Accessibility Charlatans

Cartoon of man holding money in one hand, and a bottle of oil with a snake coming out of it in the other
You might be dealing with an accessibility charlatan if they have a pattern of doing any of these things.

Many IT and diversity/inclusion professionals are now advertising themselves as digital accessibility subject matter experts without any relevant credentials or experience.

  • Any time there is money to be made, there will be inauthentic practitioners only in the field for a payday.
  • The increase in accessibility lawsuits is driving an expansion of the business opportunity that people without sufficient qualifications are moving into.
  • Many people who advertise they are accessibility experts do not practice what they preach.

You might be dealing with one of these people if they have a pattern of doing any of the following:

  • Have an inaccessible website. There are zero excuses for failing to use a free, accessible WordPress template if budget is a concern.
  • Using inaccessible events platforms. If I had a nickel for every time I saw an “accessibility” or “disability” webinar on a platform that wasn’t keyboard accessible, I could retire.
  • Using an accessible events platform, but not captioning. Note that someone else is hosting the event is NOT a valid excuse. Either they need to make it accessible, or the presenter needs to make it accessible. There are no other valid options.
  • Presuming that all event participants have vision and visual acuity. This is evidenced by making presentations that if they were recorded, would require described audio. Some of the examples of this I have personally witnessed are where people don’t talk to what is written on the whiteboard, using statements like “as you can see here in the chart,” or having inaccessible presentation components like asking people to draw something on paper.
  • Sending out inaccessible files waiting for people with disabilities to ask for accessible versions. People who authentically care about accessibilitycheck their presentation files and e-mail communications for accessibility without being asked. Never EVER place the responsibility on the people being discriminated against to point out the discrimination.
  • Recommending overlays to resolve accessibility problems. These are not valid solutions in any universe.
  • Recommending inaccessible tools, ignoring publicly available information about those tools’ accessibility issues. It’s great to recommend that people use a color contrast analyzer — but please recommend one that is actually accessible.
  • Creating or forwarding inaccessible social media content via only partially-accessible social media channels.

Finally, accessibility charlatans rarely call out others’ inaccessibility in these areas because that would be a tacit admission to their own hypocracy.

Don’t fall for the snake oil:

  • Ask for credentials.
  • Investigate components that will tell the investigator whether the expert’s site/posts are accessible. This can literally be done in eight seconds. Those components are: skip to content links, alt-text, header structure, color palate (for websites), and the same but substitute video captions for header structure (for social media). If these super easy things aren’t accessible, likely very little accessibility effort was made, and any advice provided by this individual falls into the “do as I say, not as I do” category.
  • If the components are not accessible, let them know privately that their accessibility is not up to par, and it makes you question the quality of their advice.

There are plenty of individuals with and without disabilities with amazing accessibility credentials who know what they are doing and practice what they preach.
Give them your $$, not the charlatans.

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