Accessibility Challenges — What did we do in the early days?

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Last weekend I returned to the US with an entirely different perspective on my access to information.  I had just spent the week at the PNLA Conference in Victoria, BC where connectivity was a major challenge for me.

When I’ve traveled in the US, Ive always been confident that hotels and convention centers will offer me free, reliable wifi.  I admit now that I was incredibly naive as I crossed the border between 2010 and the 1980s.   

I, unfortunately, was so caught up in getting ready for, and getting to, the conference that I forgot to plan ahead–I forgot to arrange for international calling and data transfer for my iphone.  It was quite the shocker to be able to turn on my phone once landing in Canada to be told by my trusted, omnipresent phone, that I have no coverage.  I was then advised that data transfer would by $15+ per certain amount of data transferred if I accessed the web.  Airplane mode went right back on at that point!

I stayed at the historic Empress Hotel–which was lovely but did not offer wifi access.  Nor did it readily offer internet access–it was a land line and cost $15.64 Canadian per 24 hours.  I grumbled and bemoaned my fate and ponied up the credit card number.  i needed to access all that information I had so cleverly stored in the “cloud” for portability!  I whined to my fellow board members–who told me that the conference planners had been unable to negotiate internet access for conference attendees at the hotel or at the conference center for anyone except 1 presenter per room.  (I must have missed that vital piece of info during a board meeting.)  On a good note, I could join the hotel’s VIP club and then get free internet access.  Well, for some reason I couldn’t do it from inside the bubble of what I had paid for so I waited until the conference started and signed up at the internet cafe.  (Thank the heavens for internet cafes at conferences!!!!) 

I found out that wifi was offered in limited ways to conference attendees for the pre-conferences and that because of a horrible technological glitch that day, attendees in a particular session were refunded their preconference fees by the conference center.  Then, sometime during the conference the conference center began offering wifi.  I found out about this on the last day of the conference at the end of the conference sessions when i was thanking the internet cafe vendor for their services.  i told him my story and he said he’d been using wifi all day! 

So, what is the moral of my story?  What great truths were revealed to me?  Well, I learned that I really should plan better for international travel.  I learned that I am way too dependent upon my phone and computers for what I need (and yes, I am chagrined to admit that).  I was lucky enough to recall the 1980s when technology was only just becoming available to the masses.  The internet was not available to the public yet.  I was forced to “look up” and be more involved in my sessions rather than tweeting and blogging about them while they happened.  In some ways I was more engaged and in others i was thinking to myself–“wow that was great! I wish I could share that with folks RIGHT NOW!”   I’m glad I was reminded of how far we’ve come, but ever-so-thankful to be connected again!

Did you miss the PNLA/WLA conference in Victoria, B.C.?  Many of the conference presentations and handouts are available at http://nwcentral.org,a local library continuing education clearinghouse.  The easiest way to see all the PNLA/WLA materials is to enter pnla/wla into the search
box.