Category Archives: WAI

AccessU at CSUN2012: Developing Your Web Accessibility Business Case and Learning about WAI Resources for You

Knowbility is pleased to welcome Shawn Lawton Henry to AccessU at CSUN on Monday, February 27. Shawn is the author of the free online book Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design.

During the plenary session, Shawn will offer attendees a tour of the extensive resources available from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Since these resources are essential to understanding why Web accessibility is important, as well as how to implement it, Shawn’s presentation promises to establish an excellent foundation for the rest of the conference. You’ll learn what’s available from the WAI site and how to find the information you need.

Building the Business Case for Accessibility

Later on Monday, at 3:30 PM, Shawn will speak to administrators, evangelists, project managers, Web developers, people with disabilities, and anyone interested in developing a business case for Web accessibility. She’ll focus her discussion on the WAI’s Business Case Suite. This set of documents, developed by the WAI’s Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG), presents different social, technical, financial, and legal and policy factors that play a part in making the business case for specific organizations and situations.

You’ll be engaged in hands-on exercises and discussion so you’ll leave this presentation fully prepared to develop the first draft of your organization’s business case. Be sure to bring your laptop and your questions.

To learn about what resources are available from WAI and how to build your business case, sign up for this workshop, along with others that will be held as part of Knowbility’s AccessU at CSUN 2012. After the conference, Knowbility will be glad to work with you to help flesh out your business case draft and assist you with implementing accessibility in your organization.

Considering the Case for Creating an International Society of Accessibility Professionals

This is Part 2 of a blog series.  The first was Web Accessibility and Coming of Age

The 27th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference will be held in San Diego between February 27 and March 3, 2012.  On Tuesday of that week, the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance (AIA) – the technical and engineering division of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) – will host an Accessibility Forum. For a $245 – $295 additional fee beyond the cost of the regular conference, attendees may participate in a series of panels and discussions entitled “Taking Accessibility Mainstream – Making the Case for an International Society of Accessibility Professionals.”

CODE for Accessibility Task Force

The forum discussion is based on research, commissioned by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), about the barriers to the implementation of accessible design techniques by mainstream developers.  I participated in the research project as Chair of the Sub-Committee on Education for the project which ATIA led and named the CODE for Accessibility Task Force.  The Task Force describes itself as  “driven by the private sector and focused on the accessibility-related needs of the developer community.”

It is quite a worthy project and ATIA is to be commended for organizing it. I was pleased to be part of the Task Force, sharing and updating much of the research I had done several years earlier for Knowbility’s own certification studies. The Education sub-committee worked collaboratively with input from universities, software companies, and technical services companies. Our conclusion was that a certification in web accessibility skills could be quite useful, but the report stopped short of recommending a framework for the delivery of a certification program.

ATIA went on to compile case studies to explore the possibility of creating a professional association dedicated to training web developers and certifying skills.  The full CODE Task Force Report can be downloaded from ATIA as well as a Case Study Implementation Analysis based on scenarios similar to Task Force recommendations.

In summary, the Task Force Report is a compilation of the work of the four sub-committees and the Case Study document compares the need for web accessibility to parallel needs identified within the web privacy and security arena and other areas of web specialization.

Knowbility’s position

I won’t be able to directly participate in the forum since I am teaching two days of accessibility policy and web development skills at preconference session called AccessU at CSUN that occurs at the same time.  But because my name is included as a Task Force member, I feel like I must contribute to the ongoing discussion to say that I am by no means convinced of the need to create yet another professional organization.  My hope is that our community will step back and think long and hard about universal accessibility goals and ask ourselves if this is really the best way to accomplish them.

In some ways it may not be fair to comment without hearing the case fully made.  But on the other hand, I have been involved with this research effort for over a year and have thoroughly read both referenced documents.  At this point, Knowbility does not support the formation of a new professional organization.  I wrote background in an earlier post to put the following remarks in context.  Here are  three top reasons for being skeptical about creating a separate professional organization for accessibility. We could offer more, but are especially interested in hearing from others who have been watching or considering this issue.  Please respond with your own thoughts.

