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Re: The Commercialization of Web Accessibility


From: Atul Pant
Date: Dec 19, 2001 11:54PM

Dear Kynn,

I have been following this mailing list for a while now but this is my first
posting. My name is Atul, I am an Indian, at present based in Singapore. I
was earlier working for an Indian web solutions company (e-communications
and e-learning solutions). Recently, together with some like minded friends,
we set up a company called Enabling Dimensions, that plans to provide web
solutions that makes using the internet easier for the disabled and elderly.
Our focus is more on Asian countries. I thought I will share with you our
thought process in setting up Enabling Dimensions, as some observations on
your email:

- - We were also faced by the dilemma whether the pursuit should be guided by
profit motive or not. We found a `middle-path', in the `social
entrepreneurship' paradigm. Social Entrepreneurship is pursuit of a social
mission with business-like discipline, innovation and determination. While
usual businesses are driven by the objective of creating personal wealth for
the share-holders, social entreprenuers not only create value for individual
stakeholders in the enterprise (an essential for survival and growth) but
also generate social capital at large. For a very good paper on the concept
of social entrepreneurship you could refer to
http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/services/news/DeesSocentrepPaper.html - an
article by Prof Gregory Dees, Stanford University.

- - While deliberating on a consensus approach vs individual motive driven
ideology, we reached the conclusion that the need of the hour today is wider
sensitization on the issue of accessibility. For this higher objective what
is required is a critical mass of opinion in favour of universal web access
and for achieving this objective `the more the merrier' should be a good
approach. Just as the biggest motivation of Federal Agencies and their
corporate suppliers in USA for adhering to Section 508 could be to preempt
potential law suits rather than the spirit of 508, end of the day, whatever
the motivation it will raise the sensitization on the issue of accessibility
and the benefits to the disabled community will percolate beyond USA.

- - Today, the concept of web accessibility is where accessible buildings and
roads were maybe twenty years back. At that time curb cuts, wheel chair
ramps, toilets for disabled etc were a novelty (which they still are in most
Asian countries). Now these are taken almost for granted. This has happened
primarily because public opinion made them a mainstream issue and all
builders had to abide by the accessibility guidelines. The same should
happen to web accessibility - i.e. it should become a mainstream issue, only
then will mindsets change and will a more disabled friendly web be created.

- - To further illustrate this point, you could consider the 100th Monkey
Phenomenon (I am not sure if this is real research or just a parable,
whichever way it illustrates the point I am trying to make): The 100th
Monkey Phenomenon gets its name from an incident involving macaque monkeys
on Koshima Island, Japan. In the 1950's, primate behavior researchers began
giving the monkeys sweet potatoes. Most of the macaques ate the potatoes
dirty, but some began rinsing them in sea water first. The habit was slow to
catch on, but as the story goes, when the number who rinsed their potatoes
reached 100 (or `n'), suddenly every macaque on Koshima adopted the
practice. The incident has been used to encourage the spread of desirable
social behavior - if enough people engage in the behavior, then it will
instantaneously spread to everyone else.

- - Lastly, permit me to be a little philosophical. I think in life it is
important to follow a philosophy one believes in because life, end of the
day, is about self-evolution. Indian philosophy describes this evolution of
self as - material, man, mind, intelligence and traquility of spirit. We
humans should choose a life path that helps us achieve a equanimous state of
the mind, a tranquil spirit. When we look at our life problems from the
perspective of self-evolution, we usually find an answer. Hope this response
helps you find yours.


Atul Pant
Enabling Dimensions

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