My 3rd Mini-web design conference experience: Exposing them to the Deaf World

Attendees of 3rd mini-conference pose in front of CIIT board.
The Philippine Web Designers Organization (PWEDO), a newly formed group composed of highly dedicated bunch of web designers and experts once again had its mini-web design conference last January 22. I believe this is by far the most successful one in terms of attendance (more than 40 persons were there although around 70 signed up), venue (Cosmopoint International Institute of Technology has a bigger capacity and half of the participants are in front of the PCs) and of course the speakers. Some attendees even came all the way from Pampanga. It’s a bar camp style where anybody can speak and react comfortably with the speakers. On top of that, it’s FREE with free pizza and soft drinks courtesy of CIIT! 🙂

Although it started an hour late, I believe it was worth the wait. Six speakers took turns in presenting in that order.

  1. Jan Pabellon – Starting out with Concrete5 CMS
  2. Alfredo Palconit – SEO and Web Design
  3. Regnard Raquedan – Pricing Your Web Design Work
  4. Yours truly – How to Write a Good ALT Text
  5. JP dela Torre – Overview on front-end optimization and best practices
  6. Eugene Alvin Villar – TextPattern

Me lecturing about how to write a good alt text
Aside from the fact that they were all fantastic speakers, I won’t delve much about the event because it was already elaborately mentioned by Ia, Regnard, Jan, JP and Shari. Mia even made a cool visual summary of the event which she called sketch notes. You may want to download their presentations here.

What I want to blog about is how I slowly introduced the “techie” hearing crowd to the exciting world of the deaf. I was with my ever loyal deaf brother Ervin Reyes and a graduating student in our school Jerome Marzan. Ervin was with me during the first mini-conference at G2VC. On the second conference, I requested Jerome to join us. This time, all three of us attended. Other members of the Philippine Web Accessibility Group like Rene Orense and Charles Julius Serrano from a computer school for the blind named ATRIEV were also present.

Since my topic is about proper use of ALT text, I can easily promote accessibility issues for the visually impaired. However, it’s the concerns of deaf people whom I’m having difficulty inserting into my talk. You see, the only significant accessibility issue applied for the deaf is the use (or non-use) of closed captions on videos posted on the Internet. So how can I make them feel the presence of the deaf in the audience?

Solution? Sign language. I may not be standing there in front interpreting but people certainly notice me signing for my deaf companions while seated beside them. Also, during the “introduce yourself” part, I specifically instructed them to sign to the audience while I voice them. That way, the crowd can see their hands that seemed aimlessly swinging back and forth has a corresponding English term. A quick glance and I saw some of their faces looking perplexed and awed at the same time.

During the break, as I was busy preparing for my presentation, the ever bubbly and friendly emcee Sarah approached me. She sought my help regarding the two deaf who were with me. She wants to ask them to come inside the lecture room because the session will resume shortly. But she was at quandary as to how to approach them. I simply told her not to worry, just call them and do some hand gestures motioning them to come inside. They would definitely understand it. She just nodded with a smile. I’m not sure if she did what I told her because I was too focused with my work at hand. 🙂

Before I started with my short lecture, I introduced some members of PWAG who were there. I especially mentioned Jerome and of course, Ervin. I told the audience that he is a computer instructor for the deaf and a very skilled web designer. I even boasted that he won in the web design competition here in the Philippines and represented the country in the international skills competition in India in 2003 where he won the bronze medal. He received a cash prize of Php 100,000 from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Oohhs and ahhs were heard from the audience and a rousing applause followed. Ervin might not hear the claps but he certainly felt it.

Presentation page where I used Obama's 1-4-3 sign as example

On my talk proper, I don’t know where I can insert sign language. So I decided to use a relevant one, the one where President Barack Obama signed 1-4-3 to the crowd. I added it as one of my examples on proper use of ALT text. I even taught them how to sign I-Love-You. They all copied my hand sign.

I felt guilty when my talk went overtime from the alloted 15 minutes. That’s because quite a number of them asked questions and I had a lively pop quiz. Mae, the designated timekeeper, showed me her laptop indicating that I only have two minutes left even if I’m not even half of my lecture.

