19th May 2016 Triton Square Mike Muriss
We were welcomed into the very smart ATOS offices. There were many people with various disabilities, representatives from different Government departments, the new Welsh Government and private companies who have a relationship with ATOS.
This was an extremely informative and interesting day. Some of the speakers I found inspirational. There was a really positive focus on how reaching the widest possible audience and employing a diverse range of staff should be viewed as making commercial sense instead of just complying with legislation.
Below are some summaries of key points made by some of the speakers.
The first presentation was an interesting presentation by Worldline e-payment solutions.
They told a story about the mother of a colleague who was going blind and was worried about being able to shop and pay for things in the future.
We were shown a picture of a card reader being used, and asked to identify issues for a blind person.
1: Where is the card slot? This varies between types of reader.
2: If using contactless, you can’t see where to hold the card.
3: You can’t see the screen so don’t know what the amount is, or have any knowledge of where the payment process is.
- They started with simple solution: they used a speaker to read out the amount to pay. This worked, but had obvious privacy implications.
- Secondly, they added an audio jack so the customer could plug in headphones. This solved the confidentiality problem but the customer still had to somehow find where to plug in the jack.
- Finally, they built an app for transmitting information to user’s smartphones. They set up the ability for the card reader to wirelessly communicate with the user’s phone, which would transmit verbal instructions, payment amounts etc.
They added 2 special icons on payment terminal in a specific place so can always be found.
- The first is by default on the lower left of the screen, to enable the functionality.
- They also created a second touch area on the right to select language.
A blind man in the audience asked why the functionality had to be turned on when accessibility aids should be enabled by default. They said this was because they were adding to existing solutions and if they were starting again it would be enabled by default.
It wasn’t clear to me how the problem of finding the terminal and actually using the card reader was solved.
Leena Haque: Neurodiversity and the BBC
The next presentation was Leena Haque & Sean Gilroy her line manager from the BBC finance department, presenting about Neurodiversity
Leena is autistic. She said they will be talking about a project called CAPE (Creating A Positive Environment) which aims to attract and retain neurodiverse talent in the workplace at the BBC.
Neurodiversity is an umbrella term for ASD, dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia etc. The aims of the CAPE project are to look at the positive attributes to these conditions.
The opposite term is neurotypical . They showed an image of cavemen challenging a dinosaur. Leena said that is what it is like to be neurodiverse in a neurotypical world. The neurodiverse one was the dinosaur.
Leena spoke about how much autistic people have to offer, although only 15% are currently employed. She talked about the struggle living on “Planet Neurodiverse”
Barriers: workplace design can cause fear and anxiety. Many UK workplaces don’t cater for the neurodiverse mind, for example the move to open plan working and hot desking.
They talked about changes to workplace design they have implemented in BBC Salford to make it more friendly to neurodiverse people. This doesn’t have to involve a lot of cost and can be just signposting where there may be issues, thinking about lighting etc.
Leena talked about recruitment and retention. She said the recruitment process is currently so unnecessarily complex and rigid that people on the autistic spectrum often just avoid it. In order to make the recruitment process fair to all, companies have created such a complex process that it is actually not inclusive. Panel interviews can be very difficult; Leena showed a film of Clint Eastwood in a showdown and said that was how interviews felt which meant you are not able to showcase what you can do and highlight your abilities.
Leena encouraged employers to actively seek neuorotypical people rather than wait for them to come along, as they have a huge amount to offer but might not be able to apply using usual routes.
They talked about accessible technology and the difficulties in enabling line managers to have an awareness of what is out there.
Leena said it is not about hidden disabilities it is about hidden talents. She said she would like the term disabled to be banned as she views someone in a wheelchair simply as somebody who moves differently, or someone who is blind or deaf as a person who processes information differently. She said that the term disabled labels people who just need a bit of support unnecessarily, and that in some ways, everyone on the planet was ‘disabled’. She was very inspirational.
Kiran Shah: Disability in the creative world
The next speaker was Kiran Shah; actor and stuntman. he talked about creativity. He applauded Leena for her comments about disability. He gave a very interesting talk about his career as a stunt man in the context of being disabled.
He said disabled actors used to always be in the background or played by able people, but more recently programs such as Silent Witness have been the ‘start of something good’.
Kevin Carey: Transforming braille
After a break, Kevin Carey, President of The Transforming Braille Group spoke. He started by talking about the history of braille. RNIB have been researching refreshable braille devices. The aim was to produce a refreshable braille display that would provide a cheap companion to the tablet and smart phone, providing blind people with the internet at their fingertips, not just in synthetic speech, and open up education for hundreds of thousands of blind children in developing countries.. He showed the Orbit reader which is capable of reading the internet and is £200, compared to previous £3,000 – £4,000 cost.
