Accessibility while you’re racing – Digital Accessibility Experts Podcast 8

Welcome to podcast 8 of our Digital Accessibility Experts Podcast series.

This is our first podcast for a while. We’re glad to be back after spending a while doing Digital Accessibility Experts Live webinars to support the needs of our clients, and others in the community, who are trying to work out how not to forget accessibility when they’re pivoting to digital or under pressure to accelerate their existing digital roadmap.

So, this time we’re discussing how to deliver accessibility while you’re racing.

We look at some great tips like:

We hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed recording it! And if you’d prefer to read the podcast, rather than listen to it, read the transcript below.

 

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Transcript of audio

Jonathan Hassell: This is the Digital Accessibility Experts Podcast from Hassell Inclusion, for people who want to mature in digital accessibility and inclusive design.

Hi. I’m Jonathan Hassell, your host. This is our first podcast for a while. We’re glad to be back after spending a while doing Digital Accessibility Experts Live webinars to support the needs of our clients, and others in the community, who are trying to work out how not to forget accessibility when they’re pivoting to digital or under pressure to accelerate their existing digital roadmap.

So, this time we’re discussing how to deliver accessibility while you’re racing.

You’ll learn: why asking your customers and staff what’s most important for them will help you focus your time, how “little and often” expert support can help you include accessibility when you’re updating your site, how best to avoid public criticism by communicating with customers where you’ve not had time to get everything right first time, and how live and snapshot audits can quickly help you find issues in products that you didn’t make accessible by design when you’re “fixing them after”.

Hope you enjoy it!

Welcome to this session, I’ve got a quote for you here that I think is really important for this time, and it’s from James Lipcombe, who is the CEO of Chesterfield group who own 40 fish and chip shops in the UK:

“When you’re faced with potential closure of your business, you suddenly make very fast decisions and realize that it’s actually okay to go out and try things and break business models. I think our click and collect customers will increase at this time. I think our walk-in trade will reduce. And I think the days of waiting in a fish and chip shop for 15 minutes in a queue are probably gone.”

Today’s session is about how not to forget accessibility when you’re pivoting online, making huge changes to the way you do business in a rush, because that’s what we feel like is happening out there everywhere.

We get it, is the first thing that I wanted to say. It is not the easiest time to do everything perfectly for accessibility while you’re racing forwards. We know, for a lot of organizations, they don’t have time to think about things that they would normally care about. Sometimes corners need to be cut. But in the rush, I think it’s important to just think for a second.

This thing came out on LinkedIn last week… Some innovative new sealed individual office pods have just won an award. And Sheri Byrne-Haber, who is an accessibility consultant in the States, just pointed out that they aren’t wheelchair accessible these new things that they’re going to make going back to the office possible. And she was really critical of that.

Now she’s right. And it is a real own goal if those things get into production without fixing if you can get a wheelchair into them. But as a prototype, I think that’s okay. And as a solution to the challenges that we’re facing at the moment, with getting anyone back to the office, it’s okay for people to be trying to work out how to do that without thinking about everything.

So we’re not here to criticize. However, I think what we’re about here is to say that, had they have thought about accessibility whilst they come up with that thing, it might not have taken them any longer, and they might kind of come up with something that didn’t get them criticized on LinkedIn immediately they put it out there. There are award winning people who are getting problems because they haven’t thought about all of the community.

So, this is about what we can do as accessibility people to try and help you, people who have no time at all, maybe, and are trying to create new products, to respond to Covid. What can we do to help you get accessibility, inclusive design – call it whatever you like – into the way you do this, so you don’t have to think that you have to throw accessibility away because you are moving so quickly.

So I’ve got some of my team together to brainstorm this with me. So I’ve got Rob Wemyss, I’ve got John Gooday, I’ve got Yac Woozeer. So who’d like to kick off?

Yac, I’m going to go to you. What do you think people need to do at the moment to help them get accessibility not thrown away because they’re working so quickly?

Yacoob Woozeer: I think for me, the most important thing for people at the moment is a kind of triaged process looking at what you actually mean by accessibility. So is it, you’ve got staff members at home who may struggle to take part in meetings. Is it that you’re a company that is predominantly relying on footfall, but now is relying on online traffic. But then also, what is the most important thing for you to get right?

And I think where we talk about accessibility, we need to be clear that there’s not one thing that’s accessible to absolutely everyone, and what you’ve got to do is understand what you, your customers or your staff need, and then focus on those key things to get them right. And then maybe look at the kind of smaller, more difficult wins later on.

The key thing is talking to your staff and talking to your customer, to look at what’s working well and what’s not working well and then move on from there.

Jonathan: Yeah. So if there’s only one thing that you can do, it’s the one thing that your customers and your staff tell you is the thing that you should do.

