In this episode, we continue our conversation with Regine Gilbert. Found out what actions she recommends to make your digital touchpoints more inclusive and accessible, and why having an inclusive strategy is helpful to grow your business and to scale the business.
Regine welcome back to the show. In our previous episode, we touched on the general concept of the inclusive design and some of the recent development that's been happening. In this episode, I would love us to share some more specific steps that business can take.
I know we ended our last conversation with one of the greatest recommendations. Which is again, it's the obvious thing. Hire some people with accessibility difficulties and then you observe them as they are part of you. That motivated me to get to more actionable things. What else can we do? So, I would love us to talk more about the things we can start doing. Hey, we start from this…and that.
I mean, I think things depend. If you have a physical space that people can go to purchase or experience your services. Is that space as accessible as possible? Thinking about folks who may be coming in with a wheelchair. People who may use a cane. People who may use a walker. Is there a ramp?
If you are upstairs, do you have elevators? How are people entering the space? Then once they get into the space, what does that look like? Are they able to move around? Is there space for people to move around? That's from a physical perspective.
From a digital perspective, there are a few things that a business owner can do. They can go to webaim.org. They could type in their website. WebAIM has several different things on the site. But one of the things they have is to do a check of your website to see if it's accessible according to the web content accessibility guidelines and see if there’re any errors pop up. If any errors pop up, are you able to fix those errors or find somebody to help?
I think if you're a new business owner and you're just getting started, when you're in the planning phase thinking about, am I thinking about inclusion? Am I thinking about accessibility? What does that mean for my business? Again because this is very specific. There's lots of little things you could do. But I would say start with a plan of what you can do based on the time, the money and the resources that you have in order to do it.
It's a perennial issue. So I do think it needs to be part of the whole development process. When you are describing how we can check for accessibility errors, I was thinking about how many of us are now used to looking at analytics to gauge the web performance, how we use tools to automatically catch broken links to improve UX, how we look at patterns of user journey within the site and things like this.
In a similar way, perhaps we should measure broken accessibility as part of the analytics…something that can be measured that people can actually see. I mean, hey, how bad are we doing…can we fix it, can we make the fix more systematic? It can be more of a standard, part of how we are evaluating our design. That will be really great.
This is why I think it needs to be thought about from the very beginning. Because when you think about something from the beginning, then you are able to integrate it into your workflow. You can think about how to automate certain things and it doesn't become this afterthought which oftentimes inclusion and accessibility is an afterthought.
If you're thinking about it from the very beginning, we're starting this new project, we're going to make this project inclusive and accessible. Then you're integrating it in. It doesn't become this thing. Like one of my friend's mom used to say, if you make it a big deal, it becomes a big deal. Don't make it a big deal. Just include it from the very beginning.
Yes. Sounds like what my mom would say too. Well, let me ask you this. When you're in a meeting situation, there are plenty of people who will make it difficult. Say, like what? What does that mean? How am I doing this differently?
Let me tap into your project management experience as well. I mean, the regular development process. Let's say CX or UX development process. I would love you to just walk us through some of the examples where you are able to show, hey, you start plugging this in and factoring this into this process. The rest can flow like this…whether it's a typical problem discovery phase or whatnot. Can you walk us through some of the processes?
I think that if you're talking about a project that is starting from the beginning, I'll give an example of, in my past life working on an app redesign. One of the things that we did first was we did usability testing of the existing application and then got feedback on that.
Then we did an analysis of the app itself and combined our analysis with the findings from the usability testing to say, hey, we need to make these changes. Then on top of that, we're viewing accessibility of the application. How is this working with voiceover? Is it? Not so well. We discover this.
Then what changes do we to make as we're working on this redesign? How are the colors? The colors aren't high enough contrast. We need to change the colors to make sure that they're visible to people who have low vision or color blindness. Then incorporating that into the project plan.
That's just one thing that I've done in my I past life. Is evaluating where you are. Then determining what the gaps are. Then making that plan to fix the things that you need to fix but also thinking about it from an inclusive and accessible lens.
Again, there's an ongoing education process. This isn't something, I wrote a book on accessibility and inclusion. I don't think I know anything still. This is an ongoing learning process. I think that people need to be open to that and not just say, well, we've always done it this way so we're going to continue to do it that way.
For those who are in positions where they don't feel that they're in a position of power to make any changes, I think the best thing that you can do is to ask questions. Have we run these colors through a color contrast checker? Has anybody tried using a screen reader with this website? There are questions that can be asked in order to facilitate possible change.
Is there a compliance movement on this topic? I mean, is this becoming a part of compliance requirements you have to follow or adhere to anytime soon? Or is this still pretty much volunteerish…unless somebody sues you.
Well it depends. I don't know who is listening to this or where people are located. There is a general body for the internet that most people don't even know that exists. It's the W3C. The World Wide Web Consortium.
Within The World Wide Web Consortium, there are a set of guidelines called the web content accessibility guidelines. Those guidelines are things that businesses should know about. They should understand that they should adhere to them as best as they can.
If they are doing so, then it's helpful to be compliant as you're saying. But again it's all dependent on where you are in the world and what laws are. But I would say all businesses should be aware and execute on the web content accessibility guidelines if they have a digital presence.
What are some of the things we can extract from that guideline...into some of the new things emerging, you mentioned AR and VR as well. I deal with a lot of chatbot interactions which is yet another difficult category.
Chatbots are oftentimes not accessible which I'm teaching. My students are actually working on chatbots now.
Tell us a little bit more about, because there are so many people working on chatbots these days, what are some general guidelines and where the direction is headed.
The thing with chatbots is I have obtained several books and looked at many things. There aren't any general rules around chatbots. What is very interesting is that oftentimes people don't think of somebody who might be using a screen reader with a chatbot and what that means.
One of the issues with the chatbot is people don't know if they're dealing with a human or a computer. How do people know the difference? That's one of the, I think struggles. Especially when people are not people who are using screen readers. How do they know they're not interacting with a real human versus like the chatbot?
I'm no chatbot expert by any stretch. I'm still in the process of learning as I'm teaching this. But what I have discovered is there's a lot of accessibility issues around chatbots in general.
As somebody who's teaching and watching the industry, what would you like to see happening more in the near future?
I'd like to see more people with disabilities getting hired. To be part of various parts of the business so that we're not having these gaps as we do now with inclusion and accessibility. I think, a large again, the nothing about us without us.
If you really are looking to have the biggest best business ever, study after study has shown that having an inclusive strategy is helpful to grow your business and to scale the business. Hiring people that are from diverse and different backgrounds, hiring people with disabilities will ultimately help your business.
I absolutely cannot add anything more to that, nothing about us is without us. I think that’s the basic understanding where it really should start from. I really thank you for this. It’s been very enlightening. But I do have one more little nosy question for you. I am dying to know what you use the most on your mobile phone. Top three will be great.
I actually use night mode. I night mode all day. I use night mode because I don't like bright light. I use night mode on my mobile device. I use night mode on my computer. That's probably the number one thing. If somebody shows me their screen, I squint because I just cannot take bright light. It really irritates me. I'm a huge Spotify person. I use Spotify the app. I'm a big Twitter person. Those are my top three things on my device.
Awesome. The first one, the night mode, I never saw it coming. Absolutely great. I only see it when it reminds me I have to go to sleep. There you go. Thank you very much. You created a way to use it differently.