What’s Up WID: Why Digital Accessibility Matters Transcripts

Miguel Quinones, a Black man with a bald head and navy blue suit and pink button down shirt smiles

Ashley Inkumsah:

Hello everyone. And welcome to a very special episode of, “What’s Up WID,” the World Institute on Disability podcast, where we discuss what’s up in the disability community across the globe. If you’re new here, I’m your host, Ashley Inkumsah. And on today’s episode of our podcast, we’re celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day with special guest, Miguel Quiñones, who is the user experience research manager at Google. We’re also proud to have Miguel serve as one of our board of directors. Miguel and I had an awesome conversation regarding the importance of digital accessibility and why it should matter to everyone, both with and without a disability.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Thank you so much, Miguel, for joining me for today’s very special episode of our podcast to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Firstly, before we get started with my questions, I do want to ask you, how are you doing today?

Miguel Quiñones:

Doing very well, especially in this day and age, I think we’re returning a corner, hopefully with the pandemic. Folks are starting to return to office. Things are starting to look a little bit more normal. So certainly happy that things are starting to progress. And personally, I’m feeling very good. Certainly appreciate the opportunity to be here, excited for WID and everything that WID is doing and very appreciative of the opportunity to be a guest on this podcast.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yeah. And I’m so excited to have you be a guest on our podcast. You’ve been an amazing board member of ours and it’s just so wonderful to be able to pick your brain and talk about accessibility today with you. If you can tell us a little bit about your background and your work in accessibility, I’d love to hear about that.

Miguel Quiñones:

Yeah. Accessibility for me, didn’t really start as accessibility. It began with a question from an organization that I used to work with around just what it means in order to be compliant with accessibility, and specifically with the ADA. I didn’t necessarily know what that meant. Luckily, I knew that worked at WID. We started those conversations and then we began testing with people that had disabilities, started talking about what it meant to not only be compliant, but to also take into account the types of things that we would have to do as an organization in order to be digitally accessible. My work evolved from just compliance to having internal conversations around how to make products and services accessible to people with disabilities. Since then, my work has continued with serving on the WID board, continuing to have conversations around advocacy, and then just in general, what it means for WID to be best in class as it relates to accessibility in the services that they offer.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yeah. I think that your background is a prime example of something that I always talk about on this podcast, which is that a lot of companies are lacking in accessibility because they’re simply not aware that it’s even an issue. And this is why I always say that we always want to give grace to people because everyone’s at a different spot in terms of accessibility. So whether it’s people who have gotten involved in this space to be compliant and then realize later down the line, how important it is, or it’s something that’s top of mind for a company when they first get started, everyone’s at a different spot. It’s really interesting how your life and your background really exemplifies that. And why do you think that it’s important that other businesses and corporations, why do you think that it should matter to them to prioritize accessibility, particularly digital accessibility when they’re building their websites and other platforms?

Miguel Quiñones:

Yeah. No, great question. And I think number one, World Health Organization says that there’s over a billion people that have a disability. And whether you think about that in terms of a customer or consumer of your product or good, a coworker, a friend or family member, digital accessibility removes barriers. And that’s barriers with communication, barriers with how we interact with one another. It ensures equal access to things that a lot of people take for granted. During COVID, you saw this necessary transition to doing things online, whether that was initially finding local test sites to take a COVID test or more recently finding places where you can get vaccination shot.

Miguel Quiñones:

In corporate America, there was a transition to doing everything online. So whether that was communicating via meetings or just interacting with regular communications, with video calls or whatever else, digital accessibility means that independent of how you access information online or how you interact with people, we are providing the means and removing barriers so that everyone can do so in an equitable way. It’s a necessity, it’s not necessarily a luxury anymore. And as we think about what it, or where we are going in general with regard to technology, it’s something that we all have to keep in mind because if you don’t, then we inadvertently are creating some of these barriers.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yeah, absolutely. And let’s be honest, accessibility is a lot of work, right? It’s a lot, and it might be overwhelming for a lot of people to get involved in this space. I know when I first got involved in making things accessible, I realized that to make a product accessible, you have to almost work twice as hard. It takes twice the amount of time to do it. What advice would you give to businesses and companies who might be on the fence, who might be, “Wow! This is overwhelming to even get started,” and they may not even know where to begin? What advice would you give to that company?

