Tag Archives: accessible

Web designers: your chance to be a super hero!

 The nonprofit organization Knowbility now has 27 nonprofits and artists that have signed up to participate in OpenAIR2018 and get new web sites via its acclaimed hackathon, which takes place in February and March 2018. There is room for a few more nonprofits, NGOs, charities and artists – but now, Knowbility is turning its attention to recruiting web design teams.

OpenAIR web design teams are volunteers-turned-superheroes. They receive training and mentoring from some of the nation’s most prominent web design accessibility experts as they design new web sites for participating client organizations and artists. Design teams have about five weeks after the start date on February 8, 2018 to create these web sites that comply with ADA and Section 508 standards. The training and mentoring that design teams receive is valued at over $4,000 – but participating web design teams pay just $150.

Web sites are judged by Knowbility’s judging panel over a six week period (the nonprofits and artists get access to the designs to use on their own sites as soon as the design period is over, but team original designs are preserved for judging). Awards will be announced in May during Knowbility’s AccessU accessibility conference.

OpenAIR web design teams can be professional web designers, university faculty, university students – anyone who has designed web sites but wants to take their skills to the next level.

This is a great opportunity not only to get top-notch training in web design accessibility; it’s also a fantastic opportunity to:

  • enhance your virtual team skills and brag about being involved in virtual volunteering
  • be a part of an internationally-recognized event
  • help nonprofits that are addressing a variety of causes – fair housing, help for seniors, children’s education and more
  • gain recognition for your individual or your company’s corporate social responsibility focus / philanthropy
  • compete with other web designers

Your team could be the IT staff from a government agency. Or the entire IT department at a large corporation. Or staff from a savy hot tech startup. Or university students. Or university faculty. If you are an individual web designer, you can register as an individual and you will be matched with a team that has room for you or with other individuals who want to participate and join a team. Teams must have at least 4 members and no more than 6.

After the competition, Knowbility also asks design teams to guide their client organization’s through the process of replacing their current web site with the one the design team has developed, and to provide some initial guidance to the nonprofit in case they have any difficulties with their new site. This is not a requirement, but the guidance is greatly appreciated by the nonprofit clients (otherwise, the guidance will be provided by Knowbility).

A fee of $150 per team is due at registration. If you are an individual, note in your registration that you want to be a part of a team; you can work out how to pay your registration once your team is finalized.

Teams may register with a nonprofit or artist they already have a relationship with (however, there is also a $100 nonprofit registration fee – and if the nonprofit client or artist has to register ASAP, because the window for those registrations is FAST closing!).

Register ASAP! I suggest a deadline of January 12, 2018 to register! 

The Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) has been happening since the 1990s. It used to be an onsite hackathon, mostly in Austin, Texas, and the designs happened in ONE DAY – back then, the nonprofits didn’t have web sites at all. I was a part of it back then – I’m thrilled to be a part of it again.

Also see:

Lessons for online outreach to nonprofits, NGOs & charities

Since June 1, I’ve served as the nonprofit liaison for OpenAIR – Accessibility Internet Rally. It’s an online event by Knowbility, an international nonprofit based in Austin, Texas. I have been working to recruit nonprofits, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), charities and artists in the USA and abroad to participate in the event, which begins in February, but there are some things nonprofits need to do now, or up to that date, to participate. OpenAIR provides participating organizations and artists with both a new, professionally-designed, accessible website that accommodates all visitors, and with expanded awareness about accessibility issues. They get more than a new website; they become a more-welcoming place online – and maybe offline as well.

People with disabilities want to donate, volunteer and otherwise support causes they care about, including the arts. But if a nonprofit’s or artist’s website isn’t accessible to them, they are left out – and that means leaving out potential donors, volunteers, clients, ideas, talent and more. All of that changes when the organization participates in OpenAIR. The OpenAIR website has full details on the benefits of participation, why every organization or artist should make web accessibility a priority, and exactly what participation looks like for a client organization/artist. If you decide to participate, all you have to do is fill out the registration form, and then you will receive a client needs survey which you need to fill out before December 15. Registration is $100, but we’re not billing anyone until December.

I have no budget for this outreach for OpenAIR. I can’t buy ads or airtime anywhere. I’ve been doing outreach for OpenAIR almost entirely online, mostly via one-to-one emails, but also via a few face-to-face visits with nonprofits representatives here where I live in Oregon, in coffee shops, on a front porch, while walking our dogs… Of course, the face-to-face pitches have been the most effective ones. That’s why I created a five minute pitch video, trying to recapture whatever it is I do face-to-face that makes people want to participate and that seems to be far more effective than emails.

