WPCampus Online 2020 Conference Features Accessibility and Higher Education Topics, July 29-30

WPCampus, a community focused on WordPress and higher education, will host its 5th annual in-person conference as a free, online event this year. The two-day event will feature sessions, lightning talks, sponsor demonstrations, and trivia, July 29-30, 2020.

Although the WPCampus community is no stranger to hosting online events (they usually host a virtual conference in January), current events have forced educational institutions to rely more heavily on those who maintain their digital infrastructure. Many WPCampus members fall into this category and are operating under a great deal more stress as compared to previous years. The community has more than 1,116 members representing 688 institutions.

“In higher ed, ‘wearer of many hats’ is a common saying,” WPCampus director Rachel Cherry said. “Per usual, most who work in our space are already going above and beyond to cover numerous job roles. For example, I was always a team of one: I designed the site, programmed the site, performed QA, and managed content editors. With the pandemic forcing many universities to increase their online presence, higher ed web professionals are busier than ever, working to help with the transition while bearing the stress of lowered budgets, working from home, and whether or not their physical campus will open for the fall semester.”

As many institutions are moving to make their courses available online, Cherry said ensuring that vital resources are accessible has become even more critical.

“The pandemic forced a vast majority of our society’s processes and interactions to go online, and it’s shining a spotlight on how inaccessible a lot of our systems are,” she said. “For example, online event platforms became a necessity for conferences. But the vast majority of these platforms are inaccessible. Crowdcast, for instance, is nearly impossible to use if you can’t use a mouse. Using inaccessible online platforms for your event is no different from denying attendee access at the door because the building doesn’t have a wheelchair ramp.”

WPCampus Online 2020 will include a selection of sessions from accessibility experts on topics such as justifying the budget for accessibility initiatives, accessibility for non-developers, Gutenberg accessibility, end-to-end accessibility testing, and mobile site and native app accessibility testing guidelines. If you are looking to deepen your knowledge of accessibility, this conference features more sessions on this topic than most WordCamps.

The event’s schedule also includes other topics of interest to those in higher education with sessions on managing multiple WordPress sites, building a self-publishing platform, extending the WP REST API, automation tools, data visualization for WordPress, and improving website performance.

In lieu of giving away swag for the event, WPCampus is coordinating a fundraising effort for the Black Lives Matter movement and those struggling with COVID-19. The organization will match donations to the following organizations:

  • Black Lives Matter
  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • NAACP Legal Defense Fund
  • Black Girls Code
  • Feeding America

Cherry reports that more than 350 people have registered so far and she anticipates 500-600 attendees online this year. WPCampus will stream the session videos on YouTube and they will be recorded and available after the event. Registration is free, thanks the the event’s sponsors, which include many WordPress agencies, hosts, and contributing individuals.

Despite the disappointment at not being able to meet in-person in New Orleans this year, Cherry said she is grateful for the “more in-depth than usual” time the community will have to spend together during the virtual conference. WPCampus members have found camaraderie and encouragement in their community by sharing stories and asking each other for help during this profoundly challenging time.

“We’ve become a family,” Cherry said. “And not just with higher ed and other web professionals, but with the vendors that support us and want to invest in our growth. Because of our events and community, we were able to sponsor the Gutenberg accessibility audit and play a huge role in improving the accessibility of the WordPress platform. I am incredibly proud of the ever-increasing focus, education, and advocacy our community has placed on accessibility.”

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