Did you realize that Australia, as a country is only a little over 100 years old? At the time of declaring Independence from the British Rule, Sydney and Melbourne were the largest cities in Australia, and no one could come to an agreement whether Sydney or Melbourne should be the capital. The leaders did something seemingly unheard of by our US politicians — they compromised! — and chose a location that was in between Melbourne and Sydney. Not equidistant, but it worked out for both ‘parties.’ Enter Canberra, a city that is known for its meticulous planning, clear roads and has not experienced the ‘urban sprawl’ that many cities experience as they grow, with roads being expanded / bisected / or tunneled under buildings, creating confusion for overall city design and navigation.
I was quite surprised by Canberra — being a capital city that I’d never heard of before — I didn’t expect much. Boy, was I in for a surprise, the architecture was fascinating, lots of post-modern influences.
The purpose of my visit to this part of the world is to Keynote DrupalGov Australia. It was such an honor to be invited to talk to this audience about the importance of digital accessibility. Thankfully the audience was engaged and interested in the topic — and I didn’t lose anyone! Not sure if it is a cultural practice or the effectiveness of my public speaking skill, but there was no one in the audience on their laptop or mobile device. What a welcome change from the US audiences where speakers get a view of many ‘tops’ of heads as they look down at their devices to multi-task listening and working! Anyhow, it was a great conference that left me energized by the hallway conversations and passion by these Australian government administrators who felt a reignited sense of urgency to start the accessibility conversations of their digital platforms towards a better experience for all citizens, regardless of ability.
On my way out of town the next day, I paid a visit to the Australian National Gallery and it was exquisite. A beautiful building on the outside and spectacularly designed on the interior for optimal visitor flow and viewing of artwork. I really enjoyed seeing Chuck Close, Jackson Pollock, and for the first time, viewing intricately-detailed aboriginal Artwork.
My host for the conference drove me to the airport, “It’s a small airport,” he pointed out. So on my way, I had visions of Canberra airport being like my favorite ‘small airport’ which is the New Bern Regional Airport in Coastal North Carolina. There are only two gates and if you are early to your gate, you sit on rocking chairs! Upon arriving, it looked like Charlotte Douglas International with its beautiful glass facade and sculptures adorning the atrium. I thought I walked into another museum! I remarked to the fellow conference attendee whom I was also traveling with, “This is NOT small!” Thanks to this fellow traveler, I was able to get access to the Virgin Lounge, which was also beautiful. I did not feel the least bit inconvenienced by air travel that day, practically traveling in luxury.