Heroes of Accessiblity Awards

Read about the 2017 Community Hero nominees

What are the Community Heroes of Accessibility?

Here at Knowbility we’re big fans of superheroes! We love the stories as much as we love what they stand for – triumph of all that is good and just. But we also are huge fans of a different league of superheroes – the everyday hero; people who make the world a little bit better with what they do.

We decided it was time that more everyday heroes were recognized and rewarded for their work in accessibility. We decided to call them the Community Heroes of Accessibility. Knowbility accepted nominations for the awards across five categories – Individual Achievement, Educational Achievement, Institutional Achievement, Emerging Leader and Unsung Hero. A panel of judges reviewed the nominations and selected finalists in each category. From among the finalists, Knowbility’s member Board of Directors chose the top honorees.

The first annual Knowbility Community Heroes of Accessibility was held in 2015 and the awards were presented along with the OpenAIR awards at Google, Austin.

This year, the Heroes of Accessibility honorees were selected and the awards will be presented on March 24th 2016 at the CSUN Conference-Knowbility Happy Hour at 5:30 pm at the IBM Suite in San Diego, California.

The Categories

Individual Achievement Award

Recognizes an individual who has contributed digital accessibility knowledge and skills to the general community

Eduational Achievement Award

Recognizes a person or group of people who have created educational resources to help technologists learn to create accessible technology.

Institutional Achievement Award

Recognizes a sustained effort to improve accessibility across an enterprise.

Emerging Leader Award

Recognizes an accessibility practitioner who is relatively new to the field and shows dedication and leadership.

Unsung Hero Award

Recognizes a person or group that deserves recognition but doesn’t quite fit the other four categories.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Customer of the Year

Volunteer of the Year

Watch the video of the awards ceremony at the CSUN conference

Congratulations to the 2016 Honorees

Individual Achievement

Honoree: Rian Rietveld leads the push to make WordPress Core accessible and is a knowledgeable, dedicated, and effective advocate for accessibility in the global WordPress Community. Her achievements in 2015 were significant and are having major impact on the core accessibility of the application that is used to build more that 25% of all of the web sites in the world.

Karl Groves has been a web accessibility consultant, web developer, and Viking for many years. A leading blogger on web accessibility issues, in 2015 Karl released Tenon.io, a tool that provides users a way to test the accessibility of their websites. Karl developed a Tenon.io API to allow developers to integrate their applications with other Tenon products and services all designed to support compliance with major standards of web accessibility.

Sally Shepard is an iOS developer who understands, advocates, and teaches others about how and why to make iOS apps accessible to all. Sally’s talks and her own good work have increased the awareness of the need for accessibility in mobile tools. In 2015, Sally launched The Inclusive Toolkit, a crowd funded set of tools and workshops to help iOS & OS X developers quickly and easily make their apps inclusive and accessible.

Institutional Achievement

Honoree: IBM is a recognized global corporate leader around the issue of equal technology access for all and has been since long before the web began. IBM pioneered web accessibility software (screen readers) and techniques (ARIA) and shared them with the world. In 2015, IBM took the additional step to license their own accessibility educational and management resources to external companies. Normally, companies keep this valuable information internal but IBM chose to license what they teach their own employees about accessibility to others.

Microsoft had a huge year for accessibility in 2015. Among their achievements – the refresh of accessibility leadership, creation of Disability Answer Desk, an Autism Hiring Program, public demonstrations of accessibility features in new versions of their products, and nearly instant responses from @MSFTEnable on Twitter.

Mozilla maintains an Accessibility Team led by Marco Zehe and David Bolter that continues to build and improve open source online resources to support web accessibility. In 2015, the team provided authoring guidelines for Android, Mac, and Windows accessibility for developers and consumers, as well as continual accessibility implementation and tools within their Firefox browser. Mozilla maintains an Accessibility Testing Center where they test and report on ARIA widgets and other open source materials.

Educational Achievement

Honoree: WAI at the W3C Everyone knows to look to the W3C for standards and accessibility guidelines. In 2015 however, this globally diverse, consensual standards body significantly increased support to the accessibility community through the development of more freely available educational tools and materials than ever before. Among the many resources released in 2015 are the WCAG-EM Report Tool, the WAI Accessibility Tutorials, and useful updates to policy and practice guides. The work is ongoing and more resources are in production for publication in 2016 and beyond.