Three reasons to think twice about creating another professional organization.

1. There IS an authority in web accessibility standards and design techniques

The case study document refers several times to the need for an “authority.”  However, there already IS a global authority on web accessibility at the W3C.  It is the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) and develops global standards that align with other W3C technical specifications. (Full disclosure, I serve as an Invited Expert on the Education and Outreach Working Group for WAI).  Work there is done by consensus and is largely free of vendor bias.  They have a process to develop certifications and are already global in scope.  The W3C also works in open, non-proprietary methods that are consistent with accessibility.  We all know that the consensus process at the W3C can be cumbersome and tedious, but they have recent success in streamlining that process through community groups and other methods.  WAI works collaboratively (much more important in the context of accessibility than for the privacy comparison that was made in the case study). With the exception of IBM, I am not aware that the corporate sponsors of the Accessibility Forum have made major, significant, sustained contributions to the field of accessibility.  Rich Schwerdtfeger and IBM of course provides outstanding leadership on the development and promotion of the completely open WAI-ARIA guidelines, one of the most significant advances in recent accessibility history. Note that the ARIA work was done at the W3C.

2. Too expensive – needed voices will be excluded

Which brings us to item two, the costs associated.  The case study contains plenty of multiple million dollar budget items that will need to come out of someone’s pockets.  Whose pockets will provide those funds…  developers? … the companies that employ developers?  Why not spend those projected millions to support organizations that have history and existing leadership in accessibility rather than reinventing the alt tag? Before proceeding any further I would want to know more about how the planning has engaged with the community most affected – people with disabilities.  While there seem to be individuals with disabilities serving on some committees, I have not seen any indication that this planning process reached out to and included the full community.  My hope is that associations, such as the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT), and other groups that speak for the wider community of people with disabilities are being consulted.  But no groups like these are listed as major sponsors.  Remember “Nothing about us without us?”  If you are attending CSUN and can’t afford the additional fees to participate in the Accessibility Forum, head to the Wednesday conference session on “Web Accessibility Community Collaboration” and WAI staff and volunteers from the W3C will be happy to hear your thoughts.

3. Accessibility must be integrated everywhere, not only commercially

The last and probably the most important reason for not segregating accessibility into the purview of a professional organization is the need for it to be woven into the fabric of any and all web and application development.  The analogy to the privacy issue that is cited in the case study document only goes so far.  For privacy issues, it makes sense to create highly regulated oversight for concerns that impact the protection of citizen and consumer financial and personal data.  Privacy is an issue that is easily subject to the development of strict protocols. Accessibility is more of an art.  Accessible design and development must be taught in context. That is one of the reasons Knowbility’s AIR program turns developers into advocates so effectively. Creating a separate society of accessibility professionals will reinforce the notion that accessibility is something outside of the basic development process – just the opposite of what advocates have been working for for years. Accessible design is more likely to catch on, in my opinion, if it is seamlessly integrated into all training for web and application development offered in all educational settings. The integrated approach makes the most sense to me and promises to have the greatest impact in making true the adage that the late John Slatin used to sign off on his emails – Good design IS accessible design.

An excellent example of how this can work is in progress at – you guessed it, the W3C, under the leadership of Chris Mills from Opera.  It is the newly formed Web Education Community Group and has the potential to integrate accessibility training into any training received by web developers at any level – trade school, community college, university, or elsewhere.   So by all means create certifications, but not within the context of a new professional association to which we must all pay dues and whose conferences we must add to our annual round of expenses for travel and fees (see number 2).

Let’s figure it out together

I don’t want to leave with a list of complaints like a truculent teenager. I want also to recognize that this was a great deal of useful research by ATIA and the AIA. It is an important conversation to have.  They deserve a round of applause and thanks for bringing this up, creating the Task Force, and sparking the discussion – kudos for moving the conversation so far forward.

I strongly agree that it is time to think about certification. But can’t we think of another way to do this?  Please?

OK, now you know what I think.  As always, we at Knowbility want to hear from our community.  What do you think?!


