This episode is a recording of a panel discussion on Building Accessibility into Websites, held in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day on May 18, 2023. The event featured Nick Corbett, Tanner Gers, Steve Jones, and Amber Hinds. In this event, the panelists shared their insights and experiences in web accessibility work and discussed how to build accessibility into website design and development. If you would like to watch a video recording from the meetup, you may do so on the Equalize Digital website here: Global Accessibility Awareness Day Panel: Building Accessibility into Websites.
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
- Accessibility Checker
- WordPress Accessibility Day 2023
- Colorblindly Chrome Extension
- taba11y Chrome Extension
- Joe Dolson on How To Fix the Six Most Common Accessibility Errors on Your Websites
- Accessible Tables Podcast Episode
- The Carroll Center for the Blind
- Nick Corbett on LinkedIn
- AccessAbility Officer
- Tanner Gers on LinkedIn
- Amber Hinds on Twitter
- Accessibility Craft Podcast opens a new window
- Steve Jones on Twitter
- Steve Jones on GitHub
>> PAOLA GONZALEZ: Let’s get started. So, welcome everyone, to our Global Accessibility Awareness Day panel. And we’re going to be talking about building accessibility into websites. Hold on, so just a quick introduction. We are the organizers at Equalize Digital. My name is Paola and I’m the content specialist. And only a quick reminder, we have a WordPress plugin. It’s called Accessibility Checker. And we have the amazing developer of it right now, Steve Jones.
It’s a plugin that stands for Accessibility Problems and provides reports on the post-edit screen. And we have a 30% discount now through May 24th and you can use the code GAAD 23. That’s going to be, G-A-A-D 23. And we have a few upcoming events.
Our next meetup is going to be on June 1st. And it’s going to be Accessibility on a Deadline, Strategies for Meeting Standards and that’s going to be June 1st at 10:00 am Central. And we want to remind everyone that we have WordPress Accessibility Day on Wednesday, September 27th and it starts at 10:00 a.m. Central. And you can apply to speak now. We’re looking for speakers, and we do have a stipend for speakers for $300.
So if you usually speak about accessibility, just go apply. We look forward to every application.
And now, without further ado, we’re going to be introducing everyone. But before that, I want to talk about Global Accessibility Awareness Day. I actually wrote a very handy post about it today.
So GAAD is a significant event that has been observed since 2012 and it’s always on the third Thursday of May. And the whole purpose of it is to draw attention to the importance of digital accessibility across the globe. So pretty much as the name says, bringing awareness to accessibility. And right now, I’m going to let our panelists introduce themselves. So Nick, if you want to start.
>> NICK CORBETT: Sure. Thanks, Paola. Happy to be here with everyone today. So my name is Nick and I work at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Massachusetts. And I’ve worked with probably well over 500 people, training them on assistive technology. And for the past year or two, I’ve been training people specifically on how to evaluate digital products for accessibility using screen reading software.
>> PAOLA: Great. Thank you, Nick. Tanner?
>> TANNER GERS: Yes, thank you so much. Super pumped to be here, and I’m so grateful for everybody’s time and attention. It’s a really important day, and you choosing to spend the time with us means the world to me. I am the Managing Director of Accessibility Officer, and we are a digital accessibility consultancy, and we have an education arm and a certifying body similar to Nick, helping blind people learn how to test, report and help developers remediate accessibility issues. And yes, that’s us.
>> PAOLA: Thank you, Tanner. Steve?
>> STEVE JONES: Hi. Happy to be here everybody. My name is Steve Jones. I am the CTO of Equalize Digital, where I oversee the development of our accessible services and products. And as Paola mentioned, I am the developer of our Accessibility Checker plugin. Yes, that’s me. Glad to be here.
>> PAOLA: And Amber?
AMBER HINDS: Hi, I’m Amber. If you’ve attended a WordPress Accessibility Meetup before, you’d probably recognize me. I’m the CEO at Equalize Digital and I’m the lead organizer of the WordPress Accessibility Meetup and the president of the board of WP Accessibility Day, because it’s now officially a non-profit organization, which is super exciting.
It took us a while to figure out what that looked like, but yes, we were able to make that event its own non-profit, which is very cool.
>> PAOLA: Yes. Thank you, Amber. And thank you, everyone, for your introductions. And before we get started, I just want to remind everyone, if you have any questions during the event, please post them in the Q and A box so that we can keep track of them. That would make it so much easier. So let’s just get started.
So we’re assuming that most people here today know why accessibility is important, but there are more layers to web accessibility than many people realize. Can each of you share an example of something you’ve learned in your journey, personally or professionally? Either about people with disabilities or the reach of accessibility features that surprise you or was unexpected? And we can start with you, Nick.
>> NICK: Sure thanks. One thing I think that surprised me would have to be an idea that it’s inclusive of end users and the products that they’re using. You can spend all day looking at code – and I’ve been learning more about this over the past few years – and trying to perfect that code so that it meets all accessibility success criteria. But once you put an end user in front of that code and they’re working on the user interface side of things, you may discover so many more barriers to accessibility that weren’t clear through, say, an automated audit or even just reading over the code.
