This was a fun, politely competitive event -- the first of its kind!! -- to assist Austin Area Not-for-Profit Organizations (NPOs) in getting on the Web or redesigning their Web sites AND to make these sites more accessible for people with disabilities.
AIR Austin 98 was a team-based website design competition organized by MAIN (Metropolitan Austin Interactive Network), Easter Seals serving Central Texas, and Goodwill Industries of Austin, with help from various corporate sponsors, volunteers and the Virtual Volunteering Project.
The Internet (in particular, the World Wide Web) has already proven to be a "great equalizer" in terms of providing knowledge, economic power, and job possibilities to people with disabilities. However, many Web sites are not built with these millions of users in mind.
People with disabilities use special tools to browse the Web, and these assistive technologies can be confused by some Web site designs and functions. Designing your web site to be accessible by people using assistive technologies is very simple!
Making accommodations on a Web site for the greatest number of users increases the availability and usefulness of those materials. A few scenarios to consider:
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 Web sites. Each competing team was comprised of 1-2 representatives of an Austin area not-for-profit organization and 4-6 web developers, be they staff from design companies, in-house webmasters at any type of company, or late-night and weekend hackers with design experience who want a chance to show off their expertise.
In the tradition of MAIN's Web-raisings, the teams came together September 12, 1998 at the Infotec Training Center in Austin, Texas to design their sites.
The result of AIR-Austin was not only be more accessible websites, but also new relationships among Austin-area high tech companies and not-for-profit organizations!
More than 120 people were part of competing teams, representing 40 different not-for-profit, public sector and technology companies.
You can see the Web sites that were built at http://www.main.org/AIR-Austin/websites/
Since the early 1990s, MAIN and others (prominently Austin FreeNet) have sponsored "Web Raisings," informal one-day events that invite not-for-profit and grass-roots community organizations to bring information about their organizations; agency participants are matched with HTML/Web "gurus" who provide hands-on training and expertise, and typically leave (half-a-day later, real-time) with a MAIN-hosted Web Site, FTP access (logon and password), copies of HTML files for updating, and shareware HTML authoring tools and hands-on experience in their use. These "Web Raisings" have been VERY successful (20 - 50 organizational participants per event).
In late 1997, Easter Seals and Goodwill Industries in Austin - both affiliates of well-known national charitable organizations providing jobs and healthcare services to people with disabilities - proposed to take the notion of "web-raisings" to the next level with the AIR-Austin event.
Adding to the basic objective of MAIN of putting NPO information on the Web, Easter Seals and Goodwill have come together with MAIN to add a new, compelling, related objective, facilitating community information access, broadening personal horizons, and informal networking.
The AIR-Austin '98 competition used other Web design competitions as models for our own, such as the 1997 "Cool Site in a Day Contest, http://webreview.com/coolsite/coolsite.html
The AIR-Austin '98 Web site was built with assistance from The Virtual Volunteering Project
The AIR-Austin Web site is "Bobby Approved" -- meaning our site is fully-accessible to people using assistive technologies to view Web pages. We used Bobby to guide this process.
Gray Cary Ware & Friedenrich
AIR-Austin judges! were:
Jim Allen, Web master for the Texas School for the Blind and an expert and activist in Web site development for people of all abilities;
Nan Hawthorne, a remote judge located in Seattle, Washington, owner and operator of the cybervpm.com (Cyber Volunteer Program Management), a Web site and online discussion group, and a user of assistive technologies to access the Internet; and,
Rich Stevens, the Personal Learning Center Coordinator for IBM, who also supervises the Assistive technology Lab at IBM's Austin campus.
Mike Rainer, is the Austin area IBM webmaster and served as a co-judge with Rich to advise him on specific web design issues.
Numerous people have volunteered to help create and update this Web site:
Nan Hawthorne, http://www.cybervpm.com, of Seattle, Washington, uses an assistive technology to browse the Web, and gave AIR-Austin advice on design of our Web site.
Pete Golden of LibertyNet, http://www.libertynet.com, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania helped research clip art for use by AIR-Austin
William Hookway of Worcester, Massachusetts compiled information on not-for-profit organizations that have email addresses in the Greater Austin metropolitan area, to solicit their involvement in AIR-Austin
For more information about AIR-Austin, call
Sharron Rush at 512/478-2581
or send email firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit the
AIR-Austin Web site
This Web site is STILL updated weekly with additional information, so check back often!