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Re: WCAG 2.0 and JAWS

From: Olaf Drümmer <olaf@druemmer.com>
Date: Sat, 28 Jul 2012 23:03:15 +0200
Cc: Olaf Drümmer <olaf@druemmer.com>
Message-Id: <120D325F-6746-453D-B030-974287D27671@druemmer.com>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
I'd like to compare the topic of accessibility in ICT with safety belts for cars.

- In the sixties three point safety safety belts could be ordered with a car, or added to an existing car. Hardly anybody asked for it.

- Then laws in the seventies and onward required new cars to come with three point safety belts.

- Then laws in the nineties and onward required that everybody (or at least the driver, or ...) must put on the seat belt.

A few questions to consider:
- would this have worked out this way without legislation?
- was it done over night?
- how complicated was/is it for the majority to comply (i.e. buy a car with seat belts, and put on the seat belts)?
- how many people are complaining because they have to comply?

So why is accessibility in ICT not there yet?
- first and foremost - we (the "accessibilitists") have no overall plan to offer that anybody else would understand
- only specialist can understand what we are talking about
- accessibility in ICT is a niche phenomenon
- for the majority it is - as a matter of fact  - impossible to comply (with reasonable effort/at reasonable cost)
- there is no sustainable market for "accessibility cum ICT"

What would be my proposal?
- make accessibility mandatory for every new ICT product and service (not just for the public sector)
	- in a way that guarantees a high quality effect
	- but at the same time in way this is feasible; this implies it could take 10 or 20 years to get there
		- it may make sense to do this in incremental steps
		- it is still important  that such legislation starts today so everybody can prepare
- we can do pretty strict regulations around safety (ever thought about liquids in carry-on luggage?), energy, environment, etc. - so why not around accessibility
- some of this is happening already  - e.g. EU Mandate will require accessibility for public procurement 2014 and onward (procurement regulations imply that only new products and services are affected - it is usually too costly to enhance existing systems; as it can take 5 to 10 years to phase out old systems, there is an unavoidable latency involved; nevertheless - it works, it just takes time; and as far as I am concerned - nothing else would work faster, but many other approaches could easily fail altogether)

- one other thing that must urgently be addressed: each and any curriculum - from primary school to high school to vocational school and universities - must contain a reasonable amount of units/lessons/exercises/homework/... about accessibility topics.  Every person myst understand at least the basics. There is more to know about accessibility than wheel chairs, white canes and Braille characters next to elevator doors.  It is amazing how an old trend - to hide disabilities from view / from society - still takes it toll. How come everybody can read and write and run an iPhone or Android smartphone (the equivalent of a mainframe computer of a couple of decades ago) - and not understand even the basics about disabilities and accessibility in ICT and elsewhere?


Most everything else will fall into place, more or less, sooner or later...


My 2 cents...

Olaf Drümmer


PS: It does make me a little bit nervous if people argue for accessibility based on commercial advantages (reach additional market segments, trigger more sales/revenue,  etc.). If we are serious about this, then people with those disabilities are out of luck for which it ca be proven that no market effect can be achieved. For me using the commercial/market argument is like playing with fire next to a barrel of gun powder. 

Don't get me wrong though - from my point of view, it is acceptable, and useful, to explain that accessibility might not be that expensive as there will be effects that compensate some of the extra effort. But those effects will and can never be the driving factor. The only companies that really turned seat belts into an economic success are seat belt manufacturers... (and possibly Volvo because of their patent).
Received on Saturday, 28 July 2012 21:03:45 UTC

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