For the 2015 Open Air competition, Whole Foods Market proudly supported two teams. In the spirit of the holiday season, the team members volunteered their time and efforts to make a difference.
The first team created a new website for Arts for Life, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting children facing serious illnesses and disabilities by providing educational art programs in four cities across North Carolina. http://artsforlifenc.org/
The second team partnered with Allgo, a nonprofit that celebrates vibrant queer people of color communities here in Texas and beyond through cultural arts, wellness, and social justice programming. http://allgo.tmbritton.com/
Being a Website Project Manager, this seemed like the perfect way to give back. Beyond supporting wonderful nonprofits, we learned a lot about making sites more accessible and user friendly along the way.
Christine O-Connor | Whole Foods Market
I know how to make websites accessible, was my thought as I signed up for the AIR Austin Rally in 2009. My team was experienced. We had matching t-shirts. We knew how to do a thorough job of testing. Here is the flaw. If you are checking your own work, then the analysis is only as good as your most experienced accessibility tester. So when we first received the judging sheet, we were surprised to see items on there we had not considered. What is this color contrast thing you speak of! I can truly say that my team took a considerable leap forward both in technique and testing process as a result of the competition. As a result, we were fortunate enough to place second. So end of the story. Hardly. Fast forward a few years and we sign up again. After all, we had gone on to place first in subsequent competitions so this is in the bag. So we got the new and improved judging sheet and there is all this stuff about WAI-ARIA. What the heck. Accessibility is supposed to be static. Like a fly in an ice cube, we were set. Turns out thanks to the efforts of people like Rich Schwerdtfeger (IBM, Open AIR chair 2013 / 2014), techniques in making the web a MORE accessible and vibrant place had occurred and without my permission might I add. So once again the team was challenged to incorporate the latest techniques both in coding and testing into our existing operations. So what is the moral of this story? For most of us, accessibility is important but not always our main focus. Information is scattered and pulling it together can be a real challenge. Through the Open AIR program you can get consolidated information, serve the community and better your team. I can think of no better way to make the learning process more fun or timelier. So that is my story and it is with gratitude to Knowbility that I recommend the Open AIR program to all who wish to truly master their craft.
Hiram Kuykendall | MicroAssist
The OpenAIR team assigned to my NPO helped me figure out what I wanted on my web. Since I couldn’t envision what I wanted and didn’t understand web design well enough to know, the competition helped me get in to the nuts and bolts and communicate what worked, to my designers.
Sharron did a wonderful job of personally introducing members of the contest to me at the OpenAIR Kickoff. I think one of the strengths of connecting with Knowbility is the people I have met. I think that those personal connections are so important and I really appreciated it, even though I was overwhelmed by the space. My ongoing connection with Robbie Cooper has been a real highlight of the rally.
I felt a lot of support from Knowbility in going through this contest and I am grateful for that. It was truly empowering as you all have heard me say. I thought the pit rally was a great idea and it is useful to know what others questions are. I think using the awards ceremony as a more community outreach to show people why they should know about Knowbility and why they would want to enter the contest for next year is a good idea.
I learned a tremendous amount about accessibility during the contest from my team. The contest made me want to know more!
Anne Forrest | A Plastic Brain
If you are a non-profit and you are thinking of joining the Rally and having a team of professional web-designers build your organization an accessible web site let me help you think this through.
Yes, there is a fee to enter, but I’ve done the research and the cost of hiring an outside web designer to build your site would be much more expensive. And yes, after the first year you will have to pick up the cost of web hosting; but that would be true no matter who designs your site. In most cases your first year’s web hosting would also be your responsibility. And, it would almost be cost prohibitive for most non-profits to afford a web designer to design an accessible site.
Why have an accessible site for your non-profit? First, it is the right thing, the inclusive thing to do. Our handicapable population is just that-a segment of the greater total population. Would you consciously disregard an entire segment of the possible client base? And in the greater scheme of non-profit outreach, this segment of the general population is often underserved.
Having an accessible website gives you greater exposure to get your message out there. You can:
- put your mission out there.
- put your calendar of events out there.
- advertise your events and increase attendance and visibility.
- get your information to the populations who need it most.
- keep a blog.
- have a donate button right on your website.
- provide interactive possibilities with the general population
- reach out to potential volunteers
- have a tangible place for possible funders and donators to look and learn
- have opportunities for building your knowledge and skills of website upkeep.
Working with the dedicated folks at AIR Austin and the professional teams of web designers who volunteer their services, will definitely change your view of accessibility. It might even change the life of your non-profit. While the teams and the organization give your non-profit the beginning of new directions with training and the actual website, the utilization and future outreach capacities of the website are always in your hands.
Rabbi-Rev. Dr. Raine Teller | HaShem’s House