This episode is a recording of an April 2022 WordPress Accessibility Meetup where Nicolas Steenhout, blogger, podcaster, and public speaker, featured important, but lesser-known aspects of accessibility that are often overlooked. If you would like to watch a video recording from the meetup, you may do so on the Equalize Digital website here: The Internet is Unusable: The Disabled View: Nicolas Steenhout.
WordPress Accessibility Meetups take place via Zoom webinars twice a month, and anyone can attend. Learn more about WordPress Accessibility Meetup and see upcoming events.
Mentioned in This Episode
- Nicolas Steenhout’s Website
- A11y Rules, Nicolas Steenhout’s Podcast
- Nicolas Steenhout on Twitter
- Kristy Major talks about using a screen reader to navigate the web
- Michelle McQuigge tells us why she can’t do her job without alt text
- Amy Carney talks about low vision sticky elements and overlays
- Ian Littman talks about orange and zoom restrictions
- Meryl K Evans talks about being deaf and caption quality
- Mel Chua talks about speech input and captions as a deaf individual
- Tori Clark talks about visible labels and Dragon
- Thane Pullan talks about switch input and captchas
- Dr. Ellen Spertus talks about essential tremors and password fields
- Kevin Mar Molinero talks about dyscalculia and copy-pasting
- Julia Gerraioli talks about chronic pain and brain fog
- Cherry Thompson talks about cognitive impairments and web accessibility
- Holly Schroeder talks about working memory and ADD
- Ben Lesh talks about ADHD and reducing noise
- EJ Mason talks about CP and how cramps impact internet use
- A11y Rules Soundbites
- Fable’s Website
- Access Works
- Joe Dolson’s Website opens a new window
- Joe Dolson’s WP Accessibility Plugin
- Case Study – Podcast Becomes a WCAG 2.1 Implementation Site
- Nicolas Steenhout’s Slides
>> CHRIS HINDS: Welcome to episode 017 of the Accessibility Craft Podcast, where we explore the art of creating accessible websites while trying out interesting craft beverages. This podcast is brought to you by the team at Equalize Digital, a WordPress accessibility company and the proud creators of the Accessibility Checker plugin.
This episode is a recording of an April 2022 WordPress Accessibility Meetup where Nicolas Steenhout, blogger, podcaster, and public speaker, featured important, but lesser-known aspects of accessibility that are often overlooked. WordPress Accessibility Meetups take place via Zoom webinars twice a month, and anyone can attend.
For show notes, a full transcript, and additional information about meetups, go to AccessibilityCraft.com/017. And now, on to the show.
I am very excited to introduce Nic Steenhout today. He is a developer. He puts out the Accessibility Rules or A11y Rules podcast which is how I got to know him.
I’ve been listening to his podcast for a couple of years and I really love how he shares users’ voices. I’m super excited to have him here, to speak with us and share everything that he has learned in his experience both as a developer and speaker and someone who connects with people with disabilities. I’m going to stop sharing my screen and I’m going to let him take over. I will be watching the chat so if anyone has any questions, feel free to put them in, and when we have an appropriate time I can help share those with Nic. Let me make sure that you are pinned, so you stay visible to everyone.
>> NICOLAS STEENHOUT: Hi, everyone. Amber, thanks for the kind intro. As Amber said, I’m Nic Steenhout, I’ve worked in web accessibility in one way or another since the mid-1990s so it’s been a while. I’ve worked in disability rights since about that time and at the moment, I do a lot of independent web accessibility consultation. As Amber said, I run a podcast about accessibility and I started that maybe, oh, it’s now 5 years, 2017. I have 100 episodes of a long-form interview podcast, but I now do shorter interviews, 5 to 10 minutes, with disabled folks.
I think that’s really interesting and what the need is for, for everybody to hear about these voices that we don’t have the chances to hear. That’s a little bit what I’m going to be talking about. Over the years, I’ve had the chance to speak to a bunch of disabled folks especially around web access in the last 15 years. I should say that my speaker photo is not up to date. You will notice I am missing a beard and that’s just because of the pandemic I want to make sure my masks fit all right so I haven’t updated that photo. I probably should. I’m on Twitter a lot, if you want to ask questions later on, feel free to reach the
V-A-V-R-O-O-M is my handle on Twitter. I’ll be happy to speak with you later on. I should say that having been on the web for so long, I can say in the early days, accessibility was mostly just for blind folks with the side dish of the deaf community.
It was a little bit like when you think about accessibility in a built environment, we often perceive that as just for wheelchair users and I blame the international symbol of access. The little wheelchair man, when you think accessibility in a built environment, you see that symbol and you think, “Oh, well, it’s for wheelchair users,” and it’s not. Same thing on the web. Accessibility is not about just screen readers or about people who are deaf.. Although obviously, these communities need access.
