Have you ever ‘jammed’ with people who every single day deal with a complex array of physical and mental impairments? Just being with them and letting them show you how they get by and the obstacles they have to overcome. A progressive client of ours asked us to set up such an accessibility ‘jam’. At Nile we’ve done hundreds of accessibility audits and user testing sessions over the years, this request was a fantastic first for us.

Accessibility is frequently considered after the build of a digital service has started. This is shortsighted and misses out on the advantages of embedding feedback from users with impairments from the very beginning.
The reward for listening and reacting well to any customer feedback is that you create a well-designed service that encourages loyalty from its users. However, with accessibility you get that bit extra. You make the world a better, more inclusive place.
In our ‘accessibility jam’ we interviewed a young visually impaired woman. She was outgoing and independent, and described the services she uses. Some of them are simple – like talking ATMs. RNIB pushed for the spread of this service and Barclays, who are noted for their focus on accessibility, were the first to introduce talking ATMs across their network. Barclays continues to innovate in this area with the arrival of their new bPay service. bPay offers contactless wristbands and key fobs to customers with additional requirements who may find it quicker and easier to use a contactless device than reaching for a purse or wallet.
How can you be more be more inclusive? You’ll be glad to hear it isn’t rocket science. Here are five simple things you can do to embed accessibility in your customer experience projects (spoiler – it is pretty much the same as including feedback from customers without impairments).

1. Include users with disabilities in user testing
There doesn’t have to be a ‘special’ study set-up for users with disabilities. Simply make sure you include users with disabilities in your overall sample. This inclusive approach will give your team an understanding of the issues affecting all types of users and remind them how important it is to design for everyone.

2. Set up a remote panel
There are thousands of people with disabilities who will happily give you feedback if it improves their access to services. The panel doesn’t have to be massive, just try to include a range of users with physical and cognitive impairments. You then have a great resource for getting quick feedback.

3. Annotate accessibility insights in designs
When you’re making design decisions that benefit users with disabilities, annotate your design with reference to the insights supporting your decision. It is a long journey from design to implementation, and having evidence for your decisions can help you fight your design’s corner.

4. Review your development process
This is the biggy. Accessible design is a team sport and everyone plays their part. It is a very long chain from user research to end product. Look at your development process to see how you could support this way of working. How can you make sure your designs stay true to the insight informing your decisions? What could you change to support this way of working?

5. Embrace the opportunities technology gives you
Including users with disabilities in customer experience research is rewarding. Start building organisational empathy towards accessible design, it doesn’t have to be an expensive and discrete project, just give it a go. Something like 20% of people struggle with some form of disability, with cognitive ones being the largest segment. 20% isn’t marginal, it’s a number your business can benefit from including.