A mutual admiration society

It has become something of a mantra among accessibility experts who want to stick out their neck; there is no need for accessibility conferences. Sure, the idea is correct: as soon as we have succeeded in creating awareness around and understanding of accessibility issues, the demand for special events will stop existing. No accessibility experts will be needed either for that matter. Funka’s vision is therefore to dissolve the company as soon as we’ve managed to spread the knowledge to "everyone".

Susanna Laurin

Title: Chief Research and Innovation Officer

But that is, mildly expressed, a pretty long-term vision. At this time we still need both specialists and conferences with focus on accessibility. That accessibility requirements would be as natural as demands on uptime or security still seems quite far off. Different things have different value. And disability issues remain, I think, unfortunately unsexy.

We've heard it before ...

As you might know we organise a big conference ourselves each year that is all about accessibility, and even more specifically about accessible information. I’m often invited to different events around the world, and I like to network and find out what's going on in our field. Yet sometimes I get a little tired of accessibility conferences. Not of the actual meetings, but of the content.

The industry organizes some events. So does the scientific community. EU pulls its bit and the disability organizations have their own events. But no matter the organiser there are a few things that recur over and over again:

  • We need to raise awareness ...
  • Accessibility is not about a small group, but about many ...

It's true, wise and correct. But the problem is that everyone who listens already knows this. The next time it’s someone from the audience giving the lecture, and he or she will talk about exactly the same thing. We speak for the ones already converted. And we say the same thing over and over again. 

Does this really make sense?

A circular reasoning

Something is not right. If all of us speakers are right about the target group being “everyone”, and that “everyone” should realize this, then it’s very strange that we actually know the relatively few in the room. Isn’t it? Shouldn’t the venue be jam-packed with "everyone else"?

After many years in the industry, I begin to get tired of these repetitions. When our accessibility experts review websites there is one checkpoint that states that there should be no redundant links (redundant information repeats already established information without introducing anything new). I don’t mind giving the same lecture several times, but only if the audience is new so that I can reach out to more people, who in their turn can spread the word.

Some speakers seem to rejoice in the acknowledgement itself, it makes them feel good that the audience consists of friends, and they enjoy repeating "truths" to already known faces. I mostly get tired. If I’ve heard someone talk a hundred times before, there need to be at least a new angle of the subject to keep me awake.

By experts for experts

Expert events definitely have a value. You learn a lot from socializing with like-minded and creative meetings often occur in these kinds of seminars. Or perhaps even more frequently during the coffee breaks. But if we are to achieve greater awareness in the world, we need to get our message OUT. Not patting ourselves on the back because we have all "seen the light" and are so incredibly wise in our own little cocoon.

So, I would like to ask all the talented people working with accessibility and disability issues to consciously strive to give lectures at just as many "all-round" conferences as you do at accessibility focused events. This way we could get a much bigger spread in terms of basic understanding and insights, and way beyond our own circle.

Are you up for the challenge?

Related chronicles by Susanna Laurin

  • Accessibility is moving forward – believe it or not

    6 May 2019

    Sometimes progress is hard to spot if you are in the middle of the whole thing. It might be useful to take a step back and reflect on all the different things going on in our business. The evolution is quite impressive, says Funka's Research and Innovation Officer.

  • Focus on elderly users

    7 February 2019

    Funka's CEO Susanna Laurin reports from a debate in the European Parliament and international standardization that deals with the inclusion of elderly in IT development.

  • Thanks for another amazing year!

    29 November 2018

    Another year of accessibility work is coming to an end. Funkas’ Susanna Laurin writes about the importance of positive feedback and the need to give appreciation to those who do the right thing.

  • Between hope and despair

    14 August 2018

    Monitoring and possible fines can be a driving force for accessibility. But at the same time, threats can mean that services are taken down. How do we make sure that legislation increases accessibility?

  • Make sure accessibility is afloat

    29 May 2018

    Funka's Susanna Laurin sees similarities between working with accessibility and taking care of a wooden boat. Both activities require patience and the results can make many people happy.

  • Germany Inclusion Days in Berlin

    5 December 2017

    The International Day of Disabled Persons keeps us busy in all our markets. This year we contribute to the Inclusion Days program in Berlin, Germany.

  • It's time to put our feet down!

    8 November 2017

    A judicial precedent now allows for a tighter interpretation of the Swedish law on support and services for certain disabled people. This may mean that many people lose their right to personal assistance. Do we really want people to be denied a worthy life on equal terms with others?

  • Accessible summer greetings

    12 June 2017

    As the sun glistens in the ocean, the birds wake me up in the early mornings and life gets a little easier once sunshine and warm weather turn our latitudes into paradise, a report on digitization makes me even more happy.

  • Funka in the U.S.

    6 March 2017

    We are always interested in what is going on in our market. When two conferences on accessibility, gaming and assistive technology happens in the same week, the agenda is filling up.

  • The eternal question of cost

    7 February 2017

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin reports from an EU conference on accessibility and legislation in Brussels. The focus is, as usual, on the economy.

  • To recycle consultants

    6 January 2017

    Two of our very competent consultants have tried their wings with our clients and then chosen to come back to Funka. Naturally, we're very excited and we've asked Oskar and Karin to tell us a little bit about their experiences.

  • 10 years with the UNCRPD

    8 December 2016

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin ponders what we celebrate on the international day of persons with disabilities. Accessibility seems - more than ever - a moving target.

  • An international perspective on accessibility

    4 July 2016

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin is reporting on an exciting meeting of experts from all over the world, at the US Access Board in Washington.

  • Report from the European eAccessibility Forum in Paris

    17 June 2016

    The French association for the visually impaired, BrailleNet, arrange an annual conference on digital accessibility. The theme for the 2016 edition was the internet of things. Funka’s own Susanna Laurin is reporting from the conference.

  • The dangers of legislation

    10 March 2016

    An unsettling trend is happening in the U.S.: by using legislation as a battering ram lawyers are making money, but inaccessibility persist.

  • There’s hope for the future

    30 November 2015

    Susanna Laurin's reflections on the situation for people with disabilities face in the world today.

  • Integrity and culture

    11 September 2015

    Funka’s CEO Susanna Laurin reflects on cultural differences between Spain and Sweden, personal integrity and how badly things can get, even when you try your hardest to do the right thing.

  • While we are enjoying it

    18 June 2015

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin considers trends in accessibility and the fact that we no longer have much time to reflect.

  • When technology can make a difference

    18 March 2015

    Different safety and technology aspects are being brought up as arguments against e-voting, but these problems must be possible to overcome. Funka's Susanna Laurin takes some time to reflect upon the democratic perspective of e-voting and today's broad lack of accessibility.

  • Sunny days, but no time to be lazy

    19 June 2014

    We look back at a hectic period and look forward to even more work. But first of all, we will enjoy the summer holidays.

  • Good for all...?

    25 February 2014

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin rejoices in the fact that design for all really works in our everyday life.

  • Funka Christmas letter 2013

    20 December 2013

    Susanna Laurin, Funka, sums up a busy year. A year of continued growth, continued expansion in Norway and a new office in Madrid.

  • Why WCAG is not enough

    25 October 2013

    It is leaning towards legislation on web accessibility in the EU. Funka's Susanna Laurin takes a closer look at what the guidelines that almost everyone is pointing towards actually entail for the users.