Yacoob Woozeer: Yeah, definitely. There’s no point kind of going, we think this, the whole point is: it’s user research based, it’s Google analytics, it’s feedback, it’s as you’ve mentioned, comments on LinkedIn, and I see so many organizations who are going, we’re going to do X and when I ask why they’re doing that, there is no properaudit trail or analysis that’s done to say, this is why we’re doing it.

Jonathan: Okay. Thanks Yac. So, listen. Basically get people speaking to you, telling you what you need to do.  Rob, how about you? What do you think, people should be doing at this time?

Rob Wemyss: So for me, I’m just putting myself in somebodywho needs to pivot to digital? Let’s let’s say my local tenant, the shopkeeper who’s decides. Right. Okay. I have no footfall. I want to start an eCommerce site. where do I start? I don’t pick up a book and learn how to program and create it from scratch. I will Google, you know, ‘free eCommerce platform’.

Shopify comes up. Great. Okay. So this is, this is out the box. I can then get this up and running within a day. How do I assess how accessible Shopify is?

So look for an accessibility link in the footer. What are they saying about themselves? Okay. So the core platform, they’re telling me, this is pretty accessible.

How can I still mess this up? I can take a theme. I can add the content. I can still, you know, if I don’t understand the principles of accessibility, I can quite quicklyget into a bit of a mess.

Jon Gooday: Lots of people trying to try digital. It is really going to be challenging for people to suddenly go from no knowledge of accessibility, to kind of being confident in accessibility. So I think what needs to happen is we need to be able to kind of point out some practical, key things that people can do.

I mean, one of the things I do want to do a lot of training is: what’s the first thing I say to people? What’s the really quick test you can do to check a website? Use your keyboard. Press the tab key. Can you get around a website? Can you kind of click a button? So really basic stuff. That’s kind of useful. It will give a, usually gives quite an insight into how good an application or a website. If it’s not keyboard accessible, it’s going to have some other challenges. But if it is people accessible, at least there’s some good stuff that we know has been thought about. So that’s a very quick and easy thing to do. Literally you can do that in a few seconds, a few minutes.

Rob Wemyss: What does it feel like, complaints=wise, out there from people saying they can’t access e-commerce at the moment? Are we thinking that lots of people are having difficultiesor are we thinking people are actually using as many workarounds as they can, to get things done. It might take you a lot longer to do it, to complete your shopping. “So I’ve never done this before, but I’m learning really, really quickly, even if it’s not perfect.”

Jon Gooday: From my kind of experience, a lot of people will try work-arounds. People are very creative and innovative in terms of how they address stuff. But the reality is there’s still some serious challenges out there for an individual trying to access.

We haven’t really talked about guidelines. But obviously are guidelines out there. They provide a great framework. But they don’t in reality, kind of like, give a customer, the ability to ‘register, buy a product’ – that’s about how the thing is produced . So we really need to kind of refocus on: okay, people are trying to do something, they want to do it quickly, efficiently, and we want to help you do that.

So the question is, you know, how do we make that happen? So it’s really, really important. And it’s focusing down on what are the critical things to get, right? How can we actually kind of encourage people to focus on the core set of things that will make a difference, rather than kind of going to the n-th degree about the kind of minutiae of what they can do.

So I think it’s bringing it back to the human perspective.

And the other thing is, no site is perfect. There’s never been a site that’s going to be perfect for everybody. As Yac said, you know, we can’t meet everybody’s needs to a hundred degrees.

What we want to do is find a way that, that people can access the services and be able to use them effectively. And that should be the priority, the pragmatic approach in this current climate. We can’t be perfect. We have to focus on, okay. We want our customers to use our services. How do we make that happen?

Jonathan Hassell: I want to, answer your question directly, Rob. Are people complaining? When you look on social media, there are loads of people complaining. There are lots of people saying that I can’t get the information that I need. There is a huge amount of emotion.

The difficulty with a lot of this stuff is that technology for a lot of people is in itself stressful – they’re not digital natives. And COVID is stressful – the situations that it’s placing everybody in are stressful.

If you then put disability on top of that… There are some really interesting articles out there about people who have a hearing impairment saying the stress that everyone else has from this whole COVID situation… “Yeah. You know, for me, it’s even worse because when I’m out and about, if you put a mask on, I can’t lip read you. So the whole world has become really difficult.” Obviously some people have been trying to find masks where you can see people’s  lips underneath them.

A really great article I read this morning about blind people not really liking, touch-free wireless type stuff, because a lot of what they do is based on touch.

And I just want to come down to my mum. So, my mum doesn’t want to be online anyway, really. She would prefer to shop in the supermarket and yet, at the moment, it’s safer for her to do it online.

