Abstract - The Information Society 23(3)

Engaging the Business/Industrial Sector in Accessibility Research: Lessons in Bridge Building  

Aldred H. Neufeldt, James Watzke, Gary Birch, and Denise Buchner

This paper examines challenges of engaging the business/industry sector in research on the use of information technology to enhance accessibility for people with disabilities in two areas of common interest – to employment and to public and retail services. The data presented arise from the joint effort of two research teams who independently encountered challenges in engaging private sector firms in their respective projects. Using a case study approach, the experiences of both groups were examined for themes representing factors that inhibited collaboration between research and business sectors, and those that enhanced collaboration. Trustworthiness of themes was established by submitting them for critique and feedback to key informants knowledgeable in both business and research. From a social systems theory perspective, findings suggest that the most important difference between research and business systems reside in the meaning of communication each uses, and differences in assumptions about and value placed on factors such as pursuit of new knowledge, the importance of marketability of findings, and so on. Additional complications arise in pursuit of research related to disability. Factors to build on when seeking research collaboration include an understanding of the language and culture of business systems, and the very real possibility of developing disability research into secondary goals that business systems typically pursue once the prime need for profitability has been at addressed (the notion of satisficing). Implications for communication between disability research and business systems are identified.


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