036: Start Documenting Your Accessibility, Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout


In this episode, we discuss different types of accessibility documentation that websites and applications might use from general accessibility statements to VPATs.

Mentioned in This Episode


>> CHRIS HINDS: Welcome to Episode 36 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. 

In this episode, we discuss different types of accessibility documentation that websites and applications might use from general accessibility statements to VPATs. For show notes and a full transcript, go to “AccessibilityCraft.Com/036.” 

Now on to the show. 

>> AMBER HINDS: Hi, everybody, it’s Amber.


All right. No, we’re going to keep that in. All right. It’s Amber, and I am here today with Chris. 


>> AMBER: And Steve. 

>> STEVE JONES: Hello, everyone.

>> AMBER: And we are on take three of the start of this podcast, so we’re just rolling with it. I think we’re all recording now so that’s great. 

We are going to be talking about accessibility fitness, and Steve has an “How you document the accessibility of your website or your software.” But first, we’re going to have a beverage.

>> CHRIS: Absolutely, and I’m particularly excited about this one. It’s a Stout beer, which checks a box for Amber. It’s got peanut butter as one of the ingredients, and I love peanut butter. It’s not diet coke, so Steve will have an interesting reaction.


So I’m excited about all those things, but without further ado, we’re trying Belching Beaver’s Peanut Butter-flavored Milk Stout beer today, so this promises to be a stout that has hints of peanut butter, nice dark color, flavors of roasted peanuts, chocolate, and coffee, and, yes, it seems really good. Also, I’m excited, and it may end up in the background noise despite my best efforts to edit it, but it is thunderstorming in Texas right now, so it is the perfect time to have a stout beer. We’ve got rain outside for the first time in like two months. 

So shall we crack this open? 

>> AMBER: So this is not a twist off, right? 

>> CHRIS: No, no. I’ve got my WordPress bottle opener here, so I’m ready to…

>> STEVE: I’m such a non-drinker that I had to use the bottle opener on the can opener. 


AMBER: Oh, no, that’s funny. 

>> CHRIS: Nothing wrong with that. 

>> AMBER: So these WordPress bottle openers were an organizer gift from WordCamp Denver 2016, Chris? 

>> CHRIS: Yes, that sounds right. 

>> AMBER: Drew James was our lead organizer. I will give him a shout out because he is fabulous, and I hadn’t seen him for a really long time until WordCamp US, but he gave these to everyone, and they have the bottle opener, but on the reverse side, there is a piece of rubber, and after your bottle is open, you can slide this thing on top of your bottle and it will seal it and keep the carbonation in, and it worked so well. 

He was describing it to us, and we were all, like, “What? No, we don’t believe you.” And so he slides it on top of an open bottle of beer in one of our organizer meetings on Zoom, and he holds the bottle upside down over his brand new MacBook to prove to us that it really works, and we were, like, “It really works.” I’m guessing he tested it over a sink first.


Anyway, I will open my beer now, but that’s the story behind the WordPress bottle openers. [chuckles] 

>> STEVE: Yes. All right. 

>> CHRIS: Oh, man, that smells like peanut butter. 

>> AMBER: I just drank it. [chuckles] I didn’t even smell it. 

>> STEVE: You did? 

>> CHRIS: Amber was ready. Amber was raring to have a sip of this.

AMBER: Yes. It smells like a peanut butter cookie to me. That is literally what it smells like to me. 

>> STEVE: That somebody spilled beer on. 


>> AMBER: I mean, that might not be so bad. 

>> CHRIS: A beer soaked peanut butter cookie.

STEVE: We’re going to have a belching contest after this. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. 

>> AMBER: Also, they have a fun logo. I like when they have fun logos. They have a kind of angry-looking beaver with his mouth very wide open, and he’s got his arms spread out, and he’s holding a peanut in one hand and then a glass of beer with foam on the top of it in the other one.

STEVE: Yes. All right. Here we go. 

>> CHRIS: I like this. It’s way more pea-nutty to me at least on the nose than it is when I drink it. 

>> STEVE: Yes, totally. 

>> CHRIS: It’s also not super bitter, unlike that IPA we had last week or the week before.

AMBER: I don’t want to institute a no IPA rule on this podcast, [laughter] can we? 

>> STEVE: I second that motion. 

>> CHRIS: That’s yet another t-shirt idea for when we have the “Accessibility Craft” t-shirt store, as “Friends don’t let friends drink IPAs.”


STEVE: That’s a good idea. 

>> CHRIS: But no, it’s not too bitter. It’s definitely very full bodied. I kind of get the lacto fermentation thing going on with the milk stout. It’s got kind of a buttery flavor to it. I’m getting that on the aftertaste. 

>> AMBER: Yes. It’s creamy. It’s a little creamy, and it leaves a feeling in your mouth, but it’s good. It’s not oily. 

>> STEVE: It goes in creamy and then the end of it gets a little bitter, right? 

>> CHRIS: Yes. 

>> AMBER: Yes. The finish. 

>> CHRIS: It has a little bit of a better finish. 

>> AMBER: I think it’s sweet. This is a sweet beer to me. What do you think, Steve?

>> CHRIS: It does have a little bit of sweetness to it. What do you think, Steve?

>> STEVE: Yes, I agree. It doesn’t taste as peanut buttery as it smells, but it’s not bad. It’s not nasty like the other one. 


