Research and design improvements across all digital channels
Product Owner, Strategist, Art Director, Project Manager
During the early stages of work in building the Digital Design System for Our Daily Bread Ministries, my team and I were attending trainings and did focused research on the topic of digital accessibility. We had just gotten through a large overhaul of the primary Our Daily Bread Ministries digital experiences (web and email). We quickly realized there were opportunities for improvement that would help us serve our audience better and we acted quickly before the paint had dried on the new experiences to improve them as well as build best practices around accessibility into the Digital Design System.
While there are many aspects to creating a truly accessible experience, my team and I kept our focus on the aspects that we could control while evangelizing the benefits to other teams in hopes of aligning objectives to solve a multi-disciplinary experience weakness.
Within the confines of the design team, we tackled the research and documentation needed to guide iterative improvements to the organization's user experience. Along the way, we were active in sharing our research and work with the print design team as well as global design staff. This sharing led to further research and improvements for the traditional print channel of the Our Daily Bread flagship product.
Educate ourselves on accessibility issues to be an in-house source of knowledge for Our Daily Bread Ministries.
Understand which aspects of accessibility can be improved by the visual designers.
Communicate the importance of accessibility to the entire organization including how our visitors benefit from a more accessible user experience as well as what legal risks there are in not addressing accessibility issues.
My team and I have been active in the past 3 years attending trainings and conferences that offer insight into accessibility issues. With a team of 3 digital/UX/UI designers including myself we have attended the following events all with a focus or reference to accessibility:
UX Certification through Nielsen Norman Group: 2019
Adobe MAX: 2016, 2018
SXSW Interactive Conference: 2017, 2019
An Event Apart: 2016, 2018
Along with these trainings we have done a lot of online research on this issue and have benefitted greatly from the following resources:
Armed with our new knowledge, we set to work auditing the Our Daily Bread Ministries web and email channels. With the results of the audit, we put together a list of fixes that needed to happen and documentation to share to help educate our coworkers.
A typographic study reviewing common dyslexia concerns.
The mission statement for Our Daily Bread Ministries is "to make the life-changing wisdom of the Bible understandable and accessible to all." Traditionally that has meant increasing the global footprint of the resources available through new distribution and translations. I have been talking with the executive team about expanding that definition to include digital accessibility.
From a user experience perspective we sought to recognize and share the opportunities for accessibility improvements that are in the the organization's own backyard and don't require new distribution channels or translations. Based on this data, there are many opportunities to reach more individuals based on accessibility alone:
According to the US Census Bureau, 19% of the US population lives with a disability.
1/3 of US families have at least one disabled family member.
1/10 of men are color blind.
54% of disabled individuals are women.
10,000 people turn 65 every day.
By 2030, there will be 71 million baby boomers over 65.
STRATEGY AND LEGAL IMPLICATIONS
The global map toward accessibility is complicated. Each country has its own definition of what makes an experience accessible. According to our research and industry best practices, we found that aiming for WCAG 2.0 compliance is the best way to achieve global accessibility and mitigate potential litigation.
We found the US legal concerns around accessibility are based in Titles I and III of the American's with Disabilities Act of 1990. I have been communicating with the leadership of Our Daily Bread Ministries regarding this and conversations are happening to resolve accessibility concerns internally as well as reaching out to third party partners when we discover they are not meeting certain accessibility guidelines.
We took the results of our research and audit and have been making improvements to digital channels as well as influencing print channels. We have made adjustments to the brand guidelines and digital color palette to ensure good visibility of text and elements online and in email. We have also reviewed type styles and are in the process of updating print and digital typography that will helps us reduce eye strain as well as improve the reading experience for individuals with dyslexia.
Our Daily Bread Ministries digital brand colors viewed through common color blindness filters.
We recognized that going a traditional route of initiating new development projects to address these concerns would lead to inaction or lower prioritization against leadership initiated work. We found that if we handled the updates as bug reports that always get a percentage of development time, we could move much quicker to begin addressing these issues.
While most digital accessibility is focused on physical disabilities, mainly visual, there are other aspects that accessibility must take into account. Accessibility needs to consider physical, auditory, and cognitive disabilities.
Digital experiences need to be functional for cognitively disabled users. This primarily focuses on ensuring web pages, forms, and other interactive elements are clear and do not time-out.
Audio experiences need to include captioning and descriptions to ensure comprehension by people who have hearing difficulties.
Not everyone lives with a permanent disability, either. Making experiences accessible solves problems that everyone has the potential to encounter. For instance, making type large enough and high enough in contrast to be easily read benefits someone with low vision as well as an individual who might have had their eyes dilated temporarily at their optometrist's office. And making an app that is easily navigable with just one's finger or thumb also benefits someone with a broken arm or who is rocking an infant to sleep.
When accessibility is achieved for a few, the benefits are realized by everyone.
At this time we have made the primary web and email channels much more visually accessible and we are continuing to address additional areas of concern. Because automated accessibility scanners are at best only able to scan for 25% of WCAG guidelines compliance, we are also working with Accessible 360, an outside accessibility consultant, to do a complete audit to the website and provide a remediation plan and environment to bring the experience into full compliance.