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May 2022: Improving Online Survey Access and Equitability for People with Disabilities

Date and Time
Thu, May 19, 2022
11:30 am PST
Ivar's Salmon House
401 NE Northlake Way
Seattle Washington 98105
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May 2022: Improving Online Survey Access and Equitability for People with Disabilities

Fifty-seven million Americans have a disability. Thirty-six million experience challenges with using the internet such as limited dexterity, vision or hearing problems. Designing research without accessibility in mind can lead to pitfalls including frustration, ostracization, and legal issues. This presentation will focus on the challenges we faced in creating an accessible online. We will present the breadth and depth of online accessibility and considerations for designing and implementing the survey. Follow our journey from aimless wandering to resolution. Learn about the pitfalls, the aha moments, and the improvements we helped implement to make survey access more equitable for all.

More Detailed Description:

People with disabilities are both visible and invisible. According to the 2010 census, approximately 19% (or 56.7 million) of Americans have some type of disability. This includes:

  • 19.9 million people who have difficulty lifting or grasping,
  • 8.1 million people with a vision impairment, and
  • 7.6 million with a hearing impairment.

World-wide, it is estimated that upwards of 190 million people experience significant disabilities.

Considering accessibility research organizations can unintentionally exclude ability to participate in online research. Some examples:

  • Limited dexterity can make it difficult to use a keyboard or a mouse,
  • Low vision, color blindness, or full blindness could mean relying on a screen magnifier or screen reader, and
  • People with hearing impairments may need to rely on transcripts or captions for media content.

This is a large group of people who often get overlooked, especially in survey design. Unless a researcher is specifically targeting research toward one of these groups, we often put in minimal, if any, thought on the usability of the online survey experience for people with disabilities.

Not only does this invoke frustration, it reduces representation of an important part of the population, as, like all of us, most respondents would rather quit than deal with a difficult, or impossible, survey.

Moreover, not taking accessibility into account could lead to legal challenges. In 2018, the case, United States vs Astria Health determined that websites must be just as accessible to people with disabilities as they are to people who do not have disabilities.

Additionally, including people with disabilities in research provides greater opportunities to learn from consumers who spend the same money as those without a disability. Do researchers and platforms want to ignore this large segment of the population and miss out on this hidden market?

In this presentation we will discuss the challenges we faced in creating an accessible survey. We will share the journey from aimless wandering to resolution and the obstacles along the way. The audience will learn about the pitfalls as well as the aha moments, and we will share insights about areas within the software that can benefit from accessibility improvements.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. Accessibility matters. Even (if not especially) in an online environment.
  2. Designing with accessibility from the ground up is a foundational approach that saves money and increases participation.
  3. There is a lot of work to be done in the industry with online platforms. We will share suggestions to educate insights practitioners and their customers on how to ensure you take these issues into account.

Nathan Wiggin, Chief Solutions Officer, ComEngage

Nathan Wiggin is a founding member and partial owner of ComEngage, LLC. He has over 15 years of insights experience, focusing mostly on public, not-for-profit, and regulated industries.

His title of ‘Chief Solutions Officer’ for Comengage is aptly given. Nathan’s role is to solve issues ranging from developing innovative sampling techniques used to gain insights from difficult-to-reach populations, to learning to code used to increase survey accessibility to a wider range of audiences.

Beyond insights, Nathan has plenty to keep him busy, with three kids in preschool (including twins) and a laundry-list of household projects. In work and life he has the same philosophy. Work smarter now to avoid working harder later.


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