Tag Archives: accessibility

TechSoup webinar on how your web site can welcome EVERYONE

TechSoup webinar on how your web site can welcome EVERYONE
August 24, 2017 (Thursday), 11 am to noon Pacific Daylight Time

Join experts from Knowbility to learn how accessibility will expand your pool of potential clients, donors, volunteers, staff and other supporters, the message your organization sends when it commits to accessible web site and multi-media materials, and, no-cost practical tips on how you can immediately improve your website’s accessibility. This webinar will help your nonprofit, school, church, or library ensure that its website, podcasts and videos are accessible to anyone who visits such, including people with disabilities and people using assistive technologies.

We’ll cover:

  • Why online accessibility is critical and how to become an advocate for such within your organization
  • Steps for simple, immediate, no-cost activities you can do to improve your web site accessibility
  • Resources to help tech staff and volunteers make your site fully accessible, adhering to federal requirements
  • Information about OpenAIR – Accessibility Internet Rally

Register here (it’s free!)

Also see:

How do I get to you without a car?

If I want to come to come to your nonprofit organization, your NGO, your government office, etc. for a training or a workshop or a special event or for your services, and I will not be driving, will your web site tell me how to get there?

Will your web site tell me what buses stop nearest to your organization and how far the walk from a bus stop is to your office? Will it tell me where to park my bicycle? Is there a photo of the exterior of your agency, so I’ll recognize it easily?

I’m in a one-car family. I use mass transit and my bicycle to get around. In the greater metropolitan Portland, Oregon area, that’s not an easy thing (it’s fascinating to hear Portlandiers brag about their mass transit system, but start to stutter when I ask, “Do you yourself take it every day, or even every week? Do you rely on it to get to and from work?”). Looking at various nonprofit web sites when I’m supposed to have a meeting, I often can’t find the street address, and even then, there’s no information about mass transit options or bike parking. Yes, I’ve used the Portland mass transit trip planner, but it often doesn’t suggest the quickest route, or tell you that while there is a bus stop a block away, there’s a light rail stop just five blocks away. When you are actually on a Portland bus, routes usually are not announced, bus drivers aren’t happy about trying to help you find the right stop, and there are lots of challenges that would have been much more navigable has someone simply warned you about such.

There are people who cannot afford to buy a car, people who don’t have a driver’s license, and young people, too young to drive, who want to volunteer at your organization, attend an event, or access your services. If you don’t have information to help these people – and that includes me — you are telling these audiences, We don’t want you to come to our organization. Is that really what you want to say?

And, indeed, there are events, trainings and more I have wanted to attend, but cannot, because I either can’t figure out how to get to the organization by mass transit or the organization is having the meeting in a place not easily reached by mass transit. One organization had a meeting at a library branch that would have taken more than two hours for me to get to – but had they had the meeting just 3.5 miles away, at another library branch, it would take just 40 minutes – the difference was that one site is served by a bus that comes only every 30 minutes, while the other is on an express, frequent service bus line.

Your organization’s web site needs to have the following information – and it needs to be oh-so-easy to find:

  • a text-based rendering of your organization’s physical address (not just in a graphic)
  • a map that shows your organization’s location AND the nearest bus stops (including express/frequent service buses) and nearest light rail stops; there are online volunteers who would be happy to prepare this graphic for you
  • written advice that would be helpful to a bus rider (is there a landmark you should be looking for when riding the bus to know when your stop is coming? how long of a walk is it from the stop to your office? is there only one place to cross a particularly busy street that wouldn’t be obvious to someone unfamiliar with the area (as I recently encountered for an evening training, in the dark, at a nonprofit’s office)? Ask your current volunteers and clients about this – or create an investigative project for your volunteers to tease out this information
  • a photo of the exterior of your offices
  • information on where a bicycle rider would park. If you don’t have a rack outside, either get one or allow people to bring their bikes inside (an addition note about this is at the end of this blog)
  • tips specifically for bicyclists, like advice on routes (perhaps a bike rider would be more comfortable riding on a parallel street rather than a main one – another great investigative project for your volunteers)

There is no excuse to not have this information on your web site, unless your organization needs to keep its location private (a domestic violence shelter, for instance).   Not We don’t have the time or We don’t have the funding or All of our clients/volunteers drive. This information is just as important as parking information and your hours of operation!

