In this episode, Sam Sayer is joined by Catherine Grinyer, to discuss the challenges of inclusive communications and digital accessibility, as well as the progression of an accessible web and the rise of Swagable.


0:04- What is Attendable?

4:32- Web accessibility and its importance for SEO and inclusivity.

10:11- The US is leading in compliance.

15:20- Digital swag bags for events, including post-event marketing


Sam Sayer 0:04

Catherine how are you doing?

Catherine Grinyer 0:06

Hi, Sam. I’m good. Thanks. Yeah. How are you?

Sam Sayer 0:08

Good. Thanks. All right, yeah, the weather’s getting there slowly.

Catherine Grinyer 0:13

Spring and summer are around the corner.

Sam Sayer 0:15

It is indeed, indeed. So this is part of our debrief series, where we’re asking the experts in their fields, generally people we’re working with or collaborating with. And in particular, we’ve been working on a project with you for a couple years now. It’s nearly three now. It’s all very exciting, but it’s actually brought up some quite interesting things. And it’s really changed how we work. But first, can you introduce yourself and tell people who you are?

Catherine Grinyer 0:44

Absolutely. I’m Catherin Grinyer, and I’m the founder of attendable, we are all inclusive events agency. And we’ve also recently launched swagable, which is the product that Sam was talking about, but I’m sure we’ll come on to talk about that a bit more.

Sam Sayer 0:59

We will Indeed, indeed. So, I suppose my first question is, why, why attendable?

Catherine Grinyer 1:07

So attendable came about during the pandemic. But it was really the combination of lots of work that I’ve been doing in the last sort of couple of decades, really, around inclusive communications, inclusive marketing, PR and events. And so we’ve been running a number of events prior to the pandemic. And then, during the pandemic, everything obviously went virtual. And some of my clients were coming to me and saying, We don’t know, we realise that, you know, certain audiences are getting left behind. So it’s all well and good to switch to virtual. But how do we make sure that deaf people can follow the content in an online conference? How to blind people access certain platforms? And we have a lot of expertise in accessible platforms, accessible communications and inclusion in events. And so we had the idea for Attendable.

Sam Sayer 2:12

Right. So your work before that was I think we first met working on Ridi together?

Catherine Grinyer 2:17

Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. So that’s the recruitment industry disability initiative. And that’s one of the campaigns that I’ve been connected to for a while, probably since its inception. So it’s well over 10 years. So under different guises. We’ve supported the communications and events for the recruitment industry disability initiative, and that’s looking at UK recruiters recognising that they need to bring/do things differently in order to bring disabled people into their organisations. And recruiters are really the gateway to, you know, to employment, obviously. And yeah, so, you know, I know you’ve done the website for for Ridi, and the Ridi Awards was a programme that we worked on together.

Sam Sayer 3:05

We did, yes, we did. So I think it’s the first thing is, how crazy it is that we are in 2024. And I still feel like there’s work to be done in inclusivity.

Catherine Grinyer 3:16

Oh, massively. I mean, I think you know, as somebody who lives and breathes it every day, sometimes I get really sort of disheartened about, you know, how little the dial has shifted. And then other days, I’m a bit more buoyant and optimistic and, and see that there are actually many more organisations thinking about how to be more accessible and inclusive. And if you, if you pop something like inclusive comms into or accessible websites into a search engine, you’ll get far more results than then you would have done, you know, five years ago, or 10, let alone 10,15 years ago, when I was sort of pioneering a lot of this work.

Sam Sayer 3:58

And I think one thing that’s, I see a lot of parallels in this in that we have the WCAG, which I always forget what it stands for. It’s the web content accessibility guideline, which was actually founded in 1994. You know, it’s at the inception of the internet. And they, I’ve been reading up on this quite a bit in that they, they’re leading the charge, in a big way, in a good way as well. And they have different grading. So there’s A double A and triple A, yeah. And it’s, you know, a lot of it is quite basic stuff. I think you’d be hard pushed to have a website that wouldn’t scrape an A rating, you know, have to be pretty honest. Although they do exist, and there are there are a lot of them, you know, I think a lot of them is really sort of aesthetics over functionality. Yeah. I mean, one of our mantras here is form and function, you know, it’s gonna look great, but it’s gonna work. Yeah. Fundamentals. And not at the costs, and I think, you know, as a creative agency, there’s, you know, we look at a lot of great range of websites, they’re kind of fantastic, but like they’re hard to use, and slow to load. I think that’s changed a lot. Certainly, we’re back in that flash days of crazy flash websites. They were, one of the first thing I saw was, like, a big no from accessibility.