Use BAD for Good Examples of Accessibility in Action

Web accessibility means designing pages and applications so that they can be used by everyone, including people with disabilities, some of whom use assistive technologies to browse the web. Accessibility is required by federal law in many instances and courts are broadening their interpretation of how the legal requirements are implemented. Many know that web accessibility is an increasingly important issue, but are not sure what to do.

BAD is good for the accidental accessibility expert

It is not uncommon for individuals who recognize and speak up about the need for accessibility within an organization to find that they have become experts by default. For those in this situation and who are invited to speak to groups about web accessibility, an updated tool from the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) can help.

The Before and After Demo (BAD) is an updated set of related web pages that provide fully integrated examples of accessibility at work. Sharp, new, and fun to use, BAD is designed to serve a variety of purposes. In addition to raising general awareness of web accessibility issues, BAD is a highly effective way to show how Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2) can be applied without sacrificing visual appeal or interactivity.

BAD shows common accessibility barriers using practical examples. The demonstration consists of an inaccessible Web site, an accessible version of the same site, as well as a report about the demonstrated barriers. The demonstration does not attempt to cover every checkpoint of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) nor to provide an exhaustive list of examples but to demonstrate some key aspects of Web accessibility appropriate for short, focused presentations.

Providing practical examples during a talk is usually very effective. The BAD overview outlines the features of the Demo and gives tips on best use. Together with the inaccessible and accessible Demo pages, concrete before and after coding samples, and notes explaining related WCAG rules, there is much rich content to share during presentations.

Let the community know how you use it

I will be using BAD in my upcoming accessibility training sessions at AccessU at CSUN. Presenters are encouraged to use the demo live or to download the pages with the understanding that some pages will not have full interactivity without connection to a server. WAI is interested to hear if BAD is good for you. Please use the demo and then let WAI know about your experience. Send your comments to (a publicly archived list) or (a WAI staff-only list).

Knowbility 2011 Year End

Sharron Rush

My guilty holiday secret?  I love the corny holiday music, from the silly Frosty ones to the lovely carols from all parts of the world.  One of my favorites is called Calypso Christmas.  I hope your year is drawing to a happy close and that you have set aside some time to enjoy the holiday.  We were very busy here at Knowbility and I invite you take to a moment to read some of the details of our work in the articles below.  As always, we greatly appreciate your support for our programs that promote equal access to technology.

The year saw some tremendously exciting advances in technology that benefit people with disabilities.  From mobile accessibility to captioning technology and new versions of screen reading software, assistive technology is becoming mainstream.  Users are understanding that accommodations, such as voice input, meant for people with disabilities actually make our devices more flexible and easier to use by all. Legislators realized the importance of technology in the lives of all citizens and made some important headway in legal requirements for accessible technology. Implementation of the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act has made online audio/video content usable by millions who were previously excluded.

Serious challenges remain.  No amount or type of software can take the place of accessible design and so we continue to teach, consult and advocate for web and application accessibility.  A critical need is in the explosion of online learning and virtual school networks.  As our schools rely on online delivery of course content and learning experiences, access to the curriculum becomes fundamentally, critically important.  This is a challenge that we must address for the future of our students with disabilities, but also for our society at large.  Technology has the capacity to engage millions who were previously left out.  We cannot afford to lose their valuable experience and insight as we face the mounting challenges of the 21st Century.

In the fourteen years that Knowbility has been advocating for equal access to technology, much has changed.  What has remained constant is the support of our community.  People like you who understand the importance of equal technology access and who incorporate that understanding into your own work. Please consider making a year end gift to continue to strengthen Knowbility programs.  Together, we make a difference in the lives of millions of people throughout the world.   Thank you for all you do.

Happy holidays and all the best in the coming year,


As we move toward year’s end, all of us at Knowbility would like to thank our volunteers, sponsors, contractors and contributors for their hard work, patience and generosity. Together we are working toward a world where barrier-free technology creates opportunities for everyone, including people with disabilities. Thank you all for your contributions and good wishes. Please consider supporting our work with a year-end donation.  These are the programs and activities that your generosity will support.