They were very vocal in the early days and rightly so and a squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? Because of that, they had a headway in the work that was done in terms of making things more accessible. You may remember WCAG the web content accessibility guidelines. The first version was a lot around access for screen reader users and some varied technology. Of course, things have changed. Things are evolving. WCAG 2.1 and the upcoming 2.2 are starting to incorporate some concepts around cognitive accessibility.
That’s good, but we have so many different people with so many different disabilities that have needs that are not quantified, not codefied, not marked up anywhere. This is where we want to hear the voices of disabled people, because quite frankly, as the title of the presentation says, the internet isn’t unusable my original title was the internet sucks because it really can. Anyway, why did I choose this topic? Why am I so passionate about this?
I’ve conducted a lot of usability testing over the years, and when I say usability testing, it’s really specifically, how does this website, how does this web application work for a disabled user? I’ve been doing web accessibility for a quarter of a century. I’m that old, 25 years and every single time I do a new usability test with a disabled user, I learn something new. Then, of course, every time I speak with disabled guests for my podcast, I’m also discovering, “Oh, well, I never thought about that. I should have it’s obvious, but I haven’t.”
Really the ability to share these experiences, sharing these insights for me is really, really interesting. It’s basically storytime. I’m going to share some of these stories with you. I’m going to explore different aspects of accessibility that you may not be familiar with and that’s okay. You know, we don’t have to know everything.
I don’t know everything, but I love learning new things and you showed up today so you love learning new things as well and because it’s so important to include disabled people, I’m going to do it using their own voices for that. Now I mentioned my podcast, the last guest I interviewed, and that’s not been published yet, but is a deaf podcast guest. Turns out it was the first time that she’d been invited to guest on a show. Nobody else before had thought about first inviting this person, because, hey, she’s deaf, surely she can’t be on a podcast.
Nobody thought about, “Well, we can provide accommodations. How do we make these accommodations?” Yet she was amazing. She had great insights to share, but she’s never had the chance to share her experience before. This to me is so important. Whether you do a podcast or you build a website, we have to start thinking, “How can we make things accessible? What can we extend beyond our direct experience around? How do we make this work for this person or that person? How can we make it happen?”
We shouldn’t wait for people to reach out to us and say, “Hey, this doesn’t work, and make it work.” We should be able to reach out and think and increase awareness. That to me was really marking recently, but it’s this kind of experience when you start doing it. When you start reaching out and talking to disabled people suddenly your worldview expands and it’s wonderful. One of the interviews I had during a usability study was talking to a person who had a traumatic brain injury.
We were not actually able to do the usability test because the corporate colors of the website were red. One of the things after her TBI, her traumatic brain injury, was that she had to relearn everything from walking to riding, to eating, everything, including she had been told that red means stop. That really got ingrained in her, red means stop and she grabbed onto that. She was not able to do anything when there was too much red on a website or on a book cover or anything like that.
It’s not obvious, you wouldn’t think about it immediately. Obviously, the company couldn’t change their corporate colors, but it’s an adult-like this that should be influencing our work. We have to pay attention to these kinds of things and where we can, we should nudge our work, change our designs, and adjust what we do to think about things like that.
Another of the fields kind of, I wouldn’t have thought about that. I did work with the Holocaust Museum several years ago, and one of the people said to me, “You know, Nick, this thing where you have to say that you’re not a machine, you have to prove, you have to go through this captcha, and t question is, are you human?” He said, “Nick, when I was being tortured, one of the things they were telling me is repeatedly asking me, are you human? Are you human? Are you human?
Now I have PTSD and I come on the web and I see this question, and I can’t do anything. I have to move on. I cannot answer this question because it triggers so much trauma in me.” Well it’s easy to change a sentence from, are you human to show you’re not a robot. It’s just different wording, but it’s the kind of small thing that really matters. You’ve probably heard if you’ve been around disabled people a little bit, the expression, nothing about us without us. This presentation is more than a little bit about that.
It’s thinking around the fact that non-disabled accessibility experts, we can tell you about how important accessibility is. We can say that until we’re blue in the face, but there’s so much power in hearing the words of disabled people. Hearing how they experience the web, what they feel in their, sorry, in their own words. As disabled web users can and will tell you very happily and sometimes with a bit of frustration, the web is not usable. The thing is you can fix that. We can all fix that.
We find ourselves in a unique place. We’re the designers, the developers, we’re the stakeholder that has control over the work we’re doing. We can make that happen. We can learn from disabled people and we can make the web a better place. We can make the web more usable for everyone. I know there’s some control in the disability community. There’s more and more people that are saying, “Well, we should not sell accessibility on the basis that it’s good for everyone because accessibility is about disabled people.”
