Category Archives: Accessibility

Accessibility in the Classroom

Harley Fetterman at Knowbility office.

Progress on Learning Apps Still Needed – Observations from an 11th Grader

I am a blind student about to go into eleventh grade. For the past few years, a number of my teachers have started to use partially inaccessible websites.  While being inaccessible to my screen-reader, these websites make the life of the teacher much easier. As a result, I am the one who has to find a way to complete my work successfully and turn it in on time.

I have had to use a few websites including Edmodo, Duolingo, and Sapling Learning. For both Sapling Learning and Duolingo,  much of each website is accessible. On Duolingo there were inaccessible pictures (no text alternatives to tell me what was in them) in addition to certain features, such as the translate function, being only accessible by mouse (which I can’t use.)

On Sapling Learning, there were many symbols and diagrams that were just pictures, and therefore could not be accessed with a screen-reader. As a result, the best option for completing assignments on these two websites was to have a human reader read the questions aloud and then have me tell them which answer to put in. I really don’t like that because I would much rather interact directly and independently.

I was able to create my user account on Edmodo, but after the initial set-up, Edmodo becomes very hard to use on Windows systems. The website has links, buttons, etc. that when clicked on, bring up a list with inaccessible links or with no apparent effect. The website also has various edit boxes with no apparent functions. However, because Edmodo has an app for the iPhone, I was able to use Edmodo just as effectively as my peers on that platform. The much simplified app still does everything required of it, including turning in assignments, and sending and receiving notes with teachers.

In short, school continues to throw me some curve balls, and though there is always a way to accomplish a task, accessibility helps the process run better and allows me to focus on learning, instead of accessibility issues.

Open letter on future of web accessibility from Rich Schwerdtfeger

Dear colleagues in digital accessibility,

We are at a critical juncture in the in the accessibility field today. More pressure than at any previous time has been placed on businesses world-wide to deliver accessible Information and communications technology (ICT). The great recession has forced people with disabilities to take action to pressure  governments and legal systems world-wide to establish policy to protect their rights to access ICT and be gainfully employed. In the past six years we have seen the adoption of WCAG2 AA, the web accessibility compliance criteria referenced by Australia, Korea, New Zealand, the Canadian Look and Feel, and the ADA. It will also be harmonized with a whole set of new requirements in the U.S. 508 refresh and EU Mandate 376. We have seen the enforcement of the CVAA in the U.S. and we have seen the ratification of U.N. Convention in over 140 countries setting the stage for public policy. There are other examples as we know but this comes at a time when we are fast approaching the loss of a generation of accessibility professionals that grew up in the assistive technology business and will eventually be exiting the job market. These people know how assistive technologies work. They know how platform infrastructures work and how ATs use it. With that knowledge and credibility they know how to drive change. What will happen when they are gone?

It is abundantly clear, I believe to all of us, that with the industry pressures to produce accessible ICT that we are going to have a shortage of knowledgeable, skilled accessibility professionals. This is why many have joined the IAAP – to help create curriculum and standardized education. However, we all know that this is only as good as the teacher and in our industry a qualified teacher of our craft must be passionate and focus not just on compliance but the usability of the solution. That requires education from a qualified, passionate teaching organization to put that course material together and deliver it in a way that will energize a new generation of accessibility professionals – that organization is Knowbility.

I joined Knowbility’s board a little over a year ago. In my mind they represent the best teaching organization of the accessibility craft. The people who have come out of Knowbility – either directly, through participation in Open AIR and AccessU or indirectly by hearing Knowbility presentations at conferences – come out motivated, invigorated, and driven. Knowbility is also a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is teaching accessibility. Yes, they do accessibility consulting engagements but it is for the purpose of producing accessibility education and supporting community programs and advocacy. Unfortunately, AccessU and Open AIR do not scale to the global scope currently needed.

This is why we have set out to build an LMS system to capture the necessary education and dispense it to organizations to build the skills to produce accessible IT, learn how to use web accessibility testing tools and countless assistive technology software. Some of the tools I use include IBM’s Policy Tester of course but I have learned to use others like Deque WorldSpace, JAWS, VoiceOver, Assistive Touch, TalkBack and other Android AT and voice recognition in order to understand how code interacts with them. Many of you reading this probably use still other tools and we need a wide range of training to produce reliable test results.  We need to teach how platform infrastructure can enable products to work with these tools to deliver a rich user experience to those with varied abilities. More importantly, we need to use an online resource for our community to collectively build the next generation of accessibility leaders. I would also like to see Knowbility produce IAAP certified education as well since Knowbility has a vast experience in teaching  accessibility and inspiring excellence, not just competence.

When industry leaders created ARIA and drove its adoption and standardization, we did not ask people to pay for it. We filed no patents on it. We made all our code contributions open source. This was a multi-million dollar investment for which many of you have benefited and for which we raised the bar for what it meant to be accessible. To build this online education system we need to give back too. Knowbility’s resources are limited, but they have identified a great matching opportunity if they can demonstrate community support for the concept.

Please donate to this effort and lets help create the next generation of accessibility professionals. Join our IndieGoGo campaign and urge others to join as well. The future of accessibility relies on greater understanding and improved skills.  Thank you!


Rich Schwerdtfeger

Want a more accessible web? Help build online training!

I am writing this today to ask everyone who cares about web accessibility to consider making a contribution of any size to our campaign to create Online Training to Make Sites and Apps Accessible and then to help spread the word.  Here’s why:  Each year at John Slatin AccessU, Knowbility provides live, in-person accessibility training with contributions from experts from W3C, Deque, Simply Accessible, Paciello Group, Adobe, and more. Here are links to a couple of videos that might help you get the sense of joyful teaching and learning that occurs at AccessU:

AccessU 2012 video on YouTube

St Ed’s Proud to Host AccessU video on YouTube

For more than 10 years, Knowbility has provided this training with support from St Edward’s University and the folks mentioned above. For more than 15 years, we have created web accessibility training as part of the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) community program. But we share the concerns expressed in our community that isolated, in-person training can’t meet the scale of the critical need for accessibility skills  in the current technology landscape. So we are inspired to try to build a collaborative online venue, an accessible medium for all to share their knowledge just as we do in Austin each May. Knowbility will curate, just as we do the live AccessU. If instructors wish to charge for the courses they deliver through this platform, Knowbility will facilitate for a small management fee. The idea is to build a collaborative go-to place for just-in-time, modular online training that will help grow web accessibility skills and expertise to the scale needed to effect real change.

Volunteers Bill Corrigan and Brain Sullivan launched an Indie-Go-Go campaign and we apologize in advance for the lack of accessibility of THAT platform. Just as with LMS, we found no crowdfunding application that meets WCAG Level AA conformance – and we can’t imagine any of them have even heard of ATAG. The irony does not escape me and just goes to show, as Jim Thatcher commented on the campaign site, that developers everywhere need to learn practical skills and understand how and why to make online information and interaction accessible to all.

If we can demonstrate support within our community, your donations will be matched 3 to 1.  We tried to provide some useful perks but hope that you are also motivated to help by the shared vision. We seek to create an accessible, interactive online space where people across the spectrum of roles and responsibilities that touch web accessibility can teach and learn from one another. Please help! Donate now to the campaign for online accessibility teaching and learning.

Thanks very much!

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!

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!