Non-Experts and scammers in digital Accessibility
Unfortunately, there are also people in the accessibility scene who have no business being here. After all, there is now a lot of money to be made in accessibility. In this post we would like to take a closer look at this species.
In general, three types of non-experts can be distinguished: the believers, the ignorant and the scammers.
The believers think they understand something about accessibility. Their abilities are limited to checking PDFs with the PAC, validating HTML or, when the going gets tough, running the WAVE test.
The believer diligently integrate reading functions, magnifiers and style switchers on their websites. If it was right 20 years ago, it can't be bad today. And while you're at it, how about a text version of our website for the blind?
The believers often know about certain areas of web development. For example, you can evaluate contrasts correctly or even design accessible forms. That would be sufficient if the topic of accessibility were limited to screen reader compatibility. They firmly believe in that, which is why looking at the WCAG is done for them.
The ignorants are often even well-known people from the accessibility scene. I won't tell any names. The ignorants are often highly skilled at what they do, but miss the right and left perspective.
The ignorants include blind people who say X is not accessible because they cannot operate X. Or X is accessible because they can operate it. For them, accessibility is limited to screen reader and screen reader compatibility. But we can easily create an app or website that works for blind people and not for everyone else.
Functionality for the blind is certainly an important issue. It also covers usability with a keyboard relatively well. Ultimately, however, it is ignorant, because there are many more people for whom the usability for the blind does not always help. This includes the significantly larger number of visually impaired people.
Mind you: I don't mind if a blind person says something doesn't work for them personally or for the blind in general. But a completely blind person, even with programming and testing skills, can only assess the accessibility of an application to a limited extent. Accessible for the blind and accessible are two different things. And blind access is a subset of accessibility, whoever does not understand that is ignorant in my opinion.
Unfortunately, one also has to talk about the dark side: people who are active with criminal energy. I had a screenshot of the Adobe Accessibility Checker from a client that was obviously fake. So that person knew they didn't perform and instead of acknowledging it, they pushed the game on. So you have to assume downright criminal energy.
Unfortunately, we don't know how often this happens. However, there are many fakers in the scene:
- The graphic artist who falsely claims to be able to create accessible PDFs and is therefore hired.
- The developer who cannot implement accessibility even though it is on his behalf.
- The museum decorator, who really has no idea and even actively obstructs accessibility.
- The web or app developer who does the exact opposite of accessibility.
- The producers of accessibility overlays who blames their critics.
These are all cases that are known to me or have come from different sources.
The distinction between believers and fakers is not always clear. Some people actually think they understand accessibility when they don't. But one has to fear that a large part is acting intentionally here.