I'm blind and I attended PyCon CZ 2016 conference. Firstly, I would like to thank you for letting me to join you. It was my first time visiting a conference related to IT, not to blind or visually impaired people. I must say that I really enjoyed being there with you all. But let's be more specific.
To be precise, I participated only during Friday and Saturday, I decided not to participate on any workshops or sprints. Just for a matter of completeness, I attended the conference together with my friend Honza, who is also blind, and with our assistant Sísa. I would like to describe my perception of the conference from the point of a blind person. That means that the main aim of this text is not to evaluate quality of talks, but rather their accessibility.
Basically I didn't observe any really serious problem, which would totally prevent me from gaining information from a talk. However, I would like to propose several recommendations, which may enhance experience of any future potential visually impaired visitors of PyCon CZ.
Speakers, describe what's on your slide#
We can't see what a speaker shows on a screen. Therefore, we have to rely on description of potential graphs, pictures or other non-textual content provided by someone else. It can be a speaker or a friend/assistant. I think that speaker is a better choice, because eventual chat between assistant and me could be disturbing for people sitting around us.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't want a speaker to describe exact parameters of a displayed graph or to exactly spell out every line of displayed source code. It is enough to say what is currently shown on a screen and if it is something more complicated, I know that I can investigate it later in downloaded slides if needed.
So my first recommendation for speakers is to try to describe non-textual objects by few sentences if possible. Luckily, most speakers usually do this quite naturally.
Another option is to publish presentations several days before the conference, so that we can download them and review them before or during a talk. I wouldn't probably do this but I can imagine that someone would see this as helpful.
Organizers, check accessibility of Q&A tools#
One thing which surprised me was a method used for posting questions to speaker during a talk. I didn't have a laptop with me during both days, so I wasn't able to test it. However, it might be interesting to assess accessibility of this method before it is going to be deployed at the next conference. I personally didn't have urge to ask questions in this way, but someone might want to use it.
What I really liked about Pycon CZ was friendliness of all other people around during talks, breaks and afterparty. I didn't feel isolated and this is not something obvious while attending larger events. I found new friends, heard interesting stories and gained invaluable information.
Let's sum it up. PyCon CZ was really great and inspiring experience for me and I am looking forward to attend upcoming PyCon CZ or other similar conferences. I would like to thank Red Hat for providing me, Honza, and Sísa with free tickets for PyCon CZ 2016.