Listen to the podcast episode -- Read Episode 28 Notes on RussellSweep.com
00:09 Russell Sweep [Upbeat music swells]
Hey there, I'm Russell and I want to welcome you to the L&D Hot Seat, a podcast that focuses on challenging scenarios in the field of learning and development. Whether it's a problem you've dealt with for quite some time or a brand new one, we all seek out solutions to remedy those difficult situations. My hope is that you draw on the experience of these incredible guests and they inspire you to seek out an answer to that problem.
My guest this week is Yvonne Urra-Bazain. She's an e-learning developer with a waxing tool set for accessibility design. She's a digital nomad, enthusiastic about visual design, learning and development, and she also runs the GLDC Accessibility Co-Lab where all participants collaboratively problem solve for digital accessibility on the second Monday of each month.
I was so happy when Yvonne agreed to join me on the hot seat. She's become an advocate for designing with people in mind, and I had some burning questions about accessibility I wanted to ask. I hope you enjoy this talk as much as I do. And without further ado. Here's the show.
01:11 Russell Sweep [Upbeat music fades]
Well, hello, Yvonne. How are you?
01:14 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
I'm well. How are you, Russell?
01:16 Russell Sweep
I'm doing excellent. Thank you so much for joining me on The L&D Hot Seat. I've been looking forward to this for quite some time because we were talking off MIC about the fact that The L&D Hot Seat doesn't necessarily have a dedicated episode towards accessibility. And from what you're doing right now, running the accessibility corner over in the GLDC and you've got something cooking for DevLearn coming up in October, I'm very excited to have you on and talk a little bit more about this topic. So, thank you so much.
01:48 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
Thank you for having me!
01:49 Russell Sweep
Just a little background. You and I met because we were both in the GLDC, the Global Learning and Development Community, and we both kind of took some initiative in order to start our own offshoot of that. I started leading Project Club and like I said previously, you started leading the accessibility corner. How has that been? Have you enjoyed it?
02:09 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
I've absolutely loved being the facilitator for our accessibility meet up. We meet only once a month and it works for my schedule, but it's been amazing to have a social learning playground where we can talk about making things more accessible for everyone.
02:27 Russell Sweep
Yeah, that's one of my favorite parts too. Is just the network and the community that comes together and you can really, you feel like you can educate but also learn at the same time. So it's a really awesome platform and I'm glad that you took that initiative also.
So, before we jump into the hot seat, these I know you're excited for it, I can tell.
We have a boilerplate question that I asked all of my guests. I just wanted to throw this out to you. Have you ever been in the hot seat at a job before? And in order to define that we usually talk about it as a time when you were asked to do something you didn't really know how to do and now you're scrambling around trying to find a solution. So, has that ever happened to you before?
03:07 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
I was an elementary teacher for a decade. And I was often asked questions that I didn't have the answer for off the top of my head. Um, so, I learned to improvise quite a lot during those days. But also, to be honest with my students and let them know that it was an opportunity for joint discovery whenever we didn't know the answer to a question.
But most recently I was asked by a sales group to create a PowerPoint presentation for a Fortune 500 company. And they were using sales speak, a lot of business terminology that I wasn't familiar with. I was in a direct meeting with the CEO and Vice President of the sales group. And at the end of their discussion about what they wanted me to deliver, they asked: How did I think I could make it work? And I was definitely in a hot seat position then.
04:06 Russell Sweep
04:07 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
I had no idea what they were really trying to communicate to me. Eventually I just had to let them know, just like I did with my students, that I needed some clarification. This is what I'm I'm getting out of the conversation. I asked them to rephrase it for me so that I could really drive that visual communication they were looking for. And what happened was it turned out that they needed a chance to refine what they wanted to say. They were able to rephrase it together and it turned out to be a much better product because we made it simpler for more people to understand.