Miguel Quiñones:

Yeah. I think the first thing is perspective. Accessibility, I think, creates opportunities for everyone to do business with your organization. If it’s not taken into account, it creates barriers. If you’re thinking about doing something or at least getting started, if you have no idea about where to start, it can simply be, if you have an internal research program, start conducting user studies with people that have disabilities. That will, at least, give you an idea of how or what people do in order to access your product or services. If you don’t have an internal research group, there are organizations like WID, who can help you, not only with a general understanding of what digital accessibility means. They certainly helped me not only acclimate myself with knowledge around accessibility, they helped me understand why it was important.

Miguel Quiñones:

And they provided the opportunity for me to see how people with various disabilities interacted with our products and services. So not only did they help with understanding of the various technologies or assistive technologies that individuals used, it gave me an opportunity to have conversations and just to better understand the various journeys that people take in order to interact with our products and services. The first thing is just to create awareness. The second thing is, if you can’t do it yourself, there are definitely people that help you. The third thing is start having those conversations with your employees, that there very well could be an individual in your organization or many individuals in your organization that have a disability. And the one thing that I found through the creation of an employee resource group, as well as just having conversations, once we started talking about digital accessibility and creating an equitable platform. So that way, independent of how you interacted with our services, we are doing everything that we can to create equal access.

Miguel Quiñones:

Once we started having those conversations, not only did individuals with disabilities help to spearhead those conversations, they also became bigger advocates for themselves and making sure that they had everything that they needed in terms of accommodations to do their job in the best way possible. There are many ways to start. I would say from personal experience, once you do start, it’s almost like a snowball effect. And you will quickly find that there are many advocates who will support the quest to become digitally accessible. And while it may be daunting to start the benefits, not only for how your employees see the organization, but also with how your customers see your organization, as well as take advantage of products and services, will absolutely benefit from this.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yeah. And as someone who’s been doing this for quite a while, for a long to time, what are some of those things that you’ve learned from people with disabilities through user testing? And what are some of those experiences? Are there any of them that you could share that you would want other companies to know?

Miguel Quiñones:

Yeah. I think the first is that people with disabilities are very independent. And I’ve seen this firsthand, they will blame themselves and their ability before they blame the organization that they’re trying to do business with. I’ve seen the level of frustration. Knowing that like we were testing a product or services, a service that wasn’t accessible. I’ve seen the level of frustration with someone trying to do it to the point where they got physically upset. And for me as a tester, as a researcher, just had to reinforce the fact that we understand that there are challenges, this is not a reflection of the individual’s ability to complete any task, and that the organization had some work to do in terms of improving digital accessibility.

Miguel Quiñones:

The other thing that I learned is that disability doesn’t necessarily have to be explicit. There are many disabilities that by looking at someone or talking to someone, you may not realize that they had a disability. I saw this once we started conversations about creating an employee resource group. And we had a number of individuals with disabilities within our organization that came forward, that not only self-identified and said, “Hey, you know what? I have a disability and this is how I am impacted at work because of the lack of digital accessibility”, much to the surprise of pretty much everyone.

Miguel Quiñones:

And it’s because, again, individuals that we found, not only are extremely independent and didn’t necessarily want to speak up. And the same type of behavior that we saw with individuals and interactions with companies, we saw it on the consumer side, as well as the employee side. And once you open up and start having those conversations, it creates some normalcy around what it means to be digitally accessible. And that can be from employee resources to consumer channel, to what’s the best way to facilitate an inclusive video call? And those are all things that weren’t necessarily talked about until we started having the conversations around accessibility.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yeah. And you talked about, we’ve learned a lot, hopefully, from COVID in the realm of accessibility. Why is it important for us to continue to build upon what we’ve learned about digital accessibility, especially a lot of workplaces that went remote? Why is it important for us to continue on that trajectory of prioritizing digital accessibility, well beyond the pandemic?

