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Governing for Safety, Inclusion, and Accessibility Lisa Welchman

Nieuwe digitale producten zijn meestal niet meteen voor iedereen bruikbaar. Ze worden vaak pas na livegang toegankelijk gemaakt. Dat kan anders. 


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Over deze sessie

Nieuwe technologieën volgen een onvermijdelijk pad naar volwassenheid. Helaas sluit dat pad vaak veel mensen buiten. Onze nieuwe technologieën zijn niet ontworpen om voor ieder mens te werken. Anders zijn ze misschien niet veilig.

Het duurt meestal tientallen jaren voordat een nieuwe technologie veilig, inclusief en voor iedereen toegankelijk is. Moet het zo, of zijn er manieren waarop we onze producten eerder inclusief kunnen maken?

In deze keynote legt Lisa uit hoe en waarom we technologieën beheren. En ze onderzoekt hoe leidinggevenden, innovators, beleidsmakers en productmanagers invloed kunnen hebben op de snelheid waarmee onze technologieën volwassen worden.

Ze doet ook aanbevelingen voor stappen waarmee je nieuwe producten al in een vroeg stadium de juiste richting in kunt sturen. Zo kunnen de digitale producten en diensten die we ontwerpen sneller toegankelijker en veiliger zijn.

Deze sessie is in het Engels.

Over Lisa Welchman

Lisa helpt organisaties om bewuster om te gaan met wat ze maken en online zetten. Ze werkt met teamleiders van online teams. Die helpt ze om de relatie tussen hun dagelijkse werkdynamiek en de effectiviteit van hun digitale producten te verkennen en te begrijpen.

Wereldwijd spreekt ze over digital governance, digitale veiligheid en hoe organisaties digitaal volwassen kunnen worden. Lisa schreef het boek Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design en is medepresentator van de Surfacing podcast. Daarnaast schrijft ze blogs voor A Mindful Web.

Naast een plenaire presentatie geeft zij 's middags samen met Wiep Hamstra ook een workshop in een kleine groep waar je al je vragen kwijt kunt. De presentatie en de workshop zijn in het Engels.

Lisa Welchman


Transcript video

[Renata] I am very happy to announce the first speaker who can help us with this topic, and that is Lisa Welchman. Lisa, welcome to the stage.


[Lisa] I'm so happy you're here.

Goedemorgen. That's all I know. Yes. I'm really glad to be here.

[Renata] I wanted to say, all from the United States, but you are not. You're living in Utrecht.

[Lisa] I'm not. I've lived here two years. Please, can you teach me Dutch today?

[Renata] I'm a fan of yours since you wrote a book, Managing Chaos, because that's what we all are doing the whole day, I think, and I would really like to hear from you, are we still in chaos, or are we a little moving forward?

[Lisa] I think we're right on time.

[Renata] Okay.

[Lisa] We're moving forward because that's the way time works.

[Renata] Okay, I will give you the stage, and we will take questions afterwards.

[Renata] Also for the people there, upstairs, we have mics, and you can ask questions in Dutch as well. Keep this interactive going.

[Lisa] Yeah.

Thank you, guys. It's really great to be here.

I was realizing this morning as I got on the number 50 bus, I live in Utrecht, that I was actually giving a hometown talk because I moved here two years ago. You all are my first hometown Dutch Netherlands talk. I will always remember this one. It's really great that it's on this thing about accessibility.

I want to talk a little bit today —or a lot today— in my talk about all three of these things, which for me are safety, inclusivity, and accessibility. I want to leave you with an understanding of what you can do. I'll be telling a few stories, talking about a lot of different ideas and how these things tie together. Stay with me on the ride, and hopefully we will have a lot of fun.

When we think about safety, inclusivity, and accessibility, I'm just going to say straight off the bat, and yes, I am completely biased, that they all come about through good governance. You can't really have any of these things with consistency if you're not governing well. This is not a talk about governance, but I'm just putting that on the map.

You're not going to freestyle your way into safety, inclusivity, or accessibility. You're going to have to be intentional about it. We all know how to do the right thing. I saw a few hands in the air when we asked whether or not there were any accessibility experts in the room. I would imagine that some of you all are being modest and that you know more than what you think.

We know how to do things the right way. We know how to make things accessible. Maybe if you're just starting, you might be learning how to do that. This is not a mystery. The mystery is, why do we not do it? That's the mystery. I'm going to be leaning into that piece today.

