Lately the news has been full of stories about why change doesn’t happen because the incentives are wrong. Yesterday I listened to a podcast of Fresh Air in which Times-Picayune reporter Cindy Chang talked about why Louisiana is the prison capital of the world. It seems sheriffs are paid for keeping the jails full. The wrong incentive.
A discussion on HuffPostLive yesterday between Jennifer Beals of the short film Lauren on YouTube about sexual abuse in the military, Nancy Parrish of Protect Our Defenders and Sandra Lee, an ex-military sexual assault survivor, dealt with incentives. What I heard in that discussion is that Army officers are penalized when sexual assaults are reported within their commands. Reporting an assault is handled as a mistake on the part of commanding officers and they are encouraged to dismiss or lessen the charge. The wrong incentive.
In public education, teachers are evaluated on how students perform on standardized tests. Therefore time is spent not on educating children but on preparing children to pass tests. The wrong incentive.
Today I read an article called 5 Reasons Businesses Should Take Web Accessibility Seriously on WebAxe. If we are still trying to convince people that creating accessible web sites is a good idea then we have a problem of offering the wrong incentive to web designers and business owners.
There were dozens, maybe hundreds, of blog posts written a few years back trying to convince businesses that using web standards was good for the bottom line. Now we’re repeating that history with accessibility.
Government sites have an incentive to create accessible sites because of the Americans with Disabilities Act Section 508 laws. Some businesses may feel an incentive to try to comply because of well-publicized lawsuits brought by the American Federation for the Blind. Some designers may have been encouraged by contact with other designers to believe that accessibility is “the right thing to do.”
On the other hand, many people hanging out a shingle as a web designer and doing business in their particular sphere are self-taught and may not know about accessibility. Or, what about some big-name gurus like Evan Williams and Biz Stone starting a new site called Medium? Well, according to John Foliot, Medium Scores Low on accessiblity tests.
Really, what’s the incentive for most of the people building websites to learn and use accessibility principles and practices?
Can we figure out an incentive to help web designers realize the value of accessibility?