AXSChat Podcast

AXSChat Podcast with Stéphanie Walter, a User Researcher and Designer who focuses on building user-centered, inclusive and accessible products and services

May 27, 2022 Antonio Santos, Debra Ruh, Neil Milliken talk with Stéphanie Walter
AXSChat Podcast
AXSChat Podcast with Stéphanie Walter, a User Researcher and Designer who focuses on building user-centered, inclusive and accessible products and services
Show Notes Transcript

 

Stéphanie is a User Researcher and Designer who focuses on building user-centered, inclusive and accessible products and services. She spent the last 12+ years helping her clients deliver successful projects in different industries (banking, financial, automotive, healthcare, press, travel, etc.) 

She likes to share her passion for her UX work all around the world. She has taken this beyond her successful blog, conferences and workshops. She discusses a wide range of topics, including mobile UX, enterprise UX, cognitive biases, inclusive design, design process and designer – developer relationship. You can follow her on social media for qualitative curated UX design content. 

This is a draft transcript produced live at the event and corrected for spelling and basic errors. and will need to be checked if you wish to publish it. AXSCHAT Stéphanie Walter

DEBRA:

Hello everyone. This is Debra Ruh, and we are doing Axschat again without Neil. I have Antonio Santos here and Neil is still remodelling his new home. But he sends his best wishes to everybody and also, Happy Day after Dad 2022. So, we are really excited about our guest today Stéphanie Walter. She is a consultant with Maltem, and she is a UX designer that also really believes in accessibility. So we are excited about talking to her about her work and she also has some really, really cool thin. on her website, her website that you might want to check out. She has got like the pixels of the week, and she also has some, she has a really cool thing that I was just looking at, Five Illustrations to Understand and Promote Accessibility. So, welcome to Axschat Stéphanie.

STÉPHANIE:

Hi, thanks for having me.

DEBRA:

Yeah, tell us and first of all love your hair!

STÉPHANIE:

Love yours too.

DEBRA:

I love we are girls first, love your hair, Antonio. But Antonio does not colour his hair.

STÉPHANIE:

He has a blue shine, but I think it's the light.

DEBRA:

Yeah, I think it's the light, but it would be funny if he would go blue. All right. Stéphanie, tell us a little bit about your work? How did you get into humancentric work; do you know? Why do you think it's important?

STÉPHANIE:

Sure. So, I was trained in something that is and I have a master’s degree in Languages and web design. To put it simple. So it's a Master's degree that makes us both and we had some classes. So, it wasn't called UX at that time. It was in French. It was called Ergonomie. I think you can translate it by usability. Because ergonomics makes it more like four chairs and stuff. So, yeah usability lesson. But we didn't have that many of those so, when I arrived in my first internship, I was supposed to design some US applications and I did nothing. I knew nothing about those. But Apple, they do really good guidelines and I like how it's called. I still called like that; it was called human centred interface something like that. But it had the word human in it and that was really, really interesting. By starting to dig about okay, I am supposed to design a US application, I have no idea how to do that. I started kind of getting more and more interested into the field and discovered UX designer. We had some lessons on usability and user testing but that was kind of it because usually there is a lot to teach to students and you don't have time to go through all of that. So yeah, I discovered it like that, like mostly books and conferences and articles and I have been like digging and digging further since and trying to get a little bit better at all of that and then, after I was working in Germany I decided to go back to France. I was hired by a company and one of the specialties of the company was that they were putting a big emphasis on accessibility. Like, we had one guy who was a winner, only one guy but then we had more people who were trained in accessibility like audit and things like that. So, accessibility was a big part of this company offer and what we were trying to do, and I was like yeah, actually that makes sense, you know, like we are building websites for people and all kind of people with all different needs. So, kind of the bridge between accessibility and UX design is just like, yeah, it makes sense as a designer you know. It's like okay I get it. And yeah, since then I was just like digging further and further into the topic and trying to improve, I think step by step. One step at the time because it's big a complicated topic.