Yes, absolutely. The prime motivator for accessibility work absolutely should be disability access, but I’m an old heart at accessibility advocacy. Frankly, for me, if I can sell a curb cut, that’s good for wheelchair users because it makes sense for people to put it in when they think about parents with [inaudible] and skateboards and dollies. I’m sorry. I’m going to use every tool in my arsenal to be able to make accessibility work. I still talk about how important it is for people with disabilities, absolutely, but I’m going to use anything I want to, to sell that. I will be sharing examples of accessibility that are rarely considered because sometimes all that’s needed is a little bit of awareness. One of my podcast listeners said to me a couple months ago, “You know what, Nick? I can’t unhear and ignore all these things anymore. It’s so powerful. I want more.”
I’m going to give you a little bit, and maybe you’ll want more. Between my podcasts and the usability testing, I could share dozens of insight. Amber, you said earlier that I’m going to share all I know, I don’t know that 45 minutes or an hour is quite enough to share all that, but hopefully, we’ll get going with some good stuff. I will share insights from four disability groups.
I’ll focus on vision, on the hearing, on mobility, and finally on cognitive impairments. This is a way of breaking things down. You may or may not agree with these four main categories, but it’s fairly standard things into these kind of grouping. I’m going to start with a few anecdotes from folks with vision disabilities.
I know that I started by saying we only hear about screen reader user and deaf people, but I still think we need to talk about that because sometimes there’s aspect of screen reading using that we don’t really think about. For instance, Kirsty Major told me about going shopping for makeup, but that the names were fancy like plum in the evening or sunrise on denial. Let me play you what she said, because it’s actually quite cool.
>> KIRSTY: I could read all the products. I could buy them. There was nothing wrong with the way the page was set up, but the names of things had nothing to do with what color they were, so I had no idea what I was actually buying.
>> NICOLAS: It’s really fancy when you’re doing marketing to start describing things in weird ways, but if you had just a short description. Plum in the evening is a deep dark red, all right. Sunrise on Denial. Well, it’s a very vivid orange. We can start describing these things and suddenly we make the experience both marketable and different from that perspective, but also accessible. Another screen reader, user, Michelle [inaudible] was telling me how she can’t do her job if there’s no all text on images on social media.
Now I’ve been advocating for all text for images for over two decades. It’s been something I’ve said over and over and over again. The idea that someone can’t do their job because alt text is missing on Twitter, it’s so obvious, but I bet many of you, me included hadn’t considered that before. Let’s hear it in how Michelle says it.
>> MICHELLE: The photos possibly even more so, because that’s something I encounter for work all the time. People will post official statements on their Twitter feed and it’s a fricking image and can’t read it, I need to be able to do that. Whether it’s anything from an amusing meme to actual content that I need to do my job.
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>> NICOLAS: Images of texts, we have been seeing so much of these long letters, official statements, and all that in a screenshot, an image of text. We can put alt the text. We can all do that. Now on Twitter we even can for some of us, they’re rolling out this feature that we can see whether there’s alt the text or not, so it’s actually increasing awareness, but if you haven’t been doing it, really, if you’re on Twitter and you’re posting images, especially with images of text, put some description, put the text of the image of text in the alt text.
It’s going to make a big difference for anyone who relies on screen reader. Amy Carney isn’t a screen reader. She’s got low vision. One of the barriers she encounters it’s sticky elements. It’s funny because I had been talking to a client about sticky elements and then Amy came on the show and was basically saying the same thing, so it’s quite funny.
>> AMY: Sticky headers, sticky footers, sometimes even the little help icons on the side that stay in place. It all blocks my view because I have to enlarge my type a little bit, sometimes when I’m zooming in through the browser and it all bumps together really fast.
>> NICOLAS: Especially on small screens, mobile screen, and all that, it becomes very difficult to see things when you have sticky elements. The funny thing is I shared this slide with Amy yesterday and she’s traveling, and she said, “Well, Nick, the controls to navigate the slides are sticky, and I actually can’t resize your slide to read it properly on my mobile because of the control.
That’s one aspect of using the slide system I’m using revealed at JS that isn’t working, that I wasn’t aware of, even though I was aware of the need to avoid sticky elements and the ability, the need to be able to zoom in and out of text. As just the illustrating, we have so much to think about, even when we know about something, we are sometimes dropping balls and I dropped a ball on this. Obviously, there’s not been time for me to fix it between then and today, but I will be working on that because it’s important.
You have to walk the walk than just talk to talk. One of the things that annoys me the most is when companies pay a lip service to accessibility, and I don’t want to do that to my mates with disabilities. I said, zoom restrictions, that’s another thing that’s really important. It’s not unknown or at least it shouldn’t be, but it’s very important because there’s so many people that rely on mobile to access the web.
I think that the last numbers I saw were around 89% of people in the United States use mobile devices to access the web. 89%, that’s nearly 9% out of 10 are we relying on the mobile to access the web. If we’re making, accessing the web on mobile difficult, we really are cutting off a lot of disabled people, of course, but we’re also cutting out a lot of folks that don’t have disabilities but may actually like to be having text a little bit bigger or try to interact with the screen and there’s a sticky widget on the screen, so we have to do better.
