From May 7 to May 9, I attended the SightCity conference and exhibition of assistive technologies for the blind and visually impaired. It is the biggest one in the German speaking world, and one of the biggest venues of this kind in Europe.
Thanks to the help of Jane, Anne-Julie and Mary, we had good posters, a “fat-head” that immediately caught everyone’s eye, and also lots of goodies to give away to people.
But most importantly, we were there to give out the good word on accessibility work for Firefox 3 and the Mozilla 1.9 platform. I was accompanied by Gijs Kruitbosch, who brought accessibility to ChatZilla, Steve Lee, a Mozilla Foundation grantee and father of the Jambu project, and Ben ‘Cerbera’ Millard, community member, accessibility enthusiast and HTML 5 expert, and currently in the process of writing a proposal for a Mozilla grant.
While day 1 and 3 were rather slow going, with some peaks here and there, but also periods where there were quiet moments, the Thursday was really packed. The question we were asked the most was “What is a browser manufacturer doing at an assistive technology exhibition?” Unlike in the United States, where it is common that big players such as Google, Yahoo, Mozilla or Microsoft show up with booths at such conferences like CSUN, this is not common at all in Germany. So we were the new kid on the block, which brought us some good attraction.
Unlike in the U.S., where we were often asked what Mozilla produces, in Germany many people already know what Mozilla or Firefox are, or are actually using it. I’d say that the figures of market share among the blindness community almost match the figures on the over-all user base. Also, there were many who mentioned that they are using Firefox at their work places.
Those who are using Firefox 2 already were very interested in hearing about the new features in accessibility in Firefox 3. Also high in demand were the fact that Firefox is also accessible on Linux, and the fact that NVDA supports it.
On the more personal side, I had a chance to catch up with a number of people from all around the German-speaking world, some of whom I have known for many years.
Ben is preparing a much more detailled blog post on our SightCity experience. I’ll let you all know when it’s finished! Also, my three sighted friends took lots of pictures. If you guys will let me know where they are, I’ll link them here.