Become a social impact investor for as little as $50.
By now many nonprofit organizations are aware of the
importance of having a presence on the web. Many organizations, however,
overlook ensuring that their web presence is accessible to individuals who may
have visual or auditory impairments.
To help organizations learn more about
accessibility, TechSoup’s recent installment of Nonprofits Live explored accessibility
and assistive technology joined by guest experts Sachin Malhan, of Inclusive
Planet; Sharron Rush, of Knowbility, and Neil MacGregor of goQ.
Sachin Malhan, co-founder
Planet works to enable online collaboration among the world's
print-impaired population and also incubates new technologies in the web
accessibility space. Malhan’s approach to
developing accessibility is informed by his experience in a developing country,
namely India, where advanced technologies, like smartphones, are not as readily
available or affordable.
According to Malhan, the biggest challenge in the developing
world for the disabled is a lack access to resources and information. In
initially looking at the problem of accessibility, Malhan and his co-founders
noticed a fragmented landscape of individuals and nongovernmental organizations
addressing this issue and building up their own libraries of resources. Instead
of developing new resources, Inclusive Planet tries to connect people and
organizations using simple, accessible web platforms and mobile technology to
build a network for resource sharing and unlock those resources to the print
Following Malhan was Sharron
Rush, co-founder and executive director of Knowbility, a leading nonprofit
accessibility advocacy and consulting organization. Knowbility began after Rush, who was working for a nonprofit focused on disability issues, noticed
that while her hometown of Austin was being rapidly transformed by the
technology industry the community her organization served was being left behind
After being advised that the best way to get the technology
community to be involved in the issue of accessibility was to foster competition,
Rush organized the first Accessibility
Internet Rally. The rally educated the tech community about the issue and
channeled their abilities and energies into helping area nonprofits have an
accessible web presence.
As it was only the mid-1990s and the web was just
beginning to take off, the rally provided many of these nonprofits with their
first website with accessibility incorporated early into the process instead of
as an afterthought and before it was mandated by federal guidelines. Rush finds
that when organizations incorporate accessible design techniques early in the
process of developing technological tools, be they online sites or
applications, a surprising number of users outside of the disabled community
also benefit, spurring further innovation.
Rounding out the speaker portion of NPLive was Neil MacGregor, vice president of
Learner Development at goQ, a software
company that specializes in assistive writing technology. MacGregor bought his
perspective as a person with a learning disability to his work with goQ and took time to demonstrate goQ's software tools.
WordQ, goQ's software, are not universally accessible tools and are designed specifically to
assist individuals with language impairments with reading and writing. The software uses a combination of word prediction, speech recognition via
microphone dictation, and spoken feedback for auditory confirmation. Organizations
interested in requesting donated goQ software can find more information on the TechSoup website.
After the speaker presentations, NPLive concluded with a
question and answer session where participants mostly asked for
recommendations on where to learn more about online accessibility issues and
For the speakers’ answers and recommendations to these
questions the full recording of NPLive
is now available as is this handy online
guide developed by TechSoup. Although NPLive is only one hour long the
discussion continues in the TechSoup Forums
where questions, comments, and tips on accessibility and assistive technology
Susan ChavezOnline Community & Social Media Team, TechSoup Global@Susan_Chavez
Great recap, Susan! Participating on the back end during these events, a lot of the information winds up sort of washing over me. I love having all the information and resources gathered in one place like this. I think we all learned a lot during this event both in putting it together and absorbing the tips from our speakers. Thanks for pulling those learnings into a great summary!
I am SO sorry I missed this event! I was out on a motorcycle.... this is such an important topic, one I've tried to champion in any job I've had. I know many IT folks aren't happy with me when I ask all my "but is this accessible?" questions when they trot out a new web site, app or other tech tool. I look forward to the day I don't have to ask that question, because everyone has bought into the idea of accessible design!
I'm a user of assistive technologies and a strong advocate for universal design and universal access. I was thrilled to learn that TechSoup and the Nonprofit Commons would be addressing the issue. Imagine my dismay to learn that the session on accessibility... WAS NOT ACCESSIBLE.
That's right. Deaf or hard of hearing? Need captions or text transcription? Sorry- you're out of "luck."
Well, on the plus side: 1) it was probably a great and timely presentation by experts...2) it was no doubt an important and highly relevant topic being presented to those who will use what they learned, and 3) it's only been twenty plus years since the ADA made equality the right of folks with disabilities.
I do work and pray that some day, some how, universal design and equal access will be our reality. It's just so disappointing when it COULD be happening and didn't.
Thanks for the comments and useful suggestions. I feel the frustration of seeking universal design and easy access for all and finding that most tools are not yet aligned for true accessibility.
Over the last few months we have produced the Nonprofits Live series on Watchitoo as we wanted a cloud-based collaborative platform with the capability to bring in multiple video streams and host conversations, a rare set of requirements that most streaming services do not yet provide. Watchitoo has been rapidly improving their offering for the public and welcome your input to improve their services - would you most want to see closed captioning options available?
In our preparations to produce this show we worked with our guests and staff to transcribe, create slides and turn every bit of information shared into visible text for those who may not be able to hear the video part of this event. For the visually impaired we planned for clear redundancy of voice and visual, making sure that every word that showed up on the screen was also clearly spoken for audiences unable to receive the visual content. We recognized that the tool in this case was not ideal, yet we were able to work out integration with some services (GoQ's software, for instance, also wanted to use the microphone that Watchitoo uses for receiving voice to the live show).
Our team was there to transcribe every note given that may not be on a slide to make sure there were very few gaps in communication across a diverse nonprofit audience. I would have preferred closed captioning and easy use for screen readers and would like to hear from anyone who has found great solutions for livestreaming conversations that are accessible.
TechSoup is committed to continuing these conversations across many channels so that we can improve technology opportunities for all audiences. We appreciate productive suggestions on tools you find to be most appropriate for live, interactive conversations and encourage everyone to stay active in these conversations.
More on TechSoup's digital inclusion work over the last few years can be found here: forums.techsoup.org/.../techsoup-wins-2009-california-digital-inclusion-award.aspx - I would love to hear what software and cloud-based tools you have found to be most inclusive.
Thanks for responding to this, Evonne, and to explaining your process on working toward greater inclusion for these events. And thank you for the feedback, dhha.
In addition to the work being done to move the NPLive events closer to universal standards, we've also been trying to make our regular webinars more accessible. Again, it seems that the tools available during the live events aren't fantastic (or they're not affordable for us yet).
Immediately after a webinar, we make the full PowerPoint deck, downloadable mp3 of the audio file, and video available to our users.
As a way to further improve the accessibility of the webinars AFTER the event, we have made it a priority to have them fully transcribed and archived with closed captioning on our site. We probably have about 80 webinars in our archives now, and about 20 of them have been archived with the closed captioning and an HTML transcript. However, we recently learned that some of the tabbed browsing features of the video player aren't working properly, so we're quickly trying to get that fixed.
Over the course of the next year, we'll be archiving many more of our webinars and events so they can be viewed, listened to, downloaded, and accessed by more users in more ways. You can see an example of a recently archived, closed captioned webinar here: www.techsoup.org/.../page13122.cfm
We are definitely trying to keep access in mind as a priority for our events, but as with many organizations and nonprofits trying to serve their communities, it's easier said than done. We're beholden to many of the same budget and technology constraints as many other nonprofits, but we hope in continuing to host events on it, keep it highlighted as a branch of discussion in our forums and our learning center, that we're providing some encouragement to others while also being transparent about the limitations we're still working to overcome.
Thanks for your encouragement for us to keep doing even more!
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
Close this window