How AIR Helps Nonprofits & Artists Thrive

– Hi, everyone. Thanks for coming to learn more about the Accessibility Internet Rally. That’s what we’re going
to talk about today, mostly the nuts and
bolts of the competition and how it works and how you can be involved. My name is Sharron Rush. I’m the executive director
and founder of Knowbility. Knowbility is a 501(c)(3)
nonprofit organization. We’re based in Austin, Texas, but we do work all over the world. And probably the beating
heart of our organization is this competition that we call AIR, the Accessibility Internet Rally. And I’m gonna talk about it today and hopefully answer any
questions that you might have about participation and hope that I’ll get you interested enough that you’ll want to participate too. So, on the screen right now, you see my email address, my phone number, and if any questions
don’t get answered today, feel free to contact me and
let me know what those are. So, the first thing is, the central question here is what is AIR? It’s our acronym for the
Accessibility Internet Rally. And basically, it’s a fun and friendly web raising competition. So, what we do is challenge
teams of web developers to learn about accessible design and then we recruit nonprofit or cultural organizations
that need websites, and these teams can then use their new skills to design
websites for those groups. The goal of AIR is really
to engage communities in issues of technology access
for people with disabilities. And that’s a field of
practice that’s commonly known as accessibility. Many years ago, when I was
working for Easterseals here in Central Texas, and the tech community
was moving to Austin and changing our city, but they were really not very involved in the nonprofit community. And so I started talking
to other nonprofit leaders. Ana Siznet at Austin Free Net, Jayne Cravens at the University of Texas and just asking people, “Why do you think that “these tech folks who
are coming to our town “aren’t really engaged
with the nonprofit sector?” And they said, “Oh, they’re busy,” and also “Why aren’t they
engaged in accessibility?” Accessibility for people
with disabilities. They’re building all these
super keen tech innovations but they leave out the needs
of people with disabilities. So, as I’m having more and
more of these conversations someone said, “You know, Sharron, “you want the tech sector to pay attention “you should do something competitive.” So, we came up with this idea. Let’s learn about accessibility
through competition, where tech folks could
show off their skills and nonprofit folks can
get a better website for their mission through this work. Accessibility, when we say the word we’re not talking about
bandwidth or rural access. We’re talking about
people with disabilities and when sites are designed accessibly, then people with disabilities can acquire the same information. They can participate
in the same activities. They can not just read the web, but they can produce and manage content and actively participate as producers, as well as consumers of
information on the web, and in other digital technologies. So, from now on and when
we start talking about accessibility and accessible design, we’re talking about this access for people with disabilities and it’s a concept that’s
very closely related to the idea of universal design, that when you create with the needs of people
with disabilities in mind, you create products and services and websites that support all people in a better way. And that supports all different
kinds of technologies. It’s very closely related
to the notion of usability, that you can design to the
highest technology specs but unless you actually see
how people with disabilities or how your customers are
interacting with your products, you don’t really know how
well you’ve succeeded. So, again, accessibility
improves the experience for all and the late, great Dr. John Slatin who is one of those I met when I started on this exploration. He was a blind professor of English at the University of Texas. Great self-taught technician and he used to sign his emails with the signature that good
design is accessible design. And I think through the years we’ve seen that’s very, very true. A lot of times people
get puzzled by the idea of what do you mean accessible to people with disabilities? How do blind people use the web? Or how do people with disabilities even interact with technology? And the fact is they often use what we call assistive technology, which is something like a screen reader that takes speech-to-text. Or sometimes adaptive strategies
like keyboard shortcuts or just keyboard-based interactions, and so some pretty easy examples to understand of accessible
coding techniques would be if you were gonna
put captions on your videos or if you have a meaningful
image on your website. You provide some description
of it within the code; that’s something that’s called alt text. You need to label buttons or any things that bring interactions. You want to label them and describe them in a way that’s meaningful for people who may not see them or
may not see them well. You want to avoid using colors that don’t have good contrast because that makes things hard to read. And you also want to think
about color-blindness and the fact that red on green is not going to be very readable for someone with color-blindness. The fact is, I think something
like one-in-eight men has that kind of
red-green color blindness, which might explain some
things about tie choices. So, anyway, never mind. Keyboard access is really
a fundamental thing, a fundamental aspect of accessibility because so many of the
assistive technologies don’t use a mouse and are
mapped to the keyboard. So, keyboard access is
something that you want to be sure you think about
too when you’re thinking about assistive technology
and accessibility. The thing to keep in mind is that these assistive technologies
are made to support the needs of people with disabilities but they can’t work unless
