Open Air and Heroes of Accessibility Winners

Yesterday, the wonderful Knowbility – the Accessibility community’s non-profit champions of inclusive technology – held their Open Air competition and announced several major awards related to achievements in the field. This is a quickly gathered list of the honorees, with some personal thoughts to recognize them individually.


The best part is that every single nominee in each category is a true champion, and you can read more about them, links to nominee and honoree Web sites and social media presence, other awards granted, and Knowbility as an organization via the original nomination announcement.

Individual Achievement Award: Steve Faulkner

I first met Steve in a little pub in England on a Saturday meetup. We began to chat and in very short order it became clear that Steve is not only an extremely bright and accomplished man, but he is profoundly dedicated to excellence in all aspects of Web technologies.

His work on HTML5 must especially be highlighted, and his ongoing work with W3C emerging tech such as Web Components to ensure that these technologies are as inclusive out of the gate as humanly possible – that is an impact that must be acknowledged for what it is.

Steve Faulkner is, in essence, taking on one of the most mission-critical jobs in our industry: Ensuring that the inherently accessible nature of the Web is maintained.

On a personal level, Steve has always been helpful, encouraging and willing to answer some of my most ridiculous questions with kindness and real value.

Thank You, Steve Faulkner!

Educational Achievement Award: Jared Smith, WebAim

If you don’t know Jared’s name and work in Web development and design, chances are you know his contributions – most especially WebAim – a long-running and significant educational force providing a range of online and F2F events, tutorials and tools.

I had been using WebAim materials for many years before I ever had the pleasure of getting to know Jared, which mostly happened over a series of years at the CSUN conference and social events. A friendly, compassionate human with a seemingly endless, generous heart, this is a long, long earned honor.

Thank you, Jared Smith!

Institutional Achievement Award: BBC

Many of us in the industry have had the pleasure of visiting the BBC, and in some cases even providing training and education. Having the BBC in my life has always been a major thrill – yes, we U.S. Americans can be very silly anglophiles at times – but there it is!

To win this award was no small achievement. Battling the ever-changing nature of large organizations, the BBC’s developers have long been under pressure to continually adapt to some of the world’s most demanding Web site needs. In fact, my first exposure to the BBC wasn’t through Accessibility, rather Internationalization – another area of our craft that is often swept under the rug or not even considered!

Yet with BBC News published in so many languages for so many cultures, the challenge becomes more clear. Add to that the enormous range of Web sites within and related to the BBC and the massive amount of data in constant movement to manage and it becomes evident that to accomplish not only a level of standards, but a level of excellence in overall production and integrity is an achievement worthy of awe.

So many, many people have been involved in the BBC’s continual striving for excellence – Ian Forrester, Henny Swan – other names that read like a who’s who of known genius – and of course the many wonderful people who manage that beast day-to-day. Much of this is down to the drive of Gareth Ford William’s leadership in Accessibility and UX.

I have so much respect for this organization, and so much love for all the people with whom I’ve had the great, great fortune to work with and learn from over the years. It comes as no surprise to me that they are the honorees for this category. It is so very well deserved.

To the BBC: Thank You!

Emerging Leader: Sina Bahram

We turn toward the deep thinkers and business leaders with Sina Bahram, now working on his Ph.D. examining multi-modal approaches for eyes-free exploration of spatial information. Yep, go on, read that sentence again. Then think about what kind of impact Bahram’s research will have on not only adaptive technology – but any eyes-free application of tech and you end up with endless possibilities for humanity! What comes to mind most immediately for me is research into our inner and outer worlds that are not visible, or difficult to see such as in medicine and space exploration.

In business, Bahram has worked via his Accessibility firm, PAC, providing consulting to all levels of business, education and museums and most importantly, the countless individuals who are empowered by his contributions. Recognized in 2012 as one of President Barack Obama’s “Champions of Change” for his work, it seems small in comparison but it comes from a truly grateful heart: Thank You Sina Bahram!

