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Episode 13: Website Accessibility 101

In episode 13 of WithinDigital, Nick Livermore is joined by Joel Strohmeier, Senior Accessibility Consultant at Bristol Strategic UX agency, Nomensa.

Together they discuss...

  • The fundamentals of website accessibility
  • Common misconceptions about website accessibility
  • The importance & impact of accessibility
  • How to get started making your website more accessible
  • Make the business case for website accessibility

Episode Transcript

Nick Livermore, Adapt

In episode 13 of within Digital, I chatted to Joel Strohmeier, a senior accessibility consultant at Bristol-based agency Nomensa, about the fundamentals of web accessibility, why it's important, and how your business can get started making your own website more accessible.

Today I'm joined by Joel Strohmeier, who is a senior accessibility consultant at Nomena, a well-known and well-respected strategic UX agency in Bristol. But I think it also has offices in Amsterdam and London. Hi Joel, how are you?

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

Yeah, thank you. Yep, nice to be here.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

Glad to hear it.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

Do you just want to give the listeners a sort of super quick intro to yourself and also to your agency moments?

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, as you mentioned, I'm a senior accessibility consultant, which means that I, I guess I work with a variety of different clients across private and public sector and my focus is around sort of removing barriers to people with disabilities, for example and ensuring that the experiences that we build.

Or that we support our clients to build are sort of free from barriers for everyone, but with a, I guess, a focus on disability.

And so I guess that work can encompass training and sort of related consultancy with for example designers, content designers, developers, essentially sort of delivery teams.

However, they may be sort of constructed within our clients, organisations and I guess accessibility. I'm probably jumping on to some of the questions or conversation?

Not to go into, but I guess accessibility sort of sits with as a sort of subset as we see it within user experience.

It's built on creating, designing, and creating sort of excellent user experiences for our clients. So it's really about, you know, what is it like for the end user interacting with this product or service and how can we make that as brilliant as possible basically.

And we do that, you know, through the lenses of psychology technology, you know, design and development and you know to sort of simplify it.

But yeah, as I say, my focus is it is kind of a subset within user experience which focuses on and sort of removing barriers for people with disabilities and kind of making the things that our clients build open to all.

Essentially, yeah, that's kind of an intro to me. My background is a kind of a bit of a Jack of all trades really.

Historically, my first job actually was at another agency in London, just after I worked for a sort of corporate communications consultancy.

They worked on building websites and digital annual reports for like a load of FTSE 100 companies.

It was at that point that I started to have discussions with our developers. So, you know, on nights out and things, I'd sort of move over to the group of developers and just find whenever, whenever they spoke about things like information architecture or accessibility.

These were quite new words to me, but when they when they've been explained to me, it was it that already, sort of sparked an interest in the area, but then I worked in various different sort of digital marketing roles, working on things like search engine optimization or supporting the creation of landing pages to support advertising campaigns and these sorts of things.

And then gradually over the years, I've sort of, I guess I've been keen to learn more in upscale, in inaccessibility, almost at the side of my desk. You know, as a sort of adjacent interest area, but it's not until recently has it been a kind of central part of my role, I guess.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

It sounds like you've got quite good like sort of grounding in sort of marketing knowledge that means you can apply sort of apply and understand principles to what you do in until day-to-day basis.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

It's yeah, it's one of those funny things, really, I think we all have a sense of, if we're not kind of a purist in an area, we can sometimes kind of give ourselves a bit of a hard time and I'm definitely one of those.

So I think when I was sort of first looking into jobs in either user experience or accessibility, I saw the fact that I had this kind of potted history in what I'd been learning about and my different professions. I guess as maybe a negative.

I think then you start to realise that it's really beneficial to have at least a few people in the team who maybe haven't always been, you know, a developer or a designer.

And as you say, having this experience of how people think of a campaign and the successful campaign can be really useful.

When, yeah, when I'm speaking with clients because I can see a slightly greater extent, I can perhaps sometimes position myself in their shoes. And that can help definitely with things like training or advice when we're doing sort of consultancy because I think sometimes.

And you have, you've got to be careful with assumptions, obviously, and the client knows their organisation best, but sometimes I can almost imagine what some of the questions will be, or maybe even some of the pushback will be.

So yeah, so I think, I think, yeah, having that varied background, I think now I'm, I'm ever more seeing that as maybe a more of a positive than it is negative.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

And let's put it to work. I think you've sort of already touched upon the topic of website accessibility, which is what we're going to do a bit of a bit of an introduction to today.

