It’s very well intentioned, but…

“[I]t’s all very well intentioned, but” are words that haunt me. These are the words of one of our students with accessibility needs reflecting the support they have been given by our University. The words have haunted me ever since because I am one of a few people trying to champion accessibility and I am very well intentioned, but…

Accessibility is not just technical

Nope. Nope. Nope. There are technical elements, absolutely. The platforms need to be accessible and there are ‘under the hood’ requirements in WCAG 2.1 AA but it is not a purely technical issue. I think it gets framed as a technical issue because it can then be shoved on IT or the people who manage the tools to resolve. This is a foolish approach, bound to fail. It is all very well intentioned, but…

compliance is not change

I’ve written about this before in my previous Change vs Compliance post but it bears repeating (albeit briefly).

The ultimate purpose of The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 is to ensure a baseline of accessibility accross mobile and web applications. The GDS will randomly pick a house, turn it over like they’re searching for drugs, and report any failures to comply. You will have time to turn your life around and find God or whatever, but eventually the Equality and Human Rights Commission will get involved. What happens after that, size of fines or legal action, is not clear. This is compliance. Here’s a list of things, if you don’t comply, we’ll come for you.

That works very well when we are talking about technical things. For example, I can very easily identify who owns the ‘technical’ issues in Moodle. I can task them with fixing them. Compliance tick. Content, however, is far more difficult.

I do not want to be the Moodle Police nor do I have enough bodies to police thousands of spaces. The alternative is to lock down what people can do. That feels counterintuitive. What we want, is for people to change their practice to be accessible. We want change. But to cut a long story short:

Compliance ≠ change.

Trying to effect change is very well intentioned, but…

We are small cogs in a big machine

I can count the number of people actively acting on accessibility issues on one hand. That is not to say those in wider roles around disability are not involved but, as I said above, accessibility is viewed as a technical problem. Something for IT people to sort out when, in reality, that’s only going to solve part of the issue. A handful of people can’t support an entire institution to adapt its practices. We are all very well intentioned, but…

Nothing comes for free

Whether you are going for compliance or change, you can’t do it for free. I’m not just referring to money, which is of course a huge enabler to any work, time is a huge factor. The handful of people I refer to above, still have a day job. We are not being given additional resource to work on this, not even temporarily. We are doing more with the same, as always. If we had money, we could explore new technologies, employing specialist etc. but we can’t. If we had money, we could just get more hands on deck. The problem with trying to do more with not a lot is, it is all very well intentioned, but…

Executive priorities are elsewhere

I have sat in meetings that I have found utterly baffling. This is a regulatory requirement (always has been but you cannot use the reasonable adjustments plaster anymore) and yet, getting executive support is like pulling blood from a stone. The right noises are made but it is rarely followed up with anything tangible. Everyone is all very well intentioned but…

Actions speak louder than words

I have seen very little action aside from the handful of passionate people who are pushing from the bottom. Everyone nods and says how important it is but that rarely converts to tangible support or resourcing. We are all very well intentioned but…

We’re not making a difference

We’re early in this work so I am speaking speculatively here. But, from my experience, our student hit the nail 100% on the head.

Their words haunt me because I want to do so much more. I feel a genuine pit in my stomach when I think about it. I really do care about this work. But I’m constrained by my context.

I have the very best intentions, but…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.