Jan McSorley will keynote AccessU 2016

Knowbility is pleased and very excited to announce that Jan McSorley will be the keynote speaker for AccessU 2016! Jan has vast and varied experience building and inspiring teams to integrate digital accessibility into all they do.  From early days spent persuading her peers at the Texas School for the Blind of the importance and value of the Internet to her current position as Head of Accessibility for Pearson School Division, Jan’s career has been one of passionate advocacy for fully inclusive technology.

In her talk, Jan will give her perspective on how to identify key players who can further accessibility within a company (even when those players themselves may not even realize it themselves.) She will share true stories of how to invest in and inspire them so that they wake up one day to find themselves not only playing for the accessibility team, but recruiting others to join.

In her talk, Jan will give her perspective on how to identify key players who can further accessibility within the company (even when they themselves may not realize it.)

“Fairness and inclusion are unifying concepts that almost everyone agrees are important,” Jan says. “Very few people would openly argue against the idea that people with disabilities should be afforded the same access to educational and vocational opportunities as people without disabilities.  After all, in the United States we have civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, so surely businesses and organizations are all abiding by those laws … right?”

“While it would be nice if all we had to do was pass legislation and then have everything fall into place, the reality is that civil rights laws related to equally effective access for people with disabilities are often ignored – sometimes out of ignorance and sometimes deliberately”, she adds. “The underlying reason for ignoring accessibility is that it’s a very complex problem to solve.  Even if there were scores of highly-trained accessibility professionals standing at the ready with capes in hand to save the day, most businesses and organizations don’t even understand their need for accessibility expertise, so they are most definitely not in the position to hire an elite team of accessibility personnel.”

Effective accessibility teams can be built in organizations, even without the open support of management or a robust budget.

“The fact that accessibility is more often misunderstood than understood, makes the jobs of those few enlightened individuals who find themselves as the lone accessibility voices in a wilderness of ignorance, a bit more difficult, but certainly not impossible.  Effective accessibility teams can be built in organizations, even without the open support of management or a robust budget.  The ultimate goal is that every person in an organization is a member of the accessibility team who is doing their part for accessibility within the context of their job responsibilities.”


 

AccessU is a conference that brings leading experts from around the globe to Austin, TX to teach and talk about accessible design skills. The conference provides practical resources, encouraging participants to explore various aspects of digital inclusion and master role-based skills involved in launching successful accessibility initiatives. You can register for AccessU 2016 by clicking on this link: AccessU Registration to catch Jan McSorley and other internationally known leaders in accessible design and development.

Heroes of Accessibility: An Introduction

What is Heroes of Accessibility?

We’re big fans of superheroes here at Knowbility. We love the stories as much as we love what they stand for – triumph of all that is good and just. But we also are huge fans of a different league of superheroes – the every day hero; people who make the world a little bit better with what they do. We have been lucky to meet so many of these heroes in the accessibility world – thanks to OpenAIR. But web-design and competitions aside, we decided it was time that more everyday-heroes were recognized and rewarded for their work in accessibility. We decided to call them Heroes of Accessibility. The first annual Knowbility Community Heroes of Accessibility was held last year and the awards were presented along with the OpenAIR awards at Google, Austin.Knowbility Heroes of Accessibility

 Who are Heroes of Accessibility?

Knowbility accepts nominations for Heroes of Accessibility from the public across 5 categories:

Individual Achievement

This award recognizes an individual who has contributed digital accessibility knowledge and skills to the general community.

Educational Achievement

Educational Achievement recognizes a person or group of people who have created educational resources to help technologists learn to create accessible technology.

Institutional Achievement

This award recognizes a sustained effort to improve accessibility across an enterprise. Nominees can be a business, a government agency, or a nonprofit group that has gone beyond compliance to create and integrate a culture of digital inclusion.

Emerging Leader

An Emerging Leader is an accessibility practitioner new to the field who shows leadership promise.

Unsung Hero

If you think we overlooked a category or area that should be given recognition, the Unsung Hero category lets the public nominate a person or group that deserves recognition but who doesn’t quite fit the categories above.

How to nominate for Heroes of Accessibility?

We are asking you to help us find this year’s Heroes of Accessibility. If you know someone who has contributed to digital accessibility or an institution that has created a culture of digital inclusion, let us know by clicking on this link: Nomination Form

We will collect nominations until Friday, February 19, 2016. You may submit nominations in all categories or only a few or even just one. After nominations close, a nominating committee will review the entries and publish three finalists in each category. The community will be invited to vote for (and provide arguments in favor of) their Heroes of Accessibility in March 2016. Judges will perform the final round or review and one winner will be selected in each category.

Where will I meet my Heroes of Accessibility?

