Becoming woke to thinking differently about design for disability

Bad design is about more than just looks. For many members of our community, poorly planned design means they are unable to access the world. In the most literal sense. Unable to live independently or with dignity.

Companies that are woke to designing for inclusion are thinking beyond disabilities and impairments. They’re looking at access as a broader customer and community issue. They’re connecting with people with disability because they know with that person and their access requirements comes a large network encompassing support carers, families, friends and the broader community. What a great way to enhance customer stickiness, engagement and loyalty, typically tracked through the net promotor score or customer advocacy measures.

On this special International Day of People with Disability on the cusp of a new decade, companies need to do better in designing for access and inclusion from the start. Retrofitting technology, web sites, products and services is not just more expensive in terms of real project costs. There’s also the reputational impact with companies who don’t get it right having to face the court of public opinion and, in some instances, real courts through our legal system and the Discrimination Act.

Making real, positive and sustainable change

Clients often ask me what competitive advantage there is for their business by focusing on diversity. My answer: Get access and inclusion in its broadest sense right and you’ll be spades ahead of the market as accessibility in its broadest sense is good for everyone.

Those that are proactively thinking about accessible design are not just mitigating risk, they are using innovation to tap into new customer segments by creating products and services that benefit everyone.

Today as we celebrate International Day of People with Disability, a big congratulations to Australian Payments Network (AusPayNet) with the world-first launch of the ‘Guidelines for Accessibility in PIN Entry on Touchscreen Terminals – Supporting people living with vision and / or motor impairments.

As the consultant engaged to support AusPayNet with the development of this important document, it has been a pleasure to collaborate on creating positive change by developing industry guidelines for designing accessible touchscreen devices and seeking feedback directly from the disability community.

The Guidelines aim to support people living with motor and / or vision impairments with accessing the touchscreen independently and with dignity, enter their PIN securely when making purchases and have options which as far as possible create a similar experience and outcomes as for other users.

To quote Andy White, CEO of Australian Payments Network, from his foreword in the Guidelines: “Innovation in payment technologies including the use of touchscreens has provided many benefits for retailers, merchants and customers. However, with these new technologies comes the need to ensure inclusion and accessibility for all users. At AusPayNet, our vision is convenient and secure payments for all. Realising that vision means ensuring that as payment solutions become more convenient, they also remain inclusive and accessible”.

This, is what leading and sustainable change looks like.

So, as we shortly farewell 2019 and start a new decade, here’s to working to make more positive change in the next 10 years!  

Photo credit: Alex Iby on Unsplash

Why are some of our best-known brands paying to associate with inequality?

Picture of a sign saying 'come in we're awesome' with cityscape in the background

There’s a sizeable and growing disconnect between the advertising and marketing industry, their clients and the brands they represent, and supporting women and other minorities.

Things radically need to change in the way marketing dollars are allocated and managed, including the buck-passing for the accountability of decisions between media agencies and their clients.  Not knowing exactly where or when advertisements will be placed is no longer an excuse.

The question this begs is why would an organisation want the brand they’ve carefully nurtured and invested in associated with an organisation or individual advocating rhetoric about silencing or ridiculing women or other minorities?

This article was published as a guest editorial and the full version is available on Women’s Agenda.

Words matter and the ones in this song changed my life

By Grazia Pecoraro, Principal Consultant & Founder, Perspective Hive

I was born in South Africa under the cruel and evil Apartheid regime. I’ve had to work harder than most to unpick the institutionalised biases that influenced my thoughts, words and actions while growing up. If I must be honest, sometimes I don’t want to remember who I was. While I didn’t hold a knife or a gun, my thoughts weren’t always kind or inclusive nor did I always call out behaviours that were hurtful when I should have.

But the beautiful thing about being human is that you can learn, grown and reinvent yourself. My perception shift started during the second-last year of high school when I was selected to be part of a youth leadership program and travel around the country in a specially-fitted out train as part of a national reconciliation program. Nelson Mandela had been released from prison the year before and the country was starting to focus on change ahead of his presidency.

I journeyed for nine days with 60 students from other schools, attending lectures and having debates and discussions, while learning more about the land and its people.

This was my first interaction, at the age of 16, with peers who were not from my background and it deeply moved and changed me. It changed my perception of fairness. When I returned I was not the same young woman whom my parents had dropped off at the station just over a week before

It was as if a fog of bias and discrimination that influenced my thoughts had been burnt away by the blistering light of understanding the impact of the opposite of inclusion – legalised, regulated and endorsed exclusion. I had been given a chance to sit and talk with, dance and sing with, as well as shake the hands of people who were persecuted for being different and who I’d been taught were less than me, yet they did not hate me.