DEBRA:

It is a big, complicated topic and I think sometimes how big and complicated it is. That is not a reason not to make your ICT accessible because everything needs to be accessible but there's a little bit more complication than sometimes accessibility field likes to say. It's a little bit harder. Sometimes it's just the sheer volume of all the moving parts that is complicated. So, when we have talked a lot recently about design and I just feel sometimes like a broken record because I don't understand why we would design or develop or programme or build anything that didn't work for all human beings and we had a guest on the other day from Canada, Jetta and she was just talking about how you know we really need to re think the way we are doing design because and I was talking to Gareth Forde Williams and he had made a comment that when he goes into training and he will begin the training with, who do we leave out and people are like totally freaked out when he says that. But then he will say, well this adult programming for example, shall we leave out the children, well yes. Okay, so then you start okay. It is okay to leave out the children on this kind of content. Is it okay to leave out all the people that are blind? So it's a very interesting conversation but are you finding those kind of conversations happening in the work that you are doing? That people are really starting to take UX human centred design and accessibility more seriously?

STÉPHANIE:

It's complicated because already for UX design it's really hard to push it. Like, I think, I work for recline and we are three designers in the whole bank and the bank is like 3,000 people internals, plus maybe 2000. No, yeah, 1,000, external. So, a lot of people, three designers and that is starting to grow a little bit and people understand the need. But yeah, so already, like UX is hard to push for. Accessibility is hard to push for, so when you push both, the good thing is usually then you push both at the same time, it's like okay. That is the thing. Also I got an impression there is a lack of proper training. Like, I think the word was mentioned once in a blue moon, during the two years of master’s degree and the word accessibility. And that is basically it. I got the same impression that for developers, it's kind of the same. Maybe they are lucky. Maybe they will get a teacher who is a little bit more interested into the topic but most of the developers I talked to and the designers they are like yeah, I didn't know about accessibility. I kind of discovered it. Even my students like I'm trying to push a little bit the name so that they kind of, I give them a lot of resources, but I am teaching mobile UX. So, I'm like explaining things around how a blind person might use a phone and different impacts it has with a touch interaction for instance. But I have like seven hours with them, which is next to nothing already for my topic. So I am like okay; there is this field and if you're interested feel free to come in to me. I will send you links and everything. But yeah, I get the feeling we start with the education and at some point, if we don't educate the people who are building the websites then of course, it's obviously, if you don't teach something to someone, they can't invent it if they don't know about it. So, it's like, it's the same for accessibility. It's way more expensive if you have to fix it. Once the project is shipped verses when you start thinking about accessibility from the start and yet that is the thing. You need to train people. To think about accessibility from the start. Otherwise we will be stuck in this Loop where then your website gets audited and it's like, oh my God we have to fix it, it's going to cost so much money and then accessibility is seen as a money consuming constraint and it does not have to be. Like, if you hire the right people who know how to build website but also need to have some things like that. You have some designers who understand things around accessibility then you build it like that from the start. Yeah, it's a long journey.

DEBRA:

And you're right that we see very little education in the universities and colleges about accessibility but there are a few examples. I know that they do it in Spain. They have a master’s degree in Spain, which is great, but we need more. And I know there's some stuff happening in the States. But another thing besides so many designers and programmers not being introduced to it when they are being taught in school. We also have this weird thing that happened in the US because we are suing everybody and I hope we keep doing that, I'm sorry.

STÉPHANIE:

I wish we did it.

DEBRA:

Right, make your technology accessible. But anyway, it's also interesting here in the States because of all of our litigation, it does seem that the designers, programmers and developers do know about accessibility. And sometimes they will call it 508 because that is the particular law but I taught this real, I went in and was training this really large Telecommunications company in the United States and I was telling them about the UX and accessibility and what was interesting is the people in the class, some of them knew more than I did. Yeah, you know.

STÉPHANIE:

That is cool.

