Sharron Rush: Hi everyone. Good evening. I'm sorry for the delay in getting started. We're a few minutes behind schedule, but we have a great evening planned for you. We're going to try to keep remarks short and sweet and get to the real heart of the evening, which is to match up our nonprofit brave adventurers who are going to have websites built by the teams of web professionals who have signed on to make accessible websites. I'm Sharron Rush, and I'd like to welcome all of you, friends old and new to, I don't know what it is now, 24, 25th Annual Accessibility Internet Rally. So, thank you all. Thanks for being here. Yay! I've got... I don't know, grooming... Thank you. Okay, now I'm presentable. My mom would be proud.
My job here tonight is to say thank you to so many people. Thanks to all of you for being here, all of you who have signed up. And, I think, the next slide is for our sponsors. Is that correct? Oh no, it's welcome, welcome. And, we did, welcome, and we're glad you're here. And, there's me, which everybody knows. But, we have a big thanks this year to Salesforce. They came in as a premier sponsor. They gave us $50,000 in support of AIR. Isn't that awesome? I know, it's really, really amazing. That was Derek, yes. And, there's a story about Derek Featherstone as there is a story about so many people and their history with AIR and with Knowbility. And, we're going to hear from Derek in a few minutes after we thank some more people.
We have other sponsors, Adobe sponsored us for so many years. Trend Community is a new sponsor. Thank you very much. Rev.com, not only are they sponsoring us, but they're providing free caption services to every single one of you all who are participating. So, you'll learn more about that from Jay. Betterleave and Monkee-Boy, thank you, Aaron. We can always count on Monkee-Boy to support us. I mentioned the fact that Rev is captioning, giving us transcription services and also providing 20 free minutes of captioning service for all the client sites.
Now, I have the great, good pleasure to introduce Regine Gilbert. So, when Regine agreed to chair this year and to be the chair of our AIR contest, for me, it was like the fan girls wish come true. Because, ever since I saw her speak and it was a webinar, it was during COVID times and she spoke for a group out of Denver, and they were talking about the whole issue...
Am I back? So anyway, as I was saying, Regine being our chair this year is really a dream come true for me. I'm so thrilled to have her great understanding, her compassion, her depth of understanding all the ways that accessibility works in people's lives, and how important it is and how important it is that we listen to users. So, when she said that she would be part of AIR, it made me very happy. So with that, I think I'm turning the show over to you. You and Anthony are going to be our... take us through the rest of the afternoon. I think I'm going to introduce Derek just because I know a lot of secrets about him, so I get to tell stories. But, please, thank you, and I'm glad you're here.
Regine Gilbert: Thank you everyone for being here. Thank you, Sharron. Okay, my mic is on. Is it good? Okay. Thank you all for being here, again. Sharron, I feel the same about you and this organization. I'm really happy to be chair this year. I just want to go over the ground rules for the competition. We strive to make programs and events inclusive and welcoming. So, our ground rule rules include that this competition is centered around the mission of making a inclusive internet and that starts with the way we treat each other. We do our best to describe any visual elements we're referencing. We are providing live captioning and ASL interpretation. So, please message us in chat if you are not able to access these. We strive to create a fun environment where we are kind, courteous, and respectful. So, next up, I want to bring up Anthony to talk about our hybrid event.
Anthony Vasquez: All right, let's set this down or up here. Yeah, up or down. This okay?
Regine: Scoot a little more to the left then.
Anthony Vasquez: Everyone, it's a pleasure to be here. Just kind of want to keep highlighting more of what we are doing here today and all our AIR events are hybrid with people joining us here in Austin, of course, and all around the world, virtually from all around the world. Sorry, Mariella and Jay will be in the chat throughout the evening, making sure that if you have any questions, just let us know. We encourage you to participate, drop in maybe a little bit of where you're from, what your name is, your pronouns, that will be very helpful and make the chat very lively. Now, we're also on social media, so make sure to tag us here. We're of course at Knowbility, our hashtag is #AIR2022, and we encourage all of you to share your stories throughout the evening about AIR. I think now we can introduce Erica with some door prizes, huh?
