Tag Archives: MicroAssist

Knowbility Takes SXSW by Storm & Announces Winners of AIR!

It’s a Friday in Austin. By any regards, it’s just another day in just another city. In fact, if you walked through downtown today, you would have no idea that little more than a week ago, one of the world’s largest trio of festivals flooded the streets with geeks, movie buffs, and music lovers alike. Knowbility was right in the midst of the chaos – taking the South by Southwest (SXSW) world by storm with our message of accessibility and having a blast doing it!

The 2012 Dewey Ceremony & AIR-Interactive Awards

To start with, we hosted an official SXSW party on March 11th. If you know anything about SXSW, you know why that word “official” is emphasized. It’s a BIG DEAL. But let’s be real – the bigger deal is the reason we hosted the party in the first place: announcing the winners of the 2012 AIR-Interactive/AIR-Austin Competition and introducing the Dewey Winburne honorees for contributions to society through interactive media.

The AIR-Interactive/AIR-Austin Winners

Seven teams competed earlier this spring in an intense race to accessibility. You might have read about the program, and the incredible teams that participated in our post-rally blog post. So who won? Everybody did – you just can’t beat participating in AIR! But since we had official judges, we probably should have official winners, and they are:

Team Unchain My Art
Formula One winners Unchain My Art from MicroAssist

Formula One Division (Accessibility+Advanced Features)

1st Place: Unchain My Art, designing for The Austin Jazz Alliance
2nd Place: The Headspring Hurwitzes, designing for Texas TERA

 Stock Car Division (Basic Accessibility)

1st Place: Team TradeMark, designing for All Blind Children of Texas
2nd Place: Team Fahrenheit, designing for Phronesis Media

Team TradeMark
Team TradeMark takes First Place in Stock Car

Honorable Mentions

The Drupalistas, designing for Austin Speech Labs
The Access Austin Crew, designing for ADAPT of Texas
Team Enchantment, designing for The Independent Living Resource Center of New Mexico

Congratulations to everyone who competed – you are all champions, and your work for accessibility goes far beyond the Rally!

Accessible Internet Rally Will be Held in October

If you didn’t participate in this spring’s program, you’ll have another opportunity in October, when we bring the AIR-Austin rally back to its traditional timing – during Disability Awareness Month. As we announced following the awards, Rich Schwerdtfeger, Chief Technology Officer for Accessibility at IBM Software Group  will chair the fall program!

2012 Dewey Winburne Awards

Judy Brewer
Judy Brewer leads the Web Accessibility Initiative at the W3C and was awarded Dewey Winburne recognition

Local musicians Mother Falcon (silently accompanied by the ASL stylings of LotuSign) provided the background for a brief intermission at the party, and then the rest of the evening was dedicated to honoring the winners of the 2012 Dewey Winburne Awards. Dewey was a co-founder of SXSW Interactive, and a man dedicated to changing the digital landscape in Austin through his work with technology and youth.

Those awards,presented by SXSW itself, honor the work of 10 individuals from around Austin, the US, and even the world. The award recognizes contributions made by social activists using technology to change their communities. More about the honorees  can be seen in a great post about the Dewey Awards on the SXSW website.


Teresa Ferguson
Teresa Ferguson, former Dewey winner herself, emceed the awards party

Many thanks go out to Theresa Ferguson, who emceed the program, and did a fantastic job of introducing the awardees and moving the ceremony along. Theresa is not only a former participant in AIR, she helped to inspire the AIR-Interactive Awards, and she’s even a past Dewey Nominee!

Thank you also to everyone who came out to support the work of our fantastic Accessibility Internet Rally teams and the Dewey Award winners! Your enthusiasm and energy overflowed the room!

The SXSW Trade Show (aka, SWAG-a-palooza 2012)

sleep masks printed with "Wake Up to Accessibility" You’d think that after the party was over, we’d all get to relax and enjoy the festival, but there’s just no slowing down at Knowbility – instead, we were back downtown the next morning to welcome the first attendees at the annual SXSW Trade Show. We had a huge booth, like we always do, and had the opportunity to tell people from all around the world about accessibility.

Our “Wake Up to Accessibility” sleep masks were a huge hit – and were featured in a “best of SXSW SWAG” twitter post!

We also invited visitors to get off their feet, relax, and peruse the work of our teams, helping to select the People’s Choice Award Winner for AIR. We are pleased to announce that Team TradeMark has taken home the prize, a gift card for Parkside Restaurant in Downtown Austin, graciously donated by the restaurant itself!

