Re: Competitiveness of blind web developers

  • From: "Will Pearson" <will@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2007 13:29:32 -0000


Jamal wrote:
"These things said, I do think that we have to be extra good at nonvisual aspects of a profession in order to compete -- again, because of both physical and prejudicial adversities. We must, for example, know HTML, CSS, and principles of visual asthetics, mouse, and keyboard usability better than average in order to compensate for the disadvantages that we will fase as a result of blindness. Doing so is within the realm of possibility -- not just for the exceptions -- but it does require additional dedication to the field."

I agree with this view. The way I often explain it is by using the concept of value. Value is the benefits that someone derives from something less the costs associated with that something. The greater the value the greater the motivation someone will have to do something. I believe this is true for most decisions that people make.

When thinking about this in terms of hiring decisions blindness undoubtedly imposes some additional costs on a potential employer. They may have to modify their systems and processes, purchase additional equipment, allow a blind employer additional time off so that they can receive blindness specific services, etc. I believe that these costs can be minimised if a person really wants to try and fit in but I don't think that they can be completely avoided.

Blindness isn't the only situation to have additional costs associated with it. There are many situations that also have additional costs associated with them. For example, being a single parent, having a sick relative, or being a military reservist all have additional costs associated with them. So, there are a number of groups within society who have additional costs associated with hiring them.

Benefits are dependant on the demands of a potential employer. The level of benefit is derived in part from how well someone is able to perform the tasks that someone wants that person to do. This can be thought of as the primary source of benefits to someone. There are also secondary sources of benefits, and these are things that don't fill an immediate need or are unrelated to the tasks that someone needs to perform. The key thing to remember about benefits is that they are derived from the tasks that someone wants someone to do.

In some situations blind people can deliver the same level of benefits as anyone else; Jamal's example of web developers would fall in this category, and in some situations blind people are unable to deliver the same level of benefits at least in terms of primary benefits.

In order to compete with other candidates people need to put forward the same level of value as those other candidates. This can be done by offering benefits that are derived from other sources, such as a broader or deeper knowledge of something than other candidates, or it can be done by reducing costs.

Unfortunately, blind people will always have to offer a slightly higher level of benefits due to an increased level of costs. I think the costs associated with blindness are artificially high at the moment; for example, guide dog organisations require people to take a few weeks off to get a guide dog, assistive technology vendors assume that people have a lot of free time to train to use their products, etc. So, I hope that the costs associated with blindness will be reduced in the future. I also think that the range of benefits that blind people can offer will be increased. I think that assistive technologies and the way we think about accessibility at the moment impose artificial restrictions on the abilities of blind people, and as we start to think about accessibility and assistive technology in different ways then some of these restrictions will be removed. For example, I can see a day when it's fairly common for blind people to perform visual layout tasks quite easily.

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