Tag Archives: knowbility

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.

Disability is Not a Problem; it is Part of Who You Are.

Article by Patricia Walsh, Principal at Blind Ambition Speaking and USA Para National Olympic-Distance Triathlon Champion 


When I was growing up, the future for persons with disabilities did not seem bright to me.  I was coached in the process for applying for SSDI.  I believed to collect social security was my ceiling with regard to my potential for inclusion.  As I have lived to see the tremendous change brought on by accessible technology I’m thrilled to have experienced firsthand the shattering of a ceiling of human potential.  Working and contributing is more than a pathway to income, it is a yellow brick road to quality of life, self-worth, and a sense of achievement.  Organizations such as Knowbility and similar organizations like the Blind Institute of Technology are driving the cultural changes to create new opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Mike Hess is the founder of the Blind Institute for Technology based out of Denver, CO.  This nonprofit organization is dedicated to increasing representation of persons with blindness in the workforce particularly in the fields of science, math, engineering, and technology.  Hess believes that his success in the corporate world was not in spite of his blindness but actually attributed to his blindness.  He believes his listening skills, problem solving, and resourcefulness made him an invaluable contributor in corporate America.

Hess started BIT in order to be part of the solution.  They offer training for persons with blindness in tech-skills.  They also interface with corporations to convey that persons with blindness can be an invaluable peace for any solution.  BIT is a similar program to Knowbility’s Access works program.  Access Works has a reach beyond blindness but similar in its approach.  The premise being that the disability is not a problem it is an asset.  In a world that values diversity and creative solution there is now access to a previously untapped pool of talented skills individuals.

Congratulations to BIT and Mike Hess for building on a change in perspective that may result in improved quality of life for individuals with blindness in the Colorado region.  For more information regarding Bit please read here:  http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_28502401/blind-institute-technology-aims-solve-jobless-epidemic

SXSW Dewey Winburne Community Service Award Nominations are now open!

Dewey Winburne Community Service AwardsEvery year SXSW honors 10 amazing people serving their communities in different ways in honor of SXSW Interactive co-founder, Dewey Winburne. Dewey was one of the original co-founders of the SXSW Interactive Festival, but he was many other things in the Austin community: a family man, a teacher, a visionary, a connector and an innovator. He believed that technology could bridge the digital divide and help those less fortunate than others.

Knowbility stands to prove that all individuals deserve an opportunity to make an impact in their community through access to education, career, and opportunities to pursue all things web technology. The SXSW Dewey awards are intended to honor technology change makers that are using hi-tech for good in their communities.

Nominate someone you know (or yourself) at  http://www.sxsw.com/interactive/awards/dewey-winburne today through August 7, 2015, for a chance to be honored at the SXSW Interactive festival in March 2016. Each honoree also receives $1,000 to grant to their favorite 501(c)(3).

Tommy Edison at AccessU 2015


Knowbility is excited to welcome Tommy Edison as keynote speaker at AccessU 2015 this May.

“Being blind since birth, one of the greatest challenges I faced was accepting that I’m visually impaired.” Tommy told us.  “As I became an adult, I was forced to face my own reality and needed to make a choice – either embrace my blindness and live a happier life or do something I might regret. Eventually I chose the former which led me to a long career in radio, living my dream of reviewing movies, and sharing my experiences as a blind person to a worldwide audience. In my talk, I explain how I faced my greatest obstacle – myself.”

Popularly known as The Blind Film Critic, Tommy’s YouTube channel, TommyEdisonXP (https://www.youtube.com/user/TommyEdisonXP) has 195,000 subscribers and garners a million views per video. By addressing the barriers he faced, Tommy will illuminate the AccessU theme of “Put People First.”

In my talk, I explain how I faced my greatest obstacle – myself.

“I watch movies and pay attention to them in a different way than sighted people do”, says Tommy, who offers a unique take on movies, audio and daily life through his signature sense of humor.

In addition to being the Blind Film Critic and a YouTube celebrity, Tommy has been a radio professional for nearly 25 years, having spent the last 19 at STAR 99.9 FM in Connecticut as a traffic reporter.

Tommy Edison was endorsed by film critic and journalist Roger Ebert and his reviews were posted on the Chicago Sun-Times blog and on Tosh.0, Comedy Central’s blog. Tommy has also been featured on various TV and news channels including CNN and Headline News. Visit his website http://blindfilmcritic.com/ for more information.

“I’m not distracted by all the beautiful shots and attractive people. I watch a movie for the writing and acting.”

Tommy will also host a special event “Film & Audio Description with the Blind Film Critic” at Alamo Draft house as part of the conference.

AccessU participants are invited to events organized as part of the conference including a Film & Audio Description with Tommy Edison at Alamo Draft house, a bicycle pub crawl in Austin and networking luncheons.

Usability Meets Accessibility in our Access-Works Webinar – Sept 5th

Our Access-Works usability/accessibility Testing Portal is live at Access-Works Portal! Join us for a 30 minute live demo-webinar Wednesday, September 5th, 3PM CST. It’s free.

Knowbility Executive Director, Sharron Rush, and Loop11 CEO, Toby Biddle, will show how the portal works and talk about why including users with disabilities in site testing is not just a good idea; it saves you time and money.

If you’re a Usability or Accessibility professional, please join us. Reserve a seat today – register for the webinar. With the Access-works testing portal you can ensure that your site is universally designed for a diverse marketplace that includes persons with disabilities.

Knowbility and Loop11 created the Access-Works Portal to make remote usability and accessibility testing easy. The portal lets you choose test participants from a database of users with disabilities using a wide range of assistive technologies like JAWS, WindowEyes, and NVDA screen-readers, ZoomText and MAGIC Screen Magnifiers, Dragon Naturally Speaking Voice Recognition Software, refreshable braille displays, alternative input devices and more.

Good Web Designers and Usability Professionals understand the need for inclusive design and the problems associated with integrating accessibility as an afterthought. Check out these papers on why.

Cost-Justifying Accessibility – Paul Sherman (2001)
Accessibility and Usability in Information & Communication Technology – Bloor Research (2007)
Assessing Usability for People with Disabilities through Remote Evaluation – The Paciello Group (2002)