So, a lot of people are knowing that they probably should do the digital thing, that that’s the safer thing for them to do, especially if they’re, if they’re shielding. But they feel like they’re more comfortable doing the non-digital thing. A good friend of ours is shielding. She’s not having a good time of things at the moment. Because she feels that every time she goes out, all she needs is one person to have a different reading of social distancing to her, and not bother, and she potentially is in some sort of really bad medical situation. So she’s staying home and then she’s got digital on top of all of that. So if, if the digital stuff doesn’t work, she is already stressed.

Yacoob Woozeer: I think, Jonathan, we’re missing a trick. We’re talking about digital because we’re an agency and we’re people with massive experience, not only in digital, but kind of the wider accessibility. So, if we take something like schools where you’ve got kids at home, trying to learn. People may not have access to computers. People might not have access to the latest technology. And accessibility isn’t just digital. It’s about putting things in place to help people.

People need to be thinking more innovatively.  So I know there’s a farm shop in Nottingham where I am, who hasn’t got an online presence. What they’ve done is they quickly set something up on Facebook with a sample of stuff that they’ve got, and people are phoning them, and they have someone on the end of a phone. And that is effectively their stop gap while they have no footfall at the moment. People ring up and go. “what’s your local request, your fresh veg, what fruit have you got in?” That type of thing.

Jon Gooday: We have to look at it as a whole, the whole system, you know, the reality is digital is really important part, but it’s not everything. And we need to see how digital can support other ways of doing things. And you’re right, Yac, we need to be creative in this. We need to find creative ways to make the best use of technology, but also realise it needs support from other ways of doing things.

Human beings are really important part of this. Definitely.

Jonathan: Yeah. Rob?

Rob Wemyss: What’s interesting to me is looking at supermarkets, just now, and how they’ve rushing to get apps out there so you don’t have to almost touch anything. Cause you go around and you fill your trolley, you stay two meters apart, and then you get to the checkout and you’re touching the screen to pay or something.

So there’s an app where you can self-scan as you go. So potentially you’re not exposing yourself to anyone. I mean, it’s clever stuff.  The interesting thing for me is when, when they’re rushing to get these products out and it’s not perfectly accessible, how should customers hold these companies accountable when they’re saying, “Oh, well, we couldn’t do it in time because we just didn’t have time to do it because we needed to deliver this really, really quickly, to help at this point in time”?

Jon Gooday: So the important thing there is communication, isn’t it? You know, how do you enable people to communicate back? If there are challenges,

Rob Wemyss: What’s the best way for them to do that? Should it be something on the actual product? So somebody doesn’t have to call up and make a complaint? Or what would be the best way of communicating back to the customers that you’ve tried your best, but you haven’t, you know, there’s still things outstanding from accessibility point of view?

Jon Gooday: The traditional way is to put an accessibility statement, but we can’t assume people are gonna read an accessibility statement. So you’re, right. How do we communicate effectively? When someone has an issue, how do they get in touch in such a way that they can get a solution to their issue? Because a lot of this stuff is around: someone has an issue, there is a solution, but it’s matching up the solution with the person.

Rob Wemyss: What I’ve seen on a lot of websites is you go to the contact page, they say “We’re very busy, just now.” The chances of you getting through to the right person to complain are probably really, really slim. And that’s not their fault. It’s just the sheer volume of things happening digitally. A lot of companies got caught out and weren’t set up for that.

Jon Gooday: I think we really need to just step back and say, you know, the reality is it’s not going to be as easy to complain. But the point is that companies communicate they will get back to people and there is a process in place where people can escalate issues if they are finding it really challenging.

Yacoob Woozeer: I think in some cases, people are now overly reliant on digital. So if I go to a local supermarket near me, they used to have a suggestion scheme, where they had a suggestion box – you had a little card, you could put something in there. So even if you couldn’t make it there, someone on your behalf could raise a suggestion. If you didn’t have access to their internet site.

There are lots of supermarkets advertising on TV, now. There are lots of supermarkets advertising on radio. But I’ve yet to hear one that has said, “if you are really struggling because of a disability, because of lack of access to digital, you know, here is another way. Here is our phone number. We have local stores that can do deliveries if you sign up to a particular program”.

So all these non-essential retail places who are opening could be saying at the same time that they’re opening, “actually what we’re doing is we have this hour available for people who are mobility impaired”.  Someone mentioned that their child who is autistic actually found it easier to go shopping – I think I heard it on the radio this morning. Because it’s quieter, because there isn’t as much noise, it was a different shopping experience for that person. And normally when the shops are busy and bustly, they would never go there shopping their autistic child.

These are all things they can do that aren’t necessarily digital, which will help their customers, which will help their staff. The problem is people have this narrow focus, this siloed mentality where it’s, “here’s a digital site, I must do X.” And it goes back to what Jon said: you need to link everything together.

