Category Archives: Tips

Why you should care about website accessibility

For a lot of companies, the accessibility of their website is a factor that features much further down the list than a lot of other required or desirable factors.

On the surface, configuring your site so it can be used by those with additional needs might seem like a lot of work for little reward – but when you realise that 8.5 million people in the UK are registered as having a disability, not ensuring access for all can have a big business impact.

To understand why accessibility is vital, it’s important to understand what it means for a website… We recently caught up with the amazing team over at Think Zap who are a team of Glasgow web designers, here is what they had to say about website accessibility, and what it means for your business!

What does accessibility mean?

For lots of people, the term accessibility conjures images of ramps, lifts and dropped curbs that allow easy wheelchair access to a building – and while correct, both the architectural application and the image of a wheelchair user put too narrow a meaning on the term.

Accessibility extends to any ‘occupation’ – that’s to say any task or action that a person may want or need to undertake – and the term ‘disabled’ or someone with ‘disabilities’ extends well beyond physical limitations – and into issues relating to differing cognition, mental function and sensory needs.

So, in website terms, it’s useful to think of ‘accessibility’ as simply making the site accessible and useable for anyone – regardless of any impairment, reduced ability or external conditions.

A broad spectrum

A broader look at the population’s range of abilities sees a wide variety of conditions that should be accounted for in web design:

  • Visual issues – including people who are blind, have reduced vision, colour blindness or sensory sensitivity to colours and light levels.
  • Auditory issues – people who are deaf, have a reduced range hearing – or have sensory issues that relate to particular noises and pitch levels.
  • Physical issues – including musculoskeletal issues leading to reduced movement, any inability to use limbs that ruling out standard device control methods and any cognitive issues leading to difficulties in movement.
  • Learning disabilities – leading to issues with movement, understanding of content and ability to interact with devices.
  • Autistic spectrum conditions – resulting in sensitivities to site design, colours and noises.

Environmental limitations

While we tend to think about accessibility as being human conditions that limit access to sites, there are also environmental conditions that can limit a person’s ability to access and use a website:

  • Old technology that doesn’t cater for the latest design features
  • Speech driven search and browsing owing to user’s situation
  • Limited network speed
  • Working in areas of high noise or light interference

Benefits of accessibility

Before considering any business benefits, there’s a significant moral and ethical argument for ensuring accessibility for people of all abilities and in all conditions.

A great deal of companies put their ethical responsibilities before any business considerations – and this should always be taken into consideration when something as significant as a company’s web presence is in question.

Limiting access can damage your reputation

Social media makes it extremely easy for your bad decisions around accessibility of a site to become a much more widely publicised problem than you would intend. Your decision to limit accessibility is not shared by social media platforms – meaning you can make it hard for people to use your service – but you can’t stop people telling the world about your ethical shortcuts!

The law

While there haven’t been any significant cases against which precedent can be set, limiting people’s use of your website based on your ineffective design could find you in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

Effectively, neglecting to provide a service to a disabled person that is otherwise accessible to others is unlawful discrimination. This principle applies regardless of the type of organisation you are or the service that you offer.

Business considerations

Even if ethics take a backseat to cold business decisions, the numbers that drive accessibility should speak for themselves. 8.5 million people in the UK are registered as being disabled – with an additional unknown number handling access issues without medical support.

8.5 million people represents more than 10% of the population of the UK. If your company decides that accessibility isn’t a priority, they’re effectively turning away 1 in every 10 customers who try to access the business online – the web version of door security turning away every tenth customer who tries to enter a shop! A stark image, but effectively the same.

What does accessibility look like?

There are hundreds of possible adaptations that allow equal access to your website – although they tend to break down into categories:

  • For people with limited vision: Adaptations should be made/available for colours, contrasts, text size and font type, i.e. text should scale up without losing quality or readability.
  • For people with no vision: Consideration should be given to how the page is presented and how a screen-reader would interpret the different elements. This should include image alt tags, title tags for links and audio descriptions for any video or animation content.
  • For people with limited hearing: If you have audio content on the page can it be represented graphically? I.e. closed captions or subtitles – or signing alongside video.
  • For people who have physical restrictions: Does your site offer feasible control options via the keyboard? Do you allow forms and fields to be autocompleted?
  • For those with learning difficulties or disabilities: Is you content easy to comprehend? Is it broken down so it can be read by people who might struggle with large blocks of text? Is your site compatible with software that will read text aloud?

