It’s Clobberin’ Time: The OpenAIR Heroes Game Newsletter

Oh, the places we’ve been

The OpenAIR 2014 Heroes game on the road

Greetings, AIR participants and Knowbility supporters! We’ve had a busy time already this year, traveling and creating and learning, and we have a lot to share with you. For those of you who signed up to receive the monthly newsletter, thank you! Your support and participation are what will make this game truly epic. If we’ve left your name on the mailing list but you’re not interested in the occasional updates we send, email us and we’ll remove your name pronto. We respect secret identities here more than most people do…

Want more?

What you’ve just read is the lead-in to the current OpenAIR Heroes newsletter. To read more and subscribe to the somewhat monthly update from Elle Waters and Denis Boudreau here’s the online version of the newsletter. We know you’re an accessibility hero, join us!

Vote in People’s Choice for OpenAIR accessible web design contest

Each year, volunteer web pros contribute their time and talents to build accessible web sites for nonprofit organizations of all kinds and from all over the world.  We judge them and will give an award for accessibility at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Media Festival.  But in the meantime you can tell us which one YOU think is the best.  Please take a look and vote for your favorite

  Vote online now  at Survey Monkey

 

Last chance to sign on to OpenAIR – need three teams!

Learn digital accessibility skills AND help nonprofit group

We’re in the home stretch of recruiting for this year’s Open Accessibility Internet Rally (OpenAIR) and seeking just three more teams to make the wishes of all of our nonprofits come true. Sign your team up now!

I know you are busy – it seems everyone is CRAZY busy these days – but please, take a minute, take a breath and consider this:  Seventeen nonprofit organizations have done their homework, taken their accessibility lessons, done the orientation for being a good client, and polished up their digital assets.  Each of them is hoping to meet a team of web pros to help them realize their dream of building an accessible web site. On Wednesday night we will announce the match-ups – which web team and which nonprofit will partner in the Rally sprint.  But we only have 14 teams.

So please, if you want to take part in a fun friendly competition that, by the way will provide you with a few benefits as well.  Competing teams design accessible web sites for NPOs but get this in return:

  • Access to an online series of accessibility skills training modules by Sharron Rush, Derek Featherstone and other world renowned experts.
  • Access to the automated Worldspace accessibility testing tool
  • Access to IBM Connections online community for planning and development coordination
  • Detailed feedback and assessment of your work by Jim Thatcher, Mike Moore, Denis Boudreaux and other expert judges
  • The chance to play the Accessibility Hero game while meeting development milestones.

But don’t wait, we kick off the competition and announce the team/NPO matches on Wednesday Oct 23rd at 6 pm.  Round up your team, help an NPO and learn about web accessibility in a practical, hands-on program that is win-win-win for communities.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

Accessible Software Is Essential To Learning

A personal Story by Sabra Ewing

For many students, accessible software is essential to learning. This is especially true for those of us who rely on assistive technology. Unfortunately, despite the wealth of publicly available information about accessibility, and a host of free resources, student and educator ignorance about accessibility requirements in education continues to create unnecessary barriers for students with disabilities. Here’s a personal account that I hope will illustrate the need for increased professional development in accessible learning.

I didn’t think I would enjoy my required computer science course when I arrived there on the first day of my freshmen year of high school. We were supposed to start using a program called JCreater, which the technology personnel in my school district were unable to make usable by a screen reader. Believing this to be a great stroke of luck, I didn’t mind when my vision teacher told me that the principal would waive the requirement for me and that I would take a gym class instead. Had I just done a bit of research, I might have learned about a free accessible alternative to JCreater that would have allowed me to easily work alongside my peers, but I didn’t know enough about computer science to know what to look for. In any case, according to Newsweek and World Report, I was either attending the number 1 or number 2 public high schools in the nation depending on the year. I assumed that, if the knowledge of the teachers there, coupled with that of my blindness-specific instructors couldn’t devise a way for me to fulfill the requirement, then nothing could. I lived in ignorance for the remainder of my freshman year, thinking that, without a doubt, I had gotten the better end of the Computer Science deal than my classmates.

