Tips for prioritizing inclusive design in user and market research  

Editor’s note: Kari Bassett, Joanne McDonough and Claire Kearney-Volpe are managers of customer insights at Verizon. Basset and Kearney-Volpe are based in New York, and McDonough is based in New Jersey.  

Approximately 1 in 5 people in the United States identifies as having a disability, and it is estimated that this group has over $500 billion in spending power. Consumers with disabilities are a part of every community, regardless of race, gender, class or age. As researchers, we can ensure this segment of the population has a say by affirmatively seeking input from people with disabilities through participation in user and market research. 

Disability is not a monolith and may or may not be core to a person’s identity, but it is helpful to think through how disabilities and key assistive technologies can impact research participation. 

People who are blind or have a vision-related disability may use magnification or screen reading technologies that output to speech synthesis or Braille display. People who are Deaf or hard of hearing may use amplification systems or captioning. People who need assistance with learning, attention, memory and organization may use memory aids or text-to-speech. And people with mobility disabilities may use voice recognition, speech-to-text or alternative keyboards and input devices. 

This list is by no means exhaustive, but industry awareness of disabilities and assistive tech across researchers and research vendors is essential to make sure our research supports participation. Awareness and actions to support accommodations will not only help us conduct more representative research, but also develop more inclusive products, services and customer experiences.

Beyond just compatibility with assistive technologies, accessible design of research instruments also means creating a better research experience for all participants. After all, everyone benefits from experiences that are clear, navigable and easy to understand. 

Embracing accessibility guidelines for consumer research 

The good news is that we’re not starting from scratch in determining what good, accessible instrument design looks like – guidelines exist! Online research should comply with industry-standard Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The bad news is that the insights industry as a whole has not fully embraced these accessibility guidelines. Indeed, accessibility is largely a focus only when explicitly required by stakeholders (usually when research is needed to support consumers with disabilities). Research companies admit that additional time, resources and training may be needed in order to make research tools accessible. 

Researchers on the client side must demand that our research be accessible in order to set the expectations with agency partners from the onset of a project. The more often we require accessible design, the more our agency partners will upskill to make the design of accessible research instruments easier and elevate the insights industry as a whole. 

To improve accessibility in the insights industry, we invite the research community to:

  • Deliberately include people with disabilities in research. 
  • Learn about accessibility guidelines (WCAG). 
  • Take trainings on inclusive design best practices (e.g., WebAIM, Teach Access and Deque).
  • Include inclusive design requirements in MSAs and RFPs (see examples).

If you have begun your inclusive insights journey and want to join our Accessible Insights working group, please feel free to contact