It does contain lactose, so if you’re lactose intolerant, belching might not be the only thing you’re doing after drinking this. 


>> AMBER: OK. I don’t actually understand, and I love stouts, but I’ve never actually spent time researching it. Do you know, Chris? Explain the milk stout. 

>> CHRIS: Hopefully, I don’t embarrass myself, because we obviously know with the thousands of people that listen to this podcast, probably at least a few of them are beer professionals and professional brewers because they really care about our opinions. No, I’ll stop being sarcastic.


My understanding is when it’s something that’s lacto fermented, it’s a particular type of bacteria that ferments in milk or yogurt or things like that, so they’re using those type of bacteria versus a different type, like traditional brewers yeast. Or it could even be a blend, I’m not sure, but it produces kind of a different flavor. 

>> STEVE: It definitely leaves you with a lot to experience, like the IPA was just straight up bitter, right? 

>> CHRIS: Yes. 

>> STEVE: This definitely leaves you with an aftertaste that there’s a lot to experience, right? Going in and then after a few seconds, and the finish, and then even if you wait a few minutes, it’s like you’re still tasting stuff. There’s a lot in there. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. It’s not like a one-note beer, right? 

>> STEVE: Yes, that’s a good way to put it. 

>> AMBER: So, you know, the thing I know about milk stouts is that they say that if you’re a nursing mom that this helps with milk production. [chuckles] Like the lactose or something in it. That’s the thing I remember from my past days [chuckles] outside of web when I was a lactation consultant. We would be, like, “Go drink a beer.” 

Although it’s also weird because sometimes it’s also like it just relaxes you, and so maybe you don’t stress out about it so much. [laughs] 

>> STEVE: But that’s not good to drink alcohol and then nurse a baby, right? [inaudible]. 

>> AMBER: Well, it depends on how much you drink. A little bit of beer is not going to… I mean, you don’t want to get wasted. [laughter] But, you know. 

>> STEVE: Yes, yes, I know. 

>> AMBER: Weird facts. 

>> CHRIS: So I’m curious to know, as you all taste this… I mean, they’re saying we should be tasting roasted peanuts, dark chocolate, and coffee. I kind of get the roasted peanut on the finish. I don’t feel like I’m really getting coffee or chocolate, or I’m not able to pick them out. How do y’all feel?

>> STEVE: Yes. There’s something on the finish that’s like creamy. I don’t know if that’s chocolate or if that’s the milk. 

>> CHRIS: The finish for me is like… You know the red skin that’s on the outside of a freshly-peeled peanut? That’s what I feel like I taste. It’s like that slightly stringent peanut skin, like the outer layer, which is a little weird to say, I know, but that’s kind of what I’m getting. 

>> AMBER: I get the chocolate. I don’t get coffee at all. I don’t think I would call, like, this a coffee. There are other stouts. I think we’ve even had one that had a very strong, more bitter or acidic kind of coffee flavor. I don’t get that, but I get the chocolate with the peanut butter, both on the nose, and in the flavor. To me, honestly, it’s like a tasty grown-up version of a peanut butter cup. It kind of smells to me, and I get the chocolate a little bit.

CHRIS: I like the way you described that: A grown-up peanut butter cup. That’s fun. 


What I will say too is I feel like this is different than many other stouts I’ve tried. A lot of times when I’m smelling or tasting a stout, it’s really heavy on molasses, vanilla, those types of flavors, like, the coffee is really heavy. This one, I’m getting less of that, and I’m getting some different stuff. It’s a little sweet. I’m getting a little bit of the peanut butter, and maybe what I’m tasting as sweet is what you’re perceiving as chocolate, Amber, and we’re just perceiving it differently. That’s the fun thing about tasting these things; it’s always completely subjective.

I would get this again.

>> STEVE: Yes.

>> AMBER: Yes, me too. 

>> CHRIS: This is good. This has a seal of approval from me, and I am not normally one to like stouts, so that’s pretty unique for me to find a stout I actually kind of enjoy. 

>> AMBER: Awesome. Well shall we dive into some accessibility stuff? 

>> STEVE: Let’s do it. 

>> CHRIS: Let’s do it. 

>> AMBER: All right. Today, we’re going to be maybe less technical, which is good, because I know not everyone who listens to this podcast is a developer. Let’s talk about how we can document accessibility, and I think there’s a couple of different ways that we can do this. We’ve mentioned previously, but we haven’t really talked about in greater details, and the two big ones are Accessibility Statements on Websites and Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, aka a VPAT, which is a more technical thing, whereas the accessibility statement is a statement. It’s not even a legal document. 

I thought it would be interesting to talk about this because we get questions from people. Do you hear these, Chris, in your sales conversations about, “Do I need an accessibility statement?”

>> CHRIS: Typically, I am the one bringing up accessibility statements, to basically give people or make people aware of some tools that they have to introduce public controls around accessibility and better communication around accessibility with their audience, and how that can sometimes help them direct complaints in a more productive manner to the right people who can help solve the person’s problem, versus someone just immediately contacting their attorney or feeling pushed off. Like, having a statement, having a policy that’s public, and that most importantly, your team is aware and behind executing is critically important, and I think they can just help organizations be more proactive about how they respond to and address accessibility complaints, and that’s the primary lens through which it comes up in my conversations, but, of course, I know that there’s more to it than that.

