Making Money in Digital Accessibility: The One Catch

There are many ways to make money in digital accessibility. And reading through this document I have sharing the screen with me. One way is a job. So you could find a position as an accessibility coordinator, a chief accessibility officer, a designer, a developer, etc. And I’m not just talking about employment at an accessibility company. I’m actually referring to employment at a large organization.

So there are many organizations that need help with accessibility, and they need someone to spearhead an initiative, and they may have a position listed on a job board, or they may not. They might need someone to suggest it for them because they need help getting started. So employment is one way to make money. Another way is to start a small business.

And so there are any number of angles that you can take from this. You could offer consulting services, you could offer speaking engagements, workshops, audits reviews if you have a disability, user testing. So there are any number of different ways that you could create a boutique small business on just maybe one thing specifically, or open it up to a broad number of services.

Also, looking at this from a marketing angle, you could be an affiliate for accessibility products. You could refer clients to different products and services, you could create your own product, etc. And the next heading I have on this document is here’s. The catch to making money through all of these different ways is you must make money ethically.

Why is this the catch? Because accessibility directly affects the quality of life for millions of people. And I think this is what gets lost is so many people get excited about opportunity and they realize that there is this gray area with Ada compliance, and then there are so many website owners that become fearful of litigation. And so there are many people looking to seize upon this market and capture money.

The problem is that many people are engaging in fraudulent behavior. And let me read the definition of fraud right now. So this is from Miriam Webster letter a deceit or trickery, specifically intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value.

And of course, this instance, something of value being money letter B, an act of deceiving or misrepresenting. So of course, accessibility overlay widgets commonly fall into this definition.

Why is that the case? Because if you portray your widget as making a website accessible or Ada compliant or preventing litigation, we know that is not the case. We empirically know that is not the case. I can produce data demonstrating objectively this is not the case.

So there are many claims that are being exaggerated. So if you are engaging, or if you are a part of this ecosystem of overlay widgets, like whatever the company or vendor, and you are perpetrating this fraud, you are a part of the problem. You are directly and or indirectly negatively affecting the quality of life for people at scale. And of course we don’t know how many, but we just think of a website owner, right?

If you sell to a website owner, it’s bad enough that you are selling something where you know you are intentionally deceiving them, but the extra bad part of this is that that website owner then detrimentally relies upon your explanation of your product or service. And then in the case of an overlay widget or a plugin or whatever it is, they install that website and then they affect all of the people that go to their website, for example, or use their mobile app or whatever it is.

So you just have to make sure that you are behaving ethically. And so what that really comes down to is describing your product or service one to one for exactly what it is and not trying to make it out more than it is. So there’s a difference between painting your product or service in a positive light and then there’s the difference that lies with stating that it does more than it does, or giving the impression making someone believe that it does more than it does.

So when you say words like solution or the only product you’ll ever need, etc., then you’re overstating it. So you want to stay away from that.

And I’ll give you another example besides overlays. When you have people that are selling audits, but what they’re really doing is packaging together, let’s say, one or two scans and then putting those results in a document and sending that to a client and calling it an audit, especially when you charge, let’s say $1,500 or more, that is also fraud. Because if the client were to know that you are taking something that you got for free and produced in a minute and then you are reselling it like that, that’s not an arbitrage situation.

That’s a situation where you are selling something, where you are portraying it to be something more in depth. An audit is a formal evaluation and it involves, of course, significant manual work. So if you are selling an audit but repackaging a scan, you are engaged in fraud.

And we also have to be aware of the people that are promoting it. So if you are promoting and furthering these frauds, then you are a part of the problem. So the way to undo this, if you have engaged in this behavior, one, you should have researched it more ahead of time, but let’s say for some reason you just didn’t research or you didn’t know, or you couldn’t find anything information about the fraud that you have been promoting.

The way to undo that is to let as many people know what happened and how you are promoting this fraud. But now you have uncovered additional information and now you are making sure that everyone possible knows.

Because we can go onto YouTube, we can search Google and we can find any number of frauds. It’s very easy. And marketers. They’ve really done a disservice because they have been promoting overlay widgets at length and just over and over again extolling the fake virtues of these overlay widgets.

Now, overlay widgets in and of itself, of themselves, don’t necessarily have to be a negative, right? It can just be something where, hey, I’m tacking this onto my website. I understand that it doesn’t make my website ada compliant. I understand that it doesn’t make my website accessible. I understand that it won’t prevent litigation.

But I just really want to have this widget on my website because it has some options. Or I want to install this toolbar because it has some options. There is nothing inherently wrong with that as long as the toolbar or the widget doesn’t introduce accessibility issues. What is wrong is when you portray that widget, or plugin, etc., in a light, where you are making it out to be more than it is, or leading the customer to believe it is more than it is.

And there is a lot of wordsmithing that goes on in this industry and there’s a lot of smoothing over in the name of profitability. And so if you are to make money in digital accessibility, that’s what you need to stay away from. Because again, the only reason I’m saying this is because it harms people. It directly and indirectly harms people, and especially at scale.

So when you have these YouTubers that are putting out videos and they’re completely ignorant of what they are recommending, it is harming people. And if you keep the video up when you know better, that’s when you’re engaging in unethical behavior, because then you know better, at least at the beginning.

If you didn’t know any better, well, then at least you were just ignorant. And then you can delete the video, put up a replacement video, state why you were wrong, do any of the following, and then change course. But if you continue to leave that video up, you are doubling down on that video and doubling down on promoting an overlay widget, which is negatively affecting so many people and doing so at scale.

So that’s why there’s so much scrutiny around overlays and the criticism is warranted. And that’s why there’s just so many people speaking out against them, because they recognize the harm being done. This is not the traditional caveat emptor in business where let’s say you’re buying a car, you go to the car dealership knowing that they’re going to try to sell you insurance that you don’t need. This is not that, this is something else, because you’re really negatively impacting a lot of different people. And people with disabilities are demographic that has already been marginalized.

And when you engage in unethical behavior within digital accessibility, you’re taking a movement energy towards accessibility and you are diverting it. And that is especially bad.