Tag Archives: disabled

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:

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)

Keeping volunteers safe – & keeping everyone safe with volunteers

I am thrilled to have just discovered that some of my favorite resources for helping to keep volunteers safe, and keeping everyone safe with volunteers, are now available for FREE – just download them!

One is Kidding Around? Be Serious! A Commitment to Safe Service Opportunities for Young People. It discussed “risk relevant characteristics” of adolescents and children – knowledge that was especially helpful when I was creating and advising on online mentoring programs -, offers a realistic, effective risk management process for dealing with young people, and reviews how to approach different service scenarios involving young participants. If you have young volunteers working together in particular, this book is a MUST read.

Another resource that is now free to download is Screening Volunteers to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse: A Community Guide for Youth Organizations. There are explicit guidelines on interactions between individuals, detailed guidance on monitoring behavior, advice on training staff, volunteers and youth themselves about child sexual abuse prevention, and exactly how to respond to inappropriate behavior, breaches in policy, and allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse. I really can’t say enough fantastic things about this book.

And still another resource is Safe to Compete: An Introduction to Sound Practices for Keeping Children Safer in Youth-Serving Organizations. This document from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, published in 2013, is a framework for youth-serving organizations to guide their development of a sexual abuse prevention program.

Combine these three books with Beyond Police Checks: The Definitive Volunteer & Employee Screening Guidebook by Linda Graff, available from Energize, Inc. (but not for free), and you’ve got a solid, more-than-basic understanding of risk management in volunteer engagement activities. I really can’t say enough fantastic things about Graff’s book. It completely changed my view of safety in volunteering programs, both for clients and for volunteers themselves – the over-reliance on police checks for safety continues, sometimes with tragic consequences.

Three of these resources are “old”, however, I have had no trouble whatsoever easily adapting their recommendations to online scenarios with volunteers (virtual volunteering). The “old” books were a wake-up call for me regarding the vulnerability of teens, women and people with disabilities, and I carried that new knowledge into my recommendations regarding virtual volunteering, starting in the 1990s and continuing to this day.

And if you are promoting virtual volunteering, digital volunteering, micro volunteering, whatever, these books are a MUST read before you utter another word!

Also see:

accessibility, diversity & virtual volunteering

One of the many things I’m proud of in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, is that it features an entire chapter on accessibility and diversity, providing detailed advice regarding:

  • the benefits of having online volunteers representing a variety of socio-economic levels, neighborhoods, ages, cultures and other demographics
  • the benefits of accommodating a diversity of volunteers (an accommodation you make for one particular group often ends up benefiting ALL volunteers)
  • how to use language in such a way as to accommodate and welcome a variety of volunteers 
  • how to adapt online tools to accommodate different online volunteers, including those that may have physical disabilities
  • how to accommodate online volunteers with learning and emotional disabilities
  • how to recruit for diversity; and
  • how to track progress regarding diversity among online volunteer ranks.

The chapter on accessibility and diversity is referenced throughout The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook , because Susan and I did not want anyone thinking it was a chapter to take or leave.

I became an advocate for accessibility and diversity in volunteering and in computer and Internet use in October 1994 when I attended the annual meeting of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility at UC San Diego. There was a panel discussion called “The Meanings of Access,” and remarks during that talk, particularly by Deborah Kaplan, then of the World Institute on Disability, changed my life forever. I came to a realization of two things I’d never had before: accessibility is a human right, and accessibility brings me in contact with awesome people I would never meet or work with otherwise. I became an advocate right then and there.

In 1997, I got funding from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation for the Virtual Volunteering Project to explore how to make online volunteering as accessible as possible, and that same year, blew my mouth off at a conference in Austin, Texas about how disappointed I was that the panelists I’d just listened to, talking about the digital divide, never once mentioned people with disabilities, resulting in one of the greatest personal and professional relationships of my life, with Sharron Rush, who was also in the audience and later formed Knowbility, a nonprofit that promotes accessibility in technology tools and technology careers.

In 2008, I read “InVolving LGBT Volunteers,” published by The Consortium of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered voluntary and community organisations, based in London, the United Kingdom, and that solidified my understanding that making accessibility and diversity a priority in any program is about benefits for everyone in that program, not just people with disabilities or people who are from minority or under-represented groups. This publication is referenced in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, and remains one I return to frequently when preparing lectures or workshops about volunteer recruitment.

I have tried to put into practice all that I’ve heard about regarding virtual volunteering, including accommodations for a variety of people as volunteers and recruiting specifically to create a diverse volunteer pool. I won’t say I’m always successful, and I won’t say trying the methods we promote in the book is always easy, but I will say that it’s made my work experience oh-so-much richer and interesting, and it’s always been worth trying.

