Sharron Rush: Hello. Good evening everyone. Good evening all you AIR participants, you brave souls who helped out so many nonprofits this year. My name is Sharron Rush. I'm the executive director and co-founder of Knowbility, and I thought I'd start by counting to 25, because I figured our first AIR contest was before Knowbility was even formed. It was in 1998. Then we had the second one in 1999. We had the third one in 2020 and then 22 more since we came through all these years. I'm thinking that this is the 25th AIR Austin. I don't know. Check my math.
But if that's the case, I'm kind of... What do the British say? I'm gobsmacked, because 25 years is a long time. And honestly, when we started doing this, we thought all we have to do is get the attention of the tech sector. Right? Get their attention and they're going to solve this problem. I never expected to be here 25 years later. But I'll tell you, I'm really glad that, if I'm here 25 years later, y'all are here with me. Because as much as this contest has changed and the... The technology certainly has changed in those 25 years. But one thing that hasn't changed is the spirit of this competition and the fact that we do this because... Well, we do it in the spirit of inclusion, right? We understand that the commitment and the promise is to ensure that as this technology evolves, that as the technology changes, people with disabilities are seamlessly included. That everyone has equal opportunity to contribute, to participate, and to be part of the digital world.
I think most of us here this evening, we have a small group here, a larger group online, but I think together we all understand the importance of digital inclusion. And if there was a silver lining to the global pandemic, one of the ones that I found was that more people came to understand accessibility, digital inclusion as a human right. In the modern world, access to this technology, to the information, to the affordance that it gives us, is a human right.
When people are expected to work, to shop, to attend school, to join social and civic events online, equal access can no longer be dismissed or postponed. And since 1998, the AIR program has invited tech pros to join us in this quest for equal access in the spirit of design, of inclusive design; design that includes everyone.
So, I want to start off by thanking every single one of you who participated, whether you're here, whether you're online, staff, board, sponsors. Just thank you. Thanks for being part of this and for understanding how important this really is. Just take a minute and let me say thanks.
I have a lot of people to thank and if you'll bear with me, I want to also say that if I overlook anyone in my thanks, it's not that I'm any less grateful, it's just that these days I think I'm a little more forgetful. I really do appreciate every single one of you and all that you've done, but I want to mention... I'm going to start with the community program staff and thank you, Jay McKay for leading the AIR program this year. I want to thank Mark and Julieanne, my colleagues who are here with me in the room, and thanks to the online co-host, Anthony and Adam.
And even with this great staff, we couldn't do this without our sponsors, so let me take a minute to recognize our premier sponsor in 2022 was Salesforce. They were extremely generous. In addition to their $50,000 financial contribution, Salesforce sent Derek Featherstone by video to our kickoff. And if you haven't heard his intro talk, please give it a listen. It was powerful, it was inspiring, and it was right on. So, thank you Salesforce.
And Salesforce wasn't alone. We were also supported by Adobe by Trend Communities, Monkee-Boy who has sponsored us year after year, and by Betterleave. We also would like to thank and recognize Rev.com who provided our captioning, transcription services for community programs, and they also gave 20 minutes of free service to the AIR nonprofit clients. It was useful, it was generous, and it was very much appreciated. We also have speakers who you're going to hear from tonight, our board member Caleb Watson, our good friend Celia Hughes, and I'd like you to welcome them as well.
The program was chaired this year by Regine Gilbert, and she came and helped us with the kickoff. She's helped us in so many ways to make AIR 2022 the success that it turned out to be. And I just wanted to tell you a little bit, if you're not acquainted with Regine, you definitely should become so as soon as you can. I first encountered her through an online course in 2018. She presented on the issue of accessibility, but she did it with such power and such clarity that even after nearly two decades of working in this field, I was entirely transfixed by her. Immediately afterwards I got in touch and I asked her, "Would you come do a keynote talk at our AccessU in May?" And she graciously agreed and I think she was the keynote at our first online AccessU. Wasn't that... Yeah, it was the first one online, and she did a great job of course.
