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Robert Pearson

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04/12/2012

An Accessibility Advantage - Do Awards and Recognition Foster an Environment of Accessibility and Inclusion?


Accessibility and inclusion are relevant in everything. They’re natural values of society and culture that should never be seen as an addition to a process, but rather as part of the process itself, writes Robert Pearson.

That perspective is held by some, but not enough.  Who are the enlightened ones that recognize the needs for these values?  Is it those who see the advantage in being accessible and inclusive? Or those who see being accessible and inclusive as the advantage? Its two distinct perspectives that speak towards doing good because it’s the right thing to do and doing good because an additional advantage may be gained upon doing so. Is one perspective better or more appropriate than the other if the same result is gained?  Which perspective would be encouraged more through awards and equivalently through industry recognition?

Winning: Everyone likes to win something

Accessibility legislation and meeting the needs of those who require it has gained increasing recognition over the past many years. Broadly as inclusion and as it becomes a topic more commonly discussed and recognized, logically the development of awards to formally recognize these achievements have followed. Recognizably lacking for the most part though in the digital accessibility space, these awards are relevant for broader inclusivity in terms of access in locations such as Ontario, Canada where legislation and regulations are in place to adopt accessibility into multiple facets of society. 

· Awards showcase leadership within a specific area; 

· Awards are a competitive differentiator; 

· Awards are a tangible indication that the winner recognizes the need for full inclusion, to the disadvantage of the competitor. 

Winning something to recognize the achievement of ensuring the inclusion of persons with all abilities would seem to stipulate a lack of appropriate context. However, if examined as a means to an end to achieve a broader goal of inclusion, this may be the most effective method for driving forward an accessibility mandate due to the proportion of those who recognize the need for inclusion versus those who still do not.

The right thing to do: doing good

It’s a perspective shared by many in the area of digital accessibility and highlights the advantage in being accessible and inclusive to the widest possible audience. Through the connectivity of social media and the digital nature of the field itself, the accessibility industry has developed rapidly alongside the broader recognition of these two values throughout society. Being an accessibility micro-society in itself (#a11ySociety), it follows on from internationally recognized and evolving guidelines as it begins to recognize the importance of the work that it conducts. 

Recent discussions within the industry have initiated conversations in regards to how to certify oneself in an effort to assist with standardized development. While typically not one to award itself for providing increased accessibility and inclusion, so too is there a lack of a method for recognizing expertise within the field. Should industry recognition come from the industry itself or from international organizations such as the W3C? Or should industry recognition come from an entirely separate and independent entity? It is unlikely that any of these would be a more effective certification method than the other, in terms of encouraging increased accessibility and inclusion, as the inclination to simply ‘do good’ is already instilled. Numerous questions as to how this can be achieved have begun to arise though, to question how an industry can first recognize itself and then recognize those external to it.

One method for addressing those questions may begin to develop when considered along with other discussions currently taking place within the industry in regards to the development of a centralized resource to also assist with standardized development (#a11yBOK and others). Ultimately, this will be a resource that not only showcases the advantages in being accessible and inclusive, but also one that provides the advantage to those who may utilize it to gain insights into both perspectives.

Natural Benefit

Regardless of the method to encourage a culture of accessibility and inclusion, more recognition of the advantage of these values will always be a benefit to society. It may be that awards are a method for encouraging the uninitiated while industry recognition will be of a benefit not only to itself, but those whom it serves. There is an advantage to be gained by meeting the needs of the widest possible audience, be they in the digital space or beyond. It shows an understanding that while it may not be possible to meet the needs of everyone, recognition of the effort to do so will always be encouraging.

Robert PearsonRobert Pearson is an information technology professional who has been functioning, influencing, and engaging in the accessibility industry since 1999. He is an industry advocate, community builder, trainer and developer. With experience gained through the Canadian federal government and abroad, Robert spent a number of years as the manager of accessibility for a major Canadian financial institution. He sat as a contributing member of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario’s (AODA) Information and Communications Standards Development Committee and is also a founding member of the Canadian Financial Institutions Roundtable on Accessible Technology (CFIAT). As a Director with Accessible Media Inc (AMI), Robert is in a position to advocate, support and promote the community from which he came. Robert regularly speaks about his experiences within the industry and some of the personal challenges he has faced with his own unique disability.
 
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Related Blog: Inclusive Development as a Model of Progress for Persons with Disabilities by Rachel Garaghty. Read.
 
Related Publication: The Global Economics of Disability. Download report.
 

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• UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Address

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