Molly Watt: Amazing! Well, thank you so much, Marc, and everyone else getting me involved in on this event. It’s been amazing. So hopefully, what I have today will give you some food for thought, should we say, to walk home with, fly home with, get the train home with.
So, a little bit about myself. Firstly, I am an accessibility and UX consultant, so accessibility is a passion of mine. Hence, why I wanted to make sure you could--
Marc Thiele: --so far? Yeah. It’s okay to use this one?
Molly: That’s fine. Is that okay, everyone? Is that all right?
Molly: What is that; third time lucky, fourth time lucky? I don’t know, but here we are.
I have my company called Molly Watt Talks where I consult in accessibility and UX. It is a particular passion of mine, and I’ll get to why that is in a moment. I also have a part-time role at Nexer Digital, which is actually a Swedish company. I basically run audits, accessibility audits, and inclusive design workshops there.
Is your window open? That’s a very open question, isn’t it? But what does that actually mean to me?
Now this quote, I can’t claim it as my own, unfortunately. I found it somewhere on Twitter, and it really resonated with me. That is, “No one understands inclusion like those who have been excluded.”
I have been excluded. I have a disability.
Sorry about that.
I was born into a silent world. That cute little curly-haired girl, that was me. [Laughter] My parents discovered (when I was 18 months old) that I actually had severe hearing loss, and I was given my first pair of hearing aids at 18 months old.
Now, we have no reason for this. There was no family history with deafness or anything like that, so it did come as quite a shock. And from my parents’ perspective, I was their first girl. They had two boys first and then me. They thought they had parenting licked and then came along me.
So, the first decision they had to make was how was Molly going to be able to communicate. If you’ve come across a deaf person before, you probably understand that there are lots of different methods of communication. They have sign language, BSL (which is British Sign Language over in the UK), oral sign-supported English, lots of different routes.
Now my parents really felt passionately that I should be communicating orally because it was more inclusive. Not only could I not be doing what I do today, but also in the classroom, making friends, getting a job. It was a really, really important task for me to be able to speak.
Having receiving my first pair of hearing aids at 18 months old, I then had intensive speech therapy. A lot of my childhood revolved around speech therapy, to be honest. I began speaking from the age of six.
When I say began speaking, that was kind of the first time I was stringing words along into a sentence. That was all so I could communicate and actually, first and foremost, put my hand up and ask for help if I needed it. That was so, so important to my parents.
As I’ve just mentioned, my life quickly revolved around accessibility. How was I going to access communication in order to feel included in the classroom, in society, et cetera?
With that said, I did actually have a very happy childhood. As I mentioned a minute ago, I had two older brothers and a younger sister. We went on plenty of holidays. Honestly, the best days of my life was being a little child, deaf child. I may have been the only one with colorful hearing aids in the classroom, but I was totally okay with that. I could speak. I could communicate. I felt included. That was most important to me and my family.
I wish I could say it stopped there in terms of the challenges I had growing up. But when I got to my teenage years, so when I was about 11 or 12, I experienced some more challenges. First and foremost, I was struggling to lip read, which (for a deaf child) was incredibly isolating because deaf people are so, so visual. Then I was struggling to read the board in the classroom. And then I was experiencing lots and lots of headaches. I was really clumsy. We didn’t really know what it was.
My teacher of the deaf at the time, actually said, “Molly, you might need reading glasses. It’s not unusual for deaf children and adults to be tired because it is such a visually exhausting job being a deaf person.”
So, I went for a routine eye check. It was actually the optician at the time who said, “You know what? Jane, Andy,” the name of my parents, “do you know why Molly is deaf?”
They say, “No. We were just told it was a technical blip. It just happens from time to time.”
The optician said, “Well, actually, I think there’s something not quite right at the back of Molly’s eyes, and I think it’s linked to her hearing loss.” That’s when I actually got diagnosed with Usher syndrome.
Usher syndrome is the most common cause of congenital deafblindness. Never did I imagine I would actually be going blind. But they turned around and said to me (at 12 years old), “Molly, you’re going to go blind.”
They said, “You shouldn’t experience too much of a visual deterioration until you’re in your late 20s, early 30s, but it is going to go.” [Laughter] That was incredibly exciting to hear, as you can imagine - not.