The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook is now available for purchase as a paperback and an ebook from Energize, Inc

Answering tough volunteer involvement questions

Here are two questions regarding volunteer engagement I am seeing a lot through various channels… but not seeing many answers to:

Where can young children – children under 13, even as young as 6 – volunteer? What kinds of activities can they do and exactly where can they do these?

and

Where can people with diminishing mental abilities, or with mental disabilities, volunteer? What kinds of activities can they do and exactly where can they do these?

The first set of questions come from parents, as well as children under 13, on various online discussion groups, like YahooAnswers.

The second set of questions come primarily from volunteer managers – from those in charge of recruiting and involving volunteers at an organization – and are often the result of a long-time, beloved volunteer becoming less and less capable of helping, and requiring so much supervision and assistance that the organization feels the benefits of involving the volunteer are far below the costs. Or, that volunteer becoming verbally abusive, or saying inappropriate things to other volunteers, as a result of their diminished mental capabilities. But I’ve also seen the question asked by siblings, parents and other caretakers of people with mental disabilities.

I’m very disappointed not to see organizations that are supposed to have the promotion of volunteerism as the central focus of their mandate jumping in to answer these questions. Where are you, Points of Light Foundation? Hands On Network? Why aren’t you out there on various online fora, such as YahooAnswers, addressing these tough questions about volunteering?

Anyway…

I’m not at equating children and people with diminished mental capacities. These are two VERY different groups. But they do have one thing in common: they require much more planning, support and staff time to involve than adult volunteers. Hence why I’m discussing these two groups at once here in this blog.

The reality is that it’s more efficient, economical and immediately beneficial for most nonprofit organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and charities to involve adult individual volunteers who can successfully complete a project, from start to finish, with minimum supervision. Also, most organizations do not have the money, staff, time and other resources to create volunteering opportunities focused primarily on fulfilling the needs of various types of volunteers, rather than creating volunteering activities that are focused primarily on fulfilling the needs of an organization (I’ve said this about microvolunteering as well!). For most organizations, volunteer engagement is primarily about fulfilling the organization’s mission, not fulfilling the wishes of volunteers.

If you think nonprofits, NGOs, charities and others should involve everyone who wants to volunteer, no matter the volunteers’ ages or abilities, then consider this: no matter what your job is, no matter what sector you work in (for-profit, government, nonprofit, whatever), could YOU come up with a safe, fun, meaningful hour-long activity for a 10 year old child to do in your office twice a week, or a two-hour weekly activity for a dozen 10 year olds to do in your office, and do you have time to supervise that child or those children during that activity? What about creating similar activities for someone who has severe short-term memory loss? If you could not do it in your own job at such-and-such corporation, why do you expect nonprofit organizations to do so?

Just as creating one-time, short-term group volunteering activities for adults is difficult, creating volunteering opportunities for children, or for people with diminished or diminishing mental abilities, is also difficult. Should a nonprofit, NGO or charity be spending time and resources to involve these groups? In some circumstances, yes.

First, think carefully about what is in it for you, the organization or program, to create opportunities for either of these groups. What benefit are you looking for?:

  • measurable results regarding participant or community awareness of a particular issue, program or your organization. Could the volunteering activity help children understand a particular issue? Could the activity help parents or family issues understand the issue more fully?
  • cultivation of donors who would be interested in funding this part of your organization’s program. The staff time to create opportunities and support these volunteers, the materials needed by volunteers, etc. all need funding. Are there foundations, corporate philanthropy programs, government agencies or individual donors who would be attracted to funding the resources required?
  • activities that fulfill your organization’s mission. The volunteering experience results in activities that reach part of your organization’s mission. For instance, if you work with seniors, particularly those with diminished mental faculties, then involving these seniors as volunteers would be a part of your mission. If your organization is focused on children under 13, then involving those children as volunteers would be a part of your mission.

I wrote a page on creating one-time, short-term group volunteering activities, and it includes a long list of activity suggestions. Some of those could be adapted as volunteering activities for children, or for people with very limited mental capacities – but not all of them. And to be honest, I’m stumped on creating voluntering activities for either of these groups.

