Several weeks ago, Bryan Garaventa made a post to the WAI-IG mailing list. The email thread went somewhat sideways, because some list members didn’t “get it” but it died down quickly enough. AccessIQ reignited the issue, wondering “…do web accessibility professionals have a sense of humour?” My response? Clearly the answer is NO. Even when a blind guy (Bryan) tries to make a point through humor, people in the accessibility community go on a ragefest about people “making light of accessibility”.
Instead of productive, collaborative discussion about bringing accessibility into the mainstream, accessibility people are too busy fighting with each other and using social media as a sounding board to name and shame everyone whose products aren’t perfectly accessible. I’ve said it before, we need to put the pitchforks down. We need to understand “perfection” isn’t possible and work on making “better” happen instead. For this, I propose we begin focusing on two very simple questions:
Do you agree that it is acceptable to prevent certain classes of users from using your ICT product or service?
This requires only a one word answer: “Yes”, or “No”. I’ve asked people this question before and I often get answers other than Yes or No. People will say “But that depends on [any number of red herring conditions]” and I always try to redirect to the original question. To move the conversation forward, we need to know whether the other person thinks its OK to discriminate. Hint: Nobody thinks that is OK. Or, at least, they won’t admit it in public.
Follow-up: What can you do now to ensure that access for all people is improved?
From there, we can assume that the other party is prepared to move forward with accessibility. We don’t need to continue rambling on about the various reasons why accessibility is good. We’ve gone past that and now its time to act. But, it isn’t reasonable to expect perfection immediately. It also isn’t reasonable to expect that the necessary resources and knowledge will just magically appear out of nowhere. So the follow up is: given your current knowledge and resources, what action can be taken immediately that will deliver a demonstrable positive result for users? Incremental betterment is far better than impatient expectations of perfection. As we make improvements to what we do and how we do them, we can make things better.
While I’ve previously spent a lot of time writing about selling accessibility I really think the most effective approach is to limit the “selling” to one question. We don’t need to sit there and spin our wheels with red-herring distractions like ROI. Is it right to discriminate or not? No? Awesome. Now what are we going to do now to make sure we don’t discriminate? Do that.
Stop selling. Start leading