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OpenAIR Competition Seeks Designers and Nonprofits Wanting an Accessible Website

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  • Synopsis: Published: 2013-10-02 - OpenAIR competition invites web professionals to receive disability awareness and accessible design skills training. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Knowbility at

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"We envision a world in which children, youth, and adults with disabilities have greater options to learn, work, and fully participate as producers and consumers in the information marketplace."

Global Competition Seeks Web Pros And Nonprofit Orgs To Make The Web More Accessible To People With Disabilities.

Knowbility, an Austin-based nonprofit organization that advocates for equal access to communications technology for people with disabilities, announced today that their award-winning, 15th annual Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) Program, now called OpenAIR, has become a global competition and is open to web teams and nonprofit groups from all over the world.

Sponsored by Deque and Adobe and led by IBM's CTO of Accessibility Richard Schwerdtfeger, the OpenAIR competition invites web professionals to receive disability awareness and accessible design skills training. In exchange, web pros agree to volunteer to create accessible web sites for participating nonprofit organizations.

Sites will be entered into the competition and judged by a panel of accessibility experts. After two rounds of judging, winners will be announced at the 2014 SXSW Interactive's Dewey Winburne awards party. OpenAIR has been recognized for excellence and effectiveness by the Peter Drucker Foundation, the Congressional Black Caucus, the White House and others.

Who benefits

"People with disabilities need equal access to information technology and web developers need the skills to meet those diverse needs," said Knowbility Executive Director and co-founder Sharron Rush. "The OpenAIR program addresses the needs of both communities."

  • Nonprofit organizations benefit from the services of a team of web development professionals, free hosting and ongoing support services.
  • Web developers benefit from professional development in web accessibility that is increasingly mandated by legislation, court decisions, and best practice.
  • Fifty-five million Americans and 750 million people worldwide have disabilities that may impact their ability to use the web and fully participate in modern society. This competition raises awareness.

Accessibility is a global issue

Sometimes called the "digital divide," addressing unequal access to technology is increasingly important as more educational, employment, and social opportunities move online.

"There are 70 million people in the world who have disabilities that may impact their access to the Web, and it is a critical issue in their ability to fully participate in modern society," said Richard Schwerdtfeger of IBM. "We cannot afford to leave those people out and must find ways to integrate accessible design into best practice for development of all web technologies. By recruiting teams and nonprofits from across the globe, we begin to give the issue the attention it deserves."

Call for participation

Registration is currently open for teams of web developers, for individual developers who would like to be part of a freelance team, and for nonprofit organizations that need a new website or a website redesigned for accessibility.

More information and registration forms are online on the OpenAIR pages of the Knowbility website

Potential Interviews

  • Former AIR participants who have become accessibility leaders at Google, Apple, and Pearson Learning.
  • People with disabilities who rely on accessible technologies, such as Knowbility staff members Jeanine Lineback and Desiree Sturdevant (who also home schools her 9-year-old daughter via the Internet) and computer engineer Patricia Walsh. Video also available.
  • Rich Schwerdtfeger of IBM
  • Knowbility Executive Director and co-founder Sharron Rush. Rush is also the award-winning author of a premier book on accessible web design, Maximum Accessibility, which was co-written with Dr. John Slatin and published by Addison Wesley in 2002.

Founded in 1999, Knowbility's mission is to support the independence of children and adults with disabilities by promoting and improving accessible information technology.

We envision a world in which children, youth, and adults with disabilities have greater options to learn, work, and fully participate as producers and consumers in the information marketplace. Currently, many are excluded from basic activities because readily-available assistive technologies and accessible design techniques are not utilized effectively. in the U.S. alone, this group represents over $1 trillion in aggregate income, and as our population ages, these numbers will increase to include tens of millions more people than today.


  1. Thomas C. Weiss (Feb 02, 2013). People with Disabilities and Technology Challenges
  2. IBM (Aug 04, 2010). Improving Internet Access for the Aging, Disabled with Open Source
  3. Thomas C. Weiss (Feb 04, 2013). The Reasons Behind Online Accessibility

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