Accessibility Camp Toronto 2011, and Accessibility Summit 2011!

This isn’t something that I’ve written about in great detail here, but over the past year and a half or so, I’ve become kind of a web accessibility advocate. It’s something that I’ve been able to start bringing into my work, which is very exciting for me, and I’ve become something of the accessibility go-to person in my department. Even though I’ve gained a not-insignificant amount of knowledge that we’re starting to apply, I am always eager to learn more.

Over the past week, I’ve had some great opportunities to do just that. On Saturday, I attended Accessibility Camp Toronto, an un-conference designed to bring together attendees to learn and share in a more informal environment than the traditional conference. I was able to attend a number of really cool sessions- I particularly enjoyed the demo of FireEyes from Deque Systems, and the more informal presentation about HTML5/jQuery and the Fluid Project, from members of the IDRC and Everett Zufelt.

Even though I got some really useful new information, I think the thing I took away from the conference is just how much interest and excitement has been growing around this subject (It’s not just me!). There’s an amazing community of people that are driving huge amounts of improvement in websites, applications, and all sorts of information delivery, and it’s not just because the legislation is requiring it.

On top of that, today was Accessibility Summit 2011, which is an online conference presented by Environments for Humans. There were a ton of great sessions, from some big names in web accessibility. I was a little apprehensive that an online-only conference wouldn’t have the same amount of discussion/networking/collaborative opportunity, but looking at how many new people I’m following on Twitter, I think that worry was unfounded.

Glenda Sims‘ (again from Deque Systems- these people are pretty cool!) presentation about captioning, and Derek Featherstone‘s presentation, “Everything I Know about Accessibility I Learned from Star Wars”, were major highlights of the day for me. However, every single presentation was top notch, and the issues were few, considering that there were additional technical considerations to deal with to make the online delivery work.

So now, I’m pretty much buzzing with even more ideas and excitement than normal (and I have an idea train that is already hard to slow down). Watch out!

Birthday present to me!

So I got some really awesome stuff for my birthday- a gift card for the spa so I can get a massage, and some homemade cinnamon rolls (yummmmm!). But I hadn’t gotten anything for myself yet! Until today.

I got a guitar! I’ve been wanting to learn, and now I have my very own! Now all I need to do is build up lots of calluses on my fingertips. 🙂

Almost 24 weeks of Preggonaut

It’s hard for me to believe that I’m actually more than 5 months pregnant (except when I try to put on pants). I am definitely doing my best to enjoy all the good things, though. It’s starting to get to the point now where it’s pretty obvious to people that my abdominal bulging isn’t just the result of too much cake. Though, I definitely did indulge in too much cake recently, in honour of my birthday. Mmm. Cake. People are saying how cute I look, which is nice, especially when I’m feeling a bit mountain-esque.

It’s interesting though- some parts of my experience seem to jive with the universal things. I get teary-eyed at all sorts of situations and when seeing small children and babies, I definitely like to eat a lot and sometimes crave somewhat specific things. A good rub to the belly when my ligaments are sore is nice. I was pretty excited at my last ultrasound. However, with some things I’m seemingly falling outside the typical experience. I haven’t bought a single baby thing yet, while some women have already totally pimped out the nursery by this point. We’re not finding out the sex ahead of time, or calling the fetus by a pre-chosen name (for now it is CookieMonster, or baby, or occasionally, in my head, Babynaut). We haven’t bought any minivans or enrolled in any preschools.

I always thought women were essentially completely consumed and distracted by their pregnancies- I mean, having a little alien thing inside you must be pretty distracting, right? Maybe some women are consumed, I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll become more distracted as time goes on. While I do have times where my uterine passenger is at the forefront of my mind, I am decidedly not just a walking, eating gestational sac like I imagined. I might not have the physical stamina I had previously (physical limitations being the biggest difference for me at this point), but I’m still really into all sorts of other projects, and I haven’t lost any sense of self or gained any new earth-motherness or anything. I’m glad about it.

Trip to Philadelphia and DC

So we took a bit of an interesting vacation this time, in terms of days off and placement. We took off days from a Wednesday to a Wednesday, which made for a slightly shorter vacation as we didn’t have two weekends on each end, but having two short work weeks was in a lot of ways so much nicer! So I highly recommend if you don’t absolutely have to take your time all in one calendar week, do try it.

Anyway, we drove down to Philadelphia- it being one of the few decently-sized cities on this side of the continent that we hadn’t visted yet. We decided to drive, since with me being 20 weeks pregnant I didn’t really want to deal with flying and airplane lavatories and such, and the car is much more comfortable than a seat in coach. The drive down took us about 9.5 hours or so- the weather was sunny, so it was a really nice drive overall.
Aloft hotel
We got to our hotel, which was in a New Jersey suburb of Philly. It is one of the newer Starwood offshoots, called Aloft.