04:47 Russell Sweep
That's awesome. And I feel like a lot of people might be very worried about asking for clarification on something like that because they're probably they feel maybe an imposter syndrome or if they ask for clarification, it might be reflected as, like a lack of experience or something like that. But it sounds like your stakeholders just kind of took that and ran with it. They, they offered you some clarification. You were able to create something that both parties could agree on, right?
05:17 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
Yes, and something I'm learning the more I'm dealing with high stakes business meetings is that: Every interaction is an opportunity to build upon a relationship. And I need to present my most authentic self in every relationship. And if I don't know something, I also need to have the ability to say that I'm not sure, but I'm willing to research or find other solutions. Um, and maybe it's an opportunity to bring in another resource to collaborate with and and really create a better product because there are ends to where my expertise may be. And I'm just sort of relying on the ability to communicate the best I can. And offer what I, what I can to the client within their budget, within their time constraints, and within my current capabilities as I'm learning and growing as well.
06:21 Russell Sweep
I'm so happy that you brought up that phrase. I'm not sure, but I can find out. And I feel like a lot of people, really they struggle with that. The idea of admitting maybe they're a deficit or admitting a weakness in something because they don't want to be construed as not having the answer.
But, maybe that's something we learn from being teachers. It's the fact that you, you don't have the answer to everything, but you need to understand that people don't always expect that they they kind of want you to not fake it. And I I feel like that kind of moves along with that fake it till you make it philosophy that we see a lot in corporate society. Faking it can sometimes put you in some pretty hot water. So admitting that maybe you don't know something and moving forward towards finding a solution, I think that's a mature way of looking at it and people tend to resonate very well with that.
07:18 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
Thank you. That's great feedback for something I've been working on personally.
07:24 Russell Sweep
Well, I think you're doing awesome with a lot of the stuff you've got put out. So what do you think? Should we jump into the hot seat in and some of these questions.
07:31 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
Let's do it.
07:32 Russell Sweep
Alright, so this first question here is really, I mean all three of these questions are focused on accessibility. You've been teaching a lot about it and you're working towards a speaker position over at DevLearn coming up, you're going to be discussing accessibility as well. So this first one here is: How do you apply the principles of Universal Design at your work? And maybe it's for the audience who may not know what that is, could you define what universal design is?
08:00 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
Certainly there are 7 principles of universal design. It's usually used outside of digital accessibility. It's typically used when we're discussing physical accessibility and ADA compliance. But the principles are things like: Equitable Use. Can everyone access and use the product or whether it's digital or uh, physical in the same general manner. So is there, are there mechanisms within that product that allows someone to use it left-handed or right-handed? If we're talking about maybe scissors. Or in a digital environment, can I adjust how bright or dark or dim the display is? Those are features for Flexibility In Use, which is another principle.
There are other principles that really align well with the web content and accessibility guidelines which we call WCAG and those are digital accessibility standards that are international standards. And they are: Simple and Intuitive Use. Can someone access a user interface and justice intuitively know how to use it? And that is dependent upon whether or not universal icons are used. Things that we generally have seen enough in our, our Internet or digital environments to have an idea of what that is, like the power button on a lot of our our digital and physical products.
If something can be perceived by a wide audience. So that means visually, as well as in other modes of operation. So that includes auditorially or aurally as well as tactically for, for those who use a refreshable Braille display or switch types of modes for accessing information.
And there are two more principles that might not align us well to digital accessibility, but they’re:
Does the interaction allow for the lowest amount of physical effort necessary, or does it require a lot of moving around extra clicks, extra scrolling.
10:20 Russell Sweep
Yeah, the scroll of Death.
10:22 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
Yes. The Scroll of death. As we had discussed before in in your Project Club.
