#59 Digital accessibility in social media and analytics (with Ellen Cole @ Little Seed Group)
This week Dan and Dara are joined by Ellen Cole – an award-winning Marketing, PR and Social Media marketer with a focus on inclusivity and accessibility in digital. Ellen discusses their experience working with invisible differences, and how businesses large and small can make positive steps towards making their social media and marketing more inclusive for all.
Ellen’s website Little Seed Group – https://bit.ly/3DURbBL.
KreativeInc Agency – The UK’s Leading Web Accessibility Agency – https://bit.ly/3U7gGWm.
A video that shows how screen readers read lots of emojis – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TyqW25HPDU&t.
Understanding the purple pound market from Purple – https://bit.ly/3NxIhxe.
UK govenrment Access to Work scheme to get support if you have a disability or health condition – https://bit.ly/3Nw744I.
In other news, Ellen looks after hedgehogs, enough said!
Follow Measurelab on LinkedIn – https://bit.ly/3Ka513y.
Intro music composed by the amazing Confidential – https://spoti.fi/3JnEdg6.
If you’re like what we’re doing here, please show some support and leave a rating on Apple, Spotify, or wherever really.
Quote of the episode from Ellen: “I think people don’t realise that disabilities is such a vast group, you can’t just bring one person in to resolve all the disability issues. You need to bring people in from, you know, a wide range of different backgrounds in order to understand the complexities of disabilities, because it’s not just a kind of a one size fits all approach.“
Another quote of the episode from Ellen: “Google Analytics 4 seems to be that tiny little bit more accessible in terms of the functionality and where to press and it’s a lot more clearer of where to press. However, you still can’t use a screen reader, which I found quite astonishing.”
Yet another quote of the episode from Ellen: “It’s quite surprising for a company like Google, especially when you know they’re very driven in terms of trying to attract people with invisible differences such as dyslexia and autism and ADHD. They seem to understand the untapped talent that these types of people have, yet then they’re being excluded from being able to access Google Analytics, which I find a bit strange. It’s like, how are you connecting those dots? It just doesn’t make sense to me.“
[00:00:15] Dara: On today’s episode of The Measure Pod, we’re joined by Ellen Cole, who is an accessibility expert, marketer and public speaker, and Dan actually saw her speak at the recent brightonSEO event and was so impressed we had to ask her to come on the show.
[00:00:30] Daniel: And if you want to find out why at the top of the show notes we have a link to an image of a hedgehog, then you have to stick around and find out exactly why.
[00:00:36] Dara: Enjoy the show.
[00:00:37] Daniel: Enjoy.
[00:00:38] Dara: Hello and welcome back to The Measure Pod, a podcast for people in the analytics and data world to talk about all things analytics. I’m Dara, I’m MD at Measurelab.
[00:00:47] Daniel: And I’m Dan, I’m an analytics consultant and trainer at Measurelab.
[00:00:51] Dara: And we’re also joined on this episode by Ellen Cole from Little Seed Group. Ellen, if you haven’t listened to the show before we take the easy route out and we don’t introduce our guests, we give that privilege to them. So I’m going to hand over to you and let you do your own introduction in as much or as little detail as you like. Maybe give us a little bit of background and then lead up to what you’re doing today, if that’s okay.
[00:01:14] Ellen: So hi everyone, my name is Ellen Cole. I’ve been self-employed now for seven years. Before that, I used to work in the heritage sector, but I went self-employed mainly because I became quite dissatisfied with employment and the lack of reasonable adjustments available for people with invisible disabilities. And since I’ve been self-employed, it’s allowed me to work in a way that I most feel comfortable with, and I’ve been very fortunate to work with a wide range of people in kind of the marketing, social media and PR world, so it’s been really exciting. I’ve won quite a few awards. Most recently, I won Ethical Business of the Year in the Looks magazine, for the work I do with British Wild Hedgehogs here in Yorkshire, and I’m looking to do more work with hedgehogs throughout the next year.
[00:02:04] Ellen: And then last year I won the award of one of the top social media professionals in Business Insider, which I was really pleased to receive. In the last couple of years I’ve become quite fascinated with accessibility, especially online, where there is such a lack of accessibility and there’s a lot of people that aren’t able to buy services and products online due to accessibility issues. So yeah, that’s just me in a nutshell.
[00:02:34] Dara: Amazing, I have to avoid the urge to make this whole episode about hedgehog rescue now. So I’m going to try really hard. We might have to do a separate episode just about that, but that’s amazing. And all those awards I mean, that’s brilliant, I was hoping you were going to talk about that because I had written down award winner, so if you didn’t mention that I was going to, but that’s really impressive and sounds like you’re doing some really great work, I’m quite jealous actually.
[00:02:57] Ellen: I can probably, if you want me to later near the end, I can probably go and get Beatrix out. She’s hibernating at the moment, but I’ve got one in the house called Colin. I can get him out and show you on camera if you want?