Sharron: Yeah, Erica!
Anthony: Should I move or...
Erica Braverman: There we go. I think it's on now. I'm coming up here with lots of equipment, which you'll see why I'm using all of this shortly. My name is Erica Braverman. I'm one of our community engagement specialists here at Knowbility, and I am here to tell you who's going to win one of our exciting door prizes. So, if you remember, if you were here last year from AIR, I brought back the wheel of names, and it's this round... It's online. It's on the website, the wheel of names website. So, I got my laptop with me, but it's this bright multicolored circle with the names of everyone attending in person and virtually around the edge. So, when I activate the wheel, it's going to make a clicking sound and then magically select someone. Then, you'll hear an applause sound. And, I guess we'll find out who's going to win. You get a choice, you get a choice.
We have our first winner. We have Stacey [inaudible]. Stacey, wherever you are in the world right now, you won a prize. So, what's going to happen is my wonderful colleague. Julieanne King will be in touch with you. She's going to let you know what type of prizes... Oh, we have the prizes on the screen, perfect. We have t-shirts available. That's me modeling the t-shirt. We have a textured Rubik's cube available, so no sight required Rubik's cube. And, we have books. We have a couple choices. We have one copy left of our own Regine Gilbert's Inclusive Design for a Digital World. So popular, we only have one left. We also have Structured Negotiation by Lainey Feingold about the legal aspect of digital accessibility. And, we also have actually a young adult book by Judy Huemann, the disability rights activist, it's called Rolling Warrior. It's her autobiography. So, lots of choices, Stacey, Julieanne's going to be in touch. And I'm going to hand this microphone off, but everyone's got their own microphone. So, I'm going to hand the podium off.
Anthony: For those of you who are new to our community, first of all, welcome. Knowbility is a nonprofit advocacy, education, and services organization founded with the mission to create an inclusive digital world for people with disabilities. Now, we grew from a community collaboration and competition to engage web professionals, that's AIR way back when and learning about digital accessibility while volunteering to build non-profit websites. We called it the Accessibility Internet Rally, and it's still going strong, 24 years later. We expanded to provide other programs and services, and you can stay in touch with our activities if you sign up for our newsletter. I'll find, you can sign up on Knowbility.org on our homepage or go directly to the newsletter at, and it's a Bitly link, so bit.ly/KnowbilityNews. Captial K and capital N. And, that should be shared in the chat. If it hasn't, then it should be soon. So, sign up for our newsletter. Also, I'd like to remind you all follow us on Twitter. Next is Sharron.
Sharron: So, I think I'm supposed to talk more about AIR from the experiential way. What is it like to be in AIR? I think my job is to say, "Here's, what's going to happen you all." Tonight, you're going to meet your... If you're a nonprofit organization, you're going to meet your team of web pros. If you're one of those web pros, you're going to meet the nonprofit organization that does incredible work in the community. And, we encourage you as a web professional, who is going to be helping these people get their mission and their message out to the world, to listen to them about what that mission is and to treat them as you would treat a client.
One of my favorite stories is, early, early days, we learned that we really had to be clear also to the nonprofits about how to prepare because we had... And at that time, we had our kickoff at Scholz Garten. We were all together in person. We had no idea that COVID was going to come do this hybrid thing to us in the world. So, this was about 2002. The team showed up ready to rock and roll, put the information on the web. The nonprofit was called the Texas Native Prairie Association, and they showed up with a shoe box. It had all these very lovingly pressed grasses and seeds and dirt. It also had little handwritten things that said what they were and where they came from. They handed the shoebox over and said, thank you for putting this on the worldwide web. And so, we realized, "Well, we need to help the nonprofits get ready." So, we've done some training, nonprofits have understood that they need to get their assets in digital format.
You're going to meet tonight. One thing that you should know is that some people who participated way back in the early days are now doing accessibility as careers at Google. One of our champions in the world is James Craig, who at that time was... He was a Austin skate punk, skateboard punk. And, he showed up to volunteer because he had an interest in the web. And he...
