The winners of the 2019 Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) were announced on Thursday January 16, at an awards ceremony in Austin.
AIR is a competition where design and development teams create websites for non-profits which are then judged based on their accessibility. Accessible websites allow for everyone, including people with disabilities, to access online content and become more socially and economically integrated into our digital world.
In this community tech-for-good initiative, teams of aspiring web developers and designers were matched with nonprofit organizations community groups, and artists that wished to have an accessible website.
Under the guidance of a mentor, the teams of developers and designers worked for six weeks to improve the accessibility and usability of their clients’ websites. In most cases, they worked as distributed teams across national borders and multiple time zones.
The Winning Teams
Austin-based Texas Kids Read (The Literacy Plus Project)
The first-place winner was Team Indy 2 whose client was Austin-based Texas Kids Read (The Literacy Plus Project).
“I love our new website and cannot wait to launch it,” a representative of Texas Kids Read said. “There have been positive responses from those I have shown the site to. Many, many thanks to the whole team for all their work.”
Our Team Indy 2 participants were: Jibril Jaha, Bouton Jones, Yara Tercero and Jenny Kelly.
ArtFrog Art Academy
Team Better Late than Never won second place for ArtFrog Art Academy, which is also based in Austin.
“I have never seen such enthusiastic volunteers at such a high level pushing themselves through all the new things they had to learn in accessibility and coding, helping out besides their own regular life and busy work/school schedules,” a representative for ArtFrog Art Academy said. “They worked so hard, so many days & nights straight through.”
Our Team Better Late Than Never participants were: Kenneth Schwoerke, Jordan Meister and Chris Archer
ARC of DFW Texas
Third Place went to Team Inclusivnators for its work on ARC of DFW Texas, which is based in Haltom City, Texas.
“The members of the team I interacted with were thoughtful and good at explaining their intent and actions,” a representative of ARC of DFW Texas said. “I also appreciated the interest they took in our mission and the content we provided. I also appreciated being able to see the feedback from the mentor describing how design decisions impact the accessibility of features.”
Our Team Inclusivnators participants were: Georgette Sullivan, Hope Turner, Marcus Overton, Veronika Grebennikova, Christopher Wadham-Lynn and Jeremy Martin
State Agency Teams
In addition to this professional track, the AIR competition hosted a Texas state agency track. Teams of developers and designers with government agencies worked together to improve the accessibility of Texas state websites.
Health and Human Services Learning Portal
Team Exponential Learning won first place for its work on the Health and Human Services Learning Portal. Team Exponential Learning participants were: Janette Dimitrova, Richard Rees, Debbie Reece, Cari Collins and Catedra Goddard.
Power to Save Texas
Second Place went to Team PUC Power for Power to Save Texas. Our Team PUC Power participants were: Jenna King, Gina Smith, James Coffman, Kavitha Anandan and Kade Westmoreland.
More than 150 volunteers contributed more than 4,000 hours to AIR 2019. Most volunteers were members of web development and design teams. Other volunteers included mentors, judges and program advisors.
Since its inception in 1998, AIR has given more than 2,000 volunteers the chance to improve their knowledge of digital accessibility and inclusive design. More than 450 nonprofits, charities, schools and artists have received accessible websites and gained awareness about digital inclusion.
AIR-U Student Program
Registration for the student-focused Accessibility Internet Rally is now open. The Accessibility Internet Rally for Universities (AIR-U) starts on February 24, 2020. This is a community tech training initiative that helps make the websites of nonprofit, student, and community organizations accessible to people with disabilities. Students studying computer science or a related field at an American university or coding school are eligible to participate.
In this national competition, teams of aspiring web developers and designers are partnered with nonprofit organizations, student groups, community groups, and artists that wish to have an accessible website. Accessible websites allow for everyone, including people with disabilities, to access online content and become more socially and economically integrated into our digital world.
“It sends a very powerful message to potential funders, to potential members when you say, ‘We have made a commitment for our website to be fully accessible because we want a variety of members involved in our community organization and our student group,’” Jayne Cravens, Knowbility’s AIR liaison, said.
Students who sign up for this eight-week-long, online event will gain valuable skills that are sorely needed and are in demand in web design and development. According to a 2018 survey by the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology and Teach Access, 84 percent of 70 respondents indicated that it was important or very important to their company to hire developers and designers trained in digital accessibility.
This community initiative offers students and faculty from across the country an excellent chance for professional growth. Students gain hands-on experience in accessibility and working remotely. Faculty can make the competition part of their coursework and help diversify the computer science curriculum.
“It’s a pioneering virtual volunteering event and it looks great on your resume to say that you participated, and if you put it on your resume, don’t be surprised if in your first job interview you get asked about it,” Jayne said.
Anyone interested in joining this exciting program can learn more about it at air-rallies.org/airu.