[00:03:08] Dara: Oh definitely, that’s going to upset our listeners because they’re not going to get to see it, but yes, definitely. So Dan, you actually recently saw, so the reason Ellen you’re on today is actually because Dan saw you speak at a recent conference that we were at, we attended and we had somebody speak at one of the fringe events. But you spoke a brightonSEO recently, and Dan, I think you saw Ellen speak there, isn’t that right?
[00:03:29] Daniel: Yeah, absolutely, and yeah very excited to have you on Ellen to talk about hopefully some of the bits that you spoke about in your presentation and maybe some other bits too. And I think when it comes to brightonSEO, like SEO is not exactly what I do, what we do. And so when I’m at these kind of very specific events, I try and seek out all of the non-SEO talks and yours was 100% one of them, especially around social media and there was lots of very well presented and really interesting points around accessibility and things that people would maybe take for granted that don’t realise is inaccessible. So if it’s okay, what I’d love to do is just kind of from my memory bank, go through some of the things I found really fascinating and maybe you can tell me how badly I’ve remembered them and what they actually are.
[00:04:08] Ellen: Okay, that’s fine yeah, and also thanks for the nice compliment because I was quite nervous and stood behind the desk having to hold on the desk and not try to like fall over because I’ve had this like, vision of why I’m going to fall off that stage. So just stand behind the desk, hold on it and just do not move.
[00:04:25] Daniel: Well it didn’t show if you were nervous and I think the biggest compliment for any talk in any event, I think if not all of them, all of the questions after were for you. And I think there was a literal queue of people wanting to ask you questions around your presentation, I think that’s the biggest credit that anyone could give at a presentation that you had such interesting things to say that more people wanted more. I think that the first thing that was really kind of stood out to me as one of the things that I remembered from your presentation and I think from everyone else you might think, why are we talking about hashtags and social media? It was such a big topic within your presentation. So maybe can you talk to us a bit about how hashtags are often inaccessible and how they can be improved, especially on a social media post from things like using screen readers.
[00:05:06] Ellen: Absolutely so, quite a lot of people that have disabilities or invisible differences use a screen reader. So that could be anything from someone that’s partially sighted or blind, someone with dyslexia, autism, ADHD, the list can go on the type of people that will use a screen reader. So what a screen reader does is essentially read what is on the screen, so when on social, whatever channel that you are using, if you do put hashtags in there, the channels don’t put punctuation, so it’s called CamelCase, or you can just call it how I call it, which is ‘punctuated hashtags’. And when you don’t punctuate them correctly, when the screen reader reads them, it can’t work out where the start of the word is and where the end of the word is. So then it basically comes out with a load of nonsense, so you feel like you’re at Glastonbury on a budget or something like that.
[00:06:07] Ellen: So when you put in those capital letters so people can easily read those hashtags, it means that the screen reader is able to more easily read them. So it just makes it that more easier for people that do have those screen readers to read them. And the only way, and I had someone asked me about how you would do that in brightonSEO, is simply just manually put it in and manually put in the capital letters. It’s as simple as that, you don’t need any big, magical technology to do it. It’s very simple and common sense once you know what you have got to do, and it just makes things a lot easier, and that’s just one of the simple things that you can do to create better accessible content online.
[00:06:50] Dara: I imagine it must be a similar issue with emojis, let’s just say they, you know, they’re often overused and especially if people are trying to spruce up a LinkedIn post or a tweet or something, they add lots of emojis at the end. That must be difficult for somebody using a screen reader.
[00:07:05] Ellen: I shared a short video, I’ll send it across to you, Dara, but yes, so people do use emojis for bullet points. So when you put loads of them in, again, it just sounds gobbledygook and it just doesn’t make sense. So if you, for example, let’s say you’ve got MS and you have brain fog, that’s going to make it really difficult for you to interpret that information because one of the things you can do with screen readers is that you can modify them for your needs. So you can make the text slower, you can speed up the text, you can highlight the text if you are actually watching the screen. You can even put masks on the actual screen if you do have visual distortion when you look at the screen. So there is a lot that you can do with that, so when you’re reading it very slowly or even when you’re reading it at normal speed, it can make you feel like that, you know, you’ve gone into like a land of confusion because nothing’s making sense. And then it’s a case of, you know, either getting up and trying to read the information whilst you’re there or waiting until you have got that energy to just be able to read it.
[00:08:11] Ellen: I struggle now and again with energy, so I have to be very mindful of my energy levels. So if I know I have to be in front of the computer and not using my screen reader, I need to preserve as much energy as I can to do that. Whilst if say, for example, my vision becomes quite distorted, I can put on my screen reader but I try not to do that on other people’s websites because it’s something like, I read recently in a report, I’m sure it was a WebAIMS report that about 70% of websites in the UK are inaccessible. So you kind of think how many organisations are missing out because of vital sales, because the disability spending power in the UK is about 270 billion, and globally it’s about 13 trillion. And it’s fascinating that a lot of organisations aren’t looking at these industries and going actually, we need to tap into these industries in order to keep our businesses alive and allowing our businesses to grow. But they’re not doing that, they’re not putting in that accessibility or they’ll bring in and I appreciate that, you know, organisations are bringing in stuff like Recite Me, which is a really amazing website accessibility tool.