Why is it that we don't do this? Then the last thing I'm going to be talking about is what's your role, yours in particular, your role in breaking through this pattern of why we don't do things the way we do? Those are all the questions that I have, and I have a little picture of question marks on this screen.

This is all I have to say about governance. If you want to know more, you can either find me in the hall and ask me, and I will talk nonstop for hours about what governance is. I have no problem talking about that. For me, governance is about who's making decisions about strategy, policy, and standards.

It's less about what are the policies, what is the strategy, what are the standards? From a governance perspective, it's can you answer the question, who does it? Who's responsible for your accessibility policy? Who's providing input into it? Who's responsible for translating that policy into standards that actually get the work done and making sure that the people who are supposed to be making and applying these standards to content or to whatever technology you're using, that actually happens? Who's responsible for that? A lot of times people don't really know. It floats around.

Then strategically, who's responsible for making sure that accessibility, inclusivity and safety are values of the organization and not just blah, blah, blah, accessibility, blah, blah, blah, inclusion, blah, blah, blah, safety, which is a lot of times what it is or what it is.

Strategic decisions can be made about safety, accessibility, and inclusion and policy decisions can be made about safety, inclusivity, and accessibility and standards decisions. Standards can be put in place. This is where governance meets this particular topic, but that is another topic for a day. But I just wanted you to understand how I think about governance.

What I'm not talking about is the operational side of it, which is, how are we actually executing? Standards might tell us exactly what we need to do, what level of accessibility we're supporting, et cetera, how we address safety. But I'm more concerned, when I talk about governance is, do you understand whose responsibility it is to make sure these things are actually in place? That part is often just missing.

It's kind of like, "Oh, the government told us we have to follow these rules," and whatever, but then the ingesting of that reality doesn't happen in a very good way. It just bounces around the organization. I help people not do that on a variety of different fronts. Not just accessibility, but everything about digital.

This is a picture of Mary Ward, and I'm not sure what this thing that she is staring. It looks like a stereograph or one of those old things where you look at pictures, and she's wearing this 19th century dress, and it's a black and white thing. Mary Ward was an Irish naturalist. I was going to say nationalist because politics. Irish naturalist.

She is also the first automobile fatality. I clumped together inclusion, accessibility, and safety for a reason. I'm going to talk about safety right now because I think it's one that people can understand. I'm going to talk about these dynamics of how we get to safe, which is also accessible and inclusive. How do we get to safe through this lens of the automobile industry.

Mary Ward, unfortunately, was sitting in, I think, her cousin's steam-powered vehicle. This is pre-automobile, steam-powered vehicle. They went around a corner too fast, she was thrown from the vehicle and unfortunately, neck got broken and died instantly. I'm sorry if that's a trigger for anyone who may have had a loved one die in an automobile accident, but this is the story of how that was.

You would think that when that happened so early on, 1869, that when people started to create more horseless carriages and automobiles, that they would be thinking about safety. But that's not what we do as human beings. I've got three lanes here, one that talks about legislation, one that talks about safety innovations, and one that talks about safety standards.

You can see… That was 1869. which is a safety innovation. traffic control system, airbags in 1953, car crash simulation in 1970, and anthropomorphic test devices, crash test dummies, in 1971. In the safety standards, there's a lag. We've got shatterproof glass coming in in 1903 as an innovations, that's when it's invented, but you don't have a standard around its use until 1928. You don't have a standard for crumple zones until 1959, even though they were invented in 1937. You don't have a standard for a 3-point seatbelt until 1968, even though 3-point seatbelts were in 1957. Airbag standard didn't come into place until 1998, when airbags were created in 1953.

Do you see a trend of what we do? As far as legislation, which is the policy front, and I made this slide originally when I was in the US, so I don't know what the year is for the Dutch. It was 1966 before we actually had a national policy in the US, around motor vehicle safety.

It was 1958, actually, the UN started it, before we had a global sense of how these things work. We've got poor little Mary coming out of the car and losing her life in 1869. There's the harm. The harm is exposed in 1869, and it takes almost 100 years to get to safe. This was what I discovered was. Not there yet. This I discovered after looking at technology, after technology, baby carriages, toasters, anything.

This is how we roll. This is what human beings do when they invent new technologies. They invent them, they exploit them, there's usually an incredible amount of harm, which often and usually includes death. Then people go up in arms and we roll in the innovations. Is it right? No. Is it what happens? Yes.

I think that's really the important thing to get. This is what happens. This is where we are. You need to address the problem where you see it, not in a fantasy. Oftentimes, people come at it with, "This is what we ought to do."