So it’s the end user that has surprised me most. And if you look at an end user, there are a couple of things to think about. Many people come to a website with very varying skills, and they may not know how to expertly interact with that web page. And if a web page is extraordinarily complex, they’re going to struggle to interact with it. But if you take a beginner user who doesn’t really know how to do very much on the internet, they’ll also struggle with it, but they’re going to keep applying those same rope skills that they’ve learned in the past, even if they’re not perfectly suited to that product.
So it’s just human first, I think, is what I have taken away from my education in accessibility. It is that the end user needs to be front in our mind, the people, and observing people using assistive technology can yield a lot of insights in addition to just inspecting code.
>> PAOLA: Yes. Thank you so much, Nick. Tanner, do you have anything to add to that?
>> TANNER: Yes, totally. I mean, accessibility is not usability, and I think that most people with disabilities don’t really care about the former, only care about the latter. And so while we can get really caught up in the technical details – I know that my team does or can – we will really get focused on that… Adding on to Nick’s point is that user focus in bringing in usability testing people with disabilities using different types of assistive technology to really understand and create empathy around the impacts that your accessibility and usability work is doing. If the goal is accessibility, how do we make sure that our products and our services are actually usable by everybody as designed and intended?
>> PAOLA: And Steve?
>> STEVE: Yes, I think through my journey through accessibility, it started with websites with a lot of our clients in universities and the government space. I think a lot of what I’ve learned, I’m going to take the developers’ standpoint here, is that accessibility in and of itself is not super difficult from a development standpoint, but I think the biggest challenge to accessibility is mindset, especially with developers. It seems to be a challenge to prioritize accessibility as a project necessity.
That’s kind of been one of the big surprising things that have risen from my time getting into accessibility, is just that, forming an accessibility-first mindset with your development workflow. I’ll echo what you guys have mentioned as well, too.
One of the first big accessibility projects that we did was for a government agency and we hired user testers, blind user testers to do this. Amber and Chris recorded it and shared it with me and as I watched this user tester go through and test this website, it was really eye-opening to me to actually see it, to actually see somebody doing it. Because as a developer, I can sit here all day long and tab through an application or a website and try to troubleshoot it as much as I can. It only goes so far. So I actually found that very eye-opening, seeing that, and I find it’s been very good for our company and encouraging to continue using those type of user testers.
>> PAOLA: Thank you, Steve. Amber?
>> TANNER: I love that. I just wanted to say something, Steve, I absolutely love that. Because in Excel Spreadsheet or Google Sheet or whatever, with these repro steps and the success criteria or whatever the violations are, it really just looks like work for them.
>> STEVE: Yes.
>> TANNER: When they see the user struggle, then it becomes passion.
>> STEVE: Yes, exactly.
>> AMBER: Yes. I definitely agree. I think there was a lot that sort of surprised me. Just like you were saying, usability. Tanner, there’s the technical, technically accessible. We redid our navigation menu on our website, and it technically had no WCAG violations, but it was not like the ideal experience for a screen reader user or a sighted keyboard-only user, because it forced you to go through all the drop-downs. And we’re like, we need to add a way for them to skip across the top. And so I think that was one of the things that I didn’t really think about as much when we first started getting into it.
And the other thing that I think has surprised me the most as far as the reach of accessibility is… Because I spend so much time looking at websites, whether the things we build or auditing and then helping them to become more accessible. I think I’ve been surprised by the fact that I can’t unsee it now.
Whether it’s emails from my kids’ school, which drive me nuts. I even tweeted about this recently. They send out these graphics, I only use my phone and I’m having to zoom in on my phone in order to be able to read the graphic. They have horrible fonts and bad color contrast or I’ll go on websites for other companies and I’m just like, this is so bad. And I consider myself to be typically able, but it frustrates me. And so I think that was something that I didn’t really expect. Getting into this has forced me to sort of focus more on what quality looks like in a digital experience.
>> PAOLA: Yes, I agree. Even as a content specialist, I’m a muggle when it comes to the internet. I use the internet to just write and do marketing. So I’m not a developer or anything. And I started seeing these things like color contrast, proper headings and it’s just the small things that can make a big difference.
>> STEVE: Cognitive readability, right?
>> PAOLA: Yes, there’s a lot into it. So let’s keep going. So for people new to accessibility, let’s briefly discuss some common challenges that users may face on the Web. Starting with you Nick, can you share some problems that can make it difficult for screen reader users or people with low vision to use a website?
>> NICK: Absolutely. I’m just finishing up a seven-week remote course at the Carroll Center where I’m teaching people from all across the US and even Canada how to use screen readers to evaluate for accessibility. So I’ve been seeing this day in and day out for the past seven weeks. And one of the things that can harm people right off the bat is a lack of semantic meaning. So if a user comes to a web page and that web page has absolutely no regions, no headings, no lists, no tables, they have no option but to either tab through the elements that have tab stops or to down arrow through all of the content on the page. Incredibly time-consuming, and it forces the user to build a conceptual map of the page in their own mind without having any of that actual structure there for them to use as points of reference to quickly move around the content. Simply implementing a main region to hold the main content of the page or a site nav that works well with the keyboard, will make things a lot easier for screen reader users. But it’s not just including semantic HTML that makes a product accessible, it’s also making sure that people understand semantic HTML.