the code is made to standards. And so you want to be sure that the coding techniques
allow assistive technology to actually access the function, access the information and work properly. And if you decide that you are
going to participate in AIR, which we hope you do, we will teach you a lot more about this and how it works and show you some really highly interactive demos. (clears throat) Excuse me. One thing I didn’t say at the
beginning that I meant to say is that at any time if any of
you have questions or comments or anything to add, I’m hoping that this is a
pretty informal discussion. I just wanted to let people know what this contest is all about and how to participate so
don’t stand on ceremony. If you have questions or comments, please do just chime right in with those. – [Jayne] I’m gonna chime in for a second. This is Jayne Cravens. – [Sharron] Hey, Jane. – [Jayne] Hello, and I’ve
been involved with AIR and Knowbility since
it was an offline event and I just wanted to say two things and that is so many of the things you do to make your website accessible for people with disabilities make it accessible for everyone. I’m someone that I really don’t
like to listen to podcasts, I prefer to read, and so if you transcribe your podcast, I get to read it or if
you caption your video and I’m in a public place, I get to leave the volume down and still watch the video. So, I just wanna emphasize that what you’re doing is making your website accessible for everybody. Don’t think of it as just one group. It really does benefit absolutely everyone and the other thing is one of the things I love about AIR and being involved in it
is I’m not a web designer. I am not very smart when it comes to tech and the way AIR is presented helps me become a digital
inclusion advocate. It helps give me language as a non-tech person to be able to talk to my web designers about this. So, it’s one of the reasons I love this competition so much. – Thanks, thanks for that. Yeah, that’s a good perspective. The slide that we’re looking at right now talks about the fact that one-in-four adult Americans has a disability. Overall, they say in the population, there is about 20% of
people have disability in the general population but by the time you get to be adults, and especially aging adults, those numbers go up because of the fact that disability is very much age-related. People acquire disabilities
over time through disease, accidents, and the simple fact of aging. So, if you think about one-in-four adults having a disability and
that the size of that market or constituency or set of stakeholders, that’s a pretty huge number. It’s 61 million people
in the U.S. and globally, now it’s almost one billion people. So, it’s getting to be a number that whatever it is that
you’re doing on the web and whatever message
you’re putting out there, you definitely want to
reach all those people. So, for organizations like yours, if you’re here today you’re
probably representing a nonprofit organization or a, maybe a project within a school. Maybe something like a walking club or a book club or a
neighborhood association or an arts group or a cultural group. You may be an artist or a musician. Why then should you think
about accessibility? Why should it be important to you? So, if you’re a nonprofit organization, there is no doubt about the fact that people with disabilities
are part of your staff. They’re among your potential volunteers. They’re certainly among your donors. If you think about the
age-related to disabilities then you think about how some of those people have very deep pockets. And as they get older, they have acquired their savings through the years and built their fortunes and they could be among your donors. So, you definitely want to include them. And of course clients. I mean people with disabilities
need the same things that everybody else needs. They need access to information, services, and so you want to be sure
that everything that you do in your organization or your project is accessible to everyone. There’s also quite a
bit of talk these days about diversity and inclusion and I’m always intrigued by the fact that when we talk about
diversity and inclusion, we so often overlook the needs of people with disabilities when, in fact, disability is one of the
most inclusive conditions. People have disabilities of all ages, of all ethnic backgrounds, of all races. And certainly when you start accommodating the needs of people with disabilities and gaining that perspective, it enriches your vocabulary. And I mean what Jayne just said about by learning about this, I’m more able to communicate
about this diverse need. Now, if you think about
the purpose of the web. The web was meant to break down barriers. To bring people together. To allow them to communicate
across geography, across all kinds of what had
been barriers in the past. So, we definitely want
to think about inclusion for people with disabilities in that access and by
creating accessible websites and thinking about that equal opportunity, we again make better
websites for everyone. Funders also wanna know about your non-discrimination policies. How do you demonstrate that
you are non-discriminatory? And so being able to say, well, we are so concerned about inclusion and making sure that we don’t discriminate that we have created
an accessible website. It’s a very powerful statement and then finally is the big bugga-bear of your legal obligation. The fact is that the
United Nations made a, what do they call it? A declaration, no, Jayne, you know what they call it? When they make that statement of the, UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the human rights of
people with disabilities. They include the idea
of access to technology as a basic human right
in the modern world. That there is so the
UN rights, convention! That’s the word. The UN convention of rights on
the people with disabilities explicitly calls out the
need for access to technology for people with
disabilities, equal access. That means accessible
