Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

The University of Texas is closing its Accessibility Institute today. Non-profit Knowbility has started a petition to save it.

Though you may not have heard of the Accessibility Institute, you have been influenced by its work. Its late founder, Dr. John Slatin, was the former co-chair of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG2), and was an influential mentor to many of the web standards evangelists, including myself and current WaSP group manager, Glenda Sims. If you’ve ever attended SXSW, you know Austin has one of the most vibrant web accessibility communities in the world, thanks to the hard work of Knowbility and the University of Texas Accessibility Institute. The knowledge shared by these groups has influenced web and software developers worldwide, resulting in a more accessible web used and enjoyed by all of us, disabled or not.

The importance of accessibility research and development was echoed this week by retailer Target’s decision to settle its web accessibility discrimination lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The story was covered in many US and international news outlets, and the the outcome of the case is a timely wake up call to the business world that good design is accessible, universal design.

The Accessibility Institute’s influence for the greater good cannot be overstated. The decision to close it on the eve of the universal design revolution is a poor choice by the UT Administration. If you agree, please sign the petition to keep accessibility research and development alive and well.

Update: This post has been translated into Polish.

Your Replies

#1 On August 29th, 2008 4:41 pm » Call-to-action: Save the UT Accessibility Institute replied:

[...] can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here [...]

#2 On August 29th, 2008 5:50 pm goodwitch replied:

Thank you James, for your call to action on this important issue. I deeply appreciate not having to stand alone.

#3 On August 30th, 2008 12:23 pm Vectorpedia(Rick) replied:

I signed the petition and urge all others who read this website to do so…….this is a most important issue and the Accessibility Institute is a first class facility.

#4 On September 1st, 2008 6:36 am Hannah J replied:

What was the reason for their decision to close it?

#5 On September 2nd, 2008 1:40 pm WaSP Member jcraig replied:

Like in most department-closing decisions, I’m sure there were many factors: budget, interest, politics, etc. Only the vice-provost, Steve Monti, knows the final reasoning, but my assumption is that, because John died and Kay Lewis left for another position, the University had the opportunity to divert the funding and those two full-time positions elsewhere.

#6 On September 3rd, 2008 4:27 am Saatchi replied:

With out web standards the Internet would be a mess, why are you closing this section, is it due to costs. I thought there were many funds available in the US, surely a grant may be obtainable to help.

#7 On September 5th, 2008 7:07 am Business Valuation Guy replied:

OK, petition signed.

But, why on earth do they want to close it in the first place? Is it a funding issue? Is so, surely some charities for the disabled, various government anti-discrimination bodies and quangos, business groups or someone else can step up to the plate.

It appears that the main issue may be the lack of leadership – the need for the right person to take up the challenge of maintaining the principles and continuing the work.

I work on valuing websites but there are some sites whose importance cannot be measured in dollars. John Slatin would be very disappointed.

#8 On September 5th, 2008 2:21 pm WaSP Member jcraig replied:

UT’s student newspaper, the Daily Texan, posted an article this week entitled Institute closure draws woeful response. Some requests for corrections have been made, including the fact that JAWS did not originate at UT.

#9 On September 8th, 2008 10:50 am Richard Morton - Accessible Web Design replied:

I suspect that if it has already closed, then a petition may well be fruitless, however I do agree with the importance of the work done by the institute and the desperate need for this work to continue.

#10 On September 13th, 2008 7:09 pm Steve replied:

I may be cynical, but I think petitions are worthless. If you want something you need to shell out ca$h.

My guess is the UT wasn’t enough bang for the buck. Truthfully… none of us know the exact business and financial specifics of the institution… so signing a petition is the same as saying “I’m completely ignorant of your situation but I think I know more than you anyway”.

Instead of signing a petition, start your own UT institute.

#11 On September 13th, 2008 7:33 pm WaSP Member jcraig replied:

The Austin Chronicle posted a story about the closure: A Legacy in Limbo. Like the article? Digg it!

#12 On September 15th, 2008 5:24 pm keylogger replied:

I’ve signed this petition as well. Almost 9 000 000 signatures – we are fighting…

#13 On September 15th, 2008 9:24 pm Web standards « Alex’s Weblog replied:

[...] Alex’s Weblog the greatest blog ever… « Personal Learning Environments Web standards September 16, 2008 With so many possibilities of design on the web, and different browsers of course we need a standard. HTML is not a web standard, because it is not accessible from all devices. When I started learning HTML I would preview my code in Internet Explorer, where it looked fine, but after some complaints from a friend (a Firefox fan) I decided to preview my coding in Firefox only to find it looked horrible. We learn: web standards can save you a headache, which is why they were created. Accessibility = web standards, we must understand the complexity of the web, and how it is not fully developed. It is up to us to come together, and solve the inconsistencies between the renderings of web pages by different browsers. The Word Wide Web Consortium already consist of browser makers, and web developers – will you help the web become a better place? I read about this, and it seems really important please do it: Save the UT Accessibility Institute. [...]

