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Re: WAI: Threat or Menace? [LONG]

From: Rick Jelliffe <ricko@topologi.com>
Date: Tue, 27 Aug 2002 00:57:04 +1000
Message-ID: <007101c24d10$d77db330$4bc8a8c0@AlletteSystems.com>
To: <www-tag@w3.org>

> >I don't know why I get myself into the position of expressing what 
> >people don't want to hear but it seems I do .... The street cred of 
> >WAI is low because it comes across as absolutist and missionary.

I doubt if the street cred is particularly low with any of us who have had
a disability :-)  I think most people who have had a disability, or who
have had friends or relatives with disabilities feel very positively
disposed to accessibility, in moderation. 

I have just had the experience of doing a s.508 self-assessment on a
product of my company (s.508 is a US regulation which says that
in order to get government sales, you need to provide certain
information concerning accessibility; most other governments
have similar requirements in the works) and I found it both humiliating
(as a designer) and useful (as a businessman). 

The questions were clear enough that one cannot really weasel out;
and it took about a day to fill out the form, put up the webpage,
and make some good product improvements to prevent embarrassment.
And s508 showed me where we would need to spend more effort. 

The point is not "Is your product perfectly accessible?", but to 
be able to know how accessible the product is. It may indeed
be a business decision not to make your product useable by
the 8% of men with color-blindness because of programmer
resourcing issues, but it should be a decision and not something done out
of ignorance.  Accessibility guidelines potentially allow more rational 
management of software tasking.

It is certainly a business decision how much accessibility to provide 
(as is internationalization, support for US spelling, support for
Linux, etc.)  because government and academic sales are 
important.  

But I was surprised that several of the accessibility issues also helps
with usability for the able-bodied too.  Many features required for 
accessibility (such as keyboard shortcuts and tab behaviours) are also 
required for able-bodied people. 

One approach to using these population statistics is in the context of
incremental improvement.  You (i.e. a software or marketing manager) 
could say "We think that people with relevant disabilities can be 5% 
of our market, therefore our developers will spend 1% of their time 
improving relevant accessability for the next 5 years" (so that the
mature product has that market potential.) That is an extremely
relaxed approach, but it still justifies two and a half days per year per 
programmer.

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe
C.T.O.
Topologi Pty. Ltd.
Received on Monday, 26 August 2002 10:57:02 GMT

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