Stuff and Nonsense

Malarkey is Andy Clarke, a UK based designer, author and speaker who has a passion for design, CSS and web accessibility.

Andy has been working on the web for almost ten years. He is a visual web designer and author and he founded Stuff and Nonsense in 1998. Andy regularly writes about creating beautiful, accessible web sites and he speaks at events worldwide. Andy is the author of Transcending CSS: The Fine Art of Web Design, published by New Riders in 2006.

The role of government in web accessibility

Positive steps which governments could take to promote a more rapid move towards an accessible web.

Following on from Accessibility and a society of control;

[...] it is not the role of government, but the role of managers to determine the policies which best suit the needs of those organisations and their customers. Web accessibility is also relative and as such cannot be governed or legislated for. Achieving more widespead accessibility is better served by not making this a subject for legality.

I think it is time to suggest what role governments should take in respect of web accessibility.

Accessibility Manifesto

As I see it there are many factors limiting the wider delivery of accessible web content, many of which relate to education. As I bluntly stated at @media, Most clients don't give a monkey's about accessibility.. But in reality, after talking with clients about the benefits of accessible content (for their business as well as to serve the needs of people with disabilities), most clients do care about accessibility, they just need to learn about the issues.

Education, education, education

I do not believe that it is solely the job of the designer or developer to educate clients, but that governments should spend a portion of their (not inconsiderable) resources (it is after-all our money) on properly researched and informative educational campaigns. Such campaigns should provide an overview of the issues faced by people with disabilities of all kinds, from the blind or visually impaired to people with dyslexia. However such a campaign should not simply focus on the negatives, but also the positives of providing accessible content and the simple solutions which may be easily implemented to achieve wider accessibility. We have seen such information campaigns before on all manner of topics from sexual health to drink driving, why not web accessibility?

It is often the case today that many Request For Proposals we recieve include web accessibility requirements and this is a positive step forward. One issue however is that it is difficult for clients to fully understand technical issues and even more difficult for them to know whether a solution provided to them is in fact accessible. I believe that government should provide simple to understand guides to accessibility, free to all businesses, to help ensure that clients recieve the solutions that they think they are paying for.

Tax breaks for training

We regularly provide training sessions to designers and developers and to local government staff on web accessibility. As a commercial organisation, these sessions are chargeable events. I believe that governments should facilitate the education of designers and developers by providing tax breaks on all training in accessibility. This maintains the freedom of choice for trainees to choose the source of training and will encourage them to become educated in this important field. I do not believe that such education should be provided by government agencies far removed from the 'coal face' of development, nor to I think that they should be directly subsidised. Tax breaks reimburse designers or developers long-term for their spending on training and will encourage continuous learning.

On a similar vein, I believe that designers and developers should recieve a 100% tax deduction for money spent on assistive technologies used for development or testing.

One area which I believe governments should steer clear of is accreditation of designers or developers in the field of accessibility. Providing accessible content is a matter of making mature decisions within the context of a particular project and as such there can be no absolutes. Many organisations have tried (or are attempting) to implement accreditation schemes with little success and it should be said that if as an industry we find self-regulation difficult, any government scheme would stand little chance of success.

Over to you

So there you have it, positive steps which governments could take to promote a more rapid move towards an accessible web, without resorting to legislation. Any thoughts?

Replies

  1. #1 On June 18, 2005 01:19 PM Phil Mosburg said:

    Wait... dyslexia is a disability? I'd consider it a gift... oh well.

    It's funny how you guys all jump on IE5.0 and say we shouldn't design for 'broken' browsers like that with 'minute' marketshares yet you tell us to design for the blind etc which make up an even smaller percentage of the internet population/population as a whole than IE5.0 does.

    Accessibility should be a result of the technology you use, not a specific process. Well thought-out, semantic XHTML should be enough.

  2. #2 On June 18, 2005 01:37 PM Derek Featherstone said:

    Phil said:

    It's funny how you guys all jump on IE5.0 and say we shouldn't design for 'broken' browsers like that with 'minute' marketshares yet you tell us to design for the blind etc which make up an even smaller percentage of the internet population/population as a whole than IE5.0 does.

    Generally speaking, you can change your browser; you can't change your physical abilities. Period.

