top of page

#OpenMarketing podcast - in conversation with Katy Alexander and Simon Holt from Publishing Enabled

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

How accessible is your marketing? Discover real-life hints, tips and links from this insightful conversation with Katy and Simon from the community initiative Publishing Enabled. As someone who has dyslexia like Katy, it's so important to better understand the community you target to really resonate and make a positive impact.

Join us in our first-ever #OpenMarketing episode from our Behind the Fluff podcast as we discuss:

  • Providing a safe space for people with a disability in the publishing industry

  • Highlighting the positives that having a disability can have e.g. adaptable thinking

  • Improving how we do marketing and how we think about communications

  • Opportunities arising from COVID-19 – flexibility, acceptance and adaptability

  • The need for buy-in at a senior leadership level for culture to change within an organization

  • Tools to measure accessibility and what you should be thinking about and trying out for yourself

  • The importance of providing information in different ways as people access and consume content in a variety of ways

  • Digital marketing that lets us constantly test, tweak and improve what we’re doing

  • Normalizing disability – the key to creating an inclusive culture

Transcription (contains Amazon affiliate links):

Lou: Hello hello!

Right. This is our Open Marketing podcast series for Behind the Fluff podcast from The International Bunch. It’s specifically for those in marketing, those interested in marketing, those in academic publishing, scholarly comms and libraries.

Who are we going to be talking with today? Katy Alexander and Simon Holt, both working in the industry but here to represent a very important initiative: Publishing Enabled. Katy and Simon explore with us about:

  • Providing a safe space for people with a disability in the publishing industry

  • Highlighting the positives that having a disability can have e.g. adaptable thinking

  • Improving how we do marketing and how we think about communications

  • Opportunities arising from COVID-19 – flexibility, acceptance and adaptability

  • The need for buy-in at a senior leadership level for culture to change within an organization

  • Tools to measure accessibility and what you should be thinking about and trying out for yourself

  • The importance of providing information in different ways as people access and consume content in a variety of ways

  • Digital marketing that lets us constantly test, tweak and improve what we’re doing

  • Normalizing disability – the key to creating an inclusive culture

Incredibly important, and as someone who actually suffers from dyslexia this was very, very interesting for me and is an amazing cause, so let’s just go and jump straight in. Let’s go!

Lou: Welcome everybody to the ‘Behind the Fluff’ podcast. Now, you will find lots of great resources on our website Now back in October we ran a masterclass about incorporating inclusion into your communication strategy, which can be found on our YouTube channel and we've got a link in the description.

Now, Jason Clymo, a fellow marketeer and inclusion consultant, gave me some great advice for that masterclass, including about the social model of disability. Now, we’ve included, as I mentioned, a link to it in the description so make sure that you check it out. But in today's podcast we're going to be following on from that with a masterclass and a chat with Katy Alexander and Simon Holt, both working in the industry but here to represent a very important initiative: Publishing Enabled. Simon and Katy are going to provide valuable insights and perspectives to us as marketeers to communicate better. So, welcome Simon and Katy.

Katy: Hi. Thanks for having us.

Simon: It’s good to be here.

Lou: Fantastic. Right, now before we get started, I have one question for each of you, and something we ask everyone before we do a podcast. We have a campaign that we do every day which is called #IntBunchWordOfTheDay, and we post a word of the day on our social channels. You can imagine doing 364 of those can be quite a task, so poor Yasmin, but she's been doing an amazing job. But we'd love to know is, out of all the words in the world, Simon, what is your favourite word? And what does it mean?

Simon: My favourite word is laughter because I think without laughter the world is a pretty joyless place, and I think that it's one of those quite emotional words. There are a few words actually that just have universal positivity, but I think that is one, and so I try and get even a little bit of laughter in every day, even throughout these strange Corona lockdown times.

Lou: Absolutely. You don't do some kind of laughter therapy, do you, where you just sit there and randomly start laughing?

Simon: In a kind of madcap laughs kind of way?

Lou: Oh my goodness, just like I just did then. But yes, ‘Ha, ha, ha, ha!’ - people do that as a form of release don't they?

Simon: Yes, I mean, people say to me that I have quite a distinctive laugh, so maybe you'll see that later on. We’ll see how this pans out.

Lou: We will have to get you laughing. That would be awesome. And Katy, what about yourself?

