Tag Archives: Accessibility

Our GAAD 2016 picks

Wow! So much going on this year.  High fives to Jennison Asuncion and Joe Devon for starting the Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) bandwagon five years ago…it has become a global parade, a celebration of the work of the community and a hand up for those just getting started – we love it!

Big favorites around here are the just released Web Accessibility Perspectives, a series of  videos from W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative.  With humor and brevity, the videos demonstrate the barriers caused by inaccessible web pages both for persons with disabilities and for other users. Videos lead you right to a list of tips and resources for addressing and fixing barriers once you learn to identify them.  On GAAD or anytime, check out the WAI Web Perspectives videos and resources to experience accessibility from the perspective of persons with disabilities and learn more about creating accessible websites.

Our own contribution to the festivities comes from our AccessWorks program. AccessWorks is a database of users with disabilities who can test your website for accessibility from remote locations. The platform was developed by Knowbility and Loop11 to help include users with disabilities in remote usability testing. We are pleased to provide this service for free for up to four users –  only on GAAD  – May 19.   Use the Loop11 signup form and select the Knowbility database and up to four users with disabilities will report on the accessibility of your website

Here in our hometown of Austin, Razorfish hosts an Accessibility Meetup every month. Tomorrow is a special one and we will be there to help celebrate two years of the group along with five years of GAAD. Viva!

It wouldn’t be GAAD without the stellar lineup of experts who feed our minds and our souls round the clock supporting accessibility practice one hour at a time.  It’s Inclusive Design 24 (#ID24) and is 24 hours of free online accessibility talks, hosted by The Paciello Group in celebration of the day.

And those are just a tiny fraction of the celebrations and gathering and demonstrations all over the world that highlight the glory of web accessibility,  helping the web reach its full potential by making sure everyone is included.

What are your favorite events?

AccessU has an (almost) accessible app

Each year after John Slatin AccessU, Knowbility’s annual web accessibility training conference, we sit down with stakeholders to debrief and suggest improvements. In 2015 the deep yearning was for an app. Attendees, instructors, and staff felt an AccessU app would help everyone stay in touch with general events, quickly communicate changes to the schedule, and provide overall support to the community-building that is a foundation of what makes AccessU the great event it is. And of course, the app had to be fully accessible.

We are so pleased and excited to be able to announce the new (almost) accessible AccessU app that we wanted to share with you a bit about our journey.

Building from scratch was quickly found to be outside the budget of a small non-profit org like Knowbility. And so the search began for an accessible, customizable conference app that we could subscribe to. We enlisted the brilliant Jon Gibbins to help with the search since we would work with him on the customization. Searching for “event apps” or “conference apps” yielded quite a few options. But you probably won’t be surprised to learn that response to our inquiries about accessibility ranged from “Oh yeh, it is accessible to both iOS and Android devices” to “Accessible? what do you mean by that?”

So instead, we began asking “Does your app meet the BBC Guidelines for mobile accessibility?” Lots of “Let me get back to you on that” followed by resounding silence. After a few months of this, we were beginning to lose hope. But then – hallelujah – we got this from Alicia at Guidebook:

“Thanks for reaching out to Guidebook. I just doubled check with our support team, and they said they believe we do meet BBC’s mobile guidelines…”

OK there are a few caution lights here such as “they believe we do…” but still, we were encouraged! A few quick calls to verify that we wanted to buy the subscription version, become paying customers, work with an assigned support rep, and we were off to a warm and friendly dialogue.

In the meantime, Jon discovered that Guidebook had actually published a VPAT – and they were the first conference app we found that did so.  Jon began validating the VPAT while Board member Hiram Kuykendall did a quick informal check of the free Guidebook app. Hiram came back with not-so-good news. The app was not really very accessible at all – unlabeled buttons and form fields, images with no alt text, interminable navigation – the usual suspects.  Hmmm, back to you, Jon – what about that VPAT?

Jon’s more formal testing of the VPAT revealed that Guidebook had unfortunately misstated several accessibility features.  Our experience is that often when VPATs are inaccurate, it is due to the fact that a company does not fully understand the requirements – and that seemed to be the case here.  We offered to deconstruct the VPAT for them – at no charge – and help get the product aligned to their public claims.  Guidebook said, “Sure thanks, we will work it into our development sprints” and voila, we were all singing in tune,  had a common mission and shared understanding of what was possible within that timing.  Wahooo, let’s go!

Knowbility’s John Sweet and Jon Gibbins worked with the Guidebook team over the next few weeks, pushed the accessibility improvements out to the app stores, and the result is the first ever AccessU app.  Please download, use it and continue to give feedback. We are so pleased with the way we have been able to work with Guidebook to improve the accessibility of this handy tool. But we know it is not yet fully accessible – the class rating system is still wonky, for example – and so we want to hear from you about your own experience. We are hopeful to get the rating system accessible in time for the conference but will craft functional alternatives if that proves to be impractical. So, while it is not all rainbows and unicorns, we extend kudos to Guidebook for working with us,  and are very excited to be able to offer this service.

