Accessibility & inclusion: how you can make a change

A group of designers from Zone attended the DesignOps Global Conference with the theme of ‘Accessibility & Inclusivity Design For All’. Senior UX designer Shabana Ahmed and product designer Piero Carcagni report back…

At Zone, accessibility is integral to our values and the way we work. So when we were given the opportunity to attend a mega-week at the DesignOps Global Conference, we were thrilled.

I have always believed that the subject and importance of accessibility and inclusivity is not only the experience designer’s responsibility — it’s yours too. If you’re a researcher, interface designer, product owner, service innovator, software developer, business leader etc, this is your space too. Get involved and understand why this matters.

Many themes were presented at the conference: here’s a handful that inspired and moved us to embrace the subject further.

Inclusivity for disabilities

How inclusive are the products and services we design?

Too often, designers tend to imagine the majority of the population as completely able bodied, white and male. So how can we change our thought process so that more users are truly part of the design process?

One speaker, Ankita Arvind, gave us real insight into what technology and a day in the life of her brother, who has Down’s syndrome, looks like. Here’s what Ankita shared:

  • He is very much online
  • Technology helps him play and connect online
  • Xbox Connect helps with his social skills — he plays with family and friends. He uses a camera rather than a controller to play so that his motor function does not get in the way and he can have fun playing games.
  • Technology helps him have goals — learning towards doing/ achieving something. He uses the mobile device to research topics and answer quizzes.

From her own team experience, Ankita shared the learning curve in truly understanding what and how to design with accessibility and inclusivity in mind.

Some inspirational words from the speakers:

  • Not all innovation looks/is the same
  • 65% of the population are visual learners — the brain specifically responds to the face
  • Inclusive means “you don’t feel left out, everyone feels the same”
  • Men are more likely to apply to jobs than women, even if they don’t meet the job spec requirements. Remove superlatives like ‘world class’ and make continuous changes — a culture of inclusion needs to represent the people who aren’t at the table.

How you can make the change towards inclusivity

Some knowledge, moments and ideas we came away with:

• Completing a task, feeling in control and safe adds to the user’s psychological wellbeing

• 67% of accessibility defects originate in design

• There is no “average user” — so consider all dimensions of a person

• Many minority groups will be put off or unable to attend research if it requires travel. So, when possible, conduct research remotely. This is now more common practice than ever due to the pandemic.

Our system needs to be better at listening. It is a myth that people with less power have to make themselves heard or find a way to participate. The truth is people with more power must create more safety, generosity and hospitality.

• If even one person can’t access our product, then we’ve failed.

• When we start designing with accessibility in mind, it will make our product better for everyone

  • Personal relationships are important — don’t automate conversations. Have regular check-ins with your teammates even as the team grows
  • We need to move from a ‘Human-centred design’ approach to a ‘Humanity-centred design’ approach. Design will very soon need to redefine its belief system. Focusing only on consumer and business outcomes will be viewed as narrow-minded. A belief that all design must have a positive social and environmental consequence will become the norm

Getting diversity, equity and inclusion right has also a clear impact on the creative process because:

• It attracts talent

• Improves the quality of decision making

• Increases customer insight and innovation

• Drives employee motivation

There might seem a lot to take in, to think about and start doing. But the important thing is simply to start.

Any change towards designing for accessibility and inclusivity is a step forward.

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