UXPA - Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2017

This months UXPA meeting celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness Day with four great speakers covering all sides of accessibility.

First up was Gavin Evans from Digital Accessibility Centre. DAC help companies to make their products accessible using a team of people who experience these issues first hand.

Gavin started by telling us about the user groups we should consider when designing; physical, cognitive, hearing and visual. He then told us the sorts of technology that they might use and tips on what we could do to help them work, for instance not suppressing zoom on touch screen devices.

But his best advice: get users involved.

Next up was Zander Brade from Monzo. He was talking about an article he wrote earlier this year called Designing a product with mental health issues in mind. I read this article when it came out so it was very interesting to hear what Zander had to say about it.

Monzo is a digital bank and they have started to think about how they could help people with mental health issues. This is a tricky task as there are a wide spectrum of issues, so no one issue to focus on.

He suggested that designing friction into the design might help although this goes against what we normally try to do, and gave the example of how moving away from bottles of paracetamol to blister packs in the 1980's reduced suicide by paracetamol by 46%. This friction does not make it harder for someone with a head ache to take a pill, but does make it hard for someone to try and kill themselves without thinking about it.

I look forward to seeing how they take these ideas forward in the future.

Our next speaker was Kirtika from John Lewis. She spoke about their journey to make a more accessible website. There are many reasons why you should make your product accessible including legal issues, but for John Lewis it was in part because their customer base are likely to have age related issues.

She started by looking at the WCAG guidance, but did not find it very accessible, so created her own accessibility checklist based on it which she made very visible to her colleagues (including sticking it on the wall in the office).

She also ran in-house training showing them how hard it was to add to basket when you cannot see the screen or touch the keyboard/mouse with your hands. Helping her team understand why they should think about accessibility helped them to build a better product.

Her top tips were: Make no assumptions; Test and learn; Think accessibility first and Involve others.

Last up was Hector Minto from Microsoft. He obviously loves his job and really believes in the power his company have to make computing more inclusive. It is not just about creating accessible products, but also about creating tools which make it easy for me to be more inclusive in my work, for instance including an 'accessibility check' button, much like spell check, so you can check that everyone will be able to view your documents before you send them on, after all do you really know where they will end up?

He also referenced the accessibility tool kit which I visit regularly and share as much as I can.

He challenged us as designers to think about how we can include accessibility as we start to design the tech of the future, the machine learning, the AI and the bots. He believes that argumented reality will be the next big thing for disabled people.

His top tip was to start being inclusive when hiring. This in turn will then lead to more inclusive products.

It was a really interesting evening and I was particularly fascinated by what Microsoft are doing to help me be more inclusive rather than just thinking about accessibility from the disabled persons view point. As always there was much to think about on my train journey home.