AMBER: Yes. I actually wrote a recent post on the Admin Bar for the Accessibility Weekly series that I do about this. 

I think we’ve had this episode on the podcast, Lainey Finegold’s talk was a podcast episode, right? 

>> CHRIS: Yes. 

>> AMBER: Well have to find what episode number that was. Maybe you can dig that up to tell people, but she came and spoke at WordPress Accessibility Meetup about laws in the United States, and that was a question that people asked her, and, of course, she’s an attorney. 

I went to go find that clip, and then I looked at her blog. She has a really great article or page on her website that talks all about accessibility statements, and she said the same thing at meetup, which is that she does think that having an accessibility page linked in your footer helps organizations avoid legal actions, so it can be protective of a lawsuit, but she says on her page on her website, as long as there’s an active phone number and email address, and site visitors get prompt and positive responses to feedback, so you can’t just put one and not do anything, but consumers are looking for that and they like transparency. They’re looking for a way to get help, and if that page shows them how to get help, then they are more likely to reach out and try to get help proactively. If they can’t get help, that’s when I think sometimes those lawsuits happen, because they’re frustrated. 

>> CHRIS: So on that front, I know that we spent a lot of time when we were creating Equalize Digital many, many years ago thinking about what we wanted our own accessibility statement to look like and how we wanted it to read. Maybe it would be beneficial just to quickly take people through what the major components of a good accessibility statement are. We’ve already kind of covered, have a clear path to reach out to someone if you need help, so that’s one of the first things. 

I would also say it’s kind of like the reverse out of that, and I don’t want to call anybody out, but I have seen accessibility statements where they’re more about just trying to shield the company from legal liability and less about being helpful, and that’s what you want to stay away from too. It’s just having your accessibility statement read like it’s a terms of service or a privacy policy. You want it to be like an actual helpful, actionable document, but Amber or Steve, what are some of the other sections that you’ve seen or that you think are important besides having someone to contact? 

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STEVE: Sure. I think some of the basics are accessibility features that you have on your website, right? You want to list those out. You want to list out areas of improvement. 

>> AMBER: This was a big thing that came up with one of the community colleges that we’re doing remediation for, and they’re using a third-party platform for their course registration for adult classes. Not like the [inaudible], but the [inaudible] classes, and the Office of Civil Rights told them, because they reached out to that third-party platform, and the third-party platform was, like, “Yes, we can’t fix this stuff.” And they’re, like, “OK, but we can’t instantly change this.” And the Office of Civil Rights was like, “Well, what is helpful is, don’t waste people’s time.” So put a very big statement above the link to go register that says, “Our registration platform is not accessible. We’re in the process of changing it. In the meantime, if you’re a person with a screen reader and you don’t want to use it, here’s how you can register.” Like an alternate method, but putting it really clear. 

I think that’s the same thing, like what you’re saying, Steve, of listing out, “These are areas we know.” Because if you tell people ahead of time, “All of our PDFs created before 2017 are not accessible,” then they aren’t going to waste their time trying to download those PDFs.

STEVE: Right. I think that goes to what Chris was saying, like, don’t just go find an accessibility statement on the internet and copy and paste it onto your website, and wipe your hands and think you’re good. It needs to cater to your specific website. It needs to list out accessible features you actually have implemented and ones that you actively are working on. 

>> AMBER: Yes. That’s actually a good point, and now that we’ve done this… I opened our accessibility statement, and I hadn’t been on there for quite a while, but talking about accessibility statements probably should be living documents, and I noticed on here that we still say in ours, because we have a whole section on ours that talks about… 

So I think it’s important to always include what sort of standard you’re trying to meet, or if you have a promise or a commitment of some sort, say that, so people know, so we have that, and we say that we’re continually testing for WCAG 2.1 level AA compliance; and where possible, we strive to meet AAA compliance. Then we follow up by saying how we’re testing, and I noticed that it still says we use Monsido, which we don’t because we use our own plugin now. 


We were all, like, “We don’t need to pay for Monsido.” Sorry, Monsido, so talking about this, I’m, like, “Oh, man. Living document.” I’m going to go edit this page right now and remove that. 

>> STEVE: Yes. Speaking of Accessibility Checker, not to toot our own horns, but our plugin does include an accessibility statement. When you install the plugin, it’ll automatically set up a draft page with a template accessibility statement, with some of these areas that we’ve been talking about, and placeholders for you to put in your own information, your own contact information.

AMBER: Yes. It’s much like the way WordPress Core spins up a draft privacy policy statement. Ours does the same thing, so it’s not published, but it’s a draft that gives you some copy, and then you can go in and edit it to make it accurate for your organization, and then publish and link it in the footer if you want. 

>> STEVE: Yes. In the Accessibility Checker settings, there’s a little checkbox to display a link to your… It’s called “Add footer accessibility statement.” So use checker box, and it’ll show that accessibility statement page in your footer.

AMBER: Yes, so we talked about, how your accessibility statement should have contact information. 

I mentioned Ms. Lainey said phone number and email address. I think this is one thing that we’ve had to talk clients out of, because I know a lot of us, we don’t like putting an email address because you get a lot of spam, and I’ll totally say, the email address that’s on our page, it is only for that one page, and it gets a lot of spam. It used to just go to my personal inbox, and I was getting so… I mean, like, total… Just like someone crawled the email address [inaudible]. Now it forwards to our Zendesk support system, because Zendesk has much better filters than Gmail does for getting spam and not sending them in. 