[00:09:27] Ellen: However, organisations have to buy Recite Me and that, you know, I’m not judging Recite Me because I do think that what they’re doing, they’re really, really good. However, once you’ve put in all the settings onto the Recite Me tool, if you leave that website and go to another website, the settings that you’ve put in that previous website don’t come up on the other website. So then you have to basically add all the settings again so that you can read the website. So, you know, it’s quite frustrating because I know for myself, I did it on a website the other day and it took me about five minutes to get the right speed, the right voice for me to be able to interpret the website, but once it’s there, it’s fantastic.
[00:10:08] Ellen: But then when you go onto another website and they’ve got their own accessibility screen reading tool, you then have to put in all those things again. So it’s a case of like, why can’t I just use my own screen reader on the website, but there seems to be some communication error message where technology and accessibility companies aren’t talking to each other, and I think they need to have that conversation, that dialogue in order to bridge that gap. It’s the same with access to work as well, so I’m not sure if either of you are familiar with Access to Work. Basically, they provide grants for disabled people, people with learning differences, invisible disabilities to be able to get them into work. So they provide them with software such as text help, drag in software. But then the issue is, is that when they’ve got this software, I use the Access to Work scheme as well and it’s so beneficial, but it’s so frustrating that the amount of hurdles you have to jump over in order to kind of get that, to get that funding, to get that support it isn’t easy. It can be quite frustrating, but again, there’s no communication between them and technology companies and businesses in general. So, you know, even though everyone’s very well intentioned, everything just goes over each other and then one really important element of that dialogue is missing, so it’s never as perfect as it can be, if that makes sense.
[00:11:41] Dara: It strikes me that the onus shouldn’t be on the user to configure some software on every individual website they go to that just doesn’t seem right, does it? It should be on the website owners to make sure that they are making their content accessible to all. I mean, that’s 70% figure that you quoted, that’s shocking, isn’t it? I wonder with that, is that a high bar to reach? Is that saying 70% of websites don’t reach the kind of highest bar, or does it actually mean that it would be very difficult for users to access that content If they had a disability.
[00:12:13] Ellen: They could probably access it to a certain degree, but it depends how much energy they want to put in to be able to access that content. So it’s something like it’s in the report called The Purple Pound Report, and in that report it says, I think it was 73% of disabled people and their families will turn away from any organisation that doesn’t meet their accessibility needs. So again, it’s a really high number. But I think that a lot of people because they, it was interesting because I got talking to this speaker at brightonSEO and I asked him the question, it was completely off topic, so it kind of threw him when I just asked him. And I basically asked him, why don’t you think big brands are looking to market towards the disability community?
[00:13:02] Ellen: And I could tell that he was quite thrown off by the question, and he said to me, I think it’s just a case of lack of empathy because you don’t see it every day, you don’t see the everyday struggles of what X, Y, and Z have to deal with in order to be able to access something as simple as the internet, or say go and attempt to get on a bus, or shop within a city centre. You just don’t realise those obstacles are there because it doesn’t affect you personally. And I think that’s the case with online as well, I genuinely believe it is. I think people think that they’re being inclusive, but they just don’t realise that actually they’re excluding 20% of the UK population from shopping with them by not offering accessibility. And it’s like the government themselves, I think it’s like the figure for, that’s like 99% that of government websites are inaccessible. When I saw that I actually went and had a look on several different other reports to see if that was correct because I thought that can’t be correct and it was actually the correct figure.
[00:14:08] Ellen: But, you know, I understand that it means modifying the entire website and changing how you would lay information on the page. Well, it’s so important because it’s sales and especially in this era where we’re hearing about, you know, businesses struggling, they’re needing to have money in order to, you know, keep themselves going. To be able to tap into a market that’s 274 billion, you know, that could keep them going, it really could, even if they only tapped into 0.1% of that market. That’s still, my maths is awful, but that’s still a huge, it’s a big number, it’s still a big number yes.
[00:14:49] Daniel: It’s interesting as well how very low the bar is actually for certain things to become accessible too. So you mentioned, for example, CamelCase hashtags is a really good example. We are talking about just social media posting, so in terms of people being able to engage with your brand, you know, at the first hurdle there’s actually very, it’s very low effort, right? It’s very low effort for a lot of brands to be able to make some changes to make it more inclusive. And I think that’s the biggest thing that I took away from your whole talk Ellen, actually at brightonSEO is that we’re not asking you to rebuild websites necessarily. We don’t have to change your business model, it’s just about how you present yourself and how you talk to your community, and that’s it isn’t it really?
