What’s this Accessible Internet Rally?

September 2, 2006

Topics: Accessibility, Web Development.

Today I learned about an interesting program sponsored by Knowbility called Accessible Internet Rally. Intriguing idea – essentially, it’s an accessibility competition. From the Knowbility website:

Led by the local technology leaders of a targeted community, AIR challenges local teams of web professionals to learn about accessibility through a series of training and networking activities. Once they are trained in accessibility tools and techniques, the web teams are matched to a local nonprofit agency in need of web development assistance. After a 10-day planning period, the teams and their nonprofit “clients” all assemble for one high-energy work day in which the new, accessible web sites are finalized. An expert panel of judges review the resulting entries and determine winners, who are recognized at a high-profile awards party.

So, essentially, teams of web professionals enter the competition and team up with non-profit agencies to build an accessible website in one day. Whew…except for the whole building the site in one day thing, this sounds great. I wonder how many organizations make arrangements to have their sites worked on further following the competition day?

Regardless, I’m in favor of anything which is bringing greater awareness of accessible issues, and I’m also in favor of providing this as a donation to non-profit organizations.

One thing which isn’t mentioned, which I’d be curious to know more about, is some information about what the developers are actually pointed to / given / taught about web accessibility. After looking at a couple of past examples, I’m not incredibly impressed – but, it’s hard to judge knowing that the developers did only have 10 days of planning and one day to build. And it seems like the competition is targeted at people without prior accessibility experience (wouldn’t really be fair, y’know?), and with only a short time to learn about accessibility it’s difficult to get a really thorough comprehension.

I note that Jim Thatcher was recently appointed a senior research fellow at Knowbility, and although it’s unclear to me how much impact that position is likely to have on day-to-day operations, it does demonstrate that they are attempting to connect themselves with well-positioned experts in the field. (For the record, Jim Thatcher is also the expert witness testifying in the Target Corporation vs National Federation of the Blind law suit.)