However, based on the responses I heard from participants who approached me after the event, I felt relieved because they all loved my lecture. Some of them were very happy that they received the “Basic Web Accessibility Guide for Filipinos” book as prize and congratulated me. They said they learned a lot from me. There was another guy who asked me how he can help with my cause. I gave him our school’s web address and made a brief explanation about our advocacy. 🙂

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Mini-web design conference, a success

Form, Function and Class Logo
I know this is kinda late but I just have to blog this. Successful events like this must be etched in my blog, not because I took part in it, but because it was the first time Filipino web designers banded together and took a significant step in professionalizing this amazing craft. 🙂

The mini-web design conference formally called Form, Function & Class was launched at the G2VC Techbar in Ortigas last October 30, thanks to the commendable efforts of Mae (venue used was her company) and the rest of the Philippine Web Designers Organization (PWEDO) organizers (Ia, Marie, JP, Helga, Aja, Sarah, and Kaffee). Good job guys!

Ervin, Darius and Kepler
Ervin, Darius and Kepler

One thing I’m proud to share about this mini-event is that Persons With Disabilities (PWD) community who are also web designers came in full force, thanks to the invitation posted in Philippine Web Accessibility Group’s e-group. Among those who attended were Rene Orense and Lourdes Borgonia of ATRIEV together with Julius Serrano of Evengrounds Accessibility Consulting. They represented the visually impaired sector. Our American friend Mr. Kepler Gelotte of Neighbor Webmaster came all the way from New Jersey, USA. He is orthopedically impaired yet a highly skilled web designer. MCCID’s Ervin Reyes was also there representing the deaf group. Some of our PWAG members also attended including Darius Del Rosario and of course, Rey Mendoza who was one of the speakers.

The speakers of the event were:

Me explaining about PWD population in the Philippines
Ia also has a recap of the Mini Web Design Conference.

Special thanks to our sponsors: Syndeomedia Labs, dotPH, and Pinoy Web Startup for helping make the event a success.

Since this is the first mini-conference, the group is again brewing another one hopefully this November. All of these will be in preparation for the big event scheduled in April next year.

As I have responded during the feedback session wherein each attendee expressed their sentiments, the main reason why I joined this remarkable group in behalf of PWAG, is in order for web accessibility to be promoted not only to our PWD circle, but also to the mainstream Filipino web designers. This is a good opportunity to advocate the cause of persons who cannot access vital information on the web. Based on the positive replies, I believe we are on the right track. 🙂

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Yay! First 9000 Visits + Awards!

Philippine Blog Awards Logo
2nd Philippine Blog Awards

Yay! Eleven days and three posts later, my site reached another milestone of 9000 visits! I promised myself that I will post a blog entry every time I reach 1000 visits. So here I am again! Thank you very much to my worldwide readers which comprise 80% of my visitors. I’m so excited in reaching 10000.

Last week, I received an email from the Philippine Blog Awards committee that my blog has been nominated for Best Blog under the Commentary (Social, Political, Science & History) Category. Wow! Being qualified to receive an award is already an honor. I only started blogging actively in less than five months. Yet I am already eligible for this award! Thank you very much to the awards committee! I may not be included among the top five finalist or win the award because of very stiff competition. Still, I am blessed to be considered as one. 🙂

I believe the Philippine Blog Awards is one of its kind worldwide. I don’t know of any award giving body that rewards Internet blog posts. They are now celebrating their second year. They will have their Awards Night this coming September 21, 2008 at One Esplanade. Registration starts at 5PM, ceremonies will commence at sunset. God bless to all organizers, finalists and eventual winners of this award.

Talking Hands Award
Talking Hands Award

Meanwhile, the other site that I designed, the Philippine Web Accessibility Group Official Website recently won the Gold Edition of the prestigious Talking Hands Awards! The site also received the Visual Delights Award under the Key Teaching-Learning Element.

The website merited the award because:

All of us have heard in one form or another that the “holy grail” of web design is to merge the artist and technician into one, who presents accessibility and standards compliance into beauty and understanding. (PWAG) accomplishes that task with eye candy etched in a visitors memory.

First impressions aside, the resources contained within the website are freshly presented by a large group of young people, much younger than myself, who will make a difference for we who are disabled.

The Talking Hands Website Award was established in 1986 to honor of the father’s mother of Mr. Denny Lancaster who taught him American Sign Language at an early age and to provide resources as their family searched for information about morphea.

The award’s singular purpose is to reward web site authors, who through their creative excellence provide a web site which teaches, contains teaching elements in sufficient detail, and otherwise leaves a visitor with something of significant value after returning to their normal daily activities, which will enable them to be better citizens of the world. They have been giving out this award since 1998.

View the complete comment about the Gold Edition Talking Hands Award.

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