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By saquino

What I make is caring about accessibility

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

[Steven Aquino is a freelance writer specializing in iOS accessibility. He writes at and is co-host of the Accessible podcast.]

xoxo 2014

In my 33 years on this planet, I’ve never done much traveling. Until recently, the only time I’d left my home state of California was in 2002, when a good friend of mine and I went to Las Vegas to celebrate my 21st birthday. (That trip also marked my first time on an airplane.)

It took me 12 years to again leave the friendly confines of California, as earlier this month my girlfriend and I drove up I-5 to Portland, Oregon for the XOXO conference.

When you apply for XOXO, which is a conference for “independently produced technology and art,” you’re asked to describe what sort of things you make. What I put down is that I write about Accessibility on iOS. In all honesty, I didn’t think I would get in; for some reason, I thought what I make wasn’t big enough or important enough for such an esteemed festival. In short, I never expected to go.

Turns out, I was selling myself very short. My application was accepted.

I paid the $500 fee for the all-access pass, and I had an absolute blast. Given the fatigue I suffer from (caused by my cerebral palsy), I didn’t go to every talk or every social event, but the things I did go to were extremely fun and rewarding. On a personal level, I got to meet so many folks and talk about what I do and why. Most notably, I had opportunities to meet both John Gruber and Jason Snell, both of whom gave me big kudos for my work and my reputation. All in all, the majority of my time spent at the conference was networking to the fullest degree. At the very least, all the conversing was a boon to my Twitter account, netting me a lot more followers at the end than I had coming into Portland.

Yet for as valuable as the networking was and for as cool as it was to meet two of my Internet heroes, the macro-level take I have of XOXO 2014 is most important to me. I was there representing the accessibility community. I was there showing anyone paying close attention that advocating for people with disabilities matters. That people with disabilities can overcome adversity and be successful. I wasn’t a guest speaker, but it was critical for me to act as a voice for my work and for the accessibility community. If anything, the fact that I traveled over 500 miles to go to this thing was a big indicator of personal and professional growth. In short, it was a huge weekend in more ways than one.

It means so much to me that The Andys let me be a part of the fun this year. The swag bag was cool, but the experiences were even better, and I most definitely am looking forward to the 2015 edition of XOXO.

Now it seems that I’ll be leaving California at least once a year.

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