The way that we try to engage people in this issue is not to say, "This is a legal mandate. You have to do this. You're going to get in trouble. You're going to sued, if you don't do it." Which, of course, is all true. And, that has a place in the advocacy ecosystem, but we try to engage people...
Erica: So, I'm not Sharron, but Sharron's getting her batteries changed. This is one of the things we have to do for our hybrid event. So, I'm going to introduce Derek Featherstone, someone who's very special to the accessibility community and to AIR. Derek started out as a high school teacher. That's kind of where he started his accessibility journey. But over the years, since he got deeper into the field. Now, he's the VP of accessibility and inclusive design at Salesforce who we're very grateful to for all their support here. So without further ado, Derek has some words that he's going to share with us tonight.
Derek Featherstone: If you ask 100 different people what single thing poses the greatest barrier to people with disabilities, as it relates to technology, you'll likely find a wide variety of answers. You'll hear about keyboard usage and how that impacts a lot of people with different disabilities. And, you'll get responses about images and other types of content that isn't text-based. And, you'll definitely notice that touch target sizes comes up a lot. Probably even a little bit about dynamically updating content, like error messages on the screen that show up, but aren't announced to a screen reader user.
But I think it's something else, something much bigger than all of that. The biggest barrier is that people that are creating or creating with technology don't take action. They think about making things accessible. They believe that it's a good idea. They read about it. They talk about it, but very often they don't act. And, that's where you come in. You're here taking action. You're starting on this journey with the Accessible Internet Rally with our friends at Knowbility. Actions are what it takes to make accessible websites.
My name's Derek Featherstone, and I've been working in the accessibility space for 23 years now. I'm currently the VP of accessibility and inclusive design at Salesforce. I'm proud to say that we've partnered with Knowbility for this most important event, the Accessible Internet Rally or AIR. Now, I met Sharron Rush in 2005 when she invited me to Austin, Texas to share my perspectives and thoughts on accessibility at a little conference called South by Southwest. It was way smaller back then. And, that got me connected to an amazing network of people. That network is what Knowbility is all about. That includes everyone that's involved with AIR today and responsible for making this event come to life, so much, much gratitude to all of you for all of the important work that you do.
This event has always been important to me. I've taught classes in person and remotely for AIR over my career. And, I was always humbled by the attitudes and eagerness of everyone involved to take action. Every engineer, every designer, every project manager, every person was all in and ready to learn. I expect you're the same way too. You're not here because you're being forced to be here. At least, I'm pretty sure that's the case. You are here because you want to be here. Because, you want to give back to the community. The organizations that you're working with as part of AIR need to create accessible websites and apps. They need to be at the forefront of technology, whether it's for receiving funding from donors or communicating with their customers or stakeholders, or simply just ensuring that their message can be received and accessed by as great a population as possible.
The work that you are doing helps democratize technology. It makes participation in all aspects of life and society possible. And, that's not something that should only be for people that are temporarily able-bodied. That right to participate, to have agency, to have a say, to be heard, to be included, that's for everyone. And, that's what you are doing here. Not only is this a great opportunity for you all to give, working with a great group of organizations that need accessible websites. It's also a great opportunity for you to learn new skills. I taught high school biology, chemistry, and computers in the mid-to-late 1990s. And, I believe that we learn best by doing. But do you know what's even better than learning by doing, learning by doing with the guidance of experienced practitioners in a safe space where you can make mistakes without fear and where success means working on a meaningful and relevant project.
That's literally what you have right before you with AIR. You've got a great group of mentors and a wonderful array of organizations that you'll be helping through your participation in AIR. It's honestly a perfect match for learning the skills that you need in order to succeed with accessibility. Those skills, they change the way you design, and they change the way you code, and they change the way that you manage projects. Those skills and your commitment to taking action, to doing the work of accessibility is what makes digital spaces more accessible to disabled people.