DEBRA:

It's really cool but I asked them well if you know this, why aren't you doing it and they said because we are not, nobody appreciates us here at this company if we come out and say, oh by the way we also do this. It has got to come in from the top and I just thought that was a very important point to because you sort of hurt them whenever you don't allow them to really create it for humans. So, it's just another weird problem. I will also say, I know we talked on Axschat before that ATOS has really, I think done a gift with the community with the work they have done with their apprenticeship programmes to train people to be apprentices in accessibility. And Antonio, I don't know if you want to talk a little bit about that? But I love that this gigantic brand is trying to help make sure that we have more educated people in our field, Antonio do you want to talk about that?

ANTONIO:

That allows people who are in the apprenticeship programmes to follow a career path and become certified accessible professionals. This started by our colleagues in UK who are part of that working group. So today if you're an apprentice in the UK, you can apply and you can be certified as an accessibility professional. The training and the modules are available for everyone, so, every other institution in Europe or in United States who wants to use the baseline of the programme can use it.

STÉPHANIE:

I need the link.

DEBRA:

Yes.

STÉPHANIE:

I need the link to that programme I know people who would be super happy.

DEBRA:

It's amazing and it's got everything. It's so robust. I told the United States government about it. It's like guys go and do that. They have already done it.

ANTONIO:

Because

STÉPHANIE:

I think Microsoft has done something too as well.

ANTONIO:

Because this opens very interesting opportunities for people who came out of high school, and they don't want to go to university. They want to prefer to go into an apprentice scheme and programme. That gives them immediately access to a career. And we know every organisation is looking for professionals. This is somehow a way, a short path to train people faster, providing them the skills that they need to start working as soon as possible and is agnostic as possible, that is also one of the ideas. So is not vendor specific. Does not look like with any proper technologies and is open to everyone. It's quite an interesting module. But I wanted to also introduce a new topic here considering we are talking about also, training about people who need to develop and build things around accessibility, but Debra and Stéphanie, we know that sometimes conferences around accessibility, they bring all the accessibility community together but they don't often bring anyone that works in customer experience and the same applies to conference on customer experience, they bring people work that work in customer experience but nobody there knows anything about accessibility. So why are these two worlds keeping so apart from each other?

STÉPHANIE:

That is kind of a tricky question like, I pitched this, okay I did that Access Con, a designer to a deaf conference and I hope they will accept it because I really want like, as you said like, it's nice to do this kind of talk in front of people who are interested in accessibility. But I want to do this talk in front of people who know nothing about accessibility or a little bit. But the thing is, I think it's complicated because often like UX conferences from what I have seen UX niche topics, a conference on UX research is going to want a topic on UX research. Because people see now conferences as trainings as well. So, I think it's a little bit complicated with those kinds of conference models who are super specified in something specific like development like, I don't know React conferences. They don't expect a talk on accessibility, and they are kind of not super, I won't, kind of, it doesn't feed the line-up when you have a specific niche topic. So, I think this is why accessibility should be going to more like mainstream or generic conferences areas that could work. But, yeah, I agree to have more like okay let's cross the bridges, have a topic about something in front of someone else and the other way around. And this is a fun fact. I think I spoke at more developer conferences than UX conferences. Still, I am a UX designer but most of the time it's like yeah, I don't make it to the UX one. But developer conferences are super happy to have topics and design and accessibility to help bridge the gaps and things like that. But, yeah, it really depends on who is organising the conference as well. But yeah, we need to have more bridges and exchanges between all the different topics and also we would love to see kind of a more like CR like, higher levels stake holder conference, start talking about accessibility as well, which is something we need to, as you said, also needs to come from the top and like go downside, otherwise if the initiative is not coming from the top there's no budget and stuff. So, for me it's a topic that also needs to reach hierarchy but again that is always tricky.

DEBRA:

We agree and there is actually something that has happened that we are very excited about. Because the World Economic Forum and Dr. Caroline Casey and Paul Pulman the former CEO of Unielver got together and they created the Valuable 500. And 500 enlightened CEO's, all over the world, major corporations, multinational corporations all agreed to disability inclusion, and you can't have disability inclusion if you don't have accessibility and I believe UX this conversation as well, human centred, you can't, you need to design for humans. And so, we are hopeful but it’s a huge, so we got 500 CEOs to agree to include us. But now we actually have our work cut off because we have to deliver. And when I say we, I mean our community has to deliver. We have to stop this fussing and fighting. We have got to come together, and we've got to support each other. In the end, I don't care if it's UX, accessibility, I don't care about the words, but I want access. Everyone needs access to this technology that enhances our lives. So speaking of that, I want to just compliment you a little bit about on your personal website stéphaniewalter.com that

STÉPHANIE:

Dot design.