Should we talk a little bit about why you should have an email address and not a contact form on your accessibility statement? 

>> STEVE: Probably for accessibility, right? 

>> CHRIS: Yes. If you’re using a form solution or you’ve built a custom web form that isn’t itself accessible, then your audience that requires accessibility features will not be able to ask you for help. 

>> AMBER: Yes, it’s not accessible. You could have a form, but you really need to know, and it’s a little bit dicey with WordPress plugins, because we’ve talked about this before; they might release an update, and even if you’re using a really trusted form plugin, you never know, so to me, it’s just safer to give them an email address, or a phone number if someone prefers to call. 

>> STEVE: Yes. I like on ours, too, how you have the “last updated” on there. Is that part of the statement or is that part of the website? It says, “last updated.”

>> AMBER: That’s manual, on the page. 

>> STEVE: Oh, it’s on the page. 

>> AMBER: I think we have those on our statement, and we also put them on our terms of service and our privacy policy and stuff, right?

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: Yes, so I’ll be able to go change that date. 

>> STEVE: That’s a good question, so ours says “Last updated: April 18th, 2020.” So how often should we be updating these statements?

CHRIS: I would say, in an ideal world, annually at a minimum, which obviously we have not done. We just found a mistake in ours listing a tool we don’t use anymore. 

>> AMBER: Well, hold on. Should you be updating it annually or just reviewing it annually?

CHRIS: Well I guess that’s what I mean by that. I don’t mean changing it just for the sake of change. 

>> AMBER: Yes, so you need to review it at least annually to make sure it’s still accurate?

>> CHRIS: Yes. Reviewing the accessibility statement itself, just the language, is not enough. It also means reviewing your website, and having some sort of check in place to make sure that you’re checking at least annually that the features you claim to have on your website are still indeed there and still usable.

STEVE: So would a review constitute bopping that last updated date? If you’ve reviewed it for 2024, which is coming up unbelievably, would you update that date if you’ve reviewed it? 

>> AMBER: No. I think generally you only change the date if you’ve changed the content. 

>> STEVE: Right. Right. 

>> AMBER: If you review it and it’s all still accurate and still reflects your policy and your practices as an organization, then you probably don’t need to change the date. 

>> STEVE: Cool. 

>> AMBER: So accessibility statements; we’ll put some links in the show notes over to Lainey. She has a great article, and then we’ll put a link over to my post on the admin barks that has a great sort of explanation about how to write one if you want to start. 

Also, I think the “UK.gov” has a sample accessibility statement, and the W3 has an accessibility statement generator, so there are a lot of different ones, but I would say you definitely need to read them and make sure that they accurately reflect what’s going on in your organization, and potentially, even though it’s not a legal document in the same way that terms of service or privacy policy is, it still might behoove you if you’re a very large organization to just run it by an attorney, I would think.

STEVE: Yes. Would you do that for anybody, or only any country or anybody that’s under a requirement by their government? 

>> AMBER: Yes, so that’s a good point, which is that people sometimes ask, “Are these required by law?” And in the United States, you’re not required to have an accessibility statement with the exception of, when websites have gotten sued, then they are frequently required to add one as part of the settlement, and then they’re required to because that was part of their settlement agreement, but outside of the United States, the European Union and laws in the UK require public sector government websites to have them, so circling back to your question, I would say generally, if you’re under a certain jurisdiction that does require it, then I would definitely check with an attorney to make sure. If you’re not, it’s kind of, you decide, but I mean, that’s the way it works with privacy policies too, right?

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: Some businesses just write their own, and they’re like, “OK, whatever. I’m good.” And other businesses are like, “No, I’m going to have an attorney write this for me.” And some use the generators in between, right? 

>> STEVE: Yes, yes. I think with a lot of the accessibility stuff, you know, we talk about the legal, but we always kind of take the next step to the ethical, right?

>> AMBER: Yes. 

>> CHRIS: Yes.

>> STEVE: We probably should all have an ethical responsibility to think about accessibility going, always trying to be a step above what is required by law, because in the future, it’s highly likely that these things are going to be required by law sooner or later, so it’s good to get ahead of the game and be familiar with these things, and to be working towards those so when it does become a law, you’re not scrambling, right? 

>> AMBER: Yes. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. Putting my big business hat on for a second, because I’ve done large corporate jobs in the past. When I was still in contract dining, I worked for a very large multinational corporations, and they had a whole risk management and compliance department that was checking in with all the units for all sorts of things related to complying with laws, from HR to food handling, related regulations to USDA, related regulations and HACCP plans, like all this stuff, and so I think if you’re a very large company and you’re doing a lot digitally, right? So those were examples of like real world or physical world-type risk management and compliance. If you’re a digital company, hopefully your risk management or your compliance officer, like some companies have a CCO, a chief compliance officer, that is responsible for these things. Hopefully, they’re thinking about accessibility, and are leveraging tools, hiring in-house experts, or working with other companies to have all of this buttoned up and handled appropriately. 