Jonathan Hassell: Okay. I’m gonna play devil’s advocate here for the moment.”So my business can’t afford all of that.” That’s all from a user’s point of view. And it’s lovely to kind of say, “if you can’t do this, you can do this” and alternatives and all of that sort of stuff.

Um, my mom spent three hours on the call center of the supermarket that she was trying to get onto. My mum held up that line for three hours because she needed to speak to a person because she couldn’t self-serve on the website.

I completely agree that this needs to go across digital and all the rest. But the fact is that digital and self-serve is scalable. Nothing else is. Human beings, call centers are not scalable. You know, if we wanted every OAP, like my mum, to be able to shop via those sorts of routes it’s not going to work. Certainly community mobilization does – so, you know, she’s got the, the girl from over the street or whatever is doing all of these sorts of things.

But digital, if we create digital in a way that people can access it, is actually a real help.

I mean, it could be, for example, the best thing that we could do at the moment is to say, “forget accessibility completely – let’s just think about usability.”  It could be, that we need to get everything as perfect as we can for people withoutaccess needs online, so that people who do have access needs can get access to the call centers, so that the shops are just free for old people to be able to go around them.

Fundamentally, at the moment, it’s all about scalability for the big stores. And for the small stores it’s about viability. I don’t think that any of those stores, are likely to be able to get enough footfall through at the moment for them to be viable just as a physical store. I think it’s back to where, Rob was coming in, which is, “yeah, I have a website. it didn’t need to work for me in the past for my business to remain open. Now, if my e-commerce doesn’t work, I don’t have a business.”

You know, there’s lots of smaller businesses out there like that. And for them, I think they need some traditional digital accessibility stuff. They need: “okay, if the people who are going to be buying my stuff, are older people, how do I get my website working okay for them so they can buy something from me?  I can afford say a thousand pounds, how do you guys in the accessibility field of Hassell Inclusion, how do you help me make more people able to buy from my website at the moment, because that’s the only way my business is going to survive?”

Rob Wemyss: Some people will have created their eCommerce shop, but they’re not copywriters, they’re not photographers. Getting a grip of actually putting the whole thing together has probably been a challenge.

So where do I go for guidance to understand that by writing this copy in this way it’s actually going to be accessible for everybody?  Adding alternative text to an image is actually going to help everybody by making it a little bit more accessible?

Where do I get this information from? Um, is it, is it on the platform where I’ve bought the actual eCommerce site? Is that where it should be? How do I, how do I find it?

The problem sometimes is finding the single source of truth. And that’s where we’re trying to sort of demystify how to really get started with accessibility, and using the tools out there to get going as a baseline.

Jonathan Hassell: The thing I’m trying to work out at the moment is, if we’re being utterly honest, say a day spent learning how to get this right in our training… is that value for money at the moment? What do you get from a day spent getting things right, in our training say, for example, that you wouldn’t get from, googling ? How long would it take you to get the value that we get in a day from our course?

Jon, you’ve looked at things out there. There are free courses and things like that. Some of them are pretty good. But how long would it take to actually get people up to speed, in the same way a one-day course for content authors that we have?

Jon Gooday: Okay. So there’s loads of information out there with varying degrees of quality. And I think that that’s one thing. So there’s a lot of: who do I go to? Who do I trust? And the question then is how do I applythis information? Because the big difference between knowledge and application is people can misinterpret – I ‘ve seen it so many times – people  misunderstand a lot of that kind of stuff.  Particularly if the source isn’t clear enough.

So I think it’s really important, people can come to a source that actually knows what they’re talking about, can apply it in a practical way, and actually gives some real insight to how do I actually use this stuff? Because you know, the guidelines themselves are very useful, but they are very much informational and technical.

It’s going to a source that can say, “this is the issue. This is how you apply it. Let’s work it through for you so that you can understand it from your perspective about how you need to make it work on your website, your platform.”

And I think that’s a really important point: we want to give practical, clear advice. There’s a lot of technical geekiness out there. The reality is that’s part of accessibility. But a lot of it’s around how do I apply the stuff? Putting it in real world terms is really important. And that’s something that we focus on. That’s part of our training. Part of the service. This is what we provide.

You know, even things like our Snapshot Audit, where we can spend a bit of time with you. In 90 minutes and really give you key information about what you need to fix with your website. You know, we’re very much focused on practical solutions backed by lots of experience, and lots of knowledge about what works, and how to actually make accessibility straightforward, clear, and usable for you as an organization.

Jonathan Hassell: So, Rob, what’s an expert give you that a free tool doesn’t?

Rob Wemyss:It gives you the opportunity to ask questions and get that clarity. But, for me, an automated tool.is a great place to start. It means you’re not wasting time with the expert because the machine can actually give you some of the answers – 30-odd percent of the stuff that you should be getting right already. So then, for the rest of the time, you’re actually asking the right questions, better questions to gain that deeper understanding going forward. So, fix the stuff that’s easy and you can pick up with the machine first – that’s always going to be more efficient. It’s going to give you a little bit of knowledge on how to fix stuff. You don’t want to be spending time with an expert asking how to add alt text to a page that you’ve missed out. That can be done quite easily and efficiently, well in advance of that, if you’re really focused on getting your website properly accessible.

