A latte with Lisa Riemers

Episode first aired on May 18, 2024

GAAD Special | Episode 06

In this final episode of the Global Accessibility Awareness Day series, Matisse chats with Lisa Riemers, an independent communication, content, and digital workplace consultant who specializes in digital accessibility.

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About our guest

Lisa Riemers is an independent communication, content and digital workplace consultant who helps organizations connect their people and tell their stories. She helps teams create accessible, user-centred content that makes information easier to understand and gets the best out of their intranet and collaboration tools. She builds inclusive communities online and offline. She works with large organizations like the UK government, G4S, Veolia, FirstGroup and the British Red Cross, as well as more niche B2B companies. A member of the IABC UK&I board, Lisa is also an artist who brings her creative flair to the workplace.

Episode Transcript

Matisse Hamel-Nelis  00:02

Hello and welcome to PR & Lattes, the podcast where you can fill up your cup on everything PR and communications. I’m your host Matisse Hamel-Nelis. And I am so excited to have you join me today for our final episode on our special series in honour of Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Before we get started, make sure you subscribe to this podcast wherever you’re listening to it to get notified when we launch our next season in late June. You can also subscribe to our newsletter by visiting our website prandlattes.com. On the website, you’ll find our latest podcast episodes plus our amazing blogs with new ones being uploaded every Monday morning. And of course, make sure you’re following us on social media on Instagram at @PRAndLattes, and on LinkedIn PR & Lattes. On today’s final episode, I’m chatting with accessible communication specialist Lisa Riemers. Lisa is an independent communication content and digital workspace consultant who helps organizations connect their people and tell their stories. She helps teams create accessible user centered content that makes information easier to understand. As well as getting the best out of their intranet and collaboration tools. She strives to build inclusive communities both online and off. I’m eager to chat with her about why she feels and why we feel that professional communicators need to change their game and start thinking about accessibility and everything we do. So grab your latte, sit back and enjoy.  I am so happy for today’s episode. It is the last in our series for the Global Accessibility Awareness Day campaign if you will here at PR & Lattes and I am joined by Lisa, a dear friend and professional communicator. Lisa, welcome to PR & Lattes!


Lisa Riemers  01:44

Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here as well. Thanks, Matisse.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  01:50

This is going to be a great conversation. And we’ve heard all week in these different podcast episodes about digital accessibility from various facets, right from the lived experience, to website accessibility to be quote unquote, accessible overlays, accessible documents, you name it, we’ve talked about it. But Lisa with you, we’re gonna have a chat, we’re going to have a chat about why should we care as professional communicators? Yes, we get all this information. But why should we care? That is really what we’re trying to focus on today. But before we get into that, can you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and your own journey and communications and what led you into the digital accessibility space?


Lisa Riemers  02:27

Okay, so I originally started as a marketing person. I resume broad marketing communications, which touched on PR, external comms helping the organization I was working for communicate the proposition to their customers. And we had a massive website project. It was a global organization, I was working at G4S for us at the time, which I think is now Allied G4S or just Allied. And there was this enormous project to get 106 different country websites into one content management system. And I was quite new to the side of things. And I was working in the UK, one of one of the divisions in the UK. And everybody else took a bit of a step backwards. And I really enjoyed I took a big step forwards to help represent our region, as it were, as part of that project. I really enjoyed understanding how everything worked and making sure that everything was formatted appropriately, and really trying to understand the nuts and bolts of how the website worked. And I remember having this a light bulb moment where when I had my personal development review with a manager and I was thinking, Well, I’m an external communications executive, where do I want to go from there? And I didn’t really know what I was doing. And then I thought, actually, no, I want to specialize in digital. Because, I mean, at the time digital was a separate specialism rather than being a channel that everybody uses as part of their communication because like, you can’t avoid it really now. So I Yeah, so I jumped into digital generally, I did a bunch of work with a number of clients working with internet’s which are internal websites to help make everyone in the organization, feel connected, find the right information that they need to do their job. And also looking at websites. And since then I’ve done community management, I’ve done accessible content design, which is something that I can’t that’s kind of evolved as I’ve gone because there’s something about web content that people everybody uses nowadays, but people don’t necessarily if they were classically trained as a journalist or as a marketing person. There are certain rules was about communication that haven’t necessarily been taught as that transition into digital for people. And that’s something that I’ve done a lot of work in. And I really enjoy it. And I find that as I’ve been working with clients and talking to colleagues and working with other employees, really understanding what it is that people need, making sure that that information meets their needs, especially if they’ve got particular needs around accessing that information, is something that I feel really is an important part of my job. And it’s something that I love to help other people do more about it.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  05:40

Yeah, I love that you want…it’s sort of like you want to meet people where they’re at, right? If they’re wanting to access the information, so be able to provide them the information in a way they can access it.