[00:15:27] Daniel: There’s not a huge amount other than that, there’s probably exceptions to that obviously, people having very odd websites indeed that need to rethink them necessarily. But, you know, we’re talking about signposting really, and even to the point where you mentioned in the talk about, you know, just before you put your hashtags, put the word “hashtag” so that when screen readers read it, that they know they’ve been sign posted, that what’s coming, the gibberish that’s coming after, is the hashtag. Because, you know, people may not realise, but the screen readers don’t automatically interpret, you know, the hash symbol, to be a start of a string of which can be ignored afterwards, especially if then people start using more text after the hashtag. So I think these kind of things you know, I think that’s the thing I took away is just the, the kind of low bar of becoming just more mindful I think, through things like your social media and websites.
[00:16:13] Ellen: Absolutely, and it’s quite interesting because since the talk, Facebook and Instagram are now allowing people to schedule in alt text posts. I noticed this on Friday, so you should have heard of it at like half eight in the morning shouting my head off in my front room when I noticed it, I was like, what is this? And I started alt texting a load of posts that I’d scheduled in. But it makes such a huge difference. So I will put my hand on my heart and say my website is not fully accessible yet, I’m aware of that. However, my aim is to have that done by Christmas, I want that done by Christmas to have my full website, fully accessible. But I found since becoming more committed to accessibility through my newsletter marketing, through my social media channels, through any kind of marketing literature I do, I’m attracting more business from the community I’m looking to tap into, and it’s such a fascinating industry.
[00:17:12] Ellen: But the issue is, is that if we don’t provide those adjustments, it makes it more difficult for people to get into those areas. And I feel that if more organisations look to improve accessibility, instead of just saying, you know, we’re a disability confident business, which is an entirely different story, and I can go on for that, for absolutely ages because there’s just so much wrong with disability confidence status by doing action instead of just simply using words, it just makes a huge difference and people will, even if you’re not perfect, but you’re seen to be doing that, that’s hugely appreciated. And if people can see that you are genuinely trying, that’s going to make a huge difference and you know you’re going to be able to tap into that market. But yeah, it just means that you need to put a bit more time into your posts. So instead of you know, just doing a post on Facebook and doing that in 30 seconds to make it that bit more accessible, it’s going to take you a good two minutes, which I can appreciate is hugely different from say 30 seconds. But you know, if it means that it’s going to potentially allow you to get into a new market and allow you to potentially generate greater sales and then it’s worth it.
[00:18:31] Dara: Going back to the point about the kind of lack of empathy, maybe being one of the reasons why sites and social media content isn’t as accessible as it should be, if it’s a website, the people building the website are I assume more likely to not have those kind of disabilities that they should be designing the sites to be accessible for. And then if companies are doing things like user research groups, maybe it’s also, I guess what I’m asking you here is, is this your experience that when people do user research groups or when people bring in a team of developers or designers to build content, build websites. Is it naturally skewed towards people who don’t understand what it’s like to have to use, for example, a screen reader or any other technology to help them consume that content?
[00:19:14] Ellen: I’m glad you’ve brought that up. I think the issue is that people don’t think about it. I don’t think it’s out of ill intent, I don’t think there’s any maliciousness towards it, but I think it’s because for such a long time, disabled people, people with invisible differences, aren’t able to get into those roles. So it’s something like 52% of disabled people are in, in employment, and that’s the most deprived, the lowest out of any group in the UK, they’re the most deprived in the UK in terms of being able to secure employment. And I’ve recently read that autistic people, for example, are the least likely out of any disability group to be able to get employment. And only 22% of people with ASD are in some form of employment whether that’s full-time or part-time because there’s a lot of stigma towards it.
[00:20:09] Ellen: I think the difficulty is trying to get into those roles is challenging. Well I went to university many moons ago, I feel quite ancient now, but I finished university in 2010. And I was diagnosed with my first two disabilities in 2009, so it was just before the Equality Act came in of 2010. And I was told by the careers advisor back then to not disclose my disabilities because I wouldn’t be able to get onto the career ladder. But I’m quite, I would say I’m quite a positive person, I’ve got quite a good outlook on life, but, I could appreciate I’ve also got quite a naive outlook on life, so I kind of think, oh, everyone’s friendly, you know, everything’s great and nice.
[00:20:54] Ellen: After university I kind of went to interviews and would just blatantly just say exactly what I’d got, to kind of be upfront and honest from the get go. And I found that I wasn’t getting the jobs and I couldn’t understand why. And one of my friends just said to me, Ellen, just don’t tell them and just see what happens. And then the first job I went to, first job interview I went to where I didn’t disclose my disabilities, I got the job straight away, got on really, really well and within four months of me starting there, I thought to myself, you know what, I’m going to tell them I’ve got disabilities. So I did and everything kind of changed overnight from what was deemed quite a friendly environment, went quite unpleasant.
