Neutralizing the Fear Factor: How perceptions of ongoing “risk” hamper momentum for your accessibility program


Presented at 2:00pm in Westminster III on Thursday, November 21, 2019.



  • Rick Ferrie, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development, BarrierBreak

Session Details

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


Often accessibility programs have their origins linked to negative events: angry students, litigation, reputation damage, etc. As a result, many find implementing solutions tainted from the outset. But by changing your approach, accessibility can stop being an item on a “risk map” and instead become a driver that supports many other opportunities.


One unfortunate side effect of the legal activity needed to get changes made for accessibility has been the negativity that can surround the solutions. Words like “remediation,” “compliance,” and “audit” carry the fear factor. Too often the fear has lead to knee-jerk, tactical solutions and/or longer term strategies that have funding/execution challenges. The negativity helps to pigeon hole accessibility as a permanent risk, isolated from other initiatives that carry a more optimistic feeling. But there is no reason that engaging in accessibility should be a negative. A good program can lift a college’s sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and environmental aspirations. What’s needed is to soften the legal/risk jargon, create strong links to other initiatives that look to improve outcomes for all students, and promote a vision that while addressing current challenges always keeps “eyes up” for the future so that the work now helps realize those opportunities that much easier.


  1. Perceptions of accessibility as primarily a risk can add negativity and hinder solutions
  2. Accessibility should not be isolated from other initiatives aimed at improving outcomes for all
  3. The current state needs attention but accessibility can’t fight only today's challenges to remain relevant

Disability Areas

All Areas

Topic Areas

Administrative/Campus Policy, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Rick Ferrie

Rick Ferrie has been in the educational services business for 20 years in many roles – but all have been centered around change related to technology and accessibility. His experience includes being a member of the original task force that developed the NIMAS spec currently being used for K-12 in the US. He also served as the Chairman of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) Serving Students with Disabilities Subcommittee for 4 years that guided the publishers’ adoption of and compliance to the standards, as well as being the global lead on accessibility for a major publisher. Currently he is the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at BarrierBreak - a leader in providing accessibility testing and document remediation services, along with policy and roadmap development to support customers in building inclusion into their solutions. He is also a long standing member of the National Center on Accessible Education Materials (AEM) Advisory Board.

29512 Ferrie - Neutralizing the Fear Factor