And if you take anything from a daily user of the Web, whether one person who’s sighted, one person who’s blind. A sighted user may come to this page and click click click, and they’re done. Someone who’s blind, they come to this page, first of all, they need to have background knowledge of the relationships between different landmarks, different headings, heading hierarchy, and need to be able to create these associations between Web elements in order to even understand what the Web page is trying to convey.
So there’s a structural pre-condition as well as a knowledge pre-condition for successful use on the Web. Does that kind of work Paola?
>> PAOLA: Yes. Thank you, Nick. Amber, can you share some problems on websites that might impact other populations?
>> AMBER: Sure, yes. So outside of things that have to do with visual impairments, there may be people who have motor challenges for a variety of reasons. It could be as simple as an older person who has arthritis and they have less flexibility or it could be someone who has either missing limbs or no ability to move their limbs for one reason or another. So there’s kind of a broad spectrum there.
So problems that can come into play could be if you’re using something where you speak and the computer has to interpret, and if the code behind on what a button or a link is doesn’t actually match what the visible label is and they speak out to go to that element, it might not be able to find the element and go to the element. There can be problems with mobility if you are on a mobile device and you have a tap target size, which is like the size of the button is too small. And honestly, that can cause problems for typically abled people too.
So there are things like that that can impact the ability of people to use things. Of course, captions are really important. We have a live captioner here today, writing out captions for live events. But pre-recorded media should have captions transcripts, which can help. These aren’t people who normally always consider themselves to be part of the disabled population, but people who have learning disabilities or dyslexia.
Being able to read content can sometimes help them process, or having a transcript that doesn’t move at the same speed as the caption so they could read the transcript would be helpful as well in some scenarios. So those are some things I can think of for other populations. Tanner and Steve might have thoughts to add as well.
>> TANNER: Go for it, Steve.
>> STEVE: OK. I guess the only thing I would probably add is, a lot of times we don’t consider people with temporary impairments or even future impairments. We’re all aging, and that’s why I always hearken back to the accessibility-first mindset because the goal here is to build an accessible future. And I think that’s the developer’s responsibility too, because you may be developing something that you may benefit from in the future due to some either temporary or future impairment of your own.
I think there are also browser and device compatibility issues that can come up between where developers are not properly testing all the devices and all the platforms and all the operating systems and all the existing technology to make sure that it works across all those devices.
You can run into even income variations or disparities, like where some people may not be able to afford a $2,500 Mac computer that can run the heaviest, most bloated website. They may be running on a two or $300 laptop and so we have a responsibility to make performant websites so that they can access those on the device that they can afford. I think what I would just add. Tanner, you got anything else?
>> TANNER: The thing that I would say is, what we’re talking about here is a wide range of disabilities. A lot of people have multiple disabilities. I’m one of those people. And so, how do we know what the work is doing that is actually going to make the biggest impact? I think that if you follow the standards, you work with a partner that can help you get there, and then you incorporate people with disabilities into the process. If you’re doing those things, that’s how you get the biggest bang for the problem.
>> STEVE: This episode of Accessibility Craft is sponsored by Equalize Digital Accessibility Checker, the WordPress plugin that helps you find accessibility problems before you hit publish.
A WordPress native tool, Accessibility Checker provides reports directly on the post edit screen. Reports are comprehensive enough for an accessibility professional or developer, but easy enough for a content creator to understand.
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>> PAOLA: Yes thank you, everyone. So we just listened to a lot of problems on websites, and many people may be thinking that they aren’t even sure how to tell if these problems exist on their websites. Steve, can you share some thoughts about how people can find out if there are accessibility problems on their websites?
>> STEVE: Yes, absolutely. I think everybody has access to some great accessibility tools out there. I think at the basic level, there’s a variety of browser add-ons that you can use to evaluate your website or other people’s websites if you would like. Some of those, like Axe Dev Tools have a Chrome add-on. I believe a lot of these run on Chrome and Firefox. I haven’t tested a lot of the other browsers.
There’s a Headings Map. We talked about headings a little bit ago. There’s a headings map plugin that you can use that will evaluate your page for proper semantic heading order. There is IBM Equal Access, has an add-on that will do an accessible evaluation of your page. Probably the most known one is Wave Evaluation Tool, and you can install that and just quickly hit it and see if there are any problems.
There’s Colorblindly – I think it’s what it’s called – that you can evaluate the page for how somebody that’s colorblind would see it. And then lastly, I would say on that front is… What’s that one Amber? Tablly?
>> STEVE: It’s got an eleven in there.
>> AMBER: That one’s handy for sighted people. I’ve never tested with a screen reader, so I have no idea how well it works with the screen reader. But it will tab through the entire page, and it will visually draw a line through the tab stops and number them to help you see if they’re out of order or if it’s missed any. Like something that you expect to have a tab stop but is a div instead of a button or something. It would not go to, and then you might be like, oh.