On the final night of our train’s journey, the facilitators played us the theme song from the musical ‘Time’ performed by the great Sir Laurence Olivier. As the tape recorder (yup, this was the 80s) projected its profound words through the tinny speakers into the carriage, 60 young people listened in silence.  For me, it cemented the start of my bias rehabilitation. When I listen to it today it still gives me goose bumps and sometimes prompts tears through the stirring of such a profound memory, so I’d like to share it with you.

After much reflection this week, following the shameful massacre by a fellow Australian of people who were on their knees, peacefully praying in Christchurch, I know that words matter. Thoughts matter. Because they become what defines us.

It’s a reminder for me to be even bolder, to be braver and not accept ‘less than’ for anyone.

Time – performed by Sir Laurence Olivier (words – accessible for those who may not be able to listen to the clip):

Stand before me on the sign of infinity,

all you of the earth.

With the granting of the law of provination

comes the application of change.

I will give you the key.

And with this knowledge, please realise,

comes the responsibility of sharing it.

I will show you the way.

It’s very simple. Throughout the universe

there is order.

In the movement of the planets, in nature

and in the functioning of the human mind.

A mind that is in its natural state of order,

is in harmony with the universe

and such a mind is timeless.

Your life is an expression of your mind.

You are the creator of your own Universe –

For as a human being, you are free to will whatever

state of being you desire through the use of your

thoughts and words.

There is great power there.

It can be a blessing or a curse –

It’s entirely up to you.

For the quality of your life is brought about

by the quality of your thinking –

think about that.

Thoughts produce actions –

look at what you’re thinking.

See the pettiness and the envy and the greed and the

fear and all the other attitudes that cause

you pain and discomfort.

Realize that the one thing you have absolute

control over is your attitude.

See the effect that it has on those around you.

For each life is linked to all life

and your words carry with them chain reactions

like a stone that is thrown into a pond.

If your thinking is in order,

your words will flow directly from the heart

creating ripples of love.

If you truly want to change your world, my friends,

you must change your thinking.

Reason is your greatest tool,

it creates an atmosphere of understanding,

which leads to caring which is love.

Choose your words with care.

Go forth … with love.

Choosing a credible diversity supplier

Article co-authored by: Grazia Pecoraro (Principal Consultant & Founder, Perspective Hive) and Katie Spearritt (CEO, Diversity Partners)

With many companies focusing on diversity and inclusion, over the last few years a micro-industry of consultants who are making all kinds of claims around services and support has sprung up. Perspective Hive has collaborated with Diversity Partners, another credible inclusion & diversity consulting firm, to create a supplier check list to help companies who are seeking to find support in diversity and inclusion diagnostics, strategies, workshops and other activities, find the right partner for their needs.

  1. What skills and experience does your consultancy offer to support diversity, foster inclusion and reduce bias in organisational cultures (including leadership accountability and behaviours, talent management, policies and processes, measurement, supporting communication strategies and employee engagement etc.)?
  2. What is your consultancy’s evidence-based knowledge of the business case for diversity and inclusion and global best-practice, particularly relating to creating strategic linkages with business strategy and objectives?
  3. What practical experience do your consultants have in embedding strategic programs of work for diversity and inclusion across a range of organisation types and sizes?
  4. What’s your experience in identifying diversity challenges and organisational biases? What analytical methodologies do you use?
  5. How do you go about developing a customised strategy to progress diversity and inclusion?
  6. What are the types of diversity and inclusion-related cultural challenges and opportunities you typically identify? Does this differ across industries and what have the impacts of your previously recommended client strategies been for their business?
  7. What’s your experience in navigating organisational resistance to diversity and inclusion efforts?
  8. Who are the most important stakeholders to engage and what are the most effective ways to achieve buy-in at all levels of the organisation?
  9. What tools do you offer to build the capability of leaders in making diversity and inclusion part of the overall business culture and how do you know these work?
  10. What type of internal resourcing is usually required to support and/or supplement your consulting efforts?

We welcome you to download the questions as a resource – Supplier Questions.

Want to find out more? Get in touch.

5 steps to create psychological safety right now

By Grazia Pecoraro, Principal Consultant & Founder, Perspective Hive

In my 7+ years specialising in diversity and inclusion, I’ve found that few employee engagement surveys reveal a real and ingrained culture of fear around people speaking up. While it’s is a good outcome, there’s more to just this at play when creating an environment where employees can challenge the status quo or bring their best and brightest ideas to work with them.

Much has been written about the concept of ‘psychological safety’, a cultural environment where difference is respected and valued, and where people can challenge ideas, concepts and information regardless of their structural position in the organisational hierarchy.

This is where there’s often a discord between what’s apparently a culture of safety in speaking up and the reality of what happens in the daily interactions of employees’ working lives. What happens after someone speaks up is as important as speaking up in the first place.

