It is still discrimination

As believers are sometimes noted saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The moral of this story should have been noted by the more than slightly foolish Harriet Harman. Today, the news has been full of her frankly crazy ideas about changing the law. The BBC leads with:

Equality minister Harriet Harman has set out plans to allow firms to discriminate in favour of female and ethnic minority job candidates.

The spectre of positive discrimination raises its ugly head again… Confusingly, this is followed with:

She said firms should be able to choose a woman over a man of equal ability if they wanted to – or vice versa.

I am forced to admit the “vice versa” has me confused a touch, but I will try to come back to that.

The basic principle, as reported on the TV and Radio news, is that Ms Harman is keen to allow employers to discriminate against certain groups of our society. No matter how it is dressed up, discrimination is wrong. It is very wrong that some sectors of the UK workforce are dominated by one gender, one racial group, one religion (or whatever). No one (sane) would disagree with this. However, forcing discrimination in the other direction is not the solution. Nothing is better at creating a divisive society. Nothing undermines the “equal” in equal opportunities more. It is not a good idea.

To make matters worse, like the BBC allude, this is a pretty incoherent policy idea (The BBC have a Q&A that doesn’t really say anything it is that confusing). The comment by the diversity advisor for the CIPD pretty much sums it all up:

Not everyone thinks it will create a fairer workplace.
Some business groups say it could create a box-ticking culture.
“This [proposal] is pretty incoherent. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for this,” said Dianah Worman, diversity adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

It will (and is) provide a massive PR victory for the rightwing pundits who cry that [insert ethnic group/gender of choice] are taking all “our” jobs (and I have never worked out who “us” are..). It will do nothing real to protect vulnerable groups. It is, basically, a perfect example of our current governments legislative policies.

Employers need to be free to chose the most suitable candidate. Most suitable for the job, not the one who is most suited to ensure their workforce is an accurate representation of the wider society. Either the law allows this or it forces an employer to favour one candidate over another based on something other than their ability to do the job.

That is discrimination. That is wrong.

The Anglican Church

Sadly, I am quite short of time to blog at the moment because I have just come across a priceless news item on the BBC.

Headlined “Nervous support for Church rules,” the BBC have examined the early signs of the Anglican Church’s move away from their founding principles – all because of the “risk” of Gay Bishops. I dont have time to dissect this properly, but to give you a flavour, the article begins:

The Church of England’s ruling body, the general synod, is backing a set of rules – or covenant – aimed at resolving disagreements in the Anglican Communion, such as that over the ordination of gay bishops.

While some see the move as a necessity, others believe it goes against the traditions of the Church.

Strange how a religion which is supposed to teach love, compassion and forgiveness can get its cassocks in such a twist over gay people.

[tags]Religion, Philosophy, Society, Anglican, Church, Christians, CofE, Nutters, Bigots, Discrimination, Culture, Synod[/tags]


I had the continued pleasure of listening to Radio 2 quite a bit today – including the Jeremy Vine show. Hidden amongst a dreary line up, there was a hidden gem of philosophical brilliance – the “Violence against expats” bit.

Basically, it being an apparently slow news day, this was a discussion about a British family who were forced out of their house in Brittany, France as the result of what may be hostile locals. This was obviously such a high profile incident, I can’t find any links to it elsewhere on the BBC site. For all I know, the Jeremy Vine show made it up (it wouldn’t be the first time the BBC faked something…).

Anyway, the debate was pretty much as you would expect – lots of people saying there was no hostility, all the French people love the British etc. Until one Scottish woman phoned in. Now, given the BBC’s track record on faking phone ins, she may have been a plant to stir things up (she failed) but she actually seemed to reflect a common opinion I have heard elsewhere. The call came (around the 48min point if you are listening online) soon after a French journalist went to great lengths to say how the French people, especially in Brittany, are welcoming and friendly – even going as far as to specify how the French love the Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Cornish. Hmm. This was followed by the Scottish woman, who phoned in to say how wonderful and friendly the French people she meets every year are. She built on this by saying how all the English people were loud, obnoxious, drunken etc., and how she can understand why the French hate them. Continue reading

Disability Discrimination – hypocrisy in action

Normally, I would be quicker off the mark with some choice criticisms of the latest .net magazine, but now that I live on the cultural equivalent of Pluto, it takes a while for the magazine to get to me. That said, by page 10 (ironically first full page of content) there is enough to make me want to choke the lives out of the editorial team.

