by Donna J. Jodhan
In the normal scheme of things, whenever someone requests the services of another with special knowledge or special skills, or whenever specialized skills or knowledge are required, it is almost expected that the one requesting it is willing to pay for it. No shocker and no shaker, but it does not always happpen when it comes to a situation where the services and skills of a blind or partially sighted person is being requested.
For too long I have had the misfortune of seeing this circumstance repeated over and over again and it is just not me who is saying this. Several blind and partially sighted clients and friends of mine continue to report these discrepancies.
Here's what seems to be the problem: Someone needs to have their website, software, or hardware tested for accessibility compliance. That is, they need to have their product tested to ensure that it can be used by blind and sight impaired users. They do not have any blind or sight impaired staff members that they can turn to so they need to look outside for assistance. So without much ado, they go looking for blind and sight impaired persons who are willing and ready to become testers.
So far, so good but here is where the picture takes a turn in a different direction. That is, here is where the path begins to deviate.
The requesters go searching for blind and sight impaired users. They approach agencies and organizations that have lists of clients who are blind and sight impaired and they ask them to circulate their requests. They also use the Internet to advertise their want ads and before long they are able to assemble a reasonable list of potential testers. You will see that I did not mention that the requesters used any form of paid advertisement to attract blind and sight impaired testers.
The diviation continues when the requesters state in their requests that they are either looking for volunteers or are willing to pay a very menial rate for services rendered. They make no effort to hide the fact that they are not willing to pay very much for these types of services.
So you may be asking what is wrong with this picture? What is wrong in requesting that blind and sight impaired persons provide their services either for free or at next to nothing rates? Why should blind or sight impaired persons be paid in return for services rendered? Why? Because like everything else, one is always paid when they render a service and whenever the service is a specialized one, then there is more reason for the service provider to be paid above the going rate.
So I'll ask the question again: Why is it that companies and organizations almost always feel that they do not have to pay much for the services of blind and sight impaired persons? Or, even more puzzling, why is it that they feel that blind and sight impaired persons should be asked to volunteer their services? What's missing here?
This has been going on for as long as i can remember; even long before I came on the scene and it needs to be changed. It is time that blind and sight impaired persons be respected for their skills and knowledge. The skills and services we possess are unique and are of the specialized kind. They are extremely difficult to obtain, especially so when it comes to sighted persons having them to start with. We need to be given more respect for what we have to offer. We possess unique skills and knowledge that is going to become more important as time marches on. The days of providing knowledge on a voluntary basis need to be put in the past.
I am not saying that no one should offer their knowledge for free; not at all. What I am saying is this: If a company or organization is seeking specialized skills or knowledge in order to improve their products or services, then they must be willing to pay the market price for what they seek. Fair is fair. In the normal scheme of things, mainstream persons are usually paid when they are asked to provide specialized skills or knowledge. It's time to do the same for the specialized skills and knowledge of blind and sight impaired persons.
I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell the world that yes indeed! Blind persons can certainly enjoy things by using their sense of touch. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all: http://www.donnajodhan.blogspot.com
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility: http://www.sterlingcreations.ca/blog/blog.html
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns: http://www.sterlingcreations.com/businessdesk.htm