Catherine Grinyer 5:22

Yeah no, for sure, I mean, you know, I always say to clients that accessibility and inclusion is part of the creative challenge. It’s, you know, how you can get form and function as you say, you know, it needs to be fit for purpose, it needs to be engaging from a content perspective, and from, you know, community building or, you know, your audience reach or, what have you. And it also needs, you know, needs to look good. So, and it is possible, you know, many websites can be all of these things, and all of them should be.

Sam Sayer 5:53

Definitely. And I think it was it was interesting when we were working on designs, first swagable, attentable, it was interesting to see how far we push things and you push it as far as you like, you really can, as long as you’re following some standards. It shouldn’t restrict any sort of creative application.

Catherine Grinyer 6:09

And that’s where the standards are really helpful. I mean, you know, and again, I always say I kind of thing that gets written down and sort of set in stone as a standard, or there’s always a sort of slight danger that it will become outmoded. And there’s obviously been a few recent updates to the WCAG guidelines. And I think actually, the pace of the updates is in increasing as sort of web technologies changing sort of, to keep up with it. But it gives you a good like baseline.

And what I love about it is there’s so much free information out there for people to inform themselves on. So you know, all you know, it’s all there, if you know where to look for it. And part of the biggest challenge and certainly in the early years for WCAG ag and the World Wide Web Consortium was people didn’t know about it. Yeah, but, you know, agencies like yours, and mine, you know, spreading the word and sort of letting people know, it’s there is a really, really good thing.

Sam Sayer 7:03

Absolutely. I think, you know, fundamentally, it’s changed how we approach any website we do. You know, the good news is, we sort of did some retrospectives. And you know, what, most of them were, were an A or a at least. But it’s actually made us think more about well, okay, let’s not hide things away in menus, let’s make sure, you know, let’s not have loads of popups. Everywhere, you know, you look at some of the news sites, it’s just a mess of information.

Catherine Grinyer 7:28

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, warms my heart, Sam that, you know, it’s, it’s changed the way that DeType, you know, builds and delivers clients, web projects, and I, you know, I was thinking every day in every way, the world’s getting a little bit more accessible, and inclusive, which is gonna be, it’s gonna be a good thing. But yeah, I think you can, you know, you just have to put, use a bit of empathy and think about, you know, so if you don’t have a sort of diverse team, and you can’t maybe, you know, have sort of extensive focus groups or user testing, they’re related tools and things that you can use to simulate some of the, you know, scenarios that different disabilities or different user groups will will encounter. And, you know, again, they’re all They’re all there for the, for the taking?

Sam Sayer 8:21

Absolutely, there are some good tools that you can put, like a kind of wrap around your site, like reclaim something we’ve looked at in the past, that can kind of convert a site to a degree to usable but but actually, if you’re building it the right way, in the first place, you shouldn’t need these things. That’s, if you want it. The screen readers. Yeah, browsers have caught up now. So you know, things are moving rapidly, I think that’s, that’s the parallel I’ve seen is the web moves at a phenomenal rate, and we look at all these things, and actually WCAG compliant website will perform well, because you’ve put out a lot, a lot of the chats that you don’t really need in the site, as well.

Catherine Grinyer 9:01

Well that’s the thing that’s like, the hidden secret of accessibility, I always think is that it helps boost SEO. Because if you’re, if your site’s built properly and to be accessible, then you’ve labelled your pages and you’ve indexed the back end of the site in such a way that you know, Google which is essentially blind to computer cannot see your, your beautiful designs, they just go on the content. And so you know, that’s a that’s another great reason to consider web accessibility is that it will be sure your Google rankings.

