Inside the Google Accessibility Discovery Centre, London

This free webinar took place on Wednesday 5 June 2024 via Zoom.Four different shaped dots

We were live from Google's Accessibility Discovery Centre (ADC) in Kings Cross, London for a discussion about inclusive user research with Christopher Patnoe, Head of Accessibility and Disability Inclusion at Google and Ashley Peacock, Senior Accessibility Consultant at AbilityNet.

Christopher and Ashley toured the ADC and discussed how to ensure that user research includes the views of disabled people. You can now watch the recording below, and a transcript and Q&As are available at the bottom of this webpage. 

Who will benefit from this webinar recording?

The session was aimed at anyone who would like to learn about inclusive user testing and research including web designers, developers, product managers, UX/UI designers and accessibility professionals, or anyone passionate about inclusive design and user experience.

The resources shared can help anyone in your organisation:

  • Understand the importance of inclusivity in user testing and research
  • Explore cutting-edge accessibility technology
  • Witness the impact of inclusive design firsthand

Check our Frequently Asked Questions about Webinars for more details about how our webinars work. 

Meet the Panellists

Christopher Patnoe, Head of Accessibility and Disability Inclusion at GoogleChristopher Patnoe, smiling at the camera

Christopher Patnoe is the Head of Accessibility and Disability Inclusion for EMEA at Google. He leads Google's efforts concerning the accessibility of products, focusing on people – both Google creators and end users. He has more than 25 years experience in technology and design, inclduing time at Apple and Disney. The London Accessibility Discovery Centre opened in November 2022 and has been a huge success, attracting external attention from all over Europe as well as building strong links with internal teams. 

Profile image of Ashley Peacock smilingAshley Peacock, Senior Accessibility Consultant at AbilityNet 

Ashley works primarily on AbilityNet’s inclusive user-research practices. Her expertise lies at the intersection of cognitive science, AI and technology.

Ashley previously led a company for four years, specialising in tailored assistive solutions for governments, businesses, and charities. This included creating 3D autism simulations, collaborating with the NHS on a mental health triaging tool during the COVID pandemic and engineering custom software to help people with neurodegenerative conditions to read again, working in partnership with UCL.

As a neurodivergent professional she continues to make an impact in this field through public speaking, writing and research.


This webinar lasted 60 minutes and included an opportunity to pose questions to the panel. Please read some questions below that our user research consultant experts Ashley Peacock and Lucy Woodcock answered. We have also included some key questions that were covered in the live webinar. 

Q: How can I visit Google's Accessibility Discovery Centre in London?

Answer: Schedule a tour of the ADC by emailing: ​

Q: What’s at stake for companies that do not prioritise inclusive research in their product development?  

Christopher Patnoe: You’re not going to make the right stuff. You don't know what you don't know, as you said. If you only design products for people looking like me. They are tall, white, old-ish. You will only have products that only meet my needs. So if you ask someone who doesn’t look like you, doesn’t think like you, or acts like you, you’re going to hear new needs. It’s becoming a business imperative. If you have 15 companies doing the same thing, the one that is more inclusive and looking better has the most value. It survives. You have the opportunity to take a step ahead. You’re looking at the broader view and it's not just MVP. As a place to start with. You want to take a broader view. A friend of ours said – that if you design around the edges, you get the centre for free. I would love that. It's true. Because I might be able to use something that somebody with a limb difference can. One hand. I might not have a disability but I might only be able to use one hand. One hand on the rail, the other trying to send an email. I’m in a situation where using one hand might be useful. If you have a product that doesn’t work with one hand, I can't use it.

Q: How do you deal with this query 'Just give me the top 5 things I need to do for accessibility' or 'Give me a list' when deep down you know it's more complex than that but you want to start somewhere?

Ashley Peacock: There isn't really a single answer, and it's where research is so valuable. A couple of days of research to inform strategy could then save thousands! Each business and the challenges are unique, and the customers are unique. Of course, the best thing is to chat with one of AbilityNet's consultants.

Imagine you run a popular coffee shop chain and decide to make your business more inclusive and accessible. You're eager to jump in, so you ask for a quick list of the top 5 things you should do. Without doing any in-depth research, you decide to focus on improving your mobile app. You make the fonts bigger, add voice commands, and even implement a feature that allows users to customise their coffee orders down to the last detail.
You proudly launch the updated app, expecting rave reviews. However, to your surprise, feedback starts pouring in, and it's not what you expected. One customer, a wheelchair user, points out that while the app is now incredibly user-friendly, they can't even access your coffee shop because there are no ramps or accessible entrances.
Without understanding the unique needs of your diverse customers, you might end up spending time and money on the wrong solutions. Just like Uber could invest heavily in making their app super accessible for wheelchair users, it wouldn’t make a difference if the vehicles themselves weren’t wheelchair accessible.

Lucy Woodcock: So we’re looking for a starting point from an inclusive research perspective.  I would suggest looking at the most common customer journey through your app or website and focusing on some user research goals such as ‘Can the user complete the journey?’.  This will give an insight into any pain points or barriers that the user experiences when trying to complete a key task.
Another option would be to look into getting a headline review to gauge the level of your site/app's accessibility.  Implementing feedback from AbilityNet would ensure that any following usability testing would focus on accessibility and usability barriers that would not be picked up from Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) auditing, thus gaining maximum benefit from user testing.

Q. How do you recruit appropriate users for co-design and testing digital products?

Ashley Peacock: Our AbilityNet user research and testing brochure offers more information about our participants and recruitment but I would say you have to consider how different needs impact research; if a focus group has someone who is mute and a person who is blind, there needs to be a medium for communication. Likewise; if you have a focus-group half with people with ADHD, it may well turn into an idea-generating session and others could struggle to share their own view - so it will impact the co-design if not properly managed. 

Q: Companies usually start with a minimal viable product that is produced as fast as possible and so ignores accessibility which needs to be bolted on later ... how can this approach be changed ... especially as most company 'hires' have no interest/knowledge/ experience of accessibility?

Lucy Woodcock: Including accessibility from the onset saves time and therefore money. Involving user research right from the start ensures that accessibility and usability are an integral part of the design – you’re much more likely to get it ‘right’ if you do User Research (UR) from the beginning.  Key stakeholders need to have buy-in for accessibility/UR and make it part of the design culture.
The approach could be changed by making accessibility one of the key areas of design.  Training and onboarding policy could play a big part in embedding it into company culture.  Also, watching the impact of inaccessible products on real users can be a real eye-opener for designers/developers.

Q: Could you tell us more about the design process of a digital product with disability in mind? Do you start with trying to assist with a particular disability and then create something and then test it with people who have that disability?

Lucy Woodcock: It depends on the product and what the aim of the design is. An accessible and inclusive design will work for all users, regardless of disability.

Q: Could you recommend any software, plugins, or techniques that UX designers can add to their workflow to ensure that their prototypes are as accessible as possible before they test them with users of assistive technology? I have trouble predicting how different assistive tech will 'read' prototypes because the code that design software uses is not always what the final HTML of a webpage might end up being.

Lucy Woodcock: The AbilityNet website will provide information on accessibility tools, but I believe that these are intended to be used on live web pages. These include axeDevTools, WAVE, A11y Color Contrast Checker.  It is also possible to use screen readers such as VoiceOver, TalkBack, NVDA, or JAWS on some platforms.
I’d recommend AbilityNet training to get more info on this.

Learn more about user testing    

If you're interested in putting disabled individuals at the heart of your project through User Research, explore AbilityNet’s User Research service. 

Enquire about our user testing service

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Date of webinar: 
5 Jun 2024 - 13:00