But what Usher syndrome is, is a combination of deafness, so you’re born deaf, and then during your adolescent years, you start to acquire a blindness called retinitis pigmentosa. Now retinitis pigmentosa (also known as RP) on its own is also incredibly common. It’s the most common cause of progressive blindness. What that entails is you’re born fully sighted and then your peripheral vision closes in. You get like tunnel vision. The rate of progression and how much a person loses depends on the person.
No, I was pretty unlucky. I went from being partially sighted at the age of 12 to severely sight impaired (which politically correct for blind) at the age of 14. I now have five degrees of vision, so you might have seen me waddling around with my cane over there. That’s the reason I have that. It’s not just an accessory. I actually need it. My best friend here, she’s also here guiding me. That’s any excuse to bring a friend on a work trip, right? [Laughter]
My life evolved even more around accessibilities. Not only was I struggling because I couldn’t hear very well, but I coped pretty well with my hearing aids. I also was experiencing such a dramatic change visually and I needed to be able to access my education to feel included again into the classroom, into society, friendship groups, and so on.
But the question was how. One of the things-- Now, I hope I don’t get told off. I am not marketing here. I’m not paid in any sense to this company, but I’m going to talk about amazing hearing aid technology has got to today.
But back in ‘96, I was born in ‘94, but at 18 months old, I was given my first pair of hearing aids. They were the analog hearing aids because that’s what was available.
Now, my parents would tell me stories about how much I hated these analog hearing aids. I would hide them behind the sofa, in the toilet, you name it. I did not want them in my ears. But I soon realized I needed them in order to communicate with my siblings, my parents, my grandparents.
Fast-forward a few years to when I got to about eight to nine years old, I was given my first pair of digital hearing aids. One of the things about this (and I remembered so, so vividly to this day) was taking our dog (at the time) for a walk with my brother, my next brother up.
It was an awesome time. I remembered walking around and wondering what the sound was on the ground. It was the leaves. The leaves were crunching. I was like, “Leaves makes sounds? What?!”
I just remembered my brother -- he was hearing and sighted and all the rest of it -- he says, “Yeah, obviously.” [Laughter] But I was like, “Wow! This is so fascinating.” It was also the first time I heard birds, as well, which, for a little eight- or nine-year-old, was just amazing. It was so, so fascinating.
I think this was when I realized just how important the hearing aid tech was to me as a deaf person.
Then I got the age of 20, so I’d been registered blind a good few years at this point. And I was introduced to smart hearing. Now, what is smart hearing, you ask? Basically, a new, better pair of hearing aids that comes with an app. Because everything has got an app now, why not have an app for your deafness, right?
What the smart hearing element is, it’s basically a Bluetooth connected to my iPhone and my Apple Watch with an app where I can adjust my treble, my bass, my background noise. I can also apply location services to it. So, if I’m going to Starbucks and I’ve adjusted the acoustics beforehand, the next time I walk into Starbucks, it automatically changes, which is just amazing.
The last and final feature -- there’s quite a lot to these hearing aids, but -- the one that’s mind-blowing to me, as someone who is deaf-blind, I’m incredibly reliant on hearing aids. If I didn’t have them now, I’d be very, very lost. However, like all tech, it breaks sometimes.
If one of my hearing aids crashes for whatever reason -- it doesn’t work and I’m away working at a conference like so -- it’s happened before -- I would really, really freak out. I be like, “Oh, my goodness!” It’s almost as bad as not having any hearing by having one hearing aid working because it’s really disorientating.
But what I can then do is I can open up this app. I can fill in a little form that basically specifies what the issue is, which hearing aid, is it making any noises, what were you doing when it happened, et cetera?
This form gets sent to an external audiologist. The audiologist picks it up within 48 hours. And what that audiologist does, she reinstalls a new audiogram. The audiogram gets sent back to my iPhone, and I receive like a software update, if you like, like you do when you need to update your phone.
I take my hearing aids out, and I scan it next to the phone. It reinstalls new software. Fixes the hearing aid.
Audience members: Wow!
Molly: Yes! Exactly. Amazing, right? And here we are in 2021. That’s how far hearing aid technology has come. I call it the hearing aid evolution because I’ve lived through it. I’m living through these really, really exciting times where it really does enable individuals like myself to be able to do what I’m doing right now.
