Global Accessibility Awareness Day at AmazeRealise

 
I don’t want to live in the kind of world where we don’t look out for each other. Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody who needs a helping hand. I can’t change the way anybody else thinks, or what they choose to do, but I can do my bit.
— Charles de Lint

With human advantage at our core, it’s important to practice what we preach and show our eagerness to be truly people first. If you follow us on social media you’ll have seen that we celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on Thursday the 17th of May.

 GAAD LOGO

GAAD LOGO

We’re lucky to have a passionate bunch of people across our business who truly care for creating human advantage. This shone through in our activities and talks throughout the day. Our fantastic guest and resident speakers spoke passionately about their experiences. This really helped build eagerness and enthusiasm in our audience throughout the day.

 

Insights from the day


Up first, Chris Barker (Senior Front End Developer) discussed the challenges and technical obstacles he faced in getting the Royal Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Accreditation for Virgin Trains East Coast.

Talk highlights:

  • RNIB accreditation is distinct from WCAG accreditation in a number of ways - some more lenient, some more stringent
  • Particular focus is given to visual impairments, so they reviewed the site for high contrast and ease of use of assistive devices
  • As well as contrast, they frequently encountered issues with dynamic content and clear page hierarchies
  • Biggest challenges included the occasionally subjective nature of appraisal, device/software fragmentation and the slow testing/development cycle.

     
 Anne grieve presenting on accessible copy

Anne grieve presenting on accessible copy

Accessible Copy

Anne Grieve (Associate Creative Director) and Ted McDermott (Copywriter) presented a quick guide to accessible copy that everyone needs to know about. They gave tips and advice on how to communicate more effectively as well as deal with accessibility issues. To reach a wider audience, Ted wrote the presentation into a blog piece which you can read here.

Talk highlights:

  • 14% of the population are registered as disabled
  • The average reading age of the UK population is 9 years
  • The Guardian has a reading age of 14 and the Sun has a reading age of 8
  • Use plain language and avoid jargon
  • Keep it short. Keep it clear. Keep it simple.


MZA & BSL on accessibility issues

Following this, Marlene Zwickler (Owner of MZA) and Catherine King (BSL Interpreter) shared their experience of setting up the first interpreted Fringe comedy show in 1993 with Jimeoin. Marlene is also a wheelchair user, Lynsey Brownlow (Senior UX Consultant) met her on a Ryanair flight and they got talking about accessibility issues with regards to transport. Catherine discussed her experiences interpreting live comedy shows and how complicated it can be as there is a lot of words that do not exist in BSL, for example - 'journalist' is not a word in BSL.

Talk highlights:

  • It takes seven years to train a BSL Interpreter
  • There are fewer than 3000 qualified BSL Interpreters, while there are over 87,000 deaf adults in the UK who use BSL
  • It is still difficult to translate slang or phrases that use the comedian's body language or the audience responses
  • MZA are normalising signing in comedy shows, they are advising venues and audiences about signing to make the event as easy as possible for deaf audience members.

     

Sensory Deprivation workshops

During lunchtime each office ran a sensory deprivation workshop to highlight the importance of accessibility. The workshop gave everyone a chance to experience the web with a spectrum of impairments, to gain an insight into how disabled users interact with websites. The stations varied from using a screen reader with poor vision, attempting to decipher the purpose of a video with no audio or captions or completing a form whilst emulating a tremor (check out Funkify, it’s a great Chrome extension).

Session highlights: 

  • Some AmazeRealisers found out they have red/green colorblindness
  • The level of difficulty of navigating a form whilst using a screen reader without vision was a lot harder than anticipated 
  • Emulating dyslexia was a key interest for those who attended
  • Very engaging discussion about assistive technology outwith the standard screen readers that are provided with mobile phones
  • Attendees were overwhelmed by how difficult a page could be for those with a tremor and left thinking of potential ways to make it less painful for them.

 

Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC) 

The Digital Accessibility Centre in Wales discussed how they helped us make the Lloyds Banking site more accessible. They also gave us a demonstration of how Dragon NaturallySpeaking (speech recognition software) works. Lynsey Brownlow, Rebecca and James chatted about the collaborative and inclusive approach we took to recommending accessible banking service solutions to Lloyds Banking Group, enabling them to gain an Abilitynet accreditation. Rebecca and James also discussed their background, what they do at DAC and a little bit about the common constraints that their team of analysts encounter day-to-day online. 