DEBRA:

Excuse me I renamed it.

STÉPHANIE:

I don't know what the dot com. is

DEBRA:

Stehpaniewalter.design. Excuse me for saying that wrong. Story of my life. But I love that you have all these really wonderful things. I wrote down some of the names. The user research and UX Design Starter Kit. I mean amazing. You have got the Fonts Ninja, a cheat sheet for user interviews and follow up questions. It's just really, you have got some really, really cool content out there and I was, first of all, I want to say thank you. But I want to say you know why, and how you select your content, and it looks like a lot of it is free. And I just want to thank you for that as well. And I know that is one reason why we wanted to it have you on this show but people like you really help us continue to reduce the gaps. So, tell us more about some of these products that you have created and why?

STÉPHANIE:

So, the way depends, for some of the stuff it's just like, for instance, I have a cheat sheet with a user interview questions to help you but also follow ups and this is basically like me getting tired of always searching for the same articles over and over again. So, I said okay I am going to put them all in one safe place or I was like, you know what, I do this cheat sheet for most of the stuff, it starts as a tool for me because I don't like to redo the same thing over and over again and I am like maybe we could interest some people. So, that is the way a lot of stuff. Also sometimes people ask me questions, like I was talking almost like, last time and a designer asked me, do you have accessibility check list and I don't know a lot of about accessibility. I don't know where the start is. Like, okay. So I put together a few things and I was like, you know what maybe other people might ask that question as well and maybe I should like take that content and put it in a blog post. I didn't have time yet, but I will, so that is why a lot of my blog is lists of stuff.

DEBRA:

That is good though.

STÉPHANIE:

I have list of blogs, I have like, where do you find inspiration for mobile. I have a lot of those lists but most of the time, it's like, I am tired of searching for the same thing. So, I think 90% of the use of the search on my website is me trying to find my stuff again. So, it's basically like, I have bookmarks and I put them on my website, so that I can find them instead of keeping them for myself. So yeah, the way is mostly and how do I create those things here, most of the time it's stuff that is useful for me and I think okay maybe this can help someone else or like people ask me questions and I was like oh, you know what, that's a good question, let's answer it publicly over and over again, like those things about how to find your first UX job is like a lot of people come with this question and I'm like, okay. I'm going to make a blog post so then I can send it as a blog post with a lot of content, instead of just having the same conversation. So, I'm happy to have conversations obviously but at some point, okay if it can be useful for more people let's put it on the website as well.

DEBRA:

And it's a knowledge transfer that way.

STÉPHANIE:

Yeah, that's the goal.

DEBRA:

One of the ones I really liked, which I planned to go in the one you have on discover cognitive biases because we, there are a lot of biases out there.

STÉPHANIE:

This is a fun one. It's like, so we used to do, before Pandemic with [21:27.5] UX in Lux, so the goal is it's meet ups, but we didn't want to do meet ups where we talked to people about the topic, they get the knowledge, and we have a [21:39.7] back. We didn't want this kind of a relationship. We wanted to have a meet up where we come in and explore together. So the goal of UX in Lux is like, if you have a UX method you want to try out, before trying out on real actual users and clients just come to the meet up. And we'll do so. We did some things around card sorting. We did some things on usage on a map. And in Luxembourg it's kind of the venues are quite expensive. So, we have sponsors most of the time and that particular month we didn't have any sponsor. But we had a friend in Amazon, and he said, you know what, if you meet up it's free. Sometimes Amazon is okay to give you a room. It's like, okay we are going to go to Amazon we need to find a fun topic. It's like, you know what would be fun at Amazon, it's like talking about biases and all the different things that some e commerce websites use to trick you into buying thing. So, it was kind of me trolling Amazon I think a little bit. Okay, what shall we do? The first version at Amazon we found some cards online and I think the cards we mentioned are the ones we used in the first version, and we used those. But then we were kind of like okay, those cards were really like generic basis, and we wanted to do something more oriented towards user research but also interfaces. We went to Wikipedia, took the list of 140 pages, I think and just like cherrypicked like Laurence has this amazing spreadsheet with colours and stuff and we rewrote some of the definitions that were a little bit too complicated to understand. We translated them in French. So we started with English, translated it in French and someone nicely translated those in Spanish as well and yeah, we created this card game and the workshop that goes around it to help your team become aware of the different basis that they might have when designing but also there's some categories about biases in meetings, like stuff that might annoy you when you're like in a meeting to understand sometimes with the, also dynamics in a group like, like if you have someone that is like highest person in the room. If you let that person, say something first, no one else is going to contradict that person. It's like band wagon effect bias and all of that stuff. So yeah. We have been having fun with those workshops.