Lisa Riemers  05:51

They don’t even always want it this information, you know, we get bombarded with so much information working in an organization like nobody, nobody says they don’t have enough emails, they might say they didn’t hear about something and get upset that they weren’t told about something, but that you’re trying to provide him everybody is busy. It’s not like anyone sitting around twiddling their thumbs thinking I know, I’m gonna go and browse. And I’m going to dig into this really difficult to use internal system, because I’ve got nothing else to do. People are coming to do a thing. They want information. They’re busy, they want to get on with their day.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  06:30

Yeah, exactly one of my biggest pet peeves, and I want I want your perspective on this is when I’m working with a client or an organization, and they say, well, nobody with a disability or with sight loss accesses my website or has applied for a job here. And it’s like, well, how do you know? And why wouldn’t you make things accessible so that they can? Maybe that’s why they haven’t done that? How do you manage those sorts of conversations and dialogues, if you will, with clients, when they’re like, Oh, we don’t have anybody with, you know, sight loss, who’s accessing our content.


Lisa Riemers  07:05

I’ve had so many conversations along those lines recently. I went to a tech show a couple of weeks ago, and I was talking to these vendors about these cool new technologies that they were using. And there was one which had like an immersive virtual meeting spaces, you could build like a little bit like Second Life used to be you could build an entire conference center and walk around. And I asked him, it’s like, how would a blind or partially sighted person use this? Is that what I’m pretty sure they just wouldn’t, I don’t, I don’t think anyone any of my customers have blind employees. That’s such a difficult…So the conversation that we had, as I was explaining how when I worked for…I was doing some accessible content training at a government department in the UK. And a couple of minutes before that session, I got informed that we one of our blind colleagues was joining. Um, so luckily, my presentation was accessible. But I was able to, you know, there were steps that we took throughout that trading session, which was in person to make sure that he had access to the materials that all of the images were described to him clearly. And that his feedback also helped improve the latest iteration. But sorry, jumping back a bit, I pointed out to this guy at a tech show. It’s like, so I did this training session for a blind person who was able to navigate to my physical meeting room, he used a stick to be able to walk around, he had feedback to know when there were curbs when there were walls, he could see some things, but he wasn’t he didn’t have he didn’t. He wasn’t able to see any of the detail. And there was a little light that went on in his mind because oh, we could actually do we could almost do a virtual equivalent of that stick. Like somebody, if they walked into a wall, you could get some feedback to say this is a wall, like a digital version of it. Like he just hadn’t thought of how of what the challenge might be, and, and that there might be people that who would be using it. But it was really nice. I don’t know whether he’s taken it away and made any improvements to the software yet, but he definitely saw it as a thing. And I think being able to tell this, you know, you can you can there’s so many statistics available about the number of people with disabilities, the number of people that use assistive technology, which we can dig into in a little bit, but I think being able to help tell, tell stories about the statistics because people don’t necessarily believe numbers they liked as, as well as hearing stories and other people’s experiences. There’s obviously the importance of having actual users with lived experience being able to test your content, test your comps and test your services. I think getting that real feedback from people can really help people understand that.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  10:04

That is so true. And I think, in the digital space, there’s always that Reliance or fall back on Well, an automated system said it worked. That’s my checkmark. And yes, maybe from a technical perspective, you have checked all those boxes. But I like to say, if it’s not usable, it’s not accessible. If the end user can’t explore and navigate the content you’re putting out there, then you’re not really being accessible, right, and you’re not being accessible if it’s not usable. And so you sort of have to ensure that you’re meeting both fronts, being compliant, but also is the compliance is done in a way that can actually be utilized by whoever you want it to use. So I love that you brought up your experience. And then he was like, oh, light bulb moment, maybe we could do something there. Right. But you know, without that end user experience or that end user feedback, it’s just sort of an assumption of like, I think we’re on the right track. And that’s something I find really interesting with organizations as well is, when you work on a project, a lot of companies just want that automated checkmark versus putting it through and user testing. How do you manage? How do you work along those lines to ensure that end users are actually testing the products that you’re working with, to with these organizations, so that you can say we have checked it from a manual perspective and automated perspective?