    How do you know that there aren't more people with some form of disability than there are people using IE 5.0? And, here's one for you - I'd say it is easier to build modern day sites that are accessible than it is to build modern day sites that work in IE 5. I know where I'd put my effort...

    I can't tell you to practice universal design, you have to choose to do it, because it is the right thing to do, and, quite simply, its the way things are done in modern day web development. If you choose to fall behind, then I'm ok with that.

    And that is where Andy's comments about education come in. Anybody that I've ever taught about accessible web development techniques has always moved forward. Once you are in the know, you simply make things accessible by default. A contract comes in that doesn't mention accessibility? That's fine - we carry on as normal, and they get accessibility anyway. Its just how things work now.

  3. #3 On June 18, 2005 01:59 PM Sophie Dennis said:

    Hi Andy,

    Although I disagree you on Foucault, I'm completely with on this one. Good quality education is either hard to find or out of the (financial) reach of both small/medium organisations and the small design/development shops they work with (whether they're web designers, interior designers, architects, builders...).

    Government of course already subsidise bodies like the RNIB, RNID etc... to provide specific training, guidance and so on (check out RNID free disability training for SMEs). But it's left up to those bodies -- and industry -- to spread the word that those resources are available. Spending Government resources on publicising this stuff would be no bad thing.

    Tax breaks for training and implementation are also a great idea -- ideally along the lines of the "deducation ++" high-tech companies get on R&D. Another approach I've seen work is to give subsidies or "matched funding" direct to those taking the training. There are already schemes like this for management training for small companies. Why not accessibility training as well?

    [Can't believe I'm blogging on a beautiful sunny Saturday. I've got to get our more ;-) ]

    - S

  4. #4 On June 18, 2005 02:35 PM Matt Wilcox said:

    Phil Mosburg - "It's funny how you guys all jump on IE5.0 and say we shouldn't design for 'broken' browsers like that with 'minute' marketshares yet you tell us to design for the blind etc which make up an even smaller percentage of the internet population/population as a whole than IE5.0 does."

    Living with a disability isn't a choice, and it can't be easily 'fixed'. Living with an out of date browser is a choice, and can easily be fixed.

    There are few excuses to be using exceedingly outdated technology such as IE5, but there are no excuses for not catering for people who have no choice but to live with whatever restrictions they might face. Let's not make lazy design be another obstacle for them.

  5. #5 On June 18, 2005 02:50 PM Roger Johansson said:

    Great follow-up. Yes, education is the key. At my day job, we also provide training of the kind you mention, and it's great to see people pick up and incorporate web standards and accessibility into their way of working. Like Derek says, once you've started learning you tend to keep moving forward.

    Excellent points about tax deduction for accessibility training and assistive technologies for testing. That would make things a lot easier.

    Hmm. You know Andy, I have this odd feeling that you may have argued well enough to convince me that legislation may not be necessary. I'll have to think about it some more first though ;-)

  6. #6 On June 18, 2005 05:47 PM Faruk Ateş said:

    Andy,

    Very convincing arguments indeed.

    One thing that came to mind from all of this is that accessibility really is a tricky subject in every aspect: not just implementing it or even understanding it, but also how governments should deal with it, how companies/clients should deal with it, and so forth.

    You did a good job at explaining how enforcing accessibility by law isn't the best solution. My thanks for that. And hey, still no head explosion there, huh? ;)

    Anyway, here's something I want to mention in regards to your post:

    However such a campaign should not simply focus on the negatives, but also the positives of providing accessible content and the simple solutions which may be easily implemented to achieve wider accessibility.

    I don't see why such a campaign should even mention the negatives. Let it be all about the positive aspects and the improvements that come with it, please! That'll get people excited about it much better.

    (I'm also with you on the tax breaks for all of this -- especially here in the Netherlands I can see that be of tremendous use! Cheap bastards that we are...)

  7. #7 On June 18, 2005 05:57 PM David said:

    I doubt the government will spend money on a campaign - after all, compared with other issues this is a relatively minor one (not to say it isn't important, but you know what governments are like). However, the subsidy is an excellent idea - although surely if web-design is your business, you can legitimately claim back these sorts of expenses from tax.

    Talking from an economics standpoint, the campaigns most likely to suceed are those with a "carrot" and "stick". Perhaps an amendment to the recent accessibilty laws (the ones that prompted public places to put up ramps etc) so that UK businesses without an accessible site can be fined?

