29: Jonathan Hassell - Hassell InclusionPublished February 4, 2020
Run time: 01:03:22
Tim talks about all things accessibility with Jonathan Hassell of Hassell Inclusion. They discuss the importance of inclusive design, how to shift your organization’s mindset to think about accessibility in everything you do, and what you can do to make your app usable by the 20% of the world with a disability.
In this episode, you will learn:
- What accessibility and inclusive design are
- Why you would be silly to not have accessibility as part of your company’s process
- How accessible technology can lead to more money for your organization
- Some of the great new technologies that will make apps more accessible
To learn more about Hassell Inclusion, visit https://www.hassellinclusion.com/.
This episode is brought to you by The Jed Mahonis Group, where we make sense of mobile app development with our non-technical approach to building custom mobile software solutions. Learn more at https://jmg.mn.
Recorded January 24, 2020 | Edited by Jordan Daoust
Tim Bornholdt 0:01
Welcome to Constant Variables, a podcast where we take a non-technical look at mobile app development. I'm Tim Bornholdt. Let's get nerdy.
Today we are chatting with Jonathan Hassell of Hassell Inclusion. So Jonathan's been working in the accessibility space for his entire career. He initially cut his teeth over at the BBC, which was really cool to hear his experience. He talks about that a little bit on today's podcast. But these days, Jonathan runs an organization called Hassell Inclusion. And what he does there is helps organizations really around the world figure out ways to embed accessibility into their ethos so that they are being accessible from the ground floor.
In this episode, we talk about accessibility and digital inclusion, why you should not just think of accessibility as a legal obligation, but rather as a way to make more money, how to make your app better for the 20% of those with accessibility needs, but not at the expense of the other 80%. And we both chat about our favorite advances in accessibility technology. For example, did you know that one of the early inventors of the typewriter did so to help his blind friend communicate with the world? I certainly did not know that. So hopefully you learn that and much more by listening to today's episode. So without further ado, here is my interview with Jonathan Hassell.
Jonathan Hassell, welcome to the show.
Jonathan Hassell 1:36
Thank you very much. It's great to be with you.
Tim Bornholdt 1:39
I'm really excited to have you on today. Why don't you just, so my audience can get to know you a little bit, why don't you tell us about yourself and about your company Hassell Inclusion?
Jonathan Hassell 1:47
Sure. So the short version, I have been doing accessibility since I joined the BBC, around about 2001, so almost 20 years now. And I spent 10 years there, really learning in a place where you could afford to be best practiced. The BBC were always the organization that really cared about how disabled people, you know, experienced the sorts of services they had, whether it was TV or radio. And then what I was doing which was online, and then mobile apps from there, so I spent 10 years at the BBC, absolutely loved it, and learned a lot. And I channeled that into standards. I created the British Standard for Accessibility, BS 8878, at the end of 2010. And then I kind of felt like my work at the BBC was done. You know, it was an organization that cared about it and was good at accessibility. And I, from my work on the British Standard, had worked with a number of people in organizations that maybe didn't care and weren't so good and saw how I could share the sorts of experience that I'd been really blessed to have there, so I left the BBC, set up Hassell Inclusion in 2011 and the last nine years have been amazing. It seems to have gone by in a flash. We've been sort of helping organizations all over the world to go on this journey of accessibility and inclusive design and enable them to get to a place where they kind of feel both competent and confident that they know what to do, and why to do it, how it could actually benefit them, as whatever organization I'm working with. So it's been a really great ride and, you know, delighted to be with you here today to share some of those things with your audience.
Tim Bornholdt 3:49
Right on. So I want to take probably seven giant steps backwards because I like to play devil's advocate a lot. And, you know, maybe there's people that are listening to this that have never even heard the word accessibility before. And I'm curious, being the master that you are with having come up with standards and everything, and you've been doing this for so long, if somebody came up to you and had no idea what accessibility was, how would you describe accessibility?