Meet customer’s needs

It’s a fundamental for business owners everywhere; build a product or service that answers a market need. To think that a huge number of those same business owners then have websites developed that preclude their business, product or service from many of the customers they are trying to find is unfathomable.

Accessibility means you’re:

  • Abiding by the law – and getting a significant head start on any further legal changes should they occur
  • Accessing extensions to virtually every demographic – with a collective spending power of £100billion+
  • Creating a site that is more useable and friendly to all – not just those from whom accessibility is a must.

These are the kind of goals that marketing teams work for hundreds of hours to achieve. Save yourself your hassle by putting website accessibility at the top of your to-do list.

 

 

9 alternative ways to boost professional development

Sick of seeing the same regurgitated tips on how you can get ahead at work? – We’ve got just the thing for you.

If you’ve claimed to be an ‘outside the box thinker’ on your CV – then it’s time to set yourself apart for them rest by picking up some of these tips and becoming the most interesting and useful person in the office… 

  1. Find a mentor

There’s a lot to be said for being a trailblazer – but don’t forget, there were people trailblazing long before you came along. Smart people are often quite humble, so you might not find them shouting, blogging or consulting about what they know – often, you’ve got to bring the info out of them yourself.

You’ll only find these people by talking. Chat with the people who’ve been with your company a long time, you’ll pick up some incredible knowledge about the business and ways of working that’ll bolster your professional toolkit. Download Microsoft Office and use Word to take notes and build a list on excel to keep track of the mentors you are connecting with.

  1. Read a book

There’s no end of knowledge out there on subjects that directly impact your role. Truth be told – it doesn’t have to be a book, start picking up professional journals, studies and research papers that are relevant to your industry and prepare to absorb a LOT of priceless info.

Bulking out your knowledge in different areas can be really useful too. If you’re in a marketing role – why not look for psychology info that might inform your decisions? If you’re in sales – brush up on the latest financial info to stay ahead of the curve and understand the right markets to go at.

  1. Learn sign language

There are around 150,000 people in the UK who use British Sign Language – so why not look at picking it up as an additional language and immediately expand the ability and accessibility of your workforce?

Sure, it might not be something you use very often – but in that moment that you’re needed to help support a customer, meeting or business associate, you’re immediately priceless to the business.

  1. Volunteer

Volunteering is often penned as an entirely selfless act – and while giving your time and energy to a cause with no financial recompense might seem that way, the truth is that you can get a lot from it too.

If you’re part of a medium or large size business, you’ll find there are lots of opportunities to get involved with community projects and initiatives – sometimes even in work time. Getting involved will connect you with great people, inspire conversations and pick you out as someone with good intentions.

  1. Go networking

If you’re thinking to yourself you just don’t have the time for networking – fear not – most of the big networking organisations are a step ahead of you. Whether it’s breakfast, evenings or weekends – you can join up with likeminded (or totally different!) professionals and talk.

There’s usually some format to how a networking event pans out – you might have to make a small presentation to a group or select individuals about you, your business or your products – and in return, they’ll give you similar info about themselves. Whatever’s involved – you’re going to build a professional network that then opens doors to different roles, experiences and knowledge.

  1. Write a blog

Writing a blog can be a brilliant route to exploring your own professional development. It’s creative, so there are no rules – and frankly, even if no one’s reading what you’re writing is going to develop you in ways you might not expect. Its also very easy to setup, you can use platforms such as wordpress.com which is great for getting started.

It’s an often-cited fact that journaling can be an incredible catalyst for creativity – and blogging is really just that – public journaling – and because it’s done in a place anyone can see, you’re likely to get some productive comments and feedback too. Be prepared to be honest and be challenged – but in return you’ll have a lot to think about!

  1. Experiment on yourself

Don’t worry this is a painless experiment! There’s no question that the body and mind are connected – therefore, mixing up your eating, sleeping and exercising habits can have some profound effects on your work life.