The hotel was pretty nice, overall. It definitely had a bit more of a “trendy” air to it, seemingly trying to target a young professional type demographic. When we arrived and checked in, we discovered it was karaoke night, haha. The lounge was right behind the lobby and front desk, and it was a lot more of a party air than I expected, but still pretty cool. We did not participate in karaoke, haha. We did go out and get ourselves some Mexican food, because we love it and Mexican restaurants are sadly lacking in my town.

On Thursday, we did a bunch of shopping. I had held off on buying much in the way of maternity clothes because I was determined not to spend a ton more than I would on regular clothes, just for something to get me through the next few months. However, there are a lot more reasonably-priced options in the US (Target and Macy’s being the main places we hit) so I was able to get some things that I hadn’t found in the thrift stores up here yet.

On Friday, we drove a couple of hours down to DC for the day, to do some wandering around. We can hardly resist that town. Trevor lived there for a while, and we’ve been there together 5 times now. This time, I wanted to go on the Capitol tour, something I hadn’t gotten to do yet. We had a fast lunch with a friend of ours who lives there, and then quickly walked over to the Capitol Visitor Center to get ready for our tour.

Me and Ronald Reagan
The tour was pretty good! First, they usher you all in to watch a short film, which is pretty much one of those patriotic-spirit-rousing quick tours of US history engineered to make pregnant women all weepy. The score was really good too. I wish I could find a clip of it somewhere on the internet, but I suppose it’s not out there anywhere.

The walking part of the tour was fast, though. We had a good tourguide, who was enormously tall. We went down into the crypt (not that anyone is buried there, but) and saw the rotunda, and the old Supreme Court hall, and the old House of Representatives hall, and lots of statues. We went to the Senate hall as well. I got my picture taken with a statue of Ronald Reagan on the tour (it was near where we were walking, and RR has a special place in my heart because he’s the only President I’ve ever seen in person).

Trevor in front of the Supreme Court
After the Capitol, we went over to the Library of Congress and saw some of the cool exhibits there (we hadn’t been there before despite 5 visits). My feet were starting to hurt from some new shoes, so then we went outside and walked past the Supreme Court building, and started to head back to the car.

Me and the Philly Phanatic
On Saturday, we headed into downtown Philly to do some of the historic/touristy stuff there. We went to the visitor center to get our bearings (and I got my picture taken with the Philly Phanatic statue there). We went to the Constitution Center after that, and saw a sort of mixed film/theatre presentation called Freedom Rising- similar to the Capitol film, but a bit more variety in that there was a live narrator and it was done in the round with projections on surrounding screens and a 5 sided screen that flew in in the center. It was pretty cool.

Me and the Liberty Bell
After that we wandered around a bit more. We saw the Betsy Ross house, and the Liberty Bell, and I found out how to get a National Park Passport (which is a really cool thing by the way). We missed out on getting tickets for Independence Hall, but we went back another day.

Hippo at the zoo
On Sunday, we hit up Independence Hall and the zoo. The Independence Hall tour was pretty good, and it’s definitely a cool building. The zoo was not a huge zoo (though nothing seems big after San Diego), but still quite decent. We took advantage of the Big Bus Tours ride that came with our CityPass to get out there (that was actually far more useful than initially expected). It was busy at the zoo, since it was a weekend day with fair weather, but we still got to see a lot of things.

Preggonaut conquers the Rocky Steps
After the zoo, we stopped at the Museum of Art and I finally got my photo at the top of the Rocky Steps. I did not run up them.

Philly from the river
On Monday, we went to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden. It was a pretty good aquarium (though I would say that the aquarium at the Henry Doorly Zoo, though smaller, is definitely up there). It was also busy, that day being a holiday, but overall, it was really nice. We wound up having lunch there because of how timing worked out. After that, we took the ferry across the river into Philadelphia, and did a bit more walking around. We went to see Ben Franklin’s grave, mostly. By this time we were getting maybe a little sick of walking.

Tuesday was super rainy (leftovers from a tropical depression) and it was pretty depressing. However, we spent Tuesday at the Franklin Institute, which is probably the best science museum I’ve ever been to. We don’t have any photos from it, because we were having so much fun playing with all the exhibits. We walked through the giant heart, I learned when to use a defibrillator, we played at wheelchair racing, all kinds of things. It was awesome, and probably the best thing on the CityPass. After that we were intending to go to Penn and Princeton (I have a hoodie I bought at Harvard, and I wanted to improve my Ivy League collection) but it was so rainy we gave up.

On Wednesday, we drove home, mostly through the aforementioned tropical depression. Tons of rain, flood warnings, all that. It took us a few extra hours to get home, but we made it alright!

If you want, you can look at more photos from the trip.