It manifests, for example, when someone is invited to a product development brainstorm and spends some time preparing their thoughts, only to be told when they put their first idea on the table that “oh we tried that two years ago and it didn’t work”. Or “we’d never get signoff of that, it’s way beyond the budget” and “where’s your facts to back this up?”.

Innovation just ran yelping out the office door. Don’t bother chasing after it, it ain’t coming back.

Because when people don’t feel safe, they’re less likely to take risks, including sharing their views on problem solving, process improvement, or creating new products and services. (score one to the competition). If they believe that sharing their thoughts creates a sense of danger by making them vulnerable to judgement, ridicule or the contribution not being valued, then they will think twice before doing it again.

The oppression of input also occurs in acts of conscious omission. For example, when an employee is asked to prepare a report with financials around a particular service and when they flag inconsistencies, only to be told to “ignore those, they’re not relevant”. The current Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has highlighted a number of examples of this stifling of information through the organisational hierarchy.

Turn off the autopilot

For leaders juggling their business, clients, teams and a multitude of often competing demands and priorities, actively seeking differing inputs is not an easy skill to acquire. Operating on default settings when against the clock often seems like the best way to get results, but it isn’t as it creates missed opportunities for additional insights, ideas or perspectives. So here are some easy-to-implement techniques so leaders can immediately start creating a protective environment that fosters difference.

  1. Create a framework for evaluation

Be clear on the intent of all your meetings. This does not happen enough. Set an agenda before-hand that states what the purpose is. If it’s about idea generation, then be clear on that. If it’s about generation and evaluation, how will the meeting be structured so that ideas aren’t judged in the creating and sharing process? Get everyone to discuss and agree at the beginning of the meeting what you’re looking to achieve and how you’ll do it. Think about how the ideas themselves will be judged, do you apply weightings to certain criteria such as market differentiation or perhaps ease-of-implementation?

  1. Ask for dissent

Proactively ask people to (respectfully) disagree with what’s being put on the table. Be clear on this. In fact, you can appoint a ‘leader of the opposition’ role – someone who actively challenges everything and who gives permission for others to as well. Make sure quieter voices are also being heard. If ideas are being evaluated, make sure that all perspectives are being considered – Juliet Bourke’s 6 problem solving perspectives are useful to reference here (reflecting risks, people, process, outcomes, evidence, options)

  1. Put the black hat aside

Sometimes, it’s important to actively set out to listen to the ideas and not judge them. There’s plenty of time for that later… Many of us have been coached through our careers to critically evaluate inputs, but this default process is fraught with unconscious bias in the way our thoughts are processed. Putting on the black hat (drawing on Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats model  of thinking about problems) and looking at a decision’s potentially negative outcomes is unfortunately a default for many people. This sacrifices other perspectives such as available data (white hat); using intuition (red hat); optimistic viewpoint (yellow hat); creativity (green hat) and control (blue hat).

  1. Listen to your gut

Good leaders tune into what doesn’t feel or appear right and question ‘why’. This is a skill that society has socialised out of us, with a preference for facts and hard data. But at the end of the day we’re people and when we’re interacting with others, hard data doesn’t necessarily provide the answers. So when somebody proposes an idea or perspective that makes you feel uncomfortable, ask yourself ‘why’. Is it because of who is presenting that idea (somebody who you don’t get on with quite as well) or is it that you’ve pre-framed in your mind what that idea or solution should be? Similarly, when it comes to the conscious omission of information when managing up, it’s important to consider the bigger implications of presenting insights that either look good, or will make others look good, and if it doesn’t feel right then speak up. Similarly, encourage your team to challenge you when you’re only presenting a particular viewpoint or information, to avoid ‘groupthink’ and the deceptive comfort of false consensus.

  1. Circle back

This is where I believe many leaders are getting stuck when navigating the innovation quagmire. Not all ideas are equal and neither should all ideas be given the green light. But the challenge is in making a decision on what gets progressed, without quashing the psychological safety of those whose ideas aren’t going ahead. Circling back to the team is critical. Let them know what went up and why, as well as what didn’t make it through and why. Thank them for their inputs and ask them to keep coming up with fresh and challenging thinking. Leaders also need to take the helicopter view and see which ideas can be pinned onto other projects or concepts. “Let’s add that view into our project on productivity improvement” or “let’s put that one on ice for our next brainstorm on new markets”.  It’s not about giving false placations, it’s about keeping the conversation and communication open. Don’t let good ideas die when the meeting room door opens and everyone goes back to their desks.

This quote from John Maynard Keynes is a good summary: “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas, as in escaping from old ones”. Equally applied to changing the way we behave as leaders, in creating an environment where speaking up doesn’t get shut down.