Volunteers can help you gather this information. If none of your current volunteers are interested, post it as an opportunity on VolunteerMatch (or your country’s equivalent) and with your local volunteer center.

In addition, remember that in most cities, buses stop running after a certain hour. If your training goes past that time, you are excluding people who would be stranded after the training. If there is no way to change the hours, talk about ways to set up participant car pools.

Encourage volunteers to carpool as well. And brag about all these green living efforts to the board and on your blog!

On the subject of bike parking racks: Cyclists prefer to park very close to their destinations and will lock a bicycle to anything available unless a rack is nearby. They do NOT want racks that hold the bike by the wheel, nor racks with which they can’t use a U-Lock. Racks should be in public view with high visibility and good lighting. One that is filmed by a security camera is particularly great. Work with your city to get a rack installed for your building; they will have rules regarding where racks can go. Bike racks are great projects to fundraise around: identify exactly how much it will cost to buy and install such and involve your volunteers on creating a fundraising campaign to raise the funds needed for installation (what a great sponsorship opportunity!); when you install your new bike rack, take photos, make an announcement – maybe even throw a party! In short – make it a big deal.

Kentucky, Tennessee, other parts of USA need digital access help

logoBack in the 1990s, I got into a heated debate somewhere online with someone who said community technology centers and computer literacy programs would be gone by the turn of the century. I knew there would always be a need for such groups, at least in my lifetime. And, sadly, I was right.

I love my home state of Kentucky oh-so-much. I lived there until I was 22, and really enjoy visiting whenever I can. I plan on retiring there some day. I think it’s an amazing state. But I also know that Kentucky has quite a few people who are under-educated, even illiterate, that are living in poverty, that are struggling with nutritional needs, health care, dental care and more. And when it comes to Internet speed, Kentucky is stuck in the slow lane – this story is from 2014, but not much has changed 2 years later.

But in addition, Kentucky, and its neighbor, Tennessee, don’t have many computer literacy projects or digital equity programs outside of its grade schools. Seniors, people in their 40s and over struggling with unemployment, and many others in those two states lack computer literacy skills: they don’t know how to use word processing programs, they don’t understand the Internet, they don’t understand online safety, and they may not even understand what’s installed on their smart phones. The nearest NetSquared group for Kentucky or Tennessee? St. Louis. Chicago. Columbus. Atlanta. Hundreds of miles away for most people in those two states. SeniorNet doesn’t serve either state. There is nothing in Kentucky or Tennessee – and probably a lot of other US states – like there is in big US cities known for their tech-savviness, or even like there is in many large cities in Africa. Portland, Oregon has FreeGeek and an NTEN Nonprofit Tech Club, Austin, Texas has Austin FreeNet and also an NTEN Nonprofit Tech Club, and San Francisco has more programs helping various communities with digital empowerment than I care to try to list here. Heck, I even discovered the Crook County, Oregon Mobile Computer Lab in Paulina, Oregon on a motorcycle ride a few years ago.

Not that there aren’t organizations expressing the need for such in these two states – and others, probably. ElderServe in Louisville needs a volunteer to teach basic computer skills such as how to operate a computer, email, Google, Facebook, etc. to its senior participants. The Louisville, Kentucky public library hosts computer literacy classes at many of their sites. Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee has computer classes for clients. in Nashville.

Does the University of Kentucky do anything regarding building the digital literacy of high-poverty communities or under-served people? Western Kentucky University? Eastern Kentucky University? Murray State University? University of Tennessee? Middle Tennessee State University? University of Memphis? Vanderbilt? Not that I could find. I used the names of these universitys, or the largest cities in these two states, and phrases like digital literacy, computer training elderly, and computer literacy at-risk teens to search.