Even more, the Knowbility booth featured demonstrations in using the JAWS screen reading software by Jeanine Lineback. Talks by Knowbility supporters and sponsors from Deque Systems, Adobe, Paciello Group, and the W3C highlighted issues and new developments in accessibility.

Speaking of sponsors, we want to thank them! Without their support, none of this would be possible!

Deque Systems LogoCity of Austin LogoAdobe LogoThe Paciello Group LogoAustin Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities LogoNew Horizons LogoMicroAssist LogoSt. Edwards University Logo


And a special thanks goes out to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, who not only sponsored the 2012 Dewey Ceremony & AIR-Interactive Awards, but published a great article to highlight the Dewey Awardees.

Phew! It was a great week and now we are taking all the cool stuff we learned and will hope to share it with you at AccessU in May – see you then!

A modest list of accessibility events at SXSWi

Two themes continued to surface during this last glorious week spent with the accessibility tribe at the CSUN Conference on Assistive Technology.  One has to do with professionalization of the field and the other with communication to those other than the initiated. I can’t think of a better place than SXSWi to move the ball forward on both of these themes. So…inspired by The Great Big List of 2012 CSUN sessions, I compiled a list of accessibility related topics and activities that will be featured in the midst of the madness that is SXSW Interactive next week.

The modest list

There are more than 5000 events and sessions at the SXSW conference, so I know I have missed some.  Please use the comments below to add to this list anything that I have overlooked and if you need accommodation while attending SXSW, they have information posted.

Friday March 9

Popping Your Bubble: Stories of the Digital Divide

2 pm at the Sheraton Austin.  Tales of people with marginal access, primarily people of color and those in rural settings. Accessibility advocates might attend and draw parallels with disability.

The Future of Access to Digital Broadcast Video

5 pm in the Austin Convention Center (ACC), Room 9ABC. This should be a great discussion of why online video needs to be accessible too. Experts, including Andrew Kirkpatrick, Glenn Goldstein, Otto Berkes, and Shane Feldman will discuss challenges and share processes.

Saturday, March 10

AT&T Mobile Hackathon

This is an all-day event that requires pre-registration and will award up to $46K in prizes.  There is not a word about accessibility in any of their promo, so perhaps an accessibility coder can crash the party and capture the flag?

Accessible HTML 5 Canvas? Really? How?

At the Radisson Town Lake at 11:00 am to 12 noon.  A workshop format to teach technical details of how to create an accessible HTML DOM structure, tie it to the visible Canvas surface, and more.  With Charles Pritchard, Cynthia Shelly, David Bolter, Richard Schwerdtfeger, big brains all.

Accessibility MeetUp

Come to the Hilton Austin Downtown, Room 615AB at 12:30 pm for a meet and greet with SXSW attendees who are interested in accessibility from newbies to greybeards. Knowbility is organizing so there will be fun as well as tons of resources.

Sunday March 11

Will Accessibility Rain on Your Cloud Parade?

At 11:00 at the Hilton Garden Inn Elizabeth Woodward, a Senior Software Engineer with the IBM Research Human Ability and Accessibility Center will take a look at the additional thought and planning needed for accessibility success in the context of cloud computing.

Time to choose:  At 3:30 on Sunday we are presented with a trifecta and I don’t know how to advise you to choose your first, second, and third.  Maybe you can buddy up and draw straws with your friends.

Designing for Awareness in the Attention Economy

At 3:30 at the Stephen F Austin Hotel, usability specialists Brian Sullivan and Taylor Cowan consider how to get the attention of different types of users, including users with disability.

Demystifying the Future of the Web and Apps

Also at 3:30, at the Radisson Town Lake Paul Trani of Adobe leads an advanced workshop that includes CSS, HTML5 and how to balance media strengths and weaknesses for success in the world of mobile and progressive enhancement.

Preserving the Creative Culture of the Web

Also at 3:30 in the ACC, Room 9ABC, this presentation by Jason Scott, Kari Kraus, Nick Hasty considers accessibility of digital content over time as technology changes.

Dewy Winburne Community Service Honorees

Here in the Austin Convention Center, Room 8A is another event starting at 3:30.  But this one runs until 6:00 pm.  If you attend a previously mentioned  3:30 session, you can still get by to network with, learn from, and be inspired by the honorees for the 2012 Dewey Winburne Community Service Award. And you will especiallywant to attend to cheer for Judy Brewer who leads the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) at the W3C and is one of the Dewey honorees.

AIR-Interactive and Dewey Awards Party

At 6:00 pm, winners of the 2012 Accessibility Internet Rally AIR-Austin/AIR-Interactive awards will share the stage with the 2012 Dewey Award winners and music by Mother Falcon. Badges not needed at the St David’s Episcopal Church event center.