They key is taking a measured approach – don’t suddenly start running marathons, being a vegan and sleeping 3 hours a night! Introduce little changes and chart the impact it has on your ability to work. Does exercising before work improve your focus? Perhaps getting an extra hour of sleep means your productivity is up during work hours?

There’s no certain paths or results – do what feels right and see how your professional development follows…

  1. Put yourself with another department

If you’ve got an hour, an afternoon or a day a week that you’d like to invest in development, then look at spending some time with a department that you don’t fully understand or work with often.

Clearly, it’s important to go through the right channels to do so, but if you want a better picture of how the business works as an overall machine – you won’t go far wrong seeing what happens behind the scenes elsewhere.

As an added bonus – you make the company a smaller place when you do this. Your department gets a friendly face that other people can approach – and you make some connections with people elsewhere. From a selfish point of view – it’s always nice to know you’ve got someone on your side should you ever need to take a plan or request over to another part of the building!

  1. Try a foreign language

The internet has made the other side of the world just a few clicks away. If your business has its sights set on expansion – you knowing a different language could put you at the forefront of the company’s plans on how that’s executed.

From a day-to-day point of view too, there’s no harm in being the person who everyone else turns to on the odd instance a non-English speaker wants to interact with the business. There are audiobooks aplenty on learning new languages – and it’s a great way to kill some time in an otherwise tedious commute…

Workplace dyslexia and the law

Workplace dyslexia and the law

Workplace dyslexia and the law

Although individual adaptability makes it is difficult to be exact, experts suggest that around 10% of the general population are dyslexic which has led to many schools from investing in Dyslexia support from companies such as CPD Bytes. What’s more, dyslexia is a ‘hidden’ condition, meaning there may not be obvious indications or adjustments that can be made to make the workplace that reflect employee need.

Where a workplace or employment arrangement puts someone with a disability at a disadvantage – the 2010 Equality Act requires employers make reasonable adjustments. Because there are a wide range of issues that can relate to dyslexia – getting a full understanding of a person’s requirements is important when it comes to following the law.

Whether you’re an employer, employee or prospective candidate we’ll walk you through some of the law surrounding dyslexia and employment.

What does the law actually say?

Since the Equality Act is a weighty document some 250 pages in length – it’s useful to cut it down to size when you’re looking at one specific issue. Essentially the message is this – an organisation cannot refuse employment simply because an individual has dyslexia. Not only that – but an employer must think of ways of working that could enable a dyslexic person to fulfil any role.

It’s easy to think about equality in terms of just initial employment – but equality laws must be observed in other situations too:

  • Employee retention
  • Internal promotion and transfers
  • Training and development
  • Performance management and dismissal

Is dyslexia a disability?

In health terms, there’s a distinction between a ‘disability’ and a ‘difficulty’. Essentially a disability puts a permanent cap on a person’s ability to perform a certain task, however, a difficulty can normally be overcome with the right support.

Despite being distinct in the health professions, government legislation refers to dyslexia as a disability and is therefore covered by all disability and equality law.

As a candidate or employee

Whether you are a candidate for a role or an existing employee it’s entirely up to you whether or not you disclose your dyslexia to your employer. You might decide that it is important for you to disclose this information from the very start – and you might have no choice if you feel it would otherwise hinder your ability to apply.

Although legally you have no obligation to disclose your dyslexia, you might choose to do so in your CV, application form or covering letter, during or preceding your interview, at the point of being offered the role, upon commencement of the role or even later when you’re in employment. It doesn’t matter when you do this – the law says your employment should not be affected.

The benefits of disclosing dyslexia

For many people dyslexia can be a tough subject to discuss – especially if your experience throughout education was difficult as a result of your condition. There are benefits to disclosing your condition though – think about it this way:

You and your colleague are both candidates for a promotion. Your performance reviews have both been good and there’s little that would help an interview panel to decide between you both.

You might think that declaring your dyslexia at this stage would swing the decision toward your colleague – but why? If you’re both performing well an awareness of your condition and some adaptations to your working environment could very well bolster your productivity and performance to levels that set you head and shoulders above any other applicant.