Katy: I found this really difficult, but I think it's serendipity. One, I just like the way it sounds, but also I'm a generally positive person and I think I love this word because it conveys the kind of beauty and the adventure that small and big chance occurrences can bring to life. And it's not just in life; but even in, I guess if you think about the industry we work in, it's all those unexpected discoveries that have just changed the world.

Lou: Absolutely. Two brilliant words. So now, what I'd love to hear more about, and I know that the audience would as well is, talk to me more about Publishing Enabled. Why was it founded?

Simon: I can go first on this. Katy and I, and a couple of other people, felt that we wanted a space within the publishing industry where people could feel supported, people that have a disability or have caring responsibilities who are interested in this area. And also, where we could maybe provide some resources in terms of best practice. We feel that for other demographics, whether that's gender, race or LGBT, there are some quite cogent communities within the industry, but we felt that was missing for disability. I think disability is something where not only can people feel a bit on their own with it sometimes, but also I think it can be quite tricky to convey disability in a positive light because every time you meet somebody, inevitably you end up talking about what you can't do rather than what you can do. So we wanted to provide a positive voice for the publishing industry where we talk about the strengths and the skills like problem-solving adaptability, thinking in a different way that having a disability has given us in order to show the value of people within the publishing industry. And so that those people are able to feel more supported whatever company they’re at and to feel like they're part of something and not on their own and left out.

Lou: Is there anything you want to add to that, Katy?

Katy: No, I think Simon summed it up beautifully.

Lou: So if you have people in the industry for whom what you said really resonates with them, is there a good way for them to contact you?

Katy: Yes, so at the moment we are working on our website, but we do have a live LinkedIn page, so you can contact us through there, or you can email either Simon or myself and we'll be happy to get back and answer any questions.

Lou: Perfect. Thank you so much. So, tell me…I've got my question here and I'm thinking, it's quite similar to what Simon's just talked about, but I wonder, in terms of the actual emotional passionate side of things, tell me more about where your passion to be part of Publishing Enabled comes from? Katy, if we start with you.

Katy: I think there are a few reasons: one is that I just want to make things easier for the generations that are coming and starting out a career. I've had 20 plus years now in the industry and I concealed my disability through most of it because I was, for various reasons some of them personal, kind of that feeling of being ashamed and thinking less of myself, thinking I had to prove myself, also thinking of reactions that other people might have if they did find out that I was dyslexic, so I think part of it was trying to help change and have a more positive view on all the things that we do bring. That was so important to me, so that other people starting out their career just have an easier time and we clear up a lot of these misconceptions that are out there.

Lou: Absolutely. And Simon?

Simon: Yes, that's what it was about for me too. I found it quite challenging to get into the publishing industry, mainly, looking back, because a lot of hiring processes and interviews were set up in a way that I couldn't really access. I'm visually impaired so an example would be, if I was applying for a job as something like an editorial assistant that didn't involve proofreading, you'd have a proofreading test to assess your general publishing competence. Well, that's great if that's part of your job, but pretty irrelevant if it’s not. Obviously, as someone who's visually impaired that would be impossible, for me. So I want to make it easier for the next generation, but also, as I've moved through my career, I realized that a lot of the things that I thought were weaknesses in terms of having a disability actually were strengths, and the reason that I've been able to do things differently or been successful is not despite having a disability, it’s because of having a disability. And actually, for me, I thought, hold on here; there is an opportunity, not just for individuals but for businesses to really make use of a talent pool that they're not taking advantage of, and therefore, I think that we have a role to play in educating people and maybe changing some of the stereotypes.

Katy: Yep.

Lou: Fantastic. You have an article that you did in Scholarly Kitchen, which we will include a link to as well in the description, and it's a fantastic article. In it you discuss about culture and lack of awareness being behind the poor representation of people living with disabilities in the scholarly publishing industry. Now, that was two years ago; how have things changed and what has been done to establish or even progress change?

Katy: One: I can't believe it's been two years.

Simon: I know, right?

Katy: It may be that the last 12 months have been a bit of a blur so it's kind of like time has stood still, and I don't know if it's because I'm looking for it now, or more people are generally talking about it, but I do feel like there's more of a discussion happening around it. I've seen more EDI policies coming up where disability is a bit more of a focus. I think there's still a very long way to go. I think it's kind of just starting out. But I think, and hopefully, I'm not just seeing things because I'm focusing on it more but I do feel like there's a lot more discussion in the industry around disability within publishing.

