Final SxSWi panel on Accessibility

My final accessibility panel at SxSWi was the The Mexican Manifesto Discussion. It was moderated by my friend Sharron Rush, and the presenters were Marta Sylvia del Rio and Javier Hernandez. It was a good panel to finish the SxSWi conference, and the end was a blast in true south-by style, but more about that later!

First, the background; like-minded individuals from state government and academia from the state of Nuevo Leon gathered in the summer of 2007 and created The Manifesto on Usability and Accessibility for Mexican Government Website's: Toward a Web for Everyone. Consisting of five short paragraphs and 10 sentences, the Manifesto was created and signed. It collected ideas from participants and experts of usability and accessibility, and was signed by 23 Mexican states and 3 municipalities.

As administrators, our objective is to create and maintain websites that are both useful and easy to use for the widest possible audience: usable and accessible websites. We believe that government, academia and the private sector should work together to achieve this objective.

Now, almost a year later, Marta and Javier were here to give us some follow-up. Their largest stumbling block has been the realization that no state laws or manifesto’s can over-rule federal law. However, both Marta and Javier have been surprised at the level of support and commitment they have received from the people of Nuevo Leon and all of Mexico.

Neither wanted the manifesto to just be good intentions. They began training classes at the universities. There was a non-profit organization and website created that has access to all the training and documentation. Marta acknowledged that “a large part of the training is explaining the words usability and accessibility, these are not words that the people of Mexico use, and they don’t know or understand them, so the training has to start there.”

Even thought the first workshops were attended mostly by government web developers, they are now starting to see new people in the training classes, like independent web developers.

The next hurdle they are working on is public Internet access. In Monterrey, they have about 400 acres “connected” at this time. There is a federal initiative to get Internet access to all elementary schools and then to public locations.

I was glad to see that Mexico really wasn’t as far behind the US in terms of accessible websites, they have recognized the possible problem and taken steps to introduce, train and educate the web developers.

The panel ended with a toast to Marta, Javier, and all they have done to advance accessibility in Mexico with a shot of Don Julio Tequila shared by all the folks in the discussion!image

I concluded SxSWi at the 2008 Dewey Winburne Awards for Community Service through Interactive Media and the AIR-Interactive Awards it was a great way to honor many folks that work for the greater good in our community, and to say good bye to some folks that were traveling the next morning the California State University Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference. It’s too bad I couldn’t go, but I’ll be working and attending this year’s AccessU, the Austin Accessibility Conference, in May. Come by and say Hi!

About the Author: Dodie Stillman