Miguel Quiñones:

Yeah. I think the most important thing that we have to realize, with an aging population, there are going to be more people. And again, when you think about disability or even taking advantage of features that are under the accessibility menu of phones, my mom, her text needs to be a little bit bigger. Sometimes it’s better for her to invert colors. The volume for certain devices or applications has to be a little bit louder. When we think digital accessibility, myself included when I first start, I was thinking the extremes. And again those things that are very explicit, that I didn’t necessarily understand and I didn’t necessarily see a whole lot of beyond the pandemic. And just the fact that we are all doing a lot more work, a lot more consumption, and a lot more commerce on digital devices, means that we all have even more opportunities to interact with companies.

Miguel Quiñones:

And as we think about the patterns that we see digitally, if accessibility isn’t taken into account, then it creates barriers. And if you think about, even for me, like my mom, if there’s an application that she cannot increase the tech size, she will not use that application anymore. And if that is a service that the family takes advantage job or uses, then the family will not use that service anymore. So when you think about barriers, it creates access or prevents access, not only to the individual, but potentially everyone that leverages that platform or service in order to conduct business and sometimes communicate. We, as a family, typically rely on a common application to either talk face-to-face or virtually. And if everyone in the family cannot commute in a way that is comfortable because of various accessibility features, then as a family, we move on to something else that is more inclusive. As a consumer, as a family member, as an employee, we are all thinking about the ways that we can be more inclusive or remove barriers. I mean, it just naturally makes sense for organizations to do the exact same thing.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yes, absolutely. I think as well as from a social justice and a social good standpoint, I think from a market share standpoint, 1.3 billion people is a lot of people to have using your product or service. I think it would be best practice for most companies to prioritize, including those 1.3 billion people who have disabilities. I think that’s certainly very important.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Did you know WID offers accessibility solutions and universal design services that support companies and organizations of all sizes via disability-led surveys and focus groups, user experience testing, climate assessments and audits, training and advisory services? WID offers the service to drive better design and accessible experiences for employees, clients, and customers. Ready to learn more? Visit our website at www.wid.org/accessibility-services, to book an appointment with us today.

Ashley Inkumsah:

You mentioned your mom and your family, and that brings us to our next question of, why do you think that digital accessibility should matter to not only businesses and corporations, but to the individual person?

Miguel Quiñones:

The one thing for me, that I think about, and whether it’s interacting with family and friends to interacting with employees, the reason that it matters to the individual is that the common ground for interaction, for consumption, for entertainment, sometimes it’s a platform. And in a lot of cases, particularly with COVID, and if you think about as an employee, maybe it’s team building as a family, it can be something as simple as playing like Wordle or something else that we can all talk about. And independent of common ground that creates that bond that we’re looking for. And again, whether it’s a family member and its entertainment or an employee, and we’re trying to get something done, if the platforms, applications, services are not accessible to all, it naturally creates a barrier, not only for the individual that’s trying to take advantage of that platform, it creates a barrier between the individual that is not necessarily using the accessibility features and the person that is trying to use the accessibility features.

Miguel Quiñones:

What this does, is it normalize the way that we interact because we don’t have to think about accessibility. So it matters, I think, to everyone because you want to create something that’s inclusive. You want to make sure that we are not creating barriers that prevent everyone from interacting with a tool or application in the same way. The impact can be direct or explicit because I want an accessibility feature and it’s not there, or it can be indirect because I’m trying to interact with someone that’s trying to take advantage of those features and they’re not available.

Ashley Inkumsah:

In my experience, I found that digital accessibility and universal design, it benefits everyone, even in terms of physical accessibility, for example, like a curb cut. It’s good for delivery people who are delivering goods using dollies. It’s also great for people who use wheelchairs. And I think digital accessibility is the same concept where, when you make your products accessible for people with disabilities, everyone benefits. And which is why my next question for you is, why do you think that it’s important that not only people with disabilities care about digital accessibility, but also non-disabled people? Why should they also join in the movement for digital accessibility?

Miguel Quiñones:

Yeah. And I think it’s something that we don’t necessarily always think about. It’s like the weather. You don’t necessarily think about the weather, unless it starts to impact you directly. And with digital accessibility, it’s the same thing. And whether it’s something that you personally use, and again, I’ll use the example of my mother, even my sister. There were certain things with my mom finding out that the reason she wasn’t replying to family group text messages was because she was having a hard time reading the message within the message app.