Sam Sayer 9:38

Do you know what, that is a fascinating statement as well. I kind of never really considered that Google is blind. It’s just going off the information presented.

Catherine Grinyer 9:46

Yeah. It cannot see the beautiful designs that will sweat over you know, it’s not relevant. So if you if you can go back to that level, and then think about how discoverable and accessible the content is, and that comes from the form of the you know, the site, then, you know, you’re going to have better chances in the search rankings.

Sam Sayer 10:11

Absolutely. So, this time, around four years ago, we had the advent of the GDPR, which turned every business upside down a little bit, particularly in web because we are sort of retrofitting to old sites in terms of privacy policies, Cookie policies, things like that. And it actually prompted a good wave of compliance, which I thought was good, you know, actually, let’s do things properly. Interestingly, it’s not stopped sending my spam emails. No, that was one of the caveats, I suppose. But that took, you know, that took on a global identity. It was championed by the EU, fundamentally.

Now, since the UK left the EU, they’ve got their own version, I forget the name, but it’s basically GDPR. But with the UK badge, and interestingly, the states jumped on it as well, which made perfect sense. And even more interestingly, now, lots of different states are creating their own versions of it. So California is one the early ones, if not the first. Just recently, I think just this week, Kentucky announced it had released its guidelines for it. So in that we looked at cookie tools, because it was getting so hard with Google Analytics, YouTube, anything you put on your website is tracking you in some way in a cookie.

So we looked at various tools, we now use Termageddon, which is a proactive tool, a new identifies different states. And it’s brilliant. Now, what I think is really interesting is considering all of this, the states are actually ahead of the UK and the rest of world I think in disability compliance. They had the ADA, which is the Americans with Disabilities Act, which actually started in 1990. As a kind of general act. I think it’s the the equality?

Catherine Grinyer 12:12

The Equality Act 2005. But we did have a Disability Discrimination Act that was before that I can’t remember when. I think sometime in the 90’s.

Sam Sayer 12:19

Yeah. And interestingly, they don’t, the ADA don’t explicitly mentioned the internet. At all. They referenced WCAG, but not actually the internet. So it’s interesting, but the states have a phenomenal rate of cases of people getting sued, because their websites are not compliant with ADA, which is fascinating. I think, especially as you know, the UK and EU are sort of head on with GDPR kind of things. Why do you think the states are ahead? In compliance for disability?

Catherine Grinyer 12:55

I think there’s a really good question, I think, really, you know, the US is a well known for being a more litigious society, certainly than the UK or the kind of, you know, our cousins in, in Europe, and other parts of the world. So I think that legal action has driven the kind of fear of compliance and there were some landmark cases with big payouts that, you know, rightly spooked a lot of brands into into recognising that they had to do this and take it seriously.

In the UK, the Equality Act, you know, well, there’s public sector duty. So public sector organisations have, have to comply in a way that private sector do not, but the Equality Act does cover that and all kind of communications. But the enforcement here is not anything like what you get in the States. And there’s been very little case law in the UK, on web accessibility. And I think the same is for the European Union. However, things are, you know, looking like the balance might tip the other way, because the EU is just about to have the European Accessibility Act that’s coming into force in next year. And so anybody doing business within the EU will need to ensure that their digital platforms and any kind of technology is is accessible.

And I think that will be a big driver for businesses and organisations here in the UK. And, you know, it does mirror some of the legislation we have here anyway, or some of the some of the provisions but I think it will just give a sort of extra force to the business case around it. I mean, you know, obviously, I think we should be doing it anyway and it’s the right thing to do. But the kind of legal and business drivers you know, needs to be there as well.

Sam Sayer 15:02

I think it’s just as a shame these thing had to become a law for them to really come to fruition. Yeah, I think that’s the same with, with with any sector of anything really, you know, but I think particularly with disability, I think it’s, you know, as i’m sure you’d agree, often feels a bit left behind.