During my sophomore year, I began to feel slightly apprehensive about the whole affair. I learned that, in addition to the first required class, I was being denied access to three subsequent optional courses. One was an advanced placement course, another was dual credit. In all, this equated to four classes that could have gotten me more ranking points. But I pushed these thoughts out of my mind. Ranking points didn’t matter to me, I told myself. Neither did the fact that our school had a computer science team and a robotics team. It was true that both teams had many of the same members, and that I had taken to eating lunch near them each day, but that was only because they weren’t too loud, not because I had any interest in what they were doing.

By junior year, I broke down and openly admitted that my interest in Computer Science was increasing. But there would be no point in pursuing it. The fact remained…I had not touched a computer during the two weeks I had been in the computer science class. I had never tried programming for myself. How could I really be sure whether or not I could do it as a blind person?

By the time I became a senior in high school, not knowing had become too much to bear. So near the beginning of the year, when we had a three day weekend, I began doing some research into the matter. By this time, I had picked up on the fact that there are lots of programming languages and that my peers had been studying a language called Java, so I decided to see if I could do the same. That night, I spend twelve hours installing software and learning to use command line as well as the basics of the Java programming language. Ever since I compiled my first application depicting a diagonal line, I knew that computer science was for me. I never considered asking to join the computer science or robotics team because I, along with the other students in my small school, was fully aware that I lacked the necessary skill to do so. However, I did ask the Computer Science teacher why I couldn’t have taken the series of courses by using different software to debug and compile my programs. The terse response was that other software packages didn’t effectively color code various information and that in order to be successful in the class, I would surely need one-on-one assistance the school couldn’t provide. After recovering from my shock that this intellectually developed person couldn’t understand that color coding has no bearing on the experience of a totally blind programmer, I began to feel angry and hurt. This difficult situation and others like it could have been avoided through education and increased social awareness for me and the others at my school.

This is an example of how despite the existence of accessible software, I still didn’t have access to all of the same educational opportunities as my peers. Accessible materials are great, and they definitely constitute a big step forward, but those materials are essentially useless in the hands of un-knowledgeable students and educators. In this case, my teacher’s lack of knowledge meant that I missed out on a series of courses and several extracurricular activities I could have really enjoyed. Had I not wanted to find out the truth for myself, I might not today be majoring in computer information systems and thinking of switching my major to computer science. Worse, my ignorance of the software available to me meant that I inadvertently sent the message to my peers that blind people can never be their full academic counterparts. Today, schools don’t find it acceptable to deny access based on race, gender, and religion. Let’s make sure schools also display knowledge and sensitivity toward students protected under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Free webinar: How does an NPO prepare for OpenAIR?

Event:  Nonprofit (NPO) Kickoff – Join the webinar as a Guest

Date / Time: Wednesday, 9/18/2013, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM (CST)

Training Type:  Webinar

Audio:  Voice Over IP – You will need headphones with a microphone to talk.

Questions:  Email openair2014 at yahoo dot com

Knowbility’s Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) program evolved last year. What started in 1998 as a local or regional one day hackathon is now a several week volunteer program through which teams of web developers create fully functional sites for nonprofit organizations. Renamed OpenAIR since the competition is now open to NPOs, NGOs and arts and performance organizations from all over the world, it is an amazing opportunity for charitable and public service projects to get the professional support that they may not otherwise be able to afford.

I always hesitate to use the word “free” when urging NPOs to sign up for the program, however.  There is a minimal cost (a $100 registration fee so we know you mean it)  and more importantly, there is a commitment of time and attention.  Developer teams are willing to commit their time and talent to your project and your nonprofit will need to make a similar time commitment.  So if you are not sure about making the commitment, this webinar is 100% free and will help you decide of OpenAIR is right for your dot org.

Join us online to learn more about what the commitment will be and how to help your team win the OpenAIR competition and make web sites that are beautiful, that serve a nonprofit mission and that are fully accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

Here’s the detail. Join us to get the full scoop.

Event:  Nonprofit (NPO) Kickoff – Join the webinar as a Guest

Date / Time: Wednesday, 9/18/2013, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM (CST)

Training Type:  Webinar

Audio:  Voice Over IP – You will need headphones with a microphone to talk.

Questions:  Email openair2014 at yahoo dot com