The winner of each category will be announced and  the awrads presented at a happy hour ceremony on Thursday, March  24th, 2016 at the CSUN conference in San Diego.

Why Heroes of Accessibility?

Because:

“Web design is great power. Web accessibility is great responsibility.”

What Developers Should Know For A Universally Accessible Internet

This article was originally published in the September 2015 edition of “NTEN: Change“, the quarterly newsletter of NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network) and was crafted by the Marketing Team of Knowbility: Jessica Looney, Community Programs Manager; Divya Mulanjur, Marketing & Communications Associate; and Anne Mueller, Community Programs Assistant.

web accessibility icon
web accessibility icon

Web accessibility is the practice of removing any barriers to interaction with technology for anyone, including people with disabilities. Simply put, this means that when you create an application or a website, everyone should be able to access it.

The regulations that govern accessibility in the United States include Section 508 and the American with Disabilities Act. In 1998, the federal government amended the 1973 Rehabilitation Act that determined that “agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to access available to others” (Section508.gov). The American with Disabilities Act recently celebrated its 25thyear of existence. These regulations prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. The Supreme Court recently determined that the Internet is public domain; therefore, it must be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

When implementing accessibility standards, web professionals must consider a myriad of factors. Disabilities can include visual, physical, auditory, speech, or cognitive impairments. Many websites, programs, and applications contain barriers that make it difficult for people with disabilities to use. A person with a visual impairment may use a third party program, like a screen reader, that will read aloud the text on the screen. Therefore, images should contain alternative text (“alt” text) that will describe the image the person cannot see. If a person is unable to utilize a mouse when using the Internet, the website should contain architecture that allows a keyboard-only user to easily maneuver through the site. Check out WCAG (Web Accessibility Content Guidelines) “Before/After Demonstration” to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. As well, you can use WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool) to test your website’s accessibility.

In order to continue developing a more accessible Internet, web designers and developers should consider the following factors:

  • Page Title: Be sure the page has a simple, explanatory title that informs the user of the name of the site
  • Headings: Each page should have at least one heading. Maintain a friendly hierarchy when coding
  • Text Size: Some people need to resize the size of the text on the screen. To test this, zoom in on your web page to see what it looks like
  • Contrast: Use a website like Check My Colors or Contrast Ratio. The former will check your page for proper contrast, and the latter will give you a WCAG-based score after you input the text and colors you plan on using
  • Landmarks: Add at least three landmarks to your site: “Main,” “Navigation,” and “Search”
  • Keyboard access: Every element of a website should be easily accessible if a person is only using a keyboard, not a mouse. Links should be easily tabbed through, and drop-down menus should also be able to be tabbed through
  • Links: Each link should contain a descriptive name
  • Forms: Be sure any forms you have on your website are accessible. Identify the required fields
  • Do not use the phrase “Click Here”—it’s too ambiguous

One of the best ways to test for accessibility is to try it out yourself! Unplug your mouse; if you’re using a laptop, turn off the track pad. Many computers now come with their own screen reader software; turn this on. Toggle the “high contrast” switch, and zoom in or magnify a web page. How does the site look? Are there overlaps? Are the colors appeasing to the eye? Do you get stuck on a link or page when trying to navigate only using a keyboard? This should be a good test for accessibility.

Knowbility is improving technology access for millions of youth and adults with disabilities all over the world with its many community programs. One such program is OpenAIR, Knowbility’s annual global web accessibility challenge. OpenAIR invites teams of web professionals to sign up for a global competition where each team has to develop an accessible website. These websites are made for nonprofits from around the world, who also sign up for OpenAIR.

OpenAIR began in 1998 in Austin Texas, as the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR), a web design competition that would:

  1. Raise awareness among technology professionals about the need for accessible websites and software applications
  2. Provide a medium for nonprofit agencies to harness the power of the Internet and expand their reach
  3. Create meaningful connections between the disengaged technology sector and the rest of the community

Today, OpenAIR has evolved into a global teaching and learning competition that puts accessibility front and center, where it belongs. OpenAIR imparts advanced accessibility skills to web developers across the globe, creates a challenging atmosphere for participants to enhance these abilities, and keeps them engaged with games and networking events. By bringing in an experienced panel of judges and assigning leading accessibility experts as mentors to each team, the competition has been fine-tuned as an incubator of quality websites.

In its 18th year now, OpenAIR has nurtured the creation of hundreds of accessible community websites. The FCC recently honored Knowbility by bestowing upon them the Chairman’s Award for Innovation in Accessibility for this program. For many arts and nonprofit organizations, the AIR site was their first foray onto the Web. OpenAIR is growing and is on its way to becoming an established global event. OpenAIR 2015 is a technology challenge that fosters healthy competitive spirit to do good and make a difference in the world through knowledge of universal design.

