Re: 508, Accessibility & Obstacles

On Tuesday, May 13, 2003, at 10:11  AM, William R Williams wrote:
> I work as a "web developer" with a large agency in the U.S. federal
> government and feel quite fortunate to be involved in this work. It 
> seems,
> however, as if my employer is only interested in giving "face value"
> importance to accessible web design and development. As you know, we 
> are
> required to meet the provisions of Section 508 for accessible E⁢ 
> yet, in
> advocating for compliance (and professional-level development), my job 
> has
> been nothing short of a nightmare since June 2001, when the law took
> effect. I've been accused of "undermining" the web efforts, being "on a
> crusade," arrogant, striving for nirvana, or coding "web minutiae" 
> (while
> implementing WCAG guidelines), and untold other derogatory statements 
> have
> been hurled my way. Meanwhile, people have said that the need for tasks
> such as implementing "document structure" and using valid mark-up are
> subject to interpretation. 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.

Web developers hate being told what to do.  That's why they become Web
developers (or programmers or government functionaries or book writers 
etc etc etc).

By telling them what they need to do -- when they believe (and 
so for many of them!) that they had no way of knowing when they learned
Web development the things you're telling them now -- you're pointing 
that they're NOT the experts they like to think they are. You're showing
them that there's a gap in their knowledge.

You're pointing out that:

      #emperor clothes { color: inherit; }

Nobody likes that.  So they see you as the enemy, and they never think
about the many people with disabilities who you are helping by your
advocacy.  They are not user-focused, because they NEVER see the site's
users -- they only see the people they work with, including you.  Thus,
the experience of serving up Web content becomes one that takes place
only within the office, one in which the person to be pleased is the
boss -- not the people who actually are trying to use the site.

This is endemic throughout the Web development industry.  It's a natural
result of the way the Web works -- the isolation between the developer
and the end user -- and it's also the cause of the greatest problems in
the Web:  inaccessibility and poor usability.

You are fighting the good fight -- hang in there -- but you may need to
change your strategies if they're not working on these particular
developers.  One of the best approaches is to, instead of presenting
them with the SOLUTION, present them with the PROBLEM.  Then help guide
them toward a solution.  Web developers, by and large, LOVE solving
problems as much as they HATE being told what to do.  Make them think
that they've arrived at these neat accessibility solution, and you'll
have won, even if they think they've won.  Because, ultimately, it is
the end user who wins.

Hope this helps,


Kynn Bartlett <>           
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain      
Author, CSS in 24 Hours             
Inland Anti-Empire Blog            
Shock & Awe Blog                 

Received on Monday, 19 May 2003 11:39:34 UTC