I think it's quite a sort of expansive topic actually. I would say a far more important issue that and subject than our industry recognises even now it's talked about relatively little. I think that's fair.

Despite there being estimates of about 15% of the global population having some sort of disability, yeah, as reported by, I believe, the UN Association. UM, that's where I found that statistic anyway.

And depending on how far we get, I know we've talked about the topic quite broadly and there there's potentially other stuff we'll get into. Maybe in another recording if you'll have us.

But let's, I think, let's just jump straight in. Start at the beginning. What, what, what do we mean when we use the term website accessibility?

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

Yeah, I mean this is a, it is a great question and actually, one that as you say it, it's very appropriate to start with because otherwise, you know, you can obviously be discussing this.

What you think you're discussing with someone can be completely at odds with what their perception of this topic of discussion is.

So, so actually, even though it can sometimes feel a bit jarring to do it, you know, we do sometimes. Well, quite. Often, in fact, start with definitions, again in training or in conversations with clients, so we know obviously everyone is going to have a very, uh, slightly different definition.

I like the definition that one of my previous colleagues sort of created and that is what we mean is ensuring people are not excluded from completing a task or achieving a goal as a result of experiencing disability, essentially. So it's essentially about, yeah, removing any potential barriers for people with disabilities.

And it's further to that. It's kind of about making sure people can do something in a similar time frame or with a similar level of effort.

Someone who does not have a disability as well and I think going further than that really it ideally, you know the ambition should be greater than that.

It should be about ensuring people with disabilities can appreciate and enjoy experiences with equivalents to someone who does not experience disability as well. That's sort of how we would frame the sort of term accessibility.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

I really like that as well. Like, I think that's possibly the most human way I've heard it described. You know, you go onto Google typing what is website accessibility and you get almost like a dictionary definition that doesn't take the human element into account, and but I know, but I really, I really like that.

Yeah, that's a really nice, nice way of talking about it. So obviously in your role, in your job, at your agency, you deal with a lot of websites.

How big a problem is it in your view? So I've seen figures of it, you know, up to 70% of websites, not adhering to basic guidelines. That feels really high, but I don't really know or have experience with that. So what? What's your view on it? It's all from a uh, a real world experience.

.Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

I guess the first thing to say is like whether we term it a problem or an opportunity. And the reason I say that is because I think one of the issues that the sort of world of work, the kind of the focus area has is that it is seen as a problem. And I think that's one of the things that potentially holds it back in terms of.

Getting the recognition it deserves internally across an organisation because we as humans don't tend to run towards problems.

Uh, maybe with the same relish as we do opportunities. So, but I will answer that because it is a problem, but it is also an opportunity.

But what I'm hoping is we can have a look at some of the opportunities that you know later in the discussion because there's lots of those as well.

But in terms of, yeah, in terms of, uh, kind of the number of issues that there are out there, there is an annual census done essentially. I believe it's by a company called Webaim. I must admit I apologise if I mentioned sort of organisations or research and don't get it quite right.

Today it's my and then my memory isn't what it should be, but I believe it's Webaim who do a survey of the top million sort of most visited websites and they use an automated scanning tool and I think it's yeah, it's somewhere in the kind of 80% mark of websites that have an automatically detectable error.

It may be higher than that, so.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

Oh wow, that is high.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

Guys, these are kind of ballpark figures, so again, apologies if they're not quite right, but it's a lot basically. And that's just the automatically detectable errors, which is going to be about approximately 25 to 30% only of the total number of issues.

So it is a serious challenge for people who are building websites to be aware of that. Essentially there's a lot of accessibility issues out there that a lot of all organisations simply aren't aware of.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

Basically, yeah. Well, I said 70% and you said 80% maybe higher. So clearly it's an even bigger issue than I appreciate it and having research.

So what are the common misconceptions you see when talking about website accessibility? What's causing there to be 80% of websites that have that problem?

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

You know that I think there's a lot of root causes one of them I think it's important to mention.

It is that we do here relatively frequently, sort of clients and organisations who will respond and say, well, we don't have people with disabilities using our website or we think that there are only very few numbers of people with disabilities using our product or service, whatever it may be, which you know is patently untrue basically.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

Yeah, that's ludicrous.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

So that's the statement we hear. And then what? So you wonder and what's the underlying full processes and motivation? Behind that kind of statement, I don't believe people are going out of their way to be unethical. Basically. I think what it speaks to is perhaps a lot of organisations simply haven't fought.

