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RE: Disability statistics

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Wed, 07 Nov 2001 08:18:14 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: Jim Tobias <tobias@inclusive.com>
Cc: Joe Clark <joeclark@joeclark.org>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
At 03:10 AM 11/7/2001 , Jim Tobias wrote:
>The point of disability statistics is to be able to have
>something to say to people who care about market size.

Except "caring about market size" often means "maximizing your
investment" not "reaching every subgroup."  For any group, I can
argue that some percentage of people in the U.S. are <whatever>.
That doesn't mean that companies are going to specifically go
out of their way to attempt to reach that market, or any other
market, if it doesn't make good business sense.

What does "good business sense" mean?  It doesn't mean
indiscriminately chasing every possible lead -- what if it costs
$50 to reach a certain audience in order to sell $100 of product?
Right there the profit margin has been completely eliminated,
especially if the cost to reach a mainstream audience member is
only $5 per $100 sold.

>Also, how about honesty as a motivation to talk about numbers?  For
>some access changes there is true market justification and for some
>there isn't.  When we cover up this fact we look like religious
>missionaries at the door, not the plumber.  We want to be the plumber.
>Actually, now that I think of that analogy, it's quite apt.  Let's say
>that the numbers show that only 1% of users would benefit from a
>particular accessibility fix.  Fine.  Wouldn't you fix a leak that
>accounts for 1% of your water usage -- about 2 gallons a week (source:
>American Water Works Association)?

Not necessarily. What if it costs $500 to fix a leak?

Remember, businesses will consider certain losses "acceptable."  A
FAA study here in the U.S. estimated the cost to an airline of a
major crash to be $2.7M per person.  The idea was to convince the
airlines to support upgraded security.  The airlines made the _business
decision_ that it's better to simply pay high insurance and if those
people die, the families are paid through insurance, rather than
spend the billions of dollars necessary to upgrade security and the
resulting lost income from delays, etc.

What's my point?  Simply that it is naive to assume that business
decisions will always benefit the consumer, especially if that
consumer is part of a minority audience.  In fact, historically
it's easier to support the exact opposite -- businesses don't
care if they shut out disabled people, because in most cases it
does NOT make "business sense" to deal with people with special

If you ask someone, "Would you rather increase the cost of doing
business by 10%, or would you rather lose 1% of an audience," the
answer will almost always be "lose 1% of the audience" (unless
a specific moral choice has been made).

Jim, if things worked your way, all foods in the supermarket would
bear Braille labels because the food producers would be afraid to
lose the fraction of the audience who require Braille, and all
stores would train their clerks in sign language just in case
someone in that small proportion of people who are deaf walked in.

They don't, because the cost is considered "not worth it".  They
would rather lose that business than make the adaptations necessary
to accommodate them.  This is simple "business sense" and it is why
you will rarely be able to convince anyone with statistics.

If you manage somehow, great!  But I would still maintain it is more
a result of an ethical choice than a business choice.


Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
Technical Developer Liaison
Reef North America
Accessibility - W3C - Integrator Network
Received on Wednesday, 7 November 2001 11:28:03 UTC

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