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RE: The Commercialization of Web Accessibility

From: Simon White <simon.white@jkd.co.uk>
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2001 08:26:13 -0000
Message-ID: <D1EFBFDCD178C24DA607A306D6E3A711059CF0@URANUs>
To: <asif@studynook.com>, "Kynn Bartlett" <kynn@idyllmtn.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Dear All,
Speaking from the viewpoint of providing accessibility initiatives to
clients - and for profit - I don't think that it will denigrate the
issue of accessibility. In addition, I disagree with the view that
disabled people will end up "paying for content". This I feel is just
not true. While there will always be a small group of webmasters
charging for content, many of us (including myself) build accessible
sites as standard, and inform clients as to the legal pitfalls if a site
is not accessible. I truly believe that because the legislation in both
the UK and the United States is, for want of a better word, forcing
websites to become accessible, it is a good thing.

Of course, there are those who will never be pleased, but it saddens me
to hear that people advocating accessibility are wanting to essentially
keep it for themselves. I was under the impression that this list was
provided for the purposes of making the Web accessible, but now I read
comments that suggest that only those "in the know" should be allowed to
provide that advice - but how does this help those out there who would
like to make their website accessible. A few people can only do so much
work. I would think that it would be better if there was a training
programme and certification system internationally so that organisations
know they are getting good and proper advice. There are those on this
list that have far more knowledge on this subject than I will ever
pretend to have and those people will hopefully receive monies due to
them. But, as with any business model, those offering unscrupulous
advice will be found out by the client before too long. I have seen it
myself here in the UK.

This is only my humble opinion. I hope that as people trying to make the
Web more accessible we can worry less about the monetary side of
accessibility (that will come) and continue to move society forward so
that any new technology automatically involves everyone. Isn't that what
we are all wanting?

Kindest regards to all, a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Simon White

-----Original Message-----
From: Asif [mailto:asif@studynook.com]
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2001 22:27
To: Kynn Bartlett; w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: RE: The Commercialization of Web Accessibility

Interesting Kynn.

Just my point of view:

If you all go into business the listserve diminishes somewhat. Those of
listening in, will not gain as much. It then becomes a business model
folks will need to pay for advice (atleast good advice). One would hope
there probably be a balance between the 2. Of course being employed is
critical. I thought most folks, including yourself, were running
based on accessibility....obviously, I'm mistaken. Indeed, you should
benefit from your expertise, thus maybe if the advice column on a
gets too long then it would be time for a professional referral? Not
what the rules of the listserve articulate as far as that is concerned?
about charging more for your course, wait until after I take it in


-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org]On
Behalf Of Kynn Bartlett
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2001 3:49 PM
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: The Commercialization of Web Accessibility

A couple of weeks ago on the WebAIM list, I made an off-the-cuff
remark about how I should charge more for the work I do related to
web accessibility.  I wasn't really serious, but some folks piped
up anyway to show appreciation to me, and I graciously accept it.

Thinking on the matter further, though, has got me thinking about
the commercialization of web accessibility -- about increasing moves
away from simple grass-roots help and toward the idea of web
accessibilty as a business model.

Much of the newfound profitability of web accessibility stems
directly from the U.S. government's Section 508 requirements for
accessibility -- a legislative remedy that I've both praised as
excellent in theory and criticized as poor in implementation.
One major effect of 508 has been to carve out new niche markets
which didn't exist before, in terms of services and support for
accesible web design.

The effects of this are debatable -- there have been a number of
moves by for-profit and non-profit groups alike to "cash in" on
these new market niches.  This may not be a bad thing, as for years
web accessibility was _not_ a hot, "sexy" item and a number of
people and companies, myself included, have not made nearly the
money that would normally be coming to us if we'd give up this
accessibility cause and spend our time in the pursuit of

On the other hand, there's questions as to the changing nature of
the field and whether or not that will have positive implications
on the end users of the Internet who may have disabilities.

