Silver is Good

For those of you who don’t recall, several weeks ago a few of us here at Capital Metro formed Team Raging Bus to participate in the Knowbility AIR Austin competition. This is a web design and development competition that focuses on building accessible websites for non-profit organizations. It was a fun side project and we learned a lot.

So have you ever gone to an award ceremony dinner where you were certain that you had no chance of winning? You think to yourself “I’m just going to go, have a nice dinner, make some contacts, collect a few business cards, and applaud the winners.” Then suddenly… Surprise! Now you have to make a speech.

Team Raging Bus won second place in our category for our Accessible Housing Austin site. First in our category went to the Texas Inmate Family Association site. First place in the Formula One category (which includes video, flash, and all those other rich media goodies) went to a beautiful site for the Austin Day Lily Society.

Plus, in a moment of wild coincidence, I got to meet Martin Kareithi. He was providing assistive technology testing for one of the other teams. As it just so turns out, Martin starts his new job Monday here at Capital Metro. He’ll be our Accessible Transportation Specialist, and I can foresee pestering him a lot to test our web stuff with his screen readers and braille devices.

So I can already hear all the web curmudgeons chiming in. “Who cares? What does all this have to do with anything?” Well, I’ll tell you.

At some point next year, you will see a new capmetro.org. The skills that we acquired to succeed in this competition are the same skills that we will be applying to rebuilding our site. So we’re making it our goal to build a site that is just as helpful and useful for our disabled users as it is to everyone else without sacrificing any of the aesthetic or functional benefits. In that effort, we’re going for the gold.

Team Raging Bus update

Team Raging Bus did a great job on Saturday. We were outclassed and outnumbered. But we still went from scratched notes and a low resolution logo on a software platform that we’d never used before to a complete, functioning website in eight hours.

Team Raging Bus at the AIR-Austin Rally

We spent most of our time focused on frantically completing the site, so we spent less time testing it for accessibility with a screen reader than I would have liked. But I compared the results against my own accessibility checklist and the judge’s criteria. We did pretty well right out of the box. We avoided the most common accessibility pitfalls by knowing what not to do before we went in. Everyone knew their roles and knew what accessibility areas they had to cover as they built it. We might not win any prizes, but we made a good site that is (hopefully) useful and usable by everyone. AHA! should get good mileage out of this site.

Spencer Duran, our representative from AHA!, was there for the whole rally. He was really helpful in fleshing out the site and combing the content. I asked him to give us a quote for our blog. Here’s what he had to say:

“Participating in Knowbility’s AIR Competition created an opportunity to work with a really great team. They took time out of their days to provide their volunteer services to develop a resource that will last, while still allowing our organization’s vision to drive the process. AHA! will be able to grow the website independently as we grow as an organization.” Continue reading “Team Raging Bus update”

Team Raging Bus

Greetings everyone. My name is Jody Tucker, and I am the new Webmaster/User Experience Designer for Capital Metro. My job here is to rebuild the aging and overtaxed Capital Metro website. But Erica has asked me to offer up a blog post on an interesting side event that some of us are participating in.

This Saturday (Oct. 16) a team of volunteer Capital Metro employees will participate in the Austin AIR Rally. AIR is an acronym for Accessibility Internet Rally. It is sponsored and hosted by the good people over at Knowbility. Basically, it is a web design competition focused on web accessibility for people with disabilities. Each team of web designers and developers pairs with a local non-profit organization to build them a brand new, fully accessible site.

Our team – Team Raging Bus – will be designing and building a site for Accessible Housing Austin. They’re an organization that buys, builds, and modifies accessible housing for people with disabilities. It’s small, but growing and has a great local impact. You can actually see the accessible houses you donate toward. I really like this organization, and they really need a good web presence.

The competition is stiff. We are competing against multiple teams that have been competing for many years. Some of the teams have more members than I can shake a stick at with some top rate web design and accessibility talent. We’ll be the noobs with a four-man team running around like interns at the NYSE pit.

But you know what? None of that matters in the long run. Oh yeah, we might go in on Saturday and get waffle-stomped (to be honest, I’m kinda expecting it). But the lessons learned from this will be applied to the top-to-bottom overhaul of Capmetro.org over the next few months. Our current site accessibility isn’t all that hot, and part of competing as a team is free training. Training! For free! Plus, we’ll be volunteering our spare time to do something helpful for a local charity. If I’m lucky, I might scoop up a few people for our accessibility testing group. So even if we bomb out at the competition, we win.

So wish us luck. I’ll have Erica post our site and the results next week.