Yes, it is true, but that's usually not the driver. Moving on, the story continues. On this page, I have a picture of an anthropomorphic test device. I just like saying that. I also think crash test dummy is just a mean name. But anyhow, a picture of a crash test dummy, which actually is formed off of a female-gendered body. That's last year. They weren't doing cast crafts for women with my frontage until last year.

Or a little bit, maybe not in the Netherlands, but in other parts of the world a little bit shorter or different proportions to the torso. That was last year. There's also a picture here of. What is his name? I want to say it. I have it written down. Joshua Brown. He is the first automobile fatality for a Tesla. He's standing here with his Tesla proudly, and that went out of control.

Then this was just really recently, How Passengers With Disabilities Can Drive Autonomous Vehicle revolution, which is about how people who have disabilities might actually make that technology better because it has to work better. It makes fewer assumptions or different types of assumptions. The story continues.

Even though if I asked you, are automobiles safe? You would probably say, "Yeah, they're safe, Lisa, they're super safe," and they are super safe. But are they the absolutely safest? No.

The story around this for me is, how we govern is downstream reactively. We're governing downstream, and downstream is after the fact. After the fact in your direction. Upstream is early. I'll be talking about that a little bit more. We also govern often with no sense of accountability.

We're just freestyling it, we're inventing new things, it's really cool. I was there in the super early days of the web, as are some gray-haired people here maybe. We just did whatever we wanted and we didn't think about anything. That's just the truth. We were just excited that it worked. We weren't really thinking about broadly things. This is more important, and particularly around inclusion, which is, it's driven by the values and needs of a local and narrow maker community. That's not a criticism, it's a reality.

Whoever is making it is making it so it works for them, and maybe two degrees of separation, because nobody's actually doing any testing when you're innovating, you're just like, "Oh, look, it works. Make it work again. Oh, look, it works more. Oh, look, it works, and somebody gave us money. Oh, it works more and somebody gave us more money."

It just grows and grows and grows in that way. They're not looking up and going, "Oh, is it working for people who are not like me?" They're not thinking about that. That's something to be annoyed about and something to be aware of, that we all do it. We all do it in different ways.

How we should govern, at least in my opinion, there's a picture of a globe with a World Wide Web all lit up all over it, networking and internetworking, is upstream, proactively with ownership and accountability.

Like, if it's broken and you know it's broken, fix it. Not, "Oh, my God, it's broken. What do I do?" Or, "Nobody told me to fix it," or ,"I'm too dumb to fix it." Or these things. If you know it's broken, fix it, and with an understanding that the World Wide Web is for everyone.

I actually got the opportunity to meet Tim Berners-Lee a couple of times in doing World Wide Web Foundation work. I think one of the most interesting things for him, Tim Berners-Lee being the inventor of the World Wide Web, if you don't know, one of the interesting things and sad things for him is, look what happened.

A lot of really great things and a lot of really not great things. The reason why he helped release that work from CERN out to the general population is that he did want it to be for everyone. I think particularly for people in this room, working with accessibility, this is a call-to-action.

Your skills and your ability will allow that to happen in ways that are really, really helpful and will work for everyone. This is a picture that has a lot of raised hands, because I'd want you all to put your hands up and think about, what can you do now? When somebody says, "Do you have a solution for making things more accessible, for making things more safe?" I want you to say, "Yes, I have that expertise. I understand that problem, I can help fix this."

I now understand, I do understand, and don't take this the wrong way, that oftentimes you all are not the coolest people in the room. In the process, you're talking to a woman who does governance for a living. I'm always in the room with designers and UX people and all these folks who are. Maybe some of you all are in here as well, but they're really in front of the process making things every look shiny and beautiful and inaccessible. That's their job.

Nobody's really kind of reward… You don't get that. I do get that, but I am all about that. I am all about people who are really making the middleware work. I understand working with digital teams, this is the important set of people. This is where the engineering really happens. I really want you to own that.

As things get harder and they grow and as the harm comes to the surface, that lane that talks about safety innovation, that we saw with the cars, that becomes more important, which means you become more important and your work and your knowledge become more important. Understand that.

Speaking of that, who are you as we move into, what things can you change and what can you do? There's a bunch of different people who can affect change in this area. Maybe not a lot of you in here, but there are people who control the money. You've got executives and backers, they have monetary and strategic control of the product pipeline.They're the ones that tell you to make something or to not make something or who fund this group or not that group.

