Tag Archives: Accessibility Internet Rally

AIR-Interactive 2012 launches at Scholz Garden

Scholz Garden has been serving beer in Austin, Texas since 1866 . And, since 1998, Knowbility’s Accessible web design competition, the Accessibility Internet Rally for Austin (AIR-Austin) holds its kickoff at Scholz. It’s a great Austin institution and we like to say that we start our party at the oldest beer garden in Texas and wrap it up on the World Wide Web.  Last Wednesday, seven teams of web professionals met the nonprofit organizations that will be their partners in competing for trophies awarded at SXSW Interactive. Honors will go to those teams that build the most accessible web sites.

Here’s a video from one of the first AIR competitions that shows the spirit of these related events:

The kickoff event gets me every time.  The energy, dedication and enthusiasm for accessibility and for the work of the nonprofit groups is truly wonderful.  Chair Elliott Naishtat set the evening off to a great start with appreciation for the volunteer effort of these stellar teams of web pros.  The nonprofit groups came up one by one and said a few words about the work they do.  They are mostly small organizations, often staffed entirely by volunteers, doing work that transforms peoples live, bringing hope where there was none.  To hear from these groups of committed people who dedicate themselves to noble causes with so few resources can restore and strengthen a person’s faith in humanity – it does for me every year.

Community Programs Director Carolyn Gibbs beamed from the podium and was clearly pleased with how the skills of the teams had matched up with the needs of the organizations.  She contributed profiles for each team and npo pair, listed below.  Once the match-ups were announced, the teams got to work, planning their strategies for winning the competition and taking home the trophy. The nonprofit leaders looked as though they had already won – they were about to build the most professional web site they had ever had and support the work that means so much to them and to our communities.  The race to accessibility is on!  Who are you rooting for? (Consider the npo links below as the “Before” version.  When the skills of the teams have been applied you will see the new fully accessible versions of these sites.)

ADAPT of Texas & Access Austin Crew

ADAPT of Texas is a grassroots, community-organizing disability rights group fighting to empower people with disabilities to live full, independent lives. Not a fan of those “inspirational, pull-on-your-heartstrings disabilities sites,” they’re participating in AIR to boost their webpage, spread their message, and make sure that all people can access the information and resources they share!

The Access Austin Crew brings together three AIR-Austin alumni and one of the youngest AIR team members ever! With ten years of combined experience participating with teams from IBM, the Access Austin Crew is excited to carry the charge forward to build another accessible website!

 All Blind Children of Texas & Team TradeMark

All Blind Children of Texas, a partner organization with the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, has a mission to ensure that all blind children enjoy a quality life, rich with opportunities that will maximize their potential. They participated in AIR in 2005, but now that site is “an antique” and they’ve returned to the program for an accessible update!

Team TradeMark has been participating in AIR for so long that they can’t remember how many sites they’ve created! With more than 50 years of combined development experience pulled from the staff of local firm TradeMark Media, they “could teach the class” on accessibility, and they plan to prove it in 2012.

 Austin Jazz Alliance & Unchain My Art

The Austin Jazz Alliance is a small organization with a big vision – to build a jazz community and festival in Austin to rival those in NYC and New Orleans. Fito, the organization’s representative, has participated in AIR before as a developer, and now he has turned over the reins to let others do the background work to create a dynamic and accessible database of jazz musicians, venues, and fans in Austin.

Unchain My Art is no stranger to AIR – they’ve even won the competition in years past! The team is comprised of some of the best and brightest local e-learning company MicroAssist has to offer, and led by a former AIR-Austin chair!

Austin Speech Labs & The Drupalistas

Austin Speech Labs works with stroke survivors of all ages to improve their quality of live and to re-engage them in their social and professional lives. Knowing the challenges that stroke survivors are faced with, they came to AIR to get a new website that is accessible, user-friendly, and helps to market their services.