And the last principle of universal design is: Has the product been designed with concept of size and space for approach? So in a physical environment when we think about wheelchair users, is there enough width of a pathway or of incline, the right degree of incline for wheelchair user? Similarly, is there enough for a stroller user because their needs can be very similar or similarly met by the right design considerations. And in the digital realm, that might mean: Can the browser window rescale because some people have smaller laptop screens or large 4K displays. What kinds of accommodations are we making? So when I'm applying this to my work, there's a lot of guidelines at play. There are over 50 WCAG guidelines I'm looking at, or section 508 compliance or conformance. And then we have the seven principles of universal design, and each principle has their own guidelines, but they work together very well because they asked the designer or developer to stand back and consider the bigger picture.
How easy it is to use?
Can the user change things to accommodate what they need and their modes of operations and their preferences?
Is it easy to see and understand or perceive in other ways?
Does it provide for them to make corrections?
Can they access it simply, physically, and cognitively?
And is there space for all the things they need to do with it?
12:14 Russell Sweep
I I didn't realize that there were so many variables to consider and something like that. When you brought up technology and different people’s like laptops and their screen sizes, that's something I hadn't really considered. I mean, I typically do design for like mobile versus laptop, but the size and width I run into that issues all the time where I have to put it on to a different screen because I can't see everything, And I've always thought that the WCAG was specifically standards for individuals with disabilities. But it kind of sounds like it's just it just expands to everyone. It's just a standard so that everyone can be able to access it.
12:55 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
Exactly. One of the key goals of accessibility is the ability for all people to access necessary information, regardless of their preferences or modes of operation, and and that is why it had gone into law in various countries around the world. It's an international standard.
We have the ability to meet the needs of everyone, when we consider the needs of everyone as globally and universally as we can. And one great example of that is the use of closed captioning. You know, originally closed captioning was created for people who had hearing loss or low hearing, and they needed to be able to have a visual representation of audio. But closed captioning is now being used, some studies are saying 60% to 70% of of of users are people without any defined disabilities who find it useful to have another representation of information in a visual format, other than just having it aurally.
And it also accommodates people in situational needs or temporary changes of operation. So late at night, when I really want to watch a video, if I'm scrolling through social media, and I I'm really curious what someone has to say, but I don't want to wake up anyone else, I will turn the volume off and just read the closed captioning. If that accessibility consideration wasn't made for a a marginalized group before, it wouldn't be something that I would use situationally, when I need it, or when I want to use it. So there are so many examples of how designing for everyone really does benefit everyone. But on top of that it provides, I call it a civil rights opportunity, for us to meet the needs of people who have been traditionally marginalized in especially digital access.
And I can't speak specifically on physical access except for a time when I was a caregiver to both of my parents. And at the ends of their, their time on Earth or their lifetimes, they both were wheelchair users. And we had to navigate where we could go, and what we could experience as a family depending on where the wheelchair could go. Where could I reliably and safely bring my loved one in a wheelchair? So those, those sort of considerations for pathways and curbs or or the the curb cut, really can benefit everyone and not just the people we think are in need of it.
Accessibility is essential for some and useful for all. And and that has really hit home for me in various ways personally and also in my, my work.
16:13 Russell Sweep
Yeah, yeah, I I really love that. Especially the fact that it, it doesn't seem like as much effort oftentimes for someone who maybe like you said kind of accessibility for a curve. Like if there's one step for them to step over that, but it might mean the world of difference for someone who has a wheelchair who may not be able to access that.
And that small change of putting in a slight ramp in there, it doesn't change what someone who is mobile walking can experience, but it makes all the difference for someone else who can access that.
18:13 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
16:13 Russell Sweep
I really love that story. I I feel like this. This really brings us towards our second question here and this one is really about when deadlines are coming up or when developers are rushing. I feel like most companies are on board with the idea of adopting accessibility standards into their e-learning, or at least they'd like to say that they are. Now when it comes down to it, it comes down to the wire, when there are deadlines and people are rushing, it seems to me that accessibility standards might take a backseat. And I, I've seen this. I've definitely seen this in companies I've worked with also.
