WordPress Accessibility Day 2023 Announces Diverse Speaker Lineup, Doubles Sponsors from Previous Year

WP Accessibility Day (WPAD), an independent 24-hour virtual conference, has published its schedule for the upcoming event on September 27, 2023. Co-lead organizer Amber Hinds reports that more than 1,248 people have registered for the event so far with attendees across 30 different countries. Approximately 50% of attendees are from the U.S.

WPAD has attracted an influx of new voices this year. All speakers, excluding sponsored sessions, are first-time speakers at the event.

“We were nervous initially about speaker applicants, but we actually received a lot more speaker applications than last year and also more applications that were higher quality than in previous years,” Hinds said. “It was hard to decide!”

The keynote address will feature a conversation between Jennison Asuncion, co-founder of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), and Joe Dolson, an accessibility consultant and co-founder of WordPress Accessibility Day. Attendees will learn how to perform usability and accessibility tests on their websites, how to build an accessible WordPress pages and posts using the block editor, simple ways to make email more accessible, how to understand color and contrast requirements in WCAG 2, and more.

Based on the stats for speakers (of people who opted to give the info), WPAD’s organizers have succeeded at recruiting a diverse lineup for the event:

  • 10 countries
  • 67% female, 30% male, 3% Nonbinary
  • 14% LGBTQ
  • 41% non-white identifying
  • 2 first time speakers who have never spoken at any event.
  • 11 of the 27 speakers identify as having a disability. (41%) – There are speakers who identify as blind/low vision, deaf or hard of hearing, have limited mobility, and learning disabilities.

“These were the hardest decisions we’ve had to make yet in selecting the WordPress Accessibility Day speakers,” Speaker Team lead Joe Dolson said. “There were so many truly excellent ideas proposed. As a result, our speakers include people who work across many different aspects of the web – inside and outside the WordPress community. I feel like we’ve ended up with an excellent cross section of topics, so we have something to offer for developers, policy makers, content creators, or community organizers.”

WPAD secured non-profit status earlier this year through a fiscal sponsorship partnership with Knowbility, an Austin-based digital accessibility advocate and services provider. One of the reasons the organizers wanted to manage it independently of the WordPress Foundation was to reserve the option to do things like pay speakers for their time and expertise. Speaker pay is one expenditure for the event, which is supported by corporate and community sponsors.

Hinds said it was easier to attract sponsors this year and that the sponsors team received positive responses fairly quickly. They also added a microsponsorship option earlier this year (previously it was only on the registration form) and were able to recruit more businesses as microsponsors.

The team’s goal this year was to get enough sponsorships to cover the cost of the event itself, make a donation to Knowbility (part of the event’s fiscal sponsorship agreement with them), and have enough leftover to cover year-round expenses, such as Google workspace, Buffer, domain registration, and hosting.

Hinds said the organization met its sponsorship goals at most tiers, due to the hard work of the Sponsors team leads Bet Hannon and Joe Hall, along with the generosity of the community in supporting the event.

“We are thrilled to have doubled the number of sponsors this year over last year,” Hannon said. “I think this reflects the increasing awareness about accessibility as an issue to be addressed, as well as the wider WordPress community coming together to sponsor an event providing high quality accessibility education.”

New in 2023: WPAD to Broadcast via Zoom

In addition to a whole new crop of speakers this year, WPAD is offering t-shirts for the first time as a thank you gift to attendees who want to make a donation when they register.

“We had a lot of people ask us last year how they could get a t-shirt, but they were only available to organizers, speakers, and volunteers,” Hinds said. “This year they’re available during registration so anyone can get one.”

Last year the event was broadcast via an embedded YouTube video on the WPAD website with third-party embeds for chat/Q&A and the live transcript.

“We got feedback from attendees that this did not work well because they didn’t have control of the layout of the video,” Hinds said. “It was particularly limiting for attendees who rely on the sign language interpreters; they needed the interpreter video to be larger. Other people said that they found the interpretation to be distracting or they needed the slides to be bigger so they would be easier to read.”

The 2023 event will be live streamed using Zoom, which recently introduced a sign language interpretation view that allows hosts to assign interpreters.

“Attendees can choose to view the sign language interpretation in a separate window,” Hinds said. “With this new feature available, we decided to change to Zoom webinars. We have one long 24-hour webinar that people can jump in and out of as they see fit, and each attendee can set a view for speakers, slides, signers, and captions that works best for them.”

Registration for the event is free and it’s still open. Attendees have the opportunity to receive virtual swag and win prizes from the sponsors. Organizers have also gotten the conference pre-approved for continuing education credits for the International Association of Accessibility Professionals Web Accessibility Specialist (WAS) and Certified Professional in Core Competencies (CPACC) certifications.

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