  8. #8 On June 18, 2005 06:44 PM JohnO said:

    Now, I know this might be a shock to some of you (it was to me), but I lived with a family for 4 months, and was suprised at how *little* the internet had any affect on their lives.

    For myself, I use del.icio.us to keep my bookmarks in order between work and home, I use bloglines to keep up with my reading, I have two email accounts (gmail and edu). I use Vonage at home (which forwards answering machine to my gmail, which uses their filtering which is totally awesome! sorry...). I have TV series' on my computer. Whenever I make a trip I always use Google Maps. I'm always looking at product reviews online.

    This family did absolutely nothing with the internet. Because it didn't impact their lives. The most their three children did was AIM. This wasn't a disparaged family either (they have a million dollar home on Long Island, NY). I imagine there are tons of other families just like this. So many people, I imagine, that these users compromise 80% of Internet users. AIM, Email, word processing, excel - that's it. The internet doesn't offer them any leverage to be interested.

    While it is incredibly cool for us who use it and invest it in, it's nothing to them. When a government (hopefully) represents the people (we won't debate that here.. ) I think they are quite justified in labeling web accessibility incredibly low on the scales.

  9. #9 On June 19, 2005 12:19 AM Krishnan Patel said:

    Andy, while I have disagreed with you before on these issues, on this, I think I would tend to agree, but am still a bit skeptical:

    Tax incentives are a good idea. I believe in the US this is used quite well to encourage and provide incentives.

    So, the government still needs to say accessibility is a legal requirement though may be in murky areas if they say how and who is acredited etc etc.

    But not saying how and yet saying it is legal may also be a problem.

    Why should they say it is a legal requirement then? Human rights. Period. But then, as I said in my previous post to another article, to big companies really care about this? No. Hence this is where governements can step in where markets cannot or will not or find it tough to do (even if companies may want to).

    Education is a good point, but I wonder if companies in UK get the education because it is now a legal requirement? Would tax incentives without the legal requirement work? Dunno. But it doesn't look like it has in America... Some big sites have switched to standards-based approach (ignore minor validation errors), but they are not accessible. They have done it for other business benefits (reduced bandwidth etc). That is, they have not cared for accessibility (unlike what you have said). Or perhaps we have just seen different companies; some care, some don't. The ones I think of that don't though include (but are not limited to) Yahoo (CSS switch), MSN, ESPN, and those other big ones. Web Standards are a good step forward, but the brilliant CSS Zen Garden shows that you can have great designs but a lot/little/verry little/no accessibility...!

    Hence I think a legal requirement is still needed as it is part of the fundamental human rights we have fought for.

    But your ideas on how to provide encouragement are good, IMO.

  10. #10 On June 19, 2005 01:24 AM nortypig said:

    This is an emotive issue but the hardest part of legislation is that the target of best practise moves faster than the ability of government to write and pass laws, from what I've gleaned so far in life.

    Example: say last year a law came in and said if you don't have accesskeys then you will be fined $10,000 per page or some such amount... would you really think that you should be forced by law to put accesskeys on your site knowing they may actually cause more issues than they're worth? And how long until it can be changed in law? Even best practise is debated on some points.

    The frustrated me says government needs to legislate but the realist me knows that education and me getting off my bum to educate and pass the word along to people just learning in the industry is the only way it will happen.

    JohnO is right in that to a great portion of society the web is incidental. To far more people in my life than not, in fact. Thus governments may indeed see it as trivial. Its easy to get the idea that everyone is as web focussed as all of us. But it's up to us to find a way to create a growing momentum that will welcome those people whatever their cognitive, emotional, physical and platform abilities when and if they do decide to partake of the web. To the best of our individual current abilities.

    Seriously, I'd like government to start hiring only best practise web development firms. I'd like them to stop having sites that use the CMS of choice of some guy in the pay office. Why? Because from where I stand one of the major hurdles is that businesses point to governement and say if it's good enough for them...

    Sorry for the long post its just that I think example from the top would be more beneficial than anything else. I think maybe government needs to be educated and pressured to provide 'best service' on government sites. Is that too far out of the ballpark??