We have an issue with, you know, representation and the ability for people with disabilities to, you know, work in a lot of offices and workspaces, which is obviously a huge issue.

So I think there's a, there's a, there's an issue around visibility of accessibility issues generally you know in society and I think that potentially is driving some of it basically you know a lot of people essentially, probably in senior leadership positions simply haven't given it any thought and so they almost default to this response, which is we don't have people with disabilities using our website.

And it's not because they, I don't think they necessarily often truly believe that, but it's sort of their default answer because they haven't really given it much thought.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

That's a kind of an issue that you see a lot in advertising and marketing, for instance, when you're establishing a demographic for an advertising campaign and you project your own self onto that demographic, which when you only look under the covers a little bit, you realise isn't true.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

Exactly. Yeah.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

And actually, there are a whole host of people who aren't like you buying your product using your service. Whatever it may be, yeah, I also wondered where.

So it's I think maybe you sort of alluded to this, but whether it's people misunderstanding the term disability because a disability doesn't have, you don't have to be like have mobility issues or it doesn't have to be a visible disability from externally, does it? It can be hearing loss.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

No, that's yeah, that's, uh, that's again a brilliant point and one I wanted to cover as well because what I gave at the outset is maybe a.

It's a quite tightly defined definition of accessibility and it's through the lens of the type of work that we're, you know, often asked to complete for clients in the earlier stages when maybe when they're kind of less mature when it comes to accessibility.

But you're absolutely right, what we tend to try and work towards is this broader idea of inclusive design. Which is exactly what you're kind of getting out there, which is there is a kind of, you know, there's a set of users who have disabilities who are, it's incredibly important that we're working hard to, you know, remove barriers for but then there's a there's a broader spectrum of inclusion which we all sit.

Yeah, Microsoft have this brilliant inclusive design toolkit and basically one of the design, well, one of the kind of diagrams or kind of visual aids that they have shows on the left-hand side, someone with a permanent disability, someone with a temporary disability and then someone with a situational disability or impairment. So on the left hand side, for example.

You might have someone who is deaf and then so that's the kind of permanent disability. And then in the middle, you have someone with an ear infection and then on the right-hand side the designer problem, if I'm recollecting it correctly, is someone who is working as a bartender who was in a really noisy.

Government and the idea of this visual is that it's there to show that interventions or design decisions that we make for someone with a disability which is permanent, for example, is going to benefit this much broader group of potential users as well.

So I think you're absolutely right. That's another key kind of misconception that we find is as you say, a very, maybe slightly too constrained definition of the term accessibility when we're having these conversations.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

Before we move on to the next sort of section of questioning whether were there any other sort of common misconceptions you wanted to cover?

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

There are a couple of areas, I'll try and keep these brief but yeah so another one we see that organisations just think that the developers have kind of have it sorted.

So, then I think there's a, there's a misconception that basically, you know if you've got a great development team that they're gonna kind of have that covered. So again, there's this thing around like lack of visibility.

Of of the issues and so you know if a website is working for one person, the product manager or you know products.

Thinks we've probably it, it's probably fine. And I think this again comes back to the I'm not bashing developers.

I often work with absolutely brilliant, passionate developers, but there's no requirement in development curriculum like, you know, computer science courses that anyone needs to know anything about accessibility as it stands. So there's a big challenge around. Just there is not.

Much formal training in accessibility as well. So that's another thing another one we see is that on automation.

It will resolve the issues. So, if organisations are aware of accessibility, they will often think that if they run an automated tool and fix those issues, or even arguably worse by a kind of third-party plug-in, that's everything sorted.

And so, especially with the plugins, they can be quite dangerous in the sense that they encourage the teams who procure them to sort of absolve themselves of any concern or responsibility essentially, and then that just doesn't work basically.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

No, I think what you've touched upon is its visibility as an issue or as a topic for business owners essentially, and as I mentioned at the top of the podcast, an estimated 15% of the global population has a disability of some sort, and there are other contributing factors as well to this being a, I'd say a growing thing to focus on.

