2006 Conference General Sessions

ACCESSIBILITY INTERNET RALLY FOR HIGH SCHOOLS: MEETING FEDERAL AND STATE ACCESIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

 

 

Presenter(s)
Annie Hudson
Knowbility, Inc.
3925 West Brakerf
Austin Texas 78759
Day Phone: 512.305.0312
Fax: 512.305.0009
Email: ahudson@knowbility.org

Learn how AIR-High helps educators meet IT accessibility mandates and students to win scholarship prizes all in the context of a fun, friendly web design competition.

Complete Paper: As per No Child Left Behind, students with disabilities have a right to be included in the regular classroom. Education in regular education settings implies more than just physical presence; it includes the tools to access the curriculum that is taught in the regular classroom. In Texas, the state legislature recently passed House Bill 2819, which requires state agencies to develop, procure, maintain and use electronic and information technology that is accessible to people with disabilities.

Accessibility to information technology is where we’re headed and really where we should have already been. Not only is it the right thing to do, but more and more, educators are being held accountable by these kinds of legal mandates. For most people technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, however, technology makes things POSSIBLE. The key is access. Software, including Internet applications, can be designed to be accessible for children and adults with disabilities - or it can leave millions of people out. Just as Federal 508 laws mandate physical access to our public streets and buildings, the new requirements for “electronic curb cuts” on the information highway can facilitate access by students with visual, hearing, motor skills, and cognitive disabilities, and Knowbility’s Accessibility Internet Rally for High School (AIR-High) program can help educators meet these requirements.

Since 1998, the original AIR program has been successful both in raising community awareness of the need for access and in improving accessible design skills by directly engaging web professionals. AIR challenges web pros to learn accessible web and software design skills in the context of a fun, friendly web competition. Participating programmers, graphic designers, and program managers attend accessibility training delivered by world-renowned accessibility experts. Once they master the techniques, AIR participants are invited to form teams to apply their new skills by creating an accessible web site for a nonprofit organization.

 

Participating nonprofit organizations receive separate training in creating and maintaining an accessible web site. The community gathers for one high-energy web-raising day as teams create fully functional and accessible web sites for organizations that serve the arts, human services and environmental needs of the community. Completed sites are judged by experts and awards presented in a high-profile ceremony. AIR has been produced annually in Austin, Texas since 1998 and replicated in Dallas, Houston, Denver, Colorado, and San Francisco, California. The program is nationally recognized for excellence and innovation by the Peter Drucker Foundation, the White House, the Isoph Institute, the Department of Labor and many others.  

Knowbility has completed a step-by-step replication kit to help communities produce an AIR program locally. In addition, Knowbility has responded to the educational community’s needs by modifying the basic model to the requirements of the school community, and has developed the Accessibility Internet Rally for Texas High Schools (AIR-High). AIR-High is a web design competition that specifically benefits schools while raising understanding of design techniques.

Throughout the fall of 2005, Knowbility will train representatives from school districts across the state in accessible design techniques and give them resources to pass those techniques on to students. The AIR-High training-of-trainers provides lesson plans, ideas, information, links, and resources that will help teachers address the wide range of student learning styles and abilities in their classrooms. Educators will see how design and project-based learning can be used to meet the needs of all students. The program also highlights lessons and information that demonstrate how assistive technology can be integrated into the curriculum and provide further help in creating differentiated learning environments.  

Knowbility will support the effort through web casts and online listserves. Students will have the opportunity to submit their accessible designs in the spring of 2006 and compete for scholarship prizes. AIR-High highlights and promotes accessible online content by teaching design skills that result in school-based websites that are fully accessible. Students learn about accessibility in the context of a fun, friendly web design competition through which they may win recognition and scholarship funds for their good work!

AIR-High is co-produced by the Southwest DBTAC at the Disability Law Resource Project (DLRP). It is fundamentally important to the DLRP to find ways to include K-12 in the awareness and skills improvement of AIR. We have developed outreach strategies and classroom curriculum support to encourage teachers to incorporate accessible design principles into their work and to recruit students to participate in AIR-High.

AIR has proven to be a replicable, adaptable and engaging way to spread the word about accessible web and software design. Knowbility would be pleased to share our success and ongoing challenges at CSUN in 2006 with a presentation and Q & A session, given by Knowbility’s AIR-High Program Coordinator, Annie Hudson.


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