The Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) is a competition to raise awareness for global web accessibility. Started by Knowbility in 1998 as a local hackathon in Austin, Texas, the program has evolved into a pioneering teaching and learning event that puts accessibility and digital inclusion front and center — where it belongs.
How did AIR begin?
The Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR), and Knowbility as an organization, got their start in 1998 when several nonprofits and community groups in Austin began getting together for an annual "web-raising" competition with the goal of building accessible websites for people with disabilities.
The Internet had already proven to be a "great equalizer" in terms of providing knowledge, economic power, and job possibilities to people with disabilities. However, many websites weren't (and still aren't) built with these millions of users in mind. People with disabilities use special tools, called assistive technologies, to browse the Web, which can be confused by some website designs and functions.
AIR-Austin '98 was created to help educate the general public, and web professionals in particular, about the tools and techniques to make truly accessible websites. Each competing team was comprised of 1-2 representatives of an Austin-area non-profit organization and 4-6 web developers.
This is AIR's 25th anniversary, marking the completion of hundreds of accessible websites, thousands of skilled developers now equipped with accessibility know-how, and an ever-growing network of advocates, designers, creators, and decision-makers working to make the web inclusive to all.
Why participate in AIR?
Making accommodations on a website increases the availability and usefulness of those materials for the greatest number of users. Designing your website to be accessible to people using assistive technologies is very simple!
But don't take our word for it! Take a minute to hear from AccessHippos, the 2nd place team in AIR 2021, about their experience participating in the competition.
Who can participate?
Anyone who has an interest in making the digital world more accessible to people with disabilities is welcome to compete! However, the competition is geared toward two specific groups:
- Nonprofits, artists, and community organizations looking to improve the accessibility of an existing website or receive a new, accessible website built from the ground up.
- Web designers and developers looking to gain or improve their accessibility skills.
What does the competition look like?
Teams of web professionals are given eight weeks to build or improve the websites of artists, nonprofits, and community groups. During the eight-week period, each team will receive accessibility training to comply with WCAG 2.1 Level AA, ADA, and Section 508 standards (worth over $4,000), and be matched with an accessibility professional who will serve as a mentor for the competition. When the two months wrap up in early November, teams will submit the work to the AIR judging panel and the winning sites will be announced at the AIR Awards Ceremony in January.
Before the competition officially begins, both developers and NPOs will receive training. The developer training will be led by a member of our Accessibility Services Team and will cover the basic a11y skills participants will need to successfully engage in the competition. The Community Group training will cover what to expect from the competition, strategies to best engage with their teams, and an overview of accessibility.
The competition runs from mid-August to mid-November, with an awards ceremony in January where the results are announced. Outside of working with your team and organization, It includes four major events, all of which are conducted virtually:
- AIR Kickoff (September)
- AIR Checkpoint Rally (October)
- AIR Final Countdown (November)
- AIR Awards Ceremony (January)
Mentors are one of the keys to helping AIR team members to ramp up their skills quickly. Each AIR mentor offers advice and guidance regarding accessibility in a one-on-one capacity with an AIR team. As the teams are working on their projects, mentors will pay attention to the designs and code base, to spot issues early on. Mentors help the teams get it as right as possible the first time around.
Judging will take place after all sites are submitted in early November, with results revealed at the Awards Ceremony in early January.
Alright! Ready to take the leap and join us on this accessibility journey?
Registration opens on May 17, 2023, and will close on August 15, 2023.
Use the following forms depending on whether you want to enter:
- as a nonprofit, artist, or community organization to receive a new or redesigned accessible site
- as an individual developer to be sorted into a team
- as a team of developers
Participate in AIR and receive a low-cost, professionally designed, accessible website! The competition is open to all artists, small businesses, nonprofits, or any other organizations that help improve the quality of life in your community.
You do not need to have an existing website in order to enter. Your team can build the website from scratch!
Though you will technically be the 'client' in the competition (meaning the developers will be working on a site for your organization), we encourage at least one member of your organization to serve as part of the team.
Skilled in web production: Designers, developers, and Q&A testers, we're looking at you!
AIR enhances people's accessible design skills and then puts them to work creating professionally designed, accessible websites for non-profits around the world.
Where else can you learn advanced skills, participate in creative challenges, and make the world a better place all at the same time
Teams will comprise 4-6 members. You can enter as an individual, grab a few friends or colleagues and enter as a group, or have your workplace put together a company team.