Jonathan Hassell 4:14
Yeah. So, I mean, I describe it in different ways for different people. I think one that I like, that I've been using recently with product managers, and it really kind of chimes with them, because it takes them into a slightly different place from if they've been thinking about accessibility before. I tend to think about this as usability for the people that you generally tend to forget. So, in general, accessibility is all about making your product work for people who have a disability. But that's really just the start of things because when I think of accessibility and inclusive design, I think of all of the people who maybe don't use your product the way that you do. Most people who create a product generally tend to make me feel old and generally tend to be quite young, tend to be very tech savvy. It's all about their amazing capabilities, rather than things that maybe they don't understand or, if you like, disabilities that they have. But actually, there's a huge number of people in the world who maybe can't see it as well as the people who created the app that they're looking at, maybe don't hear as well. That could be because they have a disability. That could be because they've been disabled from birth or it could be something that they've acquired through life. It could be my mom, she's 81. She doesn't have a disability. That's not how she would introduce herself to anybody. But her eyesight is going; she can't see as well as she used to. She can't read books anymore. She reads books on an iPad because she's able to turn the backlight on. So everything's a lot brighter for her to make the fonts bigger so that she can read them because normally in a normal kind of standard printed book that unfortunately she can't any longer. So accessibility, if you like, is for disabled people, for older people. It's also for all of us, really going forwards. You know, there are occasions where we don't have the capabilities that we ourselves normally enjoy. It could be that we've had an accident, maybe we've fallen over skiing and broken our arm and suddenly realize what it's like to have difficulties using a mouse or using a touchpad touchscreen. Or it could be for that matter, the Amazon Echo which is in my kitchen. So I don't have a disability, not yet at least. But when I'm cooking and I want to say, you know, a track has come on to the music that I'm listening to, and I'm cooking, that I don't particularly like so much, I don't really want to kind of go over and sort of like press anything on my phone to go to the next track. But voice recognition in the Amazon Echo allows me to do that. Well, that voice recognition that I'm using there is very similar to the voice recognition that a lot of people use if they have difficulty using their hands. And actually a lot of the ways of thinking about how to create an Alexa skill that can be used by somebody who, if you like, can't touch and can't see because that's actually the Amazon Echo makes everybody like that because it doesn't have a screen or a keyboard. That's where, if you like, the whole area of accessibility that used to just be for people with disabilities becomes something that actually all of us can understand as being something we want. It's not for other people than myself. It's actually for me when I'm in those circumstances. So, yeah, it's just thinking a lot more, a lot sort of broader, a lot wider than just, you know, one way of using a mobile app. It's saying, how going forward, can we enable everybody to use this, you know, in whatever situational context they're in?
Tim Bornholdt 8:34
And that's a fantastic definition because that's one thing I found as an app developer and going through and building out accessibility is, I've been learning about all these really cool things that Apple and Google have baked into their operating system that we can all take advantage of. And it's like I tell people now when I'm talking about accessibility is, at some point in your life, everyone is going to need to use these features. Whether you use them now, as you know, I'm 32 years old as we record this, and I have pretty much full capabilities of with all my faculties. So I don't need to increase the font size on the screen. But I know at some point, I have terrible eyesight, and I know I have a family history of poor eyesight. So I know that at some point, I'm going to need to bump up the font size. And that in and of itself is like, my next question was going to be, why should I care about accessibility? And after hearing your definition, you'd be kind of daft to ask that question. But I'm curious to hear if you would want to expand on that at all. As somebody that builds an app, why is it important to think about, you know, other ways to include people into using your software?
Jonathan Hassell 9:42
I mean, yeah, absolutely. I mean, everything that you said there is really spot on. You know, I mean, what we find is that most people when they think of accessibility, especially in the States, tend to think about the legal reasons for doing it, that, you know, if we don't do this properly, some disabled person will sue me. And that, you know, certainly in the environment that we're in at the moment, is that that can be true. You know, there are, you know, there were more lawsuits started everyday last year in the States than the, you know, the ones I mean, literally, I think it was 2800 over the course of the year. So there are good legal reasons to do this. But we tend to think that's kind of the worst reason for getting into accessibility. The way we tend to think about the legal side of things is it's almost like an insurance policy. And, you know, I don't know about you, but I'm very aware that I'm probably not alone in going to a comparison website when I buy my insurance every year. And there are products from all sorts of different companies, and invariably, I like them. Most people go to that website because I want to pay as little for my insurance for my car, my house, my whatever, as I can, because while something might happen, and so therefore, it would be stupid of me to not have any insurance. I just don't think it's gonna happen to me, you know, I don't think my car's going to crash and I don't think my house is going to burn down. So therefore, am I going to spend huge amounts of money on loads of benefits that I don't think I'm going to need? Because those benefits only come to me if the worst happens. Well, no, I'm probably just going to spend the minimum and in the accessibility world that's full compliance. I think compliance is an okay place to start. But it's really kind of impoverished in thinking, really, because we tend to think about accessibility from the point of view that we've been talking which is, this is everybody potentially who needs this. So this is about, you know, making sure that your product is usable for all of your customers, and then doing this compliance thing, just in case you get sued by some person who has a disability. You know, people with disabilities make up about 20% of the population already in most countries. And actually, once we look at all of those other categories of people who may need accessibility, you know, 20% of the population who are baby boomers, you know, they have lots of money. They probably have more money than most of the rest of us who are working. So why would you want to say no to that money? Why would you not want them to be your customers? And then, you know, as soon as you go into places like, you know, the Amazon Echo, or those sorts of things, you hit on rich scenes where organizations are finding that when they think about people who at that point seemed very different from themselves, maybe in a "How would I do this for somebody who can't see?" You know, all of these sorts of things; it's really challenging. And initially, that's something maybe that you might want to do without. You know, you just don't like the challenge. But what we found is that most organizations who really kind of step up to the challenge, and I look at it from a creative viewpoint, rather than a compliance viewpoint, end up in places which are amazing.
