Inclusivity is for Everyone


Matthew chats with Darice De Cuba about accessibility, inclusivity, and … nary a mention of 9 rules? Kids, ask your parents.


Matthew: Hi. Im Matthew, one of the hosts of the show. This weeks episode is going to be a little bit different from the handful we've done so far. In that I'm interviewing Darice de Cuba. Darice is a front-end developer who lives in the Netherlands and has a passion for accessibility and inclusivity in design. We had a great conversation about inclusivity in design. Which I ope you stick around for. One of the things I wanted to let you know is that the cadence of today's episode is a little bit different because I had to type everything I wanted to say to Darice. And she had to read it and respond to me. Now...I'm not going to make you sit through all the slow ty-ping. Oh! Spelling mistake. Oh oh oh that I did. SO I cut all that stuff down And instead I'll be doing a lot of voice over of the things that I said. And then, of course I'll let Darice speak for herself. With that...Lets get to it. Thanks for watching. 

Matthew: How are you doing today?

Darice: Hi. I'm doing fine, I have a day off from work. And today's election day in the Netherlands.

Matthew: National holiday?

Darice: Nope, we just work. You can vote from, I think, seven in the morning until nine at night. 

Matthew: But you have the day off.

Darice: I do, spend a regular day off on Wednesday.

Matthew: Cool so...I have to think then type. Two different parts of the brain. Slow brain. 

Darice: Sure, no problem. I mean even if I had a translator, it would have been a big cost. 

Matthew: I wanted to chat about the inclusive design you've been writing about.

Darice: Right, right, yes. 

Matthew: And I am a slow typist. Sorry.

Darice: I'm in no hurry, so take your time. 

Matthew: Do you think something like this will work?

Darice: I think it would work. You know I'm used to reading a text slowly and even if I have translator I kind of have to wait for a translator to hear what's being said and then translate it for me. So, for me it's rather normal. I'm just thinking, if you're going to put it on YouTube and your viewers will not hear you, so you would have to like, type your question and then speak it out, yes.

Matthew: Okay, Good point. I also had to put on my glasses to read what I'm typing.

Darice: Ah, right.

Matthew: Okay, so a little bit about the purpose of our show...context setting

Darice: Okay.

Matthew: Basically we are "focused" on experience design topics and I put focused in quotes because within that we don't focus.

Darice: Right.

Matthew: So any general topic within that is up for grabs. Mostly.

Darice: Okay, experience design, right, right. Well I have plenty of those, being deaf. So I am always in a mode of analyzing everywhere I go. I saw that you deal with healthcare? You work with healthcare, you're working for healthcare?

Matthew: Mostly.

Darice: Right, so I visit the hospital often here. And currently our hospital in the Netherlands, or the ones I visit have a some kind of check-in system now, right? At the hospital.

Matthew: Oh, okay.

Darice: So if you have an an appointment and you enter the lobby of the hospital and you have to kind of scan your passport or your ID pass in a machine, and it will look up the appointment. And for starters, that's unaccessible to blind people.

Matthew: Right.

Darice: Okay, and I get back a number, and then I go to the waiting room, off to the department where I have to be. And basically I have to sit with my number and stare at the screen until my number is called. And if it's my own doctor I don't have to mind very much because they know I'm deaf, so they will come in, and like, hey, your turn. But when you have an appointment with a doctor that doesn't know you, okay, good luck. I really have to pay attention. And I talked to someone else who is also physically disabled, and at this hospital also use number, so he has to use his phone and zoom in on the number so he can see which number is being called. And now likely this could have people working, so you could have to interact with people but I can imagine they are trying to phase that out. So basically that, just implementing system and a hospital has a lot of people who are disabled. And those systems are built for other people, without our say. So for the people who can hear, for the people who are not visually impaired, and it just can kind of boggle me because when it comes to those systems, would they think about asking real people to test them before implementing them? And you know who visits hospitals a lot? Elderly people. And I feel so bad, often I see them struggling and I tell them to, no, hold on I'm gonna get someone to help you operate this system. And you can see the relief on their face that someone is coming to help them, just to punch all the number for their appointment.

Matthew: So there's nothing built into the system that triggers...

Darice: Like a button for that "get help", right? Well are you thinking there would be a button who would call someone to come and help you?

Matthew: Yeah.

Darice: Okay, no there's nothing like that. I mean, there are people standing in the hall in the lobby to help you, but people are always just very, very busy in just hospitals. So you really have to do your best to get attention.

Matthew: Nothing where you scan in your passport and that makes the staff know to do something different.

