Sue Everyone

I hate this post.

I hate the title of it. I hate what it implies. Even more, I hate how right it is.

This will be the 124th posting on this blog. Although my posts and social media postings are rather strongly worded, I think I’ve also been clear that I don’t like selling accessibility through fear (see Selling Accessibility – Negative Factors). I would rather lead. While others in this field seem fixated on "compliance", I would rather present an unbiased list of facts about accessibility and let those facts speak for themselves.

During his keynote presentation at AAATE 2015, Mike Paciello said this:

It was hard to contain my reaction. Mike Paciello isn’t just my boss, he’s also a very close friend and mentor to me, both personally and professionally. I can’t remember a time when he’s spoken in what I’d call “compliance language” – that is, treating accessibility as little more than a regulatory matter we must address in order to stay out of trouble. For those who don’t know Mike as well as I do, his career is dotted with accomplishments in pushing for a more accessible Web. In fact, he authored some of the earliest academic works on the topic not long after the web was born. And there he is, on stage with a slide projected on a huge screen that says: "Sue Everyone". Holy Shit.

If it was anyone else, I probably would have decided that this wasn’t a talk I wanted to hear and I would have gotten up and left. But it was what he said after that struck me. Mike essentially said (and I’m paraphrasing), “I don’t care what brought you to accessibility, and if it is a lawsuit then so be it.” This resonated with me personally.

My wife and I fought for almost 2 years to get our daughter the special education interventions she deserves. After being deceived, stonewalled, and treated like the enemy by the school system, we decided to get a lawyer involved. It was nothing short of amazing how much the county school system started to care about our daughter. Whereas earlier we had to ask for progress reports, all of a sudden we started getting them weekly. Whereas before we were treated like chumps in IEP meetings, all of a sudden we were respected. Even in the last meeting we had with them, they were trying to fight with us over every little thing. But when I interrupted and said “Holly (our lawyer), I’ve had enough of this shit. Let’s just sue them”. All of a sudden they took things seriously.

So from here on out, I agree. You don’t want to make your ICT products & services accessible? Fine. Don’t. You don’t believe in the rights of persons with disabilities? Fine. Don’t. But when you’re sued and need help, don’t say that people didn’t try to get you to care about accessibility through less antagonistic means.