Tag Archives: Equality

CALLING IT ACCESSIBILITY DOESN’T MAKE IT ACCESSIBLE

 

Microsoft-Logo-HDRegular readers of my blog will know that as well as offering Accessibility Audits and general equality advice, I can also be outspoken when those who should know better get accessibility wrong or, worse, pretend they have it right.

The larger the business the less of an excuse lack of resource can be (as it often is for small businesses). One such business is Microsoft, however their errors serve well as lessons for others.

Multi-national corporations don’t come much larger than Microsoft and, if you believe their website, they take Accessibility very seriously indeed. So seriously they have a whole section on their website dedicated to it. If only everyone took Accessibility as seriously as Microsoft.

MS - Accessibility Can EmpowerTheir website tells us; “Accessibility can empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more, whether your personal limits last a day or a lifetime.”

 

Indeed, it does.

MS - Accessibility Makes It EasierWhen introducing Microsoft’s Mission for Accessibility the site states; “Accessibility makes it easier for everyone to see, hear, and use technology, and to personalise their computers to meet their own needs and preferences. For many people with impairments, accessibility is what makes computer use possible.”

 

Indeed it does.

MS - Bill Gates VisionBill Gates, Microsoft’s founder and Chairman is quoted; “Our vision is to create innovative technology that is accessible to everyone and that adapt to each person’s needs. Accessible technology eliminates barriers for people with disabilities and it enables individuals to take full advantage of their capabilities.”

Indeed, it does.

To the uninformed reader it would appear that Microsoft are on the ball and leading the way. Except they are not. They may think they are, but they are not. They have fallen into the same trap as many other businesses, large and small, of assuming expertise they do not have (or, if they have, not employing it).

And I can tell all of this by reading a couple of pages on their website.

How?

Simple. The entire ‘Accessibility’ section of their website is presented in a font which is inaccessible to an estimated 10% of the planet’s population – that’s a lot of people to exclude.

Yes, you read that correctly. The Accessibility section on Microsoft’s website is inaccessible to a large number of people.

There are other oversights which should not have been missed, especially given Microsoft’s claim that their “commitment to developing innovative accessibility solutions started more than two decades ago.” These oversights exclude a potential 15% of people and, it is worth emphasising, I can report this based on a quick scan of a couple of pages. What might I find, how many people may be excluded, were I to take my time and look deeper?

Two decades on and they are still overlooking the basics.

But why is this important to you and your business?

Depending on where you live, there is the law (the 2010 Equality Act for UK readers) but surely, more importantly, there is treating other people decently and with respect. And then, there is the business case.

Microsoft may be big enough not to worry about excluding potentially 15% of the world but the smaller your business by comparison, the more vital to your marketing, to your profitability that 15% will be. In the UK alone that 15% is a potential 9.5 million people. And that is just in this one area of Accessibility, there are many others you may, or may not, be aware of.

Accessibility is a serious issue and should be a serious consideration for every business (and the third sector too). Talk is easy. Positive action is something else altogether.

 

If you would like to find out more about this topic and/or would like to discuss arranging an Accessibility Audit for your business or organisation, please get in touch via the ‘drop me a line’ link below.

© Jim Cowan, 2016

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Twitter @cowanglobal

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IGNORANCE DRIVEN INSANITY IN BUSINESS

“There is not a manufacturing company in the world that could afford to abandon close to 15 per cent of its production capacity, and the same applies to every country whether it is small, like Scotland, or enormous, like China or India.”

20__martin_luther_king_jr__by_sfegraphics-d4t18xzI come across examples of companies, third sector organisations, national and local government, in fact every sector, getting equality and accessibility wrong more times every day than I care to count. And when it comes to equality, ignorance is not an excuse. Shaking your head before stating ‘it is common sense’ won’t wash. We all need to take a look in the mirror and ask where we could do better. For organisations in all sectors equality needs to be a question of strategy, of planning to reach those people with one or more of what are termed ‘protected characteristics’ in the 2010 Equality Act.

But it is not only in order to comply with the law or even to act like a decent human being (although that would be nice), there is a serious business incentive to understand equality and improving accessibility.