Other than the importance of face-to-face, personal pitches to sell an idea even an online one, what else have I learned from doing outreach for Knowbility and OpenAIR? Listen up, because I think these are important in understanding outreach to and by any mission-based organization, including schools and government agencies:

  1. Many nonprofits, NGOs, charities and artists do not have any way to contact them electronically via their web site. I’m not kidding! There is no email address, no contact form, no nothing. And going to the WHOIS database to look up their registration info often doesn’t help: they’ve paid a company to block their email address from view, or the domain name registration company is the contact. All of these organizations and artists rely on donors and clients/audiences to exist – and, yet, they make it oh-so-hard to reach anyone at the organization except by telephone (and sometimes not even that is listed!).
  2. Many nonprofits, NGOs, charities and artists have only an online form to use to reach them electronically – no actual email address. Often, these forms require you to choose a reason for your message, and none of the reasons offered are why I’m writing. Or I get an error message after submitting the contact form – the person receiving the message is no longer at the organization, or the email address no longer works, or the script is broken, or something didn’t work and I can’t figure out what or why. How many potential clients/audiences also tried to use this form – and were turned away?
  3. We’ve got a long way to go regarding making accessible web design a priority, even at nonprofits that have a large clientele of people with disabilities or diminishing abilities (sight, hearing, mobility, etc.), even among initiatives that claim to focus on the digital divide, e-inclusion, social inclusion, social justice, equity and human rights. I am flabbergasted to find 99% of the nonprofits, NGOs, charities and artists I have checked out do not have anywhere near an accessible web design.
  4. Many nonprofits, NGOs, charities and artists flatly reject the idea that their site needs to be accessible. Some feedback I’ve heard:
    — “We don’t have that many people we’re trying to reach / that want our services that have a disability.”
    — “Seems expensive/too much work” (it’s NOT, BTW)
    — “A company owned by one of our board members did our web site – we don’t want to offend them by asking for a change.”
  5. There are still nonprofits, NGOs and charities that don’t control their own web sites! I thought this was a problem that was left behind with the last millennium. But, even today, there are a lot of organizations that got a site donated by a board member or some other supporter, or a consultant or volunteer did the site, and to make any change to the site, whether adding text or changing a photo or adding a page, the organization has to contact the company or person that controls the web site and ask him to do it (I’ve het to find a “her” that exerts such control). And these organizations are really reluctant to “bother” that person.
  6. There are some really awful domain names out there. My #1 rule for a domain name is that it’s easy to say, because that means it’s easy to remember. Yes, it’s wonderful if it’s also short, but if it’s short and impossible to remember, it’s not a good URL. There are even some organizations using the ~ (tilde) symbols in their web addresses! ARGH!

And before any for-profit/corporate folks comment to say, “Well, this is why nonprofits need to be more like businesses”, let me say that part of the above is YOUR fault. Why? Because (1) you refuse to fund “overhead”, which means you refuse to fund the web hosting, the domain name registration, or even a part-time person to manage a web site at a nonprofit, and you also refuse to fund classes for the person at a nonprofit charged with managing the web site, and (2) you donate space on your server for a nonprofit’s web site, or say you will otherwise host the web site, and pat yourself on the back for this in-kind donation, but then you don’t treat the nonprofit as a client, responding to their requests for changes to the web site promptly. And when a nonprofit comes to you and says, “We’d like our web site to be accessible”, you balk and say “Too expensive.” Even though it’s NOT “too expensive.” Again: ARGH!

Also see:

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)

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.

Women & the Digital Divide: still a reality?

Nine years ago, TechSoup hosted a series of week-long online events regarding the digital divide, and I had the honor of co-hosting the thread regarding gender – specifically, barriers to women and girls from using computer and Internet tech, including access to public Internet spaces. Long after the event was over, people kept posting to the thread here and there. The last posts were in February 2011.

This event was quite transformative for me. It lead to this: Women’s Access to Public Internet Access, a resource I developed through research & experience (and continue to update) to support the development of women-only Internet centers/technology centers/etc., or women-only hours at such public Internet access points, in developing and transitional countries.

I would love to revisit the topic: visit this re-introduction to the thread and reply there with your thoughts:

What’s changed since this discussion took place?

What hasn’t changed?

Do you see any barriers to women and girls regarding use of computers, the Internet and related tools, in your country or anywhere else and, if so, what are they?

Or do you think the divide is bridged?

