Accessibility charlatans

Accessibility is being mentioned more and more in fairly mainstream media here in Sweden. Lately I've seen two articles in Swedish press, and while it is good that accessibility is getting some attention, the incompetence with which it is talked about really upsets me.

Journalists don't seem very interested in checking even the most basic facts before publishing articles on accessibility. Some articles are more or less press releases from companies boasting how they have started catering to disabled Internet users, and how they comply with such-and-such accessibility standards. Which they rarely, if ever, do if you look just a little closer.

Scratch the surface and you can see that behind all that nice talk are companies that don't really care about or understand web accessibility or disabled users. They're just looking to get some press so people will have heard of them. Then they go on with their old-fashioned ways of invalid, inaccessible markup, making quick and easy money.

Last week, the weekly paper Ny Teknik published the article Staten höjer kraven till nästa ramavtal (The government is raising the demands for the next blanket agreement). In the article, a person working on the website of a Swedish municipality is quoted as saying By fully accommodating disabled people, the effect may be that other areas will be neglected (my translation).

Well, yes, if you take things to the extreme, that can be true. However, it is very rarely necessary, and in my opinion only indicates that said person has not fully understood the concept of web accessibility.

Today, Swedish Internetworld magazine also published an article on accessibility, Var tionde svensk kan inte använda webben (Every tenth Swede can't use the web). In the article, a spokesman for a company claiming to have developed a method of testing how accessible websites are to disabled people, makes the following statement:

Depending on the disability there are different assistive devices to make surfing the web easier. But for these to work, the site owner has to have entered the correct meta tags. That's exactly what we are measuring in the test.

Right. So now all we have to do to make a website accessible is enter the correct meta tags? I'm more surprised that the editor allowed this to be published than that someone is trying to take advantage of the fact that most people know very little about web accessibility. With accessibility being a requirement for public office websites it was bound to happen, and this isn't the first I have seen of it.

What pisses me off the most is not that these accessibility charlatans are stealing potential clients. It's that I care about web standards and accessibility because I want to build a better web. If I can make some money while doing that, great. The charlatans on the other hand are only in it to make money. That's a considerable difference if you ask me.

There really needs to be some way for people who aren't familiar with web accessibility to weed out the bullshitters. Any ideas on how we can accomplish that?

Posted on February 9, 2005 in Web Standards, Accessibility