Accessibility matters to you as a developer and to your customers. When your customers encounter accessibility issues, you need to know what those issues are. As a project manager for the Intuit Accessibility Team (I also work for Customer Connect where I am responsible for data hygiene), I can help you find valuable accessibility feedback through Slack.
Much of this feedback provides insight into our users’ daily experience using our products and helps us know which issues to tackle in order to remove barriers.
Using keywords in Slack to search for valuable accessibility feedback
Before delving into how to search, let me tell you about a specific accessibility issue that we were recently made aware of through Slack.
Over a period of several months, multiple users complained about screen shaking on a QuickBooks page. None of the engineers were able to replicate this issue because the feedback did not give us enough information to know where to find the issue. One day, a video showed up in the Slack feedback channel thanks to a user who had decided to record the issue and attach it for us to see. Because of this feedback, engineers are now aware of the issue and are working on replicating it.
In order to do a search, you need to use keywords. I have a list of keywords that I use all the time to pull feedback, which is helpful. There are, however, some keywords that will result in a lot of feedback that has nothing to do with accessibility issues, such as “tabbing.”
“Tabbing” is a great keyboard function to move through the fields and helps to minimize the use of a mouse. When tabbing, you can type out a first name and then tab to last name and type out a last name, and so on. You don’t have to use your mouse at all, and this also speeds up the process when filling out information. All of our products have a lot of fields for data entry.
Imagine if none of them allowed you to tab from a field to the next field. That would add up to a lot of time and frustration. This would also be a significant barrier to people who are blind, have low vision, or have fine motor skill issues.
Don’t count on disability-specific keywords
When searching “tabbing” in Slack, specifically the QuickBooks Online Voice of Customers channel, at least 200-300 files of feedback will pop up that were left by our users each month. Ninety to 95 percent of the feedback is not related to accessibility issues. A lot of it is related to tabs that can be found on pages but not the keyboard function. Slack includes “tab,” “tabs,” “tabbing” for one keyword, so there is no way to discrete them. This happens with some other keywords, as well, such as “gray” and “grey” or any keywords that have distinct similar spellings. I wish they would also include misspellings, but most of the time, this kind of feedback does not show up.
Sometimes, you will think there is a lot of feedback related to a person’s disability. When using the word “blind,” we sometimes see 0 results for feedback OR a lot of them. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the word “blind” has no association to a person’s disability. The users will use the word in phrases, such as “blind as a bat,” “blindsided by the change,” “blind alley,” and “blind spot.” You also would see “turn a deaf ear” or “fall on deaf ears” if you use the word “deaf” in a search.
Most of the time our users who leave feedback about accessibility issues do not have disabilities. One of the most common feedback is requesting us to darken and enlarge fonts, and a lot of this feedback comes from our users who are aging.
At other times, you will find feedback that is helpful to fix an issue for a specific disability, but it can also apply to other disabilities, as well. For example, one user left us feedback explaining that the new format for company phone numbers was hard to read. The new format was +1xxxxxxxxxx instead of (xxx)xxx-xxxx. This user had a customer who was blind in one eye and had trouble reading the number to call in her payment. Making this more accessible for a person with low vision also happens to make it more accessible for someone with a learning disability, a traumatic brain injury, or another disability. It makes it easier to read for many people.
Get creative with keywords
A user may identify themselves as having a disability, but the feedback may not be related to an accessibility issue. What I am really looking for is feedback that is related to an accessibility issue, and that feedback is likely to come from a user who does not have a disability.
We have to be creative with keywords when searching. “Cursor” is a great keyword, but not all of the users will use this word. Some of the users who left feedback did not think to use this word when typing out feedback for us. One of the issues is struggling to use the cursor to click on the line perfectly when adjusting the column size. Instead of using the word “cursor,” they would say, “move the line,” “adjust the grid,” or “change the size of the column.”