websites and applications. There’s many laws. There are many laws in the United States. The courts have interpreted the Americans with Disabilities
Act pretty aggressively to say the ADA applies to the web and there have been
lawsuits against retail, businesses, government agencies. All kinds of organizations. So, the nonprofit world should also pay attention to the fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act is more and more being interpreted to mean that your websites
as well as your buildings need to be accessible. So, those are just some of the reasons that you can think about accessibility as an important priority
when you’re thinking about your digital communications. Which brings us to AIR, because AIR can help you
get an accessible website. And the way that it works is that we recruit
teams of web developers. So, people who work in a
team for a company or people who have web skills and want
to sign up as individuals. We’ll put them together as a team, but the idea here is that
we get teams of people who are web professionals or studying to be web professionals. We have some student teams as well and they sign up and say, okay, we want to compete and
we’re ready to go to work. And then people like you, non profits, artists,
non-commercial projects of many, many kinds apply, fill out the application, and apply to receive a website. Then, Knowbility provides
training specific to the roles that are involved. So, the web developers
get training on these coding techniques that
we’ve been referring to and the nonprofits and artists and noncommercial projects get a different kind of training. They learn the basics of accessibility and what it is and why we
need the kind of coding. We see some demos. We understand more about
how people with disabilities use the web and what common barriers are, but we also learn how to be good clients and how to prepare for this
team of web professionals that’s going to be
dedicated to your project for a very limited time. But the time is six weeks and so we’ve got the
teams that have signed up, the non profits that have applied, and then we look at as
we’ve trained people and understood more about
what their interests are. Where they are in the world. What their experience is. What platforms they’ve worked on. What platforms maybe the
nonprofit is used to, whether it’s WordPress or Drupal or some other content management system. And then we create that
match where we say, okay this team is gonna work with this nonprofit or this artist. And match them together in that way. We will have a kickoff event, which is a place where you get to stand up and brag about your mission
and the work that you do and meet your team. And we’ll match you up on that day. Following the kickoff, you have six weeks of dedicated work and during that time, you have access to all
the online trainings. You can come back and do them again. You have access to Knowbility staff who will be supporting you. And during those six weeks, we’re going to really focus on getting these websites built and tested and drawn up to your satisfaction. At the end of those six weeks, the sites are submitted for judging. And then after the judging period, which is I think about a month, then we’ll have a community celebration to recognize the effort that everyone has gone into making these sites. And so, we’ll give prizes for
the most accessible websites, but all the participating
projects will go home with a fully functional,
new, accessible website. So, that’s kind of the framework of the AIR program and how it’s gonna work starting, well, starting later this month. So in a nutshell, AIR assigns
a team of web professionals to work on your website. We train them in accessible design. We train you to be an effective client and then we bring you together and provide you with a team mentor who kind of oversees the process and makes sure that everything goes well and that you get a site
that you’re happy with. Selected projects are going to get that training that I discussed with client and team project management, mentoring and support by Knowbility staff. You’ll have a dedicated
team of web professionals for those six weeks to
make your vision come true. And then you get a website design or maybe a redesign if you’re
happy with your basic design and you just want to fix the
accessibility aspects of it, that’s okay too. Now, at this point I usually throw in a little bit of a cautionary note because this is a six weeks very constrained amount of time. So, you want to make sure, first of all, that you’re very well prepared with your vision for what you want and the content that
you want in this site. And also that you have
a reasonable expectation of what a team can do in
six weeks of volunteer time. And we will definitely help you with that during the process of getting
geared up for the kickoff. We also provide optional
hosting for a year. If you want to host on the
Knowbility server for one year, it’s free for that first year and it’s $25 a year after that. And then of course, if you have a host that you’re happy with, many non profits have
dedicated donated hosting. Then we’re happy to help move
the site to your new host. There’s a website URL here on screen if you want to go get all the details and have access to the signup form. It’s That’s A-I-R dash rallies dot org. Any questions so far? Any questions about any of the items I’ve gone through or any
of the things I’ve said? – [Jayne] A question I get frequently is how expensive is it to
maintain these sites, you know, you get this site
that’s fully accessible. Is it expensive to maintain
this once you get it? – Well, most organizations these days already have a website and so, it’s no more expensive to
maintain an accessible site than your standard website. You’re going to learn the techniques of, for example, when you put up a new image how to add alt text. We do provide the post
training to help you do that, whoever is assigned to doing
your web work at this time. If you don’t have a website and this is going to be