We learned valuable lessons – if you hit an accessibility barrier, look for another way. If you are turned down in your accessibility requests, keep asking. Most people genuinely want to be inclusive and if you support them and make it clear where the path is, they are more likely to follow it. Since our AccessU theme in 2016 is teamwork, we found this to be a terrific experience to share and now we pass the ball your way.

Please reply here with any comments you have and/or send your experiences and suggestion to IT Director John Sweet who is simply john at knowbility dot org.

We sincerely thank our friends, the good people at Guidebook and can’t wait to hear from you all. See you next month at St. Edward’s University in Austin Texas!


Jan McSorley will keynote AccessU 2016

Knowbility is pleased and very excited to announce that Jan McSorley will be the keynote speaker for AccessU 2016! Jan has vast and varied experience building and inspiring teams to integrate digital accessibility into all they do.  From early days spent persuading her peers at the Texas School for the Blind of the importance and value of the Internet to her current position as Head of Accessibility for Pearson School Division, Jan’s career has been one of passionate advocacy for fully inclusive technology.

In her talk, Jan will give her perspective on how to identify key players who can further accessibility within a company (even when those players themselves may not even realize it themselves.) She will share true stories of how to invest in and inspire them so that they wake up one day to find themselves not only playing for the accessibility team, but recruiting others to join.

In her talk, Jan will give her perspective on how to identify key players who can further accessibility within the company (even when they themselves may not realize it.)

“Fairness and inclusion are unifying concepts that almost everyone agrees are important,” Jan says. “Very few people would openly argue against the idea that people with disabilities should be afforded the same access to educational and vocational opportunities as people without disabilities.  After all, in the United States we have civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, so surely businesses and organizations are all abiding by those laws … right?”

“While it would be nice if all we had to do was pass legislation and then have everything fall into place, the reality is that civil rights laws related to equally effective access for people with disabilities are often ignored – sometimes out of ignorance and sometimes deliberately”, she adds. “The underlying reason for ignoring accessibility is that it’s a very complex problem to solve.  Even if there were scores of highly-trained accessibility professionals standing at the ready with capes in hand to save the day, most businesses and organizations don’t even understand their need for accessibility expertise, so they are most definitely not in the position to hire an elite team of accessibility personnel.”

Effective accessibility teams can be built in organizations, even without the open support of management or a robust budget.

“The fact that accessibility is more often misunderstood than understood, makes the jobs of those few enlightened individuals who find themselves as the lone accessibility voices in a wilderness of ignorance, a bit more difficult, but certainly not impossible.  Effective accessibility teams can be built in organizations, even without the open support of management or a robust budget.  The ultimate goal is that every person in an organization is a member of the accessibility team who is doing their part for accessibility within the context of their job responsibilities.”


AccessU is a conference that brings leading experts from around the globe to Austin, TX to teach and talk about accessible design skills. The conference provides practical resources, encouraging participants to explore various aspects of digital inclusion and master role-based skills involved in launching successful accessibility initiatives. You can register for AccessU 2016 by clicking on this link: AccessU Registration to catch Jan McSorley and other internationally known leaders in accessible design and development.

Heroes of Accessibility: An Introduction

What is Heroes of Accessibility?

We’re big fans of superheroes here at Knowbility. We love the stories as much as we love what they stand for – triumph of all that is good and just. But we also are huge fans of a different league of superheroes – the every day hero; people who make the world a little bit better with what they do. We have been lucky to meet so many of these heroes in the accessibility world – thanks to OpenAIR. But web-design and competitions aside, we decided it was time that more everyday-heroes were recognized and rewarded for their work in accessibility. We decided to call them Heroes of Accessibility. The first annual Knowbility Community Heroes of Accessibility was held last year and the awards were presented along with the OpenAIR awards at Google, Austin.Knowbility Heroes of Accessibility

 Who are Heroes of Accessibility?

Knowbility accepts nominations for Heroes of Accessibility from the public across 5 categories:

Individual Achievement

This award recognizes an individual who has contributed digital accessibility knowledge and skills to the general community.

Educational Achievement

Educational Achievement recognizes a person or group of people who have created educational resources to help technologists learn to create accessible technology.

Institutional Achievement

This award recognizes a sustained effort to improve accessibility across an enterprise. Nominees can be a business, a government agency, or a nonprofit group that has gone beyond compliance to create and integrate a culture of digital inclusion.

Emerging Leader

An Emerging Leader is an accessibility practitioner new to the field who shows leadership promise.

Unsung Hero

If you think we overlooked a category or area that should be given recognition, the Unsung Hero category lets the public nominate a person or group that deserves recognition but who doesn’t quite fit the categories above.

How to nominate for Heroes of Accessibility?

We are asking you to help us find this year’s Heroes of Accessibility. If you know someone who has contributed to digital accessibility or an institution that has created a culture of digital inclusion, let us know by clicking on this link: Nomination Form

We will collect nominations until Friday, February 19, 2016. You may submit nominations in all categories or only a few or even just one. After nominations close, a nominating committee will review the entries and publish three finalists in each category. The community will be invited to vote for (and provide arguments in favor of) their Heroes of Accessibility in March 2016. Judges will perform the final round or review and one winner will be selected in each category.