You know, the innovations in the world actually regularly come from looking at people who don't like the current way of doing things. You know, Alexander Graham Bell was trying to help deaf people when he invented the telephone. The first typewriter in the world was created for a blind Countess. These were created for people with a disability. But these are fundamental increases in innovation that everybody benefits from going forwards. So, yeah, our way of looking at things is, you know, you can start off with compliance and try and get a better night's sleep because, you know, you're going to be okay. But that's really the start of the opportunities. And if that's where people end, it's kind of sad. Because our way of looking at things is, you wouldn't do that for any other of your customers, you know. Keep your business brain turned on. Why do we care about customer experience in the first place? You know, because if we're selling something with a good, great customer experience, people buy it and they come back and they buy more. Well, why would you want to like get rid of 20, 40% of your customers? You know, that makes no sense. When it comes to sort of customer service, in terms of people, you know, maybe asking for a service from you, one of the reasons why most people who are kind of in government are looking at a digital is because it's a much cheaper way of handling customer service inquiries, whether it's getting a, you know, a new driving license or a passport, or whatever it is, that's so much cheaper if you can do it online, than if people had to sort of go to a call center, or a town hall or something like that. So every single person who can't use that digital mechanism for doing things actually cost you more money, because you actually have to say, "Okay, well, you'll need to go to the call center, or you'll need to go to the town hall." And certainly the figures we have here in the UK is that's a huge order of magnitude, much more expensive for those organizations. I mean, I could spend, you know, the rest of your entire podcast season talking about the benefits of these sorts of things. You know, we've identified at least kind of 40, you know, everything from sort of like, millennials actually wants to work for organizations that are actually ethical and care. And so most organizations, you know, wants to be inclusive and diverse. And they can't really be that without taking the needs of everybody into account. And it just goes on and on and on. So for us, the opportunities are huge, if you like, the water is lovely, you know, where we're encouraging people to dive in, you know, every month in our business benefits, workshops. And, you know, we have organizations in the past who thought this was just, yeah, an insurance policy. They didn't think they needed that. They're now understanding that this could be the thing that makes their business. This could be their unique selling point, or it could be the thing that enables them to create the next innovation that starts getting them to become a household name, if they're not yet. You know, it's a real opportunity.
Tim Bornholdt 17:02
Absolutely. And I'm sure, you know,like you said, with all the innovations that have come out of people trying to help people that have disabilities, it seems kind of foolish to not be creative and incorporate that into your thought process from the get go. One way that I know that you have brought up in the past to encourage organizations to incorporate this into their process, is something called inclusive design. And I wanted to give you an opportunity to, as long as we're in this early stage of just defining what these different terms are, maybe walk through what inclusive design is and how that might be a way for organizations to incorporate accessibility into their ground zero thought as they're coming out with new products.
Jonathan Hassell 17:43
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, inclusive design is not a new term. It's been around for ages. And certainly in my mind, inclusive design and digital accessibility are pretty much the same thing. In some ways, it's all about enabling people to understand the opportunities. A lot of people when they think of accessibility, they think of just disabled people. So, you know, if there are 20% of the population who have a disability, well, accessibility is about the 20%. It's not about the hundred percent. For me, inclusive design is about the 100%. Inclusive design is saying that if you create something, if you create a product, and it's not accessible, and then you, you make it accessible. So if you make it better for 20% of the potential users, but in doing that, you actually make it worse for the other 80% of users, well, you haven't really done something sensible for your business. Maybe, you know, that's good enough from a compliance perspective, but from a business perspective, you know, that's the wrong side of the 80/20 rule. What you really want is something that works for everyone. You do not want to leave a single person behind. You want everybody to have the same sort of great brand experience when they come to the sort of products you're creating, whether they're mobile apps or, you know, Apple Watch apps, whatever they are. And so, you know, from my point of view, I think the good thing about the fact that people are kind of clustering around the word inclusive design now, is number one, and some of them think it's new. I don't really care if they do just as long as they think it's cool. That's great. You know, some of us have been doing this forever. But, you know, that just means you can learn from our mistakes in the past, if you're new to this, you know, grab it with both hands. And, you know, if you think it's cool, then that's a great reason for doing that. So inclusive design is just effectively saying, look, we want the things that we create to be used by everyone and every single designer, developer, you know, content author, product Manager that I know, really wants to make sure that everyone gets a great experience with their products. Why wouldn't you want that? It just makes sense.
Tim Bornholdt 20:15
Well, yeah, it's foolish to not be inclusive from the get go, like you said. And I also like that you mentioned that sometimes people take it to the extreme of making sure that their app is accessible for the 20%, but at the detriment of the other 80%, where that's foolish as well. And you know, I think people can kind of dig their heels in sometimes around accessibility. And it is, like you said, if you come at it from the thought process of we have to do this because legal told us to, then that's like a negative thing. But if you don't come at it from that approach, and actually think about what the benefits are from it, it's like, I think pretty much every single app that I've ever worked on that we've focused on accessibility, just in and of itself, is better because it does lend itself to things that would make it for able-bodied people as well. It makes it better for them in certain ways. And you know, even little things like making sure the font colors have enough contrast that it's easier to read. There was that whole design paradigm a few years ago where it was always like white background with slightly darker white text on top of it. It's like, no one could read that. You have to squint and get close to it. And you know, it's just things like that that are kind of ridiculous. And I'm glad that people are starting to think about how it can be better for disabled people and able-bodied people at the same time.