Simon: I would agree with that. I think attitudes have changed a lot. Attitudes are changing from can't do, to can do. I think that there is a greater culture within the industry generally of D, E and I, and bring your whole self to work. Actually, one of the few advantages of the COVID-19 crisis is that people have been forced to be a lot more flexible about work and their working environments and conditions, and therefore, not just with disability, but with all kinds of different situations. It means that workplaces, I think, are a lot more flexible and willing to make adjustments and adaptations. I think, as Katy said, there's a long way to go and I think there's still quite a gap between wanting to do the right thing and then knowing what the right thing to do is and having policies in place, but I think that I can at least have a discussion now and say, these are some issues and these are some proposed solutions, and be taken seriously, as opposed to in the past where it's been, that's very nice, but we can't really help you because you don't fit into our traditional way of doing things.

Lou: Absolutely, and you're right: EDI is very much higher on the agenda than it used to be. I've been to several EDI sessions, but I think outside of this podcast and our discussion here, we chatted, us three, a few weeks ago, and talking about the landscape with EDI and the importance of it. It was interesting when we were chatting in that one of the things that you had highlighted to me, Simon, and I then went on to go to an EDI workshop straight after we chatted, and I took some of that feedback into that session.

One of the really interesting points that really resonates with me, still sits with me and will sit with me for a while, is when you’d mentioned about how it's fantastic to see the progress that is happening with EDI, but when we're looking at representations from companies, organisations and institutions, it's about how exactly are they adopting this moving forward? It's not just about having someone to be a representative but it’s actually starting to think about building teams and having people who are responsible for it at the top, and then who are ensuring that there's an overarching strategy across the organisation.

This podcast is obviously marketing related, but and it is listened to by others outside of marketing in the publishing industry and beyond, but actually, EDI touches everything and anything; any of us do, so it's really important. I was so pleased that we had that discussion because I took that feedback into the working group that I went into because it's so important that organisations start thinking about this in a really committed way.

Katy: Yes, I think that hits the nail on the head. Companies, if they truly believe in it, they need unequivocal leadership buy-in and consensus for their initiatives and they have to understand that they're actually critical to business success. So if you don't have buy-in at that leadership level, the levels below aren't going to prioritize the programs. They're not going to be essential because they don't fit into business metrics on which the organisation is measured. So if you don't have these initiatives: diversity, inclusion, disability, and they're not a founding principle, and even I'd say should be part of the measurable compensation at a leadership level, then you're not going to get the change. You will just get lip service and ticking the boxes. It has to come from the CEO and the leadership team and it has to be part of your business objectives, measurements and compensation. For me, that's what I believe is when you've truly embraced , as an organization, your initiative.

Simon: It also has to be a proactive thing that you're thinking about at every stage of the employee life cycle or every stage of product development. That you're not just dealing with problems retroactively as they arise, actually, it's about getting it right first time. For a product or a content point of view, it's much cheaper and easier to get it right first time than have to deal with it later when there's a problem.

Lou: Absolutely. So thinking about that, is there any specific advice that you think organizations should start thinking about first, or anything that you would recommend to organisations as something that they can take inspiration from or use as benchmarks?

Katy: I would say that it has to be at the CEO and senior leadership level and it has to be part of your business success. As Simon was saying: it has to be part of your product development. If you make it part of the critical criteria for business success and compensation, you'll start to put it everywhere. You can start with small changes and then you start to build it into your product roadmaps. You start to build it into some of your marketing, you start to build it into your HR practices, because it ends up becoming an objective for every single department. That would be my recommendation.

Simon: I think for me, we have to understand that accessibility, more explicitly also inclusive behaviours, but thinking about from a product point of view, obviously, as a visually impaired person accessibility is quite important, we have to stop treating it as ‘a nice to have’ and we have to start treating it as a compliance thing. There are free tools out there like the wave tool for example, that I'd really recommend that is free and that does an accessibility review of any website or online material. I would recommend you use it. There are obviously accessibility guidelines in place as well. I think that far too often there are conversations like, well we can either make it accessible or we could add a new feature. Well, actually there's no point in having a new feature if a significant proportion of your users can’t actually access the product that you’re creating.