The quote in italics above is from double Formula One world champion Jackie Stewart’s excellent autobiography ‘Winning Is Not Enough.’ It is more than the usual sporting biography, in that it covers his career after Formula One where he went on to become an extremely successful businessman.

GP29942865A common thread throughout the story is Stewart’s struggles with Dyslexia. How he went through his childhood believing he was “thick”. How despite being one of the most successful sportsmen ever to live he was continually aware of a sense of inadequacy. Until a chance meeting with a doctor who was running some tests on his son led to him also being tested and, in his 40s, finding out he wasn’t thick after all. He has a learning disability called dyslexia.

Ten per cent of the population is dyslexic. Think about that figure. In the UK that is over six million people. Four per cent are severely dyslexic; that is over 2.5 million people.

It is right and proper that every one of those people should reasonably be able to access the products and services that everyone else does. It is also right and proper that every one of those people should reasonably be able to expect the same treatment as everyone else does. Indeed the 2010 Equality Act does not insist that companies make all adjustments it asks only that they do what is reasonable.

But beyond that, can your company afford to reduce its potential market by 6 million people because of something as inexcusable as ignorance? Surely not, it is common sense isn’t it? And yet thousands of companies do exactly that every day simply by (through ignorance) using inappropriate fonts or colour schemes in marketing paraphernalia, in communications (sic) documents and on websites. In short, they deliberately reduce the potential size of their market.

I call that ignorance driven insanity.

That is ten per cent of the population. Where does Jackie Stewart’s 15% come from? Dyslexia is different from but shares characteristics with dyscalculia, dyspraxia and colour blindness. Individuals with one of those disabilities often have one or more of the others. In total they make up fifteen per cent of the population.

Over nine million people in the UK. More people than live in Greater London. 9,000,000 people. More people than live in Scotland and Wales combined. A lot of people.

I recently came across an example of this ignorance driven insanity when attending a business meeting at a hotel. During a break I nipped out of the meeting room to visit the toilet and found them easily enough. However it struck me that the signage did not consider one of the characteristics often seen in people with dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and/or colour blindness – the tendency to take things literally.

During the lunch break I revisited the task of finding the toilets but this time took every sign I saw literally. In short, the signs took me via a couple of stair cases on a loop back to the place I had started, not to the toilets. I double checked with a colleague attending the same meeting who is dyscalculic. “Yes,” she said, “it took me a while. In the end I waited until someone else wanted to go and went with her.” Good thing she wasn’t desperate!

What has this got to do with business? Putting a couple of signs in the right place would cost very little. Being in ignorance of the discrimination caused by their absence could cost……? The hotel will never know because the dissatisfied customer might say nothing but simply never return. And among fifteen per cent of a population you can be sure there are more than a few decision makers who will be booking conference facilities based on their judgement of suitability.

One step removed, companies booking the facilities at this hotel are trusting their corporate reputation to the hotel’s ability to deliver. Think about the feedback; “great conference but poor venue.” That’s more lost business for the hotel as that conference goes elsewhere next year.

And if you are in competition with that hotel……do you really need me to explain both the gap in the market and the potential market in the gap?

There is a serious business imperative for getting equality right. Ignorance is no excuse. Equality is a very wide area and is not just about minority groups. Women, for example, are a majority group in the UK (over 31 million/51%).

I have focused on only one group of people who sit under the broader umbrella of disability. In all, people with one or more disabilities make up 25% of our population (over 16 million potential customers in the UK).

Other ‘protected characteristics’ covered by the Equality Act are age, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

In advising companies on equality strategies and in conducting accessibility audits for organisations, I have come across all kinds of oversights, some even driven by being well-meaning but, nonetheless ignorant thinking. These are just a small sample:

  • The sports centre accessible toilet whose door opened inwards.
  • The ‘buy 2’ special offer which was more expensive than buying two singles.
  • The government agency equality monitoring form.
  • The ‘required’ qualifications on a job specification.
  • The bus time table.
  • The university marketing campaign.
  • The white ‘design feature’ at a conference venue.

