It was either s.e. smith on Twitter or Andrea on G+ that shared this link. I apologize I can’t remember which one.
I was recently treated to another round of “disabled people need to just ask for accommodations, then they’d be given them,” with the usual accompaniments of “you shouldn’t be so angry” and “you should be nicer.” (It was on Goodreads. Don’t ask. Really.)
So I figured, okay. I know this is bullshit from a lifetime of experience, but let’s gather some data.
What I did
I gave myself 7 days. Every time during that 7 days I ran into a particular kind of inaccessibility, I wrote to the owner/relevant authority and asked them to fix it. I aimed for short, factual, informative request letters.
The data on this was surprising. Though I guess it is only surprising to someone like me, who has privilege in this area.
I grouped responses into categories:
1. Competent and positive: Something like, “we didn’t know, we’ll get on that.” I intended to also include things like, “I’m not qualified to handle this, let me pass you up the chain,” where the intention clearly is to get the problem solved, not make me go away. I also intended to count responses along the lines of, “we have to talk to our tech people about this, but we want to fix it and here’s a rough idea of how long it might take.” This ended up not being necessary.
Number of responses in this category: 0
2. The runaround: People who don’t know what I’m talking about and don’t care enough to find out, so you end up in an endless loop getting passed up and down the chain of command until someone finally just stops answering, or, for the bigger corporations, you get one of those, “your ticket has been closed, we hope you are satisfied,” emails.
Number of responses: 6 (23%)
3. Hostility: Some version of “we know it’s inaccessible, but we are not fixing it,” or “we didn’t know, and we’re not fixing it.” I include in this category any version of, “it would be too hard,” (universally incorrect) “not enough people need that,” or “our customers haven’t asked for that” (what am I, exactly?) There are legit technical reasons why certain access issues would be very difficult to fix, but I happen to know a fair amount about this, and most of what I’m talking about here are discrete, one-fix issues.
Number of responses: 7 (27%)
4. Silence: Complete nonresponsiveness, other than a form “we’ve received your letter” email in some cases, and often with the “we respond to every request within x days” language. (The length of time between my note and this post ranges from 11 to 18 days. I’ll update if any more trickle in).
Number of responses: 13 (50%)
That’s right. Not one positive response to the request and 50% of the people contacted didn’t respond. That is an awful high number and depressing to say the least. Some of the companies contacted included Nike.com, Google, Gmail, and even smaller businesses, such as their broker and health insurance company.
This is just not good enough, y’all. There has to be more work on the part of the privileged to include people in our whole community. When I first read this I thought maybe there was an organization that solicited websites to let volunteers go in and make the site more accessible. Then I realized people would probably freak out about having to let a stranger into their server and all that. I’m going to try and do some research into ways I could be helping out more, aside from just trying to make this blog as accessible as possible.