Lou: Absolutely. One of the interesting things about when I went to that working group and I gave that specific feedback and we started having some further discussions, is that when people are very much focused and thinking about: we need to have different representation from different communities and people of different disabilities, for example etc in these different areas. What happens is, because sometimes you're dealing with minority groups, these people are often targeted the most to do things, and it's actually also about being careful and considered. Because this workshop was with some librarians, and one of the librarians said: I'm normally the first port of call because of my colour, and actually, it should be about respect, and maybe there's a better approach. I think Publishing Enabled is a fantastic example of that: people can come to you and they can go to the website, once you've done it, and they can find resources and have a central area that they can seek this sort of advice from and support.

So for marketers, because marketers are generally dealing with communication a lot, and it could be internal communication, it could be external communication. Of course, all of us are doing internal communication and so this will resonate with not just marketers, but anyone that's doing anything; even editorial are managing social media channels, for example, for their journals. It's not always marketing, it just depends on your organization. So when we think about communication through online media, email marketing, anything that falls under the category of digital marketing are there things that you think marketers should be mindful of?

Katy: First, I think that as marketers, we have to be mindful that most of the changes that need to be made to have an inclusive marketing campaign benefit everybody. It benefits everyone. There are some easy wins and there are some things that need to be put into part of a workflow. Once you have them into your workflow and your process, it will become easier over time. And just a few things to think about are things like Simon suggested: you can put your website through: how accessible is it? Have you ever tried using your website without a mouse? Things like a screen reader, use alt texts on your images on social and there's a lot of great resources on how you can do this on Twitter. HootSuite makes it really easy if you use platforms like HootSuite. Be mindful of PDFs, and I say this but I'm still trying to find great alternatives to PDFs for things like white papers and reports. PDFs are not always the best. And also, too much copy: your language does not have to be over complicated. Use simple words and shorter text. I know in publishing, especially academic publishing, we do love our big words and our jargon, but you don't have to always use them. You can cut them down. You can have plain simple language. Always have a great executive summary for those of us who might struggle with reading a little bit more than others. Think about a different medium: can you do something in a video, a podcast, or have captions? I think there's actually quite a lot that can be done that really doesn't take that much extra time.

Simon: I think for me, just building on what Katy said, actually, the point to make here is not a disability point, it’s a human being point, and that is: different people access information and access content in different ways. So there's no point in creating a video if you're not going to have closed captions and you're going to have a voiceover. You can have closed captions and that's great, I won't be able to read it though. You can have a voiceover, and that's fine, but a deaf person won't be able to listen to it. Actually, what you need to think about here are both, and I think the ‘not only but also’ approach is actually quite important here. Thinking about the different ways that people access content. So for me, that's a screen reader, so it's quite important that content works with that. But for other people, they will access it visually, or as Katy said, prefer it in a more prescient format, etc. And so my kind of challenge to the people listening to this is just to think about how many different ways can you present this content to the reader? And that will give it the best opportunity of getting through.

Katy: Yes, I agree. You'll reach more people because you’re going to... And from a business perspective, if we even just take it down to pure business, it increases your potential customer pool, so it's kind of a win-win.

Lou: Yes, absolutely. I know some marketers will be thinking: Oh my gosh, I'm so pressured that I've got to get this out by this date, and it's like well, you are just going to have to start planning this in.

Katy: Sorry to interrupt, but I think that's also why leadership is important: if it also becomes part of your workflow, and there are lots of areas in my daily marketing which I know I need to improve on from an accessibility point, but starting to make them a part of your process means that when you do something, in the end it's fast, right? It just becomes something you do. That’s also where the leadership buy-in is important, as if you're going to do campaigns or launch a product, if the accessibility is part of it and it's part of your business success criteria, the time to do it will be built in and it's not that much extra time.

Simon: It's also not just about people with disabilities. So if you add subtitles and closed captions, for example, that doesn't just help someone who's deaf. It also helps somebody for whom English is not their first language, or it helps somebody for whom they don't understand an accent, or frankly, it just helps lots of people watching that on their commute - in the days when we had commuting or elsewhere - where sound isn't an option. I think I read that for people between 18 and 25, two-thirds of videos are watched without any sound.

Lou: 80% on social media is watched without sound.

Simon: Right. So why would you want to miss out on that large percentage of your target audience?

Lou: Exactly. But you see, even with the time pressures, my point was that people may think: actually, we've got enough technology to help us, and once you refine your process, it actually isn't as time-intensive as you think. If you look at Zoom for example, when you do a recording it automatically does an audio version. It does a video version, and if you use a paid version it will transcribe it for you. With our webinars that we do now, I have the PowerPoint automatically doing my captions so that they are there on the screen, because we stream live to YouTube. Okay, sometimes it doesn't get my words, I can forgive it. It’s just about thinking a bit more inclusively for everyone. Not just doing it because you think you're ticking a box, it's really important.

