Accessibility in Research: It Takes a Village

Editor’s Note: This article is an automated speech-to-text transcription, edited lightly for clarity.   

According to the CDC, up to one in four adults, age 18 to 44, in the United States have some form of disability. These consumers are interacting with your brands whether their disability is visible or not.  

That is why Verizon and other brands and research suppliers have created the Accessible Insights Consortium, with the goal of making market research accessible for all consumers.  

On April 17, 2024, Verizon’s Claire Ferrari, UX research senior manager and Kari Bassett market research senior manager, gave a presentation on making research accessible to all participants and explaining the consortium.  

Read the transcript below or watch the recording to get more information on the consortium and how to join, as well as best practices for accessible research you could implement today.  

Session transcript  

Joe Rydholm: 

Hi everybody and welcome to our session, “Accessibility in Research: It Takes a Village.” 

I’m Quirk’s Editor, Joe Rydholm and before we get started let’s quickly go over the ways you can participate in today’s discussion. You can use the chat tab to interact with other attendees during the session. We won’t have a standard Q&A portion, but we will post an email address in the chat that you can use to submit questions or reach out to the presenters after the session. 

Enjoy the presentation! 

Claire Ferrari: 

Hello and welcome. My name is Claire Ferrari and I'm joined by my wonderful colleague, Kari Bassett. We're both from Verizon's research team known as Customer Marketplace Insights, or CMI. 

Today we're going to take the next 20 or so minutes to talk about our collective effort to improve disability representation and participation in research. Our goal being to remove barriers to participation and ensure positive research participation experiences for all.  

While we both work at Verizon, we're not the only organization involved in this effort. In fact, we have formed an insights consortium of other industry professionals that are interested in advancing the field in terms of our representation and inclusivity. 

So, let’s get some context. 

According to the CDC in 2023, this is a fairly recent statistic, up to one in four adults in the United States have some form of disability. That's adults, 18 to 44.  

And consumers with disabilities are part of every community regardless of race, gender, class or age. And they're interacting with our brands whether their disabilities are visible or not. And this can impact the way they experience products, services, as well as our research instruments and processes. 

Disability is not a monolith and may or may not be core to a person's identity. But it's helpful to think about how disability might impact research participation or mediate the experience. 

Modalities that are impacted are vision, communication, hearing, mobility and motor functioning as well as cognition. There's a range of impacts and potential technology solutions that mediate the experience of participating in research. 

I'll give just a couple of examples, not an exhausted list. 

But for vision related disabilities, some participants might be using screen magnification software that allows them to zoom in on the content of the screen up to 200 times. So, they're looking at a much more focused and amplified version of the screen.  

And then people that are blind might be using screen reader technology, which is a non-visual interface that translates digital content into either speech synthesis or refreshable Braille displays.  

Our participants that are deaf or hard of hearing may have a cochlear implant, may be using a hearing aid and sometimes rely on captions, especially for multimedia content embedded within our research. 

So again, not a monolith and not everybody with a disability uses assistive technology, but it's important to consider the impact that might have on our research design and representation. 

Ensuring our instruments and processes are accessible means better research. We're more inclusive, we can include people with disabilities in our research and reduce the potential for bias to not actually represent part of our population.  

And accessibility is work we do to support participation. It's kind of just the right thing to do, but it also gives an often-underrepresented audience greater access to products and services. And it helps differentiate our brands from their competitors. It also helps to avoid potentially costly lawsuits and complaints from people with disabilities. 

And something we experience in our work – and particularly at the intersection of user experience and accessibility – is sometimes the work we do to support access benefits everybody. 

Kari Bassett: 

A couple of years ago, we took stock of where we were on the insights team at Verizon, and we realized we had some work to do. And we also realized that alone we couldn't do much. But if we pulled in our research partners, we had a shot at making a change. 

We realized a collective effort is necessary to make traction. It requires a similar commitment to what we did as an industry when we started working on being mobile first. 

Thinking about all the ways we should adapt our research so that people could interact with it in different ways. We're doing that here when we're thinking about accessibility. 

Currently, accessibility tends to be a focus only when expressly required, either by end-clients or by research suppliers of their third-party platforms and panels. 

So, we're all interdependent – on these platforms and panels and our suppliers and our end-clients – working together and aligning that accessibility is something that we're going to do together. 

So, as end-clients, we can ask that our research is accessible and make that required for our projects.  

For research suppliers, there's the ability to make recommendations for research to be done accessibly and for that to be built in the process. Even if end-clients aren't thinking to ask expressly for accessibility to be built in. Suggest it and start building it in, start building out those capabilities. 

Platform developers need to work on improvements and expanding toolkits and road maps so that research experiences aren't creating barriers to participation, and that all the different question types and ways of interacting with experiences are thoughtfully designed so that people with a lot of different accessible tech or disabilities can still participate. 