Computer literacy projects, digital equity programs, “access for all” groups, geeks4good initiatives – even in 2016, these kinds of initiatives are still needed, not just in developing countries, but right here in the USA, and not just in Kentucky and Tennessee. I have no doubt that such initiatives could easily recruit qualified, committed onsite and online volunteers in these areas, and attract funding. There are lots of people that would love to teach classes, market the classes, find places for the classes, and build web sites for programs providing these services. Photos of seniors, rural people, at-risk youth and others engaged in these programs, and their testimonials after their participation, would be oh-so-attractive to sponsors.

If you want to start such a program in Kentucky, Tennesee, or wherever you are, there are lots of resources to help you:

  • NetSquared
  • Start a Cyber Seniors program
  • See the San Francisco Bay Area’s Community Technology Network for a model program
  • Archived web pages from CTC Net and its members: go to archive.org and search for www.ctcnet.org and look at any of the web pages from mid 2005 and look up the CTCNet Center Start Up Manual and the CTC Toolkit, with resources regarding
    preparing a business plan, identifying potential partners, determining program focus, staffing, evaluation, budgeting and funding
  • United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) contributions to the UNESCO Multimedia Training Kit, a list of the content UNITeS provided UNESCO in 2005. The overall kit was meant to provide trainers in telecentres, community media organizations, civil society organizations and the development sector with a set of modular training materials on information communications technologies; the materials were intended for use by trainers in face-to-face workshops rather than for self-instruction by learners. UNITeS contributions were regarding volunteer engagement in these community tech initiatives.

And I hope if you do start such an initiative, you will share information about such in the comments below!

Update: for clarification, I’m talking about digital literacy and access for all citizens – I’m not talking about a company hiring people to code or expanding its company operations in either state.

April 17, 2017 update: on a related note: “Tennessee will literally be paying AT&T to provide a service 1000 times slower than what Chattanooga could provide without subsidies.”

Universal accessibility in tourism! World Tourism Day theme 2016

tourismforallWorld Tourism Day is September 27 each year, as designated by the United Nations General Assembly, and is meant to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. The celebration also seeks to highlight tourism’s potential to contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing some of the most pressing challenges society is faced with today. The lead agency for the day is the UN World Tourism Organization, and the theme of this year’s World Tourism Day is “Promoting Universal Accessibility.”

Accessible Tourism for all is about the creation of environments that can cater for the needs of all of us, whether whether we are traveling or staying at home. May that be due to a disability, even temporary, families with small children, or the ageing population, at some point in our lives, sooner or later, we all benefit of universal accessibility in tourism.

Which is why we want to call upon the right for all of the world’s citizens to experience the incredible diversity of our planet and the beauty of the world we live in. 

LOVE the theme. The organizers are offering a free publication, UNWTO Recommendations on Accessible Information in Tourism (2016) , in English and Spanish. I love this from the introduction of that publication:

Tourist information needs to be designed based on the principles of Universal Design in order to maximise its ease of use by as many people as possible and in varied environmental conditions and situations. This applies equally to print media, graphics and  digital communication formats. No one should be excluded from participating in tourism activities because of poorly designed information tools and systems, as this also implies being excluded from the opportunity of living an independent life.

I am SO pleased to see this emphasis from a United Nations agency! Accessible design for web sites and smart phone apps is a very, very big deal with me – and if you need help with accessible design, there’s no better place to look than the Austin, Texas-based nonprofit Knowbility!

The campaign also has UNWTO Recommendations on Accessible Tourism for All (2013), to advise on ativities for ensuring that people with disabilities have access to the physical environment, the transportation system, information and communications channels, as well as to a wide range of public facilities and services. There are lots more free UNWTO publications regarding accessibility in tourism, as well as logos in English, Spanish, French and Russian in association with this year’s theme,

If you are having an event in association with this theme on World Tourism Day, you can submit it via the web site and it will appear on the official map.

