The inaugural Knowbility Accessibility Leadership Symposium (KALS) took place earlier this year on May 15-16 at the Driskhill hotel in Austin, Texas. Knowbility board chair Rich Schwerdtfeger invited leaders in business, academia, and the legal profession to discuss ways to improve digital accessibility and challenges to inclusion for people with disabilities.

Disability rights lawyer and author Lainey Feingold attended the conference. Knowbility’s commitment to accessibility impressed her.

“I do a lot of speaking and I really know that the Knowbility conferences are very practical and hands-on and down to the nitty-gritty of what really needs to be done for accessibility,” Feingold said.

Among the roughly 20 attendees were Mike Shebanek, Yahoo’s Senior Director of Accessibility; Wayne Dick, emeritus computer science professor at Cal State Long Beach; and Mike Paciello, founding partner at the Paciello Group.

Kurt Mattes, Director of Accessibility at the VFO Group, emphasized that business leaders need to be given appropriate guidance to better understand the benefits of making their products accessible. Events like the leadership symposium can provide a platform for this kind of training.

“For too many years, we have focused on designer and developer,” Mattes said. “The business side does not understand the issue from an opportunity perspective because we have not given them the tools to understand.”

James Green, Senior Director of User Experience and Accessibility at Visa, liked that attention was given to innovation and creativity.

“Personally I would do it again, and my boss is much better able now to articulate accessibility to those above him (he is two reports away from the CEO of Visa),” he said. “He loved the entire thing, and I expect he would urge others to come.”

Feingold encourages more of these kinds of gatherings.

“I think any opportunity we all have to be creative with each other about it and to remind each other of why we’re doing it and talk about disabled people and their need for accessibility and the civil rights angle, the more we have an opportunity to come together and talk in that way, the better,” she said.