Jonathan Hassell 21:37
I think it has to be everybody. You know, I do not want to swap 80% of people who love my product for 20% of people who love my product. I want them all, you know, and actually I also want my brand to be my brand and I think that's the interesting thing. So we work with companies who, if you like, the main focus is to make sure that everybody can use their product no matter what it looks like. So for them, usability is everything. It's not so much about aesthetics. We also work with high fashion brands, for whom, if the product doesn't have the aesthetics that they believe are representative of their brand, then the product isn't representative of their brand and that is a problem. So it's one of the joys of, if you like, having left the BBC and owning a business and working with multiple clients all over the world is that we can see this from all of these different angles. And, you know, unfortunately, some of the guidelines that were created by accessibility professionals, you know, myself amongst them, don't always think about every organization out there that might need these things. You know, they assume that, you know, it doesn't really matter that a particular color is used or, you know, these sorts of things, because the only thing that matters in those accessibility guidelines is making sure that as many people as humanly possible can access things. It doesn't mean necessarily any of them would like it, or that it represents your brand well, so, if you like, that's the other part of what I would consider to be there in inclusive design is, you know, design is communication. The design process, you know, certainly the one that I've experienced on every project that we've worked on, is where you have designers in a room who could go left or right. They've got all sorts of different options, which of the best, which of these design options is the best thing and how do we be creative about it? How do we take those rules and say, these were designed to help us rather than designed to be a straitjacket. And actually where these things are challenging, then what can we do about it? One of the big things that are there in the standards that I've created, is space for an idea of personalization. You know, we already know, for example, that my mom is going to want a website that looks very, very different from someone who's dyslexic. Someone who's dyslexic wants really kind of calm colors, pastel colors, you know, text to be created in those sorts of background and foreground colors that isn't too harsh or glaring, and enables them to read a lot more easily than they would otherwise. My mom would find that rather difficult to read and she would want black and white and, you know, she'd want signs like you get in an airport, you know, with real kind of bold stuff. So on occasions, you actually have to expand your idea of what inclusive design is, to say, if we want everybody to get a great experience of this and if we don't want to leave anyone behind, then sometimes we may have to increase the idea of personalization so that everybody gets an experience which is best for them, rather than, if you like, a watered down sort of lowest common denominator thing that people have really been scared about accessibility bringing to design in the past. Inclusive design is saying, let's do something great for everybody rather than do something that everybody might kind of go "eh" to, you know.
Tim Bornholdt 25:50
That kind of makes sense of when you're trying to create, it's kind of one of the difficult parts of this, right? It is, like you said, you have to balance so many different interests. And at the end of the day, you know, there may have to be what that level of personalization is, is having room in whatever design you come up with, let it breathe to the point that if somebody needs to increase the font size that it doesn't throw everything completely out of whack, that you give them the capability to make the fonts brighter, or make it darker or make it easier to consume in that way, but not completely take away from... I know what you mean about the high fashion designs, high fashion companies. They really do care about their brand and the way that things look and whether it looks good for somebody with complete control of their eyesight and somebody that has poor eyesight. It's like they're still gonna want the person with poor eyesight to be wowed by whatever they come out with, whatever their design is, and it is like everything is very important in those details. So it is an interesting challenge for somebody that has to go through and come up with these.
And one question I wanted to ask and to kind of bring this into some sort of tangible actions, that people that are listening to this, if they already have an app or if they're working on apps, that's kind of where I wanted to start driving the conversation towards is some thoughts that you might have on some ways that people can address these issues. So one question I have was, if you have an app today, let's say that you have no idea whether your app is accessible or not, like you're really starting at ground zero with all of this stuff. What's some of the first things you do when an organization comes to you and says, "Here's our stuff. Is it accessible?" How do you help them figure out what the line is here?
Jonathan Hassell 27:36
Yeah, so I mean, so if they have a product already, that's very, very different than if an organization is about to start creating a product and then we kind of get very early into the process. The difficulty, if an organization has already created their app, and they don't know if it's accessible, chances are it probably isn't very good because if they don't know, it probably means they haven't had conversations with, you know, the people who did the design, the people who did the coding. They probably haven't done any testing of it to see whether it is. So what that means, you know, every project manager knows in the world that the cost of fixing a bug depends on when you find it. And if you can fix, if you can find your bugs early rather than late, then it will be much cheaper to fix them. You know, that's why agile was invented. So, so yeah, if you've already got your app, and you don't know if it's accessible, if you like, the bad news is everything that, you know, maybe, if you like, wrong with it from an accessibility viewpoint is going to be harder for you to fix than if you'd have actually started thinking about that earlier.
That said, that's the situation you're in. So what do you do? So pretty much the first thing to do is to do some sort of test. And the two tests that, you know, the one test that everybody does is an accessibility audit. So that's a test against guidelines. Here are a lot of rules that you could have applied when you created that thing. Well, let's see if you did, and let's find all of the places where this product either passes or fails this set of criteria. And that's pretty much the standard way that, you know, 99% of the world kind of does things and ends up with a report that generally makes people cry. Because it's really, really long. You know, I've seen those reports go on for sort of like over 100 pages and one of the things I often say to people is, when do you ever get time to read 100-page reports, you know. There's something actually about this audit process that almost is just a little bit overwhelming to organizations who actually haven't thought about accessibility earlier.
