Luli Adeyomo, managing director for Sydney-based events agency Best Case Scenario, talks to CEI about understanding the need for digital access and making events more inclusive.
What does digital access mean in the context of events?
Event planners understand physical access with regards to events and they do take that into consideration when looking at which venues to work with. There’s lots of building regulations in Australia now, so the doors have to be a certain width, and you have to have ramps and handrails.
But when it comes to the digital side of things, they’re falling short. We’re talking about the information you’re using to promote your event whether it’s through the event website or the registration platform and making sure that it meets web content accessibility guidelines.
This is so that for people who might have visual impairments, they’re able to navigate your content. And be able to read about the event or register for the event.
What are some examples of inaccessible content?
I have a visual impairment in one eye and one of the big ones is colour contrast. Design takes priority over functionality. So you’ve got this beautiful website but a lot of the information is lost because there are not enough variants in the colours.
I had a situation with the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast and we were trying to find the parking facilities and I was looking at the app they designed for the Games. It kept asking us to click for the information and I could not find where to click at all. The reason being it had a light blue background and the link for the parking was another shade of blue on top it. So consequently, the information was completely lost.
So there’s tools that you can use to test the site to see things like colour contrast – whether or not there need be recommended requirements so that people can see the content on the site.
A lot of the time, when people are promoting an event or website, they have nice colours and banners that have the information in there such as the dates and times and venue, but if somebody is blind and accessing the content on your site by using a screenreader, they can’t read on an image.
The way that you navigate around that is a thing called alternative (alt) text. When you’re creating the site, you put in the content that explains what that image means. If you don’t put the content in as alt text, which is the technical term for it, then somebody with a screenreader has got no idea what it is.
There’s also a large percentage of people in the community who are enable to use a mouse and are completely reliant on accessing content using a keyboard. So the set-up of your site should enable access to different content with a keyboard. Unless you have an experience yourself or you know somebody that is regularly challenged, then you’re not aware.
Why are planners falling short?
Absolute lack of awareness. I’ve been involved in events for the last 20 or 25 years and I wasn’t fully aware that we were accidentally excluding people from our events by not making them digitally accessible.
The reason we’ve gone on a crusade to actively promote this above and beyond is because we’ve written a couple of opinion pieces and that apparently this is something that people aren’t aware of. And a very supportive of promoting.
But that positivity isn’t necessarily turning into action. We’re at the point where it should be ‘a little less conversation, a little more action please’. We need more than lip service.
We’ve found that it’s not a business priority and that needs to change. It’s one of those things now that it needs to be a top-down approach. It needs to come from an executive board level.
What are the challenges that organisations face in implementing digital access?
If your business performance indication is purely based on numbers and revenue, then it’s not a priority. And that’s the nature of the beast, isn’t it? Unfortunately, lots of the time, it has to forced rather than a choice.
In Australia, we have the World Wide Web Consortium that has created web content accessibility guidelines. It’s actually a legal requirement that all websites should adhere to it. But the reality is, it’s not policed. It’s something that’s buried under a lot of paperwork so people aren’t aware of it.
So what we’re trying to do here is create the business awareness. If a portion of the population has some form of a disability, we’re trying to position it in a way that they should do it because it’s the right thing to do, they should do it because it’s the legal thing to do, but hey, they should also do it because there’s a business opportunity. An opportunity for you to increase your attendee numbers by a significant amount by including these individuals.
Does tech help or hinder the cause?
Tech is the key. All events registration is done online. The disappointing factor is there’s many ticketing platforms in the market and there’s only one to date in Australia that’s proactively adhered to web content accessibility guidelines. And proactively catered to the needs of people with a disability. And the name of that platform is Humanitix.
We have a free service where they can send us three pages within their site and we will test those for them. And we’ll them what is and isn’t acceptable. And we’ll give them recommendations.
Recognising that part of the challenge that they don’t have the skill set or resources within the organisation to make those changes and they don’t have the time. What we’re really advocating for at the moment – we’re lobbying with state and federal government within Australia – is to set up a training program where we can upscale event planners and organisers so they can make these changes.