Ep. 221 – Regine Gilbert, Author of Inclusive Design for a Digital World: Designing with Accessibility in Mind on the Accessibility Process and Future Technologies

Ep. 221 – Regine Gilbert, Author of Inclusive Design for a Digital World: Designing with Accessibility in Mind on the Accessibility Process and Future Technologies

On this week’s episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Regine Gilbert, author of Inclusive Design for a Digital World: Designing with Accessibility in Mind. Regine and Brian Ardinger talk about what inclusive design is and how teams and companies can build accessibility into their processes and the impact of future technologies in the space. Let’s get started.

Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast that brings you the best and the brightest in the world of startups and innovation. I’m your host, Brian Ardinger, founder of Insideoutside.io, a provider of research events and consulting services that helps innovators and entrepreneurs build better products, launch new ideas, and compete in a world of change and disruption. Each week, we’ll give you a front row seat to the latest thinking tools, tactics, and trends in collaborative innovation. Let’s get started.

Interview Transcript with Regine Gilbert

Brian Ardinger:  Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I’m your host, Brian Ardinger and as always, we have another amazing guest. With me today is Regine Gilbert. Regine is a user experience designer, educator, international public speaker, and author of the book Inclusive Design for a Digital World: Designing with Accessibility in Mind. Welcome to the show, Regine.

Regine Gilbert, author of Inclusive Design for a Digital WorldRegine Gilbert: Thank you, Brian. Happy to be here.

Brian Ardinger: Hey, I’m excited to have you on the show. Not only for the fact that we’re going to talk about your book and all the things that you are an expert in when it comes to design, but you’re also going to be at the IO2020 Summit here, coming up next week. And we’re excited to have you to talk to our audience a little bit more there, but we wanted to jump into it and get a little sneak preview of some of the things they’re going to be seeing at the event and hearing from you. So, thanks for coming on. Maybe to start, what is inclusive design?

Regine Gilbert: Well, that is the million-dollar question. You could ask five different people. They’ll tell you five different things, when it comes to inclusion and what inclusion means. I like to take a chapter out of Kat Holmes’s book. Kat Holmes says that we don’t really know what inclusion is. She wrote the book Mismatch Design. But she says, we do know what exclusion is. We do know what it’s like to be left out of something.

Regine Gilbert, Inclusive Design for a Digital WorldAnd so that’s what I think about when I think about inclusion. I actually think about exclusion and I think about who are we leaving out when we create products? When we create services, when just this morning, I was talking to one of my friends who’s a makeup artist. She’s a professional makeup artist. And she’s like, Oh, you would really like, forget the pop stars name, but she has a condition that makes it hard for her to like open things. She’s like, Oh, she has a new makeup line and the way to open it is so easy. You should really look into it. And she’s like, I thought of you when I saw the packaging.

And I said, yeah, that’s the kind of thing. I think about packaging now, you know, and things that are hard to open and I’m in my forties. And as we get older, our dexterity changes and it doesn’t improve. I mean, it doesn’t, you know, everything is relative to our bodies and whatever happens, but when I find something hard to open, I’m like, WHY!!!

Brian Ardinger: Exactly Or hard to read.

Regine Gilbert: Yes. Or hard to read.

Brian Ardinger: Can we get rid of the eight-point font please.

Regine Gilbert: Yeah. I mean, at this point, you know, most people are looking at screens all day. We’re, most of us are engaged with some sort of technology at all times, especially during this pandemic and with that, we’re getting fatigued. Right. And so, we don’t need things that are cumbersome or hard to see. Yeah. That’s a whole thing.

Brian Ardinger: So, if I’m not a designer, why should I really care or pay attention to this trend? What are some of the reasons why everyone should be really caring about accessible design?

Regine Gilbert: I think of it this way, that everyone is temporarily able bodied. If you wear glasses, you may not think of yourself as someone with a disability, but if you take off those glasses, are you still able to see? And if you’re not, then that is a disability, right? So those glasses are an assisted technology, that help you function in this world. And that’s basically what we need to be doing throughout our society is providing the glasses or providing whatever assistive technology that is needed to help people do what they need to do.

