"Differences are our greatest strengths" — it's something you'll hear over and over at POWER SHIFTER, a belief we stand by not only in our values but also in our processes.
So you can imagine how thrilled we were to collaborate with Wandke Consulting, experts in accessibility and diversity, to review the website of a provincial insurance company and enable them to articulate the necessary changes needed to better design their digital assets for accessibility.
Addressing diversity in the workplace shouldn't just be a box leadership checks off haphazardly. Diversity needs to be taken into account upfront — so that you're designing with diversity, involving team members, consultants, and a multitude of user needs every step of the way. Our project with Wandke Consulting illuminated the cultural need for this shift — as well as four tangible tips to increase the insurance company’s website accessibility.
Prioritizing community and DEI
As our team conducted the accessibility audit alongside Wandke Consulting, we proposed a revolutionary idea: design should be done with diversity, not just for diversity. What do we mean by this? We mean that diversity needs to be taken into account throughout the design process, not just retroactively.
Our clients let us know that this subtle but essential shift in thinking — designing with, not for — has created a profound shift across their organization. Rather than being regarded as a compliance exercise, designing with diversity can be seen as a community-building effort that embeds inclusivity into the organization. By employing an accessibility framework from the beginning, our client intends to continue prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across their digital assets.
Designing with diversity has both cultural and technical considerations
We could go on at length about the cultural benefits of designing with diversity: at POWER SHIFTER we deeply believe that our team is only as strong as the differences that define us. Embracing neurodivergence, a multiplicity of backgrounds, and different user needs simply results in better design: with more perspectives at the table, product features can suit the distinct needs of more of the population.
Throughout our audit with the insurance company, and in working closely with the experts over at Wandke, we were delighted to think through some of the more technical elements of the digital experience that produce truly accessible web design.
Our clients' passion for accessibility, paired with our Design Thinking and Experience Design expertise, led us to make the following recommendations:
1. Design with diversity consideration: Craft intuitive heading structures
Our findings suggested that the website's heading structures were confusing — for starters, the content structure did not mirror the table of contents. This may not seem like a huge deal to many readers, but for visitors using screen readers or other assistive technologies, this can be the difference of understanding a webpage or not.
We recommended that our client use CSS stylings to apply across their website — ensuring text appearance is consistent across pages, and more easily understandable by assistive technologies.
2. Design with diversity consideration: Embrace inclusive way to access information
Our audit found that the map feature used on the website posed significant accessibility challenges for screen reader users and keyboard navigators. Without clear keyboard focus indicators and alt text, the map pop-ups could be confusing to a wide range of site users.
To address this, we suggested exploring alternative ways to present location information, making it accessible to all users, including those with diverse visual and auditory needs.
3. Design with diversity consideration: Prioritize keyboard accessibility
Our research uncovered gaps in keyboard accessibility, with inaccurate indicators for keyboard focus and missing textual labels hampering navigation for certain users. This issue was particularly evident in submenu items on the global navigation, side menus, and the search bar.
To improve keyboard navigation, we proposed adding contextual labels for assistive technologies and changing top-level menu elements from divs to details, an HTML element designed for this use case which contains built-in accessibility information.
4. Design with diversity consideration: Harness the power of tagged PDFs
Our audit revealed that untagged PDFs lacked the necessary structure for assistive technologies to function effectively. This meant that users relying on screen readers or other assistive devices faced difficulties accessing the content.
To address this, we advised the client to evaluate their PDF creation methods and ensure that all documents were properly tagged, making them compliant with WCAG AA 2.0. By investing in tagged PDFs, the client would ensure a seamless reading experience, catering to the diverse needs of all their audiences.
Designing with diversity is an ongoing process
Based on the power of these findings, our insurance client began to reshape their digital accessibility and prioritize inclusion across their digital assets. To this end, they later engaged us for an additional scope of work, asking us to audit accessibility across their Road Test and Claims Portals.
By assessing their current pain points and outlining the gaps in DEI, we were able to recommend how to best action the above recommendations, as well as additional shifts such as adjusting session timeouts to be better comprehendible to customers using assistive technologies, and utilizing design elements such as colour contrasts to improve readability.
By conducting two distinct audits, we were reminded at POWER SHIFTER that accessibility recommendations must be specific to the digital assets, users, and distinct user needs in question. Uncovering new recommendations during our second audit was a powerful reminder that designing with diversity is an ongoing process — one that warrants extensive research, thoughtful recommendations, and continual upkeep to get right.
At POWER SHIFTER, we use Design Thinking to uncover these types of findings and ensure we're simplifying the lives of users, no matter their diverse needs. It was our pleasure to embark on this work alongside the experts at Wandke Consulting, so that we may bring the world a bit closer to meeting the user needs of all diverse audiences.
Is your company designing with diversity? If you're ready to audit your digital assets, or simply want to chat about diversity, equity, and inclusion, please get in touch.