Accessibility is an important part of diversity and inclusion at LeasePlan – and one that’s just as relevant for customers as it is for LeasePlanners. Soma Ray, Design Research Lead within LeasePlan Digital, explores the role of research and design in creating accessible technology for customers.

“Frequently, businesses make assumptions about what different people need without actually asking them,” says Soma. “They research and design their customer-facing technology – like our digital showroom, for instance – without considering accessibility. It’s only when a customer complains, or a compliance issue arises that the company even realizes there’s a problem. By then, it’s often too late.” 

Not just an add-on 

Luckily, there are ways to avoid such cases and ensure that digital products work for everyone. “It all starts with inclusive user research,” explains Soma. Accordingly,  the first steps to reach the goal is to engage with the users, through a survey or other research method, to sample the sort of diversity that LeasePlan looks to serve. “Currently, together with the help of an external agency renowned for accessibility projects, audits are being planned to understand the true spectrum of all users’ experience.” 

“Then, we will use our research insights to guide the design phase, creating a program with the right tools needed, building inclusivity into our products from the beginning. This includes a lot of prototype testing with end-users to make sure we’ve found the right solution. Big data might underpin NextGen LeasePlan, but we don’t want it to mask the individual experiences of our customers.” 

Like many people, and many businesses, Soma has become more aware of digital inclusivity in recent years. “For a long time, I was focused on making technology accessible to people who aren’t very ‘tech literate’, like my own parents, by creating resources like user manuals,” she explains. “Two or three years ago, though, I began to realise how much work needs to be done to make technology inclusive of people with all different abilities: physical and cognitive. My goal is always to make technology approachable for everyone, but it’s a real journey and we are just at the beginning.”

Promising signs – but there’s more to do 

Already, Soma can see important changes in how the business is approaching this element of inclusion. “Our Velocity Design system is taking accessibility checkpoints into account, and LeasePlan’s brand guidelines are being revised to ensure the colours and contrast and typography work for customers with visual and neurological conditions. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m determined to make LeasePlan a leader in accessible technology and I’m excited to see how we can come up with ways to make our digital products better – and more accessible – than ever!” 

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