You've got that group. You've also got innovators and makers who architect and build things. These are UX people, design people, and even more interiorly taxonomists, back end, technology developers, people who are actually architecting the systems and processes. Some of you all might be in this pile. Then you've got my favorite people, which are the rule-makers, who's telling you what you can and cannot do and how must you build and how must you protect the quality.

I do understand, again, these are not the cool people because people often think that rules constrain you, and they do, that's why they're there. Because we don't want people to do just anything when they're engineering your online presence. We want them to do a particular set of things that will lead to a particular strategic goal. There's nothing wrong with rules.

I was talking earlier today about, I often use the example of jazz. Some of the most creative and inventive things that we do, almost all of them are rules-based. Everything has rules. Atoms have rules. We live in a rule-based world, so this idea that no rules, is nonsensical. DNA, rules. They're just rules about how things roll. 

The question is, do you have the right set of rules? Rule-makers are really important. See, I was getting ready to go down a governance rant because I can't help it. Because I think rules set you free, that's what I think. Knowing what you can and cannot do and where the boundaries are actually free you to do what you want within a certain space.

Then the last group of people that a lot of people might call project manager, scrum master. What are other good names for? I call facilitators and bridges. I don't have bridges on here, but facilitators and bridges. People who hold projects together. They create alignment across a product, a market, maybe a geography if you're a global multinational. They hold things together.

All of that horizontal collaboration, which is, you've got all these silos in your organization that are always fighting with each other about nonsense and nonsense and nonsense. There's people who cut across them. These are these facilitators, really important. We're going to quickly look at what each one of these groups of people I think can do.

I've got a Euro symbol here. Technology executives and financial backers, they need to take ownership for the inclusivity of the products and services that they fund, that they support. That's number one.

Is it okay for your organization to not take accessibility seriously? Is it okay for your organization to not take inclusivity or safety of what you're building and putting online? Is it okay for that to just not be taken seriously? If you're an organization like that, where it isn't taken seriously, it's because strategically, it is okay for that to not be the case.

That might be something to tackle. It's a touchy one. Usually, I'm working with fairly senior people in an organization. It's touchy, especially if they're breaking the law. Like the law says, you're supposed to do this, but we're not doing it, but they won't fund it or whatever. That's the thing, you have to do that. 

I have a picture here of Alex Edmond's book, Grow the Pie, a picture of the cover. Those people need to cultivate a new set of values. Somehow, they have to honor and value the ideas of inclusivity, accessibility, and safety. They have to make a way, if you're profitable, you  have to understand, you need to connect that with how the organization makes money.

If you are serving citizens, you have to understand what the return in investment is. Sorry, early for me. Return in investment is for you. Alex Edmond's book is really interesting because instead of saying, "Oh, there's a pie and we're going to take one slice of it, and give that to accessibility," which means there's less for everybody else and then everybody gets upset, like, "Why should we do this? I know you've talked about this a lot.

I've looked at some previous things that you all have done. People are concerned about, "Oh, but if we put effort into making it accessible, then we don't have stuff to do the real work." Okay. Alex Edmonds thinks about, look, when you just make it better for everyone, it's better, it's more pie. You're growing the pie instead of trying to take something away.

I would even say, not only are you growing the pie, you're just making it taste better. It's a better quality pie for everybody. 

The next group of people are innovators and makers. That might be a lot of you all in here. You might want to think about how they must honor the truth that considering safety, accessibility, and inclusion upstream is better than fixing it downstream.

I couldn't not do this without my Digital Governance Maturity Curve line, which I always have, which is a line that goes uphill and then it goes gently downhill and then it goes straight up. At the beginning of it, you have innovation and organic growth. This is where steam-powered car, this is where Mary came out. This is where we invent new things, mobile, World Wide Web, the internet, all of these new technologies.

What we need to understand that what happens early in the product lifecycle, this is probably the most important thing I'm going to say all day, so pay attention. What happens early in the product lifecycle, downstream here, I'm going to pop through these other things and I'll talk about them later but upstream… see, I get them all mixed up.

What happens upstream, how you embed things upstream, as you grow, as you go to organic growth, as things get bigger and bigger, whatever is in that pod grows. If a lack of accessibility is in that pod, it's going to grow. If accessibility is in that pod, it's going to grow.

If a fractured way of having people log on 72 different times because you have systems that are not integrated in a single process from a UX perspective, if that's at the beginning, it's just going to get worse. Likewise, if you've got good things, it's just going to get better.

The whole idea is, can we move things and governance, can we govern things more upstream? Because as you move through this product lifecycle, things will grow, they'll get chaotic, you'll have automobile accidents, bad things will happen. You'll fall into this chaos pit, which is where we are with some of the Web, and we're starting to grow out of it into basic governance and moving on into commoditized things.

