2017 Heroes of Accessibility

Congratulations to the 2017 Nominees and Honorees!

On Tuesday, May 16th 2017,Community Heroes of Accessibility 2017 awards were presented at a happy hour ceremony at the Driskill Hotel following Knowbility’s Inaugural Accessibility Leadership Symposium.

Heroes of accessibility PowerPoint presentation showed on the wall at the Driskill hotel  Sharron Rush and Rich Schwerdtfeger announcing the honorees

Jessica Looney giving the award to Wayne Dick Photo showing the video projected on the wall of Mike Moore, one of our honorees

Paul Adam speaking during the ceremony after receiving his award Jessica Looney giving a hug to Jayne Schurick after giving her her award

Sharron Rush giving a hug to Jayne Schurick after giving her her award  Rich Schwerdtfeger and Hiram Kuykendall shaking hands

For the last three years, we have asked our community to nominate their heroes – those people whose dedication to the field of accessibility is having a significant impact on improving equal access for all. The community has responded and these are the nominees in each category. Knowbility’s Board of Directors selected one final honoree in each category (marked in purple, below). Thanks to all who nominated their heroes and congratulations to all!

Technical Achievement

This category honors individual effort to further digital accessibility. 

  • Jason DaSilva

Jason DaSilva is a director, producer, writer and disability rights activist best known for the Emmy Award winning documentary, When I Walk. Most recently, he has created the AXSMap, a web application that allows people to find, rate, and share accessible public spaces. Through social media, video instructions, and a mapathon game, Jason encourages people to use his app to identify places that are accessible or let friends know what places are not accessible through Facebook or Twitter. The disability community is responding enthusiastically.

  • Sam Dooley : 2017 Honoree

Sam is the creator and lead developer at Pearson for the Accessible Equation Editor. Even though Sam has been developing math software for approximately 30 years, prior to February 2015, he had never heard of Nemeth code and did not know how blind students were engaging in STEM courses.  When he was exposed to the problem and to students and subject matter experts who could articulate the barriers to success in math and science for blind students, he got to work.  He taught himself Nemeth code in 3 months and had a working prototype for instantaneous, dynamic print-to-Nemeth translation within 5 months.  He then managed some summer interns who are blind and capable of understanding advanced math concepts.  These interns helped him refine his solution and ensure that the translations were accurate.  By the end of the summer of 2015, he had a functional prototype that could instantaneously translate dynamically generated printed math into accurate Nemeth, as well as translating dynamically-generated Nemeth into accurate printed math on a computer screen. A technical solution like this for blind students that will allow them to participate in math classes in real time has not been offered in the history of math.

  • Bryan Garaventa

Bryan is the architect of ACCDC, a framework for building accessible components using a variety of methods and component libraries. Bryan serves on the W3C WAI-ARIA Task Force and has developed support tools and documentation to assist in the use of ARIA. Among the tools currently available are the ARIA visual bookmarklet, self-paced ARIA authoring training, and the ARIA Interactive Widgets matrix. Bryan also contributes to the SSB BART Group blog.

Educational Achievement

This category is meant to recognize efforts that help the community at large to understand and apply accessibility techniques in web sites and applications.

  • IAAP Webinar Series

IAAP offers live webinars on a monthly basis on a variety of topics related to web accessibility and assistive technology. IAAP records and archives every webinar and makes them available for members or by purchase of live or archived webinars. People who register for live broadcasts receive access to the recording at the conclusion of the broadcast. From topics ranging from legislative environments around the world, to teaching technical skills like captioning video, to organizational considerations like program integration, the series provides a broad range of support for developing accessibility skills.

