Vision for an Accessible SIGCHI — 2021 End-of-Term Update
Soraia Prietch, Professor, Federal University of Rondonópolis
Stacy Branham, Assistant Professor, University of California Irvine
When we stepped into our role as the first-ever Adjunct Chairs for Accessibility last October, one of our initial tasks was to outline a Vision for an Accessible SIGCHI. Our aim was to articulate both a long-term vision that would outlast our stay, as well as a set of short-term goals for enacting our vision over the course of our term, ending this July 2021. In this post, we reflect back on the past nine months of activity — what was achieved, what was not, and seeds of possibility for the future. Our “updates” and “recommended next steps” for each of the four goals are written in-line below, highlighted using Medium’s highlight feature. Through all our efforts, we were fortunate to have the tireless guidance and support of our many colleagues on the Executive Committee. If there are any successes to report, then they must be attributed to the collaborative efforts of the whole.
We seek a future in which people with a diverse range of disabilities can participate in all aspects of the SIGCHI community — as SIGCHI leaders, volunteers, and members.
Approach and Values
To realize this vision, we will work closely with the SIGCHI Executive Committee (EC) and SIGCHI members, particularly those with lived experience of disability, to identify accessibility barriers and ableist processes, co-develop and implement progressive solutions, and communicate outcomes with our membership. We will attune ourselves to the unique inequities faced by people with multiply-marginalized identities. We wish to grow a more equitable community hand-in-hand with our partners, respecting authorship and celebrating collective achievements.
We have crafted a set of four core goals (in bold) that we hope to make progress toward and ultimately to pass on to our successors in this position. For each goal, we identify specific tasks we hope to accomplish during our term (underlined).
1. Increase accessibility responsiveness and transparency for SIGCHI members
New accessibility needs and barriers are constantly arising in our dynamic field and world. To address this, it is essential to have ongoing dialogues with disability experts and transparent communication about the state of accessibility in SIGCHI, but we do not currently have a structure for this sort of engagement. We will initiate regular dialogues with ACM SIGCHI members with disabilities; SIGs with accessibility expertise like ACM SIGACCESS; and disability advocacy groups, like Access SIGCHI. We will communicate regularly about the state of accessibility, including via SIGCHI blogs and on social media.
- November 2020 — Met with SIGACCESS president, Shari Trewin, to discuss synergies between our missions and how to work together
- December 2020 — Participated in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Accessibility and Operations
- January 2021 — Disseminated our vision via a Medium blog post
- January 2021 — Gave a presentation about accessibility resources at the annual Council of Steering Committee Chairs (CSCC) meeting
- March 2021 — Co-organized Equity Talk #2: Making SIGCHI Accessible
- March 2021––Founded a Discord server for Equity Talk #2, which has since grown into a community-wide SIGCHI Discord server with the help of Neha Kumar, Kashyap Todi, Tess Tanenbaum, and the SIGCHI Operations team.
- April 2021 — Produced a video with accessibility updates for the CHI 2021 Town Hall meeting
- May-June 2021 — Published the “Toward a More Accessible ACM SIGCHI Community” in the Community Square of Interactions
- July 2021 — Shared the process, criteria, and final composition of the SIGCHI Accessibility Committee on the SIGCHI blog
- Quarterly — Held meetings with the leadership of AccessSIGCHI to share goals/needs and to coordinate efforts
- Regularly — Advertised the above events on SIGCHI’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as on the SIGCHI-MEMBERS mailing list
Recommended next steps:
- Ensure that all Accessibility Committee meetings are open-access to the public, including soliciting accessibility requests and providing needed accommodations
- Support efforts in the SIGCHI EC to make all meetings open-access and accessible to the public
- Build and maintain public-facing web pages on the SIGCHI website to report the mission, vision, strategic plan, resources, membership, bylaws, and goings on of the Accessibility Committee
- Work more closely with VP for Chapters to open dialogues with local chapter organizers about accessibility in their communities and events
- Work more closely with the VP for Membership and Communications to disseminate information consistently across all platforms
- Continue regular check-ins with SIGACCESS and AccessSIGCHI, especially as their leadership has/will recently change(d)
- Continue annual or more frequent engagements with the CSCC and conference organizers
- Plan a follow-up Equity Talk and participate in similar community-facing sessions
- Post annual updates to this blog post, including integrating the On Accessibility and SIGCHI statement made by incoming President Kumar and Executive Vice President Bardzell
2. Connect SIGCHI volunteers to accessibility resources
Accessibility is a responsibility shared across volunteer roles, yet not all volunteers are aware of the why and how of accessibility, or they simply need additional support to achieve it. While SIGCHI provides accessibility guidelines, links to important new resources (e.g., ACM’s Accessible Virtual Conferences guide) are missing. Further, there is no easy way to regularly communicate guidelines or offer advisement to volunteers. We will assemble and enhance existing accessibility guidelines for our community, streamline dissemination to volunteers, and provide customized advisement upon request.