DEBRA:

We should have fun while we are learning. Antonio, I know you had a comment?

ANTONIO:

So Stéphanie, we know that we have new regulation coming from the European union that is about to, it's already amongst us. It will affect usually more sectors than others, what type of things have you heard about it? Are you, do you think companies are following up the need to making their websites and their apps accessible or they are still trying to figure out what that legislation is about?

STÉPHANIE:

So, I'm not even aware of the stuff like of the legislation, which is a little bit sad. But it depends on the company to be honest. I also think it depends on the people within the company if they have a specialist interest for accessibility, they will be pushing it. I know some people in Luxembourg are pushing accessibility in private companies which is a good thing because private companies are not mandatory yet based on different European laws. But yeah, what annoys me a little bit in Europe, when you come from the US or I think UK I think is stricter like but most of the time client asks, okay but what happens if my website is not accessible and you say, well get on the list that says your website is not accessible. So, that is like some website that have to, in France, I think you have to put on your website your level of accessibility. But, if it's not accessible, you can say it’s not accessible and that is okay. It's like what? When I heard that it was like okay, if you've knowledge that your website is not accessible you have sometimes, I think to try to. For now, I don't think there are any fans or anything happening in Europe. I don't think I heard about class action and stuff. In Luxembourg, there are some people, you can go and complain to say this website is not accessible, as a customer and then they try to reach out to whoever is building the website. And usually, it works but I think we have covered the website and things because again the law is stricter for public websites than for private sector but then, yeah, even the people who try to reach out to those companies, say look your website is not accessible. I know the people is a friend of mine. Luxembourg is small. I can't give names. But he said, yeah, I tried to reach to this company, and they never reach back. So, it's a little bit, so I think if some people complain that something is not accessible it depends how high up, they can bring the complaint and things. So, it's that is kind of the issue too is, what happens if something is not accessible today?

DEBRA:

Stéphanie, I want to give you another argument to use, and we started with this in the States, but we do have litigation, gigantic sticks of litigation. So, I wrote a book in 2018 called Inclusion Branding and I really talked to corporate brands that and if these corporate brands in Luxembourg want us to consider them enlightened brands around the world, we expect them to be accessible. So, I would start using their brand, who did they want the world to think they are because we are making decisions about, yesterday was GAD, Global Accessibility Awareness Day and General Mills put out a, some content and they thank their disability network. They thanked three employees that are accessibility stars internally and they just really bragged about their internal team, and I said that warms my heart that this big brand is so, you know, they just are so thankful and grateful for their own teams. So, I just would say to you that is one way also to try to, if they care about their brand but we are making decisions.