So, as you embark on this journey, that is AIR, I encourage you to learn as much as you can. Take every opportunity to speak with your client organizations, to understand deeply how people with disabilities use their services, or how people with disabilities would like to use their services, go all in. The entire community will be better for it. You, Knowbility, your client organizations and most importantly, people with disabilities that those organizations are aiming to serve. Best of luck to you all, and I really look forward to learning the details of how your projects are going.
Regine: The Accessibility Internet Rally is not possible without this next group of people. Not only are we thankful for our teams and clients who participate, but also the advisory board who touch so many aspects of AIR from updating the rally rules to recruitment of our teams and clients, our mentors who meet weekly with their teams to provide sage advice and support, and our judges who painstakingly review the sites and provide constructive feedback for the teams to learn and grow. And, a special shout out to Becky Gibson, who volunteers her time to provide the initial training for the development teams. This year's volunteers are listed in our digital program on the website, which will be posted after this event. So, up next is Erica with the door prize.
Sharron: Hey Erica, can you hear me now? Can you hear this? Okay. So, before you do another door price, come on up. I just want to say, the volunteers... Don't we also have slides with the volunteer names on them, the judges and the mentors and the... I thought they were on the slides too because they really have enriched this whole effort through the years. But, in order for the volunteers to know what to do and how to do and how to interact, we have to have the work of this staff. And, this is not a slide, but... What? I have... Oh, no, the slides of the... No, I know, I knew that the slides were there you would come to those, but I also want to thank the staff because online, Mariella and Jay and Julieanne are all... They're monitoring all the online activity. This hybrid thing, we're still getting the hang of after a couple of years.
And then, of course, Erica and Mark, Mark's doing such a great job. And, I have to say, I've got two past staff members, Jillian, who... Huh? Oh, Anthony, of course, Anthony. But, Anthony's like, I don't know, Anthony, I'm sorry, I didn't say your name out loud, but they've been getting to talk to you quite a bit, so. But, Anthony of course is a mainstay of everything we do. And, Jillian and Carolyn, former employees who came back to volunteer, so they kind of bridged the gap. So, I just want to say thanks to the staff, former staff, and of course all the volunteers that you're going to read here. See, you're going to be sorry you made my mic work again. Aren't you?
Erica: Well, I am back. It's time for another door prize. This is a really exciting door prize to hand out because we have a breaking development. One of our guests here in person tonight is Gene Rogers, who you may know him from the Gene and Dave Show. But, what you might not know about him is that he has recently written a book called Awesome by Accident. And, it's his own story. It's gotten fantastic reviews. I can't wait to read it myself. But, Gene has very graciously, in the past few minutes, actually, donated a book to include as one of our door prizes. So, lucky you for attending tonight, you get a shot at Awesome by Accident by Gene Rogers. So, without further ado, I'm going to spin my wheel around. I forgot I turned off my sound, so it's not making that little buzzing sound.
We have Nisha [inaudible]. Congratulations, Nisha, you won one of our door prizes. Julieanne's going to be in touch to make sure that you can pick out your prize, and we will mail it over to you. Thanks Jilian. So, I'm holding up the book Awesome by Accident. And the cover, it looks like rock climbing. It looks like Gene is rock climbing in a wheelchair, and the subtitle is, "How adapting to a 'tragic accident' led me to create my extraordinary life." So, this looks like a fantastic read. Thank you, again Gene, what an exciting donation, and we're very excited to have that book in our prize list, also available on Kindle. Thank you, Gene. I got to get quicker at turning this mic on and off.
Regine: Yeah, [inaudible]. I don't know, did we?
Anthony: The competition [inaudible]. Now, it's time for all of us [inaudible] batteries. We're good this time? Yes. All right. So, now it's time to meet the competition. We will introduce each client's organization and then reveal their amazing team. For organization descriptions as well as team members names, will be in the digital program on our website. Well, let's begin.
Regine: First up is Teach Access, bringing together industry education and disability advocacy organizations. Teach Access addresses the digital accessibility skills gap by equipping learners to build toward an inclusive world. Their team is Accessologists from Dell.