Darice: That would be my preference, right? I'm deaf, and every time I ask, can you put in the system that I'm deaf? And do not call me if there's anything but send me an email? And the doctor says to me, and she knows me for a while she said, you know I'm gonna email the technical department and ask them. And they send just your standard email, we don't do that, the system doesn't support that. And that's a stupid, that's a stupid answer. I mean, we both know, you just go into the system and you put in a filter, patient is deaf and prefers to get an email instead of phone call. Or a patient is blind and prefers to get a phone call instead of an email. But such simple things are not implemented in our hospital system. And it just boggles my mind, why not?

Matthew: It's so very basic, well, customer service. Like knowing who your customers are and adjusting accordingly.

Darice: Right, right, and maybe I'm in my own bubble, but I'm thinking a hospital, I mean...

Matthew: We're all in our own bubble. Which is why I'm doing research and getting out and talking with people, it's a good thing.

Darice: Right, and there are other things, for example, like Microsoft that was really putting a lot into accessibility, and their way of thinking is, if you're going to design accessible stuff, we've got to involve people with disabilities right from the start, and we're gonna work together with them to create our products. But many places are like, we're gonna create a persona from a book we read, and... And I still have to translate that blog I wrote to English that, for example, I'm deaf, but I'm late deaf. But another deaf person is not the same deaf person as I am. And so someone who is pre-lingual deaf means they were deaf before they turned four, so they didn't grow up with spoken language and their mother language is actually sign language, Dutch Sign Language. And Dutch Sign Language and Dutch spoken language are two very different things. So someone like that might not want to even get an email, right? I would have to talk to such a person and find out how they would prefer their communication. But I lost my hearing when I was, I think 26, 27? So I'm post-lingual deaf. By the time I became deaf, I already speak four languages, and so I prefer text, that's my personal preference. So even within the disability of deafness or the disability of blindness, there are several differences between these people. So it's very hard, and I understand it's very hard. I mean, we know we cannot make something accessible for everyone, so the goal to is always do it as best as we can.

Matthew: Right, with intention.

Darice: With intention, right. But my opinion is get people from start to work with you, and don't make assumptions from something you read in a book. So actually talk to people who are not you.

Matthew: Right, right. Accessibility is more than providing a skip to content link.

Darice: Oh, so very much, so very much. I mean, I'm a developer, I'm a front-end developer and that's how I started writing about this thing because all I heard was should I use ARIA? I hope I'm speaking it right in English, ARIA? Should I use ARIA here, should I use ARIA there? And I understand that screen readers are very important. But then, I look at a website, I want to order food but perhaps it does not has a text box to type a comment, I'm deaf, so please send me text message, don't call me if anything is wrong with my order, such basic things. And I think with different developers don't think about that and that kind of things are troubling. So it's not about goals and technology and skip the button, or adding all text to an image, just that's all good, but you have to go beyond that. It's the experience, like you said.

Matthew: Right, yeah, really understanding how people do... Do communicate and how they wish to communicate with you.

Darice: Yes, yes and that's, communication is a very tricky thing It's highly frustrating, it takes time and patience. And I was kind of writing for myself, sorting my thoughts yesterday and I came to this sentence, we want our communication to be fast and fluent. And then so that's why a lot of people don't want to email, they rather pick up the phone and call. And there's also, in the Netherlands, we are changing our privacy laws right now. So some people grab that as an excuse. So last time I asked my doctor, so okay, fine, can you email me when you get those results, please? And she was like, oh yeah, but I cannot email you due to the privacy laws. And I was like, but I am giving you permission to email me, right? And the funny thing is the accessibility law in the Netherlands was implemented before the privacy law. And still today a lot of people haven't really grasped, okay, it's required by law. But the moment privacy law went in, everyone, I mean just, cookie walls went up faster than you can blink. So why, why? Our company, you don't know how many emails we, the Dutch were getting the week that privacy law went in, so everyone that have had our email, everyone that have had our information that's just our standard, just requirement, we now have to abide by theby law and no that they blah, blah, blah, blah. But meanwhile, the accessibility law is already... We are still fighting to get it done. Still fighting, right? And... Yes, I don't know, it's like an uphill battle.

Matthew: That's the thing for me about accessibility as a general concept, in that everyone will need some sort of assistance at some point, or points in their lives.

Darice: Yes, I think people who are healthy and who do not have a disability do not like to think about that it could be them someday needing just... And I mean, I wasn't always deaf. I never thought I'd be deaf, right? I know many people with a disability, they weren't born with a disability. I mean one day you are, you have no disability and the next you have a disability, and there's also that disability none of us will get out of, is getting old. I mean, I'm very sad when I am already squinting at some website with little text, and you know I cannot read that or there are too much animation that drives me crazy, I go, please, I just want... For me, I like Tumblr, I like browsing on Tumblr, but sometimes it's way too much for me to process.