And I like that one. As a non-developer because I can run it and then I can screenshot for the developer and be like, look at how this order is wrong. And it’s easier for me to explain, at least to my sighted developer. I can be like, “Here’s a screenshot, it should be in the right order.”
>> STEVE: And I think another great tool, even for the most basic user is just try to use a website with your keyboard. Put the mouse aside and just try to use it with your keyboard and see if you’re able to get to links. See if you’re able to click on links or you’re able to click on buttons or if it just misses stuff altogether. That would be a sign that something’s wrong.
I think the other thing… We work a lot in the WordPress space and there are several WordPress plugins that you can use to evaluate your site for accessible issues. In full disclosure, we made the Accessibility Checker plugin, but I will plug that again here. I would implore you all to go download that plugin. We have a free plugin on the WordPress repo. We also have a premium one that allows you to scan all custom post types and do full site scanning and a variety of things.
So our tool goes very in-depth and then what it does is it lives inside the editor. So before you publish your post, you can save a draft and it’ll go through and scan it, and it’ll show you all the issues on your page. It has some positive reinforcement, too. It tells you what percentage of your post or your page has passed our rule checks and then it’ll also list issues that you can fix.
And then there’s a variety of other WordPress tools. Another one that I think is really good is the WP accessibility plugin by Joe Dolson. That’s a great one for finding certain things and fixing certain things on your website. So not to take up too much time, but that’s just a few I could go on.
>> PAOLA: Yes thank you, Steve. We had a question come in. Can someone give a quick explanation about what cognitive readability is and give an example of it?
>> TANNER: What did you say? Cognitive what?
>> PAOLA: Cognitive readability.
>> TANNER: Cognitive readability. I’ll take a shot at that. Cognitive readability is really talking about how complex the language is. I think that you guys might agree with that. So we want to keep the language as simple as possible. Do we need to use that acronym? Do we need to use a complex topic? Do we have to use 14-syllable words that when a two-syllable word will do it? How do we bring the reading level down while providing the information that’s most relevant to the user so that they can act on it?
>> PAOLA: Thank you, Tanner.
>> STEVE: And there’s also a case… Like with our plugin, we actually do a readability evaluation on the page, and if the readability is above… Amber 9th grade?
>> AMBER: Yes, above 9th grade. It’s a triple A but it’s weird. I don’t know Nick or Tanner if you remember, it’s like upper middle, like what the exact language is, but we interpret that to be 9th grade as the border in which you could provide an alternative.
>> STEVE: So if you go over that, then our plugin will alert you to provide a simplified summary, and then that simplified summary will output wherever you decide but below or above the post. So if you do have that complex language, then you can provide an alternative as well for somebody that may have this cognitive readability issue.
>> AMBER: I think the best example of this that I’ve seen of someone doing it consistently, is Lainey Feingold. She’s an attorney, if you aren’t familiar with her, but her website is lflegal.com. And on every page and every article, she has a summary that simplifies. Because her articles sometimes have a high reading level because she’s talking about the law and legal things. And so she’ll put in plain language the important parts and make it really easy for anyone.
That was going back to things that surprised us until I started getting into that and reading it. I had no idea that the average reading level is as low as it is in this country. I’d have to go back and find some stats, which I know we have in our documentation, but I think average people read at middle-school level. And there’s a huge percentage of population around the world, but even just in the United States that aren’t considered literate at all. That was something that surprised me.
>> TANNER: That’s a real serious concern. I don’t think people really appreciate the value of adjusting to the lowest common denominator. There’s a reason why when my daughter was born, the hospital was like, she needs a hepatitis B shot. And I’m like, “What are you saying about me and my wife?” But that’s a concern, a legitimate concern for the general public at large. And so even though it may not be anybody in your social network or even in your family, that is that “lowest common denominator”, we do need to adjust to that, because if we don’t, like Amber said, we’re leaving a significant population out of the conversation.
>> NICK: I’d like to offer a quick perspective. I feel like talking about the average person having a low reading level or the lowest common denominator. I want to recognize that oftentimes we want to have a lower reading level to accommodate people who may have a cognitive processing struggle. I just don’t want to ever get into the practice of blaming the person who’s using our product. We never want to think it’s them and we’re accommodating for them. It’s us. It’s universal design. We’re trying to accommodate for everyone, and it’s just inclusivity that we’re after.
>> AMBER: Well, and that lower reading level makes it easier for everyone.
>> NICK: Yes of course.
>> AMBER: And move through the content faster.
>> PAOLA: Yes. And Nick, on that note, at the Carroll Center, you have an Accessibility Tester training program specifically for people who are blind. Can you talk about the importance of bringing in people with lived experience? Or do you use assistive technology every day to do testing?
>> NICK: Of course, yes. If we’re building a product for someone and anyone who is part of the group that we’re building for is legally blind or has any disability, they’re part of our market, they’re our audience. And we certainly want to do the right thing for our audience and I think the ideal way is to incorporate people who are disabled right into a development team so that their insights get built into the product throughout the lifecycle of the product. But another way to do it is also to survey people who are blind or use assistive technology. Or you can extrapolate this to any disability category. And you bring them in to provide their feedback.