Catherine Grinyer 15:19

Yeah, yeah. Oh, no, totally. Absolutely. I mean, you know, if I look across the kind of inclusion landscape, you know, we still don’t have equal pay for women. And that’s been something that’s been campaigned for since the 1960s. So, you know, there is a there is a sort of degree of hence my earlier comment about, you know, sometimes I get a bit disheartened and depressed about the sort of slow pace of change. But then there are other things that you know, where we’re leapfrogging forward. And, and I think generational change,

I think there’s, you know, there’s school leavers and people that are new into the market force, job market, that have grown up with a different attitude towards inclusion, and that no, and maybe they’ve had support in place in education. And then they arriving in the workplace and thinking, Well, why can’t I do? You know, why can’t I do the things that I was able to do at school or at university or college, you know, they had the sort of tech in place for me, you know, to support with dyslexia or, you know, screen reader or note taking software or whatever it might have been, and then you get to the workplace and employers aren’t sort of clued in on that. And so that generation that are coming through are driving, you know, you’ve got sort of grassroots change in sort of attitudinal change that, you know, why should we treat people differently? Just because they have a disability or, you know, the different gender identity or sexual orientation or whatever. I think that will be a huge change. But that’s, you know, that’s going to come alongside also, standards and legislation as well. You need you need both.

Sam Sayer 17:02

Yeah. So this kind of moves us neatly on to I think, swagable.

Catherine Grinyer 17:08

Oh, always time to talk about Swagable Sam!

Sam Sayer 17:10

Absolutely. So I think, again, this just blew my mind that these tools didn’t exist. So go for it. Tell us about swagable.

Catherine Grinyer 17:19

So it is a digital swag bag, a platform for events, essentially. So we all know, you know, we’ve all been to an event or a party where you’ve been given a goodie bag or a swag bag, and, or the the events, hosts or sponsors, partners, put giveaways in the in the bag for you to take home. Well, again, during the pandemic, we were running a conference for one of our clients, it was all around digital inclusion, TechShare TechShare Pro, and they wanted to have a swag bag, but it obviously needed to be digital, because we were all locked away in our homes. And so we looked on the market to see if we could find something that could do the job that and of course was accessible, because the whole conference was about bringing together tech accessibility experts and professionals from across Europe. So any products that we sort of, you know, served up to them had to be accessible, and it didn’t exist.

And so I had another one of my moments of frustration, I said to the said to the team, well, how can it be we’ll just we’ll just build our own and sort of I can remember specking out the idea and and sending it over to you and saying, Well, we’ve had this idea, you know, how hard is it going to be to build it and we spent some time didn’t we talking about, you know, what it needs to do and the different sort of functions and essentially it’s how I describe it to people that don’t know what sort of virtual swag is you’re building almost like a kind of microsite companion site to go with a with an event that allows you to put in different items in the bag, which could be downloadable documents, it could be links to you know, playlist content, video, you know, videos, music, it could be physical fulfilment, you could have, you know, send me a wellness pack or a hoodie or that kind of stuff.

So you can still have the physical or it could be discount codes, coupons, competitions, prize drawers, all that kind of stuff. And then also, we’ve got a couple of swag types around, you know, contact request forms and meeting requests. So, you know, quite often I don’t know about you, Sam, I go along to an event and I see someone or talk to them and think, Oh, I didn’t get their business card, but I really want to arrange a meeting and I’ve got no real way of If I don’t remember who they were, or exact name, and so you can’t look them up on LinkedIn. And swagable, basically will allow you to see, oh, I can see you know, DeType or a sponsor at that event, or there’s a there’s a contact, or book a meeting or meeting request form. And I can put in my request, and it goes straight to the, to the brand. And yeah, hopefully you get, you know, they’re there to do business. So you’ll get a response. So it builds kind of post event marketing.

Sam Sayer 20:31


Catherine Grinyer 20:32

And, and sort of brand engagement, you know. You can use it during the event or in the run up? Or just, you know, afterwards as a sort of, thank you.

Sam Sayer 20:44

I mean, ultimately, it’s a comms platform as well, I think this is one of the just the mind blowing things we looked at is obviously we need to track interactions. So the event owners and sponsors will see, and interacted with the bag, who’s viewed it who’s actually interacted with it. And we struggled to find, you know, I thought, oh, there must be there must be some compliance CRMs out there? Well, no, there’s not.