[00:21:39] Ellen: You would get people telling you that you know, you don’t belong there, you don’t deserve a professional waged job. I’ve been screamed in the face, I’ve been spat in the face, I’ve been kicked down the stairs, you name it. You know, it’s quite fascinating because I was around before that 2010 Equality Act, probably for the first three years of it being introduced, there was still a lot of people that would have no hesitation of screaming at you in the face and telling you exactly what they thought of you. And then there seemed to be around probably 2013, 2014, people came more subtextual about it. So they wouldn’t say it outright, but they would say it subtextually and you would be like, are they saying this? Are they saying that? Or am I just imagining it? And like, still today, I personally don’t think things have changed even today in 2022. I still think it is as bad as it was back in 2009, 2010, the only difference is, is that it’s very, it’s done in a very subtextual way nowadays.
[00:22:45] Ellen: I think that people, and especially like, I think in recent years there’s been a huge trend towards inclusion and I think that’s really, I think that’s such an important thing to do. However, I don’t think that is being done in the correct way. I think it’s been done in quite a superficial way. So, for example, I was looking at another report today and it was by Agility in Mind and they were talking about the FTSE 100 firms, and it said that 99% of them had inclusive statements but only 16% of them would employ people with invisible disabilities or were neurodivergent, whilst everyone else was above that number. And I’m like, I wonder why there seems to still be this huge stigma towards invisible differences. And I think it is a case of simply you can’t see it because I used to get told all the time, oh Ellen, you’re faking it. And I’m like, well, I’m not faking it, I’m telling you that I need reasonable adjustments. I want to be able to bring my screen reader in but then you’ll get told off for bringing your screen reader in because you should just be able to read using your eyes, and it’s like, well no, I need my screen reader to help me.
[00:24:02] Ellen: That’s like, for example, if you’ve got a wheelchair user saying to them you know, you can climb up those stairs, well no, actually what they need is that ramp to be able to access that building. And I think it’s just simply because it can’t be seen which is the problem, and people don’t know how to deal with it. But the only way that employers are going to learn how to deal with differences is just to hold their hands up and say, look, I don’t know what to do, but let’s work through this together so that we can find the right solution forward. But I think a lot of people are just fearful of doing the wrong thing and they don’t want to own up that they don’t know what they’re doing. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, in terms of what I mean by anything’s wrong with that. I think if you don’t know what you’re doing, you need to hold your hands up and just say, look, I don’t know what I’m doing, let’s work together.
[00:24:55] Ellen: Like I worked with someone with a disability myself last year through a local employment scheme and I just said to her, I’m so sorry I just don’t understand how I can help you. And she just said, I’m so glad you said that Ellen, because no one’s ever said that to me before, what I need help with is X, Y, and Z. And I said, okay, how do you work with this? You know, we worked out a plan of what her weaknesses and strengths were, what my weaknesses and strengths were, and we found out what I had strengths in she was weak in, so I could help her with that, and vice versa, what she had strengths in, I had weaknesses. So you know, we were able to compliment one another and it’s like with everyone within this world, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses, but it’s a case of coming together, having different voices around that table, listening to every single person that’s at that table so that you can make decisions where you are going to be able to cater for your ideal client, if people do believe in this ideal client, ideal customer thing, regardless of whether they have a disability or not, hidden differences, you know, that we can cater for these people so that we can keep that economy going and continuing to level up. But yes, I do think that there’s still a huge stigma and I think that won’t change until people are willing to have genuine conversations instead of just simply putting on the website you know, we’re committed to inclusion and diversity and then, you know, not doing anything about it.
[00:26:31] Dara: It’s just lip service, isn’t it? It’s saying something for the public image, but then acting in an entirely different way.
[00:26:38] Ellen: Oh, absolutely. Well, it’s interesting because earlier on this year, and it is completely off kind of what I usually do, but I started chatting to one of my friends who works for a disability confident business. And I started by saying, your employer doesn’t do this on their website because one thing that really frustrates me is when they say, you know, we’re committed to inclusion and diversity and then on the next line they say, we have the right to close this job early if we get enough candidates. But then I think, well, how is that being committed to inclusion and diversity, because let’s say you’ve got a dyslexic applicant who’s interested in that role that’s working towards that deadline. If they see that, they’re either going to rush the job application and it’s going to be absolutely, you know, absolutely awful, or you know they’re not going to apply for it because they think that they’re not going to get it because they need to be able to produce that good quality work, so having that deadline is important.