At the Carroll Center, we do a couple of things. We provide surveys like that where we’ll kind of work with a company. We’ll bring in 20, 30, or 50 people who are using assistive technology and have them work on their product and give them feedback. But what I’ve learned through the training program that we provide also is that we can bring value, we can transfer value in this digital accessibility age to people who are users of assistive technology. Because their feedback is desired, it is needed, and if we can equip people with the skills to provide quality feedback, then they can earn value for themselves.
So I think our focus at the Carroll Center is we want universal design, we want inclusivity, but we also want to empower the population who is most affected by products being poorly accessible. So I think be inclusive, include the population that you’re trying to accommodate in your process. It’ll spark humanity, relationships and produce an overall more well-rounded, more inclusive outcome.
>> AMBER: I sent you a heart emoji, which you may or may not know. I don’t know if It announces it in the screen reader when you get reactions.
>> NICK: It doesn’t, but thank you for telling me.
>> AMBER: I love helping more people. I think it’s also good because we know that historically and currently, people with disabilities are frequently underemployed. And so I think anything that also helps to turn that around and not just say, “Oh, they can only do basic jobs”, but they can do highly technical, expert-level jobs. And so I love what you all do at the Carroll Center.
>> NICK: Thanks.
>> PAOLA: Yes. And switching gears a little bit. Tanner, I know you’re interested in work environment accessibility. Is there anything you can share with how employers can better support employees with disabilities?
>> TANNER: Yes, actually use them. Of course, we can talk about it all day, with regards to the value of diversity, inclusion, and equity and a new voice, a diverse voice, and perspectives, opinions, and lived experience, and bringing all that in and mixing it and whatnot. And at the same time, what I’m about to say, I totally have empathy for business risks and executives making decisions to insulate themselves from that risk, and i.e. exclude themselves from actually making that step forward.
Accessibility is a journey. It does take a little bit of vulnerability to actually take that first step forward. But when you do, I think you’re going to start to realize the benefits, like being a disability-ready workforce.
Just understanding that 80% of people with disabilities will acquire a disability, as in non-congenital, is another way to say that four out of five of your employees are likely going to be disabled while they’re working for you during the time that they’re working. And so what happens when that does happen? You may not have an employee with a disability right now, but when you do have an employee with a disability, what are you going to do?
If you’re not disability ready, if you don’t have an inclusive workplace digitally as well as physically, you’re probably prime pickings for an ADA lawsuit. And it’s not going to be pretty, it’s not going to be pretty for your brand, it’s not going to be pretty for your business, it’s not going to be pretty for employee morale. Because they’ve got emotional ties to that person, they see them coming back into the workplace, they’re dealing with that disability.
So being forward-thinking about inclusion in the workplace is a smart move to do. And you can do something as simple as hiring a Usability tester to come in and evaluate your products. You can do a simple thing like Google searching accessible tools. I know that Microsoft does a really good job at trying to make things accessible. But for those in the space who know that once you go deeper into Microsoft products, let’s think about maybe Dynamic 365 or this other Azure…
You get into these deeper areas, I know Microsoft admin is terrible, they have a lot of inaccessibility there. And so how does that create vulnerabilities for you when if you’re a Microsoft shop like I am, how do you make sure that the stuff that you’re using is accessible? And the best way to do that is to bring in a person with a disability that uses assistive technology and ask them, how can we make this better? What are the problems here? Let’s test this.
So there’s a lot of people that say they’re accessible, there’s a lot of companies that say they’re accessible and they’ll put out VPAT Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates, keyword Voluntary and Accessibility Conformance Reports. All of that information is subjective through the perspective and lens of the business itself.
So, is it likely going to look really good? Yes, it is likely going to look really good. And so for employers, you have to do the work yourself. You’re not going to buy anything from a vendor without asking questions about that product and whether will it be able to meet your needs. Just making sure that some of those needs include people with disabilities is a great approach.
>> PAOLA: Yes. Thank you, Tanner.
>> AMBER: I was going to say we put some time in that thinking, and then we tried to gather documentation. Because we’re all working remotely. You were saying, Tanner, does email work? The calendar, we use Basecamp for our project management, trying to figure out what are all the different digital tools that we want, and then trying to include links and resources in our employee handbook. We’re not a big company, but I think for us, it was the same thing. It’s worth the time to think ahead on that because you never know.
And for us, it was also helpful. We have had a couple of our testers in base camp, so now we sort of know what parts of it can they use, what parts can they not, and then putting together a plan for, “OK, if this doesn’t work as well for their assistive technology, just how can we adjust things so that they can still do their job?”
>> TANNER: Well, one of the big things that I think is excluded from the conversation is how employers should be doing this for people with disabilities, but really, you’re doing this for your entire workforce. If there’s a sighted person in your workforce right now that’s not using closed captioning when they’re watching videos, they’re lying to you, and that is an accessibility tool. It’s now standard practice and used by everybody.
