Another Joe, Another Event: First WordPress Accessibility Day

Graphic for WordPress Meetup Accessibility Day

We are fighting to make our Communities here in the Los Angeles area aware of the importance of making sites usable by all so I was intrigued by the opportunity to learn more from the team responsible for WordPress accessibility work and volunteering would help me learn about this event, which was a first, and would run 24 consecutive hours.

I wasn’t sure but asked around on the make.mordpress.org Slack Channel looking for someone to connect me with the WordPress Accessibility Day organizing team. I had seen a story on Make WordPress.org about the event and REALLY wanted to get involved.

Earlier in the year, the first virtual WordCamp used technology but was criticized for not being accessible to everyone so another selling point for me was learning about the team’s approach, innovations, and iterations in processes that I could take back to our WordPress Santa Clarita Community.

Joe was a hero of mine. I’d taken his course on Accessibility on Lynda.com, was aware of his plugins, and our a11y Meetup leaders respected his work.

I was connected to the channel and planned on attending their next weekly meeting.

Graphic for WordPress Accessibility Day
Joint North LA Valleys Meetup to help promote first-ever WordPress Accessibility Day.

So Crazy This Could Work

Back home, I pitched a local tie-in event. A joint WordPress Meetup with the WordPress San Fernando Valley, South Central Coast WordPress Adventure Group, and our WordPress Santa Clarita Valley Meetup here in the northern valleys of LA would highlight WordPress Accessibility Day by having a full day but Meetup content focused on a11y topics.

Cool thing was that I believe we were one of the first Meetups in the WordPress space to host such a joint event. I was also hoping to have members from the organizing team drop by to talk about the event. Crazy, I know…

Help In Anyway I Could

During my first meeting, I was given the responsibility of Wrangling Volunteers for the event. My immediate personal challenge was that this event, unlike a WordCamp would be 24 consecutive hours meaning that volunteers would have to cover sessions across multiple time zones, handle volunteers and ensure logistics and instructions for behind the scenes ran smoothly when I was normally watching the insides of my eyelids. Toss in the fact that we were less than a month away.

But the leadership of Joe Dolson and his organizing team made that a breeze our weekly status worked through issues we worked on individually the week before helping with concerns. I was also excited to see the speaker’s list and to witness twenty-four straight hours of learning opportunities in a11y.

Joe Dolson opens WordPress Accessibility Day.

Heartfelt Highlights

The event opened with Joe Dolson welcoming the audience and paying tribute to a dear friend and champion in the WordPress Accessibility Community, Joseph Karr O’Connor. I fought back tears but knew at THAT heartfelt moment we would have a meaningful event. 

Another highlight of the full day was that four people that I knew personally from our WordPress Accessibility Meetup Day were accepted to speak. Alicia St. Rose, Colleen Gratzer, Meryl Evans, and Sumner Davenport would present as part of the program which gave me an immense sense of joy. Knowing how talented they are and how impactful each message they’d deliver would be provided the adrenaline I needed heading into the overnight.

Introducing Sumner and Alicia, both people I consider mentors, colleagues, and good friends took me to another level. Sumner has been single-handedly responsible for the energy and impetus in our local Northern Los Angeles WordPress Communities in relation to accessibility. I first saw her speak at a WordPress Meetup in hopes that she would speak at the first word Camp Santa Clarita. A speaker, organizer, and our north star my introduction was giving 

Alicia was the first creative techie I’d seen onstage at a WordCamp (Los Angeles 2015) and her swag, visuals, and presentation of an advanced developer topic made me want to do that.

Finally, a new member of the WordPress Community, Sally Thoun, volunteered for not one but two WordPress events in October and was my star, learning about two very different events on the fly while lending her expertise as a Marketing guru to each. So dedicated and giving, WordPress Accessibility Day and WordCamp Los Angeles we were lucky to have her.

Joe introduces Sumner at WordPress Meetup Accessibility Day

Mythical Buster/Baby Steps

Around 1 am, I began to slow dramatically. My secret to staying awake over the 24 hour event? I remembered a Myth Busters episode where the stars would test the limits of sleep deprivation with their hypothesis being that short naps throughout the day would give you enough energy to focus and stay functional (and awake). My plan was to nap between speakers (15 minutes) with an alarm to ensure I don’t wake up 8 hours later.

I was two weeks post-surgery (rotator cuff surgery) and like a newborn, sleeping whenever I could. But in my case to manage pain so staying awake was closer to my new normal allowing me to work through the night and into the morning and get me to the finish line.

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