Microassist CTO and Event Training Chair Hiram Kuykendall Leads Development of OpenAIR 2016 Online Training Game
Editor’s Note: A variation of this story is available as a press release on our News and Media page. Staff photo © 2018 Microassist.
Austin, Texas, August 25, 2016 — One out of every five adults in the United States has a disability. For many of them, accessing and navigating online information is a daily challenge at work, school, home, and wherever information is presented digitally. This fall, an international event will harness high-tech training and creative competition among web development teams to minimize those challenges.
The 2016 OpenAIR competition, an annual community event hosted by Austin nonprofit Knowbility, brings together teams of web developers, designers, and project managers in an interactive competition to produce accessible websites for participating nonprofits. Registration for development teams and nonprofits ends September 1.
The event trains participants on skills for creating these sites in a way that works well for people of all abilities, including those with vision, hearing, mobility or cognitive impairments. It also harnesses the expertise of accessibility specialists across the globe and knowledgeable mentors who bring years of personal expertise to each participating team.
“In the mid-90s, we noticed that as Austin was transforming into a tech city, we were leaving people with disabilities behind,” said Knowbility Executive Director Sharron Rush. “In an effort to get the attention of the technology community, we went out and collaborated with many different groups and created this contest.”
With a long history working with or participating in the OpenAIR event, Knowbility board member Hiram Kuykendall is leading development of an online game to help team members learn about accessibility while creating an accessible site for their assigned nonprofit. Kuykendall is chief technology officer for Microassist, a custom training development company with a history of producing accessible digital products.
“Right now, our big push is gamification.” said Kuykendall. “Our goal is to provide the teams with a fun learning experience coupled with knowledgeable mentors which will result in the nonprofit acquiring a greatly needed accessible website. The big twist for this year are short, ten-minute exercises that will make the learning process more interactive as opposed to hour-long ‘talking head’ videos.”
More than 200 people participated in last year’s event. While the competition is based in Austin, team members have hailed from across the U.S. and the globe, including Africa, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Columbia, and India. Originally named the Accessibility Internet Rally, OpenAIR received the 2015 Federal Communications Commission Chairman’s Award for Advancement in Accessibility.
“Sharron and her team at Knowbility have made a remarkable impact within the tech industry,” said Microassist Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Nasta. “They stress not only the ‘why’ of accessibility, but the ‘how,’ empowering web and app development teams, as well as entire organizations, to produce digital content that—for instance—a blind person can navigate, or a captioned video that members of the Deaf community can enjoy.”
Before Knowbility board service, Kuykendall presented at Knowbility’s AccessU conference, led two award-winning Microassist teams in the related competitions, served as Chair of the AustinAIR competition and volunteered in other capacities.
“Hiram really understands why accessibility is so important in the modern world for people with disabilities,” said Rush. “That’s a very difficult leap for a lot of people to take, and Hiram took it effortlessly. His experience in creating digital properties, resources, materials, and of course training, which is what he’s focusing on for OpenAIR, is what makes him a perfect fit for our board and for this event.”
“The thing that binds me personally, and to a certain extent, Microassist, is that there’s a real passion to make the world a more inclusive place,” said Kuykendall, “People with disabilities have a lot of challenges, and interacting with the web should not be one of those challenges.”
Most web development takes place in October, with judging and awards in December. For more information on the competition, go to air-rallies.org. For more on the competition’s training component, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Microassist: Microassist is an Austin, Texas-based learning and development consulting firm. For 28 years, the company has partnered with organizations to educate employees, constituents, and clients through traditional classroom training, innovative elearning, mission-critical applications, and ever-changing technology. The entire Microassist team invests time in understanding a client’s needs and the desired outcome of their training and learning strategy. Microassist creates, delivers, and hosts custom training for clients’ internal and external learners with a special emphasis on online usability, accessibility, and digital remediation (websites, mobile apps, software platforms, electronic documents, and elearning platforms). For more information, visit www.microassist.com.
About Knowbility: Knowbility, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the independence of children and adults with disabilities by promoting the use and improving the availability of accessible information technology. Knowbility helps customers make the internet and other technologies accessible to people who are blind, visually impaired, hearing impaired, have mobility impairments, and cognitive or learning disabilities. Knowbility’s goal is to create a barrier-free world of information technology with universal access for all. For more information, visit www.knowbility.org.