Episode 51

Shouting in a Sea of Text with Sonya Lewis

In this episode, I talk with Sonya Lewis all about inclusive design and technology in the workplace. After Sonya reached out to me about ways I could improve the experience of Camp Case Study for neurodivergent participants, she's been showing me how to incorporate inclusive design in the communities I'm building and meeting I facilitate. Tune in to this episode to do the same.

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Show Notes

In this episode, I talk with Sonya Lewis all about inclusive design and technology in the workplace. After Sonya reached out to me about ways I could improve the experience of Camp Case Study for neurodivergent participants, she's been showing me how to incorporate inclusive design in the communities I'm building and meeting I facilitate. Tune in to this episode to do the same. Sonya focuses on inclusive research and co-design. Sonya's passion is making inclusive research the norm so that no user feels invisible, unheard or unseen. She's given a voice to users by meeting them where they work, live and play. And, she includes users throughout the design process. Over the past 15 years, she's improved the lives of people and pets through research with: Congress and taxpayers Pet adopters and shelter workers UX mentors and mentees Patients and laboratory staff Healthcare providers and allied professionals Employees and employers US-based and global/remote teams Sonya's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sonyadlewis Sonya's Portfolio: https://uxfol.io/sonyadlewis20 Transcript of the recording of this episode: https://www.uxhustle.org/podcast-episode/51-sonyalewis https://www.deque.com/axe-con/schedule/ https://www.viveevent.com/ https://www.text4baby.org/ --- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/uxhustle/support


Amanda Worthington  0:35  
Okay, great. All right. Well, welcome to the UX hustle podcast. Sonia, I'm so happy to have you.

Sonya Lewis  0:44  
Thank you. I'm so glad to be here. Well,

Amanda Worthington  0:47  
so I wanted to start by saying thank you, to you to begin with Sonia, because you participated in camp case study, which was a three day workshop series to help you actors put together their case studies over those three days. And you pointed out some opportunities to make the series and communication more inclusive. And really just better for everyone. And your suggestions made the whole experience so much better. And I just wanted to thank you for that opportunity. And for coming on the podcast to talk more about this.

Sonya Lewis  1:23  
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I'm happy to make the the things that we offer to people more inclusive. And if that means, you know, making the suggestion for including a voice messaging feature, or talk to text, text to talk, Bloom, whatever it is, I'm happy to do that.

Amanda Worthington  1:42  
Yes. So can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved in accessible and inclusive design?

Sonya Lewis  1:50  
Well, there's a couple of different things that happened, I was working as a provider. And I noticed that a lot of people in health care, they don't always have access to medical records. And the apps that accompany the electronic health records don't always come in different formats. And so I noticed that from the beginning that if I was going to be the best provider, I could be that I needed to make sure that whatever the tools were, that I was using, that they met the needs of a large, different group of people, including people who are older, that may have some challenges with their vision, or those with tremors and other disabilities, parents that are there for their children that are minors. So there's a lot of different things across the lifespan that can be temporary situational, or limiters with our healthcare provider interactions. So I think that was one of the things that really got me into thinking about UX and accessible and inclusive design. Another thing is, I have dyslexia myself, so I have lived experience, and I'm constantly trained to find voice features on different things that I use. So I think that's where I started my real detective work, to figure this out and find ways to make things more accessible. So that really got me in this whole search for what's available. What's something that not only I can benefit from, but also people who have other challenges people who need to see things, people who need to see typing, people who need to also experience things auditorily, like I do. And that's where I found things like, like, loom loom is a new tool that allows you to do all those different things. So, so I think that's where I really got interested and started really wanting to go and pursue this. And I got involved in the accessibility nextgen mentoring program. Back in November, I had an opportunity to do the accessible in accessibility Internet Rally, which AI are they have that every year, and partner with the health care group on the border of Texas and Mexico, and really helped them with their website, doing some accessibility audits for them, and participating in that.

Amanda Worthington  4:17  
That's awesome. And I know just from talking with you about this, and

I had a friend of mine, Julie Briggs on the podcast who talked about

about screen fatigue as as just something that we deal with, especially in our digital time and in our work from home time especially. But thinking through what are some of those non screen options or that auditory experience and the non typing experience and how important those things are to multiple different groups of the population. And could you talk a little bit about your

experience with that?

Sonya Lewis  5:02  
Yeah, absolutely. And for me, a lot of times, we'll be on Zoom calls, because we're all working remotely. And whether we're in school, our, we're learning, growing, having these continuing education, events, meetups, whatever it is, we use things like zoom all the time, or Google meats. And the first thing that people say is just put your questions in the chat. So it's really not available to a lot of people like if you're joining only by phone, you don't have the benefit of seeing what's on the screen, or what people are typing in the chat. A person who has dyslexia or another one of the cognitive disabilities may not be able to follow the chat, and the pace. So you might see a joke and get the punch line like hours later, it's really not the same experience as someone who who may not be having disabilities. And I've heard from some of my friends who have hearing issues or vision issues, that they also have trouble with a chat. So sometimes people repeating what's in the chat can really help the facilitator can make all the difference in the world. But those are some of the different scenarios where someone who may have a disability may not have a disability may just not be there in front of their screen, we'll have some challenges with these like the chat feature.