And it’s worth noting that I posted about this thread to the Digital Inclusion Network (formerly the Digital Divide Network), and got a reply off-list from Girl Geek Dinners Bologna. They have launched a project called Smart Women, which “aims to contribute to the dissemination of digital culture in Italy.” It is a kind of road show that will cross Italy within a week, talking about women’s access to digital tools and spaces. From the web site (my translation along with Google translate – hope I got it right):

“Because in Italy we often talk about digital, but women are often excluded from the discussion… We want to talk about digital culture and opportunities with Italian and foreign women, because we believe that cultural exchange leads to the growth and stimulation of new initiatives. A the same time we want to enhance the excellence of local resources, triggering a call to action aimed at involving women in each city. We will leave from Bologna, where we will be guests of Smart City Forum Exhibition, from here we will stop in Florence, Rome, Naples and Cosenza.”

Digital divide, women, Italy and food? So sorry I don’t live in Europe anymore….

volunteer online & make web sites accessible part II

Comedian, writer, broadcaster and prolific tweeter Stephen Fry is backing a new campaign in the U.K. called Fix the Web, launched to tackle the problem of inaccessible websites. The project aims to have 10,000 online volunteers within two years, all reporting problems regarding web site accessibility for people with sight impairments (not just people who are legally blind, but people who wear glasses – like me!), hearing impairments, mobility issues, and other disabilities back to web site owners to get fixed.

And as I reported earlier, Knowbility is hosting a terrific online event, AIR Interactive, that gives online volunteers a chance to either

    1. create an accessible website for a musician or arts web site of your choice and submit the URL by March 5th.

OR 

  1.  choose from these sites and critique the accessibility features and redesign one page for accessibility. Submit by March 5th.

AIR-Interactive participants help ensure that as arts go online, rich cultural experiences can be enjoyed by everyone – including people with disabilities. Online volunteers need to register and then access online tutorials. There are two call-in conferences for participants to receive live consultations. The AIR Interactive event also allows anyone with Internet access to participate and is another a great example of virtual volunteering. So far teams from Manchester in the UK, Mumbai India and Buda, Texas have joined (in addition to Austin, ofcourse).

One caution about both of these online volunteering opportunities: they take real time. It is so easy to say yes to volunteering via the Internet that many people sign up to do so before really considering their schedule. Most volunteers who take this approach end up never having that spare time originally envisioned and do not complete an assignments they committed to doing, leaving the organization scrambling to get the work done by others. Saying yes to virtual volunteering but then not completing an assignment also affects the organization’s view of online volunteers: staff may decide online volunteers are not trustworthy nor reliable, and challenge or even halt attempts to expand virtual volunteering at an organization.

So please DO sign up for either of these virtual volunteering activities. But also be sure reserve some time to actually get the activities done!

Dec. 3, International Day of Persons With Disabilities

Knowbility is encouraging corporations, nonprofits, government agencies, web developers, software designers, IT managers, policy developers and others to join in using the United Nation’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3, to start or renew their commitment to online accessibility.

The goal of full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in society and development was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982. The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities aims to promote a better understanding of disability issues with a focus on the rights of persons with disabilities and gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities.

“The UN’s day provides a great opportunity for all of us to talk about the vital importance of digital inclusion,” said Sharron Rush, executive director of Knowbility, an Austin, Texas-based national nonprofit with a mission to support the independence of children and adults with disabilities by promoting the use and improving the availability of accessible information technology. “Without the commitment of everyone to online and software accessibility, millions of people who are blind, are visually-impaired, have mobility impairments or who have cognitive or learning disabilities will be left out as customers, clients, and students.” 

A great way for companies and various professionals to start or renew their commitment to online accessibility is to attend AccessU West, January 10-12, 2011, to be held at San Jose State University and presented by Knowbility.

AccessU provides three days of cutting-edge IT accessibility classes lead by world renowned accessibility experts. The keynote speaker will be Dennis Lembree, author of the internationally-recognized Web Axe, a podcast and blog focused on web accessibility. Lembree is an accomplished web developer who has worked for a variety of companies including Ford, Google, Disney, and currently, Research In Motion.

Other classes include:

    * “Real World Accessibility for HTML5, Css3 and ARIA” with Derek Featherstone
* “Testing for Web Accessibility” by Jim Thatcher
*  “How accessibility ties to usability goals” by Whitney Quesenbery, past President of the Usability Professionals Association (UPA).
* “Bake Accessibility into the CMS: Drupal & Accessible Content” with Kevin Miller

See you at AccessU West!