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

Disability is Not a Problem; it is Part of Who You Are.

Article by Patricia Walsh, Principal at Blind Ambition Speaking and USA Para National Olympic-Distance Triathlon Champion 


When I was growing up, the future for persons with disabilities did not seem bright to me.  I was coached in the process for applying for SSDI.  I believed to collect social security was my ceiling with regard to my potential for inclusion.  As I have lived to see the tremendous change brought on by accessible technology I’m thrilled to have experienced firsthand the shattering of a ceiling of human potential.  Working and contributing is more than a pathway to income, it is a yellow brick road to quality of life, self-worth, and a sense of achievement.  Organizations such as Knowbility and similar organizations like the Blind Institute of Technology are driving the cultural changes to create new opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Mike Hess is the founder of the Blind Institute for Technology based out of Denver, CO.  This nonprofit organization is dedicated to increasing representation of persons with blindness in the workforce particularly in the fields of science, math, engineering, and technology.  Hess believes that his success in the corporate world was not in spite of his blindness but actually attributed to his blindness.  He believes his listening skills, problem solving, and resourcefulness made him an invaluable contributor in corporate America.

Hess started BIT in order to be part of the solution.  They offer training for persons with blindness in tech-skills.  They also interface with corporations to convey that persons with blindness can be an invaluable peace for any solution.  BIT is a similar program to Knowbility’s Access works program.  Access Works has a reach beyond blindness but similar in its approach.  The premise being that the disability is not a problem it is an asset.  In a world that values diversity and creative solution there is now access to a previously untapped pool of talented skills individuals.

Congratulations to BIT and Mike Hess for building on a change in perspective that may result in improved quality of life for individuals with blindness in the Colorado region.  For more information regarding Bit please read here:

The Future of Accessible Software: Sharron Rush Interview

Partners on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) recently interviewed Knowbility’s Executive Director, Sharron Rush, on her thoughts regarding the future of accessible technology.  Sharron states that some huge impact has been made by corporations such as Apple putting their best designers on inclusive design.  By designing innovative tools like Siri, they added accessibility features which also appeal to users of any ability.  This opens up products to the mainstream consumer which drives down the cost.

The onset of ubiquities technology has made huge leaps to level the playing field.  It is also true that the fast pace of technology has created some barriers as historically, accessible technology has not caught up.  Sharron predicts that we are currently in an age of starting to understand the problems presented by technology and with improved awareness and dedication we can move to a model of inclusive design.  The population of persons with disabilities is only growing as the aging population increases.  Companies like Apple have led the way.  Inclusive design will be the future of accessible technology which will create a win-win-win for users of adaptive technology, corporate bottom line, and mainstream consumers.  For more information and the full interview please visit:

SXSW Dewey Winburne Community Service Award Nominations are now open!

Dewey Winburne Community Service AwardsEvery year SXSW honors 10 amazing people serving their communities in different ways in honor of SXSW Interactive co-founder, Dewey Winburne. Dewey was one of the original co-founders of the SXSW Interactive Festival, but he was many other things in the Austin community: a family man, a teacher, a visionary, a connector and an innovator. He believed that technology could bridge the digital divide and help those less fortunate than others.

Knowbility stands to prove that all individuals deserve an opportunity to make an impact in their community through access to education, career, and opportunities to pursue all things web technology. The SXSW Dewey awards are intended to honor technology change makers that are using hi-tech for good in their communities.

Nominate someone you know (or yourself) at today through August 7, 2015, for a chance to be honored at the SXSW Interactive festival in March 2016. Each honoree also receives $1,000 to grant to their favorite 501(c)(3).

AccessU 2015: Put People First


Registration is open for this year’s AccessU themed, ‘Accessibility: Put People First’ at

The conference will provide practical resources, encouraging participants to explore various aspects of digital inclusion and master the role-based skills involved in launching successful accessibility initiatives.

AccessU is a conference that brings leading experts from around the globe to Austin, Texas to teach t accessible design skills.  AccessU promotes universal access to the web, including for people who are blind, have low vision, are deaf or hearing impaired, have mobility impairments or have other kinds of disabilities. The conference was first launched in 2004, and has since then been an annual event conducted by Knowbility with sponsorship and support from St. Edwards University and Deque Systems, and other leading tech companies.

The conference will feature internationally known leaders in accessible design and development, including:

  • Accessibility pioneer and superstar Henny Swan (lead editor of BBC Mobile Accessibility  Standards and Guidelines and a regular speaker at conferences like SXSW, the World Wide Web Conference, Tec share, Accessibility 2.0, access, Mobile Monday and CSUN),
  • The development team from the Web Accessibility Initiative and Education and Outreach working group of the W3C – Shadi Abou-Zahra, Shawn Henry, Kevin White and Eric Eggert.
  • User Experience guru, Whitney Quesenbery (author of Storytelling for User Experience and Global UX: Design and research in a connected world)
  • Sarah Horton (User Experience Strategy Lead with The Paciello Group and award winning author of the book Web Teaching Guide) among others.

For the full list of speakers and instructors, visit

Join us May 11th – 12th at St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas and for a post conference workshop May 13th for three days of learning, sharing, exploring, and fun!

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