Accessibility is not an “add-on” service

Forest of green trees with one orange-reddish tree in the center

It is not possible to be a “contact center” which also provides high-quality accessibility services. It just doesn’t work that way.

Every week I get a handful of unsolicited LinkedIn messages from people/companies I’ve never heard of, almost always from outside the US. They claim to be the best accessibility testing company out there. But this message on Linked In was a new one:

Currently the contact center I’m working with is looking for clients. They offer data and voice services, data management, along with Accessibility services.

Immediately a vision of Burt and Ernie popped into my head singing, “one of these things is not like the other.” Saying that you are a contact center and then throwing accessibility in is like saying you are a gourmet restaurant, but oh, by the way, you also sell Big Macs.

Accessibility is specialty consulting, based on the interpretation of regulations. As such, it is similar to privacy or security consulting. Would you be interested in security consulting offered by a company that also offers brick-laying services? Probably not.

  • There is no commonality between the two.
  • Just because you are good at one does not make you good at the other.
  • Saying you are good at both implies that you don’t understand the business drivers for either. You may not even understand the business drivers for consulting services in general.

Here are other mistakes that “Johnny/Jane come lately” accessibility vendors make concerning their accessibility consulting services/pitches:

  1. They assume that you can wave a magic wand over people and turn them into accessibility testers. True, it does not require a college degree to be an accessibility subject matter expert. However, learning enough about accessibility to become certified takes dedication and time. Learning how people with disabilities use technology takes longer. Business co-workers with disabilities frequently don’t exist outside North America/Europe because the unemployment rates for people with disabilities is so high. The high unemployment rate (I’ve seen many countries with 90 %+ figures) are largely due to inaccessible infrastructure and educational disadvantages. Fifty percent of blind children in China don’t attend K-12 school, for example.
  2. They rarely employ people with disabilities. Not every disability tester needs to be disabled. But balance is important. I’ve had first-hand experience with overseas accessibility consulting agencies who outsource testing that requires people with disabilities to charities. Those consulting agencies pay the charities pennies on the dollar that they are collecting from the client, and far less than they pay their employed testers without disabilities. This is perfectly legal in some countries, while simultaneously being completely immoral. It is on you, the buyer of the services, to ask these questions and make sure the company you contract with is NOT doing this.
  3. They tell people they can do *every* type of accessibility testing on the planet in their initial contact messages. You can’t be the best at everything. When you say you are good at everything, the clear implication is you don’t understand what you are good at. If they claim they can do PDF/UA testing and can’t tell you what it stands for, chances are they don’t understand accessibility testing at all.

As hot of a market as accessibility testing servers were before #COVID-19, it is going to be supernova hot shortly. Organizations that offer general software consulting services are experiencing a reduction of interest. Therefore, they have smart people who understand tech sitting on the bench.

Accessibility is an area that has experienced ZERO reduction in interest. Interest is going to skyrocket in the next six to nine months as American organizations who have money to spend either come under the ADA and Section 508, or they have voluntarily adopted those regulations in an attempt to diversify their employee base. Make sure you ask the right questions before employing one of these vendors.

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