Accessibility issues in research: How to make research participation easier for people with disabilities

Accessibility issues in research can happen for a variety of reasons, but that doesn’t mean they have to. In this article, I’m going to tackle this topic in an attempt to raise awareness around accessibility in the insights and market research community. At the end of the day, making our surveys accessible to people with disabilities will help us get their opinions.

“We can’t continue to do things the way we’ve always done them,” said Regine Gilbert, an accessibility expert, on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “We have to think differently. You know your target market and then who is being left out? It’s often people with disabilities.”

"When you exclude people you are making sure you are not growing your business."

What is accessibility in market research?

In the simplest terms, accessibility in market research means research projects are designed with people with disabilities in mind. Can people with disabilities take the surveys as they are designed?

“We all know people that have a disability,” Regine said. “In the United States 1 in 4 people have a disability. A lot of times when I say the word ‘disability’ people assume It’s someone in a wheelchair. Or something visible. Something you can see. But the truth is people are color blind and you can’t see that. People are dyslexic and you can’t see that. You can’t see when people have ADHD. Or when people have depression. These all fall under the umbrella.”

Accessible surveys matter to reach people with disability. We discussed the topic of inclusive demographic on an episode of “Reel Talk” and, of course, the best demographic questions won’t do any good if people with disabilities can’t access the survey correctly to begin with.

Usability of digital platforms

kristina podnar

Kristina Podnar

Accessibility issues stretch across many digital forms of communications and I found this context from Kristina Podnar, a digital policy expert, eye opening:

“Unfortunately, only about 2% of the world’s websites are genuinely accessible to those with one or more disabilities. Suppose your organization doesn’t fall into that small percentage of fully accessible websites (not to mention social media, mobile applications, and other channels). In that case, this is the time to revisit your efforts. While it is essential to comply with accessibility laws across the globe to stave off lawsuits, the growing number of disabled persons represents a growing segment. By not addressing it, you are foregoing a great opportunity.”

Kristina shared on her podcast that people with disabilities have $645 billion in disposable income.

In market research, projects should discuss how to accommodate a wide variety of disabilities, including, but not limited to:

  • Color blindness
  • Dyslexia
  • Depression
  • And others

And some forms of research surveys are easier to use than others. For example, here’s a consumer that has dyslexia talking about the ease of video survey market research.

Usability on specific devices

Market research expert Jamin Brazil shared this story on an episode of “Reel Talk:”

In a nutshell, the company was gathering the Net Promoter Score and had a great baseline starting around 2005. Then the iPhone came out and more consumers started taking the survey on their new phones.

The company’s NPS went down a lot. The problem ended up being with how the survey was being displayed on iPhones. Instead of showing the full 11-point scale, it only showed six points. The higher points could only be seen by scrolling sideways. Most people didn’t do that and gave a six for what they thought was the highest score.

Internet access

Accessibility can also mean how easy is it to access the survey in a person’s current environment and access to the right devices or technology.

“For example, high speed internet,” said Regine, adding that a certain percentage of U.S. households don’t have high-speed internet. “So if you are making things that are super heavy or are big downloads those may not be as accessible as they could be.”

Listen next: How DISH Network uses video surveys to reach rural customers

Device access

During the COVID-19 pandemic the headlines reminded us that not everyone in the United States has a home computer or even internet at home. That presented a problem for school-aged children who then had to be taught virtually at home. It’s also something to consider for market researchers when you require an actual computer for remote research or an online focus group. On the flip side, 85 percent of adults in the United States do have a smart phone.

Why do accessibility issues in research exist?

Usually, it comes down to not including the right people, said Regine. For example, a person that uses a screen reader will notice every digital interaction that doesn’t work using a screen reader. It has to come back to involving people with disabilities to understand how to make sure our research is accessible.

"One way to start a project is to ask: 'Whom might you be excluding?'"

“That’s in the process of creation, project planning and all of that,” Regine said. “There’s a phrase that’s often used in the accessibility and disability community which is ‘nothing about us, without us.’ The reason so many things are not accessible is it’s either an afterthought or people don’t think about it at all.”

Take the example of Zoom, which our team often uses for remote research. She said it didn’t used to offer captions, but why not? That topic became ever more important as more people worked remotely. Today, Zoom allows one participants to handle the closed captioning. Other software solutions, like Otter AI, say they add automatic captions to Zoom meetings.

Read next: How to add automatic captions with Voxpopme to Zoom recordings

Part of the problem with accessible research has been that not many even talk about it. But, Regine said she’s already seen a positive shift there in the last five or so years.

“My hope is that 10 years from now we’ll see a lot more accessible,” she said.

Making your research accessible

It does start with the awareness. Researchers need to be aware of the need for accessibility. And not just as an afterthought but as a part of the process. Regine said there are also organizations that companies can partner with.

“Hey, we are working on this project and we’d like some help with this,” Regine shared how easy it is to approach them. Being proactive can help researchers reach their entire audience, she said.

Also consider working with people who cannot come to your office, Regine said. It’s possible today with all the remote-working tools available.

“That really gives us an unique opportunity to expand a bit more and not be limited by location or really anything to hire people,” added Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme. “Companies are pretty divided right now and are trying to figure out work from home or work from office. But I haven’t heard much as part of that conversation of what opportunity does that create? And how advantageous it is for a business to have a more representative workforce.”

"Get the input from the community that you may not have included before."

Making your research accessible means to integrate solutions to the different hurdles that people with disabilities face. That can include alt text for your images. Describe what’s in the image.

Consider the colors that are being used as well, Regine explained. Close to 10 percent of people are color blind.

“Make sure that it’s high contrast,” she said. “We’ve all been outside and have looked at our phones and can’t see what’s on the screen. A lot of times it’s because the contrast isn’t high enough.”

Read next: Getting leadership support — and keeping it — for market research

Research reporting and accessibility

Accessibility issues in market research can also pop up on the reporting end. For example, captions, which are included in Voxpopme highlight reels, can make the consumption easier for stakeholders. Instead of listening to the video, they can read the captions.

“It’s so much more inclusive and making sure we are accommodating for everyone’s abilities or disabilities,” Jenn said.

Like this article? Read more like it here

What’s a question you’d like to ask consumers?