Investing in Accessibility DOES offer a Return for Businesses
Many disability related laws and regulations require accessibility in the technology arena most especially. Many companies have invested millions to comply only to find that government and corporate purchasing agents do not care. Investors in accessibility also find that disability advocates are lackluster in their praise of such corporate support of accessibility requirements. Why???
Instead of highlighting those companies that are investing in accessibility and supporting their marketing efforts, national Disability organizations hide behind the shield of impartiality. Why???
They say “we cannot endorse any one company.” Even if that company is leading the way on accessibility when their competition is making it clear that they will not invest in accessibility until they have to. Why???
We all know that government and business do not have to buy accessible technology if it does not exist so what happens if companies stop investing in the development of accessibility? All the laws will not matter if the technology does not exist. Why???
Recently during a discussion about accessible poll books I told a Secretary of State that this was not about one company. The Secretary countered by saying that right now it is about one company who is making their product accessible. I asked him why that is? Could it be that they are doing the right thing even though you have not by failing to require that all poll books be accessible to people with disabilities? Why???
National, state and local disability organizations/leaders need to begin recognizing those companies that are investing in accessibility. They need to do so as a matter of course from an advocacy point of view and not because the company makes large contributions to them. Why not.
Many companies who have invested heavily in accessibility are not in a position to make such “contributions” to gain the public support of organizations and their leaders. If the disability leadership continue to treat technology developers in such a backhanded way they will stop developing access. Then what?
For their part accessibility developers could offer long term support of disability advocates through contributions based on the implementation of their products Disability organizations could take a more active role in the promotion of the competitive development of an ever expanding range of accessible technology.
The cooperation of accessibility developers and disability advocates can only result in a wider range of solutions available to people with disabilities across community life. Supporting the purchase and implementation of new levels of accessible technology will assist government and business in complying with access requirements and open more opportunities to the disabled community.
Douglas George Towne
Chairman Disability Relations Group