Fortunately, none of these organisations assumed knowledge they lacked. None allowed themselves to be led by ignorance. However, sadly for equality, unfairly for significant sections of society and unfortunately for the businesses concerned, I do encounter those who clearly didn’t ask on a more than daily basis.

Understanding equality is good for business. Don’t be guilty of ignorance driven insanity.

If you would like to find out more about this topic and/or would like to discuss arranging an Accessibility Audit for your business or organisation, please get in touch via the ‘drop me a line’ link below.

 

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global, 2012, 2016

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EQUALITY – WORTH THE BOTHER?

The value to business of understanding equality cannot be overstated but a recent email exchange leaves me compelled to wonder whether many businesses (and other organisations) view it as something not worth the bother?

Committed_to_Equality_1There are many very good reasons to ensure that your business takes Equality seriously. Of course, the biggest driver for many is the desire not to fall foul of the law even if, at the back of their minds, many view meeting the requirements of the Equality Act (2010) as little more than an exercise in red tape.

It would be nice to believe that, in the 21st century, laws to ensure access to equal treatment for all are not necessary and that we all seek to accommodate our fellow human beings as best we possibly can. Sadly that is not the case and I am not naïve enough to believe it is.

That does not mean most people deliberately put barriers in the way of others. What does happen is that ignorance drives practice and the right questions are not asked, reasonable solutions not found. And that is all that the 2010 Act requires; that reasonable adjustments be made.

But other than the legal and the ‘human’ reasons for trying to provide equal access to all for your company or organisation there is another; good business practice. It might sound obvious but I will say it anyway, the easier it is for more people to access your company or organisation, the more likely it is they will use your products or services.

Which brings me back to that recent email exchange…..

I will shortly be acting as an expert witness in a court case, an expert in Equality and in Accessibility. As part of the preparation for this I received an email from a solicitor asking that I pass comment on a document he had prepared for the Court. He was keen that if we were to be arguing a case based on equality, any documents submitted must reflect both expertise and belief in that area. In short, they should be as fully ‘accessible’ as humanly possible, as reasonable.

The content of both the solicitor’s email and the attachment read well and were factually correct, however both fell short of his aim due to his poor choice of font. I commented as such, suggested a different font and advised him why it made a difference.

His reply interested me. The attached document was now presented in a good, accessible font. However his email remained in the original font. I remarked on this over the phone and, to paraphrase his reply, was told, “Oh, that’s okay, the Court won’t see that.”

This attitude is not uncommon in businesses and organisations in all sectors. Government departments, local government, charities, sports clubs and others all discriminate against significant sections of society because they can’t be bothered to change once their ‘ignorances’ are pointed out to them.

The law requires reasonable adjustments be made. I believe changing the default font setting on emails is reasonable. I do not believe that not being bothered is but, to date, no test case has been brought to support my view.

But beyond the law, what about running a successful business, department, charity, club or whatever? Does it make sense to deliberately make it more difficult for large parts of society to work with you? Does it make sense not to make access as easy as competitors who do make reasonable adjustments? Does it make sense not to steal a march on competitors who do not make those reasonable adjustments?

You tell me. The example of the poor choice of font used above could negatively impact on dyslexics accessing and making use of that solicitor’s services. Ten percent of the population are dyslexic, 4% severely so. Even at four percent, that is potentially 2.5 million customers (UK) you are gifting to your competitors. Why? Because you can’t be bothered.

The Equality Act of 2010 is the legal driver behind businesses and organisations in all sectors making reasonable adjustments which will provide improved access for all. Some call it red tape, I prefer to think of it as acting like a decent human being.

But even if the legal and the human reasons don’t drive you to reasonable adjustment, maybe the business case should?

If you can be bothered.

If you would like to find out more about this topic and/or would like to discuss arranging an Equality Audit for your business or organisation, please drop me a line to the ‘drop me a line’ link below.

 

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global, 2013, 2016

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Twitter @cowanglobal

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WHY I DISLIKE MY OWN LINKED IN POST AND WHY YOU SHOULD TOO

I recently wrote a blog titled; ‘Accessibility – What Is It & Is It Worth The Bother?’ Having then also posted it on Linked In, I found myself disliking the finished article. But why?