Kevin was asked if braille was likely to disappear with advances in technology of screen readers. He said a screen reader is fine for reading short segments of text but the thought of a whole novel being read to him by a synthetic voice would ‘drive him mad’.
Sean Smith HMRC: IT accessibility
Next up was Sean Smith from HMRC, talking about IT accessibility. He agreed with previous comments that the word disability is inappropriate and asked for suggestions for alternatives. He said this is an area that HMRC take very seriously, but that they can improve on. He talked about the public sector duty, but said they aim to be exemplar rather than just meeting the legal minimum.
They start from the perspective that everything should be accessible; accessibility should not be just another IT process rather than something bolted on at the end.
Research a few years ago found that the biggest issue disabled customers have is that they are frightened to use IT, so often they didn’t even get as far as using the system. They try to have as many channels as possible.
Lunch: virtual reality autism experience
At lunch there were various displays and demonstrations including the card payment system.
There was also an incredible virtual reality demonstration of a business meeting seen through the eyes of an autistic person (see below). I found this very enlightening and a little disturbing.
Neil Milliken: My Digital journey
Neil is the Head of accessibility and digital inclusion and a W3C invited expert for Cognitive accessibility
He talked about who people with disabilities are; friends, customers, families, but also consumers with spending power. Nearly 1 in 5 of the UK workforce will have a disability at some point in their life. It is therefore important to have inclusive user experiences that meet the needs of as many people as possible. He said the return on investment for accessibility is huge.
He spoke about AXSChat (access chat) on social media.
Neil has dyslexia and showed a demo of how text appears to dyslexic people. He said to keep language clear, left justify, don’t use cursive fonts; all basic things that should be second nature. He talked a lot about his own experiences which were interesting; difficulty with short term memory, linear thinking, forms, returning to tasks after being interrupted.
Neil spoke about user interfaces confounding him. Making things more beautiful, cleaner, can lead to real struggles with navigation. He said an important thing online is to make things obvious. He pointed out that this will help everyone, not just disabled people.
Neil stressed how neurodiverse people like Leena and him can add value to a workforce.
He showed an example of a really busy website, but also of the opposite problem where a site was so minimal it was difficult to see what to do.
The current trend for a lot of white space is problematic for people with dyslexia, as is high contrast, although these may be better for partially sighted people. The lesson is to give people the choice. Different things work for different people.
Susanna Laurin: WCAG is just the baseline
Susanna talked about how WCAG is ‘just a baseline’. She works for Funka, a Swedish company founded by Swedish disability organisations. She is on the Board of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals.
Susanna said she was here to talk about issues, so would not be as positive as the other speakers. She particularly spoke about WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) and how problematic it could be. She believes that standards are key, but that WCAG is not enough. It is usually the case that a legal standard is seen as a goal rather than a minimum guideline. Currently there is much more work done in Sweden than Norway to make technology accessible, even though there has not been legislation in Sweden. She claimed that accessibility legislation can actually be counterproductive because people try to meet legislation instead of looking to find what works.
Some points Susanne made.
WCAG 2.0 issues
- Very technical language. Not accessible in itself.
- Very focussed on visual impairment; can ‘forget’ other issues.
- Mobile, touch screen etc. not covered in depth so doesn’t reflect the reality of life.
- Interaction isn’t covered in depth
- Cognitive issues aren’t really covered.
Example of a WCAG 2.0 issue;
Guideline 1.1 says to use text alternatives to assist people with sight difficulties, but there is very little focus on users with other difficulties.
Text alternatives for graphics are fine, BUT there is no requirement for the opposite solution. 25% of users have problems reading & understanding text, but text is viewed as the baseline.
User reach when using visually interesting sites
Text only content is understood by 50-60% of users. Adding images and film can add another 30% of users to those that understand the message.
David Caldwell (Barclays Bank): personas
- There is a perception that accessibility = screen readers the reality is far more complex.
- There is a move towards user centred design / personas, so they developed personas with a disability.
- Barclays developed personas via interviews, surveys, Wikipedia etc.
- These have been used by many organisations; Sainsbury’s, ATOS, Lloyds.
- The Barclays Personas have now been released under a creative commons licence so they can be used as people see fit.
The Personas are available to download below:
Accessibility Personas Issue 1 (PDF)
Diverse Personas Issue 1 (plain text)
Diverse Personas Issue 2 (PDF)
Diverse Personas Issue 2 (plain text)