Carolyn Gibbs discusses John Slatin AccessU with Deque

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John Slatin AccessU will be from May 15th-17th in Austin, TX, and Carolyn Gibbs (Knowbility Community Programs Manager) has been kind enough to speak with us about the conference.  Deque is a featured sponsor of AccessU.

DEQUE: Could you please give us a brief description of AccessU? 

CAROLYN: John Slatin AccessU is a two-day web accessibility training conference presented by Knowbility and featuring some of the world's finest accessibility experts. With a wide range of courses following four professional tracks (Administrative, Content, Design & Usability, Development), we equip all technology professionals with the skills and knowledge they need to ensure that their information technology is available to all people. The conference is held every year at St. Edward's University in the heart of Austin, TX and also features opportunities to relax, network, and engage with other accessibility-minded IT professionals.

What is your role within Knowbility/AccessU?

As the Community Programs Manager for Knowbility, I am responsible for the success of both AccessU and the AIR (Accessibility Internet Rally) programs. To say that I run the show would, however, not be close to accurate. Both AccessU and AIR are possible because of the support of our volunteers. For AccessU, Jayne Schurick, a usability expert, accessibility advocate, and long-time Knowbility supporter, is instrumental to the program's success!

What is the history of AccessU? 

From Sharron Rush, Knowbility Executive Director: Knowbility's 3-day accessibility training conference was called AccessU when we started planning it in 2002 in the office of Dr. John Slatin, founder of the Accessibility Institute at the University of Texas. Several of us brainstormed all the great classes that we would love to present to our community. We wrote them on sticky notes and moved them around a white board until we had the outline of a kick-ass conference. In keeping with the Knowbility spirit, we wanted it to be fun so we planned some great social events around the classes as well. Each year since then, we have grown our community and improved the classes. In 2008 when John died after a gallant fight against leukemia, we named the conference in his honor. Welcome to John Slatin Access-U, just one legacy of this great man.

Who usually attends AccessU? 

Web developers, usability professionals, IT administrators, content name it! If there's a job out there that has something to do with the website, you'll probably find them at AccessU. Historically, our attendees have been web developers working in state and local government departments, for whom accessibility is a requirement, not just a suggestion. But more and more, developers from the private sector who realize the need and value of accessibility are joining our ranks!

What kind of speakers/exhibits are being featured at AccessU this year? 

The best way to find out is to visit our website,, and click on the "Classes" tab - we've never had a better lineup. Kel Smith, an accessibility expert, advocate, and author, will be presenting the keynote on May 15th (visit Kel Smith's website here). Plus, we have people like Molly Holzschlag, who just joined our staff and has written a ton of books on accessibility; Denis Boudreau, who was instrumental in setting the accessibility standards for Quebec; and Whitney Quesenbury, a renowned usability and accessibility expert. They, along with many other dynamic speakers, will be presenting on topics ranging from the cost of accessibility to how to make accessible designs look good, and everything in between!

What are you most looking forward to this year at AccessU? 

This is my first AccessU with Knowbility, and I'm excited to see the incredible learning and community-building that goes on during the conference. The accessibility world is a pretty tight-knit group, but there's always room for more. Being accessible does present unique challenges for web developers; being part of that community helps people to engage others for solutions to even the biggest accessibility hurdles.

What can attendees of AccessU expect to learn and to take away from the experience? 

First and foremost, our attendees will walk away with an increased knowledge of why and how universal design is important. That is the primary goal of the conference, but we hope even more for our attendees. We want them to not only learn, but engage. The real impact of AccessU begins when the conference ends - that's when our attendees go back to their jobs and their projects, when they begin to put their knowledge into action, working together to build a world of technology that everyone can participate in.


If you'd like to lean more about Deque and the services we offer, please contact us.


Caitlin is an "Accessibility Decoder" at Deque Systems. She joined the team back in 2011 and has taken on a variety of roles over the years. These days she spends her time exploring the best ways to communicate accessibility ideas and solutions to the general public.

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