Jonathan Hassell: So start off with an automated tool. Just get the simple stuff that it can do right first. But that’s not enough. Bring in the expert at that point.

Yac. you do a lot of Snapchat Audits, Live Aaudits, where we connect with a company, at the moment remotely. We literally just say, here is one of our experts, for a few hours, they’re going to try and give you the stuff that matters. What is the stuff that matters at the moment?

Yacoob Woozeer: Goodquestion. I think if we take a step back, what we need to think about is what does the company want to achieve? Did they want to be trained to embed knowledge or are they just wanting to get their site right at the moment? So it’s a kind of blended approach between what Jon has said and what Rob has said. So I work with lots of organizations who don’t want training, who don’t want knowledge. They just want someone to tell them in a kind of list format, what they need to do to fix it for certain people.

And by having this kind of Live approach, what it allows you to do is have flexibility to say, “right, we can adapt our knowledge to what you need.” I am always of the opinion that you need to have a discussion first. You need to understand what the company wants to do. And then from that move forward and say, actually, what’s best for you. Is it an audit? Is it a training course? Is it helping you consider reasonable  adjustments? So there’s lots we can do. And I think the most important thing of the Live stuff that we do is it’s a conversational approach. It’s collaborative, where we can say, look, this isn’t just a report giving you a hundred things that are wrong. this isn’t just a tool that you can look at and produce a load of results. It’s us working with you, looking at your metrics, your feedback, your customers, complaints, or compliments, hopefully. Looking at why you think footfall has gone down. Why you think people aren’t visiting your site. Taking all that, and then coming up with a kind of bespoke approach that will help a company achieve its top three aims or, you know, its aspirations going forward.

For me, the best bit of the Live thing is that conversation, the discussion. A lot of people think they know what’s wrong. And the first question I always say to them is, “why do you think that’s the problem?” And most of the time, it isn’t, it’s something else. And what we have to do is take a step back. Do a bit of business analysis, customer mapping, whatever, to get to the point where we go, “this is why the things you want to work aren’t working and now let’s work on things that will solve those problems.”

So audit’s are great. But maybe you don’t need an audit. Journey mapping? Great. But maybe you don’t need that. Training your staff to make more accessible websites? Fantastic. But if you’re using a CMS system, you may never be able to get to that point anyway. We may have to replace that for you, we may have to come up with templates. So let’s have a discussion first. And then from that point, work out what you need to do and then how we can move forward.

Jonathan Hassell: Yeah, that’s good. Rob, you’ve been helping people at the moment, who don’t have very much resources. but they want accessibility in something that they are creating.

You’ve been using that kind of “small but often” approach. Here’s an hour where we’ll look at designs. Here’s an hour where we’ll take the next iteration. That sort of thing. How are you finding that things like design reviews are actually helping people who don’t have, very much resource, but they want to make the best use of that resource?

Rob Wemyss:It comes down to the knowledge, um, just basically not having the knowledge. But also the desire. Because from, from a designer’s point of view, understanding good color contrast is something that you can get your head round and it actually makes you a better designer, putting some constraints on it there. And if you have the desire, it could be a personal desire, or in this instance it’s a business desire, where the client has said, “We want the site to be accessible. It’s in, it’s in the right sector. You know, it makes perfect sense for everybody to be accessible.” So the agency are using this as a way of upskilling their designer and their developer.

So I’m, embedded in their little team to, to help them out . And the product’s coming together really, really nicely. We’ve got through design. Some, some really interesting things at wireframe stage as well. It’s going to save them so much time by me just looking at it. And we made decisions around where links should be and displaying PDF documents, etc. So by looking at things at the right time, we’re actually feeding back to the client, who’s interested in decisions we’re making, and really, really pleased with how the designs have turned out, which is incredibly satisfying.

It feels like everybody’s on board and pushing for the same goals, which is to make a successful product. And that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day is actually we’re here to help businesses make their products more successful for all types of users. So, you know, by making it accessible, you’re actually opening it up to more people.

And what I’ve been really impressed with is, how good these designs are. I’ll be proud when this actually is released and comes out. The job they’ve done with this. You know, they haven’t sacrificed aesthetic, design and beauty for accessibility. That doesn’t have to be the case.

So by just using small pockets of expert help, having the desire to do the work and go and do some research, use the tools that I’m telling them to use, and go through the whole process with accessibility baked-in. skewered-in, using the expert time really, really well… they’re documenting stuff, sending it to me to review. So. I might add something or, just clarifying what we’ve discussed and talked about. And it’s been enjoyable as well.