Whilst I’ve been here at this conference, I’ve changed the settings on my hearing aids a few times to be able to communicate and understand people. No offense to any of you lot in the room, but a lot of you have accents, and I’m not very good with accents. [Laughter] With this program, I can change the treble, the bass, so I can further access communication and communicate with you just like everybody else, which is amazing.
Further on from that, and again, Apple is not paying me to do this, unfortunately, but I’m an avid Apple user because of the built-in accessibility that they provide. With that said, Android does a really good job, as well. But all of these are built into every single hand-held device we have now, right?
So, I don’t know if a lot of you are aware of any of the things that are displayed up here. But within your settings, there’s an accessibility option and there are series of options that can help you personalize your experience to be more accessible.
One thing that Apple has now done (in all the years that I’ve been using accessibility) is that they’ve actually moved up a notch by prioritizing the accessible experience. For instance, when you first get an iPhone in its box and you open it up, it will ask you right away now if you want to use voiceover or large text because Apple has recognized that actually there are a lot more people that benefit from it that don’t necessarily know where to go and find it.
Color filters is a really good one because it applies like a filter, if you like, which reduces glare. Voiceover is the one that everyone has heard of. It’s a screen reader that blind people use. It’s very navigational. So, everything you see on your screen is read out to you.
Now, I’m a deaf-blind person, and I rely on technology. But I do not rely on a screen reader. That always shocks people when I say I’m blind and I don’t use a screen reader. Designers, developers are like, “What?! How? How does that happen?” But we’ll talk more about that in a moment.
The rest of my accessibility toolkit, I like to call it, is my guide dog, bless her, Bella. How cute is she? She would normally come away with me on work trips. But with COVID and all the paperwork, I couldn’t be bothered, to be honest. So, I’ve got my friend instead. [Laughter]
Molly: Who is almost as cute as her. [Laughter]
But yes, the Apple Watch is a really interesting one because, when it was first launched, everyone was unsure about the Apple Watch, right? Everyone was like, “This is a con. Apple is just trying to persuade you to get an iPhone,” blah, blah, blah.
I got it purely out of curiosity and with the intention of returning it within 14 days. I was just curious to know what this Apple Watch would do for someone like myself who relies on technology as a deaf-blind person.
Now, I wrote a blog. It went viral. I think it was because it was probably one of the first positive reviews on the Apple Watch and from the perspective of someone who relies on tech.
This blog went viral. It crashed my website. [Laughter] I didn’t know what to do. I panicked big time.
Philip Schiller, over at Apple in Cupertino, retweeted the blog and that’s when my website crashed and I panicked. But it certainly has been (ever since then) -- so, I write this blog probably about five years ago now, and there’s been a real interest around wearable technology and how inclusive and accessible it can be for people with disabilities. So, I left that screenshot up there. If you want to read that blog., please do.
Yes, moving on--
Who here has heard of Hellen Keller? Now, I can’t see you. It’s really dark. So just shout at me.
Molly: Amazing. I so glad you’ve heard of Helen Keller. Incredibly inspirational within her own right. However, a big difference between her and I. The same thing about me and her is we’re both deaf-blind. The other thing is, she was born in the 18th Century and so, therefore, didn’t have the same access to the same tools I have today.
The way Helen Keller had to communicate was by touching her fingers on people’s lips and throat box to understand what people were saying. Now, if you imagine in the day of COVID, I don’t think people would appreciate me touching your face.
So, obviously, Helen did a great amount of things back in her time, all things considered. But I also like to just bring this back as a reminder, this is how technology can really, really help enhance someone’s life and independence.
So as a family being newly diagnosed with Usher syndrome, being at school, being an academic deaf-blind person, which I hate to say or use that phrase, but I was the first in the burrow (where we live in the UK) academic dually impaired child. No one really knew what to do with me. But we all thought that if I had the right tools, I would succeed.
However, that did do me really well right through to college. I got my A levels, I got into university, and I was so, so proud of myself because I thought I’d really proved myself and everybody else I could really get somewhere, having been told by several teachers and so on that actually that wouldn’t be the case.
What I found, the problems I had at university, it wasn’t the technology I had. It was the lack of awareness and misunderstandings around my disability. I wasn’t expecting anyone to be an expert, but it was the ignorance that pushed me out of that uni. Which, to this day, I don’t regret. But it took me about four or five months to actually gather up my feelings and thoughts and leave university because I just couldn't stand for it anymore.