Captions moving from vision to hearing impairment, Meryl Evans is deaf. She talks a lot about craptions. That is captions that are crap. We encounter that a lot, pretty much everywhere, especially when they’re automated. Meryl says that good quality captions are important, and she points out that if you notice the caption, they’re not good.
>> MERYL: If you depend on caption every day, you become accustomed to what works and what doesn’t work. If we notice the caption is a sign they not good quantity, just like everything is part of the pollution process. Please make accessibility part of your entire process.
>> NICOLAS: Amber was saying it was going to take a week to put up the recording because they’re doing quality assurance and making sure the captions and transcripts are accurate. This is what Meryl is talking about. This is what we should all do if we have video or audio going out. For my own show, I run things through an automated transcription system, but I don’t rely on that. I make sure I proof and edit the things, and I love this concept that if you notice aspects of accessibility, it’s not been done right. Accessibility should be built in, accessibility should be done in such a way that we don’t notice it. It becomes easy. It becomes fluent. Mel Chua, she’s also deaf and points out that it’s not the job of disabled folks to ask for accommodations or for accessibility. They should be there from the get-go. Otherwise, it’s othering for disabled folks. I apologize, the audio is a little bit sticky on this one, but let’s see what
>> MEL: Even [inaudible] that it’s my job to request that it’s my job to find something and then it’s this wonderful, generous favor that’s been made to allow me to have access to your thing by providing a transcript of it several days later or several weeks later, however long it takes to do that.
>> NICOLAS: It’s not our job as disabled people to go out and say, “Hey, make this accessible.” We have to do it, but it shouldn’t be like that. It becomes especially galling when people provide some kind of accessibility accommodation, a day late [inaudible] short, and then we’re supposed to be thankful. I know, if you don’t have a disability you may not be aware of the dozens of microaggressions we go through in a week. It’s there, and it’s really wearing us down.
When we as designers, developers, stakeholders, when we go ahead and provide these without needing to be asked for it, without needing to be begged for it, and then we don’t expect gratitude, because it should be part and parcel of our job. We are removing some of those microaggressions. We are reducing the frustration of dealing with you with your business. That I think is important. We don’t want to be causing frustration when we’re building things when we’re creating things.
We want to share what we’re creating with everyone. We should think about that. As accessibility expert, we often advise that we need programmatic labels. That’s for screen reader users to know what the field is all about. For folks using speech input software, like Tori Clark, one of my mates, a visible label is important as importance of programmatic one. Let’s see what Tori says.
>> TORI: It’s a lack of visual labels or a mismatch between the visual label and the accessible name of the label. In particular, old versions of Dragon also require that the first word of the actual accessible label be the visual label, otherwise, I have no idea how to interact with or click buttons or form fields, or even certain types of links.
>> NICOLAS: I think this is vital. I guess the good folks creating the standards must also think it’s vital because they have this– Well, I can’t say new success criteria, because it’s been three years in there since 2.1. The name and label success criteria is about that is being able to see what the label is. When you’re using speech input software, you can say click on speech input software rather than try to guess what the programmatic label is and trying to figure out whether or not the assistive technology can parse the programmatic label and it all becomes difficult.
Having a visual label that is the same label that is programmatically associated makes so much sense. Now speech input software like Dragon is relatively well-known. I am careful to say it’s well-known because in my bubble in my field of disability community and in my field of accessibility community, it is well-known but the fact is, most people out there aren’t really knowledgeable about that.
Even though most of us will use Siri on iPhone or the equivalent on Android, we don’t associate that with, “Hey, this is assistive technology and it was actually created for disabled people and now it’s an everyday products.” We have that disconnect between one and the other. Yes, speech input software, it’s not the only way to interact with computer when you don’t have access to a computer mouse or trackpad or all that.
Some folks use eye-tracking technology. If you’re not aware of what eye-tracking technology is, basically you have software that uses your webcam. It follows where your eyes are looking and depending on where you fix your look, how you blink your eyes, you may be able to use your eye blinks as a mouse click, or you might be able to open on-screen keyboard and start typing one letter at a time with the onscreen keyboard using only your eyes.
Let me tell you if you haven’t seen videos of that, it takes time. It’s one of the reasons we say when you’re testing forms, keep in mind that some people will take a long time to fill in even a login form with email and password and that’s it. Let’s see what Thane Pullan has to say around that.
>> THANE: Popup menus are horrible for eye tracking, most eye-tracking users probably can’t use them. You have to keep your mouse in an area from them, not too close.