Regine is an experienced designer, she is a teacher, she is an author with more than a decade of tech experience. At NYU, New York University, she is an honored James Weldon Johnson professor. Her areas of research and teaching are centered on digital accessibility, inclusive design, and immersive experiences. Her first book, Inclusive Design for a Digital World, was published in 2019, and her second is called Human Spatial Computing and that will publish in 2023. She was signing a book earlier here tonight. So, please help me welcome Regine Gilbert who will take us through the rest of the evening, and thank her for her leadership in AccessU 2022.
I have a gift. What did I do with my gift? I don't know. Okay. I'll find it.
Regine Gilbert: Thank you. Hi everybody. Hello. Happy New Year. I just want to say that it makes my heart so happy that you all had the pleasure of working on making these websites, making things more accessible. It is my mission in life to make the world a more accessible place. You all are doing that. You have done it and you will continue to do it. The thing about accessibility is, once you know about it, you can't not know about it. Right? You see it everywhere. And so, I am so excited to be here today and to be here with you all.
I want to start with saying that the Accessible Internet Rally is not possible without the help of so many of our people, including our advisors, mentors, and judges, not to mention our competing teams and the participating nonprofit organizations. Our digital program lists the names of all these wonderful volunteers dedicating their time and talents to making digital spaces inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities. We encourage you to visit the digital program as it also features videos of this year's kickoff and countdown events. The link is bit.ly/AIR2022Program. That is capital A-I-R 2022, program with a capital P.
Let's talk about tonight's agenda. Where are other AIR events always had a bit of work attached to them, tonight is all about the celebration. As we wrap up the welcome, we will begin hearing from a few people sharing messages of congratulations to our teams and words of wisdom for the future. We will then announce the winners for this year's Accessibility Internet Rally.
But first, our first speaker is Caleb Watson. Not only does Caleb serve on Knowbility's board of directors, but he is also a very enthusiastic supporter of AIR and participates on the AIR advisory board. Caleb?
Caleb Watson: Thank you so much, Regine. Happy to be here tonight. I just completed my first year as a board member for Knowbility, and this is my third year as an advisor in the AIR Advisory Board. And can't tell you guys how much I really love this program. It's one of my favorite from Knowbility.
I'm here today to give you some talking points about reflecting on the journey you've been through, and then I'm going to make some asks. AIR is a fun competition and here we're going to celebrate the winners of that competition, but really there's an ulterior motive and that's to teach everybody about accessibility. It's really important that, through the end of the journey, you picked up knowledge skills you can take and push back into your corporate, small-medium businesses, nonprofit organizations, and even big corporations to take this forward.
For our NPOs, I want you to think about, next time you're building an SOW for a vendor, including accessibility as your requirements in there. Next time our participants are in their job, whether you're a designer, developer, content writer, product owner, think about ways you can include that in your processes and work. Like Regine said, now that you know it, you can't unknow, and it's your actual responsibility to carry forward.
For sponsors, and truly we appreciate you. Like Sharron said, without you we could not put this on. Big and small. Also think about how you can include this in your work. Think about adding it to your SOWs. Think about putting it in your product development life cycles. And an extra bonus tip from me is think about adding it to your M&A acquisition audits and your due diligence. I think it's a big overlooked area in big corporate M&A, and I think it'll actually add a lot of value if you do that and save a lot of headaches later.
I don't want to carry on and carry on, but what I do want to say is, now that you have this knowledge, you must carry it forward. And really and truly, that's the impact of this program. That's why it's so powerful. And again, thank you for everything. I know we have some exciting awards to hand out tonight, but first there's going to be some more speakers who are going to give you guys some insights. I'm pass back to Regine and she will introduce the other speakers.
Regine Gilbert: Thank you. Thank you Caleb. Next up, allow me to introduce our first speaker, Rob Carr. Rob works with WebAIM as the strategic accessibility coordinator, and has been the lead judge of AIR since 2020.