Amanda Worthington  6:25  
And that's so helpful to understand from a facilitation standpoint, too, because I think a lot of us when we're hosting zoom meetings like that, and we think of the chat as this, where everyone can meet kind of a thing, and people can see and experience it. And we don't always realize that not everyone is included in that experience.

Sonya Lewis  6:53  
Yeah, absolutely. And then you add on top of all of this, we've been in isolation or away from the office for almost two years. So we're not getting the benefit of having those experiences, and talking with our colleagues day to day are going to a whiteboard and the same room and all that. So it makes it even more important that we really think about the different types of ways that we communicate multi channel, and not just in typing, not just in Slack, but also to have a lot more of the thought going into how we plan meetings and how we plan our work. Because it's exacerbated. So for someone who already has a hard time with words, you throw two years of being away from people and working independently, often working in front of a screen like this one, for many hours a day. And you're D personalizing the experience even further. So I think sometimes the leaders just really have to be more aware of it. And sometimes advocates like me, can bring that to bear. But honestly, it's a mindset, it's really thinking about inclusion at the very beginning, during and at the end of a meeting, like how do you follow up with people, there's a lot of different

Amanda Worthington  8:11  
facets to that. Yeah, and it's, there's so many different opportunities in there. Like, that's how I choose to frame it. But I can see where maybe other conversations you've had where people have been like, oh, but that's, that seems like a lot of work, or a lot to follow up with or a lot to keep track of. Yeah, and it can be if

Sonya Lewis  8:37  
the mindset is not there. I think that if the tools that we're using, if we create them with accessibility in mind, and we create them with an inclusive mindset, and throw in that people have been away from the office for two years or more, at this point, it really does give the impetus for us to make sure that we're thinking about everyone, people who are dialing in from phones, people are taking their kiddos to school in the mornings, and they may not be right in front of the computer. I mean, what are we going to do for them? How are they going to have a comparable experience? They're not, if we don't know, speak to or read off what we're talking about, they're going to have a very different experience than they're going to have to come back and say, Okay, can you repeat what you just said? Can you do this over and over again, and it's going to result in efficiencies. So there's a lot of different scenarios I can think of but but the accessibility part of it something that I live with every day, but seeing how other people experience things, and how many people join these meetings through phone is also a very eye opening experience. So if we do it from the beginning, I think it doesn't seem as much work on the actor side side of things.

Amanda Worthington  9:54  
Yeah, because because when you think about the afterthought of it, that actually is, that is a lot of work. I'm not just from a follow up perspective, which I, like. You choose to take that on, as I think someone that facilitates meetings and has decided to organize things. But the alternative, which is, you know, I've worked at places where we recorded all of our meetings, and it was best practice to send those meeting recordings afterwards, the people that couldn't make the meeting was kind of the priority. But based on what you're talking about, that's like a recording would be helpful for people that you know, weren't able to catch the whole conversation or need to take longer in processing the information, or just need to listen to it again. But that also puts extra work and effort on the person requiring that. Yeah,

Sonya Lewis  10:56  
and to remember to ask for it. So if it's not built into the process, and somebody is constantly having to ask for it, it does create more work on them. The other that is, if the organization has regulations, so I'm thinking about financial organizations are medical, there may also be some barriers or blockers for them recording things. So while it may be best practice, and more easily followed through with at certain organizations, the ones that have some of those requirements, they're going to face more of those challenges. So then they have to think a little creatively about how do we do this and make sure that we make these meetings more inclusive, and that might be more using the Raise Your Hand feature, calling on people reading the things that are, that are mentioned in the chats, giving a separate button for things out, it's about asking questions ahead of time. So there's a lot of that type of planning the meetings from end to end with all users in mind that can really change things and try to help change the culture and take the onus and the pressure and the responsibility in some cases away from the people who need it, who are always feeling like

Amanda Worthington  12:15  
they're having to ask for something. That's a really great point. And I think that's something that I need to remind myself of, as well. Of, I feel like when I'm in a meeting, and I'm if I'm facilitating, I think of those things during the meeting. But I don't think about that pre meeting, asking for questions, giving people the opportunity to even even providing an agenda providing notes so that people feel prepared coming into a meeting, so that they don't feel like they're processing everything at the same time as it's happening. They can, you know, they have multiple ways of multiple points of reference. And I forget about that.