  • Media Access Australia /University of South Australia

In partnership with the University of South Australia, Media Access Australia has developed an internationally-recognized professional qualification in web accessibility. The course teaches the essential principles and techniques for achieving accessibility compliance. It was developed to assist Government departments (and agencies or contractors doing Government work) to meet mandated accessibility requirements as defined within their own countries. The course is online and provides students with the opportunity to discuss, share and connect with other professionals facing similar challenges. In addition to supporting government agencies, the course guides management of academic and private business on international best practice in accessibility, including adherence to the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

  • Teach Access: 2017 Honoree

Teach Access is an initiative to include accessibility and universal design principles in the curricula of computer scientists, designers and researchers in undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education. The initiative is expanding awareness of accessibility in higher education through approaches such as internships, challenge grants for research and curriculum development, and industry partnerships. Teach Access also builds open source online learning tools that reflect and teach accessibility best practices. The tools are widely available to individuals, companies and organizations. In addition, Teach Access is developing job descriptions that include preference for accessibility knowledge to increase accessibility focus within recruitment activities and to extend the post-secondary foundation through “on the job training” in product and service development.

Institutional Achievement

Recognizes a sustained effort to improve accessibility across an enterprise.

  • Capital One

Capital One is a founder-led financial services company that focuses on providing products and services to a diverse customer group.  A guiding principle in their delivery includes making sure products and services are usable and inclusive of all regardless of ability.  The Accessibility Team actively participates in various user peer groups, hosted the Disability Museum on Wheels, advocates as part of a cross-industry trade association and frequently presents at SWSW and the annual disability conference (CSUN) on topics such as driving accessibility awareness and leading proactive program transformation.

  • HMRC – UK government: 2017 Honoree

Largely due to the leadership of Chris Moore, there is a vibrant accessibility community within HM Revenue and Customs, a department of the UK government.  Under his leadership, the HMRC has succeeded in raising awareness of accessibility needs across the entire department; technically assessed many government services, improving their accessibility for more people; implemented accessibility review of new services; and contributed to building a larger cross-government community if interest in accessibility issues and solutions.

  • Natural Resources Wales

Natural Resources Wales is the largest Welsh Government Sponsored Body – employing 1,900 staff across Wales. They largely take over the functions of the Countryside Council for Wales, Forestry Commission Wales and the Environment Agency in Wales, as well as certain Welsh Government functions. Maintaining an accessible site is an ongoing process and Natural Resources Wales is continually working to make sure everyone can access and use their website. No matter what browser or device people use, and whether or not they have any disabilities. Their website has undergone many changes since the birth of Natural Resources Wales in 2013. During this time, they have worked hard to maintain and improve website standards for accessibility. Not only do they have a legal requirement to meet Web Accessibility Initiative level 2 (AA) standards, but they also want their website to be user-friendly and accessible – for everyone. They recently had news that they’re in the top spot in the SiteMorse Index UK Central Government for accessibility. In a blog, Phil Rookyard, their Digital Designer talks about the importance of making websites accessible for all.

Emerging Leader

An Emerging Leader is an accessibility practitioner who is stepping into a leadership role.

  • Monica Ackermann

Since November 2013, Monica has been working as a Senior Manager – Enabling Solutions and Support Management at Scotiabank. Responsible for defining and implementing an enterprise IT accessibility strategy, her activities include: accessibility testing of web sites and web applications, accessible document creation strategy, delivery of accessibility training, integrating accessibility into the software development lifecycle, supporting employees with their technical accommodation requirements.

  • Paul Adam: 2017 Honoree

An accessibility advocate focusing on Mobile Accessibility (Android & iOS) and Modern Web (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, WAI-ARIA, WCAG 2.0) Accessibility in Austin, TX. Paul has been an accessibility consultant for a wide range of enterprise-level, large organizations in a variety of industries including: State/Federal Gov, Higher Ed, Banking/Financial, Insurance, Telecom, Airline, Healthcare, Retail/E-commerce, and Hospitality. Previously worked for Federal Government as Accessibility Manager at Federal Communications Commission (FCC), for State of Texas as Accessibility Specialist at Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), as Web Developer & Instructional Designer/Trainer for University of Texas-Permian Basin and Texas A&M University-Central Texas. Co-organizer of the Austin Accessibility and Inclusive Design Meetup, Paul spends spare time creating iOS apps or learning modern JavaScript development. Paul is also a developer of Accessibility Testing JavaScript Bookmarklets, and macOS Safari a11yTools Testing Extension.