Here's some of the things I'm thinking about today:

* CAST's Bobby program is no longer free.  The web version has
   no charge associated with it, but the downloadable, locally
   run program (for checking mass numbers of pages, pages behind
   a firewall, or those which aren't live yet) is now $99.  (Or
   far more for a site license.)

* The Brainbench test on accessibility is no longer free either;
   it's now $20 or so, if you want to test your knowledge of
   web accessibility and certify it with an online test.

* My own web accessibility online course -- running since 1998 --
   has been joined by a number of other online courses.  WebAIM,
   EASI, WOW.  All of these have a higher price point than my
   seven-week course by about a factor of 3 to 10; perhaps I need
   to up rates to stay competitive.

* Macromedia has recently put out a nice package of materials
   on accessibility -- but to get it, apparently you need to
   buy a Macromedia product.

* Jakob Nielsen's done an accessibility and usability study;
   you can buy it for about $200 in PDF format.  The WAI idea of
   cooperative, consensus-based creation of accessibility
   guidelines doesn't seem to be particularly proftiable.

* Books are in production on web accessibility, including books
   written by members of the W3C's working group.  Joe Clark
   is the most obvious example; his blog has mentioned great
   advances in figuring out how to make web sites accessible.
   But you won't read about them in WCAG 2.0 -- you'll need to
   buy Joe's book.

* A number of new companies -- or perhaps old companies with new
   marketing budgets -- have sprung up to offer accessibility
   consulting and evaluation services at prices of dozens of
   thousands of dollars or more.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not stating the above as items which
should (or should not) be criticized.  I'm looking at them as part
of a bigger picture, and I'm asking the question of whether or not
this will have a net positive effect.

Many of the things listed are indicative of a greater awareness
of web accessibility, and that's something I and others have been
working on for a long time.  The increase in the number of
training options, the corporate attention to the issue, the
involvement of a major usability "celebrity" in championing
accessibility, the greater willingness of publishers to take
a chance on an accessibility book -- these are all welcome
changes for the better.

But other things need to be considered as well, such as the
continuing role of the W3C in these events, the possibility of
"profiteering" (if that's even a bad thing), the increasing
expense to the independent web designer, and so on.  I'm not
sure if these questions are currently being raised, and I'm
not entirely sure which forum is appropriate for raising them
(and thus the fact that you may see this posted several

Will we see, for example, a "proprietization" of web accessibility
techniques?  Will Macromedia or Kynn Bartlett or Joe Clark or
anyone else decide that it's not worth their time to work on
consensus-based projects but instead to create copyrighted materials?
Will instructors of online classes realize that they can make more
money doing consulting instead of training other consultants who
then get the lucrative gigs?  Will A-Prompt or the W3C Validator
become victims of their own success and decide to start charging
since Bobby did?

I don't think people are getting rich in droves off this, by
the way.  I don't imagine CAST bigwigs sitting back cackling
with glee, or Joe Clark buying a huge mansion with the advances
on his hard work.  And I wouldn't even object if it were
happening -- partly because I think there are a number of people
who have done great work who have been financially UNrewarded for
their efforts, and partially out of pure self-interest greed.
Hey, I'd love for my chosen field of interest to suddenly become
the path to financial freedom!

A better explanation is that this is "web accessibility growing up",
at least a little bit.  Of new forces that weren't at work several
years ago now coming to the fore, and with those, we need to look
at existing processes and see how they're being changed.  It's
time to discuss the role of the W3C in the future of web
accessibility.  It's time to discuss the corporate and
government interests.  It's time to re-evaluate what we're doing
and where things are going, and for it's time for some of us to
make clearer plans and provide vision.

This rambled on a bit more than I thought it would.  While some of
it may be generated by my ongoing state of unemployment (and thus
opportunity and motive to consider the larger picture), I believe
these are topics that would be good for discussion among people
who share the same goal of improving accessibility of the web
for everyone.

What do you think?


Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                 http://kynn.com
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain            http://idyllmtn.com
Web Accessibility Expert-for-hire          http://kynn.com/resume
January Web Accessibility eCourse           http://kynn.com/+d201

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Received on Wednesday, 19 December 2001 03:26:27 UTC

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