You Got This!

Building an Equitable Web


OLU: Hello! Hi, everyone. This is building an equitable web. It's my talk about web accessibility and social justice. So, what you should expect from this talk is an overview of a few different types of barriers we have on the web, and also an overview of a few things that you can do to help tackle it. So, yes, I'm Olu. I'm a software engineer at the FT. And this talk includes animated gifs in case that is sensitive for you. Please tweet me any time you feel like it.

So, of course, this talk is all about the internet. This is a gif from a, from the IT Crowd, which isn't a great show. I thought it was funny. So I thought I would watch that. The internet is very powerful, and smartphones in particular have really quietened access to the internet, so people have more access to it. We carry powerful computers in our pockets like it's nothing. A lot of people take it for granted, and I'm sure people don't think about the people who don't have it, and the people who are struggling for access. It's made so many things easier, including receiving - accessing information, shopping, researching, like everything about - pretty much everything over the internet. With great power comes great responsibility. This is the slide from - the slide is from Spider-Man. It is showing the ... which I thought was quite cool.

So around the world, 40% of people can't access the internet. More than one billion unconnected people live in southern Asia, and a lot live in Africa of course as well. About 870 million people are expected to come - have yet to come on line in Africa. Because you feel that everyone has the internet, it's very much not true. Even here in the UK, one in five disabled adults don't have access to the internet, and 86% of those without a disability don't use the internet, so, you can see how much - six% compared to 10%. Lower internet rate usage might be because of people being older who various disabilities but it's still I would say pretty egregious, and 5% of people using the internet who don't use the internet, said it was because of disability that they don't use it. So one solution to this is to use, give offline options. At the FT, we have the newspaper as an offline option, although it's not the only way we can transpose information to people. We also have an app which allows you to download articles offline, so, two options for offline. And if you have any kind of utility, like electricity, or if you're the government, the government has paper options too, you should definitely give offline options. They're vital to some people. Not able to access the internet on any devices. Always give an offline option.

Anything about social justice on the internet would be incomplete without a slide about Charlie. Diane Abbott, in case you don't know, is the first - was the first Black female MP in the UK. She has received almost half the abusive tweets in the run-up to the last general election. 35% Black and ethnic minority got more abuse than other MPs. More abuse is directed at her than any other MP according to an amnesty study. Mermaids is a charity that supports transgender and their parents. Their CEO, Suzy Green, has been targeted with abuse and threats object line, and the - online, and the rise led them to having to block up to 20 accounts a day at one point. There is lots of misinformation and outright lies spread by sites online about them and their work. So, yes, filtering LGBT content hurts the community. So information support online is vital for LGBT situation for escaping dangerous situations and accessing report. In cools, LGBT topics words like bisexual are often blocked on the basis they might have sexual content. This is rarely true. Kids are trying to access life-saving information about safety and are blocked from getting it. On YouTube, LGBT issues are often demonised, restricted, or removed. I want to stress it is not always sexually explicit people are trying to access, just things they need like charities or support groups, even those are blocked.

And another similar but not - similarly, in the vein of people being blocked from access, it's that men are more likely to use the internet than women, so, in the UK, the number of non-internet users is declining, but around 58% of the women still. There is a disparity between men and women in digital skills too, so digital skills are things like being able to read an email, or shop online. And, of those who don't have any digital skills, 60% of women. And I don't know if you would have known this, but Wikipedia editors are overwhelmingly male, or men, and in 2018, the Nobel Prize winner for physics, done in a Strictland, didn't have a - the vast majority of things written on Wikipedia about Africa are written by Europeans and Americans. If you look on Google for things, you're more likely to find things by people who are from there, if you search for Sierra Leone, or South Africa, all the content will be from outside. From Wikipedia, there were 70kBengali and 280 million speakers. So there is a disparity there in the way that these things are edited and contributed to. Yes, I think that's fine.

So, the solution to these is to listen to hire, and collaborate with marginalised people. It's to make sure that at every stage of your journey in this, that you are talking to marginalised people, that you're hiring marginalised people and collaborate, them, and make sure that you're including them every step of the journey because they will see things like this in your processes, they will see things like this in your output. They will notice and be loud and vocal about it. Yes, it's tiring always to be on the outside of these decisions. And try to centre the voices of the most marginalised. If you're trans, Black, or somewhere in Africa that you're going to be much more affected by the issues I've highlighted so far, so try and highlight your most marginalised user.

So, another question here is what do Dominoes and Beyonce have in common? The thing they have in common is they're both getting sued by the ADA - the American Disability Act. It enforces companies to force to change their websites. Their problem was both of these that the blind users couldn't access the internet to - couldn't access their sites to buy products. And you think that they would want to take their money, if anything, as they are customers rather than users in this case. They fought it in court. I think Dominoes lost, and BeyoncÈ's suit is ongoing, but you would think they would want to take the money. On the same note, banks often in the UK have had problems with this. That HSBC, and Metrobank have had issues with blind and visually impaired users accessing their bank statements online. They were told it is in the video, which is unfair and horrible. The equality act means - they're stealing if you can't use your own money.