Lisa Riemers  11:35

So I think, involving real users at every port, every port every part of if you’re, if you’re looking at a new internal system, say like a new intranet, making sure you’ve got users at every step of the way from that very first, we think we’ve got an issue with our existing platform. So let’s do some user research as part of the discovery to understand what people’s genuine pain points are, and understand what their needs are. And then getting them out getting them involved in the decisions or the discussions about how that how that should actually be structured. What terms make sense to people? What if you were to do a card sorting exercise, how would you group this information in a way that makes sense to you, it’s very easy to do things that make sense to, if you just work in head office, or if it’s a global site, if you just work in the head offices country. And there might be cultural variations, there might be terms that jargony that people don’t necessarily understand, even if they’ve been in the organization a long time. Or there might be terms that mean a completely different thing, if you depending on which framework that you’ve you’ve worked with. So I think getting user feedback, actual users looking at the things, being able to test the products and services, feeding back on your communications, being able to sit with them, if you’re able to, or ask them to share their screen with you is also helpful. Because there might be as well as the as well as the user’s own needs. There might be technical limitations with that setup, that means actually, this doesn’t work in the way you want it. One of the things that I find useful, you know, we talk about ot texts, being able to put descriptions on images, if someone hasn’t got a decent internet connection where they are, they won’t be able to download the images, they need that alternative format, they need to see what they’re missing, they might not be able to stream video. So if they’ve got the transcript of that video, then they’re still able to consume that information. And I think I remember quite a notable example of a lady who I worked with years ago when we were launching our new intranet. And she said, Well, it doesn’t work. It’s terrible. I can’t see it, you know, it’s not working for me. And it’s only when I sat at her desk, that I realized that she had her screen resolution set. So it was the minimum, you could make it. So it’s like, so every all the pixels were enormous, basically. And that homepage only showed like a, I think, in 1/9 was the full page because it was zoomed right in. And her perception was that the entire intranet homepage was the Quicklinks because that’s all she could see on her screen. So if I hadn’t sat with her and looked at her screen, I’d have had, I could just been having loads of conversations via the Help Desk via phone calls, emails back and forth. actually meeting people where they’re at. I think it’s important.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  14:41

Yeah. And I think another part of this is, you know, as professional communicators are listening to this and thinking how can we incorporate end user testing into our, you know, processes. You have to pay the end users as well. It’s not free insights. Right? If you are looking for individuals with disabilities to use assistive technology to share their insights and perspectives, you should pay them it is it’s a job that they’re doing for you. And I think there’s that misconception of, well, they should be doing it because it’s an it’s good to do. And it’s like, well, if I were to ask you to write a comp plan for free, just because you can, right, I’m not gonna pay, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. How do you balance that understanding of, you know, when we’re going through this, there is a budget towards it. And I think that’s also something that companies fear, when it comes to digital accessibility is the cost that can be associated potentially with it, the how do you level set? And how do you manage the expectation around how much it may cost to make something accessible versus just it being left as is and not being accessible at all?