>> NICOLAS: Now, Thane is nonverbal. He is not able to speak. He’s also not able to control his upper limbs very well. He uses eye-tracking and then when he wants to speak, he actually uses a speech synthesizer which he has to type everything he wants to say using his eye on an on-screen keyboard. A 15 Minutes interview with him, he said it took him a whole week to type his responses. The amount of cognitive load of effort it takes for some folks to be on the web and interact with our system is phenomenal.
If we don’t make it easy for everyone, including people like Thane, we are making it hard. We actually are causing physical harm and frustration. We want to avoid that. Well, I want, I assume you want to do that as well. Most accessibility issues that we often don’t think about have relatively straightforward fixes, by being able to show or hide Password field. Dr. Ellen Spertus talks about the impact of having tremors and the frustration of entering password on their phone.
>> ELLEN: Something that’s frustrating is entering a password, I have to do that a lot. We all have to do that a lot, even if we use password managers. Sometimes when I access the site, I don’t know if I have the right password, when I type in a password on my phone, I might hit the wrong key. If the password field is hidden, then I don’t know if my password was refused because I entered the wrong password or because I accidentally pressed the wrong key.
>> NICOLAS: That’s what leads to frustration and frustration leads to possibly making more errors. If we build in accessible show hide passwords, then suddenly that problem goes away. Especially if we’re enabling the ability to copy-paste passwords from password manager that makes it even more easy. Sometimes you want to make sure you’ve used the right password so you have to be able to see what you’ve put in.
It’s not a complicated technological fix. If we don’t think about it, we don’t put in the fix and we’ve suddenly made life harder for people like Ellen. Kevin Mar-Molinero, he’s dyslexic, and he has dyscalculia as well. Dyslexic, you probably all know about it is a difficulty with processing the written word. Dyscalculia is the same thing with numbers. Dyslexia is a form of cognitive impairment and we tend to think about cognitive impairment a little less.
We know about that a little less unless it’s part of our lived experience. It’s not because we don’t know about it that there is any less important. You may have seen on the web a lot of people are saying that there’s new trends there’s more and more people with ADHD more and more autistic people, more and more of these people that are saying, “I’m not neurotypical. I have problems with this, that, or the other.” I think the importance of understanding about cognitive impairments is super important. I should also say that in the last two years of COVID pandemic, and long COVID and the impact of long COVID, on the ability of focusing, of concentrating, on remembering brain fog, all these things, we have tens of thousand of newly disabled people that haven’t really had a chance to either identify what’s going on with them, or haven’t really had a chance to adapt.
From that perspective, cognitive impairments is becoming one of the most critical population to serve at the moment, in terms of increasing our awareness. Anyway, back to Kevin, he uses highlighting text and copy and pasting all the time. He’s talking about this particular issue around, copy-paste.
>> KEVIN: I rely very heavily on if I’m doing something copying and pasting out. Let’s say I’ve got a postcode and I want to find out what something is, a lot of people will make those clickable links, which are opened in a specific app. The minute I go to copy it or put in an app, or it copies all the metadata behind it, and I can’t just paste that into the thing I want to paste it in.
>> NICOLAS: Suddenly, because we maybe have made something accessible, like using a telephone data type on a phone number, so people can click on it and interact with it, we’ve made life more difficult for folks like Kevin, who tried to highlight and copy-paste things to process things more easily. I don’t know what the solution is for some of these things. I just know it’s something that we have to consider where possible, not make it impossible for copy-pasting.
Julia Ferraioli has a condition that causes brain fog. She’s got also chronic pain. When you couple the two together, it makes things even more difficult. She was telling me about how frustrating some of the experiences on the web are.
>> JULIA: It feeds this vicious cycle, because as you’re getting more frustrated, also frustration can amplify pain. More pain, less fine motor control, more frustration, and rinse repeat.
>> NICOLAS: This is a theme that I hear a lot when I speak to folks with disabilities about web use is, when they encounter a frustrating experience, it triggers this snowball effect where it’s harder and harder and harder to interact. I would like everyone to be able to use our websites, our application, what we build to be used without frustration. Let’s make it easy. I know I repeat that, let’s make it easy. Let’s not cause pain on our visitors. I know I repeat that a lot, is because it’s so important.
Now, we often think we’re doing the right thing. It’s often the right thing for some people. This is an idea called accommodation conflict. It’s a little bit like as a wheelchair user, I love polished concrete. It’s the best surface for me to move around. I also know that ambulatory cane user hate polished concrete especially if it’s slightly wet because it’s slippery and it’s dangerous for them. My accommodation and their accommodation can conflict. Here’s Cherry Thompson, talks about dark mode, and how, if you have too much contrast, it’s bad for them.
>> CHERRY: Things like dark mode, or websites that have much too much contrast, so like a really dark background with a really bright, white fine text is really hard for me to read. From a cognitive standpoint and from a physical standpoint, because my muscles are affected, it leaves ghosting, things like that.