Sonya Lewis  13:05  
Yeah, and chunking chunking information, that's a lot to think of along the way, you know, okay, now I'm hearing this, oh, there's that in the chat. It's cognitive load, applying cognitive load upon cognitive load. And in UX, one of our jobs is to really try to make things easy for the user, don't make me think, is a good mindset. And it's very hard to do that if it's not part

Amanda Worthington  13:30  
of the culture. Yes. And I'm also picking up on this, like, how do we balance between helping people not have to think giving them the information that they need at a pace that is appropriate? And that allows people to be a part of the conversation, while also keeping the audience engaged? And I think from just from this conversation, I feel like in some ways that we've been trying to get people more engaged is actually excluding people.

Sonya Lewis  14:19  
Yeah, especially when the way that we try to engage is, again, it's, it may be like our default, like, our worldview may be, okay, just put your questions in the chat or just type this out in a retro or there's all kinds of forums out there and all kinds of tools, but it seems like almost all of them that I've seen, have a strong typing component. They don't have an alternative way to participate. I was on a retro this week and fortunately, I was able to use Immersive Reader to read what people's comments were because they were coming in at the same time. But it didn't necessarily give me a way to get input. So while the output was coming at me in a way where I could control the pace, in terms of how fast it was playing, so I could go turtle speed, or I could speed it up rabbit speed, depending on how I needed it to be. It didn't necessarily give me a way to give input in an alternative format than typing.

Amanda Worthington  15:28  
Yeah. And you had you had mentioned just before we got on to record this, your experience with Google Slides.

Sonya Lewis  15:38  
Google Slides very interesting. Because I was looking everywhere for a way to find voice so that I get just voice the notes over to you. And what I found was that you can activate activate the voice, for doing the notes for speakers notes, but you couldn't do it within the actual boxes themselves. So for a presentation format, I would think that it would be a comparable experience, whether it's the speaker's notes or the body. But I could not make that do so I had to actually copy from the speakers notes into the body of the of the slide.

Amanda Worthington  16:19  
And it's just so interesting to think of that of that the actual creation part where you're trying to produce a slide. And that requires text, you would think would use the same would have the same options. Yeah, you would think right.

Sonya Lewis  16:38  
But, but it isn't, in fact, when I clicked on accessibility, it was more magnification some of these other elements that we think about when we think of accessible design. It wasn't necessarily inclusive. In the inclusive design world, thinking of, if we're gonna have text, let's have something idea, let's have something video, let's make it available in multiple formats, and not everybody processes information and typing.

Amanda Worthington  17:09  
And could you you've mentioned, loom we talked about Google Slides, we talked about typing. How has your work experience been impacted by technology?

Sonya Lewis  17:23  
Well, technology has a lot of premise. And when it works really well, it works really well. So if you have, again, if the sun, the stars and the moon, they're all aligning, and the organization that you're working with, doesn't have any kind of blockers for being able to have all these kinds of technologies like Allume available, then you're able to use it for not only your own thoughts, and putting your soundtrack together and telling people how you think, you know, we hear that a lot with our portfolio reviews and other things we do in UX. And you also have the ability to have someone respond with a video or an audio. So you're able to input information in a way that you can process it in your way. So it goes back and forth. It's it's very comparable. I like to say that women's my screen reader, it is the thing that I use on a regular basis. And when it works really well. And it's fully functioning, and there's no blockers in the system or the record abilities of some organizations like us, I would regulations. If it's just the one that I have on my computer, it's wonderful. It's great, because I can take information and I can push information out and it's like a conversation or a basketball game, we're going back and forth. And we're tracking together the same way.

But when it doesn't work, and there are blockers, whether they're system blockers, things that are happening within an organization, people just not understanding that this is an accommodation, as opposed to something nice to have, then things can work in different ways for different people.

So if we have all of this support, whether it's advocacy around us, also having these tools out there, that really help us do our day to day work. And we have systems in place that allow for that, then it makes the work easier. If we don't, it makes the work harder. And loom is really great as an example because it does allow for multiple people with multiple challenges to use it. So whether it's a dyslexia type of challenge with neurodiverse, where you need to have control kind of over the speed of things and how it plays. And if you need to have text, there's a transcript audit ability, so you can go in and you can actually change things up if it doesn't give the right words you know, so everybody can see it. You can go in and edit those but it produces one at the end.

And then also, if you're just having one of those days where you're like, Okay, I've got zoom fatigue, I don't want to be in front of a camera, maybe I have ADHD, maybe I have autism. And I don't want to be on camera, and I don't want somebody to send this loom out to somebody else with me on camera. There's all kinds of those challenges that happen for us day to day. And you can change those settings accordingly. So you can have still the soundtrack, you can have the audio, you can have the video, but you also have the option to have a transcript.