Brian Ardinger: Personally, we’ve gone through that particular journey. My daughter here’s what cochlear implants. And so, having that assistive technology to be able to access the hearing world. It has been a game changer for us and has led me personally, try to figure out how do people talk to each other and how do they interact with each other. And can you talk about the design process and where accessible design fits into that process? Is it something that happens at the beginning of the end or where can people go wrong with it?

Regine Gilbert: The classic answer when it comes to design, is it depends. And it truly does depend. For me in my classes. I teach accessibility from the beginning, right? The first readings I have for my students to do and the first couple of weeks of classes are on inclusion and accessibility. And what are these things and what do they mean? And how do you incorporate those into the research plans for what you’re about to do?

When it comes to the corporate side of things a lot of times it’s not thought about in the beginning, it’s only thought about when a company has been sued, right? They’ve been sued because their website isn’t accessible to people with disabilities. And then, Oh, no then everybody’s in a panic. We need to fix the website. We need trainings. Oh, and you know what? We’ll just settle. We’re not even going to fix it. We’ll just leave that to the side.

I mean, there’s so many different things. I mean, just, I think it was just last year where Domino’s Pizza was sued because their website wasn’t accessible and then they took it up to the Supreme court and the Supreme court was like, you got to make the site accessible. It’s part of the American with Disabilities Act. Now, technically speaking, the American with Disabilities Act came out in the early nineties before we have the internet that we have today. So, them applying this old statute to something new was quite eye opening and people were like, yes, this means like, make it accessible.

And why not? In the United States, I like to throw this stat out.  In the year 2035, which is 15 years from now, which is not a long time, we’re going to have more old people in this country and old, I mean like 65. I won’t be old when I’m that age. Cause I’m not that far from it. You know, we’ll have more people who are over the age of 65 than under the age of 65. I am trying to plant little seeds with my students to like start making stuff for your older self now, because when you reach that age, it’s too late.

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Brian Ardinger: When I think about also the fact that a lot of companies look at accessibility and that, and they designed for the customers with that in mind sometimes, but they don’t also design for their employees or their internal systems and that. And so, I think that’s another big trend that we’re going to see is more and more folks start recognizing and seeing how beneficial accessible design is as your customer will start demanding it in their workspace as well. And other places that you’ll see that.

Regine Gilbert: Even though the recent pandemic people were allowed to work from home. And there were companies that would tell people with disabilities, we’re sorry, we can’t hire you because you have to work from home. And now it’s like, Oh, but now you let your employees work from home. So there really isn’t an excuse. People can work from home, which means that more people with disabilities who may or may not be able to leave their home can actually get into the workforce. And so, there are opportunities for people if, if they’re accessible, if they’re available.

Brian Ardinger: So, let’s talk about the book. Can you give some examples or case studies that you point out there about folks that are doing accessibility design well, or what have you learned in the book writing process?

Regine Gilbert: The book is Inclusive Design for Digital World, and it came out in late 2019. And I wrote it with kind of myself in mind, but also a lot of my students who had questions. And I was like, sometimes I know the answer. Sometimes I had to look up the answer. Sometimes I had to provide a case study. So that’s the way I designed the book.

And I start off the book with asking the question, have you ever wanted to go somewhere and couldn’t get in? And how did that make you feel? Because that’s what we do when we don’t make things accessible. People have told me I felt sad or frustrated or angry. I’m like, well, that’s how people feel when they’re not able to access things.

I think Google has done a pretty good job of accessibility, especially when it comes to deaf and hard of hearing with Google Meet and Google slides. One of my friends who is deaf and has the cochlear implant, she wanted to come to a talk I was giving. I said, Oh yeah, come check it out, whatever. And she said, Oh, are you using Google slides because my battery died and I’m not going to be able to hear you. And I was like, Oh shoot. I am not. I am actually using Keynote.

And so, I quickly changed my slides over to Google slides because Google slides use machine learning for closed captioning. It is not perfect. However, it is pretty good. And so, I ended up doing this presentation, which was on accessibility and she didn’t show up.

Brian Ardinger: I think PowerPoint might have that feature as well. And we’re going through that now with our daughter going to school, Zoom remoting, and that whole aspect of how do you capture things? How do you get them access to different things? Personally, we watch TV with captioning all the time, and I don’t think…I can’t go back to it now without…you kind of pick up a lot more than you realize.