For instance, an ageing population and everything that brings with it. So yeah, awesome site. For instance, is, is, is. Is obviously a big one there, so let's dig into that a little bit. Clearly, ethically, it's the right thing to do and to focus on. But as everyone knows, that's not always enough to enact actual change and improvement and we have talked about this bit already, but why is accessibility important? Firstly, from a consumer perspective like who is affected, who benefits?

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

It's quite common, and I think I understand why people start by saying, you know, we understand the ethical side of things, I guess.

The challenge of that is that generally we almost take it for granted that people understand the ethical ramifications of allowing an accessibility issue to remain so by that what I mean is I think it's not as though the ethical argument with certain audiences wouldn't land if it were sort of communicated in more powerful ways.

So, to just give an example I was even surprised at how much more engagement there was in accessibility with some of my recent projects when we encouraged more senior leaders or, you know, sort of people slightly higher up the organisation who sit in and watch, for example, user research with people with access needs, for example, or even better, when we invited guest speakers.

Into our kind of accessibility champions meetings and again invited people kind of quite high up on the organisation. So I think the ethical argument is definitely it's... I appreciate that with some audiences it may be seen as maybe sort of a wishy-washy or perhaps not commercial enough to land.

But I think there is also an argument to say that it's often that the the the people who maybe are resistant to that type of argument probably also haven't seen, as you say, the human element in it as rich or format as they need to basically.

Because I honestly think most people who aren't persuaded by the ethical argument on paper, if they were actually watching user research, I think would be slightly more swayed.

And another thing you can do is encourage senior leaders, you know, people who have the purse strings to try and complete tasks themselves, you know? And that's going to be tricky to get them to do, but if you can, that can be very powerful.

If for example, you know if you know that you have a form that has been built with accessibility issues, encouraging someone to complete maybe three steps of the form using a keyboard only, you know, during maybe like a sort of hack day or something can be really powerful.

But I appreciate your question around if we assume that the ethical argument hasn't landed, you know, what are some of the other reasons to take it seriously? And basically, like there's a big commercial argument I actually did a talk, which is the commercial impact of accessibility.

When I go through talking about how there is a pretty clear link between, you know, removing barriers to your potential audience and, you know, the likelihood of increasing your sales and it's pretty, pretty clear.

You know, there's a huge potential market that you're, you're blocking by allowing there to be barriers within your kind of, let's say, your ecommerce checkout, there's a strong commercial angle.

And just to sort of delve into that a bit more, in my talk I give an example of a kind of end-to-end sales process.

So at the start, for example, let's say you post a video which is a part of an advertising campaign on social media.

If it doesn't have captions, then you've potentially blocked, you know, an audience who are have a hearing impairment or who are deaf or again who are maybe on public transport and don't have any headphones, for example. So, there's a huge potential opportunity.

Even at the social media stage, you know the advertising points of the journey have been blocked from your you know the earliest end of the funnel. If they then click onto your website and there's a pop-up maybe on screen and this user is blind and then navigating using screen reading equipment and this pop-up is poorly coded and they are then blocked at that point and so on and so forth.

So, you can track basically each step of a typical sort of customer journey and show where another group of people is blocked at each stage essentially. So, if there's a strong commercial argument there, you know there's a big commercial argument.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

I mean even in the UK where I think we're talking, I think we're talking about 11 million people who you would describe as having a disability of some sort. But I’ll admit to not having appreciated myself the benefits of creating an accessible.

Experience for people who don't necessarily have what you describe as a permanent disability, yeah, like you say the people on public transport who probably don't want to play the video that they want to watch out loud.

That sort of example actually really resonates with me because we're talking about potentially millions and millions of other people.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

Yeah, absolutely.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

In the yeah, the commercial, the commercial side of things is a really interesting one. The other thing you said about the visual so, so the ethical argument sometimes doesn't resonate on paper.

I think that's a really important thread to sort of to highlight, because you're right in the sense that paper arguments don't necessarily resonate with everybody.

And if you are struggling in an organisation to convince the person with the purse strings to make the change, I really like your idea of sitting them down and sort of trying to recreate the problem for them and making them realise that way.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

I think that's a really powerful idea that has worked for me historically, almost by accident.

But then obviously as I've seen it work much more strategically by colleagues who I, so I worked on the test and trace.

So, so we're sort of working in an inclusive design team as part of the sort of, yeah the the the test and trace response to COVID focusing largely on, on multi-step forms as I've just mentioned any that.

Forms are not maybe, particularly sort of exciting sounding, but they're a kind of bedrock actually to a lot of interactions and services.

