This week on the IAP, we discuss a post on Twitter where PayPal addressed screen reader users specifically and asked for feedback.
Show Notes & Links
Announcer: This is the IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast with Mike Guill and Mark Miller. Introducing Mike Guill and Mark Miller.
Mark Miller: Hey, welcome to the IAP, and thanks for helping us keep it accessible. I am Mark Miller and I'm here with accessibility specialist Mike Guill, and this is your accessibility podcast. Do us a favor: if you're enjoying the IAP, share it. Tell someone about it. Hey, even link to it from your accessible website. Mike!
Mike Guill: Mark!
Mark: You know, I think people are gonna just plain think that is this podcast is about Twitter at this point. We've gone from talking about Twitter as a source to just... this is just gonna be straight up a podcast about Twitter, right?
Mike: Well, other podcasts have been about Twitter...
Mark: They have been, yeah... we're supposed to be accessibility... but here we have a... this is an instance where accessibility and Twitter have kind of met, and PayPal, that you found, and so we're gonna talk about this tweet. This is a tweet that we're gonna talk about, I guess that's what I'm getting around to. It's interesting, not only how these guys are using Twitter as it relates to accessibility, but just also how forward-thinking they are and...
Mark: ...genuinely... what strikes me about this (and and I'll let you read the tweet that we're talking about here)... what strikes me about this is they seem to be genuinely concerned. So we're not... they're not trying to comply with Section 508 or meet WCAG 2.0 AA standards. They're actually going "hey, let us know if this works for you." So, go ahead and ... read the Tweet and tell us what we get here
Mike: Let me just... first let me say that Twitter is a conduit right? That's... yeah, we joke about making podcasts about Twitter, but it's just a conduit for information we get... get from our friends in the industry, people who shared links, from, you know, we follow businesses who Tweet about accessible things. So, really it's just... it's a way to get information, it's a great big fire hose of stuff that you can pick and choose from what's stuff to be interested in or to read...
Mark: Well, and great for the accessibility world because the accessibility world is relatively small in terms of number of people that really know it...
Mike: It is.
Mark: ... and are engrained in it. So Twitter brings us all together. We're spread out everywhere, you know?
Mike: it does and it's as simple as, you know, operating text messages and that sort of thing except that you can do it on a huge scale. Now this channel that I read this tweet from its not PayPal main company Twitter account. It's one that they have set up for accessibility, it's a PayPal accessibility channel called @PayPalInclusive - that's their Twitter ID. So, the one thing that struck me about this is that a lot of times... I've been on the development end of websites and that sort of thing and when you get to the point of launch or a new version release or something, a lot of times you're just crossing your fingers that there's not something that's a major bug that's going to come out, you know, when your users hit it. And yeah, you know, you've done some usability testing or some or product testing and that sort of thing, but you just you never know until someone really get their hands on it, you know, what's gonna break? So when I saw this tweet it occurred to me that this is something that we had to talk about. PayPal essentially says "as you use the new PayPal app with your favorite screen reader..." They didn't just leave it at the... "as you use it..." they specifically spelled out "with your favorite screen reader. Let us know your impressions and wishes." Okay? So... and they even included the hashtag for accessibility which a lot of people use and know of, which means they got a lot more visibility on this.
Mike: So it's... instead of hiding and hoping, you know, hoping for the best that... they actually put their product out there in the front and said "hey, let us know," which is a your huge huge difference in development.