Katy: I think it is, but one of the things that I often try to tell marketing teams as well is that once it's part of your process, it'll go faster, but you also have to think about in terms of long-term impact because a lot of the big players like Google constantly change their algorithms. They constantly, kind of, make tweaks. They are constantly going more and more towards user-friendly accessible criteria. So if your website doesn’t have the new changes, I think the Google page experience updates that are coming soon, the alt text on your images, it is going to really drop you down if you don't have those. If you're trying to say, ‘Oh, it's going to take me time.’ Just think about down the road when you have to go to a website and update thousands of alt text images - now that's going to take time.

Simon: I think also though, let not the perfect be the enemy of the good. One thing I want to say to the people who are watching this is, using Lou’s example of the automated closed captioning: yes, it doesn't get everything right but it gets about 90% of the words right, and that means that somebody watching can access 90% more of that material than they could before. I think sometimes we’re afraid to embrace these things because it's not absolutely perfect, and my message is that it is definitely much better than not doing anything at all.

Katy: I agree. I'll second that.

Lou: We live in an agile world now, and it's funny, Simon, that you say that. The trend that I'm seeing from different clients that I'm working with is that it's not about putting out exceptional marketing anymore; it's about putting out good solid marketing, getting it out there, and it's looking and measuring what you're doing and changing it. It’s not that perfectionist approach anymore.

As we talked about just before we started, since being in a global pandemic, as a community, as a world, as a society we're a lot more empathetic and sympathetic to the environments that we find ourselves in now, and of the people on a call and the distractions around. I was on a call earlier and someone's computer just wobbled like that. Simon, I'm just wobbling my screen. I didn't even notice really. I mean, I did in the back of my mind, but it didn't faze me. She was like, ‘I'm so sorry my screen wobbled.’ and because I'm leaning on my desk. I didn't even notice to be honest because I don't even notice that stuff anymore. So I think that's an incredibly powerful point that you guys just made.

How does digital marketing provide more opportunities to be inclusive? In some ways you've already answered that in terms of the types of content, the format of content and how it can be disseminated. Simon, I think you touched on that really well, talking about the different types of content for people with specific disabilities. Are there any other opportunities that you think that digital marketing has for inclusivity?

Katy: I think you can test with more ease as well. So if you've done a campaign and it's not quite right, and I totally second Simon's idea that it doesn't need to be perfect, you can tweak it and edit it. If you upload a video to YouTube, you can go in and edit it in the description. You can't do that if you've already printed a couple of thousand flyers. Change the font size if you're finding that it's not the right size. If you're working in graphs, which I think is important for a lot of academics and within publishing, just checking the accessibility of the different colours you use in your graph with online apps, which is really helpful, or tweak them if you get any feedback. So you are able to offer a wider variety of content to meet user needs regardless of disability, but you're also able to measure, tweak, iterate and just keep testing and improving.

Simon: One thing I would definitely do is… One thing I would say is: think about contrast specifically. Think about the colours that you have on your flyer or whatever as they may not be the colours that people are accessing the material in because on their computer, they might invert the colours or they might have a different colour scheme that they can see better. Now, how do you make that work? We make that work by having good contrast. Poor contrast means that nobody's reading the material. Whilst you might think that green on yellow looks absolutely fab, actually, it looked absolutely fab to the half of people who are able to read it, and really not very fab to the large amount of people who can't read it. So that's something I'd throw in there as well.

Lou: Yes, you have said to me separately about black text on a white background may be inverted so it's actually black background with white text. Actually, something else that you've mentioned to me, which I think is really worth talking about is, we've talked about in the past about imagery. Something I think you had said was like a default that people do when you're looking at disability is having an image of a person in a wheelchair. I have done that, with our YouTube channel, which I've now changed. I went for a stock image of someone in a wheelchair because that in my head that was like, oh, I think also because the consultant that I worked with, he also was in a wheelchair. But yes, I think that's really important.