The other way of doing it and, you know, I think it's a much more interesting and much more sort of creative way is to either get, so we have what we call a live audit. It's something we do at Hassell Inclusion because we really dislike the idea that we're telling people that they've got everything wrong all of the time. And we're doing that almost in, you know, a company comes to us. They ask us to test their products, so they don't hear from us for sort of like, you know, two, maybe three weeks and then we send them a report, telling them everything that's wrong with their products. That's not particularly friendly from our point of view. It's not really who we are as a company. Who we are is people who do not want to test your products, we want to help you fix your products, because that's the thing that is actually going to change the world, that's going to change your ability to service customers who have disabilities, that's going to give you a return on investment, you know. A load of problems is just kind of annoying, really. So for us, it's how do we take people through that test to somewhere where they can fix things. And so actually, our live audit is something where we go to organizations, and we say, we're going to spend a day with you. And we're actually going to do this together. So we're going to sit in your offices, ideally with your team, the people who created this thing. And we're going to show you, we're going to go through maybe not everything in your app, ideally the kind of like the key user journeys, the main things that people really care about. We're going to go through those as if we're someone who's blind, who's using a screen reader. We're going to go through those as if we're dyslexic. And so maybe we're changing colors and these sorts of things. And we're going to see what sort of experience's there. And we're going to enable you to not only understand what that experience is, but what about that experience would be problematic for those people? And how then do you fix it? So and then rather than creating a big, long report, you know, most people take that report when it's given to them and put it into something like JIRA, you know, bug tracking system. So actually, we say, let's just forget the report. You know, we'll demonstrate things to you so you understand what they are, and you can be putting them directly into your JIRA. Well, while we're in the room, sometimes we've had occasions where people have actually fixed things while we're in the room as well, which is, which is great. You know that to us, it's really a great thing. So, we like ways of educating, you know. Our value system at Hassell Inclusion is we hate telling people what they got wrong, especially when it's so late that it's going to cost lots of money to fix it. We actually prefer training people in how to get things right. And so even our audits are partly training, you know, enabling people to understand why this thing is so important, you know, who it impacts, what the problem is, what they can do about it, you know. That's the sort of stuff that, you know, that we care about. And so, so yeah, that's the sort of thing, you know, and we kind of segue through from there into training because, you know, normally a lot of organizations who have got a lot of things wrong, then want to know how to fix them, you know, how to make sure, if you like, having fixed this, this never happens again. So that's the kind of start of the process.
Tim Bornholdt 33:51
That's brilliant because when you mentioned the word audit, my first thought was to think of if I've ever heard of a positive use of that word in my life. And anytime anyone gets an audit, it's like they instantly tense up and think, "Oh God, what did I do wrong?" And it comes at a point of defense rather than as a point of offense. You can actually go in and say, "Hey, this is what's actually going on." And being able to walk somebody through and show them, you know, here's screen-reading technology, here's why this stuff is important. Like, I'm sure you probably don't take it as far as to like blindfold somebody and say, "Use the app." But I mean, that would be something where it's like, that'd be so useful to somebody that doesn't really get why these things are important to the 20% of people that don't have those capabilities.
Jonathan Hassell 34:40
Yeah, I mean, we do do the blindfold thing on occasion, not normally in live audience, normally in awareness exercises. You do have to be a little careful because as soon as you blindfold someone, effectively what's happening is you're taking them to day one, ground zero, of maybe having lost your sight. And that is a scary day, you know. I've had colleagues who have had accidents and lost their sight and the rehabilitation process, you know, can be very, very challenging. You know, there is something about sort of like walking a mile in someone else's shoes. But the thing is, they're someone else's shoes. You know, most people use a screen reader, for example, will be doing this all the time. So if you've never used one before, you might think, how on earth does anybody, like, you know, you don't know what's right. You don't know what's wrong. It's just overwhelming. So that's where the expertise of our team comes in. You know, we're enabling people to understand what the experiences are of people who have these disabilities, you know, all of the time. This isn't a one shot deal. This isn't a simulation. This is actually a kind of daily occurrence. We do something that's possibly the one thing we love more than live audits is user testing, where we, you know, we put people in a viewing room, in a user testing lab, like you would do as usability, but we have lots of people with disabilities trying to use their products. And, you know, certainly one of the great things that I learned at the BBC in my years there, I was head of usability and accessibility, so I have a great value for people. You know, your product is as accessible or usable in my mind if somebody who has a disability is able to use it. Tt's not accessible, if you like, the rules from what WCAG or what, whoever, say it is because actually accessibility, if you like, abstracts out a lot of those things the difference between people with a disability and people who don't have a disability. But the people who wrote WCAG were very clear that if they put in all of the usability guidelines as well, it would just go on for much longer. So actually, you won't find that much usability in there. So if you pass accessibility guidelines, what it's effectively saying is, your product isn't discriminating. That people with disabilities will probably be able to use it to roughly the same extent as everybody else who don't have disabilities. However, if your product is unusable, then it's unusable for all of those people. So if you get into our lab, you actually cut through that difference between usability and accessibility. You go directly to what, in the end, is going to be massively important for your business, which is what do my customers think about the experience that we're giving them? And really just broadening that out to say, actually, we're going to include the 20% of people who have a disability, rather than assume that they don't exist.