Mark: Yeah, and it leads me back to that statement I made, that it really rings have genuine concern, not just compliance with some sort of standard. And by the way, before I go on, that accessibility hashtag (in case you don't know it) is A eleven Y, or a11y, and it actually is a short term... shortened... the word accessibility, so there are eleven letters between the A and the Y in accessibility so instead of writing that out and wasting your Twitter space, you just do #a11y. Anyways, the... I you know, I think that the other thing that kinda strikes me here is... you talked a lot about web development just then and how you kind of like have your fingers crossed and you throw it out there. But also, in the web development world, there's multiple... sorta phases of any sort of... just in the development world in general there's multiple phases called release phases, right? So you have your alpha, your beta... testing phases, right? Alpha testing is sort of the people that are developing it test it, or the people within the internal organization test it, and then you've got beta releases where it releases out and so on and so forth, right? So with accessibility there is not always this... there's not always this sorta beta testing, or even beyond the beta testing, which is to reach out to the community in general and say "hey now that it's released, let us know what you think," which happens a lot in application development. So I think it's interesting from that perspective, too, that these guys are doing this with a little bit of that sort of development life cycle in mind and you do that with the development life cycle because you want your product to be usable by people out there. So, in other words, if you release a product to the public and you don't solicit and pay attention to the public feedback, you end up with something that people don't want to use, right? You don't sell it, you don't make money off of it. And they're using the same principle in this case where they're saying "hey, look, we want you to actually get on PayPal with your screen reader, use it successfully, use the product, have a good experience with it so that you want to come back. So guess what? We're gonna ask you how you feel about it and what else we can do to make that experience better for you. And it's an interesting spot because I think that it's just.... you know what it says, Mike? It says that people are starting to think about accessibility like and inside of their normal process. That afterthought of accessibility, where you have a website and then you go "Oh, darn, we need to be accessible so that we can sell to the government" or you know "we're afraid of litigation and we want to mitigate that risk." And in all those kinda things that traditionally would bring somebody, maybe drag them kicking and screaming into the world of accessibility... You're not doing that when you think about it from the the front end, and so... and you're also thinking about your users actually using it. So in this case, instead of looking at it backwards and saying "hey we're gonna fix this now that it's out there" they've integrated into the process just like normal development and yes there's an end phase to it, which is... this is reflecting. But it's not "oh, let's rush and try to get accessible" it's like "hey, we think we're accessible at this point, but if we can do better please let us know. Or if we can put something there that you want... never mind whether it fits some sort of a standard or not, or a... WCAG 2.0 or 508 or something like that. Never mind all that. Do you like it? Do you like the way it works?
Mike: It gets away from the concept of using a checklist. You can technically meet all the accessibility checklist items and yet still have an unusable pretty much inaccessible product.
Mark: Well, and that's what developers know, right? Developers know that you can do everything and think that it's brilliant and that it's correct and then you release it out into the wild and you get... you get tons of bugs, you get people who are unhappy, you can't... your guess work is never perfect, even if you're following best practices, you know?
Mike: Yeah So, anyways... this is, you know, I love the use of Twitter, I love the use of this sort of final phase of saying "we think we've done this correctly, now tell us what you think" and...
Mike: And you just said you love the use of Twitter. I do too, because Twitter is where a lot of people who are really scrutinizing accessibility milestones are reading about stuff. So PayPal, of course, knows this. I mean, I should say that I've got a friend who works for PayPal Accessibility Department. And I know that they're... they know that if you want to get noticed in the accessibility space, you post something on Twitter with that hashtag, so they're most certainly not trying to downplay it at all. You know, they were trying to get... really get it out there.
Mark: Right, well and the other thing, too... is I think that this also... which you don't hear a lot of discussion about it, but also leans into the world of the ROI behind accessibility that... and it's a simple concept and sometimes it really is... I don't quite understand why people don't think about it or understand it, but there's an ROI around accessibility. If you make your product more accessible to more people, more people participate in your product and you make more money. You know what I mean? it's it's it sorta a good business approach and I think that this is also kinda reaching to that, that Pay Pal is paying attention to that. They're going "wow, you know, we're online, our product is online, and the more we try to make this product accessible to everyone the more successful the product's gonna be.
Mike: Now you know, we've talked about the... accessibility meaning not necessarily addressing people with disabilities in the past too, right? And the example that comes to my mind, sort of an analogy there, is the... Zappo's, right? Zappo's figured out a way to make shoes for sale accessible to a whole lot of people. Very quick getting things out in the mail, simple returns policy, no hassle. A lot of very good, you know, shopping experience and customer service, which made it accessible to so many people that they got on board. You know, they might not have the the absolute rock-bottom cheapest best prices on things... but the accessibility of it, you know, so many people find it easy to use... not a big deal to return things or to make exchanges... they're going to get on board...
Mike: ...and you know, the same things happen with other websites too... and even before the internet, you know... FedEx comes to mind. Make something... make something really simple for people to overnight, and they'll use it, they'll get on board. So...
Mark: All right, well good one, Mike. I'm glad you found this on Twitter and brought it up. We've got to wrap it up, so I just wanna say that this is Mark Miller
Mike: and this is Mike Guill
Mark: reminding you to keep it accessible.
Announcer: The IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast brought to you by Interactive Accessibility, the accessibility experts. You can find their Access Matters Blog at Interactiveaccessibility.com/blog