An estimated population of 1.85 billion people with disabilities, alongside their friends and family who often act on their behalf, control over $13 trillion in annual disposable income (RoD Group).

Inclusion and accessibility aren’t just questions of legal requirement and box ticking, they should be part of your growth strategy. Being more relevant to more people could clearly open up new market opportunities. As we bring back The Experience Makers for a new 2021 podcast series, our host, technology journalist, Gemma Milne, talks to Wunderman Thompson’s Head of Inclusive Design and Accessibility, Christina Mallon. She’s joined by two technologists who are leading the way in designing AI powered tools to help organisations navigate the complexities of accessibility compliance, WT Technology’s Mateusz Chrominski and WPP AI guru, Perry Nightingale.

Here’s just a quick sneak peek at some of the themes and advice discussed to whet your appetite.

Two sides to the coin

Inclusion in the context of customer experience has two sides to it. Brands and organisations need to ensure that their experiences are both representative of all and accessible to all. But think of solving these as part of the same process, one upstream and one downstream. Bake the commitment to solve for both of these into your digital DNA and build your technology processes around that.

Diverse teams breed inclusion

There is no technology fix that will ever override the need for diverse teams in the organisations and agencies that create digital experiences. The team were keen to point this out and to reinforce that it is essential to have a diverse mix of lived experiences to help identify possible blind spots when it comes to both representation and usability. For some organisations, this will require a fundamental mindset shift that starts with looking to erode any unconscious bias in recruitment processes.

Operationalise your intentions

For many organisations, the responsibility when it comes to inclusion and accessibility is not clear. Your CEO will undoubtedly be talking about both, but is the organisation able to translate strategic goals into operational requirements? So often they are an afterthought in the process requiring triage, rather being central to experience design and functionality. The result is that advertising can implicitly say something completely different to explicit corporate messaging. It’s not intentional, it’s just very hard to track and ensure compliance against every bit of content produced by a large organisation.

AI to the rescue, but not in isolation

AI can be a tool for companies to better connect with the communities that they serve.

Perry Nightingale

AI can be hugely powerful technology but also useless if it’s not used properly. When effectively taught a set of rules, for instance, when it comes to visual recognition, machines allow us to see a huge number of things at the same time. It enables teams to approve images against a set of rules for representation and content for accessibility issues at vast scale and incredibly quickly. But it can only do what it is taught to do by humans. So AI should only ever be used on a human + basis. And there is a risk that it will only repeat bad habits if not deployed by teams with inclusive mindsets or that bring unconscious bias to the table.

Multichannel solutions

Solving for accessibility on a site is relatively simple and there is lots of software available to help with this. But the real challenge for brands is ensuring that all assets and all content on every channel complies. This is where AI helps to cover the scale of the challenge for big brands.

Reduce costs

Baking accessibility into your DNA can reduce costs considerably. Fact. Accessible design as a habit is far less expensive than correcting mistakes after the fact.

There’s so much more packed into this inspiring episode, download it now and make sure you tune in.

And if you want to talk to us about how you can introduce AI into your technology stack to ensure that you are talking to all of your customers, get in touch.

As Christina puts it, “the time is now. There’s no excuses. The tools are there, the information is there. Don’t ignore 15-20% of your consumers.”

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