Increasing Quality of Life with Tech Accessibility

Three men and one woman are standing with two men in wheelchairs. The group is seeing how one man is using an assistive technology device with a laptop, which enables him to use the computer mouse and keyboard.

Knowbility’s mission is to advocate for people with disabilities by ensuring that web-based applications are accessible and inclusive to all people. The organization was built on values of social inclusion, and their belief that access to information is a right, not a privilege.

 

Web accessibility is an important factor for people with disabilities, as technology has become ever more integrated into our daily lives. Technology and web-based applications have become common tools in which people access social services, education/training, buy goods, apply for jobs and communicate with others. Without the ability to access the internet or certain technologies, people with disabilities are not provided with an equal opportunity to thrive.

 

One male individual holding an iPad for a female individual wearing headphones

 

Founded by executive director Sharron Rush in 1999, Knowbility works with organizations, non-profits, companies, schools and individuals to aid them in the process of making their web based applications and technology accessible. Technology is also a way to increase the quality of life for people with disabilities in ways that once were unattainable. With increased access to technology and information, individuals with disabilities can experience increased independence, job skills and socialization opportunities. The social enterprise now provides commercial services to larger organizations and employ people with disabilities to provide accessibility testing through a program called Access Works.

 

…technology is becoming an integral tool in our everyday lives, we find that web accessibility is starting to become a topic of discussion for those who were once unaware of this issue.

 

Knowbility has also created an online course called ATSAR that teaches school personnel and parents how to use assistive technology for students with learning, cognitive and physical disabilities. Their two main community programs are OpenAIR and AccessU. OpenAIR, the Open Accessibility Internet Rally, is a competition that matches teams of website developers/designers with non-profit organizations. OpenAIR allows people in the community to learn about accessibility through training and first hand experience, while providing non-profit organizations with pro-bono improvements to their website. First started in 1999 as a one-day intensive hackathon hosted in Austin, Texas, OpenAIR has become an international competition, and the teams now have three months to finish their projects. There are also various tracks within OpenAIR, such as state agencies and university teams.

 

One male individual sitting with a woman using an assistive technology device for communication

 

AccessU, Knowbility’s second community program, is a three-day annual conference that Knowbility hosts at St. Edward’s University. AccessU is a professional conference that provides hands-on accessibility training. Each year the conference brings the disability community together, and allows people to learn from lead web accessibility experts across the United States. Knowbility has produced this conference for the past twelve years and seen it become increasingly diverse and national. This year, they included a special track for those in the education sector.

 

Elderly male with assistive glasses looks at computer screen and a document with enlarged text.

 

From Knowbility: “We joined SEA because we believe that we must create a community around our mission of educating and training others about web accessibility. SEA allows us to collaborate with other organizations who are mission-based and who are working with marginalized and disadvantaged populations. We want to have the opportunity to work with others who share a similar vision, or who can benefit from learning about accessibility and why it matters.

Since technology is becoming an integral tool in our everyday lives, we find that web accessibility is starting to become a topic of discussion for those who were once unaware of this issue. SEA allows us to use our expertise in web accessibility to educate, advise, and join forces with other organizations who promote social inclusion and work to decrease the digital divide.”



To learn more about Knowbility, check out their member directory profile.

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