Jonathan Hassell: Yeah. And this is happening in COVID, I guess is the thing. Is there a sense of rush and sort of, you know, trying to get things done? Do these guys have an imperative to, to get things out there, or are they just all kind of sitting around?  Is accessibility just for teams that, aren’t under any pressure? Or are they living in the real world like the rest of us?

Rob Wemyss: They’re absolutely in the real world. As, as you know, building a website, there’s a lot of moving parts. but these guys have never been busier. They’re having client work coming in all the time. Um, even, you know, at this sort of challenging peers. So hopefully, you know, taking through the principles of the stuff they’re learning. And they will be a better digital agency coming out of this, they’re building accessibility into their offering, which is fantastic.

I mean, they won’t know everything. But what they don’t know, you know, there’ll be working on and hopefully we’ll be working with them going forward. So it’s, really interesting. Things are being delivered at, pace, just now, but keeping the, the right level of quality is absolutely key.  And accessibility will make it a more quality product.

Jonathan Hassell: So a lot of organizations they’re not creating things, they are buying things for their staff. And, Yac, you’ve looked at loads of staff-facing digital tools over your time and we’re doing Live Audits on a lot of them at the moment. This stuff is more important now than ever before, because, when people are working from home, they are the only person who is working in that company, in that home. You know, I cannot turn to my neighbor and say, “can you help me with this?”  The digital tools that you’re doing your audits on, how good are they in terms of accessibility? You know, if you were to put an average of the things that you’ve looked at over the last, three months for all sorts of different types of clients, of ours, have we been finding that the tools that people have procured are brilliant?

Yacoob Woozeer: Well, how can I answer this? How long is a piece of string?  So, some are great because it’s clear that they’ve had a conversation. They’ve looked at accessibility early. They’ve embedded knowledge into an organization, and they used that knowledge to improve things iteratively as they’ve gone on with different releases.

Other things aren’t as great. And actually in talking to an organization and the suppliers, in some cases, it’s just, they weren’t aware. And I know that sounds mad in this day and age. But there are lots of companies I speak to who aren’t aware that disabled people using screen registers, for example, are visiting their website. And, if you’re a screen reader, user who finds an application hard to use, do you actually give any feedback? Do you make a complaint? Because if all you do is drop off that site, how is that supplier ever going to know that they had problems with the site?

So I’m not defending all the organizations because there are some that are really, really bad. But again, there needs to be a discussion. There needs to be a facility for these organizations to say, we want feedback to accept it, to work on feedback.

It’s difficult to say. There are organizations and suppliers unpackages are amazing because they’ve been really, really innovative. That they’ve looked at adapting the product to say, look, for example, we’ve got a drag and drop interface here, but what we’re doing is developing another system alongside it to allow people who can’t use that to do it by voice, or people who were blind to do that.

I suppose the short answer is the best ones I’ve seen are the ones that give users multiple ways of doing things, and allow users to adapt the system to the way in which they work.

Jonathan Hassell: Of the huge number of, of tools that are out there that people are using in their day to day work, what percentage are actually fit for purpose?

Yacoob Woozeer: Yeah. Well, the problem is when you say fit for purpose, what do you mean? So let’s take, some kind of meeting platform. So just hundreds out there and I’m not going to name them all, obviously, you know, one beginning with a Z, one beginning with an S, one beginning with a T. What do you mean by fit for purpose? So the tool itself can be fairly accessible. You know, it could meet a lot of WCAG criteria. But then if the people using that tool aren’t aware of accessibility. So, if you’ve got a colleague wearing a mask and you lipread. Doesn’t matter how accessible the tool is, where you’re viewing that colleague that makes something inaccessible. If you’re sharing slides and someone’s screen reader can’t pick that up. It doesn’t matter how accessible the tool is.

So there are great many tools that are very good accessibility-wise. What maybe falls down is people understanding how to use them to get the best out of them accessibility-wise.

It’s a combination of the tool, guidance and how people are using them. The best CMS system in the world – so we know WordPress is very good, let’s say, and Drupal, you know, countless others. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can still make something totally accessible. It doesn’t matter how good that tool is. Yeah.

Jonathan: Most CMSs’ have been designed in a world where they know, thankfully now that accessibility is something that people are gonna ask them about. Teams is, is pretty good on accessibility because Microsoft are hugely out there in terms of inclusive design in everything they do. And then most of the other products are coming to the same sort of level.

I’m thinking about expense management systems. I’m thinking about room booking systems, systems to, to kind of sign up as a new supplier. It feels like the companies who create those tools are not as aware of accessibility requirements.

Yacoob Woozeer: Maybe. There’s a massive divide and there are some companies who’ve been doing it for years and the reason they are so good is because they’ve had potential lawsuits. There are some companies who’ve just started in that space, but because they know about UX because they’ve done, user research are amazing.

