Report from the M-Enabling Summit in Washington

During some intense days in Washington, mobile industry, civil servants, end users and specialists in accessibility meet at the early M-Enabling Summit. It's a truly international event with a good mix of government officials, technicians, user organizations and large and small businesses.

Just before the Summit, G3ict also organized a half-day Global Policy Forum with invited guests. In addition, the conference has been expanded with a program for the industry organization of IAAP members, which means there is something for all tastes.

Because we are active in all these different parts, it became a hectic US week with several panels, meetings and presentations every day. Perhaps the most exciting part was that we signed the agreement for the first local chapter of IAAP, which we have had the honor of leading in the Nordic region: Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. The certification of accessibility experts is getting even more important, when the requirements are tightened in Europe and it will be interesting to see how this will evolve in our markets. If the industry is going to have a chance to meet the increasing demand, we must ensure that all those who study ICT, design and communication learn the basics already at the university.

Two new certification programs were launched in Washington, one of them being the core competences certification, which we have worked hard to get more international. The other being a web accessibility specialist exam, which our Head of Analysis Andreas Cederbom has actively contributed to. So far, it is only possible to sit for the exam in English, but one of our goals in in the Nordic region is to eventually offer most of IAAP's services in the local languages.

I failed to instruct how the nice flags that traveled all the way to the US from the headquarters should be held, but at least we got some of attention.

Trends and challenges

M-Enabling is generally a forward-looking and tech-optimistic event. To recent years' attention to wearables and the internet of things, we can now add artificial intelligence and machine learning as recurring topics.

Each year, a survey is conducted among the participants during the conference, which is a good idea. It works like a thermometer, pointing to the hottest topics right now and beyond. Out of the over 100 people who responded this time, a majority pointed out companies and innovation as being the main driver for achieving increased accessibility, not legislation. This can of course be pure coincidence, depending on who happened to answer, but it is a big difference compared to previous years.

Among all one-liners and wise words, there was something that stayed with me a little extra: "Feedback is a gift", as Microsoft's accessibility evangelist Megan Lawrence put it. If both those who have an opinion and the ones that receive the message look at it all as an exchange of gifts, I think some things would resolve quite quickly.

Susanna Laurin

M-Enabling Summit 2017, opens in new window

International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), opens in new window