Matthew: Yeah.

Darice: Right, right all those gifs. So I think that's a problem, right? When people are healthy and they don't have disabilities, they don't want to think about it they don't want to think about it. And a lot of people also think oh yeah, but my visitors don't have a disability. Somehow, that's something they think about. Or maybe, oh yeah, but how many visitors will have a disability, one or three or five, right? But that's not the point, even if you have only one visitor, you should be accessible to everyone. I mean, especially if you are a business, I mean. I also read a research they had done, I cannot remember the name and a lot people assume that people with disabilities are poor, or they don't have money to spend. I don't know why they make that connotation but maybe they think that people with disabilities don't work? I don't know why people think like that, but that's simply not true.

Matthew: Right, right.

Darice: So I have money to spend, I have money to spend, so I'm going to your website and I want to order food, food that is expensive but you don't make it possible for me. All right, your loss is another ones wins. And next time I talk to someone, I'm not gonna recommend you either. You're off my list.

Matthew: Exactly, right. The company will lose out on revenue and then they're off other peoples lists whom you tell...word of mouth. Continuing to lose revenue.

Darice: Right, if people care about me or if they care about accessibility, I'm just gonna say, I'd rather you support that business instead of that business. And something you forget about mail communication since WhatsApp become so popular and they're saying, oh like, someone is calling me. Why is someone calling me? I'm not gonna answer the phone. Apparently there's something new that people hate talking on the phone. I read it a lot, I know it's just people who don't have disability but just people who hate talking on the phone, they get anxiety when the phone rings. So I think going text-based communication, and everybody wins. So I think text-based communication gets a lot of bad reputation. Even though they are already on, the whole day on WhatsApp or other texting message, I mean, every day, you sit in train, you're sitting in the bus and people walking down street, people are texting each other. So I don't understand why business or hospital have a problem implementing text-based communication.

Matthew: Yeah, I think it's about the difference between async and sync...

Darice: Right, right.

Matthew: Like the problem arises when it is synchronous.

Darice: Can you explain me a bit more what you meant?

Matthew: So in your example of people walking down the street while they're texting, they are asynchronous... In a hospital when someone gets put in front of them, then it's synchronous. So the expectation of someone between asynchronous and synchronous. With asynchronous, waiting for a response is fine. And waiting during synchronous communication is not fine. Does that make sense?

Darice: Right, right. But that's the thing about being in closeness to other people. We have to meet each other in the middle, we have to meet each other in the middle, yeah. I'm struggling a lot myself right now because I am learning sign language currently. So which means I am meeting more people that are pre-lingual deaf, that only do sign language. And people that are pre-lingual deaf, not everyone is really good at spoken language because it's just not their language. I mean, just like I don't know Chinese, or if I were to learn Chinese right now, I would be very bad at it. So I can sign language basic stuff because I'm just starting but if I meet someone who does sign language and I can't follow and ask I them to type it for me, even if they've mastered the spoken language, they are not very happy that they have to text for me. And it happens also with hearing people, because it just takes too much effort. So I already have to go learn sign language really well so I can communicate with pre-lingual deaf people and with hearing people, it's another different thing. I will just have to meet hearing people that don't mind texting. So yeah, the learning is going well, I mean I have classes every Thursday, and all I have, only sign language and I have a stack of books I need to practice, and videos. So it goes, but I find it makes me think about the thing with being inclusive is, I understand it's hard because even when I meet someone who is completely deaf and only sign language, I, too have to really check myself. Like, am I speaking clear enough? And am I using the signs I know right, doing my best so the other person can understand? So I know it really takes an effort but what many people do is, you know, it takes too much effort, nevermind. And that's where we, that's where we need to do better. It's hard but being inclusive is not easy.

Matthew: Yes, but... I think... How do I want to say this? I think that in some respects inclusivity needs to be rebranded to be increased revenue for businesses including hospitals. I say rebranded sort of tongue-in-cheek.

Darice: I think I follow, I think I follow, we have to make them see how it's good for business and can inclusivity, inclusive has, that word inclusive and accessibility have kind of a bad connotation Right, so you have to talk to managers and other money makers.

Matthew: But my premise is to talk to them about inclusivity in their language. In some respects accessibility and inclusivity are jargon words. We have to say "increase your revenue by 13%.

Darice: Right.

Matthew: I mean, you know "jargon".

Darice: It's kind of still in its infancy but you're right that jargon, I can understand, I mean if you're going to talk to a manager, that sits here and that sits on the 12th floor and is not down there with people, I can understand. So we have to see it, make them see it from their point of view. What I come across a lot when I am talking to people about this is, we need to create awareness. It's not about the bubble, now I'm going to be very pop culture, all right? We need more TV shows to include people with disabilities, because we know one thing we got in common, we all see it on Netflix. So we need to create awareness. 

