Wednesday, February 14, 2024

My journey towards accessibility

We were not all created the same. Thank goodness for that! Imagine how boring the world would be in one color.
My journey towards accessibility started at home with my brother, Eyal. He’s my older brother by birth order, but my younger brother in every other sense. He’s a low-functioning, nonverbal autistic adult. A man of few words, who still made my world colorful. Thanks to him, rainbow is my favorite color.

Most of us have come to expect a certain path in life: you learn to talk, go to school, learn to read and write, graduate, maybe get an advanced degree, find a job, get your own place, move up in your career and perhaps, have a kid or two. You try to live your life to its fullest, to the best of your abilities and as a contributing member of society. However, for many – including Eyal – life isn’t that straightforward.

Two children, Eyal and Tamar, sit on a bench.

Tamar and her older brother Eyal, as children.

Communities left behind

Growing up with Eyal, I’ve witnessed firsthand how navigating a world that was not designed for you – because of disability, socioeconomic status, geographic location, gender, race or other factors – is challenging. It opens a gap between people who fit into that design versus people who are not able to navigate it. 

Healthcare is another area where people experience these challenges. Healthcare inequality remains a critical challenge globally, with disparities in access to medical services disproportionately affecting historically marginalized communities. 

In a world increasingly reliant on technology and innovative medical solutions, prioritizing product accessibility and inclusion early in the product development lifecycle can greatly impact our ability to build with and for everyone. Ensuring healthcare products are accessible to diverse populations – regardless of disability, socioeconomic status or geographical location – can significantly contribute to increased representation in research and better personalized care, improving health equity. If you are not designing with inclusivity in mind, it’s not an advancement.

We were not all created the same. Thank goodness for that! Imagine how boring the world would be, were it all painted using one identical color.
Tamar Savir, Product Accessibility + Inclusion Program Lead, Verily

Closing gaps

I’m deeply committed to fostering an inclusive world where individuals from diverse backgrounds can actively and meaningfully engage in medical solutions. Over the past year and half, this commitment has been primarily focused on the innovative technology Verily is designing and developing.

In May 2022, I embarked on a transformative journey with Verily spearheading the product accessibility and inclusion program. Our mission is clear: guide and empower our employees to build healthcare products and cultivate a culture that is accessible and inclusive for all. While we may not have all the answers, our commitment to this journey is unwavering, driven by the overarching goal of bringing the promise of precision health to everyone every day.

Verily’s mission in action

For example, we've been hard at work applying product equality principles to transform Verily's care management app, Onduo. After a full audit of Onduo, we made optimizations based on audience insights. We ensured accessibility across various devices, including assistive technology. We used targeted language and reading levels appropriate for our audience to support health literacy. Additionally, we built in supplementary representations of information to enhance understanding. We prioritized readability and contrast, going beyond what is required for accessibility standards, to meet our users where they are.

Building an inclusive tomorrow

In addition to optimizing our current products, we’re building diversity by design into our processes through ground-level integration of these principles, because building successful product inclusion means creating an ongoing, interactive process within the organizational culture. These are the ways we’ve optimized our processes at Verily to ensure that we continue to build inclusive products:

Design system integration

We’ve integrated accessibility and inclusion principles into our design system. This ensures that every component, from the smallest detail to overarching structures, is inherently designed with accessibility in mind. By doing so, we aim to create a user experience that caters to diverse needs and abilities.

Product development lifecycle

In alignment with our mission, we’ve introduced accessibility and inclusion checkpoints throughout the product development lifecycle. This strategic approach ensures considerations for accessibility are woven into every phase — from ideation to implementation. Our goal is to embed these principles into the DNA of our product development process.

User research

To truly design with and not just for, we are prioritizing research and focus groups with individuals from marginalized communities. These approaches allow us to gain insights directly from the users, ensuring that our products address their unique needs and challenges. It’s a crucial step towards fostering inclusivity in our design thinking.

Disability-focused Employee Resource Group (ERG)

Recognizing the importance of internal awareness, we’ve established a disability focused ERG. This group serves as a platform to raise awareness, share experiences, and drive initiatives aimed at improving our internal culture to be more inclusive.

Our ERGs help us align our external vision with our internal people and processes. For me, I'm part of the Able ERG to focus on our employee experience — so that all Veeps have a positive experience.
Disability-focused ERG member, Verily

Towards the rainbow

These initiatives mark the beginning of our journey toward a more accessible and inclusive healthcare landscape. A rainbow, if you will, that focuses on the whole spectrum of humanity. We understand the challenges ahead, but with dedication and a collaborative spirit, we’re confident in our ability to make meaningful strides towards our mission alongside our partners. Together, we aim to redefine healthcare, ensuring it is a promise fulfilled for every individual, every day. 

Eyal helped me appreciate the beauty of life, when all colors come together in a rainbow. My hope is that each of us will commit to making rainbow their favorite color, too. When we incorporate a rainbow in our color palette, the picture we, as a society, are able to create will be our greatest masterpiece. 

To learn more about how Onduo is improving member outcomes, explore our research insights.