Day 2 – CSUN Presentation Day – Accessibility in Visual Studio ("Whidbey") and ASP.NET

Sorry to keep ya’ll in suspense how the presentation went. I didn’t get back to my hotel room until after midnight last night. The bottom line: the presentation rocked.

Although the alarm clock is set for 7:30am, I’m wide awake (not by choice) at 6am. Instead of fighting a hopeless battle to get back to sleep, I decide to use the time to do some final preparation work and to iron my clothes.

While waiting in the lobby for Brian, a guy sitting to my right at this little table asks me if I’m presenting today. I said, “Please tell me you just read “speaker” on my badge, and not because I look nervous.” He just laughed. Smart guy, since that was a correct response. I describe to him what I’m going to demo, going into detail about how Visual Studio not only makes it possible for a developer using Assistive Technologies to be productive in our environment, but also the applications we create are accessible. A lady to my left was about to walk away, but now she puts down everything in her hand to start applauding what I just said. It’s always good to know random people appreciate the work you do.

I meet Brian at 10am for me to do a quick walk-through, practicing my cadence, delivery, and style. I describe the webpage, a guestbook to be exact, in every detail by going over every control and element so everyone in the audience can follow along. I think this webpage is now a permanent Kodak image in my mind.

Doug, from GW Micro, meets Brian and me at the lobby at 11:30 to go over the demos using Window Eyes, the screen reader I’ll be using to demo how the web pages are now much more accessible using the ASP.NET Accessibility QFE. We joke about how Window Eyes is smarter than we are, because Window Eyes makes the assumption that the first row of a table generated by a data grid control is really a row of headers and not regular cells. One of the fixes in the QFE is that ASP.NET now correctly uses the <th> header tag for the first row. It’s kinda difficult to demo something is broken when the screen reader reads it as if it isn’t broken.

It’s now about 1:15pm. 15 minutes to showtime. The conversation at the table is about divers who have been killed by sharks, followed by references to a classic movie about sharks. I told them to switch the subject. I’ll let you figure out why on your own. <smile>

Just before I get on stage, I look over to those non-existent sign language interpreters to see that there is no one sitting in that particular reserved section, so as far as I am concerned at that point in time, I do not need to care about the sign language interpreters. Sure, there could have been someone in the back watching them, but denial can be a very good thing.

The Presentation…

All the demos went perfectly. Everything went according to the script. The only thing I wasn’t prepared for was when Brian asked me how many lines of code I had to write to create a navigation bar (aka a SiteMapPath) with a SkipRepeatedLinks control. I looked at him like “huh? I just dragged and dropped it on the form.” And he answered his own question with, “Zero!”, slightly chuckling. Everyone laughed, including myself.

There were some great questions after the presentation that I will summarize in my trip report. Both Brian and I answered questions, and it felt so good to answer technical questions with technical answers.

After the presentation, after talking with various audience members, and after thanking Brian profusely for his help, I crashed on a sofa in the MS speakers’ break room. I was exhausted from everything.

Later that night, all the Microsoft speakers and other Microsoft folks went to an Italian restaurant called Ago here in LA. Sitting behind us was ZZ Top. I guess famous people like to eat out a lot in LA.

Comments (2)

  1. Kathleen Anderson says:


    I was at your presentation – I just want to say "you rock!". I would have never known it was your first presentation.

    The accessibility features that Microsoft is building into their products is awesome – it just gets better all the time 🙂


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