I’m not going to CSUN in 2020 – I wish I were

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This is a post about the 2020 CSUN Assistive Technology Conference in California. Lainey Feingold is not going because of uncertainty about the coronavirus. Many other people and companies cancelled too. Lainey has been attending the CSUN conference for almost 20 years.  Lainey was supposed to do a talk about the law and digital access. She was also supposed to moderate other speakers who were going to talk about how to make sure companies buy technology that works for everyone. Lainey hopes to be back at this conference in 2021.

Lainey and Bank of America spokesperson at B of A booth at CSUN approximately 2003

After days of agonizing, I have decided not to attend and present at the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference in Anaheim next week. It would have been my 20th time attending and my 17th (more or less) time presenting. (The picture illustrating this post shows me with a Bank of America spokesperson in the CSUN exhibit hall in 2003. That year the bank brought one of its first Talking ATMs to the conference, something we agreed to in Structured Negotiation.)

I’m cancelling for the same reason so many organizations and individuals, including major sponsors, already have: the evolving nature and uncertainty about the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Not going means I will not be a speaker at two sessions, will miss connecting with friends and colleagues from around the world, will miss learning from global leaders in digital accessibility. It’s hard to explain how important the CSUN community has been to my ability to practice digital accessibility / disability civil rights law in Structured Negotiation with collaboration instead of conflict and lawsuits. So much learning and connections over twenty years of attendance. So many real friendships.

The annual CSUN conference is my community. I’m already missing the people and organizations who come together each year to make it happen.

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My Canceled Sessions

2020 Digital Accessibility Legal Update: CANCELED

I have offered the Digital Accessibility Legal Update at the CSUN conference for many years. The first year was either 2002 or 2003, and I’ve done it pretty consistently since then. This year I invited Tim Elder, of TRE Legal Practice to be a co-presenter.

Tim is a disability rights lawyer doing significant cutting edge work in the digital accessibility legal space. This includes my favorite case: A creative law suit challenging the 66 million dollar website that went live without accessibility because of many factors, including a broken down procurement system. As a blind lawyer, Tim has the lived experience of many of the legal issues he and his firm tackle.

And Tim is one of those (many) ethical disability rights lawyers I write and speak about when I bemoan the other kind of lawyer bringing digital accessibility cases and remind people that civil rights lawsuits are critical to advancing accessibility.

images of Jim Thatcher and Joseph O'Connor under the title "We dedicate this session to"The legal update this year was to be dedicated to Jim Thatcher and Joseph O’Connor — two friends, accessibility leaders and CSUN stalwarts and community builders who recently died.

Tim and I are discussing the best way to put out our content virtually. Information about that will be posted here and on Twitter and sent out through our mailing lists. You can join mine here.

Accessible Digital Workplace Tools: Making Tech Purchases Available to All: CANCELED

I was very excited to moderate a panel in the Microsoft Showcase Suite this year about accessible procurement of workplace tools. Just in preparing for the session I learned so much from the panelists: Catherine Waterson and Kerrie Holleman of Microsoft, Jeff Wissel of Fidelity, and Eric Wright of Booz Allen Hamilton.

We were all set to talk about best practices for baking accessibility into procurement systems — especially for the purchase of workplace tools that disabled applicants and employees need throughout the employment lifecycle.

This session grew out of the Accessible Technology Procurement Toolkit produced by Disability:IN. The panelists and other corporate leaders helped create the toolkit, which I worked on as a Disability:IN subject matter expert.

Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie tweeted earlier this week that Microsoft was “working on how best to share the content” planned for CSUN. More information will be provided when available. I’m grateful to Microsoft for making room for this session in its packed Showcase Suite and, as always, for its global accessibility leadership. And a shout-out to Microsoft’s Jessica Rafuse who did the hard work of organizing the showcase suite content!

Other chances to learn

I look forward to virtual opportunities to learn from those sharing what was intended for CSUN. Other accessibility conferences will hopefully take place as planned later in 2020.

Next up in my world is the ever-wonderful AccessU from Knowbility, where I’ll be presenting the digital accessibility legal update in May. A11yTO (Toronto) and A11y Camp (Australia) are two other great opportunities for in-person accessibility learning and community building.

This is only the second time I’ve ever had to cancel a planned presentation. In 2010 I also cancelled my CSUN talk because of a national gay rights and labor boycott of the conference hotel. Then as now the decision to cancel was agonizing. I missed being at the annual gathering in 2010, I’m already missing being there in 2020. I hope everyone reading this stays safe and healthy during these uncertain times.