Anthony: Supported Living, the Supported Living mission is to create healthy, long-term, and supported cooperative living for neurodivergent adults. Supported Living will connect residents to resources and engage the community to reduce stigma and provide education about neurological differences. Their team is also from Dell. It's Fitt's Lawyers.
Regine: That's funny. Next is Dance Place. Dance Place is a center of dance activity in Washington, DC. They support movement artists by creating opportunities for creative development, performance, and education. They also offer performances every weekend, dance classes for adults and kids, and arts and education programs for youth. Dance Place's team will be the Getty Group.
Anthony: Next up is Sarah Gillie. Sarah is an artist who firmly believes that art is for all. Her passion lies in creating spaces for everyone to enjoy and participate regardless of ability. Sarah's team is our first Indie team. So, individual applicants who have been teamed up, and they've named themselves Gaia, GAIA and that stands for the Global Accessibility Initiative Alliance.
Regine: The National Women's Theater Festival, The Women's National Theater Festival, WTF, is a group of theater artists, both women and allies who seek to address gender parity, diversity, and inclusion in the theater community. Their team is Allies for A11y from Dell.
Anthony: Next up is Disabilities Awareness and Development Initiative also known as DADI, not sure how they're... DADI?
Anthony: Maybe, I'm not sure, who knows. DADI provides a wide range of training and support services to people with disabilities in Nigeria. Recent projects have included, Increase to Access, a training designed for women entrepreneurs with disabilities and the Accessibility Testing Project, which provides test preparation materials for blind students. And, DADI's team is from Snowdog, which I think is based in Poland. Yes? Yep.
Regine: Next up is Puffin Innovations. Puffin Innovations is a woman-owned assistive technology startup with a diverse team focused on developing solutions for people with disabilities to lead more inclusive and independent lives. Puffin Innovations will be working with Indie Team A, Team A, Indie Team A.
Anthony: Next is 2Gether-International. That's the number 2, Gether International. Their mission is connecting disabled founders with the resources they need to thrive. Disabled people are historically underserved by resources and programs targeting entrepreneurs. 2GI seeks to challenge the entrepreneurial ecosystem by supporting founders with disabilities and flipping the narrative to see disability as a competitive advantage for businesses. 2Gether-International will be working with Orange Wholphins from a community group Accessibility Gurus. And, the joke here with Wholphins, it's dolphins, but so the W-H. So, that's how we're pronouncing it, Wholphins.
Regine: Next is Work Opportunities. Since 1963, Work Opportunities has been providing vocational services to persons with disabilities. Their mission is to promote self-determination, self respect, and valued participation in the community for people with disabilities through work. So, Work Opportunities team is AIRway from Desert Wing.
Anthony: Next is the National Coalition of Latinxs with Disabilities. The National coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities, CNLD, Spanish [foreign language], was established in 2017 as a volunteer national organization made up of disabled Latinxs and allies who work towards a seamless society in which human rights of Latinxs with disabilities are upheld and all their intersecting identities are embraced - including disabled LGBTQ+ older adults. And, CNLD's team is Truist from Truist Bank.
Regine: Next up is Geno's Place. Many of us have had some disruption in our life that compelled us to start over or begin a new life. Through stories, photos, and videos, Geno's Place chronicles what he did to create a new life, or as he calls it Geno 2.0. Geno's Place will be paired with an Indie team by the name of A11FLY, which is really cute.
Anthony: Next up is the Gene and Dave Show. And, we have the pleasure of having Gene here. Gene and Dave's mission is to provide a glimpse into the lives and lifestyles of people with disabilities via an informative and entertaining format they call infotainment. Their team will be Indie Team F.
Regine: Stop 2 Heal Residential Treatment and Outreach Center. Rehabilitation is a lifestyle not an event. Their vision is to provide residential care and services which promote healing, restoration, and a feeling of safety to human trafficking survivors in Texas. Stop 2 Heal will be paired with Indie Team C.