What organizations are doing is where they’ve got bad tools. Some of them are saying, right, our reasonable adjustment is you can phone up and book a room. Yeah. So it doesn’t matter on the tool because we have considered a user need and put something in place.

Whereas other organizations say, “we have a tool, we’ve read the VPAT. It’s amazing. And the only way you can book a room is online.” So anyone who has difficulty, there is only one kind of modality that they can use. And therefore, the experience, even though the tool is better, the experience for the user is worse.

So ,I could list tools and I could say which are good and which are bad. But again, it’s, it’s this holistic view of; what you’re trying to achieve, who are your users, what are you going to put in place? And all of that together gets you to a point where we can say, “the process is good or the end to end journey.”

And this is the whole point of our Live Audit. You can have the worst system in the world. But if you put reasonable adjustments in place and support, it can work brilliantly for users. All of us have probably used train booking or hotel booking systems that say they’re fantastically accessible and you’ve been tearing your hair out. You’d be shouting and swearing. It’s lost your booking. And then you have to go through a call center and they’re even worse. Whereas there’s some tools that are completely rubbish. You can ring someone up and book a hotel, you know, in a minute or so.

Because it’s not just the tool.

Jon Gooday: Yes, it’s the process. It’s part of how it fits within the process. But I think, I think Jonathan, what you’re saying is there are a lot of tools that could be better. And I think that’s a challenge. and I think there’s a lot of work to be done in that area.

Jonathan: I’m looking at it from the, “I thought this was going to be a solution to my problem. And I run the business” type perspective. So, whilst I completely agree that the ideal is that you have an alternative for everything. An alternative for everything basically costs the earth.

Just to give you an example. So the first company where I helped them, they have 300,000 volunteers who needed to book training all of the time. And they’d just spent the earth on a tool that was supposed to take that off the phone lines and into the tool. The whole reason for them doing that, the whole reason for digital transformation, was because they wanted that tool to be cheaper than the current thing, which just did not scale. And, unfortunately the tool was massively problematic from an accessibility perspective.

Now, if they had very few people with a disability in the organization or in the volunteers, they could then say, “okay, our tool isn’t accessible, but don’t worry, you can still use the phone lines.” The point is they couldn’t afford to keep loads of the phone lines going.

That’s the realities on a lot of these things. The tools do need to be better. That’s my angle on this. You’re never going to get them perfect. So you’re always going to need some sort of backup. The question is how long will the queues on the backup be? Um, because if everybody is using the backup… We’ve worked with organizations who have tools that are not good, and not good for lots of people. Thankfully they have a kind of like a wartime spirit around the tool, which is everybody hates it .So therefore at least we’re all in the same boat.

Yacoob Woozeer: You’ve gotta be careful though, because there are a lot of organizations who make effectively a vanilla version of a tool. And then they will sell that out to other organizations who can then customize it to use it for their particular thing. So whether it be expenses, whether it be payroll, adding annual leave, following up commercial leads.  I have seen a tool that is fantastically accessible, effectively be destroyed in accessibility by people customizing it, by skinning it, by adding different labels.

The idea that you have a tool and it solves all your problems and everything’s hunky dory is naive. Because if you can’t train stuff to use the tool properly, then they don’t know what they’re doing. If the guidance you give to staff isn’t accessible, they can never actually learn how to use it properly.

Think of all the kinds of dependencies, the interconnected stuff, how the tool hands off to people. I’ve seen tools that are fantastically accessible, but then create a PDF to send out to customers, that’s completely inaccessible. So all that great work you’ve done is then ruined the last step of the journey and effectively they had to then say, right, we’re going to spend a fortune on making this tool accessible because the supplier of the tool hadn’t considered the end-to-end process, neither had the company.

So, I totally agree with you, but I think just to say, find the most accessible tool in the world is dangerous because a company may then buy something – it’s got a fantastic VPAT – and  not consider all the other things they need to do.

Jonathan: Yeah. You can still get it wrong. This stuff is not easy. I think that’s what we’re saying, that there are hundreds of places where you can find your foot and shoot yourself in it.

You know, you can shoot yourself in the foot by not asking about accessibility – buying a tool and then thinking afterwards, “oh, we probably should, we should have checked that”. You can get it all right, and buy a tool which has got a lot of good stuff in the box and then customize it, with people who, remove a lot of the good stuff in there.

Or you can assume that the tool is going to be perfect, and get rid of all of the alternatives, only to find that you then have to put them back in again. because the reality is it’s not quite there.

So it’s difficult, but I think knowing those three things…

Jon Gooday: The fourth point is training the people, the staff they’re getting use it… Really important and make sure you cover the, the staff with disabilities as well as kind of understanding. That that’s an often a weak point in any system. Really important.