So when we start to include people with disabilities and making sure that our things are accessible, what happens? User experience goes up. And when user experience goes up and things get easier for employees? Let me think. Productivity, efficiency, morale. There’s so much technical friction with regard to new software, new teams, or just software in general in the workplace. So making sure that the software that you’re using is accessible is also going to have cascading events on the entire workforce.
>> PAOLA: Yes. Thank you, Tanner and Amber. So for some agencies or freelancers, fixing all of the problems identified during testing or even getting clients to agree to invest in testing in the first place may feel out of reach. Amber, what tips do you have for people trying to motivate clients or the leadership team at their organization to invest in accessibility, whether it’s for their customers or their team members?
>> AMBER: Well, I think a big one, circling back to what was said by multiple people earlier is actually seeing a user with disabilities can be really motivational because it makes it less abstract and it puts a face on it. I know when I first started doing it, and now I have a lot of friends that use different varieties of assistive technology and I’ve gotten very serious about always having alt text on my images on social media because I’m friends with people who are blind on social media and I’m like, I want XYZ person. I can put a name on it to be able to know what I posted too.
And so I think if you make it personal, whether it’s through finding someone in their audience, which I think is most ideal, because then they can connect it to like, this is my customer or this is my employee, or something like that, I think that’s helpful. I know we talk a lot about how maybe trying to break things down… there’s this traditional and even in the beginning when we were looking at audits and stuff, we were doing things where it would be like, we’re going to do a big audit and it’s going to take, depending on the scope, 6, 8, 12 weeks. And then we’re going to be able to be like, OK, now we can start fixing things, and here’s how much it’s going to cost, and I think trying to figure out how to make things more byte-size. So we’re like, OK, what if we just plan to audit and fix as we go and be like, OK, we know that there are no skip links, let’s add skip links.
What do we know next? And so trying to figure out how to make things more byte-sized for your clients or your leadership team, if you’re coding an app for work and you have to convince someone that it’s worth investing in some accessibility [Inaudible 39:08]. Steve, I know we’ve had conversations about that, even with ours, because we’ve gone back and been like, oh, let’s enhance accessibility after a screen reader user used our own plugin. And it doesn’t feel like adding a big feature that’s fancy. But it’s worth kind of like byte-size. What can you do to improve over time? I don’t know if anyone else has thoughts on that, like motivating people.
>> STEVE: I like what you’re saying Amber, about byte size. It is byte size. Everything we do in any endeavor, even accessibility endeavors, is byte-size. You have to look at the next step and make a decision, and after that, make another decision, and after that, make another one. But you don’t need to change everything at once like you’re saying, it’s just start down the path.
>> AMBER: Yes, I was just going to say and then also putting some of the tools in line that will sort of notify you to not keep making the same mistake. There’s remediating everything that exists already, and then there’s trying to have some guardrails or adjusting your personal practices as you’re writing content or developing something, or designing if you’re a designer so that you catch more of the problems as you’re making them. I think that’s another thing that’s really helpful too on that front.
>> PAOLA: Yes thank you, Amber. Tanner, would you like to add something?
>> TANNER: Oh, it’s my A-D-D brain. I thought about 18 other things since then.
>> PAOLA: No problem. I’m sure it will come up again. Steve, we were talking about transitioning into accessibility first, web builds. What advice do you have for developers looking to make this shift as well and make accessibility more central to their website build?
>> STEVE: Sure, yes. I’ve mentioned several points already, but I’ll reiterate them and try to package them up into a nice little pretty package here. But first off, it starts with mindset. It really does. You have to decide as a leader of your development team or as a developer of your development team. Don’t think if you’re not a manager or you’re not a C-level person in your company that you can’t affect change in your organization, because you can. So even if you’re just a developer, try to push your team into thinking about accessibility first.
So it starts with mindset. You start with the idea that this is a project requirement and that nothing makes it to production unless it’s accessible. We’re going to do everything we can to make something accessible. If there are tabs or accordions or navigation on the website, we’re going to go find the WCAG guidelines and try to follow that as closely as possible or maybe even go a step further to make it even more usable than just compliant.
As Amber said earlier about the navigation on our website, it’s not always about compliance. We don’t stop at compliance all the time. We go beyond that and we do what the right thing is, to make it more usable and easy for people with assistive technologies to use these websites and applications.
A mantra that I’ve tried to adopt with our team is that if it’s not accessible, it’s broken. And we need to go in with that mindset. I don’t see accessibility from a technical standpoint as the super complex thing to overcome. What we’re doing is we’re asking developers who can make amazing React apps, amazing web apps, and stuff that they can go into your code and they can review your code and tell you all these things you did wrong with it. I want to adopt that same mindset for accessibility. You can see those things as a developer that they’re upfront of mind.
When I and Amber are going through discovery on projects, a lot of times this comes up, where a client will request something and then we’re like, wait, hold on, how are we going to make that accessible? And you have those conversations upfront because I think that developers have a real unique responsibility. I’ll go a little further too, that project managers and designers have this responsibility as well because these are people that are on the front end of the project.
