GAWDs Meet 2006
On Saturday I popped through to Glasgow to meet with fellow members of the Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAWDs) including the founder of the guild, Jim Byrne. While there were only 9 in attendance (7 members, one spouse and a kindly minute-taker) the discussion was lively and good-humoured. Apart from myself the members who made it were:
- Gareth Alexander of Sense Scotland
- Jim Byrne of Jim Byrne & Associates
- Paul Crichton of De Montfort University
- Blair Millen of Doepud and The Letter
- Renato Uccellini of Newcastle College
- Damian Watson of Greenhouse Design
It's always nice to put faces to names, and the thumbnail portraits on the GAWDs site just don't do some members justice! Kudos to Gareth and Sense Scotland for hosting the event and for providing refreshments. I'll not go into any great detail here about the discussion that ensued, for fear of misrepresentation - hopefully there will be a minute produced and published, thanks to Anne-Marie, again of Sense Scotland.
Discussion during the morning session concentrated on the background of GAWDs, how it is constituted, its aims and objectives, and how it might develop in future. A few personal highlights (or things I remember), but please note these are my recollections and may not reflect the views of the other members who were in attendance or GAWDs itself:
- There's an obvious tension between requiring members to have already demonstrated a commitment to and some degree of knowledge about accessible web design, and the need to accommodate those who may just be starting to learn about accessibility.
- The guild is currently run as a private company limited by guarantee. Alternative organisational models were discussed, although there seemed to be broad agreement that the alternatives weren't fundamentally any better or worse than the status quo, but that increased transparency and openess would be a good thing.
- Administrators spend a lot of time screening applicants who aren't able to demonstrate the necessary commitment - it seems that a high percentage of applicants are turned away at the first hurdle. Suggested strategies for improving this situation included introducing an application fee; introducing a 'junior' membership for those who were starting our in accessible design; introducing a higher level (professional?) membership category.
- The possibility of an education programme for propsective members, students, lifelong learners and existing members was discussed. This is obviously a huge topic but with Renato and Paul coming from the education sector there is a clearly identified need and an opportunity for GAWDs to be involved in some way in the development and provision of such a programme.
- The Association of Accessibility Professionals (AAP) was mentioned, a body I was blissfully unaware of until Saturday. I'd urge anyone with an interest in web accessibility to check out their website, they seem to be doing some excellent work and are working towards an accreditation scheme for accessibility professionals.
- I took the opportunity to spread the word about the Scottish Chapter of the Usability Professionals Association (UPA). It's based in Edinburgh and holds some excellent monthly events, and if you're not in Scotland there is a broad-based UK chapter . I've found particular value in events and presentations covering usable and accessible design for non-web-based projects, with the different perspectives offered opening my eyes to potential alternative approaches in my work.
Unfortunately I had to leave shortly after lunch due to domestic commitments, but I assume that the afternoon discussion was as lively as the morning, and that the evening activities were undertaken responsibly! Apologies for the lack of photos, my camera battery died after two shots, but there were other, better-prepared snappers there so we should see some pictures soon.