Yeah. That was no different in test and trace. And yeah, I had a colleague who was very strategic and very adept at building communities and the kind of internal sort of internal communications and PR aspects of building engagement and sort of energy around inclusion.

And so, as I say, brought lots of external speakers in and lots of tangible kind of activities to really get people to see and did a brilliant job of it. But yeah, previous to this I actually kind of found it almost by accident, whereby I happen to be showing a Chief Information officer at another organisation I worked at.

You know, some of the features of an app and as we were clicking through there was there was some information within the app that resonated, you know, greatly with that individual.

And then suddenly you find that getting fixes for that screen or that bit of functionality suddenly becomes much quicker.

You know, so that we are, we are we like to think that we are rational beings. But actually a lot of these things boil down to a motion, really. So as I said, I think that's probably where I and others maybe potentially underestimate the importance of this kind of emotional angle to getting people to, you know, take these things seriously, essentially.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

Final section of today is a sort of cross-examination. And we're going to do a little bit of website accessibility role play, which isn't a sentence I ever thought I'd say.

And Joel, if you could go with it. That would be great.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

I'll try my best.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

I'm a business owner. In this situation or decision maker, I've never considered accessibility an issue. We haven’t thought about its implications or tackling any of the problems it causes.

What the most common? So really basic? Well, maybe not. What? What are the most common issues you see on websites you wouldn't deem accessible like?

What are the… what's the number one thing?

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

In terms of sort of, yes, sort of specific issues that you could fix within for example, you know, uh, let's call it a website sprint or a website release.

If I focus on that, first and foremost, 'cause I feel that's kind of what we're talking about initially. Like there's small tasks or issues that can be easily resolved I guess you what you essentially have.

Again, I apologise to anyone listening who feels like I'm, I'm maybe simplifying, but it's that, you know, sometimes it's important to keep these answers succinct, I guess.

There's three kind of main layers to issues really. Generally, that's how we talk about them anyway within our kind of accessibility reports and things you kind of have, like the design issues.

So, the issues that live within the design layer you have, then the development layer of issues and then the content layer of issue.

A lot of issues actually there. The root cause is at the design stage, so you will find if you were to look at the WebAim kind of, you know, annual survey of those million websites I mentioned, I imagine fairly high up to the top if I remember correctly that colour contrasts would be one of the top items.

So by this I mean the designer has chosen a combination of colours whereby the foreground colour does not have sufficient contrast with the background colour to ensure that a wide group of people can comfortably read that information, basically, so that is a surprisingly high issue still to this day, and it's been like that for quite a few years.

So that's it's a particularly tricky one to sort of resolve it seems you know in terms of it's not something that within the design community has necessarily been resolved very quickly and I think it partly comes down to, again, some designers I've spoken to feel like by addressing that issue they're very limited in the kind of the spectrum of colours that they can use within their design, which I understand.

I do understand kind of that as a concern, but it does lead to people struggling through a lot of information on websites basically.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

Do you think that's almost like a brand? Consider like they're prioritising what they deem to be their brand over functionality almost.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

I think it speaks to how we are a little bit as a society in that we are very visually focused and as you mentioned before. Probably more than that is our own biases. So if something looks readable to us, like it's primarily, yeah, exactly.

You can sort of understand why then someone thinks they're all that sorted then you know, but actually there is a, there's a uh, there's a mathematical kind of formula basically, which we use within our audience, which says, you know, if the colour is not at this level.

And it's a bit of a crude formula. It's being worked on by clever people within the sort of web content accessibility guidelines space.

But there is basically a mathematical kind of cheque which you can do, which says this meets the ratio we need it to, and therefore it should be, broadly speaking, you know, readable by a much broader group of people.

So that's one of the design things. I'll just mention the other two, sorry, I realise I've just focused on design. So the other things are so with development issues.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

No, no, no.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

We have all sorts of things around HTML so you know the way that web pages are structured and there's obviously far too many for me to go into now, but again, what I will mention is a really big one is form inputs. So.

So you get to a form and it asks you for first name. For example, many websites may have a visible label.

So if you can see the screen it will have first name above the label for example. But because of the way that has been coded that information is not announced for assistive technology users.

So if you were blind for example and navigating through the website, the user would have no awareness of what data is expected for that input.