For example, I was working with a team who was developing a disability awareness e-learning and at the end of it they sent it over to me and were talking to me about it and I looked at it and I was all like. There is no closed captioning in this, and it was primarily video-based and they were saying, well, we know. We need to get this out tomorrow. And I'm all like guys. What what does this say about us and how much we care about something if the disability awareness e-learning doesn't have closed captioning? So, it was definitely an eye opener for me that companies may say that they're, that something is important to them, but they need to put that effort forth. So how do you encourage that follow through with a team that might be scrambling to deliver a product?
18:13 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
I I think this is such a great question and it's pertinent to our industry work uh, across the board. I may be in a unique situation because my current company, Briljent, takes on quite a few state agency work and accessibility is, in a way, baked into our deliverable timeline. So there is an understanding that through whatever process we will ensure accessibility standards are reached at least up to level double A or AA conformance.
That is not communicated at a very fine level, so that's kind of left up to the developer to interpret.
Um, in most projects I am either the sole developer or I will collaborate with one other developer.
And I've enjoyed the ability, and I do enjoy it, that's that's why I use that term, but I've enjoyed the ability to help consult on accessibility as well as to run our tests and reports. Even if the client doesn't require it, I will schedule time in my development cycle for accessibility testing.
So, typically I will test a template we're using and then provide a report for it internally, in case the client requests it. If there are any documents that we are including in QRG's, I will also run an Adobe Acrobat test for accessibility or accessibility check and those are very simple to do or quick to do once you have developed some familiarity with the process.
But when push comes to shove and, you know uh, we really need to meet a deadline. There have been times when we'll let the client know: This is what we have. We have not yet tested it for accessibility. We need X amount of time to ensure that it is accessible. And that goes back to establishing trusting relationships between the stakeholders and the creators. We need to have these open lines of communication about what is valuable, what is important, and how much time we need to dedicate to ensuring those values are maintained uh, with integrity.
I I have a difficulty when I realize I've not done my due diligence in checking for things, especially because I've been now known to be an accessibility advocate. Some of the things I've put out, even you know a year ago, sometimes a month ago, I might not have checked for accessibility because I was just trying to get something done. And they're, they're, I feel responsible. It's on my checklist to go back and look at those things and revamp them, but sometimes we need to have these open conversations within our organizations about what's important to us, what's important to our clients. And what we need to sacrifice in one area so that these important values are still kept.
21:49 Russell Sweep
Yeah. No, I I really love that. Especially the fact that you pencil in certain times to test for accessibility. You work it into the timeline because that shows that you prioritize something. That shows that it's made it into your schedule and it has a designated time frame for it to be looked at and for other people to write off on something. And those checks and balances are incredibly important for us, so we don't release something that is faulty. So giving it that due credit and the kind of respect that that deserves I think shows to people that it is a priority for you.
22:25 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
Definitely. And it's something that we are working on internally as well. Developing procedures for how to check for accessibility, creating a a way for more than one of us to to tag team on the reports. There are so many people in our organization right now who are passionate and interested in making content more usable and understandable for more of our audience. Especially as the audience that was first introduced to the Internet in the 90s, 80s, 70s, some of them. They are now aging and with aging comes some of the difficulties that are in line with disabilities and what we consider, uh, those marginalized groups.
Our more seasoned staff, our more seasoned audience is also benefiting from the changes we make to our courses for accessibility and for traditionally disabled groups. And it's become more of a priority for all of us, as we're all being touched by even situational issues.
As a small side story, last Friday, I was in the middle of a work meeting, with my headphones on, these same headphones. And I felt a strange fulness in my left ear. So I, after the meeting I removed my headphones and there was quite a bit of fluid coming out of my ear. It was distressing. So I went to a walk-in clinic and found out somehow I had perforated my left ear drum.
24:17 Russell Sweep
24:21 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
They couldn't even, they couldn't even find the covering that normally is present. Uh, so I'm on a series of antibiotics and steroids to prevent infection.