So then all different types of needs are met through those different considerations, now again, Loom wasn't necessarily created with accessibility in mind, or as a reasonable accommodation for people to get work done. It was created for a synchronous meetings, because a lot of times when you have these meetings that are going on all day long, how many people would say, this could have just been an email. So for us to save time, that is one of the things that allows us to save time, you know, by doing things a synchronously so that's really where their business proposition was, and their requirements were. But it just so happens to meet the needs now of several different groups of people that that might have challenges with, let's say, email, or team chat, or some of these other types of programs that are out

Amanda Worthington  21:30  
there. Yeah, and I've heard you say this before, where loom is your email,

Sonya Lewis  21:37  
limb is my email limits my screen readers and this my right hand. Without it, it's, it's kind of, it's kind of challenging that if we wanted to stay on, on here on zoom all day long, or if we were in the office, and we were doing, you know, work on a whiteboard, everybody's in the office. We don't need some of those things sometimes. But since we've been away from the office for two years, it just again, it exacerbates it really makes it where we need to have something where we can work a synchronously kind of add our own space on our own speed, but still work in a way that's efficient and effective with the rest of our teammates.

Amanda Worthington  22:15  
Now, that makes a lot of sense, and especially with the overwhelm of like the chat. And that's so interesting, because I've been in so many work environments where chat is the new email. And we know from we had the Slack channel in camp case study, and you brought up the great point of could we include voice recording and this or loom or other options? And it's one of those things where, because I'm so used to being in Slack, it, I just hadn't even thought of just how much typing there is in that, and just how much typing we do in our communication and how we work and communicate with other people. Yeah,

Sonya Lewis  23:09  
absolutely. And until you, you get in there and leave a bunch of voice messages it, it tells you, you know, how much time am I saving, by leaving a voice message. So again, may not always be an accessibility consideration. But it's better to have it available than not. And like, you were saying, you know, as soon as I brought it up, you're like, I'm on it, and you went looking for something and you brought it in, and you got a trial, and we got to test it together and see whether or not that that particular tool would work. And we know that there's a Slack pro option, there's a few other different ways to do it. But this one was just it was good just to try it for a certain amount of time. It had a fixed price, it was just very, it was a very good thing to try out at the time. And it made a lot of sense. And we were able to leave messages back and forth. But I think we left like what, like four or five messages at one time. So it was helpful. And I think that those types of tools, it just again, it brings back that human element that buoys that engagement, and you can't have it you feel like you're being left out. So whether or not people realize that our teammates, I think that they they want us to feel engaged. I know HR wants us to feel engaged. I know a lot of the people that we work with and the mentors that we have, they want us to feel engaged. But a lot of times when you have these types of disabilities, especially the hidden ones, people don't always come out and say, Hey, I'm over here. And when you either can't read or can't process information in writing, maybe you're limited English proficiency. Again, maybe you're a busy mom and you can't just sit there all day long on Slack chat. It does make it a lot easier when you have that option to just go in. And basically just press that button and say what you need to say, and hear it back. And then you can process information both ways.

Amanda Worthington  25:13  
Absolutely. And I know for myself and like, the, when I coach with one on one clients, I use boxer, which is it has like a walkie talkie feature. And I find myself just always walkie talkie instead of typing, because it's just so much easier. And you can get all your thoughts out. And and it also is just a more human experience in that moment. But also making sure that now I need to go check and see if when I send those voice messages, is there the option? I doubt that there's a transcript option for people that have hearing disabilities? So how does it go? Both ways. Yeah, everyone can participate? That's

Sonya Lewis  26:07  
that's a great question. In fact, I recently got asked this by someone in the mentoring group with me. So on LinkedIn, let's just say there is a, a voice message feature, you get to go up to 60 seconds. It's the one I've been using probably for the longest. And with my conversations internally, three or four different people at LinkedIn have said, this is something that they've had on their product roadmap for a long time. And we know that product roadmaps can take a while to develop. So there's a there's a wish for things. And then there's an actual delivery or launch of things that happens. And sometimes things don't get shipped when we hoped that they would get shipped. So I think this is one of those that is on there long term. But I sent a voice message to someone thinking that they you know, surely by now they've got that right. And they weren't able to process the voice message on their assistive technology. So I felt kind of bad afterwards. But then again, I was like, I thought this would already be there. But it is a really important thought. Because if we don't know that things are available in multiple formats, just like I don't want everything in typing, I want it to be typing and something else. I also need to be thinking about other members of the disability community, what can I do to help advocate for them, because again, if they don't have that transcript feature on the voice message there, they're not having a comparable experience either. And I know some, some systems are better at it. So slack Pro, it gives you the hamburger menu with a bite taken out of the bottom button. And when the bites taken out of the bottom button, you know, it's a transcript, same kind of thing. With loom, you have the transcript option available with a certain level of account. Same thing with Slack Pro. And it's the exact same icon. So it took several people that I was doing some back and forth in Slack for us to figure out because they were asking me, should I type this up first? Or should I leave a voice message first. And it wasn't intuitive in their design, but once we figured it out, we were like, Okay, there's no more doing both. This is great, you know, this takes the place of one or the other. And then they were able to do it and not to say that word for word matched in the transcript. But it was enough there that we were able to know what it was that we were communicating back and forth with each other. And the same thing with with limb, but you have a little more ability to go in and really tailor what it says you can't necessarily add in an apostrophe or something like that. But if something is misspelled, you can spell your name right and then correct all different ones, it will take out the phones and the eyes. So there's a lot of that flexibility in their version of their transcript. So just different depending on different tools that you're using.

