Introducing W4A

As we begin preparations for W4A 2015, this is the first of a series of blog posts introducing you to W4A and its unique role in the web accessibility conference calendar. In subsequent posts, we’ll reflect on W4A 2014 and keep you updated on developments for the upcoming W4A, in Florence, Italy.

W4A – the Web for All conference

There are many great conferences and events on digital accessibility, of different sizes, formats and in different locations—all with very important roles to play in raising awareness and furthering knowledge of accessibility, and supporting exchange of ideas.

W4A, the Web For All conference, is a web accessibility research conference—and is open to everyone, whether you’re an academic or industrial researcher, or interested in research directions for accessibility. Over the years, W4A has developed a reputation of a growing community of friendly, knowledgeable people who share a passion for furthering understanding and knowledge of web accessibility.

W4A’s primary definition of “accessibility” is people with disabilities and the Web. But we also recognize that other people may benefit from accessibility innovations, and in some cases, innovations that came about from solving other problems can have benefits for people with disabilities too.

The conference structure

W4A is always co-located with the annual WWW conference, the largest Web conference in the world. It takes place in Spring, any time between early April and mid May, and is always located in an interesting city. The location will usually cycle on a three-year basis between North/South America, Europe, and Asia/Oceania. 2014′s conference took place in Seoul; 2015 will be in Florence, and 2016 will be in Montreal.

The conference lasts for 3 days, covering the Monday to Wednesday of WWW week:

  • Monday and Tuesday are full days of scheduled keynote talks, presentations of papers and demonstrations of accessibility innovations. These are all in a single track— there are no parallel sessions, so you don’t have to choose between sessions.
  • Wednesday is less formal. In the morning is W4A Camp, an unconference style morning of discussions and activities. On Wednesday afternoon, there will be a panel session debating some contentious topic relating to web accessibility. (Update: there are plans to extend the Wednesday activities for W4A 2015 – more details when we have them…)

The W4A Dinner is on Monday evening, but we arrange informal evening get-togethers on the Sunday and Tuesday as well, supporting a conference spirit of a single community of people who work and socialize together

What’s special about W4A?

Here are the values we try to promote and preserve at W4A every year:

  • It’s a research-focused conference, so is particularly interested in scientific enquiry into identifying, understanding and tackling specific Web accessibility challenges.
  • As well as technical research studies, W4A also welcomes quality case studies and studies of policy and strategy applied to web accessibility. You don’t have to present results of an empirical investigation using controlled experiments—any quality submission that helps to further knowledge and understanding of web accessibility is welcome.
  • It has a philosophy of openness and supportiveness—a chance for researchers to present their work and receive informed feedback from their peers. This makes it an ideal place to present early findings from large scale accessibility research projects
  • W4A has a specific goal of encouraging and supporting student researchers to attend and present their work, through our student competition, which offers funding to support the costs of attending the conference.
  • Keynote speakers might be distinguished researchers from the accessibility, Web or HCI fields, from academia, industry or the public sector; but they may also be from other disciplines, providing a fresh perspective on the future of web accessibility.
  • We always welcome W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) staff members, who give valuable insight into WAI activity, and feedback on how researchers can support the process of using their research. knowledge to contribute to guidelines and other WAI resources.
  • Through the W4A Accessibility Challenge, sponsored by The Paciello Group, W4A recognizes demonstrations of innovation in using the Web that have the potential to make a real-world difference to people with disabilities.

Why would you want to attend?

  • If you’re a researcher, then W4A gives you the chance of a well-regarded publication with an excellent chance of attracting a good citation count compared to other conferences in the HCI/accessibility domain.
  • If you’re a developer, product manager, accessibility manager, UX practitioner, or policy maker, who’s interested in learning more about what the accessibility research community is doing, W4A can help you do that. And if you have something to contribute, you’ll receive a positive and supportive response.
  • Regardless of who you are or what you do, one constant of W4A conferences over the years is that you’ll meet and network with bright minds and friendly faces.
  • You’ll not miss anything – no choosing between parallel sessions, so conference discussions will focus on research that everyone has had a chance to hear about.

So come and join us in Florence!

David Sloan is an Accessible User Experience Engineer with The Paciello Group. He joined TPG in May 2013, after nearly 14 years researching, teaching and providing consultancy on accessibility and inclusive design at the University of Dundee in Scotland. He is a member of the W3C WAI Research and Development Working Group (RDWG) and a Steering Committee member of the W4A Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility.

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