In the WordPress world, we can make blocks, we can make plugins, and we can make things that are content-producing. So if we generate inaccessible code, that then generates inaccessible code, [WordPress runs 40% of the Internet] if that gets installed by a small percentage of that 40% of the Internet, that’s a lot of websites. And then every website can have X number of pages and then every page can have X number of that block. So you have a responsibility not to create code that’s inaccessible, but you also have a responsibility not to create code that creates code that’s inaccessible.
>> TANNER: Yes. I’d love to rant on this for about two minutes, if I may.
>> PAOLA: Yes.
>> TANNER: You don’t have to be a digital accessibility expert in order to make digital accessibility happen. And so what Steve is talking about is, it’s like how we help organizations buy. So within the digital accessibility environment in the workplace, it’s important to have people with disabilities test that. But you can also change how you procure things. You can change how you manage vendors and what the requirements are to even talk to you with regards to sales proposition.
And then a real common term or a popular term, a buzz phrase in the accessibility space is moving accessibility left, which refers to the left of the development cycle, earlier in the development cycle, even into planning and design. But I would push that, the technical SMEs, the leaders of organizations have a responsibility. The gap is interdepartmental inclusion and universal design. So if I’m a leader, if I’m a technical SME at an organization responsible for XYZ product and I’m struggling to maintain compliance, you know who I’m going to go talk to? I’m going to go talk to HR.
Because we need to adjust how we’re recruiting people. We need to adjust what’s in our job descriptions and basically, we need to set expectations for talent coming into the organization and we need to provide professional development opportunities for the people in our organization. And finally we need to start holding people accountable.
Doing those things is going to help you bring the right talent into the organization. Doing those things is going to help you develop the right that you already have in your organization. And all of those things combine. How we buy, how we professionally develop, how we recruit talent, all of those things combine. That doesn’t require any tester or any software or anything. That just requires an adjustment of our policies and processes for how we run our businesses. That’s how we move in Accessibility Lab.
>> AMBER: Well, I think too, highlighting the importance of it. I know something that we started doing because it was easy and it’s remote and it’s free is, we were like “Axcon is happening and everyone go”. And then there is a year where we’re like you know what we’re even going to do? We wanted everybody to put together a little 15 minutes of the top takeaways. So that kind of forced them to do it and then…
We’re all virtual so we are virtual remote. So we ordered pizza at everyone’s house and we had a lunch and learn over Zoom and each one of us presented a few top takeaways from it and it was a little bit of investment in our business because we had to commit time to employees being able to attend that. But it was a free event so it didn’t cost us anything, it didn’t have any travel and then we had the pizza costs and stuff. But it was like that was a way for us to show we’re serious about this. We had our operations assistant. He went. And he just [Inaudible 48:05]. We want everyone to go and understand what accessibility is. And so I think if you from a top-down or you’re able to show that this is important, that’s a way that it gets more people behind it.
I saw a question that Laura posted in the Q and A. I don’t know if you were about to read Paola, but she asked, “What would be four small steps a website owner or designer could do to update their site?”
>> STEVE: So we got to do four?
>> AMBER: Each one of us can say one thing.
>> PAOLA: Yes, I like that. Let’s do that.
>> AMBER: Nick, if you had to choose one thing… or four, you could say four.
>> STEVE: Like the least friction, like the easiest things. I would say the first thing is to run Wave on it.
>> AMBER: Well, but that’s just a test. But where would they start to fix?
>> STEVE: What would they fix? So once they know what’s wrong. How would you prioritize the accessibility issues? Is that what the question is?
>> NICK: I think the question is, what are four things they could just do right now, four things they could double-check, or four things they could implement? And if you want a super simple one, just make sure you have a descriptive page title. Make sure the page title of your website and all the sub-pages of your website accurately convey the information that they hold. That’s mine.
>> AMBER: Yes. So mine is make sure that all of the links have a meaningful anchor text. So you don’t want to have “learn more”, “read more”, “click here”, just the word “here”, or like an arrow icon or Facebook icon with nothing. Sometimes that comes in the code, but a lot of times it just comes in in the links that you’re creating in your content editor.
>> STEVE: Yes. I’ll give one that’s slightly technical since I’m the technical guy. Evaluate your links and buttons and make sure that links are links and buttons are buttons. Links go off the websites and buttons are open modals and do interactions.
>> TANNER: The one I’m huge on, error messages. Because, it’s often one of the last things that people do, and it’s nothing that automation can do. No AI can understand context within context. And so submit your checkout wrong. Do something interactive on your website, filling out a form, and do it wrong purposely, and then see what that error message is. One, is there a notification of the error message? You can know this right away by downloading the free version of Jaws or NVDA or turn on Voiceover or Narrator. And then when you submit that form, does an error message pop up?
>> AMBER: And can you hear it?
>> TANNER: Yes. Can you hear it? Is that error message descriptive and informative enough that the user can, one, find it, and two, know how to correct it? If you can fix those error messages, that’s going to be a huge win for people, because there’s nothing more frustrating than when you’re trying to make a purchase, you hit submit and it’s not going through and you don’t know why.