And in case you are wondering why I care so much about this particular day: I’m an avid traveler. I want to use my privilege to see different parts of the world, whether that’s something around the globe from me or in the next county. Travel gives me hope in humanity, because of the incredible kindness I experience. Travel gives me a sense of wonder, because of the incredible natural beauty and human-made marvels I see. Travel gives me a sense of brotherhood with all humans, because of the various representations of history I encounter. I want all people to get to experience this, particularly women. And the economic benefits to local communities regarding tourism are real and something I very much want to support.

Also see Adventure tourism as a tool for economic & community development by me! This is a resource for those that like to explore developing countries / low infrastructure environments, as well as offering more about why I make travel a priority in my life.

(my own blog)

Learn the importance of web site accessible design, enjoy Austin, Texas

Knowbility.org‘s AccessU 2016 will be May 9 – 11 in Austin, Texas. Jan McSorley, Pearson’s Head of Accessiblity for School, will kick off the three-day web design conference with special emphasis on breaking barriers for people with disabilities. Other internationally known experts on accessible design and development will be featured as well. The goal of the event is to provide tools that can be immediately put to use by designers, developers, project managers, administrators, and anyone who has responsibility for online content and function.

Knowbility is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission of improving technology access for millions of youth and adults with disabilities. The Knowbility web site features free resources regarding web site and mobile app accessibility:

Are you a web designer? Then this is for YOU

The Accessibility Internet Rally is the centerpiece project of the nonprofit organization Knowbility.org, based in Austin, Texas. It’s my favorite corporate volunteering event, my favorite group volunteering event, my favorite tech volunteering event, and my favorite episodic volunteering event. And now that it’s available to anyone to participate online, it’s poised to become my favorite online volunteering event!

The Open Accessibility Internet Rally (OpenAir) is an international community hackathon with a unique twist – accessibility! OpenAIR increases awareness of the tools and techniques that make the Internet accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, and it also enhances participants’ accessible design skills. Unlike other hackathons, the things that get developed at this event are used LONG after the event is over! Unlike other hackathons, this event changes people and the way they work for years to come.

Experts in the accessibility field will act as mentors during the competition – that’s some primo networking! Truly, participate in this, and you increase your own marketability as a web designer!

Added bonus: this year, OpenAIR has added new game elements, leaderboards, and fabulous prizes.

OpenAIR begins in October and wraps up with an awards ceremony in February. Requirements to participate:

  • Skilled in web production: Designers, developers, QA testers, we’re looking at you!
  • Passionate about making a difference: Help non-profits, create inclusive content, empower everyone to access the web.
  • Eager to learn: You’ll receive amazing training and support: prepare to be challenged!
  • Ready to level up: You don’t mind getting a little glory for your skills and your team.

If this describes you or your team, don’t miss out! There are limited spots, and the competition is just about to start. This year’s OpenAIR kicks off at the Google campus in Austin, TX in October, streamed live across the world.

Reserve your team on OpenAIR now! (The first 10 teams that sign up receive a custom game avatar for the competition)

Don’t have a team? Don’t think you can put together a team on your own? Still want to participate as a designer? No problem! Register as an individual and Knowbility will help you join a team!

Are you a nonprofit that wants to be the recipient of an OpenAIR web design/collaboration? Register here.

Who Takes the Lead on Exploration of Tech at a Mission-Based Org?

IT managers and IT consultants play an essential role in helping mission-based organizations – nonprofits, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government agencies, community groups, etc. – to use technology to meet the goals of the organization.

That said, however, an IT manager is not always the best person to lead at a mission-based organization regarding what Internet, computer and smart phone tools an organization or department should be using.

When I first began encouraging organizations to explore the possibilities of virtual volunteering back in the mid 1990s, many of the outspoken critics of virtual volunteering were IT managers at nonprofit and government agencies. Many IT managers were not supporters – they were OBSTACLES. The same was true when I began promoting accessibility as a fundamental element of web site design a little while later. In both cases, IT managers threw up a variety of arguments as to why neither of these strategies were worthwhile for mission-based organizations, almost all relating to cost or security and they expressed great fear at the “vast” amounts of work that pursuing either of these activities would cause them and the organization. Some IT managers even went so far as to tell managers of volunteers they were not allowed to involve volunteers via the Internet.