Rob Carr: Hey everybody and good evening. Thank you to Knowbility for having me. I've been a massive fan of this event since before 2020. I've had the opportunity to be a mentor and a judge, and in the very strange year that was 2020, come on and help to coordinate the judging process. I want to lead off by saying first and foremost, thank you so much to our judges. We can't really have a competition without some people scoring it in this case. This isn't something where it's like a track meet and people are running or swimming or rolling faster than others and there's an obvious winner. There's some work that goes into this, and I'm going to talk about that here in just a second. I'm kind of like Caleb. I want to get out of the way, because, little secret, I actually know who won and we want to get to where that's public.
One of the amazing things about this, I think, is the fact that this is a game you can do as a developer, as a designer. You can find opportunities to learn about technology in a lot of different ways. You can do boot camps, you can go to a variety of educational institutions and find coursework on this stuff. But what I've found in other contexts is that when things are a game, people really engage with it. Right? It's really, really important to them to either win or at least have a good showing, and I think that's one of the amazing things about this event. It is a very early example, probably before the word gamification was widely used, of gamification of something that otherwise could be a little technical in nature. Not that this isn't, but it's very, very different with our mentors and the dev team, the nonprofits, and then handing it over to the crew of judges that we have.
I just want to talk real quickly about what our judges do, peel back the curtain just for a couple of minutes on that. We've got a pool of judges. Many of them have been involved with AIR since the beginning in different capacities. Like I said, we've got different roles that you can take, and we have had some that have been across the gamut of roles within AIR. And some have been judges, I think, since just about the beginning. That 25 year mark is pretty amazing.
What we ask our judges to do is take a look at a couple of the sites. Each judge pairs up. And that's really one of the cool opportunities on the judging side that I think I have and share with the crew at Knowbility, and that's matching more seasoned judges up with folks who are newer to the competition and helping to build some connections. I think that's one of the things that hopefully happened that's a little bit behind the scenes, and that is that with the mentoring, with the dev and design teams, with the judges, we have opportunities to build this accessibility community, that's so amazing, out. And again, Knowbility gives us that platform to do it.
Every judge uses the exact same form to go through. We try to make it as uniform as possible. And again, we're pairing more senior and experienced judges up with those who are newer so that they can learn from each other a little bit as well. And that networking piece, I think, is just outrageously, outrageously important.
But the gamification thing, if you've ever been motivated by any kind of even a subtle competition, then you'll understand. It doesn't have to be sports. We could use sports analogies. I already did. But there are so many ways to compete and I have seen that engage people in ways that I really hope... to Caleb's point about taking things forward, one of the things that I very much hope and believe that AIR does is I think it does carry accessibility forward with the participants. Whether they're volunteers in any of the number of ways, the dev teams, whoever it might be, I really hope that it makes it stick and I'm confident that it does.
I have to thank WebAIM for letting me take the time to coordinate judging and be a lead judge again this year. The crew at Knowbility, Jay, Sharron, Mark doing a bunch of the tech stuff when everything comes in. I know there are more people on the Knowbility side who are involved who I'm not naming. Thank you again to sponsors. Events like this don't happen without sponsors when you're in the nonprofit space. Those of you who are, if you're part of NPOs, you can likely relate. Without sponsors, events like this don't happen.
Thank you again to our judges, to those of you in the nonprofits, to the design teams, to the mentors. This is an event that I love being a part of, even if it's just remote, because I can extend those thanks and extend that appreciation to everyone who is a part of this. So really, thank you everybody for all the work you've done. Thanks for letting me be a part of it. And I will turn back over to whoever is up next.
Regine Gilbert: All right. Thank you, Rob. Thanks to all our speakers. Next up is Celia.
Sharron Rush: The one and only Celia Hughes!
Celia Hughes: Thank you. Thank you. Just throw money. I'm delighted to be here, representing the nonprofits that benefit from all of your hard work. As you might know, we participated as actually our first name. We're now on our fourth name as Access Arts Austin, and we won the competition. We had two librarians who stole the show. And I don't know what they went on to do, but we went on to hire people and always worked with Knowbility. All of our websites since then have been built either through AIR or through someone who was trained through AIR. I sent one of my staff members to AIR and she supported herself for over 10 years as a website developer and a guru in access.