The Drupalistas are returning to AIR in 2012 with a combined force of alumni and new participants, pulled from the Seminary of the Southwest, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Order Out of Chaos, the Texas Education Agency, and the Austin Independent School District. They’ve come to AIR-Austin with a vision of creating a site that is elegant, aesthetically-pleasing, accessible, and easy to maintain!

 Independent Living Resource Center & Team Enchantment

The Independent Living Resource Center strives to make independence a possibility for persons throughout New Mexico with disabilities. They learned about AIR at the Southwest Conference on Disability in Albuquerque in October, and joined the program with the goal of having a strong website that will serve every one of their clients, using technology to give them the tools to live better lives!

Team Enchantment brings together leaders and colleagues from the New Mexico Technology Council, this brand new AIR team has joined the program ready to learn about accessibility and to apply their new skills to help a great nonprofit from the Albuquerque community!

Phronesis Media & Team Fahrenheit

Phronesis Media is a new project of local organization Ventana del Soul, bringing together a wealth of information, articles, facts, resources, and relevant media to educate the public about mass incarceration and offer practical solutions to end the problem. With only the beginnings of a website currently in place, they’ve come to AIR to get help launching the project with a new, fully accessible site!

Team Fahrenheit is led by another AIR Alumni, whose commitment to accessibility has brought a brand new team from Fahrenheit Marketing to the competition. With as many as 15 years of individual experience, the team members are highly skilled, have taught classes in accessibility, and plan to show their skills through the champion website they create!

 Texas TERA & The Headspring Hurwitzes

Texas TERA is not just a name, but a mission: technology, empowerment, resources, and advocacy for persons with disabilities. They work to provide individuals with the ability to try out assistive technology, use it well, and live better lives.  Dave, the organization’s lead, has participated in AIR before with his cable TV program, the Gene and Dave Show, and has brought Texas TERA to AIR in search of a website that is as dynamic, current, and accessible as the organization itself.

The Headspring Hurwitzes are a new team for AIR – but the team’s members are no strangers to accessibility. Not only did the team leader participate in AIR-Houston in October, but Headspring has developed ASP.NET accessibility training for  Knowbility’s AccessU program. Headspring has joined AIR to keep their skills fresh and help Texas TERA with a new accessible website!

Results at SXSW

It’s quite a line up for 2012 and the judging is bound to be intense.  If you are at SXSW in March, be sure to come to the FREE party and check out the entries and the winner.  Dewey awards will be given out as well.  No badge is needed for the awards ceremony on March 11th at St David’s Episcopal Church.  Emcee is Femme FM’s wonderful Teresa Ferguson, music by Mother Falcon and in true Texas fashion, the church serves beer!  Until then, these spectacular teams of web devs will be coding their hearts out for nonprofit groups that make our communities better.  And all in the name of accessibility.  Viva AIR!




Knowbility, AIR and September 11, 2001

AIR-Austin Participation BadgeOur local NPR station, the daily paper and countless other media spigots are asking for remembrances of 9/11.   As my mind goes back to that day and I allow the political to fall away, what I remember is the Accessibility Internet Rally for Austin (AIR-Austin). At that time AIR was kicking off its fourth year of bringing the community together around the powerful idea of access to technology for all.

If you have never competed or volunteered in a web Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) program – here’s how it works:  Knowbility recruits nonprofit groups who need web help – and in 2001 many were getting their very first web site.  The program also recruits teams of web developers – that year we had teams from IBM, from Dell, from St Edward’s University, Frog Design and many others.  Our chair was a VP from St. Ed’s, John Houghton.  With the help of the Judge Brothers – Jim Thatcher, John Slatin, Jim Allan and other advisors – we had recruited and trained nearly 20 teams and nonprofits.  On the evening of September 11, we were scheduled to meet at our historic local beer hall, Scholz Garden and announce which team was matched to what nonprofit organization and allow them to begin to plan their accessible web site. Rules were originally drawn up by Jayne Cravens who used to say that AIR was party that began at the oldest beer garden in Texas and ended up on the world wide web!