>> AMBER: Yes. You know what I think? And I mean, we could maybe go on a slight tangent here because we’ve had some of these conversations, not necessarily about accessibility, but I feel like this is probably one of the hardest thing about being a business owner, which is figuring out where is that line between, “I’m just a tiny micro business that nobody pays any attention to” and “Now I’m big enough that I need to start worrying about sales tax in Saskatchewan, Canada, [laughter] or whatever that might be, and I think that’s probably challenging. On the accessibility front, there are a lot of laws that are changing, and it can be hard. 

I don’t know if we’ve ever talked about this on the podcast, but we have a client that used to sell to the LA County School District. Have we talked about that on the podcast? 

>> CHRIS: I think we maybe just slightly referred to that person, kind of getting blindsided with “Now accessibility is a requirement with your platform,” and the LA schools will no longer allow that person to be a vendor because their platform isn’t accessible and their content isn’t accessible, and they claimed that they didn’t know. 

The extent of our engagement with this customer, by the way, I think it’s good to point out, was limited to website maintenance, so it wasn’t… 

>> AMBER: Yes, we didn’t build their website.

>> CHRIS: We didn’t build their website. We weren’t advising them on accessibility at all, but it kind of came out of the blue, and now we are, because you don’t want to lose LA public schools as a client. Everyone who listens to this can probably imagine the size of that customer in terms of how big their organization is. 

>> AMBER: But that’s the thing with the laws though, because the law that ended up impacting that customer is that state or federally funded entities can’t purchase inaccessible technology, and so it wasn’t that the ADA, it became a problem. Now, of course, under the ADA and under the Civil Rights Act in California, where this person is located, they needed to be accessible, and we had told them that, but what ended up impacting them was a law on the government entities that then stopped the government entities from spending their money with this organization, so it is hard. There’s a lot of laws that you might not know about. 

>> STEVE: There was little to no advanced, right? 

>> CHRIS: Oh, there’s zero warning. It came up in the renewal application that went out 60 days before the whole contract was up, so no time, no notice was given. 

>> AMBER: I mean, I don’t know though. I have a hard time, because we told her when they came to us for a maintenance. We were, like, “Your website’s not accessible.”

>> STEVE: Oh, yes, yes.

AMBER: I mean, it’s a nonprofit, so they don’t have a lot of budget, right? But at the same time. Whose responsibility is it to watch all those laws? I don’t know. 

>> CHRIS: Well, that’s the thing that’s hard.

STEVE: As a business owner, I think you’ve got to be mindful of who your customer is or who your potential customer could be. Obviously, if you’re in the education space, you’re creating an educational platform, and you’re going to be tied to either Higher Ed or some government entity, and that those requirements are going to come down the pipe, and it comes from California, because they’re leading the charge and legal requirements for accessibility in the United States, right?

>> AMBER: A lot of things. Privacy policies too. 

>> STEVE: Yes, yes, yes, exactly, so the privacy policies are probably in line with some of the stuff that’s happening in Europe, so you’ve got to know your audience. You got to be a little bit aware. You got to listen to the “Accessibility Craft” podcast so you know these things. [laughs] 

>> AMBER: Send your clients this episode, everyone. 

>> STEVE: Yes, yes. 


>> CHRIS: And I just want to say too, I really can empathize with people who get blindsided by this. You don’t know what you don’t know, and if you’re distanced from web or your website or legal proceedings happening in the DOJ here in the US or in your home state, it’s entirely possible you’re completely oblivious to this stuff happening, and then one day it just slaps you in the face. I think that is one shortcoming of our overall legal system and the way that we enforce laws, which is that a lot gets put on business owners and citizens, and they’re just expected to understand thousands and thousands and thousands of pages of regulations, and there’s no sympathy, no quarter given for, “I didn’t know that this applied to me.” Right? It’s, “It doesn’t matter; it’s the law.” Tough cookies. That’s one reason. 

This is becoming a tangent, but whatever. I’m COO, so this is stuff I think about a lot, but that’s one reason why we have an external HR partner who handles all of our reporting, all of our payroll tax, all of our processing, all of our compliance, because it’s just too much with multiple people in multiple states to keep track of all of it. Same probably goes for some organizations as they get larger and have more product sales. Like Big Sass’s, they’re probably working with external entities who handle all their sales tax, but even those entities don’t, apparently, do a very good job. 

Amber, you brought up sales tax earlier, so there’s so much to track of, and so I do empathize, but at the same time, yes, we should all be striving towards accessibility, and that’s why we’re doing the advocacy and the awareness. We’re
trying to build awareness for it. 

>> AMBER: So like you’re saying, bringing on partners, right? First of all, I think the biggest thing is that web developers, whether they’re a freelancer or an agency, have an ethical obligation to our clients or a fiduciary obligation to our clients to educate them. We say to them all the time, “We’re not attorneys, but you need a privacy policy.” “I can’t tell you what needs to be in it, but I know you need one.”

>> CHRIS: Yes. 

>> AMBER: Or if you’re a web developer that doesn’t super get accessibility, yay for listening to our podcast.


That probably means you’re learning, but if you’re not, you don’t have to pretend to be an expert, but that does not mean that you should not tell your clients about it, so what you say is that, “Hey, you are a nonprofit selling to K-12 schools. Your stuff is going to need to be accessible. I am not an accessibility specialist. I’m a really awesome developer, but here’s a partner that I can bring in on this project to be the accessibility consultant on the team.” Or, “Here are some blind people that I’m going to pay to test your stuff, or some deaf people who are going to watch your videos and make sure that you’re captioning them appropriately, and then we’re going to come up with a game plan.” So I think that’s what’s really important. 