Instituto Politécnico de Leiria has been making dedicated efforts to make education accessible to all including students who are blind, deaf, and mobility impaired as well as those with cognitive disability. The school supports all student’s success through the creation of CRID (Resources Center of Digital Inclusion), and iACT (a research center for Inclusion and Accessibility in Action).

Global Accessibility Awareness Day, May 19th. Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is a community-driven effort whose goal is to dedicate one day to introducing and raising the profile of digital accessibility across the globe to the broadest audience possible. GAAD encourages developers and others with responsibility for web content to take an hour from their day to learn more. In May 2015, there were dozens of events around the world, including around the clock series of 24 tutorials broadcast on-line.

Unsung Hero

Honoree: Adina Halter is a Senior Product Manager and Chief Technologist for Accessibility at Comcast and in that role was instrumental in the production of “Emily’s Oz.” This short video brings to life the imaginings of a young blind girl as she envisions the characters in the Wizard of Oz. Adina’s work was shown as a commercial for Xfinity Home Entertainment and she serves on the Task Force creating illustrative accessibility videos for the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative.

Andrea Fercia has worked as a volunteer to make WordPress more accessible. Because of his work, resulting web sites are not only more accessible but people with a disabilities all over the world now have a better tool to create websites and publish on the web themselves.

John Schmitt is the creator of the Oregon Alternative Ballot, which allows people with disabilities to vote by mail using an accessible remote ballot marking system. He’s been steadfast in this work over many years. And, in a recent project, the Oregon AB was the only system of its kind that came close to meeting both accessibility and security principles.

Emerging Leader

Honoree: Jan McSorley is the accessibility lead of the Schools Division at Pearson. She has spent her adult life advocating for the rights of kids with disabilities in K-12 schools. As an assistive technology specialist Jan learned early on that an AT can only be effective when content is accessible. She champions inclusion of all kids and has taken the fight to classrooms, board rooms, test environments, and IT procurement departments. She is a force of nature.

Joanie Diggs is one of the most dedicated and passionate GNOME accessibility activists ever to be found. She is the Project Lead of Orca, a screen reader for users with visual impairments and a classic example of how a user turns in to an advocate who turns in to a contributor. Besides her paying full time job, in recent years she has taken on the task of Orca web accessibility and bug squashing.

Lisa Seeman is directly responsible for leading the cognitive accessibility effort in the W3C. Never before has any cognitive accessibility research been brought out to the wider community and pulled together to get industry wide focus on the largest demographic of disabled users. This group will be defining the most important advancement in the extension to WCAG.


Additionally, Knowbility takes this opportunity to recognize our own heroes and inspiring accessibility champions:

Lifetime Achievement

Honoree: Mike Paciello is a web accessibility visionary and pioneer in every sense of the word. Before many had even considered the implications of what was happening online, Mike published “Information Technology and Disabilities Access – The Black Hole of Human Centered Design.” His understanding has shaped the industry. As founder and President of The Paciello Group (TPG), Mike serves as an international leader in the areas of assistive technology, usability, and accessible interface design. He has been recognized for his work in the creation of World Wide Web Consortium´s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI); his authorship of the first book on web accessibility and usability, “Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities;“ and his contribution to the founding of the International Committee for Accessible Document Design (ICADD). In 2006, Mike was appointed co-chair to the Federal Access Board Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC). His company continues to contribute generously to the global accessibility community through its blog, its service at the W3C, it co-development of an accessible AJAX development toolkit, and its sponsorship of 24 hours of online accessibility instruction on Global Web Accessibility Day.

Customer of the Year

Honoree: Houston Metro engaged Knowbility to help them identify accessibility barriers that might create difficulties for their customers with disabilities. As developers and management has gained greater understanding of the issues and barriers, Houston Metro is going beyond their original mandate to integrate digital accessibility thinking into all aspects of customer service and to ensure full inclusion.

Volunteer of the Year

Knowbility operates from two hubs – Austin Texas and Long Beach California. We were fortunate to have stellar volunteers supporting us in both locations. To recognize the dedication of these folks who give so generously of their time and talent, we are pleased to present an award on both locations.

Honoree: Tom Jewett – Long Beach, California
Honoree: Divya Mulanjur – Austin, Texas