Thank goodness so many managers at mission-based organizations explored technology issues on their own, and became experts in their own right regarding how virtual volunteering, web accessibility, and other tech-related practices could be used in their organizations and could benefit their clients, employees and volunteers. I worked with many nonprofit managers, particularly managers of volunteer, helping them to develop counter arguments to IT managers reluctance to let them explore the use of various ICT tools in their jobs. The drive to use the Internet and computers to work with volunteers, as well as to make nonprofit web sites to be accessible for people with disabilities, has been lead by NON IT staff!

That isn’t to say that all ICT consultants and managers try to block the exploration and use of ICTs in nonprofit activities. Many have been quite supportive of mission-based staff’s exploration and use of ICTs – and, indeed, of virtual volunteering and accessibility. But the reality is that ICT consultants and managers need to work directly with nonprofit staff that are managing client programs, managing HR, managing volunteers, and so forth in making tech-related decisions TOGETHER. They need to listen to the organization’s volunteers as well. IT managers need to listen and to support these employees and volunteers in exploring tech that could help them in their work with the organization.

Many publications have tackled the subject of how to address non-IT staff resistance at mission-based organizations to using Internet and computer technologies. Let’s explore the other side of this issue: how have you, as a non-IT staff person at a mission-based organization, overcome IT staff or consultant resistance to things like:

  • installing and supporting your use of a database program or other software that you feel that you need in your job
  • involving volunteers via the Internet, including having interactive features on your web site for volunteers
  • making your web site accessible for people with disabilities or others using assistive technology
  • exploring the use of Linux or Open Source technologies at your organization

A version of this article first appeared in Tech4Impact, my email newsletter, in January 2003. 


Help build online training in web accessibility

The incredible nonprofit Knowbility has launched a crowd-funding campaign to build online training in web and I.T. accessibility, so that we can truly bridge the digital divide and not leave anyone out of online resources and services. Here is a link to their short video that explains the VITAL importance of this program. The initial goal is $50,000 and Knowbility will receive matching funds when it reaches the goal.

Yes, of course I contributed!

Open Air Hackathon – Nonprofits Get Web Sites, Designers Get Accessibility Training

The Accessibility Internet Rally is a community hackathon with a unique twist – Internet accessible for everyone, including people with disabilities.

AIR benefits nonprofit organizations and schools in any community by providing them with free, professionally designed, accessible websites.

AIR benefits participating volunteers, who are web designers, by providing them with increased awareness of the tools and techniques that make the Internet accessible to everyone – including people with disabilities – thereby increasing skills they can take back to their work places.

The result: dozens of professionally designed, accessible websites for nonprofit groups, and web designers with new skills and understanding regarding accessible design and usability.

Open AIR Registration for both nonprofits that want web sites and teams is NOW.

The competition – the hackathon — begins October 23, 2013 (& and lasts a month).

If you are a web developer, professional or aspiring (but with the needed skills), sign up a team of three to six members via the online developer registration. Besides helping nonprofits and learning new skills, you will also get the opportunity to win tickets to SXSW Interactive 2015 in Austin, Texas.

As a participant and competitor you will:

  • Be matched with a non-profit organization, budding artist, or worthy community organization (though you can also help a nonprofit register and be asked to be matched with that particular nonprofit)
  • Create an exciting, interactive web experience that is accessible to everyone.
  • Network with area artists, web professionals, and other really cool people.
  • Get to complete your development project in a more relaxed time frame – unlike past events that happened in one day, onsite, the development cycle is 30 days for Open AIR and can be done from your own location, giving your team the opportunity to create something really special fromanywhere.
  • Have access to training worth over $4,000

Don’t have a team to register with? Submit an individual registration and we will work to place you on a great team. Knowbility recommends a $25.00 donation to support the Open AIR program in lieu of a team registration fee for individual registrants.

Fees are $100 for the first 4 team members, $125 for teams of five, $150 for teams of six.

For nonprofits: register for free and if you are selected, a $100 registration fee will be due.