Anthony: Next is the Northern Virginia Resource Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons. They will work to empower deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals and their families through education, advocacy, and community involvement. Their team will be AToMS, A-T-O-M-S, also known as Accessibility Team of Microsoft.
Regine: Next up is The HEAL Project. The Heal Project is a QTBIPOC, Disabled, and Survivor-led educational initiative using media to prevent and end Childhood Sexual Abuse, CSA, through healing the wounds of sexual oppression and embracing sexual liberation. The Heal Projects team will be a community group Love4All. Yes.
Anthony: Next is Change Agent. Change Agent is the badass in your corner, supporting complex life changes for those without the necessary systems in place. When faced with the final change, end-of-life, Change Agent helps the dying create a multimedia artistic representation of their life to leave behind. Change Agent's team will be ARIA Kidding Me, also from Dell.
Regine: That's a good name.
Anthony: The joke there it's ARIA, A-R-I-A our latest... one of the [inaudible] techniques.
Regine: Next is Resume Signs. Resume Signs seeks to help people get jobs they love through empowered astrology and career coaching. Resume Signs provides free sessions to people from disadvantaged communities and who have been impacted by layoffs, especially women who are looking to grow their competence and play big. Resume Signs team is ID's for the Win.
Anthony: Our last team here is the Central California Animal Disaster Team. Their mission here is to mitigate the loss of human and animal lives. CCADT provides disaster response assistance for displaced animals during natural and human-caused disasters in Central California. CCADT's team is Ca11y Gurls, and the play there it's C-A-1-1-Y and girls is G-U-R-L-S, fun name.
Now, we're kind of moving here to a schedule of events here for the next two months or so, which includes some checkpoints and office hours and lots of fun things here. Just to give you a taste of what's here to come, here before we wrap up, I'll quickly go through the following events as part of the rally. First is our client office hours that you mentioned on September 20th and 22nd. [Our clients are encouraged to stop by, check-in, and ask... Ought to be, no?
Okay, office hours, so September 20th and 22nd, the Tuesday and Thursday, stop by ask your questions, ask anything you want to know as you get things going. Next on October 6th is our rally checkpoint, so basically halfway through. This is our perfect opportunity for team members to meet the judges and ask questions as they start finalizing their websites. About a month later on November 13th, your website is due at 6:00 PM Central, but we have a great final countdown scheduled that starts at 5:00 Central, so one hour, right before. And, come and join us as we kind of count down to the final deadline. We'll have some fun testimonials from participants. Then, in 2023, in January, will be our award ceremony on January the 5th at 6:00 PM. This will be here in Austin and of course be hybrid for everyone else to watch virtually. There we will reveal the winners and celebrate all the hard work that will definitely go into these websites in the next couple of months. So with that, we have another door prize.
Sharron: [inaudible] that was great. Thank you [inaudible].
Erica: I don't know if this door prize will top all that excitement, but we're going to do one more door prize. I'm going to spin my wheel and see who we get. And, our final winner of the evening is Lori [inaudible]. Congratulations, Lori, you won our final door prize for the night. Julieanne's going to be in touch, and I'm going to turn it over to Regine and Sharron for some...
Sharron: That was incredible.
Regine: I'm excited. I love the names.
Sharron: The names were great. The teams are... I think they've had their training. They're prepared. The nonprofits are getting prepared. I don't know what more we can say. I think everybody's pretty eager to get into those rooms, meet your teams, start making your plans and let the race to accessibility. begin. Thank you so much.
Regine: Thank you.
Sharron: Any last thoughts?
Regine: Have fun while you're doing this too. I think that this is good work that you all will be doing. You're going to be learning. You're going to be growing. Take the information the advisors are giving you and apply it. And, what you're doing is great work, and it's great things that you're putting out there in the world. And, we, all of us have a responsibility to make a more accessible world. This is starting something new for you also. I'm really excited to see what you come up with, and I can't wait until January.
Sharron: Thank you.
Regine: Thank you.