So that's that kind of next step to go on because you could have, you know, a product which is very accessible, that, yeah, everybody doesn't want to use, so it's not discriminatory. It's just awful for everybody. I don't think you've actually won very much there. And for us, it's all about winning, you know, we want people to win. We don't really want people to be compliant without them sort of really kind of pushing on through to how much money did that cost us? Was that worth it? For us, you know, what are we, what are we getting from this? You know, where is the return on our investment? You know, because I've been in circumstances as I've been in this business for a long, long time, I've sat on panels, I've met people who have done accessibility brilliantly in an organization. And then they've left and they've gone on to another organization, and the place that they used to work doesn't have their champion for accessibility anymore. And so, you know, they care less and less about it over time because nobody said actually, in doing this stuff, if we count, you know, if we do the sorts of A/B testing and analytics and everything else, that sensible people who work in digital do, especially sort of product managers, we should expect that if we make our product more accessible, more people use it. And if that isn't happening, it's maybe because we're not even marketing to those people. So we could have created the most accessible app in our category, but it could be that everybody who had a particular type of disability thought that they would never be able to use any of the apps in that category. And so actually, you could have done something brilliant to have helped nobody because people just didn't expect you to have done that. So actually, part of this for us is to be really holistic. And if you're business minded about it, you know, accessibility for us is not just a technical thing about how you design or how you code something. But it's actually a way of engaging with an audience who potentially at the moment can't use your product. And if you do the right things, and that includes communication, as well as the technical accessibility stuff, they could be the most loyal customers that you will ever have. Because the alternatives, you know, there's still relatively few organizations that are good at this. So if you become the one product in your category which is great at accessibility, then you may find that you've just got a whole host of people, if you communicate well, who will be customers for life because they've tried the rest and that was awful. And you've gone that extra mile to make sure that not only is it compliant, but it's a great experience.
Tim Bornholdt 41:40
Man, there's so much in there to unpack. But I think that one thing I kept thinking about is like, you know, I think a lot of people, especially stateside, listening to this podcast probably turned it on because they wanted to learn about like, WCAG or they wanted to learn about whatever kind of standard that they needed to follow amd what are the steps 1 to 3 to just get this off my plate and go. But I mean, you're really arguing here this is a total change in your mindset. If you want to be compliant, really it has to be kind of a cultural change. And I think that for most businesses that, especially the larger you get, the harder it's going to be to change that culture. So from that perspective, when you go into an organization that's large, and coming at it from that perspective of, you know, being guarded, and audits and all that negative side of things, what types of tactics do you use in order to change mindsets and in order to kind of get that spark going so that it can be a cultural shift to be thinking about inclusive design from the get go?
Jonathan Hassell 42:45
Yeah, it used to be so much harder than now. So, CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, so at the start of last year, so start of 2019, LinkedIn put a 50 Big Ideas for 2019 on LinkedIn on its own platform. Number six in that list was inclusive design. Just to give you a little bit of a kind of context for it, number five was something that's, you know, notorious in my country at the moment, Brexit, whether we love it or hate it, it's sure something that all organizations have to take really seriously. So that's number five. Number six is inclusive design. Number seven is artificial intelligence.
Tim Bornholdt 43:35
Jonathan Hassell 43:36
So if you think about that for a second, you know, most CTOs out there, if they're not thinking about artificial intelligence at the moment, probably their boss is thinking, did we get the right person? You know, everybody thinks, everybody pretty much agrees that that's the future. We just don't know what the right way of using all of these kind of like new tools is but if accessibility and inclusive designer are in there with that, why would you not take that seriously? And if you've got Satya Nadella, you know, staking so much of Microsoft on this.