Regine Gilbert: If captions are not on, I have a hard time.

Brian Ardinger: So, tell us a little about how does global culture and other factors play into accessible design? So, when you think you’re developing, like for the United States audience or whatever, are there different things that people should be thinking about when they’re designing for a global audience?

Regine Gilbert: Yeah, there are things that are standard cross culturally, right? You want to make sure our contrast is high enough to see, but then there are things that are different. When thinking about, for example, I worked e-commerce for a lot of years for a global brand and we would have these headlines at the very top and sometimes it would be really long. And we’d have to think about when that gets translated to German.

That is. Going to rap over that image and it’s not going to look the same. So, it’s really taking into consideration the context of that particular culture. We tend to have a very Western lens, especially being from the United States, but there’s a whole world out there and people see things differently. And I think that it’s just having that awareness of how people are going to be experiencing your service and product in which contexts are experiencing that too.

Brian Ardinger: Are there any tools or tactics that you could recommend for folks trying to dabble in this or understand this better, or make it a part of their product design experience?

Regine Gilbert: I would recommend my book of course, Inclusive Design for a Digital World, but I would also, I mean if you have interest in accessibility, I highly recommend web aim.org. They have a lot of great articles and resources. If you’re just interested in accessibility in general. Equal Entry has a great blog site, so they have a lot of blog posts. There’s so, so much out there. Deque University is a great place to learn about accessibility and that’s D E Q U E and. There’s so many that come to mind.

Brian Ardinger: That’s a great list. Some of the questions that I think pop up when people, especially product design, folks that I talked to, they often ask, well, you know, we want to develop to be accessible, but how do we test, how do we get people to actually use it correctly or give us insight into what they’re feeling, what they’re seeing, what they’re doing with our product. Are there recommendations for how people can test to make their product more accessible?

Regine Gilbert: Everybody knows somebody or know somebody that knows somebody. And what I say is don’t wait till the last minute, if you can incorporate participatory or co-design with folks so that you’re getting that input early and you’re getting that input from the source, right? You’re not just like it’s hearsay. Oh, I think this person needs this. Get people into like test early and involve them in the process. Don’t wait till the last minute.

Brian Ardinger: So, the last topic I want to talk about, we talk about innovation and obviously the technology is changing rapidly every day. How do you see the wave of new technologies like AR and VR and voice in that playing into making the world more accessible for folks?

Regine Gilbert: You’re speaking to my heart. These are areas that like now I’m focusing on researching accessible, augmented reality experiences. I think voice is the future for a lot of things. And I think virtual reality for those who can experience it, because not everyone can, there’s going to be a lot coming. I think more on the augmented reality front, but there’s a lot of potential around the applications.

Again, making those things accessible and making the tools themselves accessible because they’re oftentimes not. That make the things. So, there’s Thomas Logan, who actually is the CEO of Equal Entry. It’s a consulting firm for accessibility. He has a meetup for it’s called A11YVR and A11Y is a numeronym for accessibility.

So, there’s 11 characters between the and the Y. Right. And he’s been exploring accessible virtual reality. He does a monthly meetup and it is on YouTube available. And it’s really cool to just hear, like, think about experiencing captions right in virtual reality. And what does that mean? Even last semester, I taught a course called looking forward with Beth Chalkius and Beth is blind. And we have the students think about if there were a 360 experience, how would you provide audio descriptions? Like audio descriptions are provided on Netflix, right, for movies. So, if you were in a 360 experience and somebody is looking around, how could you describe it? Right. And these are things to think about, you know, as we move forward.

Brian Ardinger: I love the fact that you’re bringing highlights and insights to folks that maybe haven’t thought about this in the past. And so, I’m excited to have you at IO2020 to talk more about this, but in the interim before the show, if people want to find out more about yourself or the book ahead of time. What’s the best way to do that?

Regine Gilbert: You can go to my website, Reginegilbert.com or find me on Twitter. I’m pretty active @REG_INEE.

Brian Ardinger: Excellent. Well, Regine, I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks and thanks very much for being on Inside Outside Innovation and look forward to continuing the conversation in the future.

Regine Gilbert: Thank you, Brian.

Brian Ardinger: That’s it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out InsideOutside.io or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.


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Episode 221

Ep. 221 – Regine Gilbert...