e-Access 09 and what the accessiblity community needs

Written By: Peter Abrahams
Content Copyright © 2009 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

I recently presented at e-Access 09 on a survey Bloor is running on current attitudes to accessiblity. The survey is not complete yet but looking at the inital results what I realised was that however interesting the numbers are the most useful information came in the comments from open questions such as ‘Suggest one improvement to accessibility support that would help your organisation most’.

Given that I had a captive audience, and the realisation that by lunchtime most of the communication would have been from the podium to the audience, I decided to elicit a response from them. I could have used Twitter, which seems to be common at many conferences now, but as we were all in one room and not everyone is a mobile twitterer I decided to use the simple low-tech solution of giving everyone post-it notes to describe anything that would help create accessible solutions. To my delight there was a very positive reaction leading to a board full of post-it notes as the delegates trooped out for lunch.

The challenge now is to analyse this unstructured information. It has all now been transcribed and tagged so I have some intial results.

The comments have been divided into three major piles:

  • Awareness – ensuring that everyone is aware of accessiblity and have clear defintions of what the term means.
  • User Interface – improvements, additions and changes required to the user interface.
  • Development – what tools, techniques and training is needed for the developers.

I assume that the delegates to e-Access 09 must already have an awareness, interest and often significant experience in accessibility. So I was a little surprised that 60% of the response related to awareness and only 30% to development. This suggests that the delegates believe that the biggest inhibitor to accessibility beoming business as usual is insufficient awareness of the issues, needs and benefits. On the other hand once accessibility is on the agenda there is significant support for the developers.

Looking into these piles in a little more detail show a continuation of this thread. The main sub-requirements in development were related to training (in a sense awareness for the developers), testing (checking that the developers are really aware), and procurement (how do you ensure that suppliers are aware). Only a small number of requests were for specific improvements to development tools; in this area the most common request was around making tools automatically generate or prompt for accessibility.

I will continue to analyse these results but some ideas already come to mind:

  • There is a desire for more and stronger methods to raise awareness. This information can be created and distributed via organisations such as Employers’ Forum on Disability, AbilityNet, BCS as well as at conferences such as e-Access and information providers including Ability Magazine and Bloor Research.
  • There is a real market for consultants and trainers to provide awareness development within organisations.
  • Vendors should look at raising awareness both as a way to increase brand recognition and as a way to increase sales of products that are accessibility friendly.
  • It may be time in the UK to have a high profile law suit to boost awareness.

I look forward to all the parties who can help making accessibility a key issue for 2009 and beyond.