Make a website accessible and you could win!

register for the OpenAIR web development competition

Make a website accessible, help a nonprofit, and you could win!

Eight years ago I traveled with two of my Easter Seals colleagues to Austin to attend an annual conference about accessible technology. The conference was sponsored by a nonprofit called Knowbility that helps make the internet and other technologies accessible to people who are blind, visually impaired, hearing impaired, have mobility impairments and cognitive or learning disabilities.

While we were there at the conference, the three of us attended John Slaten Access University (Access U), a series of workshops on accessibility standards. I am blind, and the two colleagues who went to Austin with me have disabilities, too. The three of us were expecting that most of the other people at Access U would only be there because they had to, that their employers had forced them to sign up to learn the bare minimum they’d need to do to satisfy requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Boy, was I wrong! We met lots of people there who attended not because of the law, but because they actually enjoyed the work –and challenges –of making computer technology accessible. The web developers and designers we met at Access U felt good about the work they were doing, and it sure made us feel good to be there with them.

At the conference I befriended Sharron Rush (the executive director and co-founder of Knowbility) and have appeared on panels with her about assistive technology since then. Last month I got an email from Sharron announcing Knowbility’s 18th annual OpenAir competition.

OpenAIR provides training for developers and designers in accessible standards and then pairs teams of those web developers and designers with nonprofits for a “global web accessibility challenge.” The nonprofit organizations end up with accessible new websites that are submitted for judging by world class accessibility experts.

Trophies are awarded, but really, everybody wins. The competition not only raises awareness of the need for accessibility, it also improves the skills of developers and designers to create more accessible websites.

Developers and designers who want to register need to hurry and sign up. The deadline to register is September 20, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. After you register you’ll be able to visit their “Developer Resources” page for tips and tricks on how to prepare your team, select a team captain and other information to help you make the best accessible site you can.

If you don’t have a team, but still want to participate, you can register as an individual and Open Air will connect you with a team. If you work for a non-profit organization that might like to pair up with an Open Air team for the 2015 global accessibility challenge, information on how NPOs can sign up is also available on the OpenAir site.


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