Amanda Worthington  29:16  
Right and to think that I mean, to think that you're doing double the effort of communicating in order to make sure that people feel included, that you're able to communicate, and and that communication is a two way street. It's not just about getting our information out. It's about making sure the other person can receive that information in a way that they're able to that they can best process the information.

Sonya Lewis  29:48  
Yeah, absolutely. And I find that it's a lot easier, at least for the tools that that I've mentioned. When you do the voice record, and then if it has Transcript available, then it populates. And then if there's like a name misspelled or something easy like that, you can go and correct all that you can take out the ends and as and filler words and that kind of thing. So typing it first and then relying on and hoping wishing and praying that the assistive technology can read it is kind of a slippery slope, because you don't know whether or not it can. So in Microsoft, in Word, you can use the Immersive Reader, and the Immersive Reader will do it. And I think it does a really good job, it allows you to slow it down, speed it up, use different voices, to basically come back with whatever that Word doc is. However, if somebody puts a comment in there, and they go into editor mode and do comments, the Immersive Reader does not read the comments. So going back to what I said earlier, that the voice piece is so incredibly important, because we can't rely on assistive technologies, even with some of these companies that we associate heavily with this is a very accessible, inclusive mindset company with the way that their tools are created. There are still some things that are not being brought into those assistive technologies. So we're not truly having accessibility plus, no, when you're just talking, it humanizes things, and it gives your thumbs and your and your wrist a little bit of a break. You know, so you're not just typing all day long.

Amanda Worthington  2:32  
saves us some carpal tunnel, right? Yeah. And or text them or whatever, yes, or like our key, right? I'm well, and it also reminds me of like, what does engagement really mean? And that sometimes we think it means like, doing more, or I don't know, like it feels like a lot more effort or a lot more noise, to muster up engagement from other people. And it kind of sounds like our efforts are better spent doubling down on the communication that we're already doing, and just making sure other people can receive and process that and making the communication that we're already doing as impactful as possible. Yeah, and if we

Sonya Lewis  3:29  
also, if we could design with people, that's another way to build that engagement. But they told us in school, I believe it was my UX design class that the professor was saying a lot of every problems a human problem and human problems are communication problems. So if we're thinking about all these different types of disabilities, the hearing, the sight, sighted user, non sighted user, and also the cognitive, I think we're going to cover all of our bases pretty much. So those three, those three, in particular, really, really important to consider and some of the tools that we talked about really do. But also co designing with people is probably one of the best ways to make sure that our communications and the things that we're trying to create, are done inclusively. And when we have that discovery research, and we actually talk to people and bring them through the journey with us, and go back iterate design tests, you know, that whole process, which we know is not always linear. Like a lot of times in healthcare, we've done it for many years. And that's not the way it really works. But if we bring them along with us through the journey, and we get their feedback, we can actually create things that are going to be very useful and also improve that usability of things and not just the accessibility and relevance it's going to get that kind of engagement that we're looking for you The easiest way to disengage a group of people is to say something is created for them, and not done with them. So I think that's another point that comes straight from the accessibility literature in all the different lived experiences. We say we're going to have something that's accessible, we really need to really need to have people who have different types of disabilities involved in the creation process and throughout that journey.

Amanda Worthington  5:30  
Absolutely, absolutely. And I wasn't even thinking of engagement from, like, customer engagement with the things that we're designing. But you're absolutely right.

Yeah. And I'm curious, you mentioned LinkedIn, and the voice messaging option. How has, I mean, I think of the hiring process, I think of portfolios, and resumes, and all of the things that come along with that, and it's usually very typing heavy.