What if you’re struggling?

Maybe your workplace performance is lagging behind others? Without declaring your dyslexia your reasons for diminished performance might be put down to other factors – if they include “a lack of focus” or being perceived as “lacking dedication” it’s possible you’re being judged without all the information. Don’t forget, the law protects you against unfair treatment – but if your employer doesn’t know about your condition, they also don’t know that they should be doing more to support you.

Ultimately the decision is yours, but being supported around dyslexia can mean your energy can be focused on letting your talents shine.

Are you an employer?

As well as ensuring your recruitment and training policies fit with the Equality Act there’s a big emphasis on occupational health requirements also being fit for purpose. Making ‘reasonable adjustments’ for people with dyslexia can often be done cheaply and with little impact on resources.

Although this list isn’t exhaustive, adjustments can include:

For issues with reading and writing

  • Providing information in a more suitable format – i.e. video, diagrams, examples.
  • Using specialist spelling and grammar checking tools

For memory issues relating to dyslexia

  • Ensuring objectives are provided individually
  • Setting up the office and workspace in an intuitive and easy to use manner

For commination issues

  • Making sure messages are clear and nothing is assumed or implied
  • Observing turn taking and adhering to agendas in meetings
  • Clear lines of communication that mean tangents are

Supporting around the lesser-known effects of dyslexia

In some instances, a lack of in-depth understanding of their own condition means dyslexic people are missing out on either the adaptations needed to perform their role effectively – or the recompense that they could be due for not being provided the right working adjustments.

The term dyslexia is almost entirely attributed to reading and writing – where in fact it should be considered a ‘processing’ impairment. Imagine the brain to have a measurable and finite amount processing power – now take up a large chunk of that power with attempts to handle reading and writing tasks – leaving a diminished amount of processing ability for ‘working memory’ tasks or the ability to cope with a busy working environment. This is how many other dyslexia related issues occur.

Employer and employee awareness

It takes an incredible amount of awareness for an individual to go to an employer with a deep understanding of their struggles. Instead – they are more likely to complain of headaches – or go to the doctor and present you with a sick note citing stress.

Abiding by the law shouldn’t be the only driving factor for an employer to effectively work with dyslexia – when you begin to understand the range of issues that can occur for dyslexic people, you come closer to unlocking their true working potential – at the same time as bolstering productivity and reducing sickness and staff turnover. If a management consultancy company offered these same results it’s likely you’d employ their services – the reality is, you can positively impact all of these factors by just understanding you’re a condition that affects around 1 in 10 people in a little more depth.

4 Tips for Beginners Who Want to Start a Business

When you want to start a business, the first step people tend to take is to do research and find out what other people did. This is a good thing to do, but you shouldn’t always believe everything you hear or trust that what works for one person will also work for you. Today, I would like to share a few lessons learned by successful entrepreneurs.

Choose something you enjoy. If you start a business and it works, you will be doing it for years to come. Choose something you like and enjoy because you will be more likely to put in the necessary work and commitment than if you were doing something you hate.

Figure it out as you go. You won’t know everything when you start and you very possibly won’t know anything. Don’t let that stop you. Learn as you go. Most businessmen did not know how exactly to run their business or how to operate in the field they were in, but they learned as they went and figured it out.

Choose your partners carefully. If you want or need a partner for your business, choose carefully. Try not to have one because it is convenient, but rather because that person makes the business stronger. You need someone that will contribute, make smart decisions, and support you. If you choose the wrong partner, you will have a nightmare on your hands.

Ignore the statistics of failure. Many people will tell you about the high percentage of businesses that fail or how few of a certain niche succeed, etc. Ignore these stats as they are not necessarily true. If a high percentage of businesses fail, it’s probably because the owners didn’t commit or prepare well enough. Those stats just make people comfortable with failing or they use it to justify why they didn’t make it.

There are a few more lessons, but we will share them later. One other thing that is very important, however, is that your family and quality time should always be important. Obsess about your idea and go do it, but don’t forget the important people in your life.

Infographic by: bizhub.anz.co.nz