Miguel Quiñones:

And removing the barrier or simply adjusting settings so that way it was comfortable for her and she could access the information in a way that was comfortable for her, enabled her to start communicating more. So as we think about everyone, or even people that don’t have a disability or even an explicit need for assistive technologies, to your point, over a billion people in a world, could be a family member, it could be a coworker, could be a friend, not having product services, portals, entertainment that is digitally accessible means that it impedes the ability for you to interact with everyone in an equitable way.

Ashley Inkumsah:

One thing I would also add to that is that disability is something that it intersects all of our livelihoods. If we all live long enough, that might happen to us one day. It will benefit all of us if we all care about disability inclusion and we prioritize disability inclusion, because it may not even be you, it might be your family member or whoever, someone that’s close to you. I think it intersects all of our lives in one way or the other. So it’s important for us to all come together to prioritize digital accessibility. And every year, the disability community sets aside this very special day, Global Accessibility Awareness Day to celebrate digital accessibility. How though, can we normalize digital accessibility so it’s perceived as something that’s a necessity and not a luxury? And I know you spoke to that earlier on, but if you could speak to, how do we celebrate accessibility every day and not just on this very special day?

Miguel Quiñones:

Yeah. And for me, think about how you would be impacted if there were a barrier that prevented access. So I need a COVID test, where can I go to find a COVID test? There may be an 800 Number, which I’m pretty sure would not necessarily be a great experience. So what’s the quickest way to find information? It’s digitally. I would like to be able to go online and find the closest place where I can take a COVID test. I want to see where I can get a vaccination. I want to be able to order pizza. I want to be able to call an Uber. All of those things are activities that we all do. And none of those things seem luxurious. None of those things seem outside of the realm of what’s possible. None of those things are costly or even things that we have not done personally.

Miguel Quiñones:

When we think about luxuries, to me, luxury is something that’s optional, luxury is something that’s a nice to have. But the things that I just mentioned and the many other things that we do on our smartphones, some of them maybe luxuries in the sense that it may be like a waste of time or like entertainment. But there are many things, online banking, finding your nearest doctor, using a map to get to a location that you’ve never been before. All of those things we want access to.

Miguel Quiñones:

So when we think about accessibility and digital accessibility and removing barriers, we simply are looking to create access so that everyone can do those things in a way that is pleasurable, doesn’t create confusion and they are able to start a task and complete a task. Independent of the technology that they may use to take advantage of that product or services, everyone should have equal access. Again, it’s not a luxury, it’s living. And why? I mean, imagine if something got in the way of being able to do something that was just part of normal life, it would be pretty frustrating. Again, it’s something that we all have to, not only realize it’s critically important, it’s a conversation that impacts billions of people every day.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Yeah. Absolutely. I do believe accessibility is not a luxury. And I saw a really awesome tweet a couple of weeks ago, that pretty much encapsulates exactly what we’ve been speaking about, which it was something to the effect of accessibility is not extra steps, it’s the steps that you missed. And I think that that just encapsulates everything about digital accessibility. It’s something that we all need to be thinking about. Especially if we’re in the customer service line of work, that’s something that we need to be thinking about, and it has to be top of mind all the way through. Thank you so much for chatting with me today about the importance of digital accessibility. It’s just been such a pleasure to pick your brain about this and really talk about why it’s important that we prioritize it. So thank you so much. I really appreciated this conversation.

Miguel Quiñones:

No, I did too. It’s certainly been a pleasure. I’ve been a huge fan of everything that WID does, not only around creating conversations around accessibility, but also the fact that they are such huge advocates in so many ways. Certainly a pleasure, not only serving on the board, but having the opportunity to participate in this podcast. So thank you again, Ashley, for your time as well.

Ashley Inkumsah:

Thank you to Miguel, for joining me to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day. It was so great to chat with him about why we need to come together to prioritize digital accessibility, not only today, but every day. American Sign Language and transcripts for today’s episode, as well as all of our past episodes of our podcast are available on our website at www.wid.org/whats-up-wid. Thank you all for tuning into today’s very special episode, and I will chat with you again very soon.

0 comments on “What’s Up WID: Why Digital Accessibility Matters Transcripts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.