[00:27:38] Ellen: There’s little things like that, that people don’t think of. For example, in their recruitment processes, it hinders people with disabilities, invisible differences, from being able to get those roles. And I started talking to him about this and then I ended up getting employed by my friend’s employer to basically vet their entire recruitment processes. And then this continued on and I ended up being bounced off to all different companies, which was quite interesting. And I think so far I’ve worked with, it must be around 60 disability confident businesses, and only two have ever passed. To get disability confidence status, it’s essentially a tick box exercise. So the people that you are doing that tick box exercise with don’t have to have a disability or that lived experience. And that to me, I think it hinders a lot. I think you need to have different voices at that table.
[00:28:41] Ellen: So for example, I talk to a lot of people, I’ve got my own Facebook group and it’s got probably about 200-300. Oh, I need to have a look at it, I’m going to say 200-300 because I can’t remember the exact number off my head. And in this group I’ve got about two to 300 people with different disabilities, differences. And if I’m unsure about it, I literally go in and say, what do people think about this? Now they’re a very vocal audience, so, you know, making changes can take such a long time because you know, you’re trying to make it as close to inclusive as possible. But, you know, people don’t think about these conversations so I also do public speaking on digital accessibility differences. But I also get people come to me asking me, will I do training on how to work with people with physical disabilities? Now, I can’t do that because I don’t have any physical disabilities, all my disabilities are invisible.
[00:29:34] Ellen: I could probably do a talk about it, however I feel that it’s not my place to do that. I think people don’t realise that disabilities is such a vast group, you can’t just bring one person in to resolve all the disability issues. You need to bring people in from, you know, a wide range of different backgrounds in order to understand the complexities of disabilities, because it’s not just a kind of a one size fits all approach. But yes, from the research that I have done, people with invisible differences tend to be the most deprived, but that’s not me saying that those with physical disabilities don’t have deprivation. So for example, here in York at the moment where I’m from, the City of York Council have permanently banned blue badge holders from the foot streets of York. And the nearest council owned car park is outside of the city centre. So it means that they can’t, if you’re a blue badge holder, if you want to say go and do your banking, you can’t do it in the city centre of York, you have to drive 20 miles the other way to do it.
[00:30:43] Ellen: If you need to go to a specialist healthcare shop, you have to drive 20 miles the other way to go and do it, so you can’t use your services locally. So I went on my first peaceful protest last week and I was pretty nervous about it because when you look at the news everyone’s shouting and arguing and I was like, oh, I don’t want to do this, this isn’t like me. But I went with them because I’ve got a lot of friends with physical disabilities and I think it’s important that we all support one another, and I kind of stood there and hold a sign and said just tell me where to go and I’ll just go. But they’re doing that sighting terrorism as the reason why, but then still putting on a lot of events, high footfall events in the city center and it just doesn’t make sense.
[00:31:25] Ellen: And I think it’s a shame that people are being excluded from the high street because accessibility on the high street costs billions of pounds a month. If you look at the purple pound report, it’s something like 4 billion pounds of hospitality sector on the high street is lost each month if they’re inaccessible. So, you know, it is basically declining those areas, and I don’t understand, again, it’s that bridge where they’re not having that meaningful conversation. What needs to be done is that a meaningful dialogue needs to happen, there needs to be a way to be able to allow blue badge holders to access this city because some blue badge holders will be able to say get on that bus and not have a problem getting on a bus to go into the city centre. However, that’s not going to be the same for all blue badge holders. Some, you know, have heavy equipment, which, you know, they can’t drag around the City of York streets, so they may need to put it in their vehicle, be close by to their vehicle to be able to access their medication. You may also have children that are blue badge holders that may, you know, want to go to a party in the city centre with their friends, yet they’re now being excluded from doing that. There’s so much to it, but there has been a huge erosion in disability rights all across the different disabilities in recent years but it’s not being discussed or talked about because it’s just being hidden.
[00:32:57] Daniel: Well, thank you for talking about it, and I wish the protest all the best of luck really. I think that is kind of ridiculous actually to kind of ban it throughout an entire city centre. Especially in a city like York, which is quite big as well, it’s not a small town we’re talking about here, where there’s, you know, like you said, it’s a 20 mile drive either way. But yeah, if I can change gears slightly, Ellen, as we were communicating before the podcast, we were talking about so obviously we’re an analytics podcast, Me and Dara work in analytics day to day and I know that’s not your bag, but that’s something that we were talking about beforehand. And so you gave Google Analytics a go with the screen readers from an accessibility perspective. I’d love to hear what you thought in terms of how accessible or inaccessible something like Google Analytics is to people that might have these disabilities.
[00:33:38] Ellen: It’s interesting because I’ve been playing around with Google Analytics 4 today. So Google Analytics 4 seems to be that tiny little bit more accessible in terms of the functionality and where to press and it’s a lot more clearer of where to press. However, you still can’t use a screen reader, which I found quite astonishing because I remember when you first approached me a few weeks ago discussing Google Analytics and the accessibility. And I thought to myself I’ve never even tried my software on it, so I like quickly went away and had to play around with it and I like was quite shocked by it, and thinking about my own experience with Google Analytics as well, it’s like, I like Google Analytics, I love watching it but I know for example, I don’t really understand it. So I’m quite a visual person, so I use stuff like hot maps to see where people are clicking and I find that really helps me so I can go, right, this isn’t working because of this. But with Google Analytics, yes, there’s a lot of inaccessibility to it because it’s a case that, you know, it can’t easily tap down to find the right information. You’re having to scroll from one side to the other, so if you’ve got mobility issues, it’s not a case of just, you know, being able to like move things quickly to be able to get that information.
