Accessibility and a society of control

In Accessibility and a society of control, Andy Clarke explains why he doesn’t believe in making web accessibility required by law.

While his arguments are valid, I just can’t see it happening without legislation. Most website owners are too cynical and unaware of what accessibility really is to care.

Posted on June 16, 2005 in Accessibility, Quicklinks


  1. I think that’s why we need to push the matter to businesses all around. I think that’s Andy’s point, too. I’ll ask him sometime though…

  2. Hi (again today!), I just posted on Andy’s site about his article. I appreciate the direction Andy is taking the matter…and the questioning of whether enforcing web-accessibility laws would seek to control web site design too much.

    “…. I just can’t see it happening without legislation.”

    I can see it happening without the legislation! The laws and rules should exist as guides, and the web design community itself has enough influence to shape how accessible sites truly become.

    “…Most website owners are too cynical and unaware of what accessibility really is to care.”

    Definately…but we can enlighten them of the benefits of accessibility without being bound by hardlined laws and ambiguity that only causes more confusion than anything else. Website owners will approve of it more when they are made to realise it can help with their Search Engine Rankings, increasing exposure to new customers, and potentially generating more profits!

  3. June 16, 2005 by Johan Sjöstrand

    I agree. Making it required by law is diminishing social responsibility. However, I do believe there should be some very strict guidelines (not laws) for public sites that should be accessible for all citizens. I don’t see the accessability guidelines as a bible.

    On a sidenote, I’m glad that most commercial webcampaigns today is done in unaccessible flash. Those sites should be as unaccessible as possible ;).

  4. June 16, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Ah, yes I absolutely agree that there should be no need for legislation. Maybe I’m the cynic here ;-)

    As for the web design community influencing these decicions I can see that to some extent, but remember that the vast majority of people working in the web industry are not at all interested in web standards, accessibility, or best practices. In fact, many don’t even seem to understand the web.

  5. No but Roger, we’re working towards a future where (hopefully!) it’ll be business suicide to not care about web standards and good practices. :)

    Keep in mind that accessibility and standards are not just vital, they’re also much more fun to work with. People who get introduced to them never leave them behind again. :-)

  6. As a rebel, I’ve never been bothered by whether something is a law or not. I think of laws and policies as mere suggestions. (Silly analogy, I’ve never followed a recipe in my life!)

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got my principles, based on my personal value system.

    I think the US 508 standard is like a compass. It gets us headed in the right direction. It isn’t perfect, and we will need to continue to adjust it. I’d feel lost without it.

  7. I’m now getting a bit disturbed by the overall direction this is taking. Whilst these laws are far from perfect their overriding aim isn’t to beat business over the head but to protect the rights of some vulnerable members of society.

    “As a rebel, I’ve never been bothered by whether something is a law or not. I think of laws and policies as mere suggestions.”

    Whereas for some people, these ‘mere suggestions’ are part of what help them to participate in society.

  8. It’s easy to talk about encouraging business to take up accessibility, stress the business benefits etc, but I work for a company where none of that is really relevant.

    Search engine optimisation issues or making the code more efficient are simply too long-term and nebulous for my short-sighted employers.

    They sell software to UK local government that is completely inaccessible. The customer isn’t really aware, and i’m told to keep my mouth shut, so they get away with it.

    After months of wrangling i’ve just managed to convince them it’s an issue, by telling them they’ll get sued if they don’t do it.

    Sometimes the stick is mightier than the carrot.

  9. Look out for a follow-up column next Monday :)

  10. June 18, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Faruk: I completely agree. But when will we get there?

    Kev: Thanks for posting that link. Very good article.

    Malarkey: Looking forward to that :-)

  11. Roger, that’s something I can obviously not answer, as nobody knows. All I can say is that I hope it’s sooner rather than later, and it’s up to us ourselves to make it happen faster. The better we promote web accessibility and its benefits to companies, the faster we’ll get there.

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