Can business owners stay on top of every law all the time? No, but when they come to us as the expert who’ll build them a website, some of these business owners don’t even understand anything about the web. They ask the most basic questions, and we all like to laugh at them in the Facebook groups, for the agency owners or whatever, but they’re trusting us, and so you have to educate them that accessibility is important, and why it’s not an option. 

>> STEVE: I think specifically for the developers out there, the little solo agencies and stuff too, this could be a whole episode in and of itself. 

If you’re including accessibility in your process, and at least at the basic level, you’re acknowledging it, you’re explaining it to them, you’re giving them options, that could help mitigate risk on you. 

There could be cases where if you create a platform for somebody, like an educational tool, as a developer and then that company gets sued or something, there may be standing to go after that developer as well in certain jurisdictions.

AMBER: Yes. There’s a bill. I’ll put a link in the show notes. In California, it didn’t get out of committee, this session, so it’s being held, which means it won’t be until the next session, which will be two years from now, but in California, it’s AB1757, and it would adopt Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 AA as the de facto standards for websites and mobile apps, and it would impose liability for statutory damages on business establishments and website developers. This proposed law is not just for businesses getting damages from the states or in lawsuits, also the developer who built the website, so if this passes, this will be a big thing to follow, or you’re just going to stop working with clients in California. I don’t know. [chuckles] 

The thing that’s weird about that is the business doesn’t have to be based there, because websites serve everyone, and if it’s E-commerce business that ships stuff to California, then they need to follow this law whether or not they happen to be located in California.

CHRIS: Yes. You know where my head immediately went with this? We’re still building highly custom websites for people and delivering those to them; and then they have control over those websites, and can add any plugins they want, add any content that they want, and can rearrange elements on the page, so where does the liability ultimately sit? And how do you prove that it’s the developer versus the client when someone gets pulled into a lawsuit for this? I just see it being incredibly messy. Not that there aren’t developers that build horribly inaccessible things, because there are, unfortunately still, but for the people who are doing it right, I could even see this as being a significant potential liability, unless they’re literally not allowing their customers to touch the website at all.

STEVE: Yes. You might be asking yourself an operations question, Chris. It may be something in the process that gets implemented, and you’d have to probably consult some lawyers to figure this out, where there’s some kind of handoff, and there’s documents assigned by all parties involved that shifts from you, like, “We’ve acknowledged that it meets the certain accessibility requirements at this point in time. This is now your baby to take home and raise, right? 


>> CHRIS: Yes. 

>> AMBER: Yes, yes, yes. 

>> CHRIS: Well, our thing already has a version of what you described. I think we’ve talked a little bit before on previous episodes about some of the stuff that are in our terms around what we guarantee is accessible and what we don’t, and pretty much what we don’t guarantee is anything that’s third party or something that the customer does, because they’re not a subject matter expert, and they could do things that are inaccessible. 

>> AMBER: Oh, I’m pretty sure that our actual contract, the language in our contract, goes a step further, and it says that we guarantee accessibility at the time of handoff. I’m pretty sure it specifically says something to the effect that if plugins are updated, we cannot guarantee, so it’s like it would need to be a static website to stay, right? Like, we can’t do that. 

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> CHRIS: Yes, third-party plugins. 

>> STEVE: Yes. The question would be, is there a snapshot in time? We do functionality proofs on our websites and stuff, right? We take screenshots to prove that things are functioning. It’s almost like, do you need to store a snapshot in time? I don’t know. I’m a developer, so you go into WP-CLI and you output all the plugins, and you save what version and just tuck that away in a file. 

>> AMBER: That’s a lot of storage that you might end up with, especially if you’re an agency that builds a lot of websites. Although, you know, an interesting thought on that, and this is a great, I feel like we’re circling a little bit back to documenting accessibility, what this episode is supposed to be about, but I have a question. You can go trigger the internet archive, like the Wayback machine to save. Can you go be, like, “Save a copy right now” on any webpage? Could you do that? 

>> STEVE: Well, I don’t know. 

>> AMBER: Like, hand off your client, go to the Wayback machine and be, like, “Save a copy of this website”?

>> STEVE: Maybe. 

>> AMBER: I mean, it would be every page, but you can do primary pages. I don’t know. 

>> STEVE: I’m more just talking like a snapshot of what version all the software is on at the time of handoff.

AMBER: Yes, yes, yes, so it changes… The other thing is, [crosstalk] if you’re doing user testing.., sorry. Go ahead. 

>> STEVE: No, no, no, that’s fine. I was just tagging on that it could just be thrown into the readme and the repo; and that way, it’s time stamped.

AMBER: Yes, so it’s interesting with COVID. Before COVID, when we did user testing, we had users come to our office, and then we got rid of our office, and we’re all remote. Now we do it on Zoom, and we always record those, so that’s another thing too. You do user testing, you record, then you go fix the issues, and then you have the user come back, and, literally, in a recording, go through. It’s fine, and then you could document, and you would be able to be, like, “OK, at this point in time, right before handoff, it was tested by this blind person on this screen reader and this operating system, and they confirmed it was no problem, and here’s the video recording showing it.”

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: That to me seems like a decent way to document accessibility. 