>> NICOLAS: We create dark mode websites and that’s great, but we sometimes create them with so much contrast that people like Cherry are struggling. Maybe we shouldn’t do that. Holly Schroeder, I have the wrong title on that slide. My apologies. Holly Schroeder says that if your site is too busy, if there’s so many things on the site, you risk losing them, and sometimes immediately. Here’s what Holly is talking around that.
>> HOLLY: I will navigate away immediately if something is visually busy, whether it’s got its movement or color or design that’s just cramped. It’s just too stimuli all at once. I get really overwhelmed feeling and then it’s like I can’t process properly. Then that interferes with task completion for whatever it was I was trying to do when I went there in the first place.
>> NICOLAS: Suddenly, we have people going to our sites that want to accomplish something specific, whether it’s banking, or looking up information or learning about the services you offer. There’s so many things, we have ads, we have 15 billion links, and we have a video and maybe the video even starts auto-playing. We throw all that at somebody and they’re not even able to perceive anything on a page and they bounce and you’ve lost them.
Along the same lines, here’s a little bit more about noisy pages, and how it’s problem for folks with ADHD. Ben Lesh points out if we provide user preference, if we added toggles to let user display what they want, his ability to use what pages would be greatly improved.
>> BEN: Another thing that gets me sometimes is just very noisy interfaces or things where there’s just walls of texts, like any productivity tool or productivity website that gives me too much information, actually gives me a little bit of anxiety to look at. For me personally, it’d be great if there was maybe fewer distractions or less noise on particular tools and pages. If I could toggle that sort of stuff, that’d be great.
>> NICOLAS: That’s another theme that is found in so many discussions with disabled people, is this concept of providing user preference. Do I like dark mode? Yes, no. Do I want high contrast on my dark mode? Yes, no. Do I want to see just the text? Yes, no. All these things, if we can start fine-graining that and offering preferences, we should do that. There’s been a discussion on the Vi code interface that they’re now respecting reduced motion. There’s also animated GIFs. For some very accurate and technical reason, the animated GIFs are handled technically different from reduced motion. Even if someone has a reduced motion query on and that’s being respected by the interface, you still see these GIFs flashing all the time.
One of the developers says, “Well they’re two different things.” A disabled person came in and said, “Well, yes, I understand technically, from your perspective, there are two different things. But for myself as a disabled person, they’re the same thing. It’s something that moves on the screen and I would expect it to be turned off when I say I don’t want motion on my page.” If we were able to start fine-graining the kind of preferences for users, then we can make it easier to use. The last sound bite I want to leave you with today is from EJ Mason. His words really touch on why I think this stock is so important. It’s around a disability continuum.
>> EJ MASON: It’s important to remember that people with disabilities come in a variety of packages, they might not expect. They might have experiences that go outside the really common narrative of if someone is totally blind or someone is a wheelchair user and/or someone is totally deaf. Those experiences are all really important. I think that if we forget that there’s a wide profile of people with a wide variety of barriers, we can miss a lot of things that can help people.
>> NICOLAS: That’s it. I hope some of what I’ve discussed, some of what I’ve shared, has given you food for thoughts. I also realize it was quite a bit of information for you to digest. I’ve talked to you quite a bit, but I want to leave you with some homework. Think about the things we’ve spoken about. Think about the elements of this presentation that really struck you, and then consider what are you going to do about it? How are you going to implement that in your work? And how are you going to spread the message? Because I can give this presentation 1, 2, 15 times, but you have the reach, you have the knowledge, you have the connection, you can spread the message and start talking about it.
I’m happy to answer questions now, or if you’re anything like me, we’re going to finish this meeting and in an hour or tomorrow, you’re going to say, “Oh, I should have asked this. I should have spoken about this.” Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter. Of course, if you want to get more of these sound bites, there is the accessibility rules@A-1-1-Y-R-U-L-E-S.com. Thank you.
>> AMBER: Thank you. That was a really great presentation. I feel like I’ve learned so much, even like rehearing and hearing some of your thoughts about some of the things that I maybe heard on the podcast before.
>> NICOLAS: Thank you.
>> AMBER: I have a question for you. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations for how people can try to incorporate users more in their testing processes or ways to maybe convince either clients or your boss, if your boss isn’t sure about investing in that?
>> NICOLAS: This is actually a twofold question. The first question I think is, how do we identify disabled people to become participants and to give us feedback? The one is, how do we con convince stakeholders, whether it’s the boss or the client, that this thing is important? The easy part is, identifying disabled people. There are several ways to do that. You can do calls on social media, whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, wherever. You can reach out to local disability groups as well. There are all kinds of ways of reaching out. There’s also outfits that are specializing in doing usability testing with disabled folks. The two I’m thinking about right off the top of my head is access works by nobility and the other one is fable.
