Reality TV and Accessibility Have a Lot in Common


How many times have you heard people say, “I hate reality TV! I want real shows. I wish they’d make something else.”? I don’t understand why people remained glued to reality TV shows despite their professed hatred of them. “But there’s nothing else on,” people say. “I’ve gotta watch something!”

Hold out, I say, hold out! Get creative, folks: Make your own entertainment; watch non-reality TV shows on those ever popular on-demand sites; read a book!

But, really, Hollywood is going to keep making reality TV shows until people stop watching them. Hey, a similar stance is working with high-fructose corn syrup!

The federal government is the largest employer in the United States, so it’s likely that the government employs the most people with disabilities. This is especially noteworthy since agencies are required to have accessible electronic and information technology products for any works that they use, make, buy, or maintain. This is true for public facing systems and systems that federal employees use.

In my observation, federal employees mostly focus on making their public facing products conform to Section 508 standards. When it comes to systems that federal employees do use, they’re usually concerned that time and cost will delay projects, and they prefer to rely on reasonable accommodations as a substitute for accessible works. This is where we don’t realize the amount of influence and responsibility we have, particularly with vendors who want to sell their products to the government.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Vendors, not to mention our in-house developers, won’t stop making reality shows, I mean inaccessible products that federal employees use until we demand otherwise. We can even offer help to vendors and our own developers, and guide them in the process of producing fully accessible works.

It starts with you, however, and how you begin your procurement process. The Section 508 blog from BuyAccessible.gov offers some tips for beginning your solicitation. You can also share the information in BuyAccessible.gov’s vendor section and specific techniques for producing accessible works. They can also learn which guidelines from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) apply to their projects, by using a customizable quick reference guide. The W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative also has draft information on developing an organizational accessibility plan.

Now that you have an accessibility plan for your IT projects, vendors, and in-house developers, you can veg out on the sofa and watch that marathon featuring your favorite non-celebrity reality stars. Don’t forget the healthy snacks…free of high fructose corn syrup, of course.

Angela Hooker is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Rachel Niebeling

Interesting take on 508 compliance Angela. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Also, thank goodness for the high fructose corn syrup boycott!!!!

Angela Hooker

Thanks for your comment, Rachel!

I’m also glad about the high fructose corn syrup boycott. I definitely prefer anything homemade over processed foods. I don’t think some people realize how widely used HFCS (or any sugar) is. I hope inaccessibility, HFCS, and reality TV all take the same one-inch path on a high mountain side. 🙂