  11. #11 On June 19, 2005 02:37 AM Matt Robin said:

    Roger Johansson: He's messing with your mind now - and you'll be won over to the 'malarkey side'! (Laughs)

    Andy: Government training....with Tax breaks - fantastic idea!
    I just hope someone in the powers that be could see the significance of it and follow it up. I think David's comment highlights that accessibility web design is perhaps such a low priority for the governent that it might get horribly overlooked.
    You post was very considerate to the topic though - this and other posts being made elsewhere suggests this is hot topic that will continue until some more action is taken.

  12. #12 On June 19, 2005 03:59 AM goodwitch said:

    I think web accessibility laws are useful. Before the US 508 standard, it was soooo hard to get people's attention. Once 508 passed, it was easy.

    And while 508 isn't perfect (no checklist is)...it does get people pointed in the right direction. But blindly following a checklist isn't good enough. The true test is "Can people with a disabilities use your site?"

    So, I say that web accessibility laws can be good. And last time I checked my conscious, I didn't find that the existence of a law made me socially irresponsible!

    P.S. You mention education campaigns for sexual health and drunk driving. I don't buy the comparison. Both drunk driving and sexual health have huge natural consequences up to and including death! Last time I checked, my inaccessible web pages weren't killing people are maiming them for life.

  13. #13 On June 19, 2005 10:12 AM Malarkey said:

    @ Glenda Sims:

    P.S. You mention education campaigns for sexual health and drunk driving. I don't buy the comparison. Both drunk driving and sexual health have huge natural consequences up to and including death! Last time I checked, my inaccessible web pages weren't killing people are maiming them for life.

    Very true, but that does not preclude the idea that government could raise awareness of accessibility issues in a similar way. In the UK we regularly see awareness campaigns on tax assessment, paying your TV license or benefit fraud. None of these are life threatening either.

  14. #14 On June 19, 2005 11:54 AM Ben Darlow said:

    There is of course a bigger reason to argue for improving standards of acessibility than wanting to seem politically correct, gain kudos with your peers or avoid legal repurcussions thanks to government legislation; because it may well affect you too.

    There's nothing like a little personal perspective to realign your motives (note Nancy Reagan's plea to George W. Bush regarding stem cell research given how it could help Alzheimer's sufferers), which is effectively what happened with Ronnie Corbett. His grandson has dyslexia, so he made the point to (then) education secretary David Blunkett that dyslexia simply isn't well enough catered for in the UK education system. And that's before we even think about what life is like after you leave school and enter the wider world of work.

    At @media, Joe Clark presented a slide suggesting that there were somewhere in the region of 400,000 individuals with dyslexia in the UK. The same day, Robin Christopherson suggested it was more like 6 million. I am more inclined to agree with Robin's figure, as dyslexia is one disability which isn't always diagnosed and in some cases the individual may just think they have some unquantifiable problem which they just have to deal with.

    One question I didn't get to ask at @media (which I wish I had) was to get the various members of the audience to raise their hand if they suffer from dyslexia. In an audience of 300 bright technology professionals you might assume that not many hands would have gone up, but then Albert Einstein was dyslexic. So was Thomas Edison. Henry Ford. Richard Branson.

    Dyslexia all on it's own is a disability which many, many of your visitors could have, whether or not you or they realise it. Catering for such a disability which is so prevalent is not only wise, it's pretty much essential.

  15. #15 On June 19, 2005 12:33 PM Bob Easton said:

    There's a great deal to like in your suggestions. They are logical to the core. Yet, I doubt we will see any of them implemented. They are counter to the normal behavior of governments.

    When governments decide to make laws, those laws often begin with two basic parts: conformance requirements and penalties. If there's any money left after writing those, niceities might be added. Incredibly few have an education component. Education is usually left to the "support" groups, the RNIBs of various countries, and we find those organizations so cash-strapped for their own support and lobbying agendas that they have little left for education at the level you propose. Awareness education, yes. Implementation education, not much.

    Government subsidized training is also subject to the same restraints. Only the most intense occupational needs, or societal needs, can find funding for these subsidies.

    So, what we get are conformance requirements and penalties, the bare bones of "you must.." legislation.