[00:34:54] Ellen: You can’t use the screen reader on it and yeah, there’s huge, huge problems with it. So when you’re thinking about in terms of disabled business owners, for example, you know, again, they’re being excluded from being able to access really vital information from Google Analytics, which could help them further grow their business. But then I spoke to a few of my kind of acquaintances that are disabled in terms of what equipment they used, and it was quite interesting because I’ve never asked the question before and they were saying, you know, we use Hotjar and that’s what I use Hotjar, to be able to see how people interact with your website. And I’ve never thought about that before I just use Hotjar because it’s very visually driven, and I’m quite a visually driven person.
[00:35:39] Ellen: I suppose I can appreciate with Google Analytics, it provides you with a lot more data, but being able to access that data isn’t easy and I myself have always struggled with that. And especially when you kind of export the information and it comes to you in a PDF format and not all screen readers can read PDF documents. Especially if they havent been, you know, created in an accessible format on a PDF you know, it creates huge problems, absolutely huge problems. And it’s quite surprising for a company like Google, especially when you know they’re very driven in terms of trying to attract people with invisible differences such as dyslexia and autism and ADHD. They seem to understand the untapped talent that these types of people have, yet then they’re being excluded from being able to access Google Analytics, which I find a bit strange. It’s like, how are you connecting those dots? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
[00:36:41] Dara: So with the platforms that you do use in your day-to-day, so things like the social media platforms or any, maybe any tools that you might use to kind of automate tweets or whatever. I’m clearly showing here my lack of social media knowledge, but for any of the kind of platforms that you would use day-to-day, do you find that they’re equally inaccessible? Do you have to kind of work extra hard to work with the platforms that you’re actually using for your day-to-day job.
[00:37:06] Ellen: I think in terms of the platforms to have a look at analytics, say on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. They’re essentially very basic and they provide you with very basic information. I find them quite accessible if I’m being completely honest, but a screen reader can’t be used with them. I prefer Twitter, Twitter analytics is just very straightforward, it just says what it says on the tin, whilst with say, Facebook and Instagram, you have to press several different buttons to be able to get different information, it isn’t all just on one page. There’s still things that they can be doing, but I am quite pleasantly surprised, happy surprised, how much Facebook and Instagram have done in recent weeks on terms of the accessibility and the alt text that I talked about earlier, I like to think that maybe someone from there came to my talk and went, oh, actually we’ll put that in, but you know, that’s just me imagining it in my head. I’ll just go, I’ll just pretend I’ve done that.
[00:38:06] Ellen: But you know, you can see that they are genuinely looking to make that change, but I am quite sad that LinkedIn isn’t doing enough at the moment. And I’ve spoken to someone at LinkedIn about it and they said they’ll look into it, but that was about 18 months ago and I’ve heard nothing since. But yeah, there’s still a lot more that could be done on those channels to improve accessibility and allow people to connect with their families, their friends, businesses, find out about services that they may not have been able to find out about if it wasn’t for social media. But yeah, Google Analytics, they’ve still got quite a fair bit to go to get it better. So, you know, we’re enhancing growth, economic growth across the UK for businesses that are run by disabled people. Especially when more people with disabilities, hidden differences, are turning away from traditional forms of employment and going towards self-employment just to be able to work in a way that they’re comfortable with.
[00:39:11] Dara: Well if somebody from Instagram and Twitter did see your brightonSEO talk, then hopefully somebody from Google is listening to this and they’ll get to work on making GA4 more accessible. And a final question from me, if somebody is interested in trying to check how accessible or inaccessible their website or their content is, do you have any kind of advice for anybody who wants to improve the situation but doesn’t really know where to start.
[00:39:35] Ellen: Some of the best things that they could do is they could download a screen reader and literally go through their website with a screen reader and see how the information is read out loud. You can get them for free, a good one is text help, you can get a free version if you look in say the Google Store. However, if you do buy the upgraded version, then it just provides you with kind of that greater experience. I would say to people as well, if they are looking, and it’s one thing that I’ve always done is when I use my screen reader, I usually use it when basically I’ve got brain fog. So I go and sit on my comfy chair in the corner, put the screen reader on, close my eyes and listen to it and that’s when I talk about call to action. So when you have got a hyperlink in a piece of text, if you don’t make it clear where to click, a screen reader won’t pick up on that.