Monday March 12

On Monday, the trade show booths are opened, including Knowbility’s SXSW Accessibility Center.  Come by all day for demos of assistive technology, updates from the Web Accessibility Initiative of the W3C, and talks on trending accessibility topics by Knowbility partners from Deque Systems, the Paciello Group, MicroAssistAdobe and St Edward’s University .

Few of the break-out sessions on Monday have direct reference to accessibility, but my interest in the intersection of disability and the arts made me look at this one and I plan to drop in.

Performance and Technology: Keeping Arts Alive

At the ACC in Room 12AB a panel of artists and technologists including  Alyce Myatt, Asa Kalama, Beth Burns, Conor Roche, and Robert Matney explore the interaction of media, technology, and performance art.  Knowbility has collaborated for years with VSA Texas to produce fully accessible performance events (SightSoundSoul) and I am eager to see if and how disability is integrated into this discussion.

Tuesday March 13

How the iPad Can Save Accessibility

At 9:30 am Marty DeAngelo of Digitas Health presents his ideas on how to use new devices to make user experience even better than on the “old web.”

Transforming Social Media for the Senior Community

Also at 9:30 in the Omni Hotel ballroom, Brian Lang of Seniors In Touch talks about designing for all, inclusive design to reach the growing segment of the population over 65.  There is  significant overlap between the needs of  those with disability.

Beyond a Thousand Words: Accessible Complex Data

At 11:00 head back to the Convention Center, Room 10AB for what I expect to be an informative talk by IBM Research AbilityLab’s Susann Keohane and Brian Cragun.  They will describe their research considering how to render real time data analytics in accessible formats.  They will share some of the accessibility challenges of charts, large datasets, and node diagrams and some techniques to make them more accessible and usable by people with disabilities.

Breaking Down Walls, a Decentralised Social Web? 

At 12:30 Evan Prodromou leads a panel in Ballroom BC at the ACC to consider the closong of the web. Even though the web is founded on open, decentralized principles and accessible, non- proprietary technology, the trend for closed systems seems to be growing. No one owns e-mail, usenet or http, but proprietary social services seem to be moving away from openness. How to fix?

Flash: F Bomb or Da Bomb?

Another 12:30 option is this panel of developers giving their perspective on whether Flash technology is he Holy Grail of interactive web design or the virtual thorn in their web experience. In ACC Room AB with Aubrey Gross, David Greene, Kristine Schachinger, Phillip Gross.

The Semantic Web Has Gone Mainstream! Wanna Bet?

Core Conversations have become a favorite part of the conference, where you can get small groups of people with shared interest to give diverse perspectives.  This one will be held in the Hilton Austin Downtown in Room 616AB and led by Juan Sequeda of UT and Peter Mika of Yahoo.

Your mission – should you choose to accept it

Well, I said it was a modest list and out of some 5000 events, it is not huge.  Still it is a considerable commitment if you try to provide all that support by yourself.  So please spread the love, attend those of most interest, tell others about them and if you are not at SXSW this year, tell your friends who are here.  Ask accessibility questions at other sessions, too – let’s show support and keep accessibility as a topic and as an integral part of other tech talks.

I was greatly influenced to write this list by events at CSUN last week.  Some of that genesis is here:

 Accessibility as an IT profession

Knowbility took a skeptical position before the CSUN conference on the need for an autonomous, separate accessibility professional association.  But it was clear from the response at the CSUN conference that even skeptics felt that something was needed to change the perceptions that mainstream developers and technologists have about accessibility. SXSW is one of the largest technology conferences in the world and there is an openness to accessibility there that allows great conversations about how to integrate accessibility professionalism into overall best practices.  Knowbility will have a large booth that we have dubbed the SXSW Accessibility Center this year. We will be evangelizing the reality that “good design IS accessible design” and we invite participation from those who want to share resources and techniques at the booth.  Call Knowbility and talk to Carolyn Gibbs.

Web Accessibility Community Collaboration

On Wednesday at the CSUN conference I was part of a web accessibility community collaboration panel discussion that generated tons of great ideas from attendees around using existing resources and recognizing different levels of engagement and expertise to broaden the community of accessibility practice.  You can read much of the brainstorming by looking for the Twitter hashtag #wacol (pronounced in my mind, way cool!).  One idea that swirled around and around was that when accessibility topics show up at mainstream conferences, we need to promote them! attend them! create a buzz about them!

Hence, this list.  Please let me know if it is useful, if you attend any of these sessions, and about others you find next week.  Onward!









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!