Report from the European eAccessibility Forum in Paris

Paris before the flood, was a city of gloom and rain, but not as chaotic as it was when I left. The conference went of without any major hiccups, even if the train strike made for a situation where both atendees and speakers were delayed.

Susanna Laurin

Title: Chief Research and Innovation Officer

I have the honor of being a member of the program committee for conference on digital accessibility, arranged by the French association for the visually impaired, BrailleNet. This year sadly, I haven’t been able to attend any meetings, due to a crazy schedule. The theme for this year’s conference was the internet of things, which meant that several of this year’s speakers were new to me. To not meet the same experts, saying the same things as usual is very stimulating and made the day interesting for me.

The theme is an exciting one, and even if the subject isn’t in any way new, the accessibility angle is, and it makes for an interesting conference. The networking aspect works well with a long lunch (as the French are inclined to do) and mini seminars during the lunch break. But dispite of many good things, I have to say that I’m a bit disappointed, as when I try to summarize what we learned, I’m not really sure.

Internet of something?

The speakers were most definitely engaged, but my notes are pretty brief: ”The internet of things is already here. All gadgets are speaking to eachother, which is good (what is new?). The possibilities are endless (some pretty contrived examples). Weak connection to persons with disabilities (don’t forget to tell the program commitee). Question from the audience: But what are we supposed to use this for?”

In the panel I moderated, the focus was on health issues and how smart technology can help us be healthy. Ranging from the simple (counting steps, etc.) to how science can use the data submitted by users in order to work preemptively. Questions from the audience mostly concerned security, privacy and surveillance. No doubt important, but I once again find myself wondering on the connection to accessibility? Both health and integrity issues are extremely important, but they are also very democratic, being just as important to everyone, regardless of capability.

So faith in the future is strong on stage, but the audience is a little more guarded. I find myself smiling at the technical hiccups. ”we’ll get the sound working in a second…”, ”we just have to get the video feed working…”, ”we’re having some issues with the translation…”, ”mic’s are not working…”, etc. I know exactly how stressful it is to arrange a conference with high goals on accessibility, so I’m not complaining. It’s just that a world where my fridge knows better than I do what I would like for dinner, doesn’t feel like its’ around the corner.

Presentations from European eAccessibility Forum. Text and video in English or French, opens in new window

Photos of European eAccessibility Forum 2016 (photographer and copyright Romain Grésillon), opens in new window

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