Catherine Grinyer 21:08

Yeah. Well we had to build out own.

Sam Sayer 21:10

Well, certainly not any of the proprietary ones, you know, enough to they got their own vision mission they’re doing with their product. So we actually then partnered with web alliance to look at CRM side of things, because they could create a bespoke CRM that was compliant, and was built entirely for purpose for this project, which I think was brilliant. So it really is a truly unique product.

Catherine Grinyer 21:32

It is yeah, well, no, and we’re super excited. We, you know, we only launched in February, this year. So yeah, going back into the pandemic, we did, we sort of had a proof of concept didn’t we and then we did some further step further development on it. And, yeah, we finally got it to market in, in February, and, yeah, so and I think it’s, you know, beyond events it’s actually, you know, really good engagement tool, we’ve had some inquiries from people running, like training programmes, you know, they want to have it as a repository. You know, you could have speaker slides or, you know, course guidelines or, whatever on it. I mean, there’s loads of different applications for it, and we’ve got loads of great ideas in the in the pipeline for future development.

Sam Sayer 22:21

Absolutely. I’ve had some ideas on this call.

Catherine Grinyer 22:26

I always get ideas.

Sam Sayer 22:29

I think one thing I love most about it is what swag stands for?

Catherine Grinyer 22:32

Something we all get. Exactly. And, and it’s got inclusion at the heart of it. And, you know, we’re confident that we can offer it to any of our clients on events and know that, you know, none of their attendees are going to be excluded from the digital experience, because the site has been built with all users in mind. And that’s, you know, that’s at the heart of attendable and what we do, and, and obviously, you know, with detypes, help and expertise, we’ve we’ve baked that into the into the swagable platform.

Sam Sayer 23:06

Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, it’s just been a great project to work with, with you on it. And just just nice to know, it’s something that’s going to be infinitely reusable as well. So, yeah,

Catherine Grinyer 23:16

Yeah, it is, you know, it’s always great working with you and the team. And, I think, you know, any anyone that’s kind of embarking on a new digital project or product, you know, there’s a lot of sort of things you’ve got to think about, and you’ve always been brilliant at giving me great advice as to where to go. And, you know, and how we can solve, you know, overcome whatever barriers there are. And I’ve definitely really appreciated that.

Sam Sayer 23:43

Well, I think phasing is the key. And Absolutely. Right, that’ll be that’ll be the next release.

Catherine Grinyer 23:51

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I think he’s, he said that to us fairly on Phase One was the kind of proof of concepts and then phase two was, was kind of, you know, getting it ready to launch and, and I think we’re probably now in phase three, so, and they can already see a couple of phases beyond that, as you know, so yeah, hopefully, you know, all good things in store, but, and we have a lovely marketing site that you helped us with as well. That’s swagablebag.com, if anybody wants to check it out. And, yeah, so, you know, hopefully, people will sort of just discover it and start using it in their events.

And I think, actually, one thing that I haven’t we haven’t sort of touched on stuffs talked a lot about accessibility is the sustainability angle. Because we see a lot of waste in in the event space where things are printed and produce just for one off for events and with a digital swag bag solution. You’re sort of minimising the sort of one off print and it’s a actually much better for carbon footprint. And we’re looking at potentially partnering with a sort of carbon offsetting agency as swagable so that we can start to quantify what that what that actually means. Because I think that’s, you know, it’s really important as well.

Sam Sayer 25:18

Excellent. Well thanks for your time Catherine. Really good chatting, and yeah, I just think what a fantastic things Swagable is and really, really pleased to be part of it part of the journey.

Catherine Grinyer 25:28

Thanks, Sam. Thanks for the chat.

Sam Sayer 25:30

Any last things you wanted to to mention before we wrap it?

Catherine Grinyer 25:33

Well I mean, we didn’t really plug attendable very much, but should anybody want to engage in an accessible and inclusive events agency? We’re at attenable.co.uk. And I’d love to Yeah, I’m on LinkedIn. Anybody feel free to get in touch.

Sam Sayer 25:50

Brilliant, Thank you, Catherine.

Catherine Grinyer 25:52


Sam Sayer 25:54

Catch you soon.