Lisa Riemers  15:53

I think, what do you look at the cost of things not being accessible. I’ve seen examples where it’s really, genuinely affected the bottom line, I was doing some work for a company who launched they had to update, they had to update their content to make the information more understandable to explain what some terms and conditions been. But by making that T’s and C’s update, they made this window pop up, which depending on the device you used, actually didn’t close. And let’s so if you use in particular kind of tablet, unless you turned it round, you weren’t able to close the window. And they genuinely saw quite a substantial bottom line until that was fixed over a couple of days, they saw a drop in their insurance quotes. And, you know, not making things accessible, can have such a big impact your finances, you know, according to scope, which is a charity in the UK, there’s 274 billion pounds a year is the total estimated spending power of families with at least one disabled person. If you’re excluding those people, that’s a massive amount of money that you’re potentially missing out on for your, from customers. And I think those also, if you’re thinking about from an internal comms point of view, we’re always looking at ways to increase the impact of our communications, we want to make sure that our messaging is nice and crisp and clear. But if one in four people live in the UK, one in four people are classified as disabled. And whilst that may not reflect the exact numbers in your organization, you could potentially be excluding 25% of people from being able to actually completely understand and fully appreciate the effort that you put into your communications, they might get a bit of it. But that has an impact on people’s time. If they’re then kept trying to find another mode of that information. It could impact on the engagement. How does this affect people’s you know, longer term, if they don’t feel like they’re included in an organization, they might go somewhere else. So this could be affecting people’s retention rates, people’s retention rates, company retention rates and actually having to, it’s much more expensive to try new stuff than it is to keep your existing ones. So you want to be doing everything you can to not get not let the good people leave.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  18:35

That’s true. And I think something else that people forget about is these stats are those based on individuals who identified abilities, right? If I look at my dad, for example, love him, don’t get me wrong, but it can be really annoying sometimes when he forgets to put in his hearing aids because he doesn’t consider himself having hearing loss. But without the hearing aids, we are screaming, and then he wonders why we’re mad at him. And it’s like, no, it’s just put them in. But he wouldn’t identify himself as having hearing loss. If given a census or given a survey to say, you know, do you have a disability, I for one wear glasses, and my glasses are pretty thick without my glasses, I can barely see in front of me. But my glasses are my assistive tech. But when I fill out a census or survey, I don’t consider myself as having that type of disability. Right. And I think that’s something but if I broke my glasses, and I’m on campus, or I’m out and about, I’m, I’m stuck, I can’t drive. I can’t, you know, I can barely see in front of me and everything’s really really blurry. So it’s understanding that these numbers are deflated numbers. They are not the accurate representation.


Lisa Riemers  19:47

And I think the World Health Organization estimates that one in three of us will need assistive technology at some point in our lives. And that ranges from as you said, from glasses, it could be mobility scooters like I…I love the thought I can’t, I wish I knew who to attribute it to. But that idea that we’re only ever temporarily not disabled. I had a I injured my foot recently, which meant that my mobility was severely hampered. And I went to my local hospital and got checked in seen by the doctor and they said, right, you’re gonna have to go to the X ray department, which annoyingly they’ve closed the door that linked to the two buildings together, and I had to take the longest route around the outside. And then I went around the outside, and I got to the lift. And I was looking at this really long list of departments. And there were 30 departments on the list, and none of them were called X ray. And then I looked again, and I realized that there was one called imaging, and someone had taped up the word X ray next to it on a post it note. And it’s like, this is a perfect example of where the hospital is not using, they’re not using the terms that their members of staff use, let alone the terms that members of the public are going to use. So and I found also, when I remember getting into a lift, I’m thinking back to when I broke my foot a few years ago, and the signage was only on one side of the doors. But if I’d been in there in a wheelchair, I wouldn’t have been able to actually read which level I needed to. Because if you depending on which way you go in, I wouldn’t have been able to turn to actually pick the right button. And I think it’s quite interesting. Like, you know, we’re going a bit off the topic from communications, but that kind of the positioning and the physicality of our environment, you know, people are much more familiar, I think, with the legislation about making reasonable adjustments to make sure that people can physically get into a building. But even then it’s not right. And that positioning of signage even is something that unless someone’s thinking about that other perspective, they just might not. You might not see it.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  22:00

Yeah, yeah. And I think you brought up a great point there being that quote about being temporarily not disabled.


Lisa Riemers  22:08



Matisse Hamel-Nelis  22:08

Right? And, and I think to during the pandemic, when everybody was home, though, you know, ever, everybody doesn’t like talking about the pandemic anymore. But this is a great example, your home, everybody is home, you’re stuck with your, but you have to work, but you’re stuck with your kids and your dogs, and you know, your pets and your birds, and whoever else is in the house, your husband and you know, whatever. And you have to be in a meeting, but you can’t hear what’s being said, because the kids are playing dogs barking, husband’s got the TV too loud, whatever the case is, and you’re just sitting there, a getting angry, let’s be real. But realistically, you need captions to hear what’s happening on the screen. Right. And it was fascinating to see how quickly captions and the accessibility of meeting spaces rapidly changed because of the pandemic. And we got on board with… Oh, it doesn’t just help people with disabilities, it helps everybody.