Simon: 80% of disabilities are hidden, so non-visible, and therefore, I think that the wheelchair is a well-recognised symbol, but I think it also stereotypes in terms of it only takes into account one type of disability. Part of what we were saying in the beginning about creating a positive image is enablement, and so another symbol of the disability movement is the kind of triple bar (≡), the kind of the 'E,' which means equivalency of the same value to and for me that speaks more to what disability is about rather than the wheelchair, which I think is quite narrow and probably isn't representative of quite a lot of people with disabilities.

Lou: There's a resource that you pointed me to before which I think is in the UK. It has imagery for people with different ethnicities?

Simon: I don't think that was me.

Katy: I’ll wave as, it might have been me. So let me have a look to see if I can find that.

Lou: I was speaking to you both there, that wasn't really very helpful of me.

Katy: UK Black Tech. Yes. They have some stock photos.

Lou: In the past, I know that you've mentioned a good resource place to go, Katy, do you remember? It was to do with images and it was UK-based.

Katy: Yes. UK Black Tech have great stock images and they’ve created free images because they noticed that there was a lack of diversity in images when it came to the tech industry, and maybe we should do something like that for disability?

Simon: That would be great.

Katy: Wouldn't it be great? I think a lot of the images could just be of anyone because with 80% being hidden disabilities…

Simon: Exactly. And one thing I wanted to note is actually, when you go on a lot of websites where you see a lot of advertising, wheelchairs or no wheelchairs, actually, the only images of people with disabilities you ever see are on accessibility pages or where a company's talking explicitly about their equal opportunities policies. Normalising disability and inclusion of disability means that you have people with different disabilities, just the same as you would have people of different ethnic minorities, etc, all over your website.

Lou: Yes, absolutely. I think that's an incredible point to make. Actually, I think there's a few things that we've discussed so far that people can have some takeaways from and start doing now, but I think that's probably one of the most important takeaways for me; actually really mixing up and changing your imagery. Sometimes when I look at imagery and I see what marketers are doing, a lot of it focuses on colour, for example, and actually it's more than that. And when you look at EDI, EDI is so much more than that.

Katy, with the example of you talking about your dyslexia, that’s something that people just aren't thinking about. They think it has to be physically outside, just like what Simon was saying, or it has to be about how you look.

And actually physically outside is what people see when they’re looking at you.

Katy: Yes, and I think a lot of it goes back to, even before you become a marketer, when you're younger, and books are getting better. Games sadly are not really making much of an advancement, but you don't see the representation, especially for disability. You just don't see it. It's a real shame because if we just started this from a young age as well, as you get older you don't even have to think about it because you'll just look for things and images without realising it. You'll want to make sure that you're having more representation because it's something you've always seen. So, yes, it's trying to change that behaviour.

Simon: Totally. It's normalization. It's important to remember at this point that according to the UN, 15% of people of the working population - so that's people between 16 and 64 - have a disability. So we're not talking about a small subset of the population here. We're talking about a really big subset, and a subset frankly, that if you make the effort to appeal to them, would probably be more likely to engage with you because we are, quite frankly, not really used to this.

Lou: Yes, absolutely. So, we talked about digital marketing. Is there anything in addition on the print marketing side? I know that print marketing isn't as popular as it used to be, especially now. However, because we are all at home, when you get stuff through the post now, it's quite exciting, whatever it may be. But is there anything over and above what we talked about in the digital side that can be applied to print materials, that you think would be good to do for print marketing materials?

Katy: Text size is important. One of my pet peeves is getting a flyer or a poster, or whatever it is, that's so covered in text that it just it hurts my brain. So more white spaces, text size that's readable. I think 12 point is like the absolute minimum recommended, so thinking 12 point above is advisable. Italics can be really difficult. I can only speak from dyslexia, but italics make it harder for someone with dyslexia to probably read. Colour contrast as well on your flyers. I would even go down to even the type of paper because sometimes the gloss on a paper can make it really hard to distinguish the letters. I find that sometimes when I’m reading, if there's a lot of text and the paper is glossy it's harder for me to distinguish the shape of the letters, so it takes me longer to read. I'll read a book easier than I will a glossy flyer.

Simon: For me, as someone who isn't really able to access print marketing, a QR code is really helpful. So if I get something I'm interested in, even if I can only read the headline but I know I would like to find out more about that, actually, it would be great to be able just to scan the QR code and then be able to access it on my phone where I do have the text to speech.

Katy: Yes, and I think a lot of marketers in the West think QR codes kind of don't work so much. I think the pandemic shows that actually, they do, because we’re all scanning QR codes left right and centre, but they work incredibly well in Asia and there are some really great examples of how in South Korea and stuff, QR codes are used in really innovative ways. I think it’s something we could probably, I know I could, learn from, from a marketing perspective.