    Then, when we have legislation and it is enforced, the enforcement is not what we might have expected. notrypig mentioned the example of a specific fine for not using accesskeys. The laws don't get enforced that way. The best known case in the U.S. was New York's Attorney General versus Ramada and Priceline. There an out of court settlement was reached, motivated partly by the imprecision of U.S. law, namely which parts of which laws should apply and how should they be enforced. See: a press release. Then, there's more info.

    Brings to mind, "how many lawyers does it take to write an ALT element?"

    Back to the point, your ideas are great, but the inertia of governments is many times greater. So in the end, we'll do our part by continuing to help our colleagues find the best and easiest ways to do the right things.

  16. #16 On June 20, 2005 09:57 AM grant broome said:

    Education, education, education - yes!
    But, don't be too harsh on accreditation. To be fair to the RNIB, their see it right did more to educate the masses than any education scheme, and now that the Shaw Trust Web Accreditation is attracting attention, it looks set to do the same in a pan-disabilities way.

    On the point of law, In the physical world, I doubt that we'd see the kind of adaptation to premises, or the access features in new premises if it wasn't for legislation. I think we have the DDA to thank for that.

    Yes, I believe that it is the responsibility of all citizens to ensure that our world is accessible and fair, but in practice, it is often the law that educates us.

  17. #17 On June 20, 2005 10:16 AM Anthony Casey said:

    I work in local government, as a web designer. I'll get that out of the way before I start.

    I work for one of the smaller cities in the North West. We have a web team of 2, plus some part time use of some asp coders.

    We have tried very, very hard to produce an accessible, standards based main council site. Not because of government targets, but because we wanted to. For the best part we have succeeded. We battle daily against the CMS to maintain valid standards, but in some parts it�s a battle we can�t win (mainly with forms). Overall though we like to think we have one of the best sites in the country, especially for our size and resources.

    I was at a meeting on Friday with several other key players from our surrounding area. One of the main topics of discussion was �Web Accessibility Issues� the other was meta data.

    Both topics were held because of government �priority outcomes� for December this year (IEG � �Implementing E Government� targets). All the other authorities are starting to really panic, because they are struggling to meet these targets.

    With accessibility there is a lack of even basic knowledge of where to begin, and how to start. Their first thought is always to try and get a quick fix by throwing money at the problem. In this case there is a lot of talk of external companies �fixing� their pages.

    This will be fine of course, until someone adds new content by pasting in a page from a Word document.

    The other problem of meta data is a strange one. Since I started work here (2 years ago) there have been something like four different forms of �Government Vocabulary�. So in addition to the usual title, description, keywords tags etc, there are also around 15 different government vocabulary tags that should be on every page.

    When we implemented our meat-data (Dublin Core, now superseded several times) we had to manually enter the data for every page. It was a crappy, long, laborious job, but it was the best way to do it. At the meeting the first thought of the other authorities was again to look for a quick fix, chuck money at it, push button solution. They hadn�t even considered sitting down and doing it themselves.

    Overall my point is that Malarkey is right. When the government forces us to do something, it always does it with targets and deadlines. Generally all this does is cause panic, and this just leads to the wrong kind of solutions.

    Training would be useful, but to be brutally honest it would just go over a lot peoples heads. In local government web teams tend to be made up of �Editors� and/or �Techies� � actual phrases used in the Friday meeting.

    You either have people who are plucked from PR, management or some other area, that have been plonked in front of FrontPage because they have passed their ECDL. Then you have the �techies� from IT depts. Because they obviously know what they are doing.

    There are, in my experience, very few actual web people. There are no designers (traditional graphic designers are used, if at all), no HTML coders, nothing.

    CSS is another department in Planning.

    Forgive the rantyness (and length) of this comment, but I thought it might be useful to give you a bit of an insight. I have been a little stereotypical and sweeping with some of my views - there are some authorities that are good, but out of 460+ you could be probably count the good ones on one hand.

    I also have to say I really enjoy my job. It�s varied, interesting and throws up some very interesting projects, I certainly wouldn�t have changed the last few years for anything.

  18. #18 On June 20, 2005 01:09 PM Raph de Rooij said:

    Very interesting article! I work for the government of the Netherlands and am involved in the subject accessibility. I agree that legislation isn't the solution for web accessibility problems of government web sites. But, in my opinion, campaining with the focus on the needs of people with a disability isn't the best solution either.

