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Honoring A Quarter Century of Inclusive Innovation:
25 Years of AIR

Four people sitting at a table, each focused on their own computer, engaged in work. The atmosphere is collaborative, with a sense of concentration and productivity.

The Race is on for the most aaccessible NPO site for 2023!
This year marks a monumental occasion - the 25th anniversary of AIR, a transformative journey in fostering digital accessibility and inclusivity. Join us in celebrating the legacy of the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR), a quarter-century of empowering change, innovation, and a more accessible online world for everyone.

What is AIR?

The Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) is an annual competition organized by Knowbility, aimed at promoting web accessibility on a global scale.  Beginning in 1998 as a local hackathon in Austin, Texas, AIR has evolved into a pioneering teaching and learning event. 

During the competition, teams of web professionals collaborate with nonprofits, artists, and community organizations to build or improve accessible websites within an eight-week timeframe. Each team receives comprehensive accessibility training and is matched with an accessibility professional mentor.

The competition culminates with the judging of submissions in early November, and the winning sites are announced at the AIR Awards Ceremony in January.  With its emphasis on inclusion and digital accessibility, AIR continues to empower web designers and developers, while positively impacting the lives of individuals with disabilities.

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Not only is it benefiting people with disabilities, it’s also benefiting web designers and web development companies to better understand how to improve and create products that are good for everyone, that serve everyone.
Celia Hughes

Tracing the Journey: 25 Years of Empowering Digital Inclusion

Over the last 25 years, the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) has evolved into a noteworthy program that champions web accessibility for people with disabilities.  It all began in 1998 when Austin emerged as a tech hub, and civic leaders saw an opportunity to engage web designers and developers in disability issues.

The coalition, including National Easterseals Society, Goodwill Industries of Austin, and the Metropolitan Austin Interactive Network (MAIN), launched AIR as a competition where volunteers built accessible websites for nonprofit organizations.  The success of the first AIR event led to the founding of Knowbility. 

Since its inception, AIR has expanded to various cities, involving corporate teams, government agencies, and individual volunteers.  Initially held in one-day competitions, AIR has transformed into a multi-week event, empowering developers with accessible design skills.  Over the years, it has produced hundreds of accessible websites for charities and educated thousands of developers on creating inclusive digital experiences.

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Five individuals seated around a computer, engrossed in collaborative work at the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR). The team is focused on designing and improving a website, highlighting their dedication to web accessibility. The vintage computers in the image reflect its age, while the collective effort showcases their commitment to inclusive online experiences.
AIR Austin 2005- The Go9 Media Team
Four participants engaged in a teamwork session during the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR), each seated with a laptop. The group collaborates on enhancing web accessibility, contributing to an inclusive online experience for all users.
AIR Austin 2005 - The "Frog World AIRlines" team building the new City of Rollingwood website
Three individuals at a table, sitting in front of laptops, wearing smiles that radiate a sense of camaraderie and collaboration.
AIR Houston 2006
Two people seated at a table, engaging in conversation. The person on the right speaks animatedly, while the person on the left wears a bright smile, exuding happiness and laughter.
AIR Austin 2007 Kick-off Party
A group of six individuals wearing matching 'AIR Austin 2007' t-shirts, gathered together and posing for the camera. Each person is sporting a smile, reflecting their camaraderie and enthusiasm.
AIR Austin 2007
AIR Austin 2007 team photograph featuring seven team members, including Sharron Rush, Knowbility's executive director. The group is captured in a lively moment, with several individuals pointing to the left, one person covering their mouth in surprise, and two members sharing chuckles. The dynamic scene suggests a sense of curiosity and shared amusement, portraying the team's engaging interaction and camaraderie.
Look, it's the bird of accessibility! AIR Houston 2007
o participants engaged in collaborative work at AIR Houston 2007. Seated at a table, both individuals are engrossed in their laptops, wearing smiles of focus and camaraderie. They exemplify the spirit of teamwork and dedication during the Accessibility Internet Rally event.
Tendenci Software - AIR Houston 2007

Honors and Impact: Recognizing AIR's Accessibility Milestones

Over the years, the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) has been recognized and honored for its groundbreaking efforts in promoting web accessibility and fostering inclusion.  In October 2000, AIR was one of three programs selected for recognition by the prestigious Drucker Foundation, showcasing its innovative contributions to accessibility initiatives.

In the same year, Knowbility received White House recognition for its contributions, with President Clinton acknowledging the impact of Knowbility’s Rocky Mountain AIR program. Such honors reflect the significant impact AIR has had in raising awareness, encouraging training, and promoting inclusivity for individuals with disabilities.

Through AIR, Knowbility fosters community involvement and instills a passion for accessibility, driving positive change for people with disabilities and web users everywhere.  The celebration of AIR’s 25th anniversary marks a momentous milestone in the ongoing quest for equal technology access.

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AIR is a true community collaborative effort, , led by people with disabilities. Accessible design becomes a creative challenge and engages tech makers in a unique and joyful way. The experience demonstrates that accessible design fosters innovation and improved experinces for all users.
Sharron Rush
Jim Allan and Jim Thatcher on stage behind a podium and microphone. Jim Thatcher, on the right, is smiling and has his arm around Jim Allan’s shoulder in a friendly and supportive pose, capturing a warm moment at AIR Austin 2008.
AIR 2008, Jim Allan and Jim Thatcher
Four individuals at AIR Houston 2009, posing for a photograph. Two people are standing while the other two are seated. All four are wearing smiles, looking at the camera with a sense of camaraderie and enjoyment.
AIR Houston 2009
Three people seated around a table, laptops in front of them. The central and left individuals wear smiles, while on the right, a playful expression is evident, with an arched eyebrow adding a touch of light-heartedness. Their collaborative atmosphere reflects a productive and enjoyable teamwork.
AIR Houston 2009
Two individuals seated at a table with laptops sharing joyful smiles. On the left, a person retrieves a sandwich from a box, while on the right, another person wears a plastic tiara, adding a touch of whimsy and lightheartedness to the scene.
AIR Houston 2009
Kicking off AIR Austin Rocks in 2010, two figures stand on a stage against a backdrop of musical instruments. Engaged in enthusiastic applause, Sharron Rush, Knowbility's executive director, stands on the right. On the left, an ASL interpreter enhances accessibility. The scene captures a moment of shared joy and inclusivity, setting the tone for the event's spirited beginning
AIR Austin Rocks 2010 kick-off

As we reflect on our journey, we're reminded that our achievements wouldn't have been possible without the unwavering support of individuals like you. As we celebrate 25 years of AIR, we invite you to continue on this journey with us. Your generosity, whether big or small, can have a significant impact on our mission and will have a lasting impact on the lives of countless individuals who deserve equal access to the online world.

By donating, you contribute to the continued success of AIR and the advancement of digital accessibility. Let's continue to create a digital space where everyone can thrive and connect.

Scene from AIR- A conference room filled with participants. At the heart of the image, two individuals pose for the camera while at a table surrounded by colleagues with laptops. One person leans over with a smile towards a standing person beside them, who enthusiastically waves cheerleader pom-poms in the air, creating an atmosphere of energetic camaraderie.
Spreading Accessibility Cheer

Photos by Cousett Ruelas, James Craig, Jillian Fortin Burtnett, Glenda Sims, Sharron Rush and Kelsey Ruger.