WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

What motivates.


From: Daren Olson
Date: Mar 9, 2000 9:31AM

Here's my two cents on the issue of motivation as it relates to web
accessibility. For those of you who know me, it's no secret that I'm an
admirer of Richard Clark's work on motivation. So, the ideas I'll
present here on motivation come mainly from him and are not my own.
First, I have to admit that I'm not considering biological issues in
motivation here (food, sleep, sex, safety, etc.). Rather, I'll focus on
motivational issues that arise when all of our basic needs are met.
From what I understand of Clark's writings, motivation depends on two
things: commitment and effort. Thus, the acronym for his CANE model of
motivation stands for "Commitment And Necessary Effort." Simply put,
commitment precedes effort. This means that no one will put any effort
into doing anything unless they decide to commit to it first. This
commitment depends upon three factors: control values, emotion or mood,
and personal agency. Control values are the perceptions by the worker
that his or her efforts will increase our personal control or
effectiveness. The emotional reactions the worker has toward a work goal
must be positive (or even neutral). Personal agency relates to beliefs
the worker has that he or she has the ability to do the work and that
the work environment and other contextual factors will facilitate goal
So, in order to make a commitment, the following questions must be
answered positively:
1) Will this commitment make me more effective? (Control values)
2) Do I feel like it? (Emotion or mood)
3) Can I do it? Will I be permitted to do it? (Personal agency)
If the worker can answer yes to all of these questions, they are primed
to make a commitment to work towards the goal. It should be noted that
if even one of these questions is answered negatively, commitment to the
goal will not occur.
Once commitment is attained, a certain level of effort must be dedicated
to doing the work required. Very often, this means new knowledge must
be created or new skills developed before the goal can be achieved. If
the worker recognizes this and is willing to work to get the knowledge
and skills, then it is more likely that the goal will be reached. If
the worker is convinced that he or she cannot get this knowledge or
learn the skills, their "personal agency" or self-efficacy sinks to
zero, which means they are no longer committed to the work goal and will
actively avoid the goal. However, while some people may be committed to
a goal and believe that they can do the work, they have actually
underestimated the knowledge and skill necessary to achieve the goal.
These people are overconfident in their own abilities and, consequently,
will rely on their established abilities, skills, and problem solving
processes. Because they think they can do it all with what they've
already got, they do not put the necessary effort into learning what
they need to achieve the goal. Often these people are blinded to
situations in which their own knowledge and skills are inadequate--they
gloss over certain details which, in the end, prevent successful
completion of the goal. What happens in the end? They attribute the lack
of success to someone else or some other circumstance. After all, how
could they be responsible?
So how does all of this relate to web accessibility? First, in order to
motivate webmasters, and anybody else involved in creating web-related
materials, we must first gain commitment to the task of making the
content accessible. This means we have to get a positive answer to
those questions of control value, emotion or mood, and personal agency.
Let's examine these questions now as a typical webmaster might see them.
1) Will this commitment make me more effective? (Control values)
Typical response: "No. I don't think this will make a big difference in
the services I provide to the majority of users. In fact, I think it
will make my web site less attractive and harder to use for
non-handicapped users."
Needed response: "Yes. In the end, maintaining an accessible site is
easier because it's design is consistent and enables people to navigate
and access the information they seek. They won't need to rely on me as
much to get what they need. Besides, I will gain a huge advantage over
my competitors because my web site is accessible. Experts agree that the
changes I make to accommodate persons with disabilities actually benefit
all users. Universal design will make my site more attractive and
easier to use for everyone."
2) Do I feel like it? (Emotion or mood)
Typical response: "Absolutely not. I'm sick of this web site! I already
put in overtime to get the thing where it is today. Now you want me to
add work on top of that?! Nobody understands or appreciates the work I
do now, so why would I want to put in all this time to do something they
will ignore me for doing anyway? I've been stuck in this back room all
week long and I haven't seen the sun since Monday! When will this week
Needed response: "Oh, yeah! I dig this kind of stuff! I enjoy the
challenge of making my web site hum like a finely tuned Ferrari. People
can't stop raving about how good the site works. Gosh, I feel so
appreciated! But that really doesn't matter much too me in this case,
because I feel that this accessibility issue is important for other
reasons. I want to do this because it's the right thing to do and will
make a huge impact in the lives of my clients. It kind of makes me feel
good about myself to know that I'm helping make it possible for people
to become independent users of this web site."
3) Can I do it? Will I be permitted to do it? (Personal agency)
Typical response: "There's no way I can do this. First of all, I don't
know the first thing about making sites accessible. Second, even if I
thought this was important, I don't think my supervisor is going to want
me taking all this time to make changes on a site that already seems to
be meeting the needs of a majority of our clients. Third, there's no way
they are going to spend money on books or training or computer software
to help me make the site accessible."
Needed response: "I think it's definitely something I can do. I may not
know how to make the site accessible now, but there are plenty of
resources available for free that can help me learn what I need to get
the job done. I've already discussed this with my supervisor and talked
about the benefits of doing this. She's convinced this is something we
should do, not only because it's the right thing to do, but also because
it will provide a better experience for all our clients. We've set a few
goals to get us started and budgeted the necessary time and resources to
accomplish them. It looks like I've got green lights all the way home on
this one."
The other thing that needs to be addressed is the issue of effort. For
those who recognize the knowledge and skills needed to reach the goal of
an accessible web site, all that is needed is access to the necessary
information and training. The underconfident webmasters need support in
the form of small, doable goals that will eventually lead to full
accessibility. As they experience success, their confidence or
self-efficacy will increase, as will their commitment and effort to
future goals. The overconfident, however, must be dealt with in a
slightly different manner. They must first be shown that they actually
do not have the knowledge and skill necessary to reach the goal. They
must understand that their old approaches to solving the problem will
not work and that they are responsible (at least in part) for this lack
of success. Only then will they be open to learning the knowledge and
skills required to create and maintain an accessible web site. For both
underconfident and overconfident workers, Clark says the best way to
help them is to "focus feedback on the way that the task is being
pursued, and not on the person's ability." This means that for
overconfident people, we should focus on the process and not the task
results. If there are no results, they will often project responsibility
to someone or something else. By focusing on strategy instead of
statistics, there is less blaming and more examination of ways to
achieve the goal.
Well, even though this has been a long response, I must admit that I
really haven't done all of Clark's ideas justice here. Nevertheless, I
think I've covered the basics in enough detail to illuminate how they
apply to the issues of web accessibility (am I overconfident here?).
Now it's up to you to think about this stuff and determine for
yourselves if this makes sense or not. I hope this dialogue on
motivation continues, because I believe it strikes at the very heart of
the problem--lack of commitment and effort to reach the goals of web
Daren Olson