#14 On September 18th, 2008 4:48 pm User links about "standards" on iLinkShare replied:

[...] | user-saved public links | iLinkShare 1 votesCall-to-action: Save the UT Accessibility Institute>> saved by onomark 2 days ago3 votesPUMA Video: What Is Their Point And Purpose?>> saved by AaronZ [...]

#15 On September 24th, 2008 6:02 pm Allan replied:

Surely there must be a wealthy donor out there who could keep this thing alive. There are plenty of VCs from Texas who’ve made their fortunes in technology startups.

#16 On October 2nd, 2008 10:38 am Thomas replied:

Finding a VC sounds easy. Any web 2.0 website business plan is easy to understand, but will the VC Companies understand the idea behind the UT Accessibility Institute?

#17 On October 10th, 2008 5:33 pm James replied:

I have signed it too…. Lets keep fighting for good web standards.

#18 On October 20th, 2008 3:35 am Alex replied:

There are now total of 46,203 petitions including mine. Hopefully they will reconsider their decision favourably.

#19 On October 21st, 2008 9:28 am Si spegne uno dei punti di riferimento ufficiali dell'accessibilità italiana | replied:

[...] da fine agosto infatti all’Accessibility Institute dell’università del Texas è stato imposto di chiudere i battenti. Qui trovate la petizione per tentare di far cambiare idea a chi di dovere, o di potere, sarebbe [...]

#20 On October 29th, 2008 5:31 am Nils replied:

@Thomas: Yes it’s sounds like but it isn’t. The VCs only invest in firms with an income of >300 Milliondollars after 3 or 5 years. The kind of Sense of a Business Plan is to Plan your Business. For VCs ist must be a wish Plan

#21 On October 29th, 2008 7:34 am Joe replied:

I’ve also signed the petition and do hope the Accessibility Institute will stay open….The University of Texas should consider the good services that the Institute provides.

#22 On November 6th, 2008 7:48 am Restaurant replied:

I signed the petition and urge all others who read this website to do so…this is a most important issue and the Accessibility Institute is a first class facility.

But what was the reason for their decision to close it?

#23 On November 9th, 2008 7:46 am CableGuy replied:

As technology rapidly changes, current accessibility standards continue to evolve. Research-based practices must be developed, implemented and evaluated. Accessibility leaders from all over the world look to UT as an exemplar. At a time when governments are trying to establish equitable standards and businesses are seeking to include all markets in their messaging and services, UT can not stand down from this important work.

Please dedicate the resources necessary to maintain and build on Universal Design theories and practices pioneered by John Slatin at the Accessibility Institute.

#24 On November 10th, 2008 4:57 am Fight now! replied:

The University of Texas at Austin’s Accessibility Institute has been one of the most important organizations in the *world* regarding promoting accessibility in technology. It has been an organization that has greatly influenced the lives and work of many.
This is a chance to take a stand and say that tech accessibility for people with disabilities remains a burning issue and a major part of battling the Digital Divide.

#25 On November 10th, 2008 11:54 am forum replied:

thanks mr. james

#26 On November 11th, 2008 2:40 am Bill ed replied:

Though you may not have heard of the Accessibility Institute, you have been influenced by its work. Its late founder, Dr. John Slatin, was the former co-chair of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG2), and was an influential mentor to many of the web standards evangelists, including myself and curren great

#27 On November 11th, 2008 2:21 pm Cablemodem replied:

This is a golden opportunity for UT to build something even greater and integrate it into applicable departments. Please step up and step out for accessibility–you need the assistance to — to comply with your system-wide accessibility policy.I support this petition.

#28 On November 14th, 2008 8:24 am Flug replied:

Steve, I think petitions do have an influence on whether they reopen it. The point is that the more people show interest the more the likelihood raises to reopen the institute. On the other hand I totally agree with you. There has to be found an investor, hence the denunciation of what happens now is very important. I’d also appreciate donations.

#29 On November 15th, 2008 7:22 pm Michael replied:

I signed it too…….lets all continue to fight for the life of the Institute.

#30 On November 19th, 2008 2:21 am nacs replied:

This is a most important issue and the Accessibility Institute is a first class facility

#31 On November 25th, 2008 3:12 pm SEO replied:

The University of Texas should keep this fine Accessibility Institute open…..I have supported the Institute by signing the petition and also sending a separate letter to UT.

#32 On November 27th, 2008 5:58 am paris rose replied:

ihope the Accessibility Institute will stay open….
such great nstitute all people like as inotice shoud not be close
تعليم :: تحضير :: حامل

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