Not every organization is going to be able to address any of those three bullet points – and, therefore, is not going to be in a position to create volunteering opportunities for either of these special needs groups. What I advise those organizations to do:

  • For those that are getting called by parents who want their children to volunteer, have a list of other organizations in your area to refer their child to. For instance, for girls, I recommend the Girl Scouts of the USA (or, in other countries, Girl Guides). I also have a web page of recommendations for family volunteering – specifically families that include children under 16 – note that many activities are home-based.
  • For those that ask about volunteers with diminished mental capacities – for instance, an organization that finds a long-term volunteer can no longer undertake any of the volunteering opportunities at the organization, could a placement be found elsewhere?  Is there a community theater that could involve him or her to hand out programs before a performance? Could the volunteer help serve refreshments at an event – just putting cups filled with a liquid, not doing any of the fillings of the cups him or herself? And does the family of this person understand that a family member will have to be with the volunteer at all times? Or is there an organization in your community that helps people with diminishing mental capacities that you could introduce the volunteer to, that could give that person meaningful activities to engage in – like going to community events in a group? Does this volunteer attend events by a community of faith (a church, temple, mosque, etc.), and could that community be called on to help in this situation?

What other advice do you have for parents seeking volunteering activities for young children, or nonprofit organizations that are going to have to let a volunteer go because of diminished mental capabilities? Leave your answers in the comments. What I’m particularly interested in: how did you go about letting a long-time volunteer go that you had to let go because of his or her diminished mental capabilties, and what did you learn from that expereince that you would like to share with others?

Also see:

Creating one-time, short-term group volunteering activities

Recommendations for family volunteering – specifically families that include children under 16

 

People with disabilities & virtual volunteering

I said it back in the 1990s, and I’ll say it again: Online volunteering / virtual volunteering can allow for the greater participation of people who might find volunteering difficult or impossible because of a disability. This in turn allows organizations to benefit from the additional talent and resources of more volunteers, and allows agencies to further diversify their volunteer talent pool.

In addition, ensuring that your volunteering program – online or onsite – is accommodating for people with disabilities will end up making your program more accessible to everyone. For instance, if you make sure your online training videos have captioning, don’t be surprised when people who have no hearing problems at all thank you, since they can mute the video and watch it at work or in a public area without disturbing people around them.

People with disabilities volunteer for the same reasons as anyone else: they want to contribute their time and energy to improving the quality of life. They want challenging, rewarding, educational service projects that address needs of a community and provide them with outlets for their enthusiasm and talents.

I was reminded of this recently when a fantastic testimonial from Alena Roberts for the Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind was recently reposted to Inclusive Planet about online volunteering / virtual volunteering.

Here are 11 people’s testimonials about how virtual volunteering allowed them to volunteer, despite their disabilities, compiled by the Virtual Volunteering Project, that remain as powerful as when they were first-published back in the late 1990s.

I told this story back in April 2009, but it’s a good time to repeat it now:

Back in the late 1990s, when I was directing the Virtual Volunteering Project, I recruited and involved online volunteers myself to support the Project, feeling that it would be inappropriate to offer advice to other organizations to involve online volunteers unless I was engaged in the practice myself. The only recruiting I did was via the Project’s web site, on a page that was purposely not easy to find; online volunteers were oh-so-easy to recruit even back then, and by making the page harder to find, I regularly received applications from candidates who I knew were actually reading my web site.

One day, an application came in from a guy I’ll call Arnie. It was clear from Arnie’s application that he was… different. His answers to questions on the application were child-like (though everything was spelled correctly), and didn’t at all sound like they were coming from a man in his 40s (he shared his age despite my not asking for it). Among other things, he said that what he wanted to do most as an online volunteer was to share images and messages from the Virgin Mary, a skill set that I didn’t really have a need for at that time… But I kept reading Arnie’s application and thinking, well, while I know this person is very likely mentally disabled based on his answers, he spells just fine and he’s REALLY enthusiastic. There’s really no reason to say no outright. I’ll put him through all of the regular online screening steps and give him a trial assignment and see what happens, just like I do with all volunteers.

Unlike most other online volunteering applicants, Arnie followed all of the directions on the online orientation immediately, to the letter, and within just a couple of hours rather than a couple of days. I don’t remember what the first assignment was that I gave him, but just as the directions in the online orientation stated, he wrote back (within probably an hour) and said that he didn’t feel he could do what was asked for, so could he please have a different assignment? I think the revised assignment I sent him was regarding a list of names of people who had given me their business cards at conferences, but back in the 1990s, many people didn’t put their email addresses and web site addresses on their cards. I asked him to use Google to find that information for me, if possible. The next day, the finished assignment was waiting for me, with profuse apologies for each person he couldn’t find online, and a request for a new assignment.

I slowly became a bit obsessed with trying to create assignments for Arnie. He could do only basic things online, like looking up information, and he needed explicit directions on how to do every task, but he was SO enthusiastic about it all. I started saving things for Arnie to do that I could have done myself in far less time than it would take him to do. For each assignment he always wrote back promptly if he thought an assignment was too difficult, or wrote back to say how happy he was at the assignment, how excited he was to do it, etc.