You know, we've got a situation with literally a new client who came to us this morning. And they were saying, you know, they had a demonstration of all of the technologies that Microsoft's creating in this in this area. And they said you would have to be an idiot to not be doing inclusive design. That's, you know, it's so much easier now than it used to be because, you know, all of the big companies really take this hugely seriously. What we do is enable the smaller organizations who maybe aren't creating, you know, assistive technologies and operating systems and all those sorts of things. You know, I've got one app, you know, how does this help me win? You know, I've got business goals this year. You know, if I spend money on this inclusive design thing, am I more or less likely to actually achieve what is important for me in my yearly goals? And then for the huge companies, to be perfectly honest, they're all now in a situation where they're thinking if we are not good at this, we are being left behind. So most of the larger organizations who are coming to us who are, effectively the first conversation is kind of like, we know we need this, but we don't know how to do it. You know, can you fix us? And the great news is that I've spent all of my career in accessibility, trying to be able to put in place the tools to be able to answer that question. The latest one is called ISO 30071 Part 1. It's a new international standard that I've been working on for years, published last year. And that is almost a blueprint for what those organizations need to do to embed this as just the way they work. For us an organization that is good at inclusive design is an organization that almost doesn't need to talk about it anymore. It's just part of business as usual. It's good design includes this; it's not a separate thing. It is the way that you create products for everybody. It's not a tacked on thing at the end. These are all of the things that the large companies are saying and a lot of kind of digital agencies and people like that these days are saying our clients are requiring this from us. And maybe we've spent some time actually getting good at this. But how do we prove it? How do we enable... You know, if you're an app owner out there or and you've gone to a digital agency for your app to be created, and you care about inclusive design, you care about getting 100% of customers rather than just 80, then how do you know? What questions do you ask that digital agency to know that they're actually going to deliver you 100% rather than 80%? Because every digital agency, if you say, do you know how to do accessibility, they will say yes, but most of them haven't really got a clue how to deliver it. And they are hoping that you weren't serious. So you don't ask again. Or if you were serious that you find out really late on in the day, when it's too late for anybody to do anything about it. So a lot of what we do these days is to try and enable organizations to have a, you know, we talked about audits of websites. An audit is like an external organization full of experts in accessibility looking at your product and saying, you know, is it safe? Is it a product that works according to these guidelines? Is it going to work for a disabled person? That's a product. What we're interested in as much as products is organizations, which is, you know, are Google safe to create, you know, products that work for everybody? How do they as an organization say, we have made this just the way we work. So every time we create a product, it's not a one off. It's how we work. You know, we make things right every single time. That's what our audits with the new international standard are about. They're much deeper. They go into how do you do design? How do you do development? How do you do testing internally? How do you make sure that not only are you able to deliver this once because somebody asked you to because they really cared about this, but can you deliver this in a way which works for every single one of your projects? Whatever that app is, whatever that website is, whatever other technology it might be, for that matter. And how do you do it in a way which is really efficient, so you're not wasting money, sort of fixing things too late in the day? But actually, you're doing this right from the start so that it becomes a core competence that you can then give to all of the products that you're creating and the people that you're creating them for. And it doesn't cost the earth. That's where we're at. That's what the new international standard is designed to try and help organizations to say, this is what we need to do to get there. This is how we know we've got there. And this is how we can prove it to other people. So they come to us rather than the people down the road, who know the right answer, but don't know anything more. Does that make sense?
Tim Bornholdt 50:33
That makes perfect sense to me. And I really appreciate you going through that. And I think a lot of organizations, and people that are in organizations that are listening to this will at least have this as kind of the spark to start making changes in the organization to go towards that being inclusive and hitting that hundred percent of users as opposed to just the 80%. I had one last question for you before we part ways. I feel like I'd be remiss not asking this of somebody that's been in the space for so long. And I'm sure you have so many stories of seeing people that were unable to use technology, use these different things before. But then now with all these different things coming out and seeing the progress of technology, it's enabling people, everybody to be able to use apps and technology. And I just, for somebody that's been in it for so long, I want to know, from your perspective, what's been the coolest piece of technology that you've seen around accessibility that has enabled, you know, whether it's, you've seen it give a huge boost to people or just whether you're like, man, I can't believe they finally pulled that off. Just speak to that a little bit about what you've seen that's been kind of just shocking to you, and exciting to you.
Jonathan Hassell 51:42
Yeah, I mean, I'll give a few quick ones. Number one, mobile itself is an assistive technology. So one of my team, he has a disability and he's been working with me for years and years. He is one of the best project managers I know. He's one of the best diversity and inclusion people I know. You know, whenever possible, we love working together. He has difficulty using his hands and he finds it very difficult to use a keyboard on a laptop. For him the keyboard on a mobile phone is a real benefit. So actually for him and everything where people are going towards mobile first, is a great benefit. So literally the whole area of mobile, you know, is potentially the accessibility win for him, and especially, you know, he uses a lot of speech recognition software, so things like Dragon Dictate on a Mac, Dragon Naturally Speaking on a PC. These are really expensive items of assistive technology. They were created specifically for people who needed them. Now, you know, WWDC last year, so Apple comes out saying, actually, voice control is part of iOS. It's part of the iPad OS, it's part of Mac OS. This is a fundamental part. We've taken this as being something that was an addition that you added to your computer, if you needed it, that might have cost you a lot of money. So therefore, very few people did. And we've now made this as actually a fundamental part of our operating system. I think that has huge potential. I wrote my first book using speech recognition technology, not because I have difficulty using my hands, I'm a pretty quick typist. I was tired. I was working during the day. I wanted to sort of be working on my book during the evening. I just didn't want to be typing. And also a lot of the book was actually based on training that we do. So I would put up the training slide that I would normally use, and I would just talk into speech recognition. And it would create the first draft of my book for me. That I believe is cool and actually, that I believe, made my book a lot more human than otherwise because it was more like a conversation. A lot of people said that it's a little easier to read my books around accessibility than other people's because they've got more kind of style to them in terms of you can hear my voice. It's funny in places, all of these sorts of things. There's a lot of stories. This is the stuff you do when you talk about things. When you write sort of like, you know, books, it tends to get kind of dry and academic. That's not what I wanted. So mobile, I think is great.
