When I speak at a conference, I generally put in many hours of prep time. First coming up with a topic, talking about it with my friends and colleagues, refining the idea to something that the audience will find useful and hopefully entertaining. Then I spend time coming up with the actual content of the talk. Preparing slides, refining them over and over again, practicing both by myself and with others. All of that so when I get on stage, the people that paid (either with money or time) can hopefully learn something and be inspired to go home and put into practice what I talked about.
After Accessibility Camp DC, I decided that I wanted to speak at the 28th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, or as it is known in the Accessibility community, CSUN. I started thinking about what I could contribute. About what I could add to the discussion. I even started to write up my idea and had discussed it with a few people who seemed to think it would be great and could move Accessibility and Open Source forward. That is, until I re-read the submission page and saw this:
Speaker Registration Fee: $375
Charging speakers a fee to speak is counterproductive. It discourages talented speakers from putting in the time it takes to develop great talks and encourages people with something to sell. I have nothing to sell except ideas. What I gain from speaking is an intrinsic sense of accomplishment that I helped people learn or that I inspired someone to think different. My friend Andrew Nacin put it well. “Accessibility is important. So, let’s scare the speakers away!”
I’ll stick to talking about accessibility at camps. Free to speakers and attendees alike. Events and conferences should be about education, not money.