I'm here to say that this wonderful little exercise that you just went through is going to stay with you for the rest of your lives. It is going to enrich your life, it's going to enrich your work, and will always bring you clients. Because you have a skill that so many other people don't know about yet, which is making accessible websites and making access for everyone in the internet highway. It's been absolutely delightful to get to know all of the developers, all of the designers. And as a nonprofit arts organization, it was really important for us to not only have a fully accessible website, but to also have one that was beautiful and that really represented us as an arts organization. And so, thank you very much and congratulations for all of you. Because even if you're not going to go away with the big trophy tonight, you are going away with knowledge and skills that will stay with you for the rest of your career.
Regine Gilbert: Thank you, Celia. And it's so true. You will not forget what you learned in this process. Thank you to all of our speakers. We now have come to the exciting part of the evening when we announce the winners for this year's Accessibility Internet Rally. If you are with us in Austin and your team is called, we encourage you to come up to the front to be recognized. If you are with us online, let us know and we will pin you to the screen. All of our winners will receive these. These. See if I can-
Sharron Rush: There's a picture available-
Regine Gilbert: Oh. Oh, there is? Okay. There is one in my hand. These one of a kind... Yeah, they're very cool. One of a kind popups. All our winners will be receiving these one of a kind paper crafted awards that features a popup airplane surrounded by clouds with a gold foil seal with our AIR logo. Are y'all ready? Are y'all ready? All right.
Caleb Watson: Right. Announcing third place winner, A11yFly for Geno's Place.
Amber Weeks: Steven, hi. I'm part of A11yFly. I think I might be the only one in my team here. Can you hear me?
Sharron Rush: Well, Geno's here.
Amber: I'm sorry. I don't use Zoom a lot. But I'm really excited and the pop-up book looks really cool. I loved working with Gene. I hope he... He is actually from Austin, Texas, so he might be there. But he's an amazing person. His website was such a pleasure to work on. I'll post the link in the chat. But he's a really amazing person. I encourage you to look at his site and I'm just really excited for my team, because we all worked really hard. Hi Gene. How are you?
Gene Rogers: Hi. I'm good. [inaudible] Yeah, my team worked really hard on this and I was really happy to see the all the collaboration that was going on across several states to make this happen.
I just want to briefly take this time to ask you a question. Do you know why there's no J Street in Washington DC? I mean, there's a... Or K Street? Well there's a K street, yeah, but there's no J Street. There's A through I and then there's K, but there's no J. Well, the reason is, when the city architects back in 1791 were setting up the streets, they realized a letter J looked a bit like the letter I and they didn't want to confuse people with that. They wanted everybody to take full advantage of our nation's capital. And the point of me telling you this is, if we can make the web accessible enough that there's no problems distinguishing what's where, we could have everybody enjoy the web and what we have to present. I want to thank my team for all the hard work they did, and thank everybody for making the world a bit more accessible.
Regine Gilbert: Right. Okay.
Gene Rogers: Buy my book.
Regine Gilbert: Oh, buy... Oh, also, yes, buy his book from the link in the chat. All right. Second place. We'll now announce the second place winner, which is Ca11yGurls for Central California Animal Disaster Team.
Speaker 9: I'm part of Ca11yGurls. I think my team is here. Yeah.
Regine Gilbert: Congrats!
Speaker 9: Thank you.
Caleb Watson: All right. And for first place... Are you all ready? Let's get a drum roll. All right, here we go. For first place, 2022 AIR rally, AIRway for Word Opportunities.
Graham Venning: Wow. We are speechless here.
AIRway 1: Yay!
Graham Venning: Wow. I'm Graham Venning. I'm part of this team. I'd love to see everybody on the stage with me. I'm completely overwhelmed actually. I never imagined this was actually really, truly, deeply likely to really happen. Although, we said all the way through we were in it to win it. But here we are. I feel extremely, extremely touched.