Supposedly, if you use the keyword “cursor”, you’ll see five files, and you notice that two of them are related to the adjusting column size. It will spark ideas for more keywords to see if you can find more files about the same issue. Using “move the line,” “adjust the grid,” or “change the size of the column” might help you collect 10 more files.
When using keywords, we need to try to look at it from our users’ perspectives and their word choices. We cannot assume that they are familiar with accessibility terms. Here are few examples of different word choices:
- “Cursor” for “mouse,” “pointer,” “click,” “hover,” and so on.
- “Color contrast” for “dark,” “light,” “hard to read,” “hard to see,” and so on.
- “Keyboard trap” for “can’t move to next field,” “stuck in a field,” “can’t escape,” and so on.
How to use channels in Slack to gather feedback
I use six different channels to collect feedback. You will need to determine which channels have the feedback that you need. Usually, but not always, those channels will have the term “feedback” in them.
I also find it helpful to mute all of these channels. If you don’t, you’ll have new notifications continually building up. The channels that you will need to use will be specific to what you are working on.
When you go to a channel, press command + f and the search engine pops up. Type out a keyword that you want to use to search. For example, the keyword “black.” Press enter or return. The results show three different tabs: “Messages,” “Files,” and “Channels.” I am not sure why, but “Files” will have all feedback collected with the word “black,” but “Messages” will not. I would not recommend using “Messages.” “Files” works the best for me. Click “Files.”
On the right side, you can filter the messages to narrow down your search. If it is not filtered, all feedback in the “Files” tab includes both old and new feedback. You’ll not want to look for feedback that is more than one year old. It is mostly obsolete. You can filter the file type if you want the feedback that has attachments, such as videos, screenshots, pdfs, and so on.
Under “Shared in,” there are several different channel names. This is a great, new addition to Slack. Now, you can search one keyword in multiple channels. It saves you a lot of time and minimizes repetition of searching the same keywords in different channels. If you do not see channels that you want to add, just go ahead and type in a channel name inside the box under the checkboxes. You can add as many as you want to the list.
Under “Date shared,” there are Start and End dates. The dates are helpful when you want to narrow down to the most recent feedback and not feel overwhelmed with a huge amount of feedback.
Hover your mouse to the top, right corner of the file box. There are three icons. Pick the first icon, which says “Open in new window.” “Open in new window” will open the file on the website. You can also click the subject line to open the file. It will not open the file on the website but will open on Slack app instead.
Let’s look at an example of feedback that is not from a user with a disability: “Screen Contrast – please offer an option to change the grey text to black. Grey is hard for aging eyes to see.”
This user did not use the accessibility terminology “color contrast.” Instead of “color contrast,” the user used two different keywords, “black” and “grey,” that are viable when searching for more feedback. I will often see a lot of feedback about small font and color contrasts from the aging population. Thankfully, in this feedback, the user left an email address, which offers an opportunity to contact the user. This feedback is pretty straightforward, but some feedback can be vague or missing some significant information that would be helpful for you and your team to solve an issue. If they have left an email address, you can reach out to them and ask for clarification.
Going back to Slack, you can replace the keyword “black” with “mouse” and keep the date part. After pressing enter or return, there were 13 files from the month of February. You do not have to filter the same thing, again and again. It will keep the filters until you change them.
One more thing. Not all of the issues are difficult to solve. For example, some users in the past did not like that they weren’t notified about the keyboard shortcuts changes. To address this, we added a notification informing users about the keyboard shortcuts changes, and this does not require a lot of effort.
Solving accessibility issues for all users
You now know how to find feedback from Slack. You can search for any issue, and it doesn’t have to be related to accessibility. When searching, try to be creative with keywords. Not all of the users have knowledge of our terminology. We need to try to see things through their eyes instead of ours.
Remember, we’re not looking only for feedback from our customers with disabilities. We’re looking for feedback related to accessibility issues that will also help our customers with disabilities.
If you want to stave off accessibility issues in the first place, my article on working with deaf or hard of hearing customers and employees, or Ted Drake’s recent post, 5 tips for making your app accessible, have valuable advice.