Re: 508, Accessibility & Obstacles

From: "William R Williams" <>
Subject: 508, Accessibility & Obstacles

> As you know, we are
> required to meet the provisions of Section 508 for accessible E&IT; yet,
> advocating for compliance (and professional-level development), my job has
> been nothing short of a nightmare since June 2001,

I think the biggest problem is that there hasn't been a test-case of Section
508 that's gone the distance, so there is a big grey area where sites are
"seen" to be accessible. Whereas your employers only want to dabble in the
shallow end and "look" like they are being accessible, you see the need to
wade in as far as you can to make sure that its accessible without a shadow
of a doubt.

I'm reminded by an analogy used by Alan Flavell in the newsgroup about a car that's been in a messy accident.
Yes, polishing it all up can make it look good - but without fixing the
structural damage (and the engine) its hardly in a fit state however it

> I've been accused of "undermining" the web efforts,

probably by saying the current efforts are not up to scratch? The only
suggestion I can make is to try in each instance to give as much
_constructive_ feedback as possible - recognise the bits that are being done
right. For example, the meme that just adding alt attributes is sufficient
for accessibility, point out that "yes, it makes the _images_ more
accessible than they originally were" -- that can't be construed as

> being "on a crusade," arrogant, striving for nirvana,

There'd be an element of truth in the last :-) In which case it raises the
question "Surely offering our customers the best service we can offer is a
good thing?" -- let them try to contradict the obvious!

> and untold other derogatory statements have
> been hurled my way.

Whatever you do - don't let things like that get to you. I know its
difficult. Its at times like these when I remind myself of the words of
Winston Churchill:

"You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime
in your life." -- if they are not attacking you on the principle of
accessibility, maybe they either don't have the knowledge to do so, or deep
down they know you are right.

> The bottom line: I just don't understand the
> resistance, the pretentions -- and this has created an uncertainty, on my
> part, about what is and/or what is not, accessible information.

The resistance boils down to a few factors:
* The "attack" on their belief that they must have done something right
* The defensive posturing when something needs to be done, but without the
knowledge of how it should be done right
* The cheapest option route.

> I really apologize for the length of this posting, and my level of
> frustration

Unfortunately frustration reproduces. Try and find the positive things that
are currently being done right, and make a note of pointing them out.

From what I gather, maybe everyone else doesn't understand the whys and
wherefores - that's where you need to focus. Rather than just pointing out
what needs to be done, cover why it needs to be done, and why the current
solution doesn't meet those requirements.

Unfortunately legislation is an interpretation, and where there's
interpretation there's politics. There is a risk involved in not doing
accessibility completely right, and that risk is legal in nature. Why not
use that as an opportunity to get a statement from your legal department on
the requirements? If they insist the low standards the organisation is
aiming for is sufficient, then let it go (from an internal point of view).

Just remember to keep the evidence that you pointed out the correct way but
was ignored/shouted down. That way if it does all go pear shaped, you've got
yourself covered - but don't use that as a weapon against them - keep it as
a means of defense only.


Received on Wednesday, 14 May 2003 04:44:16 UTC