Linked In QMThe blog (read it here), looked at accessibility and the ‘carrot and stick’ of why businesses and other organisations should be more aware of tackling the issue. The ‘stick’ discussed remaining legally compliant under the Equality Act of 2010 while the ‘carrot’ pointed to the potential for increasing markets by better understanding various groups falling under what are  termed, ‘protected characteristics.’

One of the examples I used was of the difference giving more thought to something as simple as font selection can have; in the UK offering an increased potential market of up to 6 million people. And yes, you read that correctly, 6 million people.

I was happy that I had got my message across and proceeded to publish my blog before then also posting it on Linked In (read the Linked In post here). And this is where things went astray.

I had written an article on accessibility but the font offered by Linked In for posting articles on their site is, you guessed it, for many people, of the inaccessible variety. Hence, although I still posted, I dislike my post as it is hardly an example of good practice, of practising what you preach. It does however, demonstrate how widespread and often invisible the issue of (in)accessibility can be.

It is a far wider issue than many realise. From magazines to book publishers to company websites and more, poor font selection excludes many from reading otherwise great publications, books, websites, marketing materials, even court documents (yes, the very people responsible for upholding the law regularly breach it).

But flip that on its head and spot it for the opportunity it is. Understanding font selection and the many other misunderstood aspects of accessibility could put you ahead of your competition when trying to reach these often ignored sections of our community. On font selection alone, better reaching up to 6 million more people in the UK alone.

The choice is yours. Legally compliant or flouting the law; talking to some or talking to all of your potential market; mediocre and pretending or excelling and doing.

 

(For the record, I have fed back to Linked In on this issue).

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global, 2016

Drop me a line today to book your Accessibility Audit.
Start opening the door to your business to more people.

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ACCESSIBILITY – WHAT IS IT & IS IT WORTH THE BOTHER?

A recent spate of poorly put together marketing emails and post has left me wondering whether business, political parties and others in the UK understand ‘accessibility’ and its value when trying to communicate with others?

inaccessibleAccessibility; in response to the second part of the question I pose in the title for this blog, it’s a bit carrot and stick.

The stick is the law; namely the Equality Act (2010) which expects businesses to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for those identified as having ‘protected characteristics’ namely; age, disability, sex, religion or belief, race, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage & civil partnership and pregnancy & maternity.

But what is accessibility? It is a good measure for how well you are making those ‘reasonable adjustments’ required by the law – how easily can someone with one or more of the protected characteristics access your products or services? Or even read your marketing materials?

There are the obvious such as do you have accessible toilets (often called disabled toilets) which someone in a wheelchair could actually access. This is not as ‘common sense’ as you may think. In the process of conducting Accessibility Audits* for organisations, I have come across ‘accessible’ toilets that a wheelchair user could enter but not close the door behind his or herself because it opened inwards. Would you want to leave the door open while using the toilet? Is this ‘reasonable?’

Then there are the less obvious barriers to accessibility which I see on a daily basis and which I will come to in a moment.

But, before I do, consider the carrot and stick again. If the law is the stick then the potential for increasing the size of your market is the carrot. For, which sensible business (or other organisation) will not make ‘reasonable adjustments’ if they open up previously ignored demographics?

This is where understanding those less obvious barriers to accessibility become important. Let us take something as seemingly innocent as a font you choose to use on your company website, in your emails, or in other communications. The main driver here is usually the ‘look’ and the overall design yet for an estimated 10% of people the font you choose can be the difference between being easily read, difficult to read and even, for some, near impossible to read.

By understanding which fonts are more (or less) accessible and making those ‘reasonable adjustments’ you make your business more accessible to, potentially, 10% more people. That is over 6 million people in the UK.

There are numerous other ways in which understanding how to make your business more accessible can increase your potential market size by 10, 15, or even 20%; many just as easy as changing a font.

Equality is important and the law is there for a reason but surely, for the sensible business, the carrot is preferable to the stick and the carrot of increasing the number of people you are talking to must be worth some reasonable adjustment. Especially if your competitors are not doing the same!

Is accessibility worth the bother? You tell me.

 

*Drop me a line today to book your Accessibility Audit and start opening the door to your business to more people.

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global, 2016

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