    Since 2001 we have a project called "Drempels Weg" (Tresholds away, see www.drempelsweg.nl). The outcome of the "Drempels Weg" campaign is that making a website accessible now often is perceived as �a lot of work for a niche group of users�. Initiatives such as "Drempels Weg" in the Netherlands, comparable projects and legislation in other countries, have led to the situation that the subject web accessibility has become strongly associated with disability.In the Netherlands, most of the 350 organisations that have signed a declaration of intention with "Drempels Weg" have not succeeded in making their websites sufficiently accessible. And the few who do often only succeeded after disproportional effort.

    For the government, there is more than catering for people with disabilities. A government has to be effective, efficient, transparent and inclusive. This is the core of the policy laid down in the Dutch Cabinet's 'Modernising government' Action Plan. The internet plays an important part in realising the goals of the plan. Many projects are launched to improve processes, to bring more content online, to add value through metadata, to enable electronic service delivery etc. The fruits of these efforts are made available via government web sites.

    But how effective, efficient, transparent and inclusive are the current web sites of the Netherlands government? Do they possess the technical quality needed to meet the demands from all citizens and businesses? Unfortunately, they do not. At present, the techniques applied to most web sites are not inspired by putting the users at the centre. Web sites are mainly based on the technical preferences and (in)capabilities of its makers. As a result, most web sites are more complex than needed. They are heavy, poorly accessible and comply insufficiently with standards. This seriously decreases the effectiveness of projects carried out within the 'Modernising government' framework.

    Not everyone with access to the internet has access to all information and services that the Dutch government has made available through this medium. Users that in particular are facing difficulties in order to obtain the desired information and services:
    1. users that don't have a Windows computer with the Internet Explorer browser and a high resolution screen
    2. users with a disability, and
    3. users that have access to the internet through another device than a computer.

    Poor quality of web interfaces has another major disadvantage: the content on the web site is inadequately accessible for search engines, such as Google. An investigation with the current search engine of the portal website www.overheid.nl learned that it fails to index more than twenty per cent of the web sites of the Netherlands government, due to quality problems.
    Quality problems of web interfaces have a negative impact on the accessibility of public sector information and services. This directly leads to exclusion of (groups of) users. Another undesired effect is that this leads to a lower return on investment, because fewer people can actually use the information and services on the internet.

    To overcome the mentioned problems, a set of guidelines was developed: the "Webrichtlijnen" ("Web Guidelines", available in Dutch only). These are a generic set of technical requirements that enables the widest possible range of users to successfully gain access to information and services from the government.In practice, the application of the Web Guidelines ensures that a web site is optimally accessible and sustainable.
    Core of the Web Guidelines is the correct use of open web standards through:
    1. Strict separation of content, style and logic;
    2. Use of web standards such as (X)HTML, CSS, DOM, ECMAScript and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines;
    3. An application of the standards that is not only syntactically valid, but also semantically correct.

    While putting citizens and businesses at the centre, the actual target groups for the Web Guidelines are:
    1. Government employees who are responsible for vendor selection, and for the production and maintenance of web sites and web applications;
    2. Contractors who build web sites and web applications for the government.

    In short, the Web Guidelines are an instrument for creating optimally accessible web sites; sites that are effective, efficient, transparent and inclusive. They are not mandatory, but an alternative for the current 'best practice', that is a remnant from the browser war between Netscape and Microsoft in the late nineties.

  19. #19 On June 20, 2005 01:57 PM Kev said:

    No argument from me on the need for better education. I'd much rather see a campaign on this than I would those tiresome 'we're on to you' TV License/Road Tax/Benefit Fraud commercials.

    However Ben Darlow makes an excellent series of points. Using DDA statistics one can see that between 19% - 33% (depending on interpretation) of those affected by the DDA have a learning based disability. There's still a prevailing tendency amongst even web develoeprs to view 'accessibility' as something that pertains to those with a sensory or physical disability.

    We need to start education for everyone, including web developers and we need our guru's to start bringing this aspect of accessibility into a more prominent role.

  20. #20 On June 20, 2005 02:54 PM Dave Simon said:

    Before we start educating the public, however, we need to educate the people in our business. Designers. And their firms.

