The 2018 OpenAIR accessible internet competition is fast approaching. This year, Jayne Cravens, a communications and community engagement specialist and long-time friend of Knowbility, will lead recruitment of nonprofit organizations for the online competition.
OpenAIR, the accessible internet rally, matches nonprofit organizations that want to improve the accessibility of their websites with teams of university students knowledgeable in web accessibility. The first AIR took place in Austin, Texas in 1998. Back then, it was an in-person affair, much like a traditional hackathon. Cravens, who volunteered at the first three AIR competitions, said that the history of AIR deserves recognition.
“It’s a shame that it didn’t get credit for being a pioneering event because it was a pioneering hackathon,” Cravens said of the inaugural AIR. “It was my favorite corporate nonprofit partnership event because for the corporations, for the volunteers, they didn’t just come in for a photo opportunity. They didn’t just come in to move a sack of food from a shelf to a bag. They were working. They were really volunteering and getting something accomplished.”
In the late 1990s, having an online presence was already a big priority for businesses and nonprofit organizations. But awareness about accessibility, both in the built environment and online, wasn’t as high as it is today. Cravens has seen improvements in the level of accessibility awareness as well as growing interest among business leaders.
“We don’t have to convince anyone now if they build a building to make it accessible for people with disabilities,” she said. “We don’t have to convince them to make the doors wide for wheelchair access. We don’t have to convince them to use close captioning on a television show. And I know that it’s mandated by law, but there’s also an understanding that people want to appeal to customers and they want to get as many customers as they can.”
During the past few months, Cravens has been writing webpages with informational content for Air-rallies.org, OpenAIR’s website. Cravens, who co-authored The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, will also lead webinars to prepare nonprofit teams for the contest. She plans to keep teams informed and motivated with frequent emails and phone calls.
“What I want to do is bring a lot of the excitement that came from the face-to-face encounters and find ways to create that excitement online,” Cravens said.
Cravens has worked with the United Nations and is a trainer, researcher, and consultant to many government initiatives and nonprofit organizations around the world. She lives near Portland, Oregon.