>> STEVE: Yes. We could debate on what would actually be legal, would stand up legally, but I think in a lot of these cases when companies become under review for accessibility, I think, a lot of times, where they get in big trouble is where there’s no effort put forward at all to be accessible. 

I think that goes back to the accessibility statement, right? If your accessibility statement shows the efforts that you’ve already made, and the efforts that you’re planning on making in the future.

AMBER: Yes. I think that’s why Lainey and some of the other attorneys that say these can help you, I think that’s why, because it’s a way of being transparent as an organization and saying, “Hey, we paid attention to it.” 

There are the weird lawsuits that happen where they’re just looking for someone, but my guess is that most of the time, those probably go against companies or websites that don’t have accessibility statements, and I’m saying this having not done any research, so I’m totally making it up. That would be my guess. I think that’s safe to say, because it’s an easier target, right? 

Now, they might have an overlay, which is a very interesting thing, because weirdly, an overlay sort of suggests you’re trying, or at least it suggests that you’re aware of accessibility. [chuckles] But it has been proven that having an overlay will not stop you from being sued. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. I just want to be the devil’s advocate here and say, is $50 a month really trying, in the context of most businesses’ finances?

AMBER: Well, probably not, but for a micro business, that’s not nothing. 

>> CHRIS: Maybe for a micro, yes.

>> AMBER: But no. At the same time, those websites could probably be… Especially the tiny restaurant ones. When I see an accessibility overlay on a restaurant website, which I see all the time, I am always just, like, “OK, you have a homepage, you have an “about” page, you have a “contact” page or something about your private events, and you have your menus.” It’s like four pages. It would be cheaper to fix it. Maybe not in a month, it would be cheaper, but you’re planning on paying $50 a month for the rest of your business’ existence? It would definitely be cheaper to just fix it, right? And
also stop using PDFs for your menus. 

>> STEVE: It’d definitely be cheaper, too, because if you actually fix it, you’re not going to get sued. With the overlay, you could still get sued.

CHRIS: Yes, that’s kind of the point I was alluding to. The overlay shows that you’re aware that accessibility is a problem and you’re doing almost less than the bare minimum to try to do anything about it, so in a sense, I think it makes you more of a target, and I’m not implying that everybody who uses overlays are bad people, because a lot of people use them and they just don’t know the pitfalls of those. I talk to those people all the time, and usually they’re coming to me, like, they preface it before I look at their website. They’re, like, “When you go to our website, you’re going to see an overlay. We didn’t know any better. We want you to do the real fixes now.” I’ve had those conversations, so people are figuring it out. 

>> STEVE: Do overlays generate accessibility statements? See, I know so little about overlays. 

>> AMBER: I don’t know. It probably depends on the one. The one thing that I did see one time.., and I can’t remember; it might have been during Axcon a couple of years ago, but there was a gentleman who was blind and he was just showing problems that he experiences with overlay. I don’t remember which overlay it was, but he went on one website and it noted he was using a screen reader because they can tell, and he was on the homepage and it forcibly redirected him to the accessibility statement page, and then he could go back. It was, like, “Oh, you’re blind. Go read our accessibility statement,” which was really bad, I think, because he’s, like, “I just want to use the website. If I want to read this, I’ll go read it, but why are you forcing me to read this?” 

I don’t know if the overlay created the accessibility statement, or if it just did that, or if that was a setting that was optional and the website owners decided to turn it on, because they’re, like, “This will be helpful.” I don’t know, but don’t do that with your accessibility statement. Allow people to find it by giving it a very clear link, like “Accessibility statement,” and then they can go there if they want to. Don’t force them to go to that page when they’re actually trying to go somewhere else. 

So let’s talk about the other slightly more official way of documenting accessibility, which we’ve talked about a little bit before, which is going through the process of creating a VPAT, and I know we’ve talked about what these are, but for anyone who hasn’t listened, a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template is an internationally-recognized standard. You can go to a website and download a free Word doc version of this, and you can get different versions for if you just want Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, if you want double A or triple A, if you need Section 508, or there’s an international one which includes European standards, and then you fill that all out, and then you save it as what’s called an Accessibility Conformance Statement. 

I think it would be interesting for us to talk about ours, which I can link, and what we’ve done, and honestly, is it time for us to do it again? Because these are point in time snapshots. 

Also, we could maybe touch on going back to talking about, as a web developer, how do you document this handoff? It’s interesting. Typically, you see these more for software than you do for websites, but I almost wonder if maybe with that California law, if including a VPAT would be helpful with a website. You hand off the website and you hand them a VPAT that tells them literally what the conformance is, because what it looks like.., and people will have to [inaudible], but basically, there’s a table for the different versions, so if I was just looking at one, I’d have a table that has the criteria whether or not we conform to it or not, and any remarks or statements.

For example, one dot one dot one, non-text content, and I was saying that at the time that we did this, which was April 2022, we partially supported that, and there were some notes about some icons that were purely decorative, and expanded buttons that have ambiguous labels, which I think you fixed.

STEVE: We fixed a lot of this, so we probably really need to update this. 

>> AMBER: We’re probably more compliant than we were in 2022. 

>> STEVE: Oh, absolutely. 

>> AMBER: Yes, so, Chris, do you want to talk about why we have this, and why other website or software owners… Even circling back to that client who wanted to sell to LA school district, like, why you would go through the process of creating a VPAT? 