your first website ever then, yes, you will have to think about how to budget for the time you need to maintain afterwards. And that’s really just
a matter of how complex your site is going to be
and what technology you use to build it and to maintain it. How do you usually answer that question, Jayne, when you get it? – [Jayne] I say exactly what you do. (both laughing) It’s no more expensive to
maintain an accessible website than a non-accessible website and I emphasize that it really
is a matter of mentality more than anything. Once you have the
mentality of accessibility, then I frequently work
with web design volunteers. I rarely have a staff in a
lot of the things I work with. And it takes me probably 20 minutes to talk to the volunteer and explain accessibility to them and point them to
resources before they go, oh, okay, I get it. There are standards I need to follow. I mean, they don’t… They might not be, you
know, highly trained like our volunteers for AIR are highly trained and experienced but there’s so many resources out there that I’ve never had trouble finding a volunteer web designer that gets accessibility and is like, oh, okay, yeah, sure,
I’ll meet those standards. No problem. – Yeah, they’re pretty clear. So, the timeline for this year, we’re open for registration
until September 16th. So, we have almost a
couple more weeks I guess, a couple more weeks for signing up and indicating
that you’re interested and applying to be one of
the sites that’s chosen and assigned to a team. And then from September
9th through the 30th, we have several live trainings scheduled as well as access to the online. We have a Moodle instance where we have all the trainings posted. There’s Accessibility 101, which of course these
are meant for developers but the nonprofit participants
are not just allowed to, but encouraged to, if
you have tech staff on, if you have a tech person
even if that’s a volunteer on your staff or associated
to your organization, we encourage that you take as much of this technical
training as well. So that when it comes time to maintain, you have a good idea and a good idea of the concepts and a good mastery of being
able to do the maintenance in an accessible way. So, yeah, the dates are on the screen. September 16th is the
registration deadline. The 9th through the 30th, we’ll be doing trainings. September 17th and 26th are
the live developer trainings, where we’ll have a
Knowbility technical expert doing a step-by-step
through the judging forum and really helping the
developers understand what they need to do to meet requirements. September 18th is a live
training for the nonprofit or arts and cultural
groups that participate to have a live training
where we’ll go through the client preparation sheet
and help you understand how to really prepare your materials in a way that’s most effective for your team and will make
the best use of the time. In addition to that, that one-hour training, we are available. We as staff are available during help, what we call help desk hours that we’ll send the schedule out where you can just call with questions. And of course always 24 hours, you can send emails with
questions that as you prepare, ’cause we wanna support you and help you and make sure that you
are able to make the most of this limited amount of
time you have with your team. So, during September and,
yeah, the rest of September, we’re gonna be pretty
busy doing all of that. And then in October is the kick off event which I’ve told you is the match. That’s where we’re gonna announce this team is gonna work
with this nonprofit or this team is gonna
work with this artist and hopefully we’ll make those matches. So far, in 20 years of doing this we’ve only had a couple where
things just didn’t work out and then we just scurry
around and find a new match but for the most part we’re
getting pretty good at this and we can match teams to
nonprofits or art projects that they’re very excited about. And it’s really, the
energy on that kickoff day is just really something. It’s really great to see the
community coming together around the idea of accessibility but also the idea of doing all this good for all these arts and cultural and nonprofit working stations. So, that’s really a lot of fun. You’re encouraged to come in
person if you’re in Austin, but we’ll have the live stream open so people can participate
from wherever they are. So, then we go into our six
weeks of work, work, work, work. And on November 15th, we’re gonna have another live event where people will come together. They’re gonna turn in
their final websites. We’ll have the judges there so if some of the teams have
maybe had some problems or have still some unresolved questions, we’ll have several hours at this site where people can get questions answered or test things out on the judges or just show off to
each other if they want. And there’ll be food and drinks and we’re looking forward to this final countdown submission event. It’s the first year that we’ve done this. There used to be a live competition, an eight hour nose-to-the-page
kind of competition. Then, for the last four years, we’ve tried to include
remote participation and that’s been, it’s been really great
to be able to broaden the number of people
who could participate, but we’ve missed that energy that we had with the live ones. So, we thought this year we’ll do a final countdown
submission event. People who are in Austin can come and will have that live energy. People who aren’t in Austin or were gonna live stream the whole thing and also can ask questions
or solve any problems. One of my favorite AIR occasions was what we did when we had it live. We’d have a room. Everybody would be in these
different training rooms. Everybody’s working, working, working away and we’d have the judges
in a room of their own where people could come and ask questions of the judges, any
question any time, any day. I mean the judges wouldn’t
write code for you but they would help push you to, yes, you’re going in the right direction. Yeah, you’re thinking right or eh, you might want to rethink that. And one year, this team came