If you’re having problems finding your own participant, you can always reach out to them. The second bit, that is obviously more complicated, is how do you convince people to do this? When there’s money involved, it’s always difficult. What I’ve found success with is actually presenting the stakeholders with the kind of information we have through the soundbites. It is presenting the information, making people realize, “Oh, I would never have thought about that without this lived comment from a disabled person.”
Once people start opening that door, that realization that there’s more to it than running an automated test, I think that becomes very powerful. That’s where your ability is to open the door. Of course, the presumption here is that you have an environment where it’s not just, we’re going to conform to the letter of WCAG, but we’re going to conform to the spirit of it. Sometimes you may not have this success because the people really don’t get it. You have to do a lot of leg work before you get to the point of being able to do that. That really depends on your situation, but really find a way to present the words of disabled people that are quite eyeopening to the people around you and from there, it’s going to happen.
>> AMBER: That makes sense. Feel, free everyone. If anyone has any questions, post in the chat, I might ask a couple more while we’re waiting, but if there are any, feel free to put them in the chat. I know you talked about, there are sometimes things and mentioned you don’t always know what the solution is, where we think we’re helping, but one person says it doesn’t, it causes a problem for them or different things. In your own work, do you have anything that you do to help balance that out or to weigh certain fixes or solutions over others as far as priority? Oh, I don’t know if I can hear you right now. Is that just me?
>> NICOLAS: You can’t hear me because I have muted my mic.
>> AMBER: Oh, all right. There we go.
>> NICOLAS: It goes back to user choice. Really it goes back to providing preferences for people. Some things are fairly straightforward, and some things aren’t. I really hesitate to give what we were finding a lot in the old days where here’s a website and here’s the accessible website. I don’t like doing that because it really creates a disparate experience. Sometimes being able to provide that through an alternate preference, is making it happen. If you can’t do that in your context, and often it’s not possible, you should be aware that these things are there, and you should provide a way for people to reach out to you. If they reach out and they say, “Hey, you know what, I really want to see this page, or I want to interact with this widget and I can’t.” Then you have to be prepared to work with the people that reached out to you and work through that.
It’s really a question of use your best judgment, provide user preference. If you can’t do that, then let people get to you and help them work with your content.
>> AMBER: Diane asked, so you mentioned fable for those who don’t know how to reach out in the community to help with user testing. What other resources? You had mentioned access works, which is from Nobility. I’m also aware of Lighthouse, it’s organizations that helps blind people find jobs. I don’t know if of any other ones beyond those.
>> NICOLAS: I don’t. Lighthouse is really wonderful, if you want to do accessibility testing [inaudible] using users, which obvious is important, but just as obviously for the entire topic of my talk is really, let’s look at opening up like that. If you’re trying to do your own thing and find screen reader users go to Lighthouse, and then if you look at people with traumatic brain injuries, you can look at different organizations, where the strength of both access work and fable is that they have banks of literally hundreds of disabled people with different disabilities. That I think is where those organizations are really powerful.
>> AMBER: We’re not getting too many questions coming in, so I maybe will see, I don’t know. Let me think. Do you have any other thoughts about specifically related to things that maybe have surprised you, that you’ve heard from people on your podcast that you didn’t really realize was a problem until you heard it? One thing that came to mind to me when one of the earlier episodes that I listened to was someone talking about parallax and how disorienting it was. I’m wondering if there are any things like that when you heard about it surprised you, and it made you adjust your practice?
>> NICOLAS: I spoke with Daisy Nolan a while back, and Daisy’s got epilepsy. She has got a seizure disorder. She was the second person to talk about parallax. Julia, that I quoted in this presentation, on another show was talking about how parallax is really throwing her a for a loop. Daisy was saying the same thing. Daisy was also saying that in some circumstances, the light effect of snow falling outside could actually trigger a seizure. That to me drove the point home that I really want to get feedback on everything I do, because there are so many things that I’m not necessarily aware of.
Obviously, I grow my knowledge just as everybody else does, but we cannot possibly know it all. I know some people think they do, but we really can’t and that’s where getting feedback from people is so important.
>> AMBER: Just in one of our more recent meetups, somebody messaged me privately in the chat and they were like, “Can you please enable the ability to save the transcript?” It was a deaf individual and he said that, “Yes, we have captions”, but when he sometimes looks away from the captions in order to look at the slide, the caption is gone . He needs the ability to have the transcript out in a different window so that he can look back at the transcript and see what he might have missed from what the speaker was saying, which is something that didn’t really occur to me. I just thought, “Well, we’ve got the captions, this is probably good.” Thinking about the timing and eyes, there’s a lot that you don’t really realize unless you live that experience.