So, yes. I love this quote, because it just encapsulates this whole accessibility issue, because, yes, people with disabilities are the original life hackers because our motivation is so high. If we don't hack, we often go without. Like NVDA, a screenreader created for free. I met one of the founders at my old job, and he was really cool. Yes, but one of the most popular screenreaders can cost up to $1,200, so you can see the disparity there. And even with this innovation coming from within the disabled community, there's so much that other people want to do. I want to talk about WCAG errors. That is content accessibility guidelines. The kind of errors they will pick up is low contrast, empty links, missing document language, and empty buttons, and you can see, if you code, you can see that these are all quite simple errors. They're maybe hard at scale but not difficult, if that makes sense. Yes, you have to try and, as far as possible, to contain those. If the sprints, and stuff. As I've already mentioned, if you imagine being at the intersection of all these different issues, it makes things worse.

So, the digital skills that I mentioned before, are things like you can earn more online. The benefits of the unusual skills, you can earn more, it is easier to get employed, it is easier to save money on shopping online, so like 30% cheaper on average if you shop online. You can communicate with people, and you can communicate more frequently, up to 14% more frequently online, and you have more time savings, 30 minutes per interaction if accessing government services or banking online. In 2016, it was estimated that in the next 20 years, some sort of job will require digital skills. Most jobs require some sort of digital skills, at least opening email, or to use a computer at all, for like for so people who owner more, over £46,000, are more likely to have full-based digital skills, and as household income - among all ages groups. So, if you're between 11 and 18 years old, in 2018, 12% of those people of those ages didn't have a tablet or a computer making it harder to do their homework. The portion of people who are in poorer household who don't have internet access is double the UK average.

Digital inclusion is increasing, of course. People remain digitally excluded, including old people and disabled as I said. Imagine that you live with an intersection of all these different things and how it would affect your life. I know lots of people will be saying these edge cases, it doesn't matter. People are edge cases. It's not a case of if you decide to let something as an edge case, it's not going to affect anyone. You have to think, you can't make, or, you can't make it possible for everyone to be able to access every service. You can do as best you can, and you can do what you want to be able to use your services, and make conscious efforts to include as many people as possible. So, one way to do this is test with accessibility software. There are things like Chrome lens and obviously using a screen-read yourself using screen magnifiers. Try to navigate without a mouse. This is not the perfect analogue for using things with disabled people, and having disabled ventures on your team, but it's a start. Using semantic HTML. I won't go into this too much. Try to - don't use Div when a button will do, et cetera, like try to use the more verbose, is that the word I mean? No. The more direct version like nav, head, or main. Use automated tooling. They only capture about 30% of errors, but it's good to have a start at least.

And Lighthouse and Axe is on screen there. There are lots of things that you can plug into your codebases. You do user testing as much as possible. Try to test the disabled users in your company of course who are comfortable with that, and try to recruit people. It's important to do this as much as possible, even in - especially in the early stages of building products, because it's easier to do accessibility from the front, if that makes sense. Try to include it as soon as possible in your processes. So, on this, include in your planning, so in your sprints and road maps, make sure you have time for disabilities and improvements in mind. ... not all, you don't have to do it, but in your team, a large group of people all concentrate on checking disability, the accessibility of a new feature, so, that was a really useful tool for making sure that things were not ignored.

So, yes, I think we can rebuild the web. It's not as if we don't have the technology to do those things. We have so many options and things that we can do to make a better place, and make it more fair for many people. And there are things that you can do when harassment and collusion are happening. You might be asking I'm not a developer, what can I do? So, you can help build diverse teams. In your companies, you can help change hiring processes, if you get involved in things like we have a panel for helping with hiring at the FT, so there are many things that you can do there. And you can help to try and make your internal dashboards for hiring, like the - even the portal that you go into to apply for a job, many jobs I have had, this hasn't been possible, so you can help on that. And obviously, you can advocate people in your workplace who are disabled and marginalised, or people who want to become part of it. Internal admin tools are a big one.

Also, hiring platforms. And, there's like laws for public sector workers. There are other helpful laws too that I can talk about after. And, of course, you can do basic checks once you know what to look for. Most people can use the keyboard to try and access a web size and see how it is so they can be involved in QA. Screenreaders are involved with other things for things like Cursory. And, captions are your friend, of course, on all sites. If you're user of a site, make sure that you use captions on Instagram. Instagram, I think their captioning is not in-built, but you can put a caption in your description. Also, Twitter has recently added them, and I think we of course caption on the FT with our pictures and stuff, and yes, as far as possible, caption things. So, automatically, use captions is another one, and there are services that have automatic captioning like Rev. Not is fancy to have a stenographer on site, but it is important to have captions as far as possible. And, yes, of course, you can also help with making the internet a safer place by making it more diverse. If you have knowledge that you think should be shared on the internet, or in places like Wikipedia, there are different ways that you can get involved with. There are different hackathons are just focusing on editing, and things like that. Try to increase your knowledge and encourage people who are marginalised than you also to ...

also, one last thing, the original name of this talk was "building - I'm not African - building a woke web. All the things that we talked about, these are not end points, they're just the beginnings of a journey, and it is not like, this is not a switch that you flick on and off, it's a constant learning process. Accessibility is a process, inclusive design is the goal. Try to make sure that you include all these things from day 1, and that they're important to you in the whole process, and, yes, thank you for listening!