Lisa Riemers  23:01



Matisse Hamel-Nelis  23:02

And I’m, I’m one of those people who when I’m at home, I have my two dogs who during these podcasts you sometimes hear in the background, you know, they’ll bark at the most inopportune moments. And so having captions really helps when you’re trying to follow along. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s because I have a disability, I have a temporary disability, which is the dogs barking or my situation has changed in some way. And I think that is something that organizations seem to continually forget. You know, like all the strides we made during the pandemic, in the digital accessibility space now that the pandemic is, quote, unquote, over everyone is like, wow, you know, we’re back in person. So we don’t need to apply things. But now it’s we have to rethink what we’re doing to apply new methods, right?


Lisa Riemers  23:46

Yeah. And I think it’s not just new things, either. You just reminded me of a conversation that I had many years ago with our in house graphic designer, who made the most incredible looking beautiful posters, which worked super well if he had a professional printing service, because they were able to give you a lovely, multicoloured, high-quality print. But we were then asking, we were sending these out via email, and then asking depots and sites to print these off and put them on their notice boards. And, you know, we’re talking sort of 15 years ago, thinking about the quality of printers that you get in offices in their local waste disposal facility. It’s just it doesn’t work for the users that need it. So a full colour background will use up all the ink. You know, if it prints at all, it will be streaky. It completely undermines your messaging. So whether you’re dealing with remote staff who have to deal with a terrible printer, or you might have frontline staff who have that, as we’ve said before, like poor internet connection I’ve been I’ve been talking to a client recently who’s a really a really big company. They who have got it, I was really surprised that the poor connectivity they’ve got in their offices, like this is still a current issue. It’s not something that’s going away. And I think trying to understand the limitations of what users are working with, helps get your message across more clearly. I help volunteer, I used to volunteer for our very local beer festival that’s just moved. It’s moved to another town now. But again, thinking about the flyer design and the poster design, we did not have a big budget, we were going to be getting stuff printed as cheaply as possible. So most of the artwork was purely black and white, something that works nicely nice and clear. It can be printed out by even a even a not great quality printer, because the text is nice and easy to read in large font. And yeah, I think it’s it’s not a new thing. But there are newer challenges, particularly where we’re trying to rely on either fewer channels, or we’ve got less time and we’ve got to put our message out across more channels. It’s making sure that as we make media for different ways of as we as we’re creating the these communications for our various audiences, making sure that the format works for the for that channel.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  26:22

Do you find that, from your experience and working with various clients and organizations? That there’s more appetite to be digitally accessible? Or is it been? Has it been more a fight for you to be like, No, but you need to there’s legislation?


Lisa Riemers  26:40

I think both. I was working the public sector in the UK recently, there was a real scramble to meet, there was some new legislation introduced, which essentially emphasized existing legislation, there was a 2018 public public sector accessibility regulations, which made it really explicit that any public sector, so digital services, whether that’s websites or apps or intranet, they must be accessible for people so that they are not excluding any of their uses. And having that additional legislation in place and a deadline that things had to be made accessible by was that brilliant, I say brilliant. It was quite a scramble in a lot of organizations at the time to try and become at least compliant and get but it’s a shame that it’s being seen as well, we’ve got to just meet the law, rather than necessarily. That’s the spirit of the law, which is there because you’re making services for everybody.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  27:43

Yeah. Do you find it…Not difficult. But do you find that when you are working with these clients and organizations, and your input, implementing these accessibility, best practices, and so on and so forth, that they’re eager or willing to also look at it from a cultural perspective and creating that cultural shift within their organization to be more accessible, and then in turn being more inclusive, diverse and equitable?