But some of the things that did help. Obviously, I’m very aware we’re at a tech conference talking about tech, design, and all of that, which is brilliant. If it’s designed to be inclusive, it’s great. But if it’s not, it’s like 10 steps forward and 20 steps back.
But these are some of the devices. Kindle, I used a lot to access by books because you can adjust the text size, contrast, et cetera. IPad, the the whole Apple ecosystem, I had access to. Flatmate, so people I lived with, they were amazing and supportive.
But why didn’t I stay? Well, there were lots of reasons. The Intranet, for example, where we could get our emails and our files and everything else, all the lecturers refer to it, I couldn’t access. So, I had all the tools ready there, my assistive tech ready to access my education. But I could zoom in the Intranet? Absolutely not. There’s only so much that we, as disabled people, can do to actually get as far in life as other people.
My biggest downfalls haven’t necessarily been down to tech. It’s actually been down to misunderstanding, which often leads into badly designed services and products also. It’s so important to consider those gray areas because when talking about accessibility and design, for example -- I have a separate slide deck where it goes a little bit more technical, but I think today was more around my experiences -- I think the biggest downfalls have been people stereotyping, assuming what people need, and then designing by those standards. By that, you missed off a lot of people that could really benefit and then they’re left excluded.
Here’s an example of one misconception, which I’d mentioned a while ago. I’m registered blind. I do not use a screen reader. I don’t use brail. I do have some useful vision. There’s actually a lot of blind people that do have useful vision, also.
I’m also deaf. I’m oral. If I had a penny for every time I’ve turned up to an event and they had a BSL interpreter there ready to go, the poor person has wasted a journey because I don’t need sign language. I’m quite happy with the old captions. Well done, Marc, for doing this. This is great.
But those are assumptions that people make. Still to this day, people assume that if are deaf, you communicate one way and if you are blind, you see a certain way.
Well, how do blind people read, you ask? Of course, there are people that use brail. There are people that use audiobooks. Everything is a spectrum, though. It’s really, really, important to understand that.
I’m not just talking about the blind community. All of the communities. But for example, 93% of blind people actually see something. So, if you’re designing something to be fully accessible using a screen reader, great. You’ve built it to be accessible for the minority, but the majority are still not going to be able to access your website.
Following on from that, one in four of us need reading glasses. I’ve seen enough to know -- not in this room because it’s pitch black and I can’t see a thing -- outside, I’ve noticed quite a lot of you wear glasses. Now glasses are a form of assistive technology because they help assist you read. Therefore, you have got accessibility needs. A lot of people assume accessibility, we’re thinking about people with disabilities, right? People think accessibility, wheelchair, disability. People still associate those things, which is totally incorrect. We need to change our mindsets around that.
One feature that I do use is large text. I have my text pretty large. With that said, my parents -- they’re both in their late 50s, they have their text size set larger than mine and I’m blind. They are just old.
Molly: That’s the way it goes, I’m afraid. It’s coming to us all. [Laughter]
But by the age 40, 1 in 4 of us need glasses. Therefore, you can benefit from large text. No shame in that.
That’s one thing I wanted to come back to.
What I find really, really strange here, it says, “Apps that support Dynamic Type will adjust to your preferred reading size below.” Right, so that’s really, really, great. But do you know how many apps actually support Dynamic Type? Barely any. Barely any, which is the most infuriating thing because if you’re installing an app and the app recognizes this person as using large text, why wouldn’t the text be adjusted to their preferred reading size? It makes no sense to me when you think 1 in 4 of us needs glasses. I just don’t get it.
Right. This is what I see. I did this on my iPad Pro, one of the first 12-inch ones that you can draw. It’s actually a picture of my dog running through a field, and then I put a painted, like a filter onto it to try and illustrate how I see because people think if you are blind, it’s black or white, or like a ridged tunnel. Not necessarily the case. So, what I tried to depict here is where in peripherals, it is pretty black, but there are some dodgy blurry bits. There are some white flickering bits. There are some flashing lights. So, all the flashing -- and I hate to shame one of the presentations earlier with the animated text. Whoa, my flashing lights didn’t like that, I’m afraid. They did not like that. So, my useful vision went - foof. It went because of the flickering, and it just overwhelmed me with flashing lights.