- October 2020, updated June 2021 — Created a tracking spreadsheet for conference general chairs and accessibility chairs, to streamline communications and audit conference accessibility
- March 2021 — Developed and disseminated an open call template for conference organizers to help them recruit accessibility chairs
- Regularly — Communicated with conference general chairs and accessibility chairs about best practices and training opportunities
- Regularly — Developed and disseminated vendor recommendations and a template information sheet for meeting organizers to share with CART (live human-generated captions) and SLI (Sign Language Interpreting) providers
- Regularly — Coordinated CART / SLI for AMAs, Equity Talks, the SIGCHI 2020 & 2021 Awards Ceremony, CHI SC Meetings, IMX 2021 keynote/panels, and other events
- Not accomplished — Intended to update the Organising a SIGCHI sponsored or co-sponsored conference to better integrate accessibility
- Not accomplished — Intended to create a budget guide for typical accessibility-related expenses to help conference organizers budget adequately
Recommended next steps:
- Complete the unaccomplished goals above
- Identify, develop, and disseminate training materials (e.g., how to run an accessible meeting) that complement those already available through SIGACCESS and AccessSIGCHI
- Report findings from the IMX 2021 pilot test (see below) and share them with ACM for inclusion in the Accessible Virtual Conferences Guide
3. Track global accessibility barriers and opportunities for the SIGCHI EC
SIGCHI is an increasingly diverse organisation with numerous activities that intersect with accessibility, including supporting conference organization, overseeing aspects of publication, and developing technical infrastructure. Further, our members face culturally-situated access barriers. The SIGCHI EC currently lacks adequate documentation of these activities and barriers, making it difficult to effectively prioritize and allocate resources for accessibility. We will create a succinct document that summarizes accessibility barriers and opportunities, with sensitivity to our global community.
- Jan 3–5, 2021 — Led a series of breakout group discussions about accessibility in the SIGCHI EC Winter Quarterly Meeting
- April 2021 — Documented accessibility problems, needs, and requests in a blog post summary of Equity Talk #2: Making SIGCHI Accessible
- Not accomplished: Intended to create a map of accessibility barriers as relates to each of the leadership roles on the Executive Committee
Recommended next steps:
- Complete the unaccomplished goal above
- Continue to document findings from community dialogues, like Equity Talks
- Create a regular evaluation plan to measure and track progress on accessibility barriers
4. Advocate for lasting accessibility change within SIGCHI and ACM
As with any volunteer-run organization, the people who do the work come and go, but the culture, documents, guidelines, and policies can leave a lasting impression. We will advocate for including the AC for Accessibility position in the incoming EC; pass our documentation off to the incoming EC; and, where possible, work with staff at the ACM to update policies that impact accessibility.
- March 2021 — Negotiated a one-year long contract for SLI through SLIP, to support seamless provision of interpreting services for SIGCHI EC events
- April 2021 — Advocated for and secured an annual budget increase from ~$30,000 to ~$90,000 for accessibility-related expenses
- May 2021 — Negotiated a one-year long contract for CART through a trusted vendor, to support seamless provision of captioning services for SIGCHI EC events
- June 2021 — Worked with IMX 2021 General Chairs and Accessibility Chair to pilot test the provision of basic accessibility services for general conference events (i.e., SLI and CART at keynotes and panels) and to test the accessibility of the novel OhYay platform
- July 2021 — President Kumar and Executive Vice President Bardzell responded to calls from AccessSIGCHI to convert the AC for Accessibility position to a more permanent VP for Accessibility position in their vision On Accessibility and SIGCHI
- April through June 2021 — Formed a SIGCHI Accessibility Committee to expand and institutionalize the organization’s capacity to track and address accessibility barriers across EC terms
Recommended next steps:
- Support the amendment of the SIGCHI EC bylaws to convert the AC for Accessibility position into a permanent VP for Accessibility position
- Develop bylaws for the Accessibility Committee to ensure effective leadership transitions and regular operations
- Develop a strategic plan to implement this vision statement in collaboration with the Accessibility Committee
- Develop an accessibility budget that aligns with the strategic plan (see above)
- Analyze and report results from IMX 2021 pilot test, towards developing policies on standard provision of accommodations across conferences
- Build relationships at the ACM level and seek to move accessibility policies and practices toward adoption across the organization
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