in and they were outraged. They were just outraged. They said, “Well, you know,
I think you’re gonna have “to disqualify this other team over here “because of guess what they did? “They brought a blind
person on their team.” So, of course, all of the
judges just started laughing and they said well that
doesn’t disqualify them. That means they were really smart. They got somebody who needs
to use assistive technology now and while they were building in the time that they were building. So, that’s something that we
also suggest to every team and of course we’ll have
some blind people there at the final countdown event and you could ask your questions of them. And then the final event of AIR is the awards and recognition ceremony that will be held January 16th. So, once the sites are
submitted in November, we give it to the judges. At least two judges will
get every single site and make comments and give
that feedback to the teams. So, there’s more detail
about the kickoff event. October 3rd. And of course, one thing I didn’t
mention was the fact that after the event we will, we’ll send the introductory
emails to the team and make sure that everybody
has their contact information. And then the final countdown
event on November 15th. It will be at Galvanize
in downtown Austin. And once that has been, those have been submitted to the judges and they have a copy of the
site on the Knowbility server that they’re gonna use for the judging, but right at that time, you guys are more than welcome to go ahead and push that site live to wherever it is you’re gonna host. Whether you’re gonna host with Knowbility or host with another provider, you can, after the submission event, you’re welcome to post the site and you don’t have to wait
for the judging to be over because the judges will have
a copy that they can use for the accessibility assessment. And then finally, the awards. And that’s a nice event. It’s a dinner usually at a downtown hotel. I’m not sure where it’s gonna be yet. I think we’re still looking
for a location for that. But it’s also gonna be live streamed and we show off all the sites that were made and let people see the quality of everything that was created even though there are
only three top awards and, of course, all teams and nonprofits or cultural arts
representatives are invited. It’s part of your registration. That’s a free event for the participants. So, just in the interest
of full disclosure and making sure that we
manage our expectations, we’ve had a couple of
nonprofits apply this year that we had to turn
away because their sites were just too big, too big for what we were going to be able to provide in six weeks. So, you want to think about small projects and if you are a large nonprofit, just think about a sub project or grouped pages that are
small enough to be reasonable. 20 pages should probably be the maximum, but your teams can make
templates and site designs and things that will allow you to expand and scale it later on, but for the purposes of this competition, you probably want to think
somewhere in the range of 20. You know, we’ve had larger sites and it depends on the team, but you want to manage those expectations about what is reasonable to expect a team to be able to do in those six weeks and some things that are not provided are that the sites will be fixed after the competition is over. That’s why we really wanna help you make the most of those six weeks. ‘Cause the developers, you know, that’s there volunteer time. They’ve said, “I’m gonna
do this competition. “I’m gonna be done.” They turn it in and they
expect themselves to be done. Now, some teams and their clients, their nonprofit clients, are they forge these really
great bonds and they get some kind of volunteer
arrangement made afterwards. So, it’s not inconceivable
that that could happen, but it’s not part of what we promise you when you sign up. Ongoing content updates are also something that you will be expected
to be responsible for. So, you wanna make sure that while we’re going through
this whole process, you have a web designer or developer or just a tech person
or a content specialist on your staff or in
your group of volunteers who goes through the training
and is part of the team and understands how the site is built so that they can do those
content updates going forward. Again, the team involvement
after the competition is something that could happen if you guys hit it off but it’s not likely and it
usually does not happen. And then site management, so if you decide you
wanna move to a new host or you wanna somehow change the platform or do any of those sort of
technical management ideas, then you really need to
manage that on your own. So, that’s my overview of the AIR program. I think, I wanted to give people
the chance to ask questions and to see if there was any other, anything that isn’t clear. I know there’s been some transition in the last few years where it’s no longer the onsite eight-hour marathon that it had been, but it’s a marathon of a different kind. We’ve got volunteers
working for six weeks, so there have been some
questions that have come in through email and phone calls. And so we wanted to try to do this live and see if there were any other questions. So, any questions? Well, alright, if you do
come up with any questions, again, my email and phone number is back there at the
beginning of the slide show. I should have put it here at the end, but I didn’t, so you can scroll back and find it on the recording and
thanks again for coming. I hope that you’ll consider joining the Accessibility Internet Rally. We’ve had great outcomes in years past. Some of the nonprofits we’ve designed for take place here in Austin, the Austin Tenants Council, Keep Austin Beautiful, lots of artists and
sculptors and musicians. A couple of bands last time around, so we’d love to work with you and I hope you’ll consider it. Thank you.

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