>> NICOLAS: I like Alla’s comment that they want to make things accessible and implement toggles but because of the software, they can’t make the toggles accessible. That’s a very real concern that what we’re working with, someone sometimes doesn’t allow us to make it or requires an incredible amount of hacking to make it work. It is so frustrating. I don’t know what to tell you other than write a plugin or change your software, which is not always possible when you’ve invested sometimes tens or hundreds of thousands dollars on a platform that isn’t accessible.
It’s hard, but let’s not kid ourselves. You hear accessibility experts say, “Oh, accessibility is easy.” No, it’s not. If it was easy, everybody would do it. We do what we can do as much as we can, and that’s all we can do. We have to do it.
>> AMBER: We talked a tiny bit about this before we officially started. You have a podcast, you have a WordPress website, and you shared a little bit about what you did. For example, you’re using Able Player. There’s two WordPress plugins for Able Player. Are you using one of those or do you spin up your own Able Player from GitHub?
>> NICOLAS: I used one of the plugins and I don’t remember off the top of my head which one. I know one works, one doesn’t. If you look at 24 days of accessibility back from 2019 I think, I wrote an article about how I made my podcast website WCAG 2.1 conformant, I should say. The technical details are there, but the way I arrived at this point was that I started this podcast not knowing if I was going to stick with it. I really took the easy way out. I went on Patreon, I created a Patreon, and I was able to host my files and put my transcript as opposed and it wasn’t really accessible, but it worked. Then I started building a website and I was juggling so many things, I thought, “Okay, I’ll take the easy way out. I’m going to use WordPress.” I know WordPress, spun up a WordPress, then I started looking for podcasting plugin. I used a seriously simple podcast, because it was not the most accessible, it was the least inaccessible one.
From there, I started building everything around it, I realized the default media player for that plugin was not accessible so I hacked it so I would use the Able Player. It was really the question of iteration and building things. I see a question from Diane about WordPress theme. I actually built it on the default theme and I created a child theme from there. With the child theme, I implemented a lot of accessibility features. I also used Jo Dawson’s WordPress accessibility plugin for all the other levels around that, and that’s where I’m at. The theming around WordPress and accessibility is tricky because in the theme repository, what’s marked as accessible isn’t always really accessible. You have to do a little bit of legwork and you always have to end up rolling your own, basically create a child theme and fix it.
>> AMBER: Do you have any recommendations for people maybe their podcast isn’t about accessibility, but if they wanted to invite on more guests with disabilities to have more diverse guests, are there tips for making podcast interviews work better for people with disabilities?
>> NICOLAS: Flexibility. For the majority of my interviews I use Zencastr. It’s a wonderful platform, it’s on the web, nobody has to download a program or anything. It records the files locally, so if there’s a connection problem, the quality of the audio is there, it records the sound on separate bands so I can do audio editing, if someone runs AC, I can cut out that. It’s wonderful from that perspective, but there’s zero contrast and it’s not screen reader-friendly.
When I talk with people that have accessibility issues, then I’m looking at, well, is Zoom going to work for you? If Zoom isn’t working, is Skype going to work for you? You have to have flexibility around that. Then you have to think about, well, okay, I’m going to interview someone who’s deaf. Do they have a speaking voice? Maybe not. If they don’t have a speaking voice, how are we going to voice the voice of the person? In one case, I actually had a three-way chat and a deaf guest was typing their response, and I had a woman speaking the response out loud. For my most recent guest, she had a speaking voice but she couldn’t hear so we actually got a live captioner, we did that through Zoom. There’s basic understanding and knowledge and go ahead and invite the person and say, “Okay, what are your accessibility needs? Here are the things I’ve thought about. Would any of that work for you? If it doesn’t, how do we make it work?”
Be proactive. Don’t just say, “Well, how can we make this accessible to you?” Say, “These are the things I’ve thought about, will it work? If not, how can we make it work?”
>> AMBER: We’ve gone through some of that with this Meetup here because we’ve had some deaf individuals speak and some blind individuals speak and trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes if they don’t know they can turn off Zoom chat in their screen reader, it can be really distracting when you’re trying to present. Talking about, do we want to do that or would you prefer to just ask people not to use the chat at all? Those kinds of things.
I do appreciate you suggesting maybe you had to try a bunch of different platforms and maybe we need to suggest things upfront to show that we’re thinking proactively about it. I don’t see any more questions in the chat, so I think we can probably wrap up. Do you just want to tell us one more time real quick how people can get a hold of you?
>> NICOLAS: Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter is the handle, Vavroom, V-A-V-R-O-O-M. I’m on the web accessibility slack, I’m on LinkedIn, Nicholas Steenhout, and check out my podcast, Accessibility Rules, A-1-1-Y R-U-L-E-S.com.
>> AMBER: Thank you so much and thanks, everybody for coming. We will be back in a couple of weeks and we’ll post this recording sometime next week. Thank you.
>> NICHOLAS: Thanks everyone, have a good one.
>> AMBER: Bye.