If you’re based in the UK, you may have heard that it is Dementia Awareness Week. One organisation that does fantastic work in this field is the Alzheimer’s Society, and while reading through their website my mind suddenly jolted back to the day job.
I suspect many people reading this article will have a friend, family member or acquaintance who suffers from some form of dementia. The term ‘dementia’, it turns out, is actually an umbrella term for a wide range of conditions—if you aren’t familiar with the symptoms I’d thoroughly recommend reading this set of articles. Dementia affects various faculties at different stages, but one key concern is memory. And of course the very people using the systems and processes that we help implement and change may well include people who are living with various stages of dementia.
As business analysts, when working on changes to organisational systems and processes, we’ll often focus on non-functional requirements—and of course useability and accessibility are core considerations. Yet, how often in our projects and change initiatives do we really consider the detailed nuts and bolts of accessibility? How often do we ask things like:
- What if the user can’t remember or retain a 4 digit PIN
- What if the user forgets multiple pieces of information and gets frustrated that they can’t access their account
- What if the user cannot digest a large ‘terms and conditions’ page, and perhaps needs it in a different format (video, audio) or needs the information explained to them so that they can ask questions?
- Do our processes work if somebody loses mental capacity and a representative with Power of Attorney needs to take over?
- Have our front line staff been trained to be empathetic to customers who may need a little more time?
- Are task and process measures and KPIs appropriate or are management setting ‘maximum call length’ targets and penalising staff that allow customers extra time?
Although I have no doubt we all try to keep accessibility and useability firmly in mind I suspect, if we are being honest, the answer will often be ‘we don’t consider these things as much as we could’.
Statistics show that we have an ageing population. With people living longer, it is likely that organisations will be serving more and more customers living with dementia and other conditions. What was once perceived as an ‘exception’ may well become more frequent. As business analysts, we have the opportunity when improving processes, IT systems and broader organisational structures to ask questions like:
- “Have we considered the wider accessibility factors (including, but not limited to, Dementia)?”
- “What support processes might we need?”
- “How else might we need to provide information to our customers? What other formats and channels should we consider?”
- “Does the call centre ‘script’ cater for that?”
- “How do we deal with a situation where an Attorney is dealing on behalf of someone?”
- “How do we manage and support an ‘online’ service if a customer is no longer able to use a computer?”
- “Can we design a user experience that hides complexity, making things easy for the majority and only exposing advanced or complex features to those users that want or need to see it?”
- “What training is needed before the process or system goes live? What accessibility related factors should be included in that training?”
And many, many more beside. Think processes, use cases, user stories, exceptions, business rules. Think transition requirements and specifying training needs. If we don’t define them, who will?
As a community of analysts, it’s important that we work with our stakeholders and ensure accessibility related factors are considered (including considering the needs of those with dementia). We can help ensure that these considerations are front-and-centre and get the attention that they deserve. Imagine, if we build this into the thinking of our organisations, what an awesome wave of change we could co-create.
How does your organisation handle accessibility requirements? Do you have any tips for keeping these factors front-of-mind? I’d love to hear from you, please add a comment below.
And, in recognition of Dementia Awareness Week, why not consider making a donation to Alzheimer’s Society?
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