But this is more of a realistic experience of someone with low vision, with five degrees vision, someone with Usher syndrome or retinitis pigmentosa. It’s not like a ridged black tunnel.
I don’t know if you’re aware, but there are lots of Chrome addons where you can now basically add like a -- what’s the word I’m looking for? It’s like, again, a filter to the screen to try and empathize, so you can emphasize what certain conditions look like, for instance. Someone who has tunnel vision or someone who has got cataracts, there are lots of those where you can just literally take a box and it shows you what it looks like. They’re not 100%, but they are a good way of trying to get people to understand some of the challenges that can happen. So, hopefully, this will give you more idea around the complexities, around vision impairments, anyway.
Great. Now, I don’t know how well this is--
I might have to go to my laptop in a moment. But this is a very short clip that I just wanted to show of a good experience as someone using Apple, again, sorry -- [laughter] some of the accessibility that is available, not just on Apple, but on Android. A lot of handhelds -- all of the handheld devices can do this. But not everyone is aware of what they can actually do, but this is an example of a good experience. I don’t if there’s anyone from the UK here. Anyone?
Molly: Woo! Wow! Wow! That few? [Laughter]
BBC Sport, yeah, not particularly my interest, but just thought BBC Sport would be a better one than BBC News. Don’t want to say all of that.
So, I’ve just picked this very neutral screen recording, basically. What it’s going to demonstrate is bits of Pinch Zoom. Who here has used Pinch Zoom? Don’t lie. Everyone uses Pinch Zoom, right? Everyone.
So, why isn’t every website designed for that to happen? Like, why? I just don’t understand. But, anyway, BBC does it really well.
So, there’s Pinch Zoom. There’s Reader View. Has anyone heard of Reader View in Safari? Chrome do--
Yeah? What that does is it reduces all the clutter. It’s just nice, plain text with a dark background or whatever your preference. That’s great. I tend to use that for heavy pages of text. So, if my eyes are quite tired, I can do that.
Then I mentioned a moment ago, I do not use voiceover. Now, there’s a second screen reader available on iOS called Speak Screen. Has anybody heard of Speak Screen? That’s what I thought. No one’s heard of Speak Screen. [Laughter]
Speak Screen is actually originally designed for those with cognitive impairments because all it does is it reads out the text. It’s not navigational. It’s just text top to bottom, and that is it. Nice and simple. I’m more likely to use this screen reader than I am the navigational one because I have useful vision.
So, I’m just going to try and play this, and hopefully, this will work for us.
Right. See? I’m zooming in. It works really nicely. It’s not pixilated. I’m going to find a random article that does not interest me in the slightest. This is a Reader View element. Yeah.
Now, this is Speak Screen. Ooh, is that audio coming through there? There should be audio. It’s okay. It’s basically reading the words. As it highlights, it’s reading what it says.
There’s a little toolbar where you can speed it up, slow it down. You can change the voice, as well, which is great.
In Reader View, you can also change the contrast, colors. So, depending on--
Really have that ability to personalize your experience because no two people are the same. So, I like this sort of contrast and text size. I’m very, very comfortable.
I think -- yeah. Is that it?
This is a zoom-in feature that is available on iPhones. The blob that has the arrows, that’s the zoom controller.
If you notice as I’ve zoomed in, it’s cut out all of the content. So, it’s actually quite hard to use this. I only use this as a very last resort. So, if I’m on a website and really struggling to see the checklist, see the boxes to tick, I will use zoom, the iOS zoom. It’s really, really tricky. I would much rather be able to go into Chrome or Safari and enlarge the text size so it sits nicely in the page and I don’t lose any content. But not every website does that very well.
One of the things I get with accessibility is recognizing that it is a spectrum. There are lots of big gray areas. But there are also similarities. That’s just like humanity in general, right? You can’t put two people together. No one is the same. You can’t stereotype and assume that every person with a disability is the same or different, whatever.
If I had a penny for every time someone has met me and gone, “Oh, my nanny is deaf,” you know, as if they know exactly what experience is. I get that. We do that as people. We try and relate to that person, but it doesn't mean that you know the extent of the gray area that’s out there.
