Frequently Asked Questions

The AIR timeline varies

  • The main Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) happens once a year, usually with registration happening August through September, training happening just before the kickoff event, then a six-week build after the kickoff. AIR 2019 is already underway: the build time is over and now sites are being judged.
  • AIR-University, for teams made up of university students, happens once a year, usually with registration beginning in December, training happening just before the kickoff in January, then a six-week build after the kickoff. You can find the dates for AIR-U 2020 here.
  • You can find an updated list of AIR dates on our web site.
  • If you are able, please follow Knowbility on Twitter, @Knowbility and on Facebook so that you will receive updates about AIR (and accessibility issues in general!).

I may apply to have a site built for my program. What do I do?

Through AIR, nonprofits, community groups, charities and schools anywhere in the world, as well as artists (musicians, dance groups, painters, poets, sculptors – people who perform or show their work for the public) receive new websites that are accessible for people with disabilities. Individual programs, chapters and initiatives within nonprofits, schools and other community organizations that want to have a website just for their individual program or chapter, not for the entire organization or institution, are also welcomed to participate as a client.

If you feel you qualify to participate as a client, if AIR or AIR-U registration is open, and if you are ready to devote the time needed to participate, you fill out this online form. At the time of registration, you will be asked for information that will help Knowbility confirm your program is credible, properly registered, etc. (for instance, USA nonprofits must provide their EIN number).

Note that the participation fee is NOT due at the time of registration. Instead, once you submit the form, you will be contacted via email by a Knowbility representative, who will ask any necessary follow-up questions about your website needs, answer any questions you have, and will provide you with the steps you will need to undertake to prepare for the Rally. Only after you have reviewed those preparation steps and have agreed to such will you be billed a one-time registration fee, which must be paid by the kick-off event. The fee is non-refundable; the fee covers Knowbility’s staff time and highly-customized training and materials that rapidly prepare your program for getting a new website and that help build awareness at your organization regarding digital inclusion and being a more welcoming organization.

Knowbility staff work with each client to help them prepare for being matched with a design team. This preparation includes your completion of an in-depth survey about your website needs, about the goals for your website in terms of messaging and participation, and about your in-house skills among employees and volunteers to manage and update your website after AIR. Preparation also includes videos and guidance notes. We may also host a live online event where you will be able to submit questions and have them answered live by Knowbility staff.

As a client, who should be my organization’s representative for AIR?

You need to pick one person from your program to be the primary contact for the team that will build your website during the rally. This person commits to answering all emails and phone calls from Knowbility and the design team promptly, getting all material ready for the design team, attending AIR online meetings and working with the design team you are matched with.

This person does not have to have any experience with website design. This person should be the person who makes primary or final decisions regarding your organization’s communications. It should be a person who can quickly gather or write all text for the website you want designed or redesigned, and quickly gather and provide all logos and photos you want to use on the site (or you want the designers to choose from), video files and audio files (multimedia).

This person can be a volunteer, but please make sure this person can fulfill all of the aforementioned roles and has the time to devote. You are also welcomed to have multiple people to sit in on meetings with your design team, go through the AIR training, read the AIR guidance notes, etc.

How much time will participation take?

For design teams,

  • training before the build begins takes 3-4 hours; trainings are provided live but they are also recorded for anytime viewing
  • during the six-week build during the rally, it takes five hours of time, on average (some weeks will be more and some less for individual team members), though some team members spend much more time, depending on how ambitious their plan for the website is

For clients,

  • training and reviewing AIR materials before the rally takes about 3 hours. This can be spread over several days, even several weeks, depending on when the client registers. The earlier you register for AIR to be a client, the sooner you can begin working with Knowbility and the more these hours can be easily distributed over several weeks.
  • updating your current website so that materials are ready at the time of the rally start may take just an hour or may take several hours – that depends on how up-to-date your current website is and what you want on your new site. Preparing materials for your first-ever website may take anywhere from 10 to 20 hours.
  • interacting with your team during the rally – the 5-6 week build time – takes about an hour a week. The better prepared you are before the rally begins, the more manageable your time during the build will be.

How do clients & design teams work remotely?

Clients and design teams are matched at rally kickoff event, then their contact information is sent to each other by Knowbility via email. Within 24 hours, each design team receives complete info about its client – details on their current website (if any), their goals for a new website, their in-house tech capabilities, etc.