But for that first two full days I had limited hearing in my left ear. And that was something I couldn't have planned for. It's it's something I I didn't know it was gonna happen. But having other people in our digital spaces designing things that can be accessed in different ways really helped me because it could have been a very frustrating work week for me, if I could only hear half of what everyone was saying.
And what I mean is during our team meetings I was able to enable the captioning option so I could see live captions of what people were saying in the meeting and I could still engage. If that wasn't an option for me, I would have struggled.
25:18 Russell Sweep
No, I know that whenever I watch like a movie, I always like close captioning on there because the music oftentimes overwhelms the narration that's happening, or the dialogue. And so sometimes I can't even tell what they're saying. So that's something that I've really like baked into my own life. And I kind of expect that for most visual media that I consume, I also what you said about your own personal trial with, with hearing difficulty.
I think I went to one of your accessibility corners and afterwards I wanted to start navigating by just using my keyboard on the Internet to try and see if I could do that because it hadn't really come up previously, but I think it might have been a challenge of yours. You had brought it up, so I went over and I tried to do that by just using like no mouse, no touchpad.
It is incredibly difficult. Most websites are not built for that. And it was just it was challenging and it it it really made me realize that this is incredibly important for and incredibly limiting for people who cannot access that and have to use only their keyboard for accessing something. So that was something that kind of spoke to me about the importance of it because it made me realize that by doing it myself and seeing my own limitations that other people have to regularly try and struggle with that.
26:47 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
I've heard some frustration points or pain points from users who use a screen reader. And I'm guilty of this. I I might not have put appropriate alt text for every image. And I've heard someone say, do you know how often I listen to people’s images and it just says logo dot JPG? And she she was saying that she would try to listen to these files and and she tried to explain her experience where If it was our user experience, or if it was my user experience, I should say, I might have been frustrated and left the platform. There have been times when I I'll go to a website and if I can't find out how to navigate the website, I will find another option.
27:41 Russell Sweep
Ohh absolutely. You wanna feel like you're being respected and you're given the sense of respect that at least the common decency to allow you to navigate something.
I'm glad you brought that up. That brings us to our last question here. The idea of designing with accessibility in mind. I feel like it it does support diversity and inclusion and belonging, but how does accessibility design communicate that to other people? Like if you have an option to toggle something on or off, if you have the option to turn on closed captioning. What does that say to your learners?
28:16 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
I appreciate this question. And this idea really was inspired by an image I saw online, created by Accessibility Tick of New Zealand. They are an accessibility company. Um, but they created a a a graph and on the graph was diversity on the bottom. And then inclusion seemed to have a little more vertical superiority to diversity. And right above that was belonging.
And the first time I looked at this graph, I had trouble really understanding what they were trying to communicate. Except that I came to the conclusion and and we had a discussion about this in our in our kickoff collab where: Diversity is having everyone in the room together. So allowing people to join in and be invited is an example of showing diversity. So we might do that in corporate e-learning or government e-learning by having images of people who represent different backgrounds, different modes of operation. And that's diversity.
But inclusion might go a step beyond that because it it asks for and invites their feedback. It asks them: What do you think? How can we make this better for you? And again, there's still an idea perhaps that there's a marginalized group that another group is catering.
I don't know how much I believe or or agree with it. I I think that it's it's a solid point and I I hold it in my mind as something I teeter off and on. I I often live in shades of gray where I'm not 100% sure about everything, but I I will. I'll hold an idea and consider it.
So I, I realized by reading an article they had posted about that image that when they circled belonging as something higher above, they were trying to say that: If you create an environment or an experience that someone who typically or previously had difficulty accessing or being part of before, but but you create an environment where it it's like it was made for them. It was made with them in mind. Then you’ve created for that person a sense of belonging.
They don't have a question about: Was I invited to the table?
They don't have a question about: Will people ask me about my preferences?