Let’s talk numbers, shall we? Everyone likes statistics. One billion people are living with a long-term disability worldwide. Now, arguably, I think this number is bigger, larger -- whatever word you want to use -- because there are lots of people that are undiagnosed, wait years for a diagnosis, people that don’t identify as disabled. People with long-term impairments aren’t necessarily classed as a disabled person. But all of those people that would benefit from accessible design (just like what I said with the large text thing) we’re not thinking about people with disabilities. We don’t want to forget them, of course, but when we’re thinking inclusively, we don’t want to just assume that we’re just aiming for the one billion. There are so many more of us out there.
In the UK, about 14.1 million people, so 22%. In Sweden, 10.23 million people. It’s around the 20% region everywhere, which is quite a big number. But again, I’m arguing it’s bigger - so many more people out there.
The challenges, as you can imagine, have gone up substantially as a result of COVID. I actually have to confess. The first lockdown, I absolutely loved. [Laughter] I loved the fact that I didn’t have to see people, and I could hibernate at home. But of course, that did old quite quickly.
But I did notice that because I knew how to use my tools, my technology, I was able to still socialize online, still check into work, all of these things. But the people that didn’t, those were the ones that were excluded even further. They were isolated and the downfalls of mental health and all of that on top of what was a global pandemic that was incredibly frightening for lots and lots of reasons.
The big question is how but, also, why do people get it wrong? Now, WCAG, Hidde mentioned earlier, which is a really, really, great place to start. However, it’s not the be-all, end-all. In my opinion, checklists don’t work. But a quick tip because I’m not going to go into the technical stuff, a quick tip, who here uses a tab key?
Audience members: Yes.
Molly: Yes. How annoying is it when that doesn’t work?
Audience members: Yes.
Molly: Thank you. Make sure the tab key works, people, because almost all assistive technologies rely on the tab key. So, make sure everything is accessible by a tab key. That’s the only technical tip I’m going to give.
Moving on from that. In my opinion, checklists don’t work because it’s very black and white. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been banging on about the gray areas, et cetera, but nothing is black and white in life. So, it is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Interesting one, but I just found that, and I thought, yeah, I’ll pop it in there. But this is why people get it wrong because they think, “Right. We’re looking down the checklist: tick, tick, tick, no, tick, no, tick.”
One of the things WCAG do is it does target a lot of the screen reader experience. There’s a bit on color, which is great. There were a lot of things that need manual testing, that actually need users to try it and test it with their assistive tech. There are things that WCAG would pass and make it, “Yeah, this is great,” but actually doesn’t work at all.
For example, if you’ve got captions on your media content, but the captions are really poorly contrasted or whatever, WCAG would go, “Tick. It’s done. You’ve got captions.” But actually, the captions are not very readable and a lot of deaf people and deaf-blind people can’t access them. So, that’s why you need manual testing and just a lot more consideration around accessibility when looking at websites.
This is a great example of the WCAG kind of checklist behavior. Can anyone tell me what’s wrong with this image? I’m gathering that you got it right away, which is great. So yes, it says, “Don’t lock when lit,” and underneath it’s got brail. So, if you’re a brail user, it’s likely you don’t have any useful vision. How are you going to know it’s lit?
Now, this was Virgin Trains over in the UK. I am delighted to tell you these don’t exist anymore. But there are so many instances like this. The reason being is they’ve looked at WCAG or that behavior and they’ve gone, “Right. We need to make sure all our signage and labels are accessible for blind people. Brail - tick,” and they’ve stopped it there. They’ve forgotten that actually, brail is something that does very much exist, but a lot of blind people don’t use it because everything is digitized now.
Yes, you can get brail thingamajigs. Personally, it was pushed on me when I was little, and was like, “Absolutely not. I’m quite happy using my large text and so on.” Again, it’s a very individual thing, but this is just no, don’t do it.
Yeah, so I highlighted the brail in case no one could see it. [Loud exhale]
Right, so my main point being here: users must be involved in testing products for general useability. A lot of issues that come up are actually useability issues, and so they tend to be quite easy fixes.
And when I talk about testing, I’m talking about inclusive testing. So, make sure you’ve got testing of a variety of users, different age groups, different abilities, et cetera. That’s when you’re going to learn more about your website than ever before. That’s something that’s so, so, crucial and to have the users involved from start to finish.