Sonya Lewis  6:07  
It is, and this is what my set of messages on the DEM looks like. Oh, boy. So they're all voices. So there's not like a lot of typing. But there are icons, so I do use emojis. Um, but yeah, the, the whole hiring process. So one of the things that is very interesting in our portfolios is the portfolio tools that are out there are very Type Heavy as well. So, again, for me, in my experiences that different ones there was when I started out with and their customer service was only available through the conversation. So it was a bunch of typing, just to even get somebody to help. Now they had some screen records that they would do not screen records with VoiceOver, like what loom does where you can actually hear a person thinking and, and talking through what that sounds and looks like it was just a screen record. So it was better than just waiting in line and trying to to conversate with somebody and attempt to have a conversation when dyslexia and typing don't really get together. But as I did my journey and went through all of this, I'm eventually ended up with a tool that's created by people who work in UX. And even with that tool, it still was a little bit challenging to create the portfolio because I had to go in and do image descriptions, there wasn't a way to add all text. And so thinking from that accessibility mindset, we're trying to make this thing available to everyone, no matter who is taking a look at it, no matter who is listening to it with their assistive technologies, it still was not necessarily designed with all that inclusion in mind. So it's, it's a very interesting journey, when you already have something that seems to be very important when you're interviewing and going through the process and trying to tell your story, when you're used to coming in for in person interviews and walking someone through and maybe showing some work examples and that type of thing. And trying to then translate it into a text first type of world where a lot of things are text heavy. Now, granted, we can definitely do more video type portfolios, but sometimes those have their own limitations. And I've never really been like an Instagram star or anything like that. So. So it does, it does put another layer of complexity on things. And I think it also brings up the fact that it's an opportunity for those of us who work in the field, there's a lot of people coming to this field all the time, we can bring some of that understanding that these tools are not created with accessibility in mind, to to bear in how things are developed. So one of the requirements really should be that if we have a new tool in portfolios, and we have a new tool in these different job boards, and what have you that we create them with accessibility in mind, it shouldn't just be like, if you have an accommodation need, please send an email. Or here's the PDF forms that you need to fill out because PDFs are not often accessible. They take forever to go through if they're not excessively created. So there are all kinds of challenges. They're giving a phone number and an email Whoa, what a concept. If people would do that, then we'd have a choice of how we want to experience that conversation and not just you know, be asked again to go back and put even more things in typing to ask for our accommodations. So these are just like little and subtle things. But there's a huge opportunity out there to create more things that are more accessible, especially if you have any kind of, I want to make a difference in the world, I want to design for good. This is definitely an area to think about going into because the accessible and inclusive type of design is going to help benefit more people. And whether it's, you know, a LinkedIn, a job board, a portfolio, mentoring situation, whatever it is, just keeping those thoughts in mind, what are some alternative ways other than typing that we can make sure that we're getting good candidates? Because it may be that people it's not that they're not wanting to fill out your surveys, or what have you. Maybe they just can't, because we haven't thought of an alternative way for people to create and fill out surveys other than in typing.

Amanda Worthington  11:05  
That is a whole word. I feel like all of that is just so important to think about and remember, and that it's the choice of experience. I love how you said that. And that sometimes we think about what is the best way? And what is like the streamlining the way people experience things. And there is this flip side of how do we enable and empower people to choose? What is the option that works for them?

Sonya Lewis  11:48  
Yeah, absolutely. And it, it doesn't always line up with if we're trying to do a flow and mainstream it and cut out as much text as possible. Sometimes the the flow needs to include things like a phone number, in case somebody has a hard time logging in, or not just an email or some sort of chat that gets triggered that then again, you have to conversate and use your thumbs and just type more and more words, yay. Um, so it takes a little bit more of a thought. But I think that there are so many opportunities out there for us to create these things with those other thoughts in mind, because it is a choice, there are people that maybe they're speaking a different language, and maybe they're still learning English. And that is a really hard thing like people trying to apply for jobs. Sometimes when you have dyslexia, you misspell words, I don't know. And that doesn't mean we're not professional. It doesn't mean we don't have Grammarly or something like that on our, on our computers. It's a processing problem. There's challenges with processing information. So having those alternative ways to communicate, to apply to do different things can really help to showcase us in the best light. And then you've got some other types of challenges along that same cognitive and your diverse path that people may not want to show up on camera. So I think it's just having different types of ways that we want to experience whether it's the candidate experience, it could be the the new employee experience the day zero, what is it that we are doing to make sure that when a person starts a job, no matter what, that they're all set up for success from Day Zero? You know, what are those tools that need to be in that toolkit? And how do we make sure that if we're spending money, especially we have investors or people who have stock in our companies, that we're spending the money on things that have these alternative ways of experiencing work in mind? Because not everybody types? Okay, I think I've said that, like six times, Amanda. But, um, but not everybody types all day long or wants to or can, you know, and again, I think of busy moms, I think people who are not always in front of a computer and people who we really want to try to make sure that we stay engaged. And because of different, different reasons, people that have great knowledge of the company, you don't want somebody leaving and going somewhere else. And how to get work done, you know, how do we continue to engage people, and sometimes, you know, we're all gonna lose an eyesight or hearing or something's gonna stop working at some point. And disability is the only thing that you can actually have at any moment, no matter when in your lifetime. So why not design for things that are going to help the most people the most time, the most of our lives, because it makes a lot of sense to just think that way about things and to keep people engaged throughout the process again, because design is one way to do it, the keeping thoughts across the lifespan is another way to do it. But regardless, we can do that through design and making sure that we really have that input and have that inclusion in mind.

