Ignorance is the Enemy

For those who work with me, one thing is clear: Nobody will ever accuse me of being overly positive, optimistic, and forgiving. Some of my Twitter followers even remember me from back when I was in my 20s – a period when anger & negativity were my trademarks. That’s run its course now, for sure, and of that I’m proud. Still, I remain highly skeptical. Despite this, there’s one place I refuse to let negativity take me: claiming people are evil because their websites or software are inaccessible.

In July of 2010 I left SSB BART Group to work for Deque Systems. Preety Kumar made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: an opportunity to create & deliver training to Deque customers. That’s (mostly) what I do and I love it. Over the last year-and-a-half, I’ve traveled the country training development staff at companies like Target, Travelocity, Humana, IEEE, Intuit, and the College Board. By my estimate, I’ve trained nearly 500 people in the last 18 months.

Inaccessible sites are not created out of malice

In some cases, training engagements I have with clients take place after either a skills assessment or an audit of the client’s site(s). In all of these cases it is clear to me there is one thing at the root of why websites and software are inaccessible: Ignorance. Nothing more, nothing less. Designers, developers, content creators, project managers, requirements analysts, and executives are all simply ignorant of what accessibility is and why it is important. The data from scores of skills assessments and from my conversations with attendees at training are a constant reminder of this truth.

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles Sun Tzu, Art of War

The true enemy of accessibility is this ignorance. We should all seek to overcome this ignorance by embracing those who do not know better. Befriend them and teach them what is right. Teach them how to do a better job instead of assuming they’re evil, bad people for not making things accessibly.

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If you or your organization need help with accessibility consulting, strategy, or accessible web development, email me directly at karl@karlgroves.com or call me at +1 443-875-7343. Download Resume [MS Word]

One Comment

  • Posted January 13, 2012 at 8:11 am   Permalink

    Absolutely and entirely true. I also sometimes hear from trainees and clients alike, that they’d love doing accessibility, if only it didn’t feel so overwhelming at first impression. Sometimes they blame their tools for not being helpful, sometimes it’s because of what they see as a lack of available resources. But the root cause is always a lack of understanding, aggravated by the generally low technical level of most web content producers.
    Accessibility professionals have their responsibility in this, but, heck, they can’t do everything, and for free, to top it off. Good resources are costly to make, distributing them for free is not always realistic for those who try to make a living of their painfully built expertise…

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