Our vision for accessibility at Olio

One billion.

That’s how many users we aim to have by 2030: it is the audacious Olio goal, part of our mission to make a real impact in the fight against waste. We empower people to change the way they use (and throw away) products, but to have a significant effect we need to reach this ridiculous number of users.

One billion.

This is also how many people around the world live with some form of disability, according to a report by the World Health Organisation and World Bank. That’s 15% of the global population. We can’t afford to leave this many people behind, or to treat them as second-class users of our products. Not morally, and not if we want to meet our goal.

Our app is built for communities, and in all of these communities there are people with impairments or disabilities who we are not currently serving well. As a small start-up we couldn’t make it easy for everyone to contribute to our mission, but we’re committed to changing that now, and will be sharing the challenges and successes with you along the way.

What is Accessibility?

Accessibility (or a11y) is the practice of making places, services, and activities accessible to as many people as possible. In the context of web development, it means making our websites and apps usable by as many people as possible.

What does that mean for us? It means that anyone should be able to use the Olio app and the Volunteer Hub, and it should be easy and safe for them to do so.

Why do we care? At Olio Tech, we make decisions big and small according to the company values. These aren’t posters over a hole in the wall, or empty talk. We work according to these values every day, and they are:

  • inclusive
  • caring
  • resourceful
  • ambitious

Accessibility for everyone is a logical extention of ‘inclusive’ and ‘caring’, but it is also ambitious. We have a mission to save the planet, and we can’t do that while leaving behind a good chunk of the population.

The current situation

To be frank, we’re at the stage of implementing the very basics of accessibility. We have a lot of work to do, which is daunting but exciting, and we’re enthused to be sharing the journey with you. Olio Tech works on two distinct applications - the Olio mobile app and the Volunteer Hub web-app - and we are coordinating efforts to ensure we meet the same standards across both, using the best practices suited to each product.

What we’ve done so far:

  • Nominated an accessibility champion for each tech team, who meet weekly to discuss and plan
  • Completed initial assessments of accessibility in the mobile app and volunteer hub
  • Started reaching out to our community to find what challenges our current users face
  • Worked with our engineers and designers to build a shared understanding of what accessibility looks like behind the scenes
  • Added basic accessibility standards to our Definition of Done for new features

The goal

We are not playing around. By July of this year (2022) we will have made significant improvements in Olio Tech, and hopefully also as a company:

The Volunteer Hub will meet Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

The Olio mobile app will meet an equivalent standard of accessibility on all new functionality added from April.

We will work with our media teams and other business functions to improve accessibility across our socials, website and campaigns.

We’ll be putting out updates and information about some of the technical challenges we’ve faced later, so please check those out later!