Consumer Accessibility Experts Are … Experts!

A recent post on the great Fred’s Head blog (from the American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. — APH) points out that many companies and organizations seem to expect accessibility help from blind consumers for free. No doubt! One reason is that accessibility is as much a social movement as it is a field of technological expertise, and our evangelical zeal leads us to offer our advice freely, hoping that our audience will be ‘converted’ and join our movement. But even churches need money to sustain themselves. The technological expertise that some consumers have gained took time and effort on their part, and in order for it to continue and develop, it must be supported somehow. The companies and organizations that benefit from accessibility guidance have learned how to pay for other consulting services, and they should be encouraged to pay for this one.

There’s another side to the equation, though. Here’s what I’ve seen and heard about consumer experts that can undercut their otherwise righteous claim of professionalism:

  • “I have disability X;  I speak for all Xers everywhere.” We know there’s a range of severity of all disabilities, plus lots of individual differences in how people want to achieve access. Learning about this diversity will improve your ability to provide the good advice your clients deserve.
  • “I have disability X; I speak for people with disability Y and Z.” You client may need advice across all disabilities. Learning about other disabilities and their typical needs and preferences increases your value greatly.
  • “I won’t be satisfied until accessibility is as important to you as it is to me.” Your client may only be trying to make small accessibility improvements because accessibility is not their mission, which is selling more stuff, getting more members, whatever. They have many other things to be concerned about in the course of their work. The more you respect their mission and the way they go about it, the more valuable your services are.
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