Volunteers of the Year Award: Denis Boudreau and Elle Waters

At this point I’m just a puddle of emotional goo. Denis and Elle are very dear to me and all I want to do right now is just gush a bit. When the crap hits the old fan, both of these individuals are people I am enormously happy to have in my life. Denis has not only been an extremely hard-working and productive member of the Web development community at large for many years, but has with quiet humor and a truly kind heart been a friend. And I know it’s not just to me – but to all the people with whom he interacts. An exceptional human in every way, Thank you, Denis Boudreau!

If you have ever thought of me as a force of nature and not met Elle – you really should! Funny, strong, creative and focused, Elle is a formidable woman with whom to work, I speak from experience. She not only knows her stuff, but is able to cut through layers of complicated issues and problem solve with a finesse in the immediate now I’ve only seen bested in the industry by Eric Meyer. And when I say “Bested” that’s only because he has a few years experience ahead of Elle – so lookout world! A warm, wonderful, delightful woman I am proud to know and grateful to have as a role model, Thank you, Elle Waters!

Errors and Omissions: Me

All errors, omissions, lack of links, and other various mishaps are all mine and mine alone. Please correct and/or complain in the comments below. :)

Gratitude: Also Me

Without Knowbility and the wonderful people who keep it vibrant and alive, my own life would be so limited. Knowbility’s kindness and generosity not only reaches the world, but has empowered me personally by providing me purpose at a time I felt I had none, a community of caring people during a time where I turned so toxic I was almost impossible to deal with, and never, ever once failing to achieve the very core of their commitment: The empowerment of humanity.

Thank you, Knowbility. You are Knowledge. You are Ability. You are so very Noble.



Abstract Painting of Turbulence

With weak wings she flies on
Lifted by the raging streams
Currents holding her empty bones
Without marrow
Still her wings reach wide
Searching a prevailing breath
Of sweet
Of fresh

A time was with wings she glided
Circled, soared, sought
Left no gem unturned,
No exposure camouflaged.
Still, her wings flew her higher
A latter-day Daedalus:
She is her own child
and hurls herself into the gales.

Hubris or Confidence?
Death or Great Explorer?
It’s lonely at the top they say

It’s lonely at the bottom too.

With sickly wings she remains aloft
Defying gravity with upheaval
Broken feathers burn on the desert sea
Dust Devil, Sandstorm, Monsoon, Haboob
Smash! The sudden crosswind hits
Crack! Hollow bones are bashed about

Keep her flying!
Please, please help her soar.

A time is passing. She worries she’ll be left
Weeping and plucking out the Hubris and Gluttony
For acts she never actually did
Cracked, Hacked, Carved, Burned
A latter-day Icarus
She is her own child
And lets herself fly
And wants to let go.

Hubris or Passion?
Sin Eater or Uncommon Saint?
It’s death at the bottom, they say

Where broken wings
don’t mean a thing.


Grass Roots Access: First Cycle

Hello all!

In an effort to bring accessibility out of the dark and into the mainstream, core aspect of Web applications and engineering, a new, grass-roots, International, volunteer organization is being formed. Together, we will examine what kind of activism or advocacy is necessary at all layers of society to ensure that access to the Web for all people becomes an integral part of professional Web site and application engineering.

If you are interested in joining, please check in with your name, location, and comments. Once we have a critical mass of folks, we’ll discuss building the email/wiki/communication infrastructure before moving on to task lists and ideas.

Come with your heart, your passion. It may not be easy, but it’s been done and done successfully in the years of the Web Standards Project. As one of that mission’s many mothers and fathers, I know that we are capable of bringing about MASS change.

The WaSP has closed its doors, believing the mission it set out to do is enough. I don’t agree – Web standards is still not reaching core infrastructure in many places, but the fact is we’re maturing beyond just standards. We now have a realized Open Web Stack, and are able to begin looking at standards as merely a portion, albeit a significant one, of a movement not over, but merely just begun.

I look forward to what we can do together!