At Reason, creating a more inclusive world is in our DNA. However, we know that saying we care is not enough. As a team we make progress, we make mistakes, we listen and we share what we learn, openly. As strong believers in the power of technology as a force for good, we must hold ourselves accountable for the digital world we are building and working in. If it is not inclusive, it is not a force for good.
Empathy in design and development
At Reason Digital we increasingly see our mission as promoting ethical design and development practices – to ensure we’re working with the right people, in the right way. This involves considerations such as avoiding dark patterns, steering clear of design that produces or encourages compulsive behaviour, and of course proactively designing inclusively.
Working with the charity sector, we are often designing and building with and for disabled people. We have come to understand the importance of empathy in design decisions, something we are keen to learn and talk more openly about. It’s not that we believe people are not empathetic – especially in the charity sector – but in our busy world we can be too quick to apply our own defaults, which in turn imply that other people think, work and behave as we do. Without lived experience of what users think, feel and do, it is harder to design and build to meet those users’ needs.
With this in mind, and in order to create the most inclusive and impactful digital experiences possible, we need to be consulting and testing with a wide range of people throughout the design and development process.
Whilst we do test regularly with service users of the specific charity we’re working with at the time, it is not enough. We are currently looking for a partner to help us test with as broad an audience as possible for every product we create, so if you have experience in this area please reach out.
As a digital agency, we often inherit client brands, for use in our web or app design work. We’ll be given a document by a new client, which outlines what’s in the toolkit: logo variants, colour palettes, icon styles, etc. to be used in a new interface design. Unfortunately these brand documents don’t always account for visual accessibility concerns, and the brand itself is rarely set up for accessible use online. Colours are often the major problem. Lovely reds and blues that haven’t been tested for sufficient contrast with key text colours — black and white being most common.
Whilst we regularly promote accessible brand palettes for clients, we didn’t have our own house in order. So, at the end of 2020, we set out to create an accessible-first brand for ourselves, because it’s the right thing to do. But also to show that a brand can be engaging, intricate, stylised and attention-grabbing, whilst also taking non-discrimination laws seriously. One that takes combinations of contrastive colours just as seriously as logo kerning, whitespace and shadow effects.
We will continue to address our own weaknesses and share learnings and insights from the journey we’re on.
Digital inclusion steering group
We’re becoming stronger in adopting practices that ensure our products are designed and built with inclusion in mind. To build on this strength we have formed a steering group to champion and improve our inclusivity practices throughout the organisation.
These inclusivity practices include:
- Working towards a goal for all of our work to be fully AA compliant by the end of Q1 in 2021
- Building accessibility into our design, development and QA standard practice, avoiding a ‘test and fix’ approach
- Investment in training and up-skilling across the team to ensure we are meeting a minimum level of understanding of accessibility, with accessibility ambassadors in each team overseeing our practices and processes
- Usability testing with disabled people early on in the design and development process plus testing final build
- Gather insights and deliver research around the more common issues disabled users face when using products or services online, with a view to help us create more accessible products and help generate and spread awareness in the sector.
- Continue to broaden our understanding of how digital can serve to enhance inclusion
Inclusivity and accessibility encompass creating a working environment which provides equality of opportunity and freedom from (direct and indirect) discrimination.
We want to build a workplace that encourages full contribution from its diverse community. We want to build a workplace where people feel confident and comfortable being their authentic selves – that way, we all thrive.
There are areas which we need to continue to work on and improve. One key area being the make-up of our team. We understand the importance of inviting and maintaining a diverse team of employees within Reason, but recognise that we’re not there yet. We need to do more in this area, particularly within our development team and at senior level.
We’ve recently taken steps to help us recruit and support a more inclusive workforce, including adopting several new recruitment practices. These include partnering with and reaching out to networks of underrepresented groups and implementing blind recruitment practices, to lessen the risk of bias affecting the process. Whilst inclusive hiring is a priority across our team, we recognise that in order to sustain a happy, diverse team we need the right culture, practices and attitudes in place post-hire. It should not only be the recruitment process that is designed with inclusivity in mind.
The policies we have in place to promote this include a formal policy statement, escalation procedures and positive action in recruitment. We’re committed to actively opposing all forms of discrimination in its operation, which extends beyond our own team, to the clients and the services we provide.
Radical Accessibility: research and recommendations
Note: This is an area that will feature ongoing updates and news from the Reason team on all things accessibility and inclusivity. If you have any questions, or require this in a different format, please contact us.