Our AccessWorks Document Remediation Team consists of people, including veterans and others with disabilities, trained by Knowbility to repair electronic documents to be accessible to all.  The effort is a self-sustaining employment program and in 2011, the Team completed 33 contracts.  Our Team repaired documents for 4 universities, 2 Texas state agencies, 3 energy companies, 3 healthcare companies, a major national healthcare nonprofit, and 4 corporations. Our customers included the Rutgers University John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Duke University Law School, Drexel University, Austin Energy, The Texas Department of Insurance, Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, and the TMF Health Quality Institute. The AccessWorks team continues to provide the best document accessibility services anywhere and improve PDF remediation processes. One of the year’s great pleasures at Knowbility was welcoming three new members to the AccessWorks team, Laura Dominguez, Darren Davila and Robin Petty; great additions, all.

Commercial Services

I am accessible

Knowbility’s commercial services, led by ED Sharron Rush, provided web accessibility reviews and technical solutions including training and strategic planning, to 21 corporations and agencies: 5 Texas state agencies, 3 major energy providers, 2 national healthcare nonprofits, 2 national arts and disabilities organizations, 4 universities, 5 corporations. We assessed e-learning courseware and provided accessibility training for the Texas Education Agency and its Texas Virtual School Network project. We helped the American Heart Association and The ARC of the US create accessible web sites. We worked with a partner to incorporate accessibility features into the government web site for the State of Qatar. Knowbility provided accessible computer lab training for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and technical solutions for The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, ArtBeyondSight in New York and SmartMeter Oncor utility providers right here in Texas. 2011 was also our fourth year of working with valued partner Southern California Edison, who we continue to work with in creating accessible web sites and applications so their customers with disabilities can access utility services, open and close accounts, monitor their usage, read their records and much more.


Carolyn Gibbs

Knowbility was pleased to welcome Carolyn Gibbs as our Community Programs Manager in 2011. Since August, Carolyn’s been herding the cats, generating goodwill, and getting ready for the upcoming AIR Austin and SXSW AIR Interactive and, at the same time, laying groundwork for the 2012 AccessU training conference. Last but not least, we give a shout out (and back) to Geri (pronounced Gary) Druckman, our new Digital Media Director, who keeps our web sites and other media platforms running.





One of the year’s most exciting events was the launching, along with partner Loop11 of Melbourne, as in Down Under, of our AccessWorks Usability & Accessibility Testing Portal. The testing portal allows users with disabilities to get paid for testing web sites, while marketing and usability professionals use the test findings to improve accessibility and usability. Our expectation is that both users and marketers will reap great benefits from the testing portal.



ATSTAR, Knowbility’s online professional development initiative in Assistive Technology (AT), continues to serve classroom teachers and their students with disabilities in K-12 and college classrooms in five states. ATSTAR trains teachers how to assess and apply appropriate AT so that students with disabilities can succeed in school. In 2011 Knowbility applied for funding from the US Department of Education Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) in partnership with the University of South Florida and The University of Texas Center for Disability Studies to do a three-year study of ATSTAR that will prove its efficacy and upgrade its content with cutting edge research.

Sight Sound Soul

Sight Sound Soul

In October, Knowbility and VSA Texas presented Sight Sound Soul, a multi-sensory, completely accessible, music and art performance at the Southwest Conference on Disability in Albuquerque. The SW Conference is  one of the nation’s largest disability conferences and this third year of Sight Sound Soul featured legendary jazz vocalist and pianist, Henry Butler, along with fine arts painter and Denton, Texas resident, John Bramblitt.  John created a huge portrait of Henry while Henry sang and pounded out New Orleans jazz with musical roots winding all the way back and deep down into Storyville. What’s cool is that Henry and John are both blind. Sight Sound Soul transmitted their aural and visual stylings, translated live, in real time via ASL, live video, audio description and captioning to 1,000 conference attendees with disabilities. It turned out that Sight Sound Soul was a big hit and the highlight of the conference.

