Making the Internet More Accessible for 14 years
Navigating the Web and other Internet-connected services for people who are visually or otherwise impaired presents challenges in this world that is so dependent on Internet access. But it was those types of challenges that Sharon Rush, founder of Knowbility, wanted to see addressed.
More than 14 years ago she founded the Accessibility Internet Rally, the success of which led to the creation of knowbility, which is dedicated to making the Internet more accessible for those with disabilities.
The rally, which is open for registration, is an all-day event that will take place Feb. 11. A month before the event, teams of five or more developers meet with a nonprofit in need of a new or updated website. The nonprofit works with the developers to let them know what they need and what their organization is about. In the weeks leading up to the rally the developers can do as much background research and preparation as they want, but when it comes to slinging code that's saved for the one-day event. Before the rally developers get training about ways to make their creations more accessible for everyone, including those with disabilities. At the end of the day a winner is chosen amongst the websites created.
Nonprofits get a website, developers learn more about best accessibility practices, and someone goes home with a prize.
Rush said the nonprofit aspect was an added bonus when the rally began in the late 90s, but it wasn't long before that became a central focus.
"In 1998, 1999 most nonprofits were struggling to get their message online at all," she said. "Now, it'd be difficult to find a nonprofit without some sort of website - now they're looking for more interactive sites, web-applications, and maybe database driven sites, and all with better access."
Access for those who are seeing or hearing impaired online has been an issue since the Internet first started coming into our lives.
Rush said that at first though, it was an issue that wasn't acknowledged by some.
"Our central message (of accessibility online), some developers were clueless [about]," Rush said. "Now there's greater awareness for the need - developers need to stay up with latest techniques. Importance is no longer questioned."
AIR has expanded beyond Austin, with a Houston rally taking place last month, and a virtual rally that anyone can participate in happening in January. To know more, see the rally's website.