What we learned through crowdfunding

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Thank you!

First. I want to say “Thank you.” Heartfelt thanks to the 83 funders who stepped up to support a great notion. You believe as we do that the world sorely needs a credible and fully accessible teaching and learning platform to share knowledge and experience about digital accessibility. Our  funders are listed at the end of the post (except of course, for those who prefer to remain anonymous) and I am grateful beyond words to each and every one of you.

Thanks to Bill Corrigan, the volunteer who started the effort and did so much to foster it and to Brian Sullivan who jumped right in to endorse and help shape the campaign. Thanks to Shawn Lauriat for being our very first donor and to Jim Thatcher whose remarkable $1K donation early in the campaign was so tremendously validating .  Thanks to Mike Gifford and the Drupal community. Thanks to the tireless accessibility advocates in the UX community. Thanks to board members Hazel Sanchez and Rich Schwerdtfeger who donated and then blogged in these pages about the importance of the project.  And a super shout-out to Jeffrey Zeldman whose contribution and post about the campaign gave us a great boost in the last week.

Thanks as well to those who did not donate but who provided tremendously useful feedback about the unanswered questions that led to their own  reluctance to invest.  The rest of this post will address those questions and look at what’s next.

What you told us

Lesson 1: affirmation of the goal

I won’t dwell here on the praise and encouragement we received other than to say it was significant and gave us a sense that we are on the right track.

Lesson 2: Don’t publish an accessibility initiative on an inaccessible platform

The lack of accessibility and usability of the IndieGoGo platform was remarked upon by many. When Mike Gifford posted a supporting blog entry, the lack of accessibility was noted in the comments.  I responded to the commenter, “We know and we’re sorry” and spoke of the lack of an existing accessible crowd funding platform.  The critic was gracious but clearly weary of hearing “We know, we’re sorry.” Some, like Thatcher said “This is proof of why this resource is so badly needed.”  Others said the bad design kept them from contributing at all.

Lesson 3: It’s the detail, stupid

We heard that the message was not sufficiently clear about the goals and the process for developing the teaching and learning modules. Some objected to Rich Schwertdfeger’s supporting blog post because he mentioned specific tools by name rather than maintaining strict tool neutrality.  People wanted to know more about who would build the platform, and how would it be made available to the accessibility community to share expertise. “Is there a connection to IAAP? are certifications to be offered? what will the cost structure look like?…and more.  Some things have yet to be determined but the next phase will be more detailed.

Lesson 4: Social media alone is not enough

After the project end date inevitably rolled around, we heard from too many, like Nicholas Steenhout “Hey, I didn’t even know this was happening.” Clearly we need a better communications strategy.

Onward!

Despite questions,  criticism, weariness, and total ignorance,  I am so encouraged by the  overwhelming support we heard for the goal. Call me a foolish optimist (you won’t be the first) but when folks heard about the project and understood what we are trying do,  I heard clear affirmation of the fact that we need and must have more readily available, modularized, up-to-date accessibility training on an accessible open source platform. Training is needed for people who occupy all of the many roles that relate to the creation of digital communications. We must build resources that are focused, highly interactive, practical, relevant, current, and fully accessible. We must build an online venue that – like AccessU – provides a forum for people from different sectors, different consulting companies, and different countries to share knowledge and skills at a reasonable cost to students of all abilities.

How to do it – you tell us!

With that goal, we are regrouping.  First we will fulfill the perks that were promised to the donors and add a bonus for being such brave pioneers – Tshirts anyone?  Then we will ask you to tell us more.

I will huddle next week with my board of directors, with Phase 1 architects Bill and Brian,  and with  the advisors who have stepped up to help shape the next round. I am thrilled that Sina Bahram of Prime Access Consulting, Elle Waters of Simply Accessible, and Denis Boudreau of Deque Systems are going to help us craft a stronger message and cast a wider net as we launch Phase 2 of this campaign. Using Phase 1 funds to seed the next initiative, we will launch again very soon.

Please jump in to help us shape the next phase  – we are all brainstorming here – and be encouraged to be wildly creative in your expressions.  Is your idea of a great perk getting to attend AccessU in Austin in May?” …to have me and Jim Thatcher sing happy birthday at your kids party? …getting to preview the system before it is public?

  • What perks would encourage YOU to give?
  • What questions would you want to have answered to raise your motivation to invest?
  • How else would you be likely to participate in shaping the effort?
  • How can we spread the word beyond the accessibility community?

Bring it, folks, we are ready listen to your ideas – by comment below, by email, by tweet or by carrier pigeon.  We want this campaign to be as important to you as it is to us and has it is to these fine folks listed below.

Our founding funders

Brenda Adrian, Lucia Athens, Austin Mayor’s Committee on People with Disabilities,  Rogier Barendregt, Dean Birkett, Denis Boudreau, Cathy Carleton, Robbi Cooper, Bill Corrigan, KristinaCorrigan, Jayne Cravens, Melanie Davis, VirginiaDeBolt, Joshua  Denny, Anna Dresner, Pat  East, Deborah Edwards-Onoro, Samira Emelie, Angi       English, JeremyFields, Hugh Forrest, Eric Fruin, Jason Garber, Sandi Gauder, Becky Gibson, Mike Gifford, Susan Grossman, Vicki Haddix, David Hark, Paula Helene, Ron  Hicks, Christopher Kelly, Joyce Klemperer, S  Koester, Preety  Kumar, Shawn  Lauriat, Sherry   Lawry, Kim Leno, Jeanine Lineback, Candice  Moore, Sanjay Nasta, Joseph Karr O’Connor, Devon   Persing, Lewis Phillips, Melanie Pienknagura, Josh Piper, Carolyn Purcell, Brad Richardson, Adrian Roselli, Addie Rush, Sharron Rush, Hazel Sanchez, Jayne Schurick, Rich Schwertdfeger, SimplyAccessible, Kel  Smith, Claudia Snell, Simon St Laurent, Brian  Sullivan, Suzanne Taylor, Jim Thatcher, Natalie  Tucker, Mario Vasquez, Elle  Waters, Nick Weynand, WhistlingKettle Pete,  Jaap Willem, Jeffrey  Zeldman and 12 anonymous donors – thank you!

Thanks again to all who engaged – as volunteers, as spread-the-word supporters, as constructive critics, and especially as donors who committed with us to make this happen. Stay tuned, the best is yet to come!

 

 

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