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RE: The Sad State Of Accessibility On Municipal Websites

From: Jim Tobias <tobias@inclusive.com>
Date: Tue, 1 Jun 2004 09:21:52 -0400
To: "'RUST Randal'" <RRust@COVANSYS.com>, "'Joe Clark'" <joeclark@joeclark.org>, "'WAI-IG'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <019601c447db$693a60e0$c8fea8c0@24gig>

From Randal RUST:


> In every Request for Proposal that we get,
> there are accessibility requirements, but they are never 
> given any kind of priority when it comes to awarding the job. And, quite 
> often, you can tell that the client really has no clue as to what 
> accessibility is all about. I hear and read this phrase way too often:
> "Must be compliant with the ADA Section 508 Guidelines."
> The sad thing is, our salespeople refer to accessibility the same way.
> They are equally as clueless. The simple fact of the matter is that
> goverment agencies are required to mandate accessibility as a
> requirement, but they have little idea of what it is all about. 
> This does not mean that everyone working for a government agency is
> clueless, because I know for a fact that the State of Connecticut put
> all of its Webmasters through accessibility training a few years ago.
> The point is that most people working in the real world working on Web
> sites simply don't care about accessibility -- because they don't need
> to. Quite a few know that, to some degree, it's an issue, but there is
> no mechanism, no driving force in place that actually makes 
> them want to learn the intricacies and be compliant.

The problem is that there are many people in the "accessibility value
chain", a term we use to describe the whole endeavor of accessibility, which
includes AT manufacturers, mainstream technology engineers, salespeople,
retail clerks, etc.: everyone involved in getting the product designed,
delivered, and supported.  

Most of the people in this chain have important roles, (procurement
officials, web design RFP writers, etc.), but do not have the spare cycles
to absorb the entire world of accessibility.  Instead of expecting them to
become experts, we should lower our expectations.  They should get only the
training they need to do their jobs.  But there is a trade-off: the
***organization as a whole*** must be made fully competent.  That means that
for each job category in the accessibility value chain, there must be
clearly interlocking "policies and procedures" on accessibility, and the
training that goes with them.

Not at all by coincidence, our training program is customized:

by industry or product category (web, telecom, computer hardware, etc.)
by organization type (company, state agency, consumer advocacy group)
by job responsibility (engineering, marketing, customer support, etc.)

We find that this works well, once you get the organizational commitment.
Basically, it creates a "bureaucratic model" (in the positive sense) instead
of a dysfunctional "clone the expert" model of information dissemination.
It's easier to get the commitment from the organization if you can show that
the training and implementation will be economical and proportionate to the

Jim Tobias
Inclusive Technologies
732.441.0831 v/tty
Received on Tuesday, 1 June 2004 09:22:06 UTC

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