Lou: Yes, very embedded in that culture. I think with the last year that we've been through, certainly for those of us who are in the UK and have had to scan and use QR codes whenever we've gone to certain places, on a specific app, when we've been somewhere and then been alerted if you've been near someone who's got COVID-19, that has made the use of QR codes a lot more, just normalized really. A lot more every day. There's no excuse not to use them really. Also, because there's better adoption and it's a way of measuring print material, so there's a plus there.

Katy: Yes, definitely.

Lou: So, through your many years of life - not that you're really old or anything, but we've all had many years of life, can you think of any good or bad examples of communication? Anything that really stood out to you that you thought: they could do better? Or things that you see that you go: whoop, whoop! Or that just made you go, ‘Oh gosh, that's absolutely awful,’ and then have a cry?

Katy: The ones that make me cry tend to be PowerPoint presentations when there's too much text. If I'm at a conference and there's a PowerPoint and it has just way too much text on it, it actually just, yes, it just makes me want to cry because it’s just so unmanageable. The text is tiny. I'm trying to look at it, trying to read it. And then I have to put so much concentration into trying to read what's on there because I require more concentration to read, I don't even know what the person is saying. So that’s one. I mean, I've made my fair few mistakes when I look back over my career when I've done a campaign or other, and I just go how – especially as someone with a disability – did I do that? So yeah, so we all have to improve, even those of us with disabilities.

Simon: I think from a product point of view - and I've thought this for a long time - small print should be outlawed. It's discriminatory by its very nature. In fact, how can you hold me to something that I can't read?

Lou: Absolutely, Simon.

Simon: If we're talking about marketing, that would be an ask for me in terms of marketing materials. Actually, why is the most important information buried in this tiny text, whether that's in in print or online, that a significant proportion of your audience can't even read. That wouldn't be stood for in other walks of life I think is all I can say about that.

Lou: Absolutely. Katy, going to your point about PowerPoint on screen. I used to present a lot without much text on my screen, lots of visuals. It was really: ‘Look at me. I'm here to talk to you about stuff, to tell you whatever it is you need to know.’ If you put lots of text on the screen, people read it, so they are not really paying you much attention. Then on the flip side, when we're thinking about those in Asia Pacific, for example, so those in China, when presenting to China, actually, they want you to have more text on the screen because, like Simon talked about earlier in terms of people not having English as a first language, they're going to want to be able to read what you're saying. So it can be difficult, but then I think you just have find a happy medium, don't you?

Like you said, which I thought it was really interesting, that the minimum point size you should be using is 12. So actually, it's about, okay, if you're going to have text on screen, keep it clear. Keep it concise. Don't be too text heavy, but also make sure that it's easily readable so that there's a balance in there, there's a compromise.

Katy: Yes, and I think that’s true of all of this, right? It's not going to be perfect for everyone so let's just get it to a stage where we can all at least come away from understanding the gist.

Lou: Yes. Now one of the things that you mentioned, I remember this, so many years ago when I was a junior marketeer at the British Standards Institution. We had to do some testing, and they literally sat us in a room with lots of different things, and they gave me this pad. So this was back in 2003, I think, so I'm quite sure that technology has moved on since, but it may still exist. I think I looked up last year to see if it does, and a different technology exists now, but I had this pad where literally, it was you're going to go through this web page and you've got to go to that link there and you've got to go through and follow wherever that link goes. So I was like, okay. And this button acts as a tab, so the only thing that you've got to use is your head so I sat there for about 10 minutes just hitting my head on this pad. The tabs, it was just like if you go onto your keyboard and just press the tabs, of all the things that was going on, it took me 10 minutes to get to where I needed to get to. It was ridiculous. And actually, when you're put in a situation environment or you have some kind of something taken away from you, even though you don't live in it, you do have a very short window into a situation and go, ‘Oh.’ So like Simon said at the beginning: have you tried using a screen reader? If not, do it, because then how do you really empathize or how do you know?

I found that very impactful and that was 2003. We're in 2021 now, so gosh, that's nearly 20 years ago, and that lives with me daily. I think about that; it's like it was yesterday. That's how impactful that was on me to do it. So, what tools and exercises would you recommend people should try to get a sense of how accessible their communication or their content is? Or even resources that can help us to communicate better?