People like myself who rely on technology perhaps the most -- as I’ve explained before, I was introduced to tech and accessibility at 18 months old -- I’m growing through this life with tech as an innovation that gets better, and it’s enabling me to do so much more. I’m just going to continue on this path. I want things to be built to be accessible. If they’re out there and they’re available to me, but I can’t use them, that’s infuriating. So, that is when we would get excluded because it’s like, “Oh! So frustrating!”
Yes. How do we do think differently? This slide might be a bit corny. But think of yourself. Think about you in 20 years’ time. Think about your parents, your grandparents. What will change or what has changed for them?
One thing that won’t change, I’m pretty sure we will all still be using our handheld devices, our phones. We will still be wanting to access content. We all still want to be doing stuff. Right? We’re not just going to drop our phones in a quarry somewhere and just fall off a cliff. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to continue and continue and continue and use our devices. The only thing that will change is how we do it.
So, I hate to say it. We’re all going to get old. Right? If we look at our parents and our grandparents, we can all acquire things. I talk about my dearest old grandad a lot, who is 82 years old. Me and him, we’re like this. Fingers crossed. We’re like this. We’re really, really, close.
Me and him are basically the same person. He is deaf. The only difference is he won’t admit he’s deaf. He definitely is deaf. His deaf-blind granddaughter can walk up to his house and hear his telly on outside, and he won’t admit he’s deaf. But anyway, that’s another story.
But he’s also just been diagnosed, a couple of years ago, with age-related macular degeneration. Very, very, common. He’s 82. It’s kind of just expected. Now everything just starts to fail. So, the way he accesses content is the same as mine. And actually, I tell the story quite a lot, but I think it does hold value, is that he was one of these classic technophobes. “Oh no, I don’t like technology. No, no, no, no.”
Now my next brother up, I mentioned a while ago, he was training to be a pilot for British Airways a few years ago, which meant he had to live in Spain for just under two years. And so, he would be calling us every other day, “How’s Jack doing? How’s Jack doing?” We would say, “Granddad, if you had an iPad, not only could you speak to him, you could see him.” He lives over in Liverpool, which is four hours away from us in the southeast, so we didn’t see him much. Of course, Jack, over in Spain, didn’t see him at all.
That was what persuaded him to get an iPad. Now, we got this iPad. We set it up exactly how I have mine set up with large text, color filters. I showed him how use Speak Screen. I just made all these adjustments for him. Sky News is on there, BBC Sport, all of the easy apps.
Now, we’re more likely to get ahold of him on Facetime than we are on his house phone. Now, I don’t know if that’s because he can’t hear his house phone, but that’s another story. So, he uses his iPad because he realizes how easy it is to use, and, actually, that’s arguably because of the accessibility that I applied on there.
What changes? It’s how you do it. Whether you’re going to get glasses, whether mobility might start to struggle, you’ll still want to do things, hopefully. You shouldn’t want to stop doing things. You should carry on doing things. It’d just be changing the way you do these things.
A lot of the aging population -- I just talked about my grandad -- have very similar experiences to those with sensory impairments, for example. So, I can relate as someone who is deaf-blind. I can’t speak on behalf of other people with disabilities. But a lot of their experiences are very similar to those of us that have been born with sensory impairments.
Like I said, my grandad and I, we’re basically the same person. The difference is however many years between us. So, these are the things that we have to consider. If you’ve attended any accessibility workshops or keynotes, there’d been people talking about situational impairments as well. For instance, if you’ve broken an arm or if you’re in a shop and you’re holding a baby and you’re trying to manage your shopping bags, you’re temporally impaired. These are things that happen in everyday life that people should consider.
That’s why it’s so, so, important that we consider it. If it’s not for the people, for yourself later on, or for your parents and your grandparents. Try and relate it to yourself.
Let’s think about minorities, but also majority because it’s just unique capabilities that we should be thinking about anyway. Because when we get it right, it’s invisible. Now, volume is obviously one of the very first ones back in the day when there was an old television back before my day. But volume is something that was altered depending on your environment. If you couldn’t hear it, you turn it up. If someone is asleep on the sofa, you turn it down. But that is an accessibility feature that every single one of us uses. It’s invisible now.
Thank you so much for listening, guys. Thank you.