Can you afford to be not accessible?

On Twitter the other day I wrote: You should become suspicious if the GDPR is the Unique Selling Point of a product, i.e. the main reason why a solution should be bought. That basically means that all other issues have been treated as secondary. These are such unimportant things as accessibility or good user experience. The latest example is ClickMeeting, an unfortunately non-accessible solution for online communication.

In the end, the organisers have the choice between plague and cholera: they can take a solution that is probably DSGVO-compliant because it is EU-based, and the participants have to deal with massive technical problems. The support requirements for such solutions are really enormous. Or you can take one of the mostly US-based solutions with good accessibility and user experience, but a bad reputation for data protection. In case of doubt and if there is no obligation, one will always choose the latter. It is more important to reach many people than to be more DSGVO compliant. Unfortunately, they have not yet been able to explain to me conclusively why you get heavy fines for deficiencies in the GDPR and not even a slap on the wrist for not being usable by disabled people. And unfortunately, no one has been able to explain to me why the US Zoom is compliant with the GDPR in some institutions and not in others, where the US WebEx or the US Teams are used instead. Oh, by the way, Adobe Connect is also US-American and is also used with pleasure.

But can't you have both: Data protection and accessibility? Sure, there are solutions like BigBlueButton, which I think are a good compromise. But even that is banned in some institutions. Why? I don't know, ask the GDPR.

I think the conflict will increase in the next few years. Unfortunately, many of the German providers of communication tools in particular have not yet put the issue of accessibility on their agenda. In principle, this means that they may not be purchased by public service institutions, non-accessible tools can neither be used in the education sector nor in the public service.

"But accessibility is so expensive" is what I hear from providers. Well, no one blames them for not paying attention to this in the first prototypes. It may well be that it is difficult for start-ups in the first few years. But at the latest when the software is ready for the market and is to be used in the context of work/education, you can and must also work on accessibility. And here it falls on your feet if you have not paid attention to accessibility.

Don't ask yourself if you can afford accessibility. Ask yourself if you can afford to be not accessible. Put all social aspects aside. Calculate how much you can earn with software that is not bought by the public sector, many NGOs and big companies. You can forget the international market anyway, because almost all Anglo-American countries have more strict accessibility rules than the EU. That really only leaves the private consumer market and some small and middle-sized companies. Can you and do you want to be satisfied with that?

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