Panel providers need to think about not just the survey experience itself or any sort of research experience that is happening on the platforms or with end-clients and research suppliers, but on all of their touch points so that they are fully accessible before the experience even begins. 

From the realization that we are all interdependent and need to collaborate with each other, the Accessible Insights Consortium was born. 

This is an initiative that seeks to help its members better support accessibility in our own work and in the insights industry as a whole. 

In addition to Verizon, current members include SmartyPants, Voya, Tamman, Fandom, Understood, Nissan, Material Plus, buzzback, Ipsos, KNow Research and NRG. 

Claire Ferrari: 

This collective has identified 2 major areas that we need to address. Number one is representation. And that includes our participants in research as well as our workforce as researchers. 

Most directly and immediately, we need to focus on tracking or expressly including people with disabilities in research so that we raise this representation to the status and level of race, ethnicity, gender, income, etc. And we can ensure that our work is actually representative.  

The second focus and challenge area is related to inclusive design. 

We really don't consistently consider accessibility as part of our design process from beginning to end and that really needs to change.  

So, with that in mind, we formed a consortium whose goals are to ensure representation of people with disabilities and research and ensure people with disabilities have a voice in research, to continuously evolve a set of best practices or research recommendations, to collaborate with vendors and inform their efforts, as Kari mentioned before and to create a conversation and awareness within the broader research community.  

So, while we're fairly new – the consortium formed in September of 2022 – this last year, in 2023, we've made some pretty amazing strides we're really excited about. 

We nearly tripled our membership as a result of kind of taking this work around to different conferences and meeting with different industry professionals. 

We co-created group objectives and roadmaps for discrete squads or task forces within the consortium so we can focus our efforts and be efficient. 

We also increased consideration and awareness among our own group and in our own companies. And use research on research to create inclusive screening questions and gauge our existing panel incidence related to disability status, type and assistive technology use. 

We also – and we're very excited about this – we piloted some end-to-end accessible research projects and learned a lot about the process and what needs to go into the work. 

Kari Bassett: 

The consortium has begun sharing easy wins with others in the industry. Why is it easy? 

These are things we can and should do right now to increase usability and reduce bias in our research. 

They essentially boil down to making accessibility part of the planning, making accessibility part of the respondent experience, and making accessibility part of the socialization.  

We need to collaborate with our partners at each of these steps in the process. For building accessibility into upfront planning, that means setting expectations across research partners through the proposal stage and project kickoff. 

It also means making research build in additional resources upfront. Especially when we are first becoming familiar with creating accessible research. It takes some learning and, some additional time and resources at first. Once established, accessibility has a marginal impact on timing.  

For the respondent experience itself and making it more accessible, you can do things like intentionally including people with disabilities and offering accommodations. It means for online surveys we follow WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), as well as POUR principles on how we might interact with research and other artifacts design. 

POUR Principles - P.O.U.R - stands for Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust. And these design principles are not just for quant, they're also for qual and in person, for materials, for processes, and for physical places. 

So as we're thinking about POUR, that means being perceivable. So things like, sufficient color contrast, font size, descriptions and captions.  

To be operable that's things like being in an accessible format. 

To be understandable means using plain language and having things in easily understood and in expected orders.  

And robust means working with all sorts of different types of formats and devices. 

Finally, accessibility doesn't end with the respondent experience. You don't wanna create barriers for our colleagues with disabilities either. 

So, the same accessible design principles can and should be used for insights materials as well. 

Given the importance of the industry moving together to improve accessibility, we've also put out a call to others to learn about what accessibility means and what steps we can all take. 

What is shown here is visual art by Katya Balakina from Quirk’s Chicago, 2024. 

It's a colorful and playful illustrated roadmap titled "Roadmap for Improving Accessibility." 

This was shared at this event. It includes various sections with headings and doodles representing different goals and strategies. 

Heading text reads "removing barriers," "our goals," "sharing," "focus on accessible design,” and "reporting." 

Notable phrases include, "let's make research more accessible," "Accessible Insights Consortium," and "Accessible Design Principles." 

Along with the acronym POUR - P.O.U.R, representing perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. 

There's also a logo for the Quirk's Event on the top right. The overall design conveys the sense of community and collaboration toward the goal of enhancing research accessibility. 

Claire Ferrari: 

Nice description.  

Kari Bassett: 

In the spirit of collaboration, we're also looking for others to get involved in the Insights Consortium and to learn from each other, and to begin on this journey if we haven't already.  

So please feel free to scan this QR code to contact the Consortium and share your thoughts. 

Claire Ferrari: 

Also, you can go to to the same form or reach out through email at 

Kari Bassett: 

Thank you.