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There have been a few posts this week which could seem unrelated, but to me, weave an unsettling narrative. First, there is a young woman named Katie, who has found herself inside a storm of controversy. U.S. readers, and those in the disability and feminist circles may find this to be a familiar story. In essence, Katie's mother is seeking the right to have her daughter sterilized, in other words, have doctors give her a hysterectomy, because she doesn't want Katie to experience the "pain and humiliation" of menstruation.
Penny at the Disability Studies blog says "We do know better".

Next, there is the argument over the Target.com court case, which has now reached class-action status.
This post shows the confusion sighted people feel
That's actually one of the more tame posts I've found.

The assumption I see in both stories is that people with disabilities should either do or not do something to make it easier for the able-bodied population. I've seen the argument that we don't know what it's like for people who have to accommodate our needs, or that we're not disabled enough to understand.

What I don't understand is why it's okay to say that someone's body should be mutilated, or the ADA should be invalidated because it's easier for everyone else. First, there is the falacy of both arguments. I don't buy the argument that the hysterectomy is to spare Katie pain. I've had painful cramps, but I can tell you it's a lot less painful than having surgery. And if you can't tell when a child needs motrin for cramp pain, what's to say you'll know when to give her meds for surgery?

The argument of accessibility being "unnecessary" is insulting to the person who makes it, not to mention the people it truly effects. If I don't need access to your content, neither does anyone else. The effort put into arguing against accessibility could be so much better spent if it were put into actually attempting to create accessibility. If you can comment on a blog in a 100-word post, or reply to a post, you can write the code to describe 10 images. You can write a summary of a video, or an email to a contact to find sites which provide transcripts.

Now that I've pointed out just one falacy for each argument, let's take a look at the attitudesunderlying each argument. In the case of Katie, the assumption is that there aren't reasonable ways to keep Katie comfortable, and that she couldn't find use for a uterus in the future. I've been in some situations which could be very undignified before, and there has always been a way to make the situation more bearable, and keep my dignity. What do they do in the ICU when women menstruate? How do you know Katie isn't in a lot of pain right now? If you know she's not in pain now, then you can't tell me you wouldn't know she was in pain later. In this case, the effort is being put into finding the most convenient solution for others, instead of seeking out other methods of preserving Katie's dignity.

In the case of accessibility of the Target web site, I'm willing to bet that the effort being put into this court case would be more than enough to make the Target web site accessible. And let's not forget that accessibility built in originally is a whole lot easier than retrofitting. Why should I, as a potential spender, have to suffer because accessibility wasn't considered in the first place? Here, again, it's more convenient for others to assume the status quoe, than to educate themselves on accessibility.

The reality is that accessibility isn't perceived important until you need it. When the car accident happens and you're in a wheelchair, or visually impaired, suddenly, it's important for people to accommodate accessibility needs. When you can't talk to advocate for your needs and desires, it's suddenly important for people to know how to keep you comfortable, hear what you have to say and allow you to live with dignity.

I'm convinced that what we need isn't just a court case, or an ethics review board, but rather a new understanding of accessibility. We need to start understanding that accessibility is a true right. It's not a matter of alt tags, wheel chair ramps and closedc captions, but rather a matter of "how can I make this available to as many people as possible?". The answer to that question is to make it accessible. When we truly ask that question, we can find new answers. My friends who ask that question don't always come up with the typical answers. They frequently surprise me with their suggestions.

If you're considering some of these questions, think about what it is that you want others to access. Is it really important? If not, then why are you bothering? If the solution you seek isn't available, what other options could you consider? Or, better yet, what can you do to further the solution's availability?

I truly hope the right to accessibility will become commonplace

Comments

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michael_m
Oct. 15th, 2007 02:36 pm (UTC)
accfessibility
I believe we as disabled people deserve accessibility, but I also believe there are a lot of disabled people out there who claim things are inaccessible, when in reality, the product works, but the person making the claim doesn't know how to use features of their access technology This is a failing I think we as disabled people need to acknowlege. It's a dirty little secret. amazon.com is a perfect example. The site designed for the sighted works fine for me. It could be made more "accessible," but I never use the site made for blind people.
I hope what I'm saying makes sense.
kailen
Oct. 17th, 2007 06:00 am (UTC)
Accessibility
You make a lot of good points. Regarding the Target website, not only are visually impaired people at a disadvantage if the website isn't accessible, but Target is losing out on a whole population of people who want to be able to buy things from the website. Everyone's losing out in some way. That seems to be fairly common, because that happens for deaf and hard of hearing people all the time as well. Something isn't accessible and frustrates us, but also puzzles us, because wouldn't that business want us to be able to purchase whatever they are offering? I'm sure that making things accessible would pay for itself by including a larger portion of the population.

Some people and companies are really good about accessibility, at least for the deaf population. Sprint, for example, has always impressed me because all their TV commercials are captioned and they include the phone number to call via TTY at the end of the commercial (which you only see if you have captions on). And the company that makes Sidekicks (the kind of phone I have...it's super popular with the deaf population) makes some applications specifically for the deaf and therefore has a huge corner on the market for cell phones for the deaf. I'm guessing that, in both those cases, someone in the company was deaf or had someone close to them who was deaf, and wanted to make things accessible because of that person.

People are awfully oblivious sometimes, and don't realize who they are excluding. Unfortunately, it takes a lot to get through to some people. My friends know I cannot always hear them - they know to look at me, not cover their mouth, talk clearly, etc. They don't always remember, but they do their best. They theoretically understand why this is necessary, but they don't completely know why. One of my friends has an ear infection and her ears are stuffed up so she can't hear well. The past few days she's commented about how frustrating it is not to be able to hear properly. I haven't really known how to respond, because it doesn't really bother me and I'm used to it. Today in the caf a group of us were talking, and she looked at me and commented that now she knew how I felt in the caf in a large group of people, because she couldn't follow what was going on. Until people actually experience not being able to hear or see, they don't usually completely understand why something is necessary.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 22nd, 2007 01:37 pm (UTC)
Hi! I just came over from DeeJayDoodles and I thought I'd comment.

"The reality is that accessibility isn't perceived important until you need it." This is so true and I have been guilty of this myself. People go through life with blinders on and are oblivious to what doesn't effect them. Most are not mean but are just that way out of ignorance.

I am being serious when I say: How hard is it to point something out? If a person is blind and need access to a website without features, how hard it is to point that out to the company? Now, I completely agree that big, multimillion dollar companies which have tons of resourses have no excuses for not being inclusive. But small companies, maybe only getting into the web business, with little money? They should be accessible to all - but is it irriatating to have to point it out to them?

Very seldom have I ever been in a public restroom where a person in a wheelchair could actually fit in the stall and get from the wheelchair to the toilet. WHo designs these things? I notice that in every restroom I go in to.
useful_arts
Nov. 1st, 2007 12:04 pm (UTC)
Accessiblity is good, but state regs for the web are not
Hi Nickie,
I agree with you that web content should be accessible, but what you propose would bring the state to regulate a broad set communictions on the web. I'm not keen on that idea, here's why.

If such laws had been inforce earlier many of the technologies that are now more accessible, would likely have failed to gain market adoption.

Most podcasts still aren’t accessible to the deaf. Flash, web video, and virtual worlds omit blind users becaue they are visual. One impact of such laws would be less innovation, fewer types of media be made accessible, and ultimately greater access to less data.

I've posted my take on this issue here:
http://usefularts.us/2007/11/01/activist-lawsuit-links-target-corp-website-to-ada-requirements/

I appreciate your blog, and send you good wishes.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 5th, 2008 11:51 pm (UTC)
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