[00:40:28] Ellen: So, you know, if you put say for example, ‘for more information click here’, then you’ll know that you have to click in that section. So if by not looking at the screen and just allowing the screen reader to basically read the information to you, it’ll just make you more aware of where those challenges are. But there’s a really good company over here in West Yorkshire called KreativeInc and it’s run by a mother and son called Caren and Callum, and they’re absolutely incredible with website accessibility, they really opened my eyes to it. They’re fantastic and just like this they’re like gurus of all knowledge to do with website accessibility. The only way I describe it is that I’m like website accessibility for dummies and they’re like the gods of it, they’re just fantastic at it. Just getting a screen reader and going through stuff, going through all your alt text on your images, just making sure that everything is really clean, straight to the point, concise, can make such a huge difference.
[00:41:30] Ellen: There’s a thing I believe that’s called index tab, I believe it’s called. I’m still trying to get my head around it and it’s where you basically can tab down using one button. And a lot of people with challenges with mobility they require this tab click functionality, but I haven’t worked out how to do that yet. So yeah, that’s why I always say I’m at like dummies level, still trying. But yeah, my aim is to have my own website up at full accessibility by Christmas.
[00:42:00] Dara: Well we’ll include links to everything you recommended there in the show notes. And I’m also going to download a screen reader, and I’m probably not going to be happy with this, but I’m going to, I’m going to experience the Measurelab site and probably find out how inaccessible it is. But this has been really, really eye-opening so thank you again for agreeing to come on and talk to us about it. I’ve got two more questions for you, this is the hard one. What do you do outside of work to wind down?
[00:42:25] Ellen: I look after hedgehogs.
[00:42:29] Dara: Sorry to any previous guest, but that’s the best answer we’ve had so far.
[00:42:33] Ellen: Aw well, I usually, by this time of year, I usually have about 20 in, but I’ve only got 2 in at the moment, so yes. But I’ve only got the 2 in because prices have gone up really high. So like you used to be able to buy, say some like gloves for like 4 quid, and they’re now like 15 quid. Everything’s gone up that, you know, I have to be that little bit more careful nowadays. But yeah, just working with the hedgehogs and just seeing how, they’ve all got their own different personalities. Like you get the really grumpy ones, you get the really nice kind ones, you get the ones that just love you for everything you do. And then when you release them, they just walk off and you just think, ah, you’re so ungrateful. You know, there’s no look back, there’s no wave, they just walk off, then you never see them again unless they’re ill, and then they kind of just come back to the house if you release them locally, they’ll just rock up on your doorstep.
[00:43:30] Ellen: I had one about two years ago where I walked through my kitchen and I heard this scratching. I was like, what on earth is that? Opened my backdoor and there was just this poorly hedgehog just looking at me like, I’m poorly, take me in. Thankfully, touch wood, I’ve had no little tiny babies in this year. I did have tiny babies in last year and yeah, it was pretty full on, they’re not the easiest of things to look after, but, oh, I just love my hedgehog and I just think they’re an incredible species. So mysterious, but like when you work with them, you just think, I can’t believe, you know, they’ve got all their own personalities, they’re just fascinating creatures.
[00:44:12] Dara: I feel like I want to ask you a different question now and say, how do you ever get any work done? It’s like the flip of the standard question. It’s like, given you have that outside of work, how do you ever, how do you ever get anything done? But that’s amazing and yeah I think we need to see, we need to see one of the hedgehogs.
[00:44:28] Ellen: Oh, yes. I’ll get some hedgehogs out.
[00:44:31] Daniel: Send us a picture, Ellen, and we’ll put a link to the picture in the show notes.
[00:44:34] Dara: Yes, that’s a great idea. So final question, then we’ll let you off the hook. If people want to find out a bit more about you or get in touch with you, assuming you’re okay with that. How can people find you online?
[00:44:45] Ellen: Well, they can find me on my website, which is littleseedgroup.co.uk. I’m also on LinkedIn, I think I’m findable on LinkedIn. So it’s just a case of looking for Ellen Cole and then I just hopefully will pop up. I’ll check my settings after this and see if they are, but yeah, I’m always happy to have a chat with people. But no, thanks for having me on this has been fabulous, thank you.
[00:45:07] Daniel: Thank you for coming on.
[00:45:08] Dara: Thank you.
Dara: That’s it for this week, to hear more from me and Dan on GA4 and other analytics related topics, all our previous episodes are available in our archive at measurelab.co.uk/podcast. Or you can simply use whatever app you’re using right now to listen to this, to go back and listen to previous episode.
Daniel: And if you want to suggest a topic for something me and Dara should be talking about, or if you want to suggest a guest who we should be talking to, there’s a Google Form in the show notes that you can fill out and leave us a note. Or alternatively, you can just email us at email@example.com to get in touch with us both directly.
Dara: Our theme is from Confidential, you can find a link to their music in the show notes. So on behalf of Dan and I, thanks for listening. See you next time.