#Vote for @Knowbility to #UpgradeYourWorldUSA

What is #UpgradeYourWorldUSA?

Microsoft is supporting nonprofits who are improving their world. Ten organizations will receive cash investments ($50,000) and technology. And they are asking YOU to vote for your favorite local nonprofit by posting and tweeting.

We need YOUR help to win! Here’s why and how to help Knowbility.

Why should I vote for Knowbility?

Knowbility’s community programs make the web more accessible and help to ensure that technology empowers people with disabilities.

If you believe as we do that technology access for all upgrades our world, you can make an enormous contribution just by voting! Your vote each day until Sept 23, 2015 will support our community programs:

  • AccessWorks document remediation program provides technology training and direct employment opportunity for people with disabilities – including veterans with newly acquired disability.
  • The AccessWorks Usability portal provides short term revenue opportunities for people with disabilities to earn from home using their own technology.
  • ATSTAR helps children with disabilities succeed in school by providing assistive technology training to teachers.
  • MAPgoals supports teens with disabilities to become self-advocates as they transition to college and career
  • OpenAIR raises awareness of access to technology for all, by mentoring and training today’s web professionals in accessible design skills and techniques. This is also a means to create low-cost, high quality, professionally designed websites for other nonprofits.

I’m in! When do I vote?

Now! …and every day until September 23rd. The Upgrade Your World National Initiative by Microsoft starts at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time (PT) on September 1, 2015, and ends at 11:59 p.m. PT on September 23, 2015 (“Voting Period”).

How do I vote?

There are three (3) ways to Vote during the Voting Period:

  1. Log in to your Twitter account and Tweet or re-Tweet, a public message with the hashtag #UpgradeYourWorldUSA and the hashtag #vote and our Twitter handle @knowbility.
    Here is an example of a simple Tweet: I #vote for @knowbility to #UpgradeYourWorldUSA.
  2.  You could also Tweet a short-story or the reason why you choose to vote for us.
    For example: I #vote for @knowbility to empower people with disabilities by making the web a more accessible place for everyone #UpgradeYourWorldUSA
  3. Log in to your Facebook account, visit www.facebook.com/windows  and find the post seeking public vote. Post a comment in response to this post which includes #UpgradeYourWorldUSA hashtag and the hashtag #vote and tag us: @knowbility.
  4. Visit http://wndw.ms/IjpTao and follow voting instructions to fill in our name to share on Facebook or Twitter.

You may also include text, photographs, video, voice, or like media that describes how Knowbility helps the community and upgrades the world.

How many times can I vote?

Each eligible submission – post or Tweet tagged with @knowbility and hashtags #UpgradeYourWorldUSA and #vote, will count as one vote. Limit one per person per account per day. Excess, incomplete or illegible submissions will be disqualified by Microsoft.

Everyone must have equal access to technology and internet, and if you understand the challenges of everyday (technology controlled) life that people with disabilities face, then you know that Knowbility is truly upgrading the world, so – please vote for us!

For more information, visit the Microsoft link:  http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/upgradeyourworld/

To vote on the Microsoft website visit this link:  http://wndw.ms/IjpTao

Microsoft #UpgradeYourWorld contest official rules:  http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/upgradeyourworld/TermsandConditions

Chicago’s Millennium Park, an exemplary commitment to Universal Design

2015 commemorates the 25th anniversary of the passing of the American’s with Disabilities Act.  In the past 25 years we have seen a slow steady progression: from stop gap measures taken as an afterthought to include persons with disabilities, to the current movement which we have as a community in terms of universal design.  Universal design in software, hardware, and environment refers to an aesthetic design that is inclusive to persons regardless of disability or equipment used.

When we think of accessibility we often think of wheelchair ramps, accessible bathrooms, and accessibility of technology for employment.  While these concerns are crucial for real life they do not encapsulate the full experience of a person with a disability.  A child in a wheel chair has a natural want and need to socialize just as any other child of their age.  There is a sociological need for connection and normalcy.

Kudos to Millennium Park in Chicago for demonstrating a grasp of the wants and needs for persons with disabilities to be included in recreation.

Millennium Park exceeded the standards set out in the ADA by making inclusive ramps with a slope more gradual than dictated by ADA to ease use by persons with disabilities.  They consulted with a wide breadth of nonprofit organizations in order to make sure the park set the standards for universal inclusive design.  They made adaptation to ensure that white canes do not get stuck, kids in wheel chairs can participate in playing with water fountains, and that all trails are inclusive.   For more information on Chicago’s Millennium park read here:  Millennium Park sets accessibility standards, ADA 25 Chicago says

"Good Design IS Accessible Design." — Dr. John Slatin