Those things have been already considered. They were already designed for them.
And, they can use it as a user, as a universal user, without needing those conditional, pre-planning. How do I say? They already belong. It's not a question.
00:31:45 Russell Sweep
That's extremely powerful, and it it definitely speaks to the idea that designing for people in mind makes them feel like they're part of something that they don't have, that they're not just an afterthought, that they're not someone who should be maybe penciled in, but that they automatically include without having to, you know, speak up and and request that.
I feel like that's very powerful.
32:15 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
I agree. And that one graphic and that, you know, those few minutes that I spent just trying to, to discern what it was trying to communicate shifted my thinking about the value of designing for all people and making that an indisputable part of my process.
As a person and as a creator, learning about accessibility has been a practice in developing empathy for me. And beyond empathy, and beyond listening to other people's needs, is is anticipating. Learning how to anticipate their needs so that, you know, like when you want to buy someone a birthday gift, and you really want to get something that they'll enjoy. But there's this awkwardness because if you have to ask them what they want, then it's like: You don't really know them.
I want to get to a point where things I create help people feel like they belong, like I bought them a birthday gift because I knew them so well, I knew what to get them without needing to have that awkward conversation.
And I'm not trying to say that we shouldn't have these conversations. These conversations are important. That's how we get to know people. That's how we get to know people's needs. That diversity, inclusion are stepping stones to, again, building relationships and and really understanding the user experience of other people.
But our end goal, as far as I'm concerned currently and my current belief system, which which could modify over time, is to create experiences where people feel like they inherently belong. They have every right to use it. They have been considered from the start.
34:25 Russell Sweep
I I I absolutely love everything you're saying and it is motivating me to Start learning more about it so that I can work that into my own work because it's one of those things that should be considered as us working with other humans and considering their needs. I loved how you said, anticipating needs as well, and that's honestly what a tool should do. It should make things easier and make things like on par for whoever uses it.
Yvonne, thank you so much for joining me. This has been a fantastic talk and I'm so happy that we're able to discuss accessibility and its standards and learn a little bit more about what goes on and how to make that important and a priority for your company. Can you tell me: What are you currently working on? Where can listeners find you?
35:17 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
Yes, um, through the GLDC every second Monday of the month, we participate in accessibility Co-Llab together. Our fifth collab is coming up the 2nd Monday of October. It is a holiday for some, but I will be open and available in case anyone can jump in.
I'll also be at DevLearn as a pre-conference workshop provider or facilitator. That's a full day conference, pre-conference workshop and we'll be talking about authoring accessibly using Storyline, PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, and Adobe Acrobat. And we're going to do mini empathy labs and design sprints where we're practicing using the tools and applying all of these various guidelines to our work.
And finally, I was invited to be a chapter contributor to a publication on accessibility that will be published in 2025.
36:17 Russell Sweep
36:19 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
36:21 Russell Sweep
Very cool. Ohh man, we're going to include all that in the show notes and any other links that you have. We talked a little bit about tools that can check accessibility and maybe something that people, they could use these links and make that into their own tool set. So if there's any that you can provide for me also will include all those in the show notes.
I highly recommend that people connect with Yvonne and also download some of those, bookmark them on their web pages, so they can find them and easily use them for their work.
Yvonne, thank you so much for joining me. This has been fantastic.
36:55 Yvonne Urra-Bazain
Thank you, Russell. I appreciate having the opportunity to chat with you.
36:59 Russell Sweep [Upbeat music swells]
Hey there. I want to thank you for listening. We here at the L&D Hot Seat are trying to release new episodes every two weeks, but we can always use your help. If you got questions or scenarios you'd like advice on, or maybe you just want to get in touch with us, you can send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the show notes for every episode at RussellSweep.com/HotSeat. On top of that, why not leave a rating and review on whatever streaming service you use? Believe it or not, it actually helps. Thanks again and hope to hear from you.