Where will I meet my Heroes of Accessibility?

The winner of each category will be announced and  the awrads presented at a happy hour ceremony on Thursday, March  24th, 2016 at the CSUN conference in San Diego.

Why Heroes of Accessibility?


“Web design is great power. Web accessibility is great responsibility.”

What Developers Should Know For A Universally Accessible Internet

This article was originally published in the September 2015 edition of “NTEN: Change“, the quarterly newsletter of NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network) and was crafted by the Marketing Team of Knowbility: Jessica Looney, Community Programs Manager; Divya Mulanjur, Marketing & Communications Associate; and Anne Mueller, Community Programs Assistant.

web accessibility icon
web accessibility icon

Web accessibility is the practice of removing any barriers to interaction with technology for anyone, including people with disabilities. Simply put, this means that when you create an application or a website, everyone should be able to access it.

The regulations that govern accessibility in the United States include Section 508 and the American with Disabilities Act. In 1998, the federal government amended the 1973 Rehabilitation Act that determined that “agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to access available to others” (Section508.gov). The American with Disabilities Act recently celebrated its 25thyear of existence. These regulations prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. The Supreme Court recently determined that the Internet is public domain; therefore, it must be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

When implementing accessibility standards, web professionals must consider a myriad of factors. Disabilities can include visual, physical, auditory, speech, or cognitive impairments. Many websites, programs, and applications contain barriers that make it difficult for people with disabilities to use. A person with a visual impairment may use a third party program, like a screen reader, that will read aloud the text on the screen. Therefore, images should contain alternative text (“alt” text) that will describe the image the person cannot see. If a person is unable to utilize a mouse when using the Internet, the website should contain architecture that allows a keyboard-only user to easily maneuver through the site. Check out WCAG (Web Accessibility Content Guidelines) “Before/After Demonstration” to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. As well, you can use WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool) to test your website’s accessibility.

In order to continue developing a more accessible Internet, web designers and developers should consider the following factors:

  • Page Title: Be sure the page has a simple, explanatory title that informs the user of the name of the site
  • Headings: Each page should have at least one heading. Maintain a friendly hierarchy when coding
  • Text Size: Some people need to resize the size of the text on the screen. To test this, zoom in on your web page to see what it looks like
  • Contrast: Use a website like Check My Colors or Contrast Ratio. The former will check your page for proper contrast, and the latter will give you a WCAG-based score after you input the text and colors you plan on using
  • Landmarks: Add at least three landmarks to your site: “Main,” “Navigation,” and “Search”
  • Keyboard access: Every element of a website should be easily accessible if a person is only using a keyboard, not a mouse. Links should be easily tabbed through, and drop-down menus should also be able to be tabbed through
  • Links: Each link should contain a descriptive name
  • Forms: Be sure any forms you have on your website are accessible. Identify the required fields
  • Do not use the phrase “Click Here”—it’s too ambiguous

One of the best ways to test for accessibility is to try it out yourself! Unplug your mouse; if you’re using a laptop, turn off the track pad. Many computers now come with their own screen reader software; turn this on. Toggle the “high contrast” switch, and zoom in or magnify a web page. How does the site look? Are there overlaps? Are the colors appeasing to the eye? Do you get stuck on a link or page when trying to navigate only using a keyboard? This should be a good test for accessibility.

Knowbility is improving technology access for millions of youth and adults with disabilities all over the world with its many community programs. One such program is OpenAIR, Knowbility’s annual global web accessibility challenge. OpenAIR invites teams of web professionals to sign up for a global competition where each team has to develop an accessible website. These websites are made for nonprofits from around the world, who also sign up for OpenAIR.

OpenAIR began in 1998 in Austin Texas, as the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR), a web design competition that would:

  1. Raise awareness among technology professionals about the need for accessible websites and software applications
  2. Provide a medium for nonprofit agencies to harness the power of the Internet and expand their reach
  3. Create meaningful connections between the disengaged technology sector and the rest of the community

Today, OpenAIR has evolved into a global teaching and learning competition that puts accessibility front and center, where it belongs. OpenAIR imparts advanced accessibility skills to web developers across the globe, creates a challenging atmosphere for participants to enhance these abilities, and keeps them engaged with games and networking events. By bringing in an experienced panel of judges and assigning leading accessibility experts as mentors to each team, the competition has been fine-tuned as an incubator of quality websites.

In its 18th year now, OpenAIR has nurtured the creation of hundreds of accessible community websites. The FCC recently honored Knowbility by bestowing upon them the Chairman’s Award for Innovation in Accessibility for this program. For many arts and nonprofit organizations, the AIR site was their first foray onto the Web. OpenAIR is growing and is on its way to becoming an established global event. OpenAIR 2015 is a technology challenge that fosters healthy competitive spirit to do good and make a difference in the world through knowledge of universal design.