Lisa Riemers  28:12

I think it depends on the individuals involved. And I think for all of us, it’s a journey. I thought I knew what I was talking about. Well, several years ago, I thought I got what accessibility meant until I started talking to users and testing things with users. And I realized that what I thought was good wasn’t. And it’s one of those things that people often see as somebody else’s problem. It’s like, oh, that must be someone else’s responsibility. We were using this software, that must be the vendors responsibility we’re using, you know, we’re using these tools. And we’ve got some limitations. But that’s it is responsibility, or, you know, it’s always seen as somebody else’s thing. And I think, wherever you are on that journey, understanding that it is a journey, that there’s something that we can always learn. And we’re mate, we’re leaving things better than they were before. I think it’s something to to take on board. And especially if you know that things aren’t perfect, but they are much better than they were, feels like progress. And I think I’ve had conversations with people recently. And they said, Oh, it’s the first time I’ve heard of this. However, I haven’t got time for this. I’m already too busy. And it’s that first that shock. And it’s like, well, what if if there was one thing I could do? What would that be? And I think, again, depending on what it is you’re doing, it’s like, well, at least acknowledging that there are things to do. Maybe you could understand it a bit more. There are quicker ways of doing things as well. But trying to build it into your process and trying to make people understand it’s, it’s not just one person in the organization. Hopefully you can make a network out of it. There’ll be advocates and allies that you can speak to that aren’t necessarily anywhere near communications, but finding you’re finding a tribe of people who want to help with it. So that it is actually embedded in to the processes of how people work. And how we do business, I think is ultimately the goal.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  30:17

And you mentioned, you know, when communicators in particular, given this conversation are brought to, to the light, if you will, in terms of digital accessibility, like, Hey, there’s this stuff. And they feel like, well, you know, I don’t have the, I don’t have enough time in a day to do this and all that. What would be the one low hanging fruit, that one piece of advice that you would say, okay, you don’t have enough time in the day to do maybe all of it all at once, because you also have to learn and all that stuff, what is that one piece of, you know, one task or one item that they can start implementing today, listening to this to say, alright, I can now be one step closer to being accessible. What would you think what would you say that would be?


Lisa Riemers  31:01

Having a simple format for is, if you’re, if you’re, you know, the, the most common thing that communicators do is they write, so making sure that your writing is in plain language and isn’t leaning on jargon, and isn’t using longer sentences where possible, and making using fewer words where you can, you know, there’s that joke about, I’m sorry, I wrote you a long letter, I didn’t have time for a short one. When you’re communicating with your audience, they also probably don’t have time to read the long letter. So getting that important information right at the beginning of whatever it is you’re writing, and making sure that it is clear, and it is in plain language. If you can do that as a starting point, then everything else can follow.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  31:55

Yeah, I love that. I love that. I feel like plain language doesn’t get enough credit, or it’s used or looked at, I should say, sorry, not used, but it was looked down upon as if like, oh, wow, you know, that means I’m after really dumbed down is sort of the language that gets used, and I hate that language. But I’m not using the type of wording or phrasing that I would love to do, because I think it’s going to make it sound much more elite, perhaps. But plain language expands your reach. So much. So, right, it opens it up to everybody can be at the same level playing field and understand and accept and in gauge with the content that you’re preparing. Right. And now there’s the ISO standards, one for plain language and one that they’re coming out for legal plainly, which I’m looking forward to, because legalese. That’s a whole other beast.


Lisa Riemers  32:52

Well, I think there’s something in that, you know, plain language is communication that your audience can understand the first time they read it. So you might be using some technical terms, but that’s okay. As long as your audience does understand those terms. And the only way you know if they understand them or not, is if you’ve done user testing, really. But you know, there’s so much research, the Nielsen Norman groups written about how experts prefer plain language. There’s an MIT article that lawyers prefer plain English. And I’ve done work with the content design agency Quickstart. And Christine from Rockstar did some research that shows that you know, people do prefer reading plain language it’s not, you know, people do worry that it’s it is doubling down, but it doesn’t have to be that you know, nobody isn’t busy. In your when you’re when you’re communicating with people. And you can write an articulate things clearly without it being seen as being dumbed down.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  33:55

Yeah. And I hate that phrase, absolutely hate that phrase. And, but I use, like, I sometimes get stuck, and I use it, and then I just kind of gut reaction to it. But anyways, when we’re talking about plain language, there seems to sometimes be this disconnect, or misunderstanding that plain language is inclusive language and inclusive language is plain language, but they work together. Right? How do you help organizations? Or how have you worked in your own practice, to ensure that what you’re doing is not just plain language, but also inclusive? And it’s language that’s being used?


