Make it Stop! The Case Against, and Alternatives To, the Test-for-Free Model


Presented at 3:30pm in Governors Square 10 on Wednesday, November 17, 2021.



  • Rob Carr, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: All Levels
  • Type of session: General Conference


Institutions and organizations have fallen into a pattern of testing software and platforms that vendors sell and providing test results and/or consultation. For free. I think that this model works against everyone but the vendors that we work with. This isn't anti-vendor at all. Though, I do think that we should talk about possible ways to stop this and still uphold our ethical and legal responsibilities not to discriminate against people with disabilities.


Higher education institutions and loads of other organizations have taken it upon themselves to verify accessibility in products and platforms that they purchase or use. This makes sense and aligns with some of the processes used to vet products for other technical and design considerations. But many go one or more steps past that. It is common for organizations to share testing results with a vendor. And it is also common for organizations to provide consulting on prioritizing and applying fixes. Anecdotally it seems to be really common to provide this information and guidance with no expectation of receiving any compensation.

Meanwhile, accessibility consultants are charging somewhere around $150 per hour for this service. To me, something doesn't add up.

I'd like to have a conversation about some possible ways that we can break this habit.

First I'll talk through some of the downsides that this model has. I'll touch on at least three different things that support the case for looking at this differently.

Next I'll stop complaining and start a conversation with the group about some possible ways to change this behavior and still do what we need to in order to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities. This includes re-examining how we vet candidate products for accessibility. I'll discuss testing, using the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template effectively, and other possible techniques that can bring more balance to this process.

If you are a decision maker about or influencer on technology purchase or use decisions, or are just interested in the topic, then please join me in this conversation. I look forward to hearing what the room has to say about how some of these theoretical ideas might, or might not, work in practice.


  1. Institutions and organizations have taken on the responsibility to vet and verify accessibility in products.
  2. Multiple stakeholders can save effort and energy by shifting this work back to vendors.
  3. There are at least 3 ways to address this and we will all discuss pros and cons of various approaches.

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Accessible Educational Materials, Administrative/Campus Policy, Captioning/Transcription, Procurement, Uncategorized, Web/Media Access

Speaker Bio(s)

Rob Carr

Rob Carr, CPACC, is the Web Accessibility Manager at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Rob provides expert guidance to the UAB University Relations team with respect to accessibility in design and development. He also collaborates with groups across campus, working toward a comprehensive and sustainable digital accessibility program. Before working at UAB, Rob led Oklahoma ABLE Tech’s technology accessibility program. There he worked with state agencies and higher education institutions across Oklahoma. Rob has also spoken about and trained on technology accessibility at events and conferences throughout the U.S., and even once in Canada. Rob still calls Oklahoma home with his wife, 2 boys, dog, and cat.