Yahoo!’s roving reporter: Pecan, the guide dog

The multi-purpose room on the campus of Cal State University Northridge was too small for the number of people and wheelchairs and white canes and guide dogs assembled for this first annual CSUN Conference on Technology and Disabilities. I was introduced as the Keynote speaker and weaved through the crowd as I delivered my remarks. I weaved because there wasn't a podium. There was only a floor. And very little space.

It would have been a pretty good speech (I think) if I hadn't stepped on the tail of that sleeping dog.  That's when I learned that in addition to barking and howling, dogs can also shriek. I also learned that dog-shrieking can significantly alter the rhythm of a presentation.

This year, on its 25th anniversary, the CSUN conference will be held at the Grand Hyatt in San Diego to accommodate the more than 4,500 people from around the world expected to attend.   The growth of this annual conference has been stunning, reflecting accurately the energy and innovation we witness everyday in the fields of assistive technology and rehabilitation.

The Yahoo! Accessibility Team—from Sunnyvale and London and Bangalore--is preparing to participate again in this year’s CSUN Conference. And as before, our presence will be notable. We are delivering 2 presentations showcasing the accessibility of Yahoo!’s Homepage and the business benefits of accessibility.  We are also participating in an international tweetup, a number of private sessions with our strategic partners, a videotaping on the history of assistive technology, press interviews, and, of course, excessive eating.

This year we’re also trying something new and unprecedented. Building off an innovation originally created at a Yahoo! developer Hack Day, we’re giving everyone at CSUN and around the world an opportunity to experience the conference from an entirely new perspective, that of a guide dog (how fitting) named Pecan. With her owner, Lucia, Pecan will be carrying a camera on her harness that will take pictures of CSUN every 30 seconds and send them wirelessly to our photostream at: www.flickr.com/photos/seeingy.

Pecan. A guide dog. And now, Yahoo!’s roving reporter. I plan to walk carefully around her.

-Alan Brightman, Sr. Policy Director, Yahoo! Inc.

P.S.  A big thank you to Victor Tsaran, Ted Drake and Robyn Tippins for their creative thinking and making the guide dog camera concept a reality.