>> AMBER: Yes. On that note, I know we’re above four, but I’d say another really big one is making sure that your fields on your forms are all labeled appropriately. If you’re thinking, where do you start, I would start with, one, the navigation and the page titles. Make sure people can get around on the website. And then two, can they complete the conversion action? We all have a conversion action. There’s a reason we have a website. Unless it’s like my Ancient Mom blog that I’m almost like, I don’t even want to go read it anymore. But every other website has a goal, so make sure they can complete that goal so that you can make money.
>> TANNER: That’s right.
>> STEVE: Yes. I also posted in a link to a podcast. It was on the WP Tavern jukebox by Joe Dolson, and it was on how to fix the six most common accessibility errors on your website. So I’d give that a listen. It’s a good one.
>> PAOLA: Yes. And I really liked Adrian’s answer that was posted on the chat. It says, “headings, alt text, color contrast and add skip links. That’s the easiest thing for a content creator.” Again, I’m a muggle. I know how to do all these things. So it’s super easy. It’s a super easy fix as well.
>> AMBER: I love when you call yourself a muggle.
>> PAOLA: I know. I feel like I have developers at such a high standard that I’m just like, OK, I barely use the Internet. And then Billy said, make sure the table is an actual table. Amber knows a lot about that.
>> AMBER: We have a podcast episode on our Accessibility Craft podcast. You can go listen to it, if you go to accessibilitycraft.com, where I was auditing a website and I found an entire table that was built in divs and I was just like, “What!”
>> PAOLA: And we’re almost out of time, but I want to make sure that we answer all the questions. This is going to be a last one for Nick. Is the accessible tech training at the Carroll Center available to anyone or are these specifically targeted toward individuals with disabilities?
>> NICK: Presently, it’s particularly targeted toward people who are legally blind and depend upon screen readers, but it does not have to stay that way in the future. At the Carroll Center, we like to respond to the demand that is there. So if you visit carroll.org C-A-R-R-O-L-L.org, you’ll find a link to the screen reader user tester training program and you can take our pre-qualification assessment there.
And after you submit that test, you’ll get a link with the application. And anyone can apply. Put your details in there, and I’ll aggregate all of those details. And if we need to create a new course, we’ll look at that in the future.
>> PAOLA: Yes. Thank you, Nick. And right before we sign off, can each of you remind people how they can best reach you, if they have any follow-up questions or want to learn more about your organization? You can start Nick.
>> NICK: Sure. You can reach me directly at my email, firstname.lastname@example.org. N-I-C-K.C-O-R-B-E-T-T. Two R’s, two L’s. C-A-R-R-O-L-L. And that’ll be perfect.
>> PAOLA: What about you Tanner? accessabilityofficer.com and I’m everywhere @tannergers, G-E-R-S.
>> PAOLA: And Amber?
>> AMBER: Yes. So of course our website is equalizedigital.com. The best place to just send me a quick message is probably still Twitter these days. I debate. I’m on Mastodon too, but I’m on Twitter @heyamberhinds and I’m generally there probably way more than I should be. So those are the two best places to get a hold of me.
>> PAOLA: Yes. And what about you, Steve?
STEVE: Yes, you can find me on our website, equalizedigital.com. Our podcast is Accessibility Craft. And you can find me @stevejonesdev (Steve Jones D-E-V), pretty much anywhere I choose to be found, which is you can find me on Twitter and GitHub and if you’re in post status, you can find me on the post status Slack. Otherwise, I try to hide behind the code most of the time, so I stay busy. And you can find me through Amber if you can’t find me otherwise.
>> PAOLA: Yes. Thank you so much, everyone. Thank you so much for your time. This was a great event and a great discussion. And just a quick reminder, this is being recorded and we’re going to be posting the recap on our website. It’s going to be on equalizedigital.com. You’re going to be able to find the recap and the transcript and every link and everything we have mentioned today in about a week or so. So, yes. Thank you so much, everyone.
>> NICK: Thank you, Paola.
>> TANNER: All right.
>> AMBER: I’m going to wait like 1 second before I hit end. I always have to say this at the end because I need to make sure the transcript updates for people who are reading goodbyes. I will, real quick though, as my last before I do that hit sign off, just a reminder that June 1st, which is going to come up really quickly here is our next meetup. Thursday, June 1st at 10:00 a.m. US central time.
>> TANNER: Thank you all so much for hosting this and putting it on, inviting us to this conversation. I really appreciate it.
>> PAOLA & AMBER: Yes. Thank you.
>> CHRIS: Thanks for listening to Accessibility Craft. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe in your podcast app to get notified when future episodes release. You can find Accessibility Craft on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, and more. And if building accessibility awareness is important to you, please consider rating Accessibility Craft five stars on Apple podcasts. Accessibility Craft is produced by Equalize Digital and hosted by Amber Hinds, Chris Hinds, and Steve Jones. Steve Jones composed our theme music. Learn how we helped make 1000s of WordPress websites more accessible at equalizedigital.com.