Other things? Yes, seeing AI, go and check it out. You know, there's a whole raft of mobile apps that are now designed to help people who have difficulty seeing. So you can point to things and either through AI or crowdsourcing, you will get an answer as to kind of like am I looking at an audience of people in front of me or am I trying to do a presentation with my back to the audience, looking at the kind of screen as it were? So that sort of thing's massively beneficial for people who are blind and we've done some things for it, you know, really kind of fun innovation things for people who use sign language.
And there's very few, in general, people in the world who use sign language and most of the rest of us don't know how to communicate. So it's kind of like two communities who never communicate between each other. And we've worked using, initially using Microsoft Kinect technology, to pick up kind of body skeletons and things like that to enable us to start applying machine translation and machine learning to try and work out what signs people were saying. Some of that technology is actually available on the front of my iPhone X Plus in front of me here, so potentially some of that can come through, and really kind of change the way we communicate with an audience that gets very, very disenfranchised.
You know, there are so many, I think, great opportunities out there for people to try, and thinking very, very differently in we've got to change, starting on our website. One of the guys who kind of worked on that particular technology for us for people who sign is now working with Reebok and all sorts of VR kind of like agencies on mechanisms that actually pick up exactly the same sort of gestures, but use them for something that might be a computer game or might be an art exhibit or all of these sorts of things. You know, for me, when you step into a bigger world where you ask somebody, "How does it work for you?" And then try and work out if there's a technological solution that you can create to help them in their life, what can happen is you can come up, as I say, with some of those innovations that make you special, that make you stand out from every other sort of technology company out there. And so I think some of that is, I think, the opportunity. It's a great place. If you can push past that, how do I do this, to, okay, let's really try to enable everybody to use what we're creating, every challenge is potentially the thing that's going to make your company a massive success.
Tim Bornholdt 58:30
Okay, well, I can't think of a better way to end this. That was perfect. And I think the reason I wanted to end off on seeing some of those technologies that you were talking about too is I had the same reaction when I saw WWDC, and they had the video of the guy who just was controlling the computer. He was in a wheelchair and had no control to be able to touch, and he was just able to talk and bring up quadrants and say exactly where he wanted to click. And I think, the more we can show people that maybe aren't exposed to this accessibility world, show them what technology is capable of now and how we're continuing to innovate, it's just going to keep the wheels turning and letting people build better software for everyone.
So if people want to get in touch with you, and I mean, who wouldn't want to use your company to help them incorporate this into their organizations? Tell us again where people can find you and how they can get in touch to learn more about this great stuff.
Jonathan Hassell 59:25
Sure. So I mean, a couple of things. So the best place to go is Hassel Inclusion, so that's hassellinclusion.com. That's where you'll kind of find me and my company and our blogs and all our insights and things like that. We've got a couple of books, so if you go onto Amazon and you put in Inclusive Design for Products, that is how to get the way you do product, to how do we embed accessibility into that in a really efficient exciting way. Inclusive Design for Organizations is the other book and that's got number one in the Amazon sort of charts last year in the US and the UK, which kind of proves that a lot of organizations out there are saying, you know, how do we kind of do this? So yeah, Inclusive Design for Products, Inclusive Design for Organizations, hassellinclusion.com. We'd love for you to get in touch. As I am Jonathan Hassel, you can find me on on twitter @jonhassell, on LinkedIn. You know, the usual places really, but so delighted to have been on the call with you today, Tim. I think it's been a really interesting conversation. And I hope this just kind of changes the way people think about this. What you were talking about earlier, the mindset thing, we think accessibility is the coolest thing in the world. And we want to kind of share that with people and take them on a journey. So if anybody wants to come and sort of, you know, get some help for that journey, we'd be delighted to hear from them.
Tim Bornholdt 1:01:16
Right on. Everyone reach out to Jonathan. Get your mindset changed here. And thank you so much again for joining us today, Jonathan.
Jonathan Hassell 1:01:23
You're very welcome.
Tim Bornholdt 1:01:26
Thanks to Jonathan Hassell for joining me today here on the podcast. You can learn more about his organization Hassell Inclusion at hassellinclusion.com.Show notes for this episode can be found at constantvariables.co. You can get in touch with us by emailing email@example.com. I'm @TimBornholdt on Twitter and the show is @CV_podcast. Today's episode was edited by the wondrous Jordan Daoust.
A couple of things that I wanted to throw in this episode that I haven't in others, we're starting to do a grab bag episode of questions. So if you have any questions that you want to know about app development, how to get started, how to make your app better, and anything about apps that you just are really dying to know, feel free to reach out to us. Again, it's firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn, wherever you want, just shoot some questions over our way. We'll get them compiled up and we'll do some time in the future here an episode about different questions.
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This episode was brought to you by The Jed Mahonis Group. If you are looking for a technical team who can help you navigate the complicated waters of mobile software development, give us a shout at JMG.mn.