For background, .net is a webdesign magazine and regularly has articles about how important it is to make sure your web sites are accessible – and meet the requirements of the DDA – as well as a monthly “agony aunt” style column which gives out best practice advice. In the last two years, I don’t think a single issue has had less than two pages worth of accessibility advice. Quite rightly this advice emphasises how people should aim for broad audiences and go out of their way to not exclude one category or another.

Now, keeping that in mind, this months “Mail of the Month” is from “Ann Thulin” who describes herselve as “a woman and old” and feels that .net discriminates against her. She points out that in previous months there have been complaints about the insane choice of tiny fonts and colours which are so un-contrasting as to be almost invisible. Ms Thulin puts forward a well written rant, basically saying that as an older person, her eyes are not strong enough to read the text properly and that despite the previous excuses used by .net team (“not our fault – technical problems”, the accessibility issues are actually the result of a human making the (ill)informed choice that 6pt pale grey goes well against off-white paper. I am not old, and I am not disabled and I find it hard to read the articles sometimes – especially as the magazine team seem obsessed with geometric shapes which draw the eye away from already badly contrasted text. The layout is, from an accessibility point of view, almost criminally bad.

You would think, given the monthly obsession about accessibility, that .net would take this seriously. If this was about a website (as previous months “Access all areas” will attest), then the ranting about ensuring the content was accessible and available to all would be almost non-stop. If the .net team were reviewing a corporate website with such bad accessibility issues it would be crucified.

In reality, this is the response (in full):

Wow, that’s some indictment. It’s a little unfair to call us lazy, as we’re still looking at improving areas of low contrast n the magazine. Buy you’re right about one thing: we don’t plan to increase our font size. Our average reader is 31 years old, and it’s with this age group in mind that we design the magazine. Lastly, we’re not sure what Bill Gates has to do with the price of fish, but definitely wouldn’t change our font size for him.

Strikes me as that is a long winded way of telling Ms Thulin to “f**k off, we don’t care about you old farts.” I am amazed that any editorial staff allowed such a blatant dismissal of their readership be printed. Before I go on, the Gates reference is because Ms Thulin said that if she was Uncle Bill, she thought .net would change – I assume implying that if she was rich and male, she would have more impact on their policies. It strikes me, that despite the “witty” response, she is right here.

.net editorial team are lazy. They have had months to pick up on this accessibility issue but still haven’t bothered their arses. The think which infuriated me was the dismissive “we cater for 31 year olds” remark.  If I was Ms Thulin, I would seriously consider getting legal advice on this – it strikes me as being both discriminatory towards people for age and disability. Everything about the response is wrong. Annoyingly wrong.

For example, it implies that 31 year olds have perfect eyesight and colour perception. This is not the case by any stretch of the imagination. I very much doubt that what ever research .net carried out looked into eyesight of their readers. It is not dissimilar to saying “our average reader wears size 8 shoes so we don’t care about your problems reading the text.” They have committed the cardinal discrimination sin and made assumptions about eyesight based solely on age.

Saying the average reader is 31 is pretty meaningless as well. Is the circulation of .net amongst 31 year olds so prevalent that no other age group is important? What about all the 14 and 15 year olds who read the magazine – based against that there will be dozens of people in their 40s, 50s, and sixties or beyond. When you factor in the increased incidence of eyesight problems amongst people who work day in, day out on IT, you see that if anything, .net should be obsessive about accommodating for visual disabilities. If there were any doubt, 20% of the regular contributors and 40% of the “Ask the Experts” panel are shown wearing glasses. Do these people not count? Obviously not.

Given that there is a legal and moral obligation to accommodate people with disabilities (and not discriminate against people on the grounds of age) it is breathtaking that .net magazine feel the integrity of their layout is so important that they can ignore genuine complaints. Does the DDA not apply to web design magazines?

With this blinding disregard for their readership (disabilities or otherwise), it will amuse me no end to read their continued articles going on about how important “accessibility” is…

[tags].net, hypocrites, Accessibility, DDA, Disability, Discrimination, Disability Discrimination Act, Web Design, Magazines, Technolog[/tags]