Which, as I mentioned it links pretty closely with what we were talking about in terms of the commercial argument there, because if you are unaware of what that input is asking, then you're unlikely. It's built to complete the form with ease, basically.

And then and then we have the content design things and this is still a big area, so like what is the content on this?

Website and you know the quality of writing goes a huge way as well. So thinking in terms of sort of accessibility and inclusion, if you have deaf users for example and they English may not be their first language, so having.

Really easy to understand. Content within the website has a huge benefit for that. Those users, but equally someone who's you know recently moved to the UK for example, it's going to benefit them as well.

So this is where we move into this the quality of the content having this very large benefit through that kind of inclusion lens as well.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

I think your first point especially really highlights this point. I kind of feel like almost doesn't need to be made, but also absolutely needs to be made and that's that.

It's really important to understand that people experience the world might be completely different from your own and once you understand that, I think.

The value of what we're talking about really, really comes through OK. Those are the most common issues. How do I, as a business owner, develop an understanding of what needs to improve?

I think you mentioned what I might well, I was going to mention, which is the website was its website content accessibility guidelines.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

Yes, so my apologies. I gave you a very broad answer on content. So just to give you a very specific example in content, a good example would be images missing alternative text.

This is 1 where actually it's interesting, where the responsibilities are often a bit blurred and so again, content designers for exam.

Or may think, oh, that's the responsibility of a web developer and vice versa. So that's another one of the challenges you have.

But yeah, so from a content perspective, an example would be maybe a lack of captions or alternative text for images is probably one of the top, but you could argue whose responsibility or which layer that sits in. But yeah, images are lacking, all text is.

One that we see on social media lots as well but yeah in terms of yeah how do you develop a kind of understanding of where you are.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

Yeah, exactly like so. Like, what's the best way for me to take a temperature check of where my website is?

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

Would very much recommend completing an audit that is essentially selecting a subsection of pages from your website and completing quite a structured series of cheques across each page, which is driven as you've mentioned by the web content accessibility guidelines.

But you can also obviously look for broader user experience observations and best practices but essentially the key thing is to run through a subset of pages that are a representative sample of the types of functionality templates.

Media types those sorts of things and components, and what you want to do essentially is have you know the smallest number of pages, but with the best chance of covering all the types of things that you know, the types of content that your users are likely to encounter.

And then run through a kind of I guess it's almost like a sort of scripted or structured set of checks basically, and that that's something that you know we do as an agency and the reason I recommend that is it it's quite a good way of balancing efficiency with richness of insights gathered.

So we would definitely recommend audits because it will give you a kind of baseline and standing of the real world, kind of, you know, the number of accessibility issues in your site and it will give you a sense of you know which components and also which users are affected as well.

If you're using the sort of web content accessibility guidelines as a driving force, what you can also do there is kind of. To complement that, you can also use automated tools.

As I mentioned, I think that automated tools will only give you say 20 to 30% of the total issues.

But if you complete that kind of a manual check, the audits, and then you complement that with the automated tests, you should have a very rigorous and thorough kind of view then or of the you know the total number of issues and types of issues.

And then the other really crucial thing is if you've kind of done those things. Another really important thing to consider is doing user research with the people with access needs as well.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

Our conversion director, Joe would be all over that be very interested in it. And then maybe he's done it I’ll have to ask him.

Yeah, that's always his recommendation and not necessarily around website accessibility, but is to get a really like strong core of a very diverse audience when you're talking about user testing, user research.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

They all kind of have their own advantages and disadvantages, so if you're doing user research and you get really rich insights because you know you're speaking one-on-one with someone about their experiences.

You know mediated through assistive technology or that that person in particular setup and challenges and how your product or service sort of interacts with that person and their life experience.

So you get really rich insights. The challenge I guess or maybe the thing to consider, is that it doesn't maybe scale as well. So yeah you kind of want to have maybe relatively specific goals in mind or what you need to be I guess relatively clear in terms of which pages or bits of a service and why, you know, you're conducting that research.

But it's very rich and it's kind of… It is hard to replicate with any other tools, so it's hugely important to do that user research that I guess the reason audits can be useful is they can provide you with more coverage and if you have someone who's relatively experienced in doing auditing, you know that they're a kind of subject matter expert.

They can still give you some of those ideas about the insights around using assistive technology or some of the barriers. But you can maybe cover sort of more pages and you and again you get different types of data out of your audit.