Katy: I think Simon mentioned a few when he talked about putting your website through a tool to rank the accessibility and highlight the gaps. You can put any kind of graphs or images you use through some great apps. I think one is called ‘Data Wrappers.’ If you're building data graphs you can then see how it looks for different types of colour-blindness, so you can make sure that the colours you're using actually appear distinct and it's not just one mush of grey. I say this as my husband is colour-blind, so often we have this conversation. I usually just put something in front of him and say, can you see this? He is my guinea pig.

I think screen readers are important. I mean you could do, and I would recommend this for any product, whether you're testing for accessibility or not, but when you're launching a product, and marketing should be part of any kind of product development or launch strategy, outline, promotion, you usually do user testing, so if you're going out for user testing and there are some groups out there that will find users for you to test. One gap I found is - what if I want someone with a disability to test it? They don't have anyone in their pool, or very few and that's not really helpful so you need to think of it from all angles, and I think that's where different departments working together, not just marketing in a silo, but marketing with product and other departments. I think you can probably come up with some ways to achieve better accessibility.

Simon: Yes, I think for me there are three things I would recommend: first of all, as Katy mentioned, the Wave tool. If you just Google WAVE accessibility, that's a free tool that you can test a website on. Second and third are Google Chrome add-ons. Again, they're free. One is called ‘Read aloud’, which is a text-to-speech reader, and the other one is called ‘Reader View’, and basically, what that does, it’s a bit like on your mobile phone and it translates the text into a bigger, more accessible text-only view and what that will do is tell you whether this website is accessible or not to people who have visual impairments and can't read, but also to those people who need a more streamlined, standardized view of the website to get the information you need.

Lou: That's fantastic. Thank you so much. Actually, just while you were saying that I was thinking to myself, we could do a video and test those to show people what exactly it is that they experience of that anyway. I think that even if they don't try it themselves, if they have a way of saying, ‘Oh wow!’ then hopefully that would also encourage them, if they haven't done it already, because I now want to go straight away and use this WAVE accessibility tool and have a look at our website thinking: oh, my goodness, how accessible are we really? You know, I'm doing a podcast on this, so by the time this podcast comes out, I will have done this.

Katy: I think, you're not alone, right. There are ways in which I definitely need to improve my marketing as well. We constantly have to improve because as technology gets better, we can do more, it’s easier to do it, so I think we're all on the same journey.

Lou: As long as we're moving forward and progressively.

Simon: Exactly.

Lou: Exactly, and learning lessons from each other and sharing our experiences and lessons learned, then fantastic. In terms of those few things that we've talked about, is there anything that you would recommend to marketers to be doing as the bare minimum? It may be testing or legislation compliance, which should be done anyway and maybe done by a different department, or knowledge of the social model of disability - that was probably an amazing thing for me when I learned about that thinking about disability in a different way rather than a medical way. Anything that you think is a bare minimum, which it shouldn't be really, should it?

Katy: I think we've kind of touched on most of the stuff. What we've touched on is the bare minimum and it's all out there: you can go to Twitter and they give you, to make your Tweet accessible there's like two things you have to do, if you're doing a Facebook post, to make it accessible there’s like one or two things to do. And so I think it's just keeping abreast as well of the changes and the tools out there that are making all of this easier.

Simon: Accessibility and disability inclusion in general is about little and often. It's not like we're going to spend a week sorting this out and then it's done. Actually, it's by doing lots of little things and integrating them into your processes, as Katy was saying, and doing a little bit regarding that every day. Whether it's taking five minutes to run your website through Wave or it's taking two minutes to install the Read Aloud tool, etc.

Lou: Okay, so thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. It has been incredibly insightful. Now, if you want to learn more about Publishing Enabled, we will make sure that when the website is live, the link will be available in all of our descriptions and blog posts, etc. This podcast is going to be available as a video on our YouTube and other video channels, as well as an audio file through our podcast service which will be available on the website at There will also be a transcription and that will be available as a blog post.

Do remember to also check out our Masterclass link that I mentioned with other hints and tips. We are proactively now creating more accessible content and will certainly be taking a lot of takeaways from today in terms of what we should be doing, so you can get in touch with us at if you want to talk about anything. Also, if you want to be involved in one of these podcasts. So, Simon, Katy, thank you so much.

Katy: Thank you.

Simon: Thanks for having us.

166 views0 comments


bottom of page