Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What is the goal of the W3C Presentation: "Web Accessibility is Smart Business"

I have been reviewing the current draft presentation of the W3C’s Education and Outreach Working groups, “Web Accessibility is Smart for Business”, to try to understand its educational goals ( http://www.w3.org/WAI/presentations/bcase/ ) . The logical assumption is of course that the goal of the presentation is to educate people that Web accessibility is smart for business. What would be the instructional goal and learning domain?

Goal One (v) - Describe Why Accessibility Is Smart For Business.
This seems to be a pretty basic verbal goal, where I am defining a verbal goal as a goal that provides verbal information, facts stated, and specific information provided. It appears that the presentation makes the assumption that that all a business cares about is money. However, the slides and speaker notes provide none of the detail required to support this assumption, but instead just include some charts with lines.  In terms of an educational format, this presentation would be given by a lecturer and this lecturer would show a PowerPoint, all or maybe not all of the slides. PowerPoint is of course a technology aide used by lecturers to help present information to a group of people. But what is the basic PowerPoint rule for education versus  PowerPoint for sales?

It is common to see a salesperson show a PowerPoint and then read the information on the slide.  The information is the message and companies do not like to see it modified as the message has been tested and the company believes it works.  However, in an educational setting this would be a most incorrect way to educate a group of people. It is commonly known in education that overuse of technical aides is a distraction and a decrease not increase of learning! The lecturer should not put up a slide just to read from it as it is distracting/ Rather they should only use the technical aide (PowerPoint) to present information they will lecture on not to repeat what is written on the slide.

On Numbers, in business and in engineering, facts matter. This presentation presents some great "hockey stick" graphs (showing dramatic upwards trends) on how a company will achieve increased revenue and direct cost savings over what appears to be four (4) years. This slide indicates (in the speaker notes) that the graphic is based on anecdotal information and not real data. So why include these charts if they are invalid (basically made up) and what units is the money in,? Will I have a 200 Billion Pound return over eight (8) quarters? Following the same thought, the slide show indicates/implies that if you develop an accessible site you could increase your natural traffic by 50%, This is interesting and I assume anecdotal again, though I did not read this in the speakers notes.

Based on the numbers and facts presented a businessman would have to discount the presentation as made up or one simply with facts just not in evidence. Does this hurt or help the goal that we assumed for the presentation?: Goal One (v) - Describe why Accessibility is Smart for business.  The answer is obvious.

OK, so what goal should this document have? In my experience the problem with getting businesses to "develop accessible" has nothing to do with dollars, or in general cost. It is simply attitudinal. Think to yourself for a second, when is the last time you checked into a hotel room and reviewed the fire escape information on the back of your door, or a similar place? I do it every time. I do it because it is situational awareness and that is important to me when I am not in my home.

So what is an attitudinal goal? Well in perhaps a simple definition an attitudinal goal is one which is designed to have the student make choices or behave in a manner that implies an underlying belief or preference. It is my humble opinion that this educational document is trying to “Play” business and fails at that, when instead it should be focused on changing attitudes and belief systems. I think this document should be rewritten and in doing so the authors should consider new goals:

  • Goal One (A) Choose to maximize Accessibility Guidelines in web properties
  • Goal Two (A) Choose to incorporate Accessibility training in all Company Training
  • Goal Three (A) Choose to incorporate Accessibility Guidelines in all web applications

When training is developed to focus on changing attitudes versus putting up fictitious potential numbers it is likely that this type of education will produce real grass roots success.



1 comment:

Denis Boudreau said...

Interesting. As a new member of the W3C Education and Outreach Working Group, I recently discovered that document and am trying to decide what I think of it. Your blog post comes at the perfect time for me and I will definitely bring your comments over to the Working Group!