The Accessibility Internet Rally is open to participants in three categories:

  • Community Organizations: to qualify in this category, entities must be either a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization or an entity that exists for community benefit such as a church group, an arts organization, or a performance organization, to be decided at the discretion of the Organizer.
  • Web design team: to participate in this category, a group of up to 6 web and related professionals sign on as a team. Each web design team shall be considered a single Entrant. No person may enter more than once, either individually or as part of any team. If an Entrant uses the name of a corporation, partnership or other legal entity, the Entrant certifies it has the permission of the entity to do so.
  • Individual web professional: Individuals may sign on to participate and will be matched to other individuals at the discretion of the Organizaer to create a Web Design Team.

All Entrants must be officially registered to participate in the competition.

Entrants will be given access to a collection of online resources (training) to help them build accessible Web sites. Entrants will be expected to read and familiarize themselves with these resources prior to the Rally.

Entrants are required to submit their Entries in accordance with a mechanism determined by the Organizer This mechanism shall include instructions for preparing files for upload, file specifications including file type and file size and location for uploading.

Here are the complete details of participation, including team commitments.

Here is registration info for both teams and nonprofits.

Can virtual volunteering lead to better employability?

Can engaging in virtual volunteering, particularly by individuals in the European Union, lead to better employability for those individuals?

The ICT4EMPL Future Work project is exploring “pathways to employability mediated by ICTs – Information and Communications Technologies.” For the next few months, I am working on part of this project, specifically regarding internet-mediated volunteering or virtual volunteering, including microvolunteering. 

I – and my fellow researchers – are seeking specific information for this project, such as:

  • Individuals, especially those living in Europe, who have volunteered in any way, onsite or online, for charities or NGOs, and believe that, because of this experience, they have improved their inclusion in society or difference communities, had an interview for a paid job, been hired for a paid job (as an employee or a consultant), created an entire career, or become more employable in some way.
  • Organizations, especially those based in Europe, that have used volunteering, onsite or online, as a way to help their clients, volunteers or others gain skills that improve their employability (this does not have to be a primary mission of the organization).
  • Organizations, especially those based in Europe, that help train unemployed or under-employed people in computer and Internet-related skills in order to improve their employability.
  • Organizations that involve volunteers online, in whole or in part, and would be willing to be interviewed for this project, and would be willing to encourage their volunteers to be interviewed for this project as well.
  • Resources and research related to Internet-mediated volunteering (virtual volunteering) that is specific to a European country or Europe in general.
  • Resources related to telecommuting, virtual teams and remote management that is specific to a European country or Europe in general.
  • Any research that relates to any of the aforementioned (it can be USA-centric, or from any country outside of Europe, but it needs to be a resource that will help inform this project for possible applications in Europe).

Update April 12, 2013: I am ALSO looking to connect with individuals / organizations that have:

  • Evaluated a virtual volunteering/Internet-mediated-volunteering-related initiative in a European country and would be willing to share the evaluation with us.
  • Evaluated a volunteering initiative in a European country that related to volunteers developing job skills for paid work or career advancement and would be willing to share the evaluation with us. 
  • Hosted or lead workshops on virtual volunteering/Internet-mediated-volunteering for NGOs, charities and other organizations in a European country, with the goal of these NGOs, charities and other organizations involving volunteers via the Internet in some way (virtual volunteering, crowdsourcing, microvlunteering, etc.) or expanding such involvement.

If you would like to submit information for this project, edit content for the wiki for this project, or ask any questions, send an email to me, Jayne Cravens.

Información en español es aceptable

Informations en français est acceptable

Informationen in Deutsch ist akzeptabel

DEADLINE: I’d prefer to get information before June 1, 2013, if at all possible, but I will continue to accept information through early August, 2013, if I haven’t gathered enough information by that point for the end of my part of the project (actually, I’ll probably always accept information related to this project, since I’m forever identified with virtual volunteering, and am always interested in the subject, particularly outside the USA).

For more information, check out the wiki for “my” part of this project.

The ICT4EMPL research project is in the context of of implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy and the Digital Agenda for Europe.