It's I guess you might end up with more kind of tangible items to fix, for example. And then you know again if we go further you can get less, you can probably get much less coverage with automated testing in terms of the types of issue you identify.

But it is quite scalable, so you know you can cover a much greater number of URLs, for example in a short period of time.

So, as I say, they all kind of have their advantages and disadvantages, and so they're best when they're combined together well.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

Presumably, somebody conducting an audit could say, look, this is definitively an issue that you should fix whereas somebody doing some user research or someone in a user research programme might uncover something that even a real expert might have missed because it's their world experience isn't the same as the person undergoing that that research.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

Yes, absolutely. Yeah, yeah.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

I suppose another point actually might be that user research. I mean, maybe you've got some insight into this, but user research could potentially be also be used to provide that sort of emotive argument for investment in website accessibility with decision-makers.

You've got somebody who isn't swayed by that paper argument, you convince them to just, you know, try some user research. Really get into that to understand the challenges in an emotive, human way and it could be that could be a good way of going about that.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

Yeah, absolutely. I think there's this thing also, isn't there around. I think we've all been in this situation where if you're kind of like the internal champion for any given issue, after a while, I think, again, sadly it's just how brains seem to work you come up against.

Distance and it feels almost like it's because it's coming from the same voice. So you know, you know you, you've been kind of banging the drum for an issue with senior leadership for, you know, several months.

And then you find that an external agency comes in or an external voice, and it just lands. And perhaps it's that comes down to this kind of like Gestalt idea of like this kind of information just standing out differently to the way it has been communicated historically and I think user research really, that's it.

That's kind of like a tangential benefit to it, like that shouldn't be the reason why you're inviting people in to provide their real-world experience.

Ideally, what that should be about is listening to, you know, diverse voices and listening to people's real-world experience to build a better product and to, you know, practice inclusive design. But there's there's definitely a kind of side benefit to it, which is the messages that person is providing as you say, may land with more impact because it's a different voice to what you know, maybe the internal champions.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

Yeah, I think we've all experienced that problem when someone else comes in with the same idea and suddenly it’s listened to,

One final question before we wrap up. We've been nattering for a while. Actually. It's a longer podcast. It's a very interesting topic to be fair, and I think it deserves the time.

What are my KPIs when making accessibility improvements like how can I prove the value beyond it just being an ethical consideration?

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

And this is probably the trickiest question.

But, but I think so, I guess where I would start is acknowledgement that accessibility will have different benefits to different areas of the organisation.

So I can hopefully give you some maybe more concrete examples, but I think one of the first things is to think about the different lenses within the organisation that accessibility may benefit so.

For example, you if we think about like diversity and inclusion, then there will be measures within that space for HR and you know, the people team.

So, for example, do we, do we have a sense of, you know, how accessible all of our internal systems are?

You know, in particular, for example, like HR onboarding systems or you know where you get your payroll information and that's that.

That in itself is a huge area, so one of the first things you might want to look at there is have we done an audit of our existing systems and you should be able to make a fairly clear argument to it. The HR team. There are barriers as it stands to people even joining our organisation, you know, just as one example.

So there could be some fairly top-level and good KPIs there around maybe even checking the first three tools that we deem to be most important for HR and getting a sense of the accessibility issues within those tools you know that that is sort of plucking that from the top of my head or it could be have we you know how many people have responded who are happy to tell us about information about diversity or accessibility considerations.

Do you have a sense of these types of questions from an HR perspective and then you know from a development perspective. So say for example you're speaking with your Chief Information Officer, you could look at it from a more of at an interface level.

So you know, if you are creating a product which has users out there in the public, have we a sense of how many accessibility issues that currently are on our website? Yeah.

There's a there's a quite a lot of angles that you can approach this from. I think the first thing is to get a sense of, yeah, your baseline understanding of where you are and understanding what types of measures are going to be most appropriate for which areas of the organization.

So, yeah I think it's almost like you need to establish your starting point and then work out what your kind of destination is really before you can you know get into the nitty gritty of KP is basically like what's your where are you now and what is the outcome you're looking for.

Nick Livermore, Adapt

Well, that's just a reality of the situation, I think.

Thank you very much, Joel, for joining me and chatting about website accessibility. I just find it a very interesting topic and let's chat about it more, so I hope you'll be keen to join me again in the future.

Joel Strohmeier, Nomensa

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. No, that was great. And yeah, thank you very much for inviting me, thanks.

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