Equity in Accessibility with Frank Martinez


Posted by Tiana Tinson

The 11th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day was celebrated and recognized on May 19! In honor of the importance of bringing awareness around accessibility, Carina would like to take the time to express our own team’s thoughts on accessibility and how it impacts our own platform. At Carina, we believe that accessibility is the practice of making information, activities and our environments usable for as many people as possible. We are dedicated to improving our site (and we know there is a lot of work to do!) so that people with disabilities, people who use various types and ages of technologies, and people with limited English can succeed in connecting for care. While we are a small nonprofit organization with limited resources, we are dedicated to doing the most we can, with what we have, to make Carina accessible and equitable.

So, we’ve welcomed Frank Martinez, product owner of Carina and the head of all of our technology efforts, to speak about the importance of equity and accessibility on Carina.

Q: What does accessibility mean to you as the product owner of Carina?

A: There's at least three dimensions. One is that people get access to it via an open internet. This is why we made the decision really early on in 2016 not to build a native app. So that people could go to the World Wide Web, and go to carinacare.com, and now carina.org and get to it. It's open to the web. It's never going to be behind a firewall when you think about the landing page, the homepage, etc. We want to be true to the spirit of the open web.

Beyond that, it's trying to be sensitive to the way we speak about the stakeholders that are a part of the Carina experience. It's not just care seekers, it's not just care providers, we realize there's a community around both of those parties. So, we try to speak in a language that makes sense to them. Often accessibility is about…”Are you high contrast, low contrast?” “Can it be read in a screen reader?” Those are super important things, and I absolutely believe in those things. But I also think the words that you put on a webpage absolutely matter too when you think about accessibility.

Q: How has Carina approached making the platform an equitable and accessible environment for its users? 

A: I want to be transparent and say work is yet to be done, that we have a long way to go. I would not ever stand up in front of a large audience and say “Hey, we're done with accessibility. We're done with equity.” We're not. It's a work in progress, and I think it's always going to be a work in progress. I think we're always going to have room to improve because it starts with trying to listen to what we hear from the stakeholders I talked about, not just the care seekers, not just the care providers, but the communities around them. What are they saying when they go to carina.org to find care or find a care job? That's really going to guide us. 

Some things, though, that we have made progress on is when you look at our brand experience and our style guide. Just to get technical for a minute, the experience is a lot better from an equity perspective than when we started in 2016. The colors, the fonts, the way we express the brand I think are…I don't want to say neutral, but I think they apply to a lot of different communities. When people that are not from the United States see an experience like Carina, do they feel comfortable? People that are from my part of the world, Latin America, when they come to Carina do they feel comfortable? When you think about the BIPOC community, do they feel comfortable going to Carina.org? I think we've gotten better adding an experience that feels comfortable to them, but we have a long, long way to go.

Q: Are there any projects Carina is working on now, or has plans for in the future, to greater serve accessibility needs on the platform? 

A: Yes, yes, several. But the one that I want to highlight is language. We know that our communities that I've talked about speak many languages that are not English. That many of our caregivers, the providers, not just the care seekers are not English as a first language speakers. So, we have a lot of room to grow. When we think about localization, about providing the Carina experience in non-English languages, I'm excited to see that for a few reasons. 

One is I am curious to see how it transforms our experience, meaning, can we stay true to the design aspects that I talked about? Because it's going to be available in non-English sets. It’s going to be available in, you know, my second language, Spanish. It's going to be available in Russian, German, and Korean etc. But does the experience stay the same? 

The second thing is, I think it's going to help even more people successfully connect for care. I believe that the match rates that we see will continue to grow, and are really going to get unlocked once people can use their native languages to be able to seek care and provide care via Carina. 

Q: Why should users choose Carina? 

A: There are a few things when we think about how we want to change how people find care and care work. That's where I would start when answering: Why should people use Carina? 

I tell my friends, “You know why use Carina? Well, we care about the community around care. We certainly care about the providers that they have, not only good jobs, but they work with healthy consumer, client, care seeker communities themselves. And then for those care seekers, we care that they're working with highly qualified care providers and that they can find them on Carina. And it's a free service.” 

We don't oversell that value proposition, I try not to oversell it, but I think it's a powerful value proposition. It goes back to what we were talking about, the spirit of the open web, we're not going to charge you. We're not going to put ourselves behind some paywall just to get inside of Carina to use the service, find care or find a care job. So, all of those reasons, I think, are great reasons to start.



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