When the horrific events of the day unfolded, we eventually remembered our kick-off party, scheduled for 6pm that evening.  Our mighty staff of three made calls to each other and to the advisors.  We knew no one would come, and that we would have to postpone the kick-off and probably the Rally.  We might cancel the entire event for 2001, who could tell with the whole world upside down?

We decided that we would make our way to Scholz to provide some re-orientation information to anyone who might wander in.  We expected that a few people might come by.  Well, at about 5:30 a few did wander in.  They hugged each other gently and held on for longer than usual. They looked stunned and smiled gently, almost reluctantly at one another.  Soon there were more.  By 6:15 every single team and every nonprofit was represented.  The advisors were there, the judges were all there, the advisors and teams were there for the kick-off – it was clear they wanted the events to proceed!

John Houghton got on the little riser stage and prepared to go on with the match-up announcement.  We were clearly, each one of us in the crowd of people, surprised that we WERE a crowd.  John spoke for all of us, it seems, when he said,

“On this day when we have seen the worst that humans are capable of doing to one another, I wanted to be here.  I want to participate in the best that we are capable of.  I want to build a community that shares skills and knowledge and works to improve our capacity to help one another. That is what the AIR program means to me and it must mean that much to you too, because you are here.  Let’s get to work!”

We cried, we held each other, and we got to work.  In 2001, AIR-Austin volunteers built web sites for more than two dozen NPOs, including Austin IDEA Network (now the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas), Lone Star Girl Scout Council, GENAustin, SafePlace, Family Elder Care, Keep Austin Beautiful, Blackshear Elementary School, Girlstart and others.  Of course, the sites have changed with the times and for many of these groups, the momentum of that first AIR site carried them along.  Sponsors included IBM, Austin Usability, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, the University of Texas and Dell.

Since 1998, we have produced AIR programs all over the US, including Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Denver and Atlanta raising awareness of why and how technology access must be made available to all.   In all that time, we have not missed a year in Austin – not even when the planes took the buildings down in New York City.

Random Notes

Random Notes by Ron Hicks, March, 25 2011

Fair is Fair: For those of you who haven’t kept up…After 20 years, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has made a prudent and cautious gesture toward realizing the “ADA´s promise to provide an equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in and benefit from all aspects of American civic and economic life.” In a July 23, 2010 paper, DOJ offered that, while the “internet has been governed by a variety of voluntary standards or structures [and those] standards have generally proved to be sufficient where obvious business incentives align… There has not, however, been equal success in the area of accessibility.”

The long and short of this is that DOJ is asserting what we all know to be fair, just and self-evident, i.e. that accommodations for equal access to web services should be no less than those for “bricks and mortar” shops.

By the way, for a government paper, probably torturously composed by committee, the July DOJ paper is quite good. If you are a disability advocate and need to pull quotes, you could do a lot worse. There’s a great synopsis of the history and legal foundations of web and accessibility, and a very succinct and sympathetic description of common barriers to persons using assistive tech. Good job Legal Dudes!

March Sanity: The LDs may have had a hand in this one, too, and it’s about time. Parents and teachers have been screaming their bloody heads off for years (figuratively speaking, of course, actually everyone’s been perfectly civil – maybe that’s why justice is so slow).  At any rate, on March 15, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his cohorts must’ve heard the hubbub and stepped away from the Washington pack in a real way, advocating for kids with disabilities. He’s having his ED people put $200 million in the 2012 Budget for students with disabilities. The emphasis is on protecting “critical programs serving students with disabilities, including preschool grants, national activity funds, vocational rehabilitation programs, national dissemination and research grants, and supports for institutions serving students with disabilities.”