Jonathan Hassell: Absolutely. That’s been really good.

Just one last thing.  I was at the Digital Leaders conference last week. And one of the big things, not about accessibility, but about digital in general, that people were saying was, “we don’t have time to get it right at the moment, we’re going to fix it after.” The question I want to ask is “when’s after”? Because Yac, you, you mentioned it already. And we’re seeing it in, in the educational process where people needed to pivot to digital and they pivoted to a particular model that was the best that they could do on like day one.

If “we’re gonna fix it after”, is after when COVID has gone completely, in which case that could be, you know, sometime next year? If you’ve done a version one where you’ve just rushed it out there, at what point do we need to go back and say, “okay, we can breathe a little bit now. We’re still in lockdown but we’re gonna fix things now.” You know, when’s ‘after’?

Jon Gooday: I think, unfortunately there’s a little bit of that kind of a mindset that I don’t think necessarily is helpful because you can always put that off. You can always put it as a secondary down the line. So I think, we need to challenge that mindset. That that’s the approach. I think the reality of what we’re trying to put across is you can do accessibility now. You just might need to be pragmatic about what you can achieve. Focus on the core stuff, straightforward stuff that you can implement now, and plan longer term for the stuff you can spend more time.

So I think I’d challenge the mindset. Let’s look at what we can do, yeah, within the constraints of what the current situation is.

Rob Wemyss: I think companies will be prioritizing lots of different areas of their business at the moment. So how do they then take that for prioritization of their digital and look at accessibility within that? What were the other factors as well, that they’re prioritizng? So, we can help them understand that.

So if I’m going to start on day two, let’s start with the, the high impact, potentially easier things to fix. So just understanding where changing bits of copy can actually really open it up and help people.

I think most organizations might not even know – they’ve rushed something out there – howgood, bad, or ugly, their product actually is – until they start getting some feedback.

So taking a step back and thinking, “right, ok let’s understand what’s working” and roadmapping the improvements. It’s not going to be an overnight fix every, every single issue. Now in day two, it’s a journey, it’s a continuous cycle of improvement.

Yacoob Woozeer: So thinking of accessibility as a separate thing, and putting it to one side – totally agree with Jon and Rob – maybe is not the best way of doing it. What you need to understand this accessibility should be integrated into the whole lifecycle as a thing that makes your product normally more usable, more intuitive, more user friendly.

And if we changed the way you see accessibility to as, it’s not an add on it’s a thing you should be doing completely. It means that you can produce less guidance. You can have less people on your help desk. You can have more transactions completed. There’s probably half a dozen companies I worked with recently and organizations where, when I asked to see Google analytics and feedback, it was quite clear why customers were dropping off or why transactions weren’t completed was because of an accessibility failure. But in fixing that it made it better for absolutely everyone. So stop thinking about accessibility as a “here is something I have to do for people” and think actually here is something that’s going to generate more revenue, better systems, better processes, more productivity for my employees. Take your pick.

So change the way you think of accessibility. It’s not a, “Oh my God it’s something I have to do. It’s an add-on. What am I going to do?” to actually by doing this is making everything better for everyone.

And the analogy I give to a lot of companies is the ramp outside a shop. So immediately people think “ah, wheelchair users”. Yeah. But you’re missing out on the parents with young children in buggies. You’re missing out on the delivery driver with the trolley, bringing things into your shop. So those accessibility things help everyone. And part of our role is to kind of open your mind and get you thinking about things like that. So, whereas you, go, there’s only one thing I can do, and I’ve got a limited amount of money to do that. So actually, yes, but by doing this, you’re actually helping three user groups, instead of the one where you thought it was only accessibility. And then that thousand pounds that generates three times as much money for you in the long run suddenly becomes a no brainer.

Jonathan Hassell: So thanks guys. hopefully what we’ve been able to share will help people both now and in the future,

That’s it for this time.  I just wanted to say to people who may be listening that we love your questions – we spent a whole month, every Thursday afternoon, answering questions in Digital Accessibility Experts Live webinars. We love your challenges – if you have real difficulties implementing the sort of stuff that we’re talking about, we would love to hear from you because that’s the sort of stuff that we thrive on, really. That’s the start of a really, really useful journey with the sort of minds and mindsets that we have on our team. So thanks everybody. I really enjoyed getting everyone together. And people will get more from us soon.

Thanks for listening. I hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast.

If you do one thing after listening to this, I’d suggest finding a way of asking your customers and staff who have disabilities what’s the most important thing you can do for them at this time. Then you’ll be making sure any effort you put into accessibility is focussed on solving their core needs.

If you want a transcript of this podcast, find it on our website at hassellinclusion.com. You can get in touch with us there too, if you have any questions. And, if you liked the podcast, please rate it and share it with your friends.

See you next time.

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