Matthew: We can't keep using Marlee Matlin. She's great! But

Darice: I mean, Marlee Matlin is good. I often use Netflix as an example of good accessibility because they got captions in several languages. I'm sorry to say this, but I hate captions in Dutch. The Dutch they have spoken, yes, the translation is never well, so I never go to the movies. So when I'm watching Netflix, I'm always watching, if the biggest oration is spoken in English, I watch it in English, and if oration is spoken in Spanish, I watch it in Spanish, the subtitles. And also for people with a visual disability, there is the audio description, right? But up until 2012, people had to take Netflix to court to get this done. So Netflix was actually sued, and don't take my word on this, but I think Marlee Matlin was behind the group of people who were pushing for captions. So it's not like Netflix out of the good of their heart woke up one day and said, they were gonna do captions, right? They were taken to court. So that brings me back to that we need awareness. I think Marlee has done a lot, Marlee has done a lot for deaf people, but she's just one person, she can only do so much. And you know Beyonce just got sued over her website? I don't know if you read that?

Matthew: Recently?

darcie: Yes, because a blind visitor wanted to visit her website and it wasn't accessible. So they sued the website of Beyonce for being unaccessible.

Matthew: Oh, okay, all right.

Darice: But we shouldn't be suing websites, you know?

Matthew: Right, yeah, but that, right, but... That's how, in the US, the ADA can be taken more seriously with physical access to programs.

Darice: Actually, the United States are way more advanced in that field than here. In principal, The Netherlands is not a suing country, I mean, the United States is unique that way, they're gonna sue you for everything. But here, that's not our culture. We don't have a suing culture, just to put it that way. And the Dutch like to form committees, and we gotta talk with you, and we gotta talk again, and talk about the costs and how we implement stuff. And I don't have the patience for that. That's the reason I am on no such committees because I think you can talk only so much, but how do we actually get change? I'm thinking about that still because you can talk and talk but sometimes, I mean, I'd rather not sue but how do we affect change?

Matthew: Right, people only want to change during a crisis or when it's so obviously better for them, they want to go to the new state (of being)

Darice: Yes, yes, or if they can see they're gonna win more money with it, just like you said. But do you think it's hard to perfect that, I wonder?

Matthew: but even if, say, 13% increase, they respond with, yeah, but what is that going to cost me?

Darice: Of course, of course. And that's the funny thing, if you think about inclusiveness and accessibility, right from the start of the project, it's not gonna cost you that much, right? If you do it from day one, its not gonna cost you that much.

Matthew: Like coding well to start instead of fixing bugs after a launch.

Darice: Right, it's really that simple, especially the technology for screen readers. The more you have your HTML code done right, according to web standards, you are already almost fully accessible, right?

Matthew: Yeah, right, right.

Darice: But then we are going to add a JavaScript framework and then we're gonna add this and we're gonna add that, and at the end of the day... As long as the carousels flash enough.

Matthew: Right, let's just use REACT, yeah, right--

Darice: mean, as long as it's Flash, and right. So it's not that hard, it's not hard like you said, so we're gonna have to talk jargon with people who create such website, and we're gonna have to talk... business, with the people who pay for those website and service. So it's kind of fighting on two fronts.

Matthew: What's the best front to fight? Like, pick one.

Darice: I think the developers because you're hired by a business, I think you as a developer have the obligation to inform. It's my job and I have made several website visitors, and also it's the law now. I think, I kind of feel, I'm a front-end developer, and when I talk to people about websites, people who don't build websites, I explain to them, why it's important to this, and why it's important to do that. So I kind of feel it's our job, but maybe that's just me.

Matthew: I see it for my work to be focused on the busyness, business, because I want to influence the what and the why more than I currently care about the how. Again, if that makes sense.

Darice: Yeah, let me.. Right, okay I understand what you are saying. I mean, in Holland, it's being taken care of, have you seen the lineup at congresses lately? I mean, here in the Netherlands we've got several talks in congress about accessibility so I feel that's being taken care of. And I feel like it's our job too. I write, I do my writing projects about it and the what and the why is a big thing, why your service should be accessible, and that's a good point, I mean... I'm not someone who can talk manager, know what I mean?

Matthew: Well, I think you could.

Darice: Maybe I could, maybe I could. I was actually asked to speak at some event for a big company, but unfortunately it didn't fit in my schedule, but maybe I should think about if I am able to do it once, to speak more non-jargon, I think, and even if they're developers, I mean, developers will get it either way, jargon or no jargon. But the business people will profit from hearing it in a non-jargon way. 

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