On our podcast, we recently welcomed Lauren Isaacson, founder of Curio Research, a market and UX research consultancy based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Lauren specializes in the green technology sector and has over 20 years of experience working in the research industry. Now she helps companies improve the experience, accessibility and messaging of their digital products for both the business and consumer sectors. Lauren is currently vice president of the international organization for qualitative researchers, the QRCA, and will take on the president role next month. During this episode, we discussed the importance of making research accessible to people with disabilities and how it can positively impact businesses and society as a whole.
Lauren shares with us that approximately 20% of the global population has a disability, and by excluding them from research, businesses are missing out on insights from a substantial portion of their potential customer base. The passion for making research accessible originated through her interactions with people who were creating accessible experiences in the UX space. She says that most individuals will encounter some form of disability during their lives, due to injury or aging for example, and researchers need to account for this.
Aside from the ethical reasons, there are strong business arguments for making research accessible and gathering information from people of all ability levels. Because research provides data that can serve as the basis for product development, the right data can help companies create products and services that are designed to be accessible from the start. Not only is this the right thing to do but complies with regional requirements for accessibility. She says, “I would like that to be more of the norm. I'd like to see incorporating people with disabilities in research to be normalized - like that's just something that we do every single time -… they're part of our community, they are heard and, and we see them and appreciate them for what they bring to the table.”
Lauren talks a bit about how companies can work toward these goals including employing technology that is compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which makes web content accessible to those with a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. She also shares practical advice for tasks like recruiting participants (researchers should aim to have at least one person with a disability in each group) and approaching participants with disabilities without violating medical information standards. For qualitative researchers, conducting remote online research using platforms like Zoom can be an easy way to make the process accessible. For quantitative researchers, using simple question formats and testing surveys with screen readers can help.
The conversation extends to other portions of the industry. Lauren also advocates for more researchers with visible disabilities to be part of the research community. Inclusive practices should extend to conferences and events, where accommodation for people with disabilities should be provided, such as sign language interpreters and accessible facilities. By prioritizing accessibility for those with disabilities, market research can better serve all members of society and ensure diverse perspectives are considered.
Lauren reiterates that this approach is not only ethically essential but also makes good business sense. Companies need to be aware of the legal implications of ignoring this critical segment of the population and the market potential of serving people with disabilities. Listen now to find out how researchers can take practical steps to ensure their studies are inclusive, from recruitment to survey design.