Southwest Conference on Disability

Southwest Conference on Disability

Also at the SW Conference on Disability, Knowbility Executive Director, Sharron Rush, presented an all-day pre-conference workshop, Web Accessibility 101 – Designing for All, for the attendees who are primarily social service professionals, i.e. not techies. And during the conference itself, Sharron conducted three workshops on various aspects of working toward web accessibility: Get Your AT Program Rolling Without Reinventing the Wheel, Accessibility – The Musical, and You Can’t Buy Love – But You CAN Buy Accessibility. The workshops were packed and all in all, Knowbility’s experience at the Conference was extremely productive. Conference officials commented that Sharron and the Knowbility crew made a significant contribution to the event. Add to that, the overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic response to Sight Sound Soul, and the result is that Knowbility will return and be a part of the 2012 conference in October.

WAI – Web Accessibility Initiative

Web Accessibility Initiative

2011 marked the fifth year of our Executive Director’s participation as an Invited Expert on the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, Education and Outreach Working Group (WAI-EOWG) Among many other activities, WAI-EOWG produces a variety of outreach and support materials for consumers with disabilties and corporations to foster and encourage accessible design. For example, there’s a blog,, where inaccessibility is discussed and dissected, and advocates and innovators swap ideas, proffer solutions and, of course, air their opinions. Every month WAI-EOWG highlights a particular resource, this month it’s a guide called Contacting Organizations about Inaccessible Websites While the blog gives advocates an accessibility forum, the resource guide gives customers a constructive and useful way to communicate about accessibility, or rather inaccessibility, when they encounter it. A link to the guide can be posted on shopping pages for customers who encounter barriers and serve as a valuable means of letting companies know specific problem areas.

 holiday accessibility thoughts

Here are some holiday accessibility thoughts from our colleague, Jennifer Sutton of JSutton Media, about why Contacting Organizations about Inaccessible Websites can be so important:

“When I go online during the holidays, “ she writes, “I just want to find what I’m looking for and check out without needing any help. But sometimes, by the time I’m done, my holiday cheer is beginning to fade. Trying to use an inaccessible site to buy a gift or make a donation on behalf of a loved one can take time I simply don’t have during the busy holiday season.

“But if I spend a little extra time to report my experiences to the organizations that run the sites I visit, I believe my efforts will make the Web a better place next year.

“As I make my shopping list and gather links to the sites I plan to visit, I’m adding a couple of other links to my collection, so they’ll be handy. I’m also setting up an email template or two in advance to help me quickly report my shopping experiences — both the good ones and the ones that are harder than I might wish. Why not join me and start off your New Year positively by helping to make the Web a more accessible place?”

Knowbility looks forward to helping you and working with you in 2012 to make this goal a reality.

Retailers – help your customers with disabilities help you!

Shoppin cart keyboardIsn’t it great to be able to make holiday travel arrangements and to purchase gifts online during the holidays at your own convenience?  For people with disabilities who may not have easy access to transportation, the opportunity is invaluable.  If you sell goods and services online, you have an eager market in this group that is 54 million people strong in the United States, maintains an aggregate income that now exceeds $1 trillion, and boasts $220 billion in discretionary spending power according to Fortune Magazine.

As ideal as it sounds, many online retailers fail to reach this valuable market because their web sites are not accessible.  The potential customer is likely to lose interest when form inputs aren’t labeled, graphic elements are not described, or the next step in a purchase process shows up in a modal dialogue that can’t be found by assistive technology.  These and other design barriers can make online shopping miserable for potential buyers with disabilities.

If your customers are frustrated, you want to know about it.  The Web Accessibility Initiative at the W3C has a resource to help them communicate with you in a constructive and useful way.  Consider posting a link on your shopping pages for customers who encounter shopping barriers.

The guide is called Contacting Organizations about Inaccessible Websites and can help your potential customers describe specific areas of pain.  Open the channels of communication to potential customers with disabilities.  You may make their holidays much merrier and give yourself the gift of a new customer who is likely to return.  May your all your holidays be bright!