Each design team then contacts each client and they decide together how they want to work together. Knowbility provides each team with a private Basecamp space, which the client also has access to, and this can be used to have live chats, share files, set up meetings, etc. Design teams and their clients decide together how they want to meet and how often. Some teams have a weekly phone call with their client, others use free screen-sharing and conference software and get together online every other week. Some design teams meet with their client for the first two weeks and then spend the next two weeks building. It’s really up to the design team how often they feel they need to meet with a client.

In addition, a representative from Knowbility will be in contact with teams and clients, to ensure expectations are being met.

The more information a client has ready for its design team, the earlier the team sets up its first meeting with the client, the better the resulting website will be, both in terms of what the clients want and in terms of what will do well in this competition.

What criteria is used to evaluate the sites build in the AIR Competition?

Knowbility uses a specific set of criteria to evaluate each client website built during AIR. The most current judging form is linked from several different pages on this website.

Sites MUST be submitted by the deadline date for the AIR competition in order to be eligible for an award. Sites that are not submitted by the deadline date and time are disqualified from the competition. While it is rare that a team does not finish by the deadline date, teams who cannot make the deadline are encouraged to finish the client’s site anyway, as the client is counting on getting a finished site per their participation in AIR.

How are the judging criteria developed?

The original Judging Criteria were developed in 1998 and were based upon the WCAG accessibility guidelines and Section 508 Guidelines for Web Accessibility. It has been greatly updated since then. During the periods between rallies, the judges discuss and improve the judging criteria based upon changes in technologies, our own experiences evaluating websites, and input from competitors, their clients, and the accessibility community.

The most current judging form is linked from several different pages on this website.

How do we choose AIR Judges?

All of the AIR judges participate as volunteers. All of the judges are experts in the area of accessibility.

Our core panel of AIR judges are internationally-recognized experts, published authors in the field of accessibility and former participants in AIR, as team members and mentors. This core group developed the judging criteria and the judges’ training manual, which is updated for each rally.

New judges are recruited by this core panel, often from among veteran participants on AIR design teams and AIR team mentors.

Couldn’t a judge’s relationship with team members or a client be a conflict of interest?

A person participating as an AIR judge does not judge any website produced by a team to which that judge has a personal or professional affiliation.

A judge who works for the same company as a team that is competing will not judge the site that the team creates. A judge who frequently consults professionally with a member of an AIR team will not judge the website built by that AIR team. A judge who has served on the board of a nonprofit client will not judge a site that is created for that client.

How do we control the quality of the judging process?

During each rally we designate one judge as the Head Judge, who serves as a quality control judge. This person reviews the judging forms submitted by the judges, ensuring forms are complete and clear. If during the judging process a judge has a question about a particular item, he or she will send that question and the appropriate URL on to the other judges for group comment.

Each AIR site is scored independently by two different judges. If the point totals for a site vary by more than 15 points between judges, the Head Judge will review the judging forms. If errors of fact are found (one judge finds that alt text is missing and another does not), these issues are corrected and scores adjusted appropriately. If differences of objective opinion are found, such as aesthetics or appropriateness points, then the Head Judge will mediate the differences among the two judges who have reviewed the site and make final rulings on scores.

Can mentors compete as team members?

Some of our mentors, who are volunteers (as are all team members and judges), undertake some minimal web development tasks for the team, if there are team members who are new to accessible web development and may not have the confidence to compete without more experienced members on their teams. Most mentors do not. The goal of this rally isn’t just trophies and “winning”: the goal is to help designers and developers have a greater understanding and mastery of accessible website design, skills they will use after AIR is over.

Teams should talk to their mentors during the first week of the rally, right after the kickoff, to talk about what role the mentor will undertake. Will the mentor meet with the team once a week, to review their work so far and look for accessibility issues? Will the mentor be on-call for questions via email from the team? Will the mentor demonstrate something regarding accessible website design that the team is not understanding?  Will the mentor review the project plan before any work begins. All of these questions must be answered by the design team and mentor together. Mentors have a good understanding of what works and what does not during the rally and bring that knowledge to all of the competitors.

Can judges compete as team members?

Active judges are not allowed to be the member of any competing AIR team. Judges who wish to participate with a team resign from their judge volunteer role and do not participate in discussions regarding judging for the competition.