Talk highlights:

  • A demonstration of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and how difficult (or easy) it can be if the site is accessible
  • If a site is difficult to use or hard to progress, customers will go elsewhere. They will take the path of least resistance
  • Dyslexia and readability - take into consideration the target audience and use accessible copy
  • Tab through pages on your website and ensure that the tab order to every single element is logical.


Inclusive design for innovation

Up next Kevin Mar-Molinero (Technical Director) discussed how inclusive design drives innovation and creativity, from Apple to Alexa and how adopting inclusive first thinking makes for better products.

Talk highlights:

  • Perception is everything, don’t consider disabilities as blockers to creativity, instead use them as a starting point for new ideas. Solving ideas for those at the edge of the bell curve can often help everyone
  • Inclusive innovation is not just about people with visual impairments, consider your medium, audio, text, etc. or environment - bright lighting, loud spaces or lack of connection to the web, and use them to think in new ways
  • Iterate, test and optimise, find the smallest idea based on your personas, iterate on micro elements that succeed, once it’s released monitor it and optimise it based on real user interactions.
     
 The Inclusive design process: get orientated, frame, ideate, Iterate, OPTIMISE

The Inclusive design process: get orientated, frame, ideate, Iterate, OPTIMISE

Designing inclusive interactions

Graham Pullin (Course Director of Digital Interaction Design, University of Dundee and author of Design Meets Disability) gave us a talk based on a brilliant British Council lecture that he presented in Singapore. He shared his experience of projects and challenges encountered with regards to inclusive design. Graham's talk was full of insights and challenges that he faced as a designer, and how the University of Dundee considers accessibility in its student projects.

Talk highlights:

  • The original implementation of the silent mode switch on mobile phones (which are still prevalent today on smartphones) was via an IDEO Vodafone project introducing 50-60 year olds to the new technology of the time. Users feared their phones ringing in inappropriate situations so would turn their phones off
  • Introduced each design student to prototype for one person each, and then collated the ideas to form a broader perspective of the target audience.
     
 PIONEERS OF DIGITAL ETIQUETTE PRESENTATION SCREENSHOT

PIONEERS OF DIGITAL ETIQUETTE PRESENTATION SCREENSHOT

Accessibility for software development

Hasan Haque (Lead Front End Developer) discussed accessibility at the forefront of software development in his Unilever case study. He covered a wide range of common accessibility issues that were tackled throughout the project lifecycle.

Talk highlights:

  • Use the POUR acronym:

    Perceivable: Ensure that web content is made available to the senses - sight, hearing, and/or touch. Just because it is perceivable to one sense does not mean all users can understand it

    Operable: Ensure that interfaces, forms, controls, and navigation are operable and users can navigate the website. For example, if a user is only using a keyboard they can’t interact with something that requires a hover state

    Understandable: Ensure that content and interface are understandable and consistent enough to avoid confusion

    Robust: Content can be used reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technology
     
  • Accessibility first development saves time and effort, letting you identify issues before they arise in code
     
  • Allow options to skip repetitive sections of the site such as the navigation, making it easier for keyboard users to navigate the site.
 AmazeRealisers listen to discussions of the day

AmazeRealisers listen to discussions of the day

Beyond Physical Accessibility; Challenging Inclusive Design Definition & Dimensions

For our final discussion of the day, Dr. Farnaz Nickpour (Reader, Human Centred Innovation & Inclusive Design at University of Liverpool) presented accessibility from a wider psychological perspective. Farnaz explored the social impact of Inclusive Design as well as the future of inclusivity. Farnaz discussed the Persona Spectrum, which explains if an impairment is permanent, temporary or situational - for example, a bartender will have be hard of hearing due to their loud environment which is a situational impairment, whilst deaf person would be a permanent impairment.
 

Talk highlights:

  • Co-creation comes hand in hand with inclusive design
  • Designing for extreme users and scenarios is a way to innovate
  • Using a spectrum of personas is a good way build empathy and to show how the solutions could scale up and broaden the audience
  • Include ‘invisible’ disabilities (neuro-diversity) in your accessibility mindset.

 

Accessibility is something we as professionals have direct influence over. In our industry we have a duty to all users to produce inclusive products. If we take one thing away from GAAD it is accessibility is not one person or team’s responsibility. It is everyone's responsibility. Accessibility should flow from conception through to implementation. If we create for accessibility first we maximise our user base and create clear human advantage.

 
Ben Campbell