    No matter how hard I tried at my last job, they refused to see the benefit of proper XHTML/CSS. They saw it as taking longer to do than what they called "standard" design. Table-based layouts in Dreamweaver or GoLive.

    They didn't care about the benefits. They just wanted the sites to go up faster and faster.

    The same will happen with accessability. The first question they will ask themselves is: "If we worry about accessability issues, will we profit from it? Does it take more or less time to lay out a site so that it is accessable?"

    They need to know WHY it's a good idea. Not just the feel good stuff - "So that a blind person can view the site."

    What is probably more effective than any legistlation would be the idea of looming legistlation. "It's just a matter of time before all websites are going to have to conform to these accessability guidelines, just like buildings conform to the ADA."

    At that point, they start thinking about the possiblity of having to re-do the entire site in 6 months to a year. They see that as being less profitable than doing it right the first time.

    Legislation itself, however, is going to be less effective. Because at that point, everything the law requires is defined.

  21. #21 On June 21, 2005 01:25 PM Robert Wellock said:

    I cannot be of the same opinion with the 100% tax deduction for money spent on assistive technologies used for development or testing.

    Alright they are costly but what use is it giving designer 'X' reduced fee Assistive Technology 'Y' if they don't know how to use it correctly or don't actually have direct access to a user that requires or uses the device on a regular basis.

    You could for instance give me the JAWS for Windows Screen Reader and I could learn to use and even walk around blindfold for a week or two though it wouldn't be a true enough reflection - let alone reason to justify a tax deduction.

    Then you argue there should be no government accredited designers or developers in the field of accessibility. So you are trying to tell me 'Frobozz Electric Accessibility Training Corp.' Knows what it's talking about just because they are good at marketing themselves, spoken out at a media event, or sold a book on the subject?

    I'd suggest they should be no "designers or developers in the field of accessibility training" that do not have a panel of users that have a disability actively involved in delivering the training scheme.

  22. #22 On June 21, 2005 01:55 PM Malarkey said:

    I am very pleased that while opinions differ on this topic and and on Accessibility and a society of control, that the posts seem to be sparking a great deal of debate.

    In case you might have missed them;

    Andy Budd: Accessibility and the Law
    Kevin Leitch
    Roger Johansson

    Great stuff! I firmly believe that these topics need discussion rather than us allow a bunch of politicians or academics force a status-quo onto the history.

  23. #23 On June 21, 2005 06:10 PM Veerle Pieters said:

    Hi Andy,

    Great post! I agree on a lot of things you mention here. BTW, didn't you read mine yet :'-( ? (kidding you of course)

    It seems that the @media conference made us think about accessibility a bit more and that can never be a bad thing.

  24. #24 On June 21, 2005 06:14 PM Charles K. Clarkson said:


    When we express a need for more education in an industry, we are really saying that that industry's current education efforts are not succeeding. Our measurement of that success is found in our complaints. If there exists no educational model to successfully teach about accessibility now, then we can assume that funding these failed educational models will only delay their eventual failure and potentially delay the introduction of those models which might succeed.

    That's one problem with sudsidizing any industry. We take money from successful people (unsuccessful people pay less taxes) and hand it over to people who are not successful (successful people do not need subsidizing). Would you do that with your money? Of course you wouldn't. Of course, when we finally find a model that does successfully educate a large portion of us on accessibility issues, we will no longer need the subsidies. So why have them in the first place.

    Tax breaks are another form of subsidy. Government gives you a monetary carrot to "do the right thing". If it was the right thing, you'd already be doing it. There is little sense in giving a reward for doing something you are already doing. So we have to assume that many people have incentive to learn about something other than accessibility.

    We must assume that people are making rational decisions when choosing to place other priorities in front of web accessibility issues. Rational people are much more likely to take advantage of tax breaks than irrational people. So the tax breaks are for people who have already rationally decided, for whatever reason, that web accessibility is not as important to them as some other priorities. Who are we to say they are wrong? Are we more rational than them in every case? I don't have that big of an opinion of myself.

    The best thing we can ask of governments is to leave this industry and its participants free to make their own rational choices about where it should go, what it should teach, and how it might best get there.

This article was originally published by Andy Clarke on his personal web site And All That Malarkey and is reproduced here for archive purposes. This article is published under a Creative Commons By Attribution License 2.0.

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