. Attendees represented all types of institutions, including 20 North Carolina community colleges. UNC-Chapel Hill had the most attendees from a single institution, followed by Wake Forest University, which hosted the event.
Attendees included people from many roles, including instructional designers, instructors, students, content managers, web developers and researchers. Although the conference was geared toward higher education, the event also attracted people from related industries and nonprofits.
For Porter, the diversity of the audience was key. “We always want this conference to be for people who want to make content accessible, but aren’t necessarily accessibility professionals themselves,” she said. “Our aim is to spread the knowledge of accessibility to everyone.”
Anonymous survey feedback gathered after the event shows the impact the conference made on attendees.
The presenters and the content were “stellar,” one respondent wrote. “There was a clear commitment to including more people in the work of digital accessibility by prioritizing beginner knowledge and by highlighting multiple entry points into deepening accessibility knowledge and practice. Overall, this was one of the most engaging and educational digital conferences that I have attended. I’m so grateful for all the hard work of the conference committee.”
Another added: “a nice range of topics. Something for everyone.”
Even better, more than 72% of survey respondents said they would “definitely” attend again.
Planning for next year
With another successful conference in the books, the collaborative and the DAO look forward to a repeat performance next year. Later in the fall, the conference committee, made up of seven members from across the state, will meet to begin planning for 2023’s conference.
While the collaborative plans to cycle conference hosts each year, UNC-Chapel Hill will have a presence.
“I do support our team being part of the planning committee,” said Held. “As co-chair, I am going to do my best to make sure UNC is represented.”