ANTONIO:

Something that annoys me quite a lot is we had all these efforts and all this money and commitment with GDPR, I find, it's important. But so is accessibility. So you put so much effort on GDPR but some people in the world, some people with disabilities, they are not able even to access to resources where they can have their privacy at risk. So, they just want to access and to be able to use the web and services. And in my opinion, we should move in a similar direction in terms of the accessibility regulation in Europe as we move in relation to GDPR, the access is more important than the privacy is important, but you cannot establish put one higher than the other. But in my personal view access comes first because you're not, if you aren't able to access how can you complain about privacy. So, for me that is instead of, I know that they can you know all these countries several countries in Europe they try to block the accessibility regulation. They try to find work around to apply internally. I think the Commission should apply a similar methodology to GDPR and enforce fines and for what we have seen so far. And if we can extract some comparisons when GDPR came out it was actually government websites who got the first fines. You know, government who had the responsibility to apply GDPR was the first to be non-compliant and then I am almost sure if this, if we had a similar thing in relation to accessibility, government would be the first ones also to be fined by the accessibility regulation. It's something that really upsets me because I look at all the money and all the effort put on GDPR and then I look to compare with accessibility, and I haven't seen the same commitment. So, for me it's very disappointing.

DEBRA:

Good point. So Stéphanie. I know that we promised to keep you on only 30 minutes, and we have already gone over one minute sorry. But we want to give you the last words too. And so, you know, we want to make sure people know how to find you and I mentioned your website, I will do it correctly this time, it is StéphanieWalter.design which makes more sense than dot com. I am glad we have these options.

STEPHANIE:

I checked I can't buy it. It's $5,000.

DEBRA:

Right, right. Oh my God, I know, Billion Strong was available, but they wanted a minimum $4,000 and I was like keep it, we'll do Billion Sequence Strong.org. Whatever but everybody is trying to make money. But what is your recommendation for designers that you know that really do want to make a difference like you did? I mean once again you have so many wonderful resources, but do you have other recommendations for people that are finding out about accessibility and saying wait a minute we should do this together?

STÉPHANIE:

I would say the community is quite friendly to be honest. Like, there are sometimes people complaining a little bit loudly on Twitter because they are annoyed about so many things. But it's because the care most of the time. I think if you reach out to people in community of accessibility. You will find a very, very very welcoming community and any time I had questions and things like I was always able to find someone. So I would say it's quite an open community. So don't hesitate to reach out to people and start somewhere. It can be super small. It can be maybe just checking the colours of your website. Like the other day, someone was publishing on LinkedIn and AB testing, I was like, oh it's shocking, the second one, people we had like a big decrease of 50% but yeah, maybe one of the issues you added something on the second one but your labels are so small and there is light grey and of course, you had decreasing because no one is able to read your labels. So, start fixing your accessibility issues maybe something like that. So, it starts somewhere. You can't pick all the battles at once; you will not win the war directly. But if you can start like somewhere people relate. Somewhere small and then like build up on that and grow a little bit. That is really cool. Also maybe in your organisation there is some groups of either like people with disabilities or there's also a group with friends of people with disability. So, if you can check within your organisations like intranet or there's a lot of different places but I am so into corporate stuff that intranet is the go-to but yeah and reach out the communities working already that that could be another nice like first step.

DEBRA:

Yeah, I agree and one thing that comforts me is that I have been in this field a long time. I have been in the field since 2000. And for years we were not welcoming, we were not welcoming. Dr. Greg Vanderheide made a comment, let's stop eating our young because we were not being welcoming. But over the years, I think it is changed I remember we talked it on the Axschat, and I was complaining, and I had multiple younger people say, that didn't happen to me Debra. So, I think we are better now. I know we have our own internal politics, you know, we hate overlays verses blah, blah, blah. But I agree with you, we are all stronger together and we are actually making progress but at Axschat, we always thought you know is anybody going to want to listen to Axschat and we are almost ten years in, right Antonio? And still having these really powerful conversations I believe conversations with leaders like you Stéphanie. So, we want to thank you for being on the show today. We also want to thank My Clear Text for helping us with captions because obviously this is Axschat. Everything is accessible. We are really committed to accessibility. But, Stéphanie thank you for your leadership, for everything you're doing and thank you for all the freebies that you're giving out on your website to help us too. That is a real gift. So thank you so much.

STÉPHANIE:

Thanks for having me.

DEBRA:

Antonio, thank you and we'll see Neil in June. Yay. Hopefully without dirt and under his nails and stuff but whatever. Right Stéphanie. All right. Bye everyone.

STÉPHANIE:

Bye.