Amanda Worthington  15:32  
Could you expand on the keeping thoughts across the lifespan? What do you mean by that? Yeah,

Sonya Lewis  15:38  
absolutely. So in the lifespan, we have different stages that we go through. So there may be some things that are very different. And as we get older, we might need more than magnifier, maybe we need some more pacing, we might need things that are in larger type, maybe different typefaces might work ways we use plain language, some numeracy issues with number literacy. So there's all kinds of things that at different stages of life, that really it's important to know about our users. But we don't often think about as we design, but we can design across the lifespan, because there are things that are going to be more important at different times of life. So maybe that's when we add in a feature, add an add benefit, or add in some sort of something that goes with what we already create. Because again, those things might come up in different parts of lifespan. And I think of pregnancy a lot. I did a lot when I was a wellness manager and working with women who they knew that they were pregnant, so they had to hide it, right. So it's temporary and hidden. At that point, they weren't yet ready to tell everybody. And they were thinking about getting their FMLA request and you know, talking about return to work programs and what have you. So that very early part of pregnancy has a very different set of needs, you have a temporary hidden disability at that point, once you tell people and once you're cleared to do so and you're on FMLA, you've already signed up for it, and everything, you've got all the knowledge of what the return to work program is like at the company, or however, you know, different companies or different ways. And everybody's like starting to ask you baby names and gender and all that kind of stuff. Giving your presence having showers and all that, that during the time period, that's a very different set of needs. So there you have your temporary disability, you, you know what's going on. If we have a wellness program, we don't always have the same requirements, you get an exemption, there's actually some legal terms to all that stuff. When you go through a screening, if you want to participate or not, you'd still get the same incentive. Because clearly, you know, you wouldn't want to lose weight during pregnancy, that that goes against good birthing habits. And then obviously, when you come back to work and you return to work, that after time, you know, there are certain things that we need to make sure that we have considered like the lactation policies, a separate room than a bathroom for doing for doing that. And also like, what do we do with coming back to work maybe part of the time, maybe longer term, you know, types of ways to assimilate back into the workforce. And so those are just two examples of thinking about the design across that lifespan, because these are things that are very permanent and work and things that we don't often think about, but they're both having different kinds of disabilities or things that are happening in your body across those time periods that affect how you do work, and also how you experience life. So lifespan thinking, I think is a really, it's a really neat way of thinking about it. But it's also again, opportunity areas for those of us who are thinking about accessibility and accommodation, and what does that look like and inclusive design in those time periods, like having a new moms group at work for employee resource group and then working with them on what that program looks like? I've done things like that before and it's been really, really helpful to have their impact because I'm not a mom, most you can offer baby forbade. I do. Never Oh, no, no, no baby babies. So it's good to have that experience because I don't have that lived experience. I can benefit from talking with people and CO designing with them and get the experience through them so that whatever it's created, it reflects what their needs are.

Amanda Worthington  19:57  
And what a great What a great way to do research to design solutions to empathize and understand problems by just talking with people observing what their needs are, and, and noticing, because that's a great point with screening questions, going into a doctor's appointment? Well, no, we don't want to lose weight, or when we're pregnant, and like, that's an important aspect to that, of things that would trigger someone or make them, you know, make them feel a different kind of way than what the whole point of the appointment is. What we're trying to accomplish.

Sonya Lewis  20:49  
Yeah, absolutely. And I find that the more that you could design, again, going back to the point you made earlier about engagement, people are more likely to be engaged in something if it's developed with them. And for them, instead of having it independently developed through the lens of somebody who has no experience with it, who is not in that age group is not experiencing that life event, it's a very hard thing to, to take some sort of report and try to try to relate it and say it as a proxy or something, I don't know, it's not the same thing. But you will get greater engagement, if you have people that are representative of the group that you're trying to create something for involved in things, especially early on in the process, and then you're not going to go back and have to repeat it and miss something and unintentionally do something that's really going to disengage somebody?

Amanda Worthington  21:46  
Absolutely. So I'm wondering, what are a few things people can do, that listeners that can do to raise awareness of this and ensure they aren't contributing to the problem?