  • KR Liu 

Director, Accessibility & Advocacy at Doppler Labs, U.S -Congressional Award Winning Advocate. KR has over 20 years of successful experience in strategic partnerships, sales, and accessibility advocacy. Doppler Labs was founded in 2013 with the mission to create wearable tech that makes computing more immersive and human. KR leads advocacy and accessibility efforts for Doppler Labs and has made it her life’s work to be a strong advocate and voice championing new products that enhance the way we hear the world. She has spoken on panels at The White House, the Federal Trade Commission, been invited to the UN, and spoken at several other conferences on disability and LGBTQ inclusion in technology. She developed Doppler Labs accessibility go-to-market strategy on hearing health. She also launched and currently drives Doppler Labs policy efforts around hearing access. This lead to Senator Warren and Senator Grassley’s new legislation called the OTC Hearing Aid Act of 2017. She executed strategic partnerships with World Wide Hearing Foundation, Consumer Technology Association, Google.org, FTC, and many others to help push for awareness and regulatory changes in hearing devices access. KR was awarded Silicon Valley Business Journal Women of Influence 2017 for her advocacy efforts.

Unsung Hero

The Unsung Hero category lets the public nominate a person or group that deserves recognition but who doesn’t quite fit the categories above.

  • Norm Coombs: 2017 Honoree

Norman Coombs is CEO of EASI (Equal Access to Software and Information) and professor emeritus at the Rochester Institute of Technology where he pioneered RIT’s distance learning program in the early 1980s. Coombs is coauthor of Information Access and Adaptive Technology. Even before the Internet was widely used, Norm was encouraging people with disabilities to use technology. His EASI series of trainings has inspired accessibility thinking for more than 35 years.

  • Beth Jones

Assistant professor of special education, she received her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University. Her empirical work is in the area of home-school collaboration and fostering parental participation in the Individual Education Program. Additional interest areas are Special Education Policies and Procedures, Visual Impairments, Assistive Technologies, and Consultation. Dr. Beth Jones has been the driving force behind bringing about this assistive technology lab, she notes: “This assistive technology (AT) lab has been a dream of mine since coming to Commerce in 2009. It has been such a fun project to plan and see come to fruition”. She made her dream a reality for Texas A&M University-Commerce students. As always, TAMU-C is leading the way with innovative and inclusive practices. Her sincere hope is that the AT Lab will serve as a vehicle to raise awareness regarding available technologies and the individuals who benefit from them.

  • Albert Rizzi

Founder and CEO of My Blind Spot, Inc. Albert Rizzi is a visionary leader with expertise in conceptualizing/implementing accessible tools and programs that empower individuals, promote ability and restore infinite possibilities to a diverse community. Dynamic communicator with proven abilities to present tangible, quality driven solutions that motivate individuals to action, enhance social capital and strengthen corporate responsibility to stakeholders/shareholders alike. Change-agent and global thinker skilled at forging strategic alliances across industries, business units and government agencies. Albert created, launched and led not-for-profit education organization with a mission to build respect, empathy and appreciation for blind, visually impaired and print disabled members of a global workforce.

  • Todd Stabelfeld

Todd Stabelfeldt is an entrepreneur and computing technology expert. His primary computing focus is database administration and how data effectively integrates into front-end programs and reporting engines. Todd is also a C4 quadriplegic. During his decades-long struggle for increased independence, he has become a noted expert in technologies for the spinal cord-injured. Sharing his unique insights, Todd regularly contributes to usability testing efforts for technology companies in product development to help shape better hardware and software functionality. Mr. Stabelfeldt is also an author who is regularly invited to contribute to Webinars on healthcare IT issues, as well as online publications regarding experiences of the spinal cord-injured. He created a company C4 Database Management that primarily serves clinical and anatomical pathology labs and hospitals with ongoing database maintenance and special projects like SharePoint migrations.

Volunteer of the Year

Jayne Schurick: 2017 Honoree

Corporate Partner of the Year

Sabre – Seda Maurer: 2017 Honoree