Lisa Riemers  34:35

That is a great question. And I’ve been reading a lot more about inclusive language recently, because honestly, it’s something that it wasn’t part of the training that I used to deliver years ago and it’s not something that I’ve delivered any training on myself, but I think I’m never really conscious of the words that we’re using as we’re speaking like dumbing down is not an inclusive term. Like, there is so many words and think that we need to be aware of when we’re communicating. And you know, there are I believe that there are now tools available to help you identify if you’re using gendered language, or if you’re using words that might be ableist, or discriminatory in any of the other protective characteristics. And I think it’s really important that, you know, words, words matter words, as communication professionals, we know how important words are. And making sure that we use inclusive language when we’re communicating with people I think, is something that we could all be better at. And I’m learning myself.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  35:52

Yeah. Likewise, likewise, it’s it’s constant learning. I use Grammarly for some of the stuff that I do to assist with, you know, when I’m writing, making sure it’s plain language, so on and so forth. But they also have that feature where inclusive language comes into play where it’ll flag, this might be, you know, seen as a negative for a certain group of people are whatever the case may be, and it flags it, you’re like, oh, maybe I didn’t realize that. And go from there. One word that I was that I learned recently was empowered to empower somebody. So the thought is, or the the understanding is that you are giving power to somebody, when as if you have taken it away from them already. So to use the word Empower means that like, Okay, well here will give you power back. It’s okay. That’s so interesting, right? Yeah, right. And I used to use that word all the time. And now every time I try to write it, I’m like, oh, no, no, no, I can find a different word. I can totally find a different word to fill that in. But it’s one that you know, I used to think so, so highly of, if you will, but really know when you think of it, when you think it through a little bit more, not so much.


Lisa Riemers  37:07

Yeah, and I think, you know, one of the conversations that’s come up frequently is like referring to groups of people as guys. It might not be it’s not intended, it’s some people say that it’s a gender neutral term, but actually, using something is my preferred term is probably folks or everyone all, I try and avoid it. Occasionally, I slip into it. And it’s really, I find it really jarring now, when I see other people using it, but at the same time, you know, it’s one of those things, it’s super common still.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  37:40

It really is. And it’s, again, progress over perfection across the board, whether it’s inclusive language, plain language, digital accessibility, we’re all learning. We’re all trying to be better at what we’re doing. We may make mistakes, we may slip up. But as long as we are being as long as we’re putting the priority in trying to do better, and really focusing on you know, yes, I’m we messed up and we said this, but I now know, I have learned I will not do it again. And I will learn from that mistake and learn and do more about that. I think that’s the key thing. And I think with a lot of companies and organizations, no matter if it’s inclusive, plain language, if it’s digital accessibility, there’s that fear. If I don’t do it 100% correctly, as soon as I start this, then there’s no point in us doing it because we did do it perfectly, or we don’t. How do you manage that? That’s a conversation when I have it with clients. It’s like, okay, so progress over perfection, like, but we need to be perfect, but there is no perfect.


Lisa Riemers  38:45

I think sometimes I’ve seen people, if they always claiming ignorance, like, well, I didn’t know about that. I didn’t hear about it. So how can I possibly implement it? Because I just didn’t know it was a thing. And it’s so difficult sometimes, because you know, as people are busy and trying to learn something or admitting that you don’t know something can be scary. You don’t want you don’t want to acknowledge that you might not have all the answers. You don’t want to necessarily show any weakness or vulnerability. But I think unless we, unless we are open to learning and to continually developing professionally, I think you we end up stagnating and, you know, inclusive language is certainly something that has changed over the years, you know, society changes thinking about what we can and can’t say it’s very, it. There were terms that were frequently used 50 years ago that weren’t necessarily acceptable then but they weren’t inclusive them. But the level of tolerance was you At different, I’ve always been offensive to marginalized groups. But, you know, I think I like to have I, you introduced me as an accessibility specialist, but I don’t think I am there are people that know a lot more about this area than I do. And what I’m trying to do is share all of the stuff that I’ve learned from my work as a content designer, with people that have just the pure marketing communications background, because it’s just the user centered design aspects or something that good communication is audience centered, it’s targeted, it’s aimed with the end people in mind, but their needs aren’t always seen as the priority. And I think that’s the biggest difference between content design and communications is whose needs have the priority, because I think traditionally, with the marketing terms, you know, the businesses need to make more money, the businesses want to make sure that their products are chosen over other people’s, from an internal communications point of view, there’s a business need to make sure that employees need to understand, you know, the core corporate objectives, they understand what their obligations are, that they understand what they need to be able to that, what benefits might be available to them. And there’s just this slight pivot to thinking, what do they need to know to do their jobs? And can they get that information easily, it’s that pivot to use to making it about the users. And sometimes in that case, the business is a user, the business does need to make sure that everyone understands.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  41:39

