Belinda Venemark has worked as a designer at TietoEVRY for 11 years. While she's lost count of how many digital-banking products she's been involved in creating, Belinda knows one thing for sure: accessibility is now more important than ever.
For Belinda, accessibility is all about inclusion.
'As society becomes even more digitized, it's self-evident that people who are blind should also be able to pay their bills online - just like any other user. Or that the elderly, sometimes with tremors that cause their hands to shake, can easily use the mobile apps made by TietoEVRY,' she says.
An experienced designer with an interest in accessibility
Belinda's expertise has been critical in building the design environment at TietoEVRY Norway. Over the past 11 years, she's worked with the front end, graphics and animations, as well as with user research and usability testing. It was these user studies that sparked her interest in accessibility, a topic she has become deeply passionate about.
'Every person in our society should be able to use our solutions - no matter their situation or disability,' she says.
Part of Belinda's work at TietoEVRY is about spreading this philosophy across the company.
Accessibility should be implemented from the start
According to article 18 of the Norwegian Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act, universal design is a legal requirement. The authorities define accessibility as follow:
'Designing, or accommodating, the main solution with regards to physical conditions, so that the solution may be used by as many people as possible, regardless of disability.'
Although the law on accessibility is clear, one of the big challenges with universal design is simply raising awareness about the subject. This is where Belinda comes in, enlightening customers and developers on its importance.
'A lot of digital solutions aren't accessible,' she says. 'The result of this is that banks risk being fined by the authorities, and that their costs go up when made to do extra development on their solutions. Everyone loses when the accessibility principle isn't embedded in the code from the start.'
To make sure things are done the right way from early on, Belinda spends her days giving presentations to colleagues on the importance of accessibility. She has also reached out to designers in other parts of the organization for help with spreading the word.
'We're now creating a new design framework internally. When we push universal design as a key starting principle, we make sure that all users feel included in our solutions from the first moment of use' she says.
Everyone benefits from digital accessibility
'One of the challenges I gave my team was to find and fix an accessibility mistake in the solutions they're currently working on,' she says. 'I think this sort of practice is needed if you're going to make accessibility a permanent way of thinking when designing new solutions.'
After attending international design conferences on accessibility in Belgium and Sweden, she realized one important thing: any one of us may face a disability at some point in our lives. A disability may be permanent, temporary or situational.
'A person who is deaf would have a permanent disability, someone with an ear infection would have a temporary disability, and a person working in a crowded room with a lot of background noise would have a situational disability,' explains Belinda. 'As designers, we need to create solutions with all of these scenarios in mind. The key is accessibility testing, combined with awareness and empathy.'
'We don't often think about it, but digital solutions that require the user to click a lot can lead to painful 'mouse arm', and cluttered user interfaces with small text can cause headaches,' she says. 'People with trouble concentrating may get distracted if the solution we create has a lot of flashy elements and info overload going on. It's not only blind or aging people who benefit from increased accessibility.'
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