Sonya Lewis  22:00  
That's a That's a good question. Um, well, one of the first things that that I would do is, whenever you're on a meeting, again, no matter what kind of meeting it is, it can be a zoom, it could be a meet up, it could be just your girlfriend's on a group chat, it doesn't really matter. But just make sure that we don't go into the meeting, assuming that everybody can participate in the chat. So if you see somebody's hand raised, just call it out, the person who's presenting like, if you're presenting on certain formats, you can't see when people's hands are raised, while you're doing the presentation mode, it just is very, very hard. So have that second person, kind of be the one that's like thinking about that. And keeping that in mind, because what'll happen is, then you have greater engagement. If somebody is raising their hand, they're probably raising it for a reason. Maybe they're having trouble with the technology, or maybe they have something that they want to say, or they want to add, and they can't participate in the chat the same way that everybody else can. So think that don't just say, if you have a question. That's, that's like the screeching of the chalkboard for me. So, so have that there. Another thing is, maybe to think about themes from more the inclusive design principles, you know, we're looking for a comparable experience like in UX, we want to think about delight, we want to delay, you know, we want to have a delightful experience. Well, sometimes the comparable experience is better than the current experience. And the delightful experience is something that we really want to get to, but we may not be able to. So it's a lot more realistic. I think, sometimes just to think about what's the comparable experience, if I have a survey? What's another way for me to get this information? Can I maybe provide a phone number maybe I have in Google, there's a Google Voice, you know, option where I don't know, I'm just throwing this out there. But think about another way to do things other than just having something in typing because there's got to be with all these technologies that we have going on some other way than just like having to go through a survey because you may not be getting a lot of people participating, not because of anything else other than the fact that they can't access the survey. So those are a couple of things. And then the last thing I would say is if you know someone who has an experience or lived experience with any of these disabilities, just spend time talking to them and understand where they're coming from. Because a lot of times we have a lot of things called like ableism and some other type So things that are happening in the world, we have a lot of companies that say that they really believe in accessibility, but, but it really is exhausting trying to advocate for yourself all the time to maybe ask the question, you know, what can I do to help advocate for you, if it's a best friend at work that's tied to engagement and keeping people around for a while? Maybe just to ask, you know, has anyone ever experienced this? I just learned about this limb thing and didn't even think about that. You know, how many of us didn't think about that? I hear that all the time. I just didn't think about it. You know, how many of us just don't think about it. So maybe just start asking questions to get people thinking about things and talking?

Amanda Worthington  25:45  
Absolutely. Thank you so much. I have one more question for you. Okay, one more. Okay. And it's a totally, it's a totally different question. Of Okay, so you are in the elevator, and another designer walks in and turns and asks you, how can I be happy in my UX career? What do you tell them?

Sonya Lewis  26:12  
I would tell them a few different things, the first thing I would say is, you have to know yourself. And what are some things that you feel like you are really good at that line up with your values. Because if you work in a situation where you could be doing the greatest thing in the world, but you can't get a voice at the table, or you can't advocate for other people, or whatever it is, you're not going to be happy. So that's one of the things I would ask you know, what are you get out kind of like where do your strengths down, or your strengths kind of match up with what your passions are, and see if you can bring those two themes together. And for people who really want to do inclusive design, I think, you know, working in the accessibility field is a really good bet. So I would start off with that, and see if we have a deeper conversation after after the elevator ride super

Amanda Worthington  27:12  
awesome. And I love it. I love that you're already planning to meet up with this person and connect with them outside of the elevator. So where can everybody find you or connect with you or send you a voice message or a loom video to connect with you more?

Sonya Lewis  27:32  
They can connect with me on LinkedIn. I know LinkedIn has the preferred, leave me a message, you could just say, I Sonia, I heard you on the podcast would like to connect. That's how you gotta do. I'm easy, blank messages I don't usually connect with unless I know who it is. And maybe we're in a meeting together. I also have a portfolio that's out on UX folio. So I believe it's UX fully full i o slash, Sonia de lis 20. And that D in the middle is for dog. So that that is where my portfolio is right now I've got a case study that I've been working on for a hot minute, and it is getting ready to get published, I'm going to have three, one of the stories will be from my UX design school. And then the the third one is going to be and I'm working on it, it's in progress, and then documenting it as I go, yay. Um, is going to be from my design accessibility mentorship program. So that will be coming in. So I'm going through every week, and trying to add something into the Google Slides. So I don't have to go back and think about it retroactively.

Amanda Worthington  28:57  
Awesome. That's so smart. That's so smart. I know all of us forget to do that. So this is also your reminder to do that on the project you're actively working on of documenting, saving off your assets, leaving yourself notes in one place that works for you so that you have all that information when it comes time to make your case study. Well, we'll put all of that all of your links and stuff in the show notes also so that people can connect with you and make that easy. And check out your portfolio. Thank you so much for taking the time to meet and talk with me. I appreciate it.

Sonya Lewis  29:36  
Thank you. This is awesome. I love this. Thank you for doing this.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

our guest

Sonya Lewis

UX Researcher

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