I totally agree, what I like to say, usually at conferences, or when I do speaking, is design or create for the outliers. Because when you create for the outliers, you capture everyone.


Lisa Riemers  41:49

Absolutely. And it’s not an edge case, you know, there are so it’s such a high number of people. And I’m sure everybody listening to this podcast has had, has had experiences themselves where things haven’t been accessible for them. And there was a great, I’ve got a great example of this after a recent IABC meeting, where we went out for a dinner to a fancy restaurant, and the menus that the text wasn’t tiny, but the menus were a beige text or a cream background. And the light was really low. And I’ve spoken designers in the past that say that we you know, they’re trying to get a particular aesthetic, they want to make sure that the men you know, there’s a whole set, there’s a whole part of design about menu design. But you know, it completely kills the vibe in a restaurant, if four of you get your phone can’t your phone torches out, because you can’t read read it. Like even even if you’ve got your reading glasses, it was really difficult. It was one of those situations or disabilities where the light is low. It has not been designed with the end use case in mind. So you know, whether it’s your kids books that you’re trying to read, and the text is that there’s low contrast text, and it’s in the trees, and you’re trying to, you’re trying to find the words on the page, and it’s dark by the bed, whether it’s you know, you’re trying to catch up with an email and your phone, the screen on your phones a bit damaged. So you can’t quite read it very easily. You know, there are so many situations where it’s everybody. It’s not just an outlier.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  43:27

Yeah, exactly, exactly. This has been a faint, fantastic chat. I was about to go with the southern accent there for a second fantastic. Don’t know where that was coming from. But I can’t thank you enough for this. Lisa, this has been absolutely amazing. And a wonderful way to sort of wrap up our focus on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which just passed on Thursday. What would be your last piece of advice, if you will, for professional communicators and marketers who were, you know, wanting to start their journey like you did. In terms of being more inclusive, more accessible and what they do?


Lisa Riemers  44:03

Talk to your users understand who it is you’re communicating for. So that you can take their needs into account for any future communications activities.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  44:14

Love it. And my final question, and I promise this hopefully isn’t a doozy. This is PR & Lattes. So I have to ask, what is your favorite caffeinated go to beverage?


Lisa Riemers  44:25

Oh, it depends on the place. And I’ve got a local coffee shop who does a lovely chai latte. But if I’m out and about in London, I’ll probably get flat white.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  44:36

Love everything about it. Alright, Lisa, I don’t want to take up any more of your time. Thank you again for being on the podcast today. If people want to connect or follow with you, how can they get in touch?


Lisa Riemers  44:47

You can find me on LinkedIn. You can find me on the artist formerly known as Twitter. And you can find my website which is Lisa Freeman’s dot com. And I’m Lisa Roma’s on all of the channels.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  45:00

Perfect, and I’ll put all that in the description of this podcast so it’s easy for everyone to access. Thank you again so much, Lisa. This has been fantastic.


Lisa Riemers  45:06

Great. Thank you so much for having me.


Matisse Hamel-Nelis  45:08

You’ve been listening to a special episode of PR & Lattes. Thank you so much for your support this week as we honored a Global Accessibility Awareness Day otherwise known as GAAD. To learn more about gat its foundation and digital accessibility, you can visit their website accessibility.day. As for us here at PR & Lattes, you can check out the episodes you may have missed, access the transcripts, or read our blogs by visiting our website prandlattes.com. You can also follow us on social media, on Instagram at @PRAndLattes and on LinkedIn PR & Lattes. We’ll be back on Thursday, June 20th with a new season of the PR & Lattes podcast. I’ve been your host Matisse Hamel-Nelis And until next time, bye for now.

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