Can you actually hear me okay? Just suddenly thought... You can. Yes. Okay. Good. And of course, really need to mention each and every member of the team. It's been something that the whole team needed to be a part of to make it happen. I mean, I see Cindy, our mentor here. I see Marti, our wonderful, wonderful nonprofit client who inspired us to really put a lot into this too with the great cause that Work Opportunities was. And I see Dinep up there, Captain Accessible. I'm looking at Kosi, seeing you on the screen. I'm seeing Patrick. There you are. And Kat as well. I think that's everyone. I'm sure I haven't missed anyone. It's been an amazing group. But then mustn't also forget the whole of the AIR community who've really helped to make this a possibility. I'm absolutely blown away. It's fantastic.
Thank you so much for making this happen, Knowbility and everyone else involved. It's been an amazing experience learning and working together as a team. Because it just couldn't have been done without each and every person working together very hard and putting in a labor of love and going above and beyond in so many ways. So, thank you all. Thank you very much.
AIRway 2: We won!
Jay McKay: Marti, did you want to say anything about the site?
Marti Thomas: Oh, I'm blown away that we won. Thank you all so very much. This has been just the most incredible experience. I'm just so excited we won. The team, Graham, Gerschen, Patrick, Dinep, Kat, Kosi, Cindy, I mean, I have learned so much from this group. Knowbility, you all are amazing. Salesforce is amazing. Just this whole process. I literally found out about this the day before the deadline to apply, so I'm just so grateful. Even if we hadn't won, the collaboration of this entire process and this team is just beyond my words.
And the site is amazing. We had a very, very outdated site that my very unskilled self was trying to maintain. One of my favorite features is the feature that they added for us to be able to collect stories of the people that we serve, and even the businesses that support our clients. It's just going to be great. Next year's our 60th anniversary, so it's going to be an amazing tool. And thank you all so much. We won! Yay!
AIRway 3: Yay!
Sharron Rush: Congratulations.
Regine Gilbert: All right. Congratulations. Congratulations again to all of our teams. Again, you are going to take what you've learned and you're going to tell others about it. You've learned throughout this process how important accessibility is, how we cannot live without it. It is a human right. And so, what's next?
Sharron Rush: What's next?
Regine Gilbert: What's next?
Sharron Rush: We have a prize for you.
Regine Gilbert: Oh, you do? Thank you.
Caleb Watson: Regine, thank you so much for chairing this year. You've been wonderful. From Knowbility and the board we want to present you this.
Regine Gilbert: Thank you very much. I'll open it later. So what is next, right? As always, the journey of accessibility never ends. I learn something new every day. You all will continue to learn something new every day. We have a training scheduled for January 12th of this year, this year's clients, to make sure you have what you need to access and maintain your site. And we invite you all to join us for the 2023 John Slatin AccessU Conference. This will be our 20th annual conference of in-depth, hands-on learning and accessible digital design. Everybody go and sign up. You can learn more at knowbility.org/accessU.
And we'd love your feedback. We always appreciate your feedback on our events. Please take a moment to respond. Bit.ly/AIR2022Awards. Capital A-I-R 2022, awards with a capital A.
Please stay in touch with us through our Twitter, LinkedIn, or our newsletter. Everybody sign up for that newsletter. Everybody in here signed up? Good. And Sharron, any final thoughts?
Sharron Rush: Just again, I always feel grateful. I'm grateful to all of you in the room, grateful to all of you online, everyone who participates and everyone who joins us in our mission to ensure equal access to technology for all people. Thank you.
Regine Gilbert: Thank you. We're done. We're done. It was an honor to be chair this year.
Sharron Rush: Yes.
Regine Gilbert: An honor. Absolute honor for an organization that I truly love, so thank you all. Thank you to all the behind the scenes people, that you all can't see, for helping put on a great show, for all the advisors and everyone else that helped contribute to making this event a very special one. Thank you all.