But if you think about in this chaos pit, this is the opportunity to correct things and this is where we are. If you think about the timeline of where we are with the World Wide Web and with the Internet and with mobile and with social media, all of the different digital channels that we use, we're in different places in that timeline. Most importantly, we're early.

A lot of times, human beings have a tendency to measure things in terms of their lifespan or their career span. For me, I'll be 60 next year. Can I believe it? It's crazy. Be 60 next year. I started doing this working in the web when I was maybe 29 years old, so I've been doing this for 30 years, and honestly, I thought most of this mess would be fixed by now.

I'm like, "I can't believe this has been my whole career, and we basically have the same you-know-what show that we've had all along." But oh, what happened? Anyhow, something happened. Did I make that happen? No, but anyhow, I'm magic.

We've got the same thing going on that we've had going on from the beginning, but when I saw and started to build this slide, the Mary Ward slide, and the safety innovation, and I saw how long it takes, I realized, "Wow, 30 years in? That's nothing. We're not even done inventing how to make things safe."

This is why your job is so important. We're just early. We're still relatively upstream enough that we can make corrections, so as we Iterate on the web and we iterate on technologies, they actually become better and better. That's what I have to say about that. I didn't put a thing there. Rule-makers should broaden their governance perspective beyond functional product integrity. Usually people make rules because they want to make sure that it works, that the code runs. I think linking your rule-making and your policy making and your standards making to a value system that includes accessibility and inclusion is really important.

Oftentimes, rule-makers, particularly governmental ones, I know a lot of you all might be in this room, so you can kick me later on, are just really focused… We're just hyper focused on what the policy is and what rules we need to follow, as opposed to really broadly thinking from a cultural and societal perspective, why we want to do these things. I think that we need to think about it more holistically.

This is a picture of my book, Managing Chaos, and establish these mature governance practices inside of your organization so that you can actually get the work done that you need to get done, and get it done holistically. It's not about this piece of content, it's about all the way back in the engineering and architectural phase, taking that into account, instead of just doing it downstream and fixing it and making it accessible at the end, can we have thought about it early from the beginning? This is a governance and operational paradigm, and it's difficult to do. It's not hard, it's just difficult.

The difficulty lies in the fact that usually you've been doing it a different way for a long time, so you have to make the change. It's not that you don't know how to make things accessible. It's not that if you all weren't in the room when the UX people were actually creating this experience or designing this experience, that you wouldn't be able to tell them what to do so that it was accessible, it's that they don't ask you. That's the problem.

These are the types of governance things when you're engineering governance and an operational model that need to be fixed. I think this group of facilitators and bridges, and I have a picture of an automobile traffic maze that's taken from an aerial view, that those people have a responsibility to run through all of these different silos and to make sure that accessibility is being addressed. They're often everywhere.  They're in every group. They're over here, they're talking to the developers, they're talking to this.

This group of facilitators and bridges can actually help and make sure that this is addressed in a clearer and more consistent way. They can insist that safety, inclusion, accessibility, be part of the conversation from the very beginning of a project. They can do that and then they can expose and quantify the risk of not being accessible, of not being inclusive. Because back in the day, when I first started working in tech, which was pre-web, I did a lot of technology project management, and I was also a business analyst.

My job was to actually expose the risk, project risk. That job's gone away over the years, and so people don't really think about that. They're just building and executing and executing, and it's become no one's job to go, "You know what? But if we do that, and then we add water and stir and it gets bigger and bigger, it's not good." That's really nobody's job. 

I think starting a new culture around this, and I have a picture of a human being standing in the middle of a circle of laptops with lots of different people coming at them. This role is often in the middle of everything. I think it's important for them to know that. In the end, what I want you to do is know that accessibility must be fought for with intent. It is a fight, an uphill battle, like you're fighting against trends and ways of working, but it has to be done intentionally. It's not going to just happen.

That understand the importance of your role now, no matter how junior you think you are, no matter how uncool you think this accessibility role is, you just have to say no to that idea. This is super important. There is nobody else who knows how to fix this except people like you. You really need to understand that. Then you need to work where you are. That means don't go, "Oh, if only I had that job," or, "Oh, if I was leading this, I could do it."

Work where you are, there's work that can be done. You have to be brave because oftentimes you'll be pushing against processes and people and established ways of working that seem countercultural at times. But I'm pretty sure you can do it.


[Renata] Thank you, Lisa.