I think Arnie’s favorite assignment was when I asked him to visit 20 or so web sites that were supposed to be targeted at children; I was putting together a list of things online mentors and young people could do together online, and I wanted to know if these web sites were worthwhile. A paid consultant could not have provided the thorough, brutally honest assessments that Arnie did. Things like

I did not like this site at all, Miss Jayne. It was confusing! I did not know how to use it! It is a bad web site for this reason.

      or

I liked this site very much, Miss Jayne. It was fun! I showed it to my mother. She thought it was fun too.

I was starting an online mentoring program at a local elementary school in Austin, and I invited all the online volunteers I had worked with to apply to be online mentors. Arnie was probably the first applicant. At first, my reaction was: he can’t do this. I have to tell him no. But then I kept thinking about it — *why* couldn’t Arnie talk online with a 10 year old? His tone would actually be perfect for a 10 year old. They would never know each other’s real name or be able to contact each other outside the web platform we would use for online exchanges, every message he sent would be screened, just like the other mentors. Why not let him go through the whole application process and see if he makes it? So, I did.

Among the screening required was two references who could attest to the candidate’s character and communications abilities. One of Arnie’s references was his doctor. When I called for the reference check, the doctor said, “Are you the Miss Jayne?! I’ve heard about you for a year now! Arnie lives to volunteer with you! It’s changed his life!”

I’m glad I was on the phone, so he couldn’t see me crying.

Arnie survived the screening process and was a wonderful participant in the program. His emails to his student were always perfect, full of questions and enthusiastic comments, written in short, simple sentences. The only thing I ever had to do was ask him to revise an email that had a religious reference in it, not as in “I went to church this weekend and it was fun,” which would have been fine, but as in “I hope you are praying to God every day!” Arnie quickly understood why that was inappropriate once I explained it to him, and it never happened again.

After more than a year of working together, Arnie wrote to say that he would need to take a break from volunteering, because he was getting “too full of worry” when he did assignments. I wrote him after a month saying that I hoped he was doing well, and he wrote back a lengthy, somewhat rambling apology for “letting you down.” I wrote him again to say that was NOT the case at all, wrote lots of encouragement and thank yous, etc. When I didn’t hear from him after a few months, I called his doctor, just to make sure he was okay. He was, but his doctor said he probably wouldn’t be using email anymore, that it had become too overwhelming for him. Sadly, I never heard from Arnie again.

What did I learn from all this?

I became a better volunteer manager for all volunteers because of Arnie. My descriptions of all tasks for volunteers became much more detailed and explicit. I better emphasized to volunteers that the time to drop out of an assignment was right at the start, and that there will be no hard feelings for doing so before the commitment has begun. I started reserving a diversity of tasks specifically for volunteers, and for my own list of tasks, I would always ask, could volunteers help me do any of this? I tried to identify a range of very simple starter assignments, so that new volunteers would not feel overwhelmed — or, if they did, they would know that online volunteering was not for them very early on. I look very much into what a volunteer can do, not what limitations a volunteer may have. I also learned that everyone, people with disabilities and otherwise, screen themselves when it comes to assignments, and it’s rare that someone will ask to volunteer for a task they are unqualified to do.

Since Arnie, I’ve worked with other volunteers with disabilities, though often, I haven’t been aware of such, since online volunteering often masks any disabilities a person may have. I can judge people online only by their abilities, rather than their appearance, if I stick to text-only communications.

When I’m working at a nonprofit organization, I involve volunteers not to save money, not to do what I can’t pay staff to do, but rather, to involve the community in the work of my organization, to create an army of advocates for our work, and to make my work more interesting with input from many more people. I’ll continue to strive to create inclusive programs, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because, in the end, it helps me be a better contributor.

2014 update:

vvbooklittleThe influence of this experience, and many others, as well as extensive research, can be found in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook. This book, which I wrote with Susan J. Ellis, is our attempt to document all of the best practices of working with online volunteers, from the more than three decades that virtual volunteering has been happening. It’s available both in traditional print form and in digital version. If you read the book, I would so appreciate it if you could write and post a review of it on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble web sites (you can write the same review on both sites).

There’s also The Virtual Volunteering Wiki: a free resource featuring a curated list of news articles about virtual volunteering since 1996, an extensive list of examples of virtual volunteering activities, a list of myths about virtual volunteering, the history of virtual volunteering, a list of research and evaluations of virtual volunteering, a list of online mentoring programs, and links to web sites and lists of offline publications related to virtual volunteering in languages in other than English.

And there’s also our LinkedIn Group for the discussion of virtual volunteering.

Also see: Safety in virtual volunteering

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!