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Tech Inclusion 2016: In A Word, Welcoming #TechInclusion16

By Nick Lum

Deaf in Tech at #TechInclusion16

Deaf in Tech at #TechInclusion16

The second annual Tech Inclusion conference took place last week at the Google-owned hangar near the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. This event brought together people from companies large and small, as well as from various levels of government. The panels were relevant and informative, with talks on diversity, inclusion, and technology. And the speakers hailed from big tech companies and included both newcomers and standard-bearers in the accessibility community. 

But the best part about Tech Inclusion was the friendly and welcoming atmosphere. At many tech conferences, attendees are buried in their phones or laptops and do not engage with people they don’t already know. Perhaps because the conference is so new, and thus most of the attendees were first-timers, people seemed surprisingly open to meeting and chatting with new people. 

Though I saw some old friends at the conference, the most interesting conversations I had were with folks who approached me and struck up a conversation. For the most part, these people worked for large companies or governmental agencies outside Silicon Valley, and they had come to see what tech companies are doing in terms of diversity and inclusion. All of them were first-timers at the conference, like me. We talked about our work, our hopes for the conference, and our motivations for coming. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in learning more about diversity and inclusion—learning about what other companies were doing, offering to help, and creating meaningful connections. 

It was also nice that device usage wasn’t quite as high as at most tech conferences. Sure, people checked their phones, and some people had laptops with them, but overall folks were paying attention to the people in front of them—both during presentations and while milling about. This was a welcome change, and it probably helped create a welcoming environment where conversations and friendships could flourish.

I don’t know if the culture of this conference will change in future years, but I’ll definitely be back next year to meet new friends and reconnect with old ones!

Nick Lum is the founder of BeeLine Reader, an Intel-backed company that makes reading on-screen easier, faster, and more accessible.