Protecting critical programs, like protecting our civil rights, should be lauded and Arne, babe, you’ve got my support. 60% of students with disabilities spend 80% of their time in the regular school environment and they deserve AT just like I deserve my trifocals.  Let’s make sure to make sure that our representatives in congress don’t digress on this one. Now, if we can just get past that knotty little problem of allowing students with disabilities to use AT in test taking; right now it’s considered an unfair advantage. No Ma’m, I’m not cheating, I took off my glasses.  Read Arne’s speech .

If You Feel the Shakes Coming On: My Great Uncle Augie (Augusto Feo de los Ojos Pensandos), who among other things is a future philologist, discovered a definition in the New Dictionary of Internet Slang: “Tweetch”: A spasmodic reflex associated with diminished capacity for coherent linguistic expression; a cognitive deficit in word/symbol recognition, characterized by compulsive use of a key pad; Tweetching is believed to be symptomatic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (now a cultural norm) and the ill-founded conceit that one actually has something of significance to impart to a large audience. Inverse of apostrophe.

About Our Name: Augie says Knowbility is a good name for an organization that strives to embrace and include everyone. He points out (he’s forever pointing out) that the prefix “dis” is a Latin prefix meaning “apart,” “asunder,” “away,” “utterly,” or having a privative, negative, or reversing force ( see de-, un-2 ). Well, Augie-the-Curmudgeon gave us a rare compliment for substituting “know” for “dis”. Thanks Unc…Knowbility is about inclusion. Ain’t no “asunder” or “away” round here.

As I Write from the Corporate Jet: Just to make sure everyone knows, Knowbility is a nonprofit organization. The essential difference between for-profit and non-profit is (this from a Cum Laude CPA with 30 years experience): Non-profits are expense-driven. Very simple. In other words, we use our revenues to deliver services; we don’t get big salaries, big bonuses or perks; there are no stock holder dividends. We don’t gather revenues to fund community programs. We are the community programs. To generate revenue, Knowbility depends on your support, earning our keep through services and the support of grant-making entities.

Top 10 Accessibility Milestones in 2008

Knowbility posted this to the web site home page as 2008 turned in 2009.  We archive it here:

There were major setbacks in the struggle to ensure equitable access for all and there were some great triumphs. This is our list of ten influential events and we would love to hear your perspective.

  1. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) passed through Candidate recommendation and ended the year as an official W3C Recommendation.
  2. Our community lost Dr. John Slatin, a brilliant practitioner and inspirational and tireless champion of accessibility.
  3. The University of Texas abdicated its leadership role in accessibility when it shut down the Accessibility Institute, founded by John Slatin.
  4. The Target vs National Federation of the Blind (NFB) lawsuit over the accessibility of Target.com was settled in favor of the NFB.
  5. The California State University System took great strides forward with its Accessible Technology Initiative, providing training and support for accessibility to all 23 campuses.
  6. The European Union continues to dedicate resources and make significant progress for its e-Inclusion initiative, part of the i2010 general technology strategy. The initiative considers the effects of aging as well as disability and is providing models for others to follow.
  7. Accessibility emerged from the shadows and became a major topic of great interest at technology conferences including SXSW Interactive, Web Directions North, Webstock, the International World Wide Web Conference, UPA’s annual usability conference, Refresh Groups, BarCamps and other places where technologists gather to share experiences and skills.
  8. Several Universities, including CSU Northridge and the University of Monterrey Mexico, hosted international forums focused solely on accessibility.
  9. Four Accessibility Internet Rallies (AIR) were held in 2008, resulting in training of more than 200 web developers and the creation of dozens of accessible web sites for nonprofit arts, human services, and environmental organizations.
  10. Finally, in the advocacy work to be done category – barakobama.com and change.gov fail to meet minimum accessibility standards set by the federal government.

So to all of you who understand the urgency of the accessibility work that we do together and who work so hard to evangelize and implement accessibility, pat yourselves on the back and let’s make the world of the Web even more accessible in 2009!

Your year end gift to Knowbility is tax deductible and supports this effort. Thanks for all you do!