A few years ago, Glenda Sims assured me that if I wanted to really understand accessibility, I should attend AccessU--it would entirely change my perspective on usability. This year I was able to attend the John Slatin AccessU, and yes, Glenda was right. The two-day conference, held on the St. Edward's University campus was an eye-opener and packed with information and tips.
The conference was renamed this year to honor John Slatin, UT professor of English, and director of the UT Accessibility Institute who recently passed away. John was sight-impared, and understood exactly what differently abled people need in order to access and use the Internet.
You know how I love paradigm shifts, how I reach out and snag any that look interesting...here's my big reification: applying accessibility guidelines to the Intranet makes access easier for EVERYONE, not just folks with disabilities. Consider the curb cut-out. You know, the mini-ramps at most streetcorners that allow you to more easily get a baby stroller, a dolly heaped with boxes, or a rolling backback across the intersection without having to negotiate a steep curb.
Chances are you use curb cut-outs on a regular basis. The next time you do, think about how difficult and dangerous it must have been for anyone in a wheelchair to safely and easily cross the street before cut-outs were available. A simple thing, but it can make the difference between living a relatively independent life, and a life hemmed in by barriers.
Plan in accessibility, and it's relatively easy. You'll have a much more difficult time refitting a site for accessibility--do it right the first time, and you're done!