About two years ago I had a dream and made it reality: I wanted to mix the crazy world of hackdays and unconferences and the world of accessibility.
In hackdays and unconferences developers show in a very short amount of time that they can solve a lot of problems and create great proof of concept products. These proofs can then be taken forward and changed into real products.
In the accessibility world we constantly complain that developers do not care enough about the needs of people with disabilities. We also complain about new technology not being helpful to disability needs or needs of the elderly.
I wanted to marry the enthusiasm of hackdays and the existing urge of developers to solve problems with the real life problems people who use the web have. I also wanted to dispel some myths around accessibility and show that you can be cool and innovative and also care for the needs of everybody.
Therefore I organised Scripting Enabled, a one day conference in which people with different disabilities showed the barriers that keep them from using the web and inviting a group of developers on the following day to build solutions to remove these barriers.
I was successful – I managed to pull off a free conference with a lot of attendees with only £200 out of my own pocket and caused some media attention and recorded a few good videos (which are on Yahoo Video – so I need to move them soon, drat!) raising awareness about disability needs on the web.
What I failed to do was my second agenda: to break down the barrier between the accessibility world and the development world and start a constant flow of hack and accessibility innovation.
I opened the idea of Scripting Enabled to everyone and invited people to hold their own. One other SE was held at Adobe in Seattle but that was it.
I started a mailing list and a Wiki – both dying of spam now and without any activity.
Probably this is all my fault – you just can’t start a new movement and build a community in a very saturated market like the internet is today with Facebook, Twitter, various mailing lists, Quora, Reddit, Stackoverflow and others all competing for our attention.
If I had constantly pushed for Scripting Enabled it might have hit off. I relied on the accessibility community to do that for me – alas, they didn’t and I actually have a hard time naming a working accessibility community that does not revolve around trying to push “accessible products”.
That is why I will archive Scripting Enabled as soon as I have time. I spend a lot of time deleting spam and I feel that there is no point in kicking this horse to trot on. It was a nice dream and a good first run. I am happy I did it but I don’t feel there is a point to try to repeat when there is no communication in two years.