>> CHRIS: If you have, I think particularly, a software product that you’re trying to sell, you would want to have a VPAT. Just generally speaking, I think it would be good to have one, but most people get them because they want to sell to government, and a lot of government agencies and government entities want you to have a VPAT before they will buy from you, and you have to show them that because they have to report that to their bosses, and have it on file. 

>> AMBER: So NASA, they asked us for a copy of our VPAT before they would purchase our software? 

>> CHRIS: Yes.

>> AMBER: Yes, and that’s my thought with this one client I kind of circled back to. They needed to make it accessible, and then she needed to have a VPAT so that when they asked her, she could just hand them the VPATs, and that’s the explanation of where you meet or don’t meet. 

>> CHRIS: I’ve read them, but I’m curious to know, Amber, as someone who’s been involved in drafting and consulting on a few of these. Do you think that translates well to a website? 

>> AMBER: Oh, 100%. Most of the examples you find out there are for software products, but you can do them for websites. 

One company that has good examples is Adobe. If you go to Adobe’s accessibility page, you can download VPATs for not just their products, but also for their documentation website. They have one that talks about the accessibility of their documentation. 

So we chose to do because are, like, “We want to sell our stuff worldwide.” We did the most comprehensive version of the VPAT, which was the standards for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. We did 2.1. We covered all levels A, AA and AAA. Now that’s not to mean we meet everything. If you look at some of the AAA, it says “does not meet…” There’s also something that just says, “does not apply,” like captions on live videos. Well, we don’t have live videos in our software, so it doesn’t apply to us, so it just says, “not applicable.” But we also did Section 508, and then because we’re trying to sell internationally, we have guidelines for European accessibility requirements through the EU in ours as well, but if you’re just selling in the United States, you could probably just go to get the Section 508 version and that would probably be fine. 

>> STEVE: I have a little follow-up question, and, you know, when you talk about applying a VPAT to a website, right? A lot of stuff we do is within WordPress, so if you’re generating a VPAT for a website you’ve created inside WordPress, does that VPAT need to… Maybe there’s multiple chapters of it. One talks about the front-end and one talks about the back-end. Are you then writing a VPAT for WordPress? 

>> AMBER: No. 

>> STEVE: The admin? 

>> AMBER: I actually had a conversation with Carl Groves [phonetic] about this. He was super helpful, because we created our own VPAT, we tested our own stuff, we filled it in, but for transparency and for honesty, I was, like, “I need to get someone who is not at our company to review this document.” So Carl Groves read our ACR and gave us feedback, and that was the thing. I asked him. I said, “How do I do this as a WordPress plugin? Because I don’t want to report on the accessibility of all of WordPress. I want to report on just our parts.” So there’s a cover with very specific sections that you just fill in, and there’s a note section. In ours, it literally says, “The scope of this report is limited to the accessibility of the product only…” Product referencing what was described above. “…and does not cover accessibility in the WordPress content management system as a whole.”

I do think that if you’re doing one for a website, then you would probably in your notes say, “This is just a front-end,” perhaps. Like, you’re only doing it on the front-end experience and not on the admin experience. 

Now, if you’re a WordPress plugin developer who wants to sell to NASA, you got to do the front-end of your plugin, not everyone’s plugins, but the parts your plugin creates, and you need to do the backend, because they can’t buy technology that a disabled person cannot use to edit a website, so you’d have to do both, but you just know in your scope that, “We’re only talking about things created by our product.” Or if it’s a website, “We’re only talking about things created on the front-end, not the CMS itself.”

>> STEVE: Very good. 

>> AMBER: Yes. It’d be great. I feel like we probably should. Is it an annual? I don’t know. We’re a small team, but the thing that flagged for me beyond, I just looked at that and I was like, “Oh, hey, that problem that we listed isn’t actually a problem anymore because we fixed it.” But we’ve added a major feature now, so we’ve added the whole front-end view, and that’s a pretty significant addition, and so to me, that warrants us revisiting our VPAT and updating it, and releasing a new version that talks about the accessibility of that piece. 

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: So person who controls our base camp calendar.


I think we need it to-do. 

>> STEVE: Yes. We’ll find time. 

>> AMBER: It’s important.

STEVE: It’s very important. I agree. 

>> AMBER: Yes, but honestly, I feel like, as far as documenting accessibility, this is probably the gold standard, because it’s not just a general. An accessibility statement isn’t supposed to be super long. It’s like a broad strokes, “This is what we try to do, this is what we’re doing well, these are things that don’t work. Here’s how you contact us for help.” This is a, like, “This success criterion? Yes. No.” “This success criterion? Yes. No.” For every one of them, and so if you really need to thoroughly document accessibility, then this is the way to go. 

>> STEVE: Yes, and you stated that the first pass of this we did. I’m guessing you did it, right? 

>> AMBER: Yes. I had Alex Stine and Roger Venger Perry [phonetic] both do testing for us on occasion, and they both had given feedback on the plugins, so it wasn’t just me testing, but I also tested too.

STEVE: But we’re in a little bit of a unique place to be able to do this, because it’s our business, right? Accessibility is our business. What about people that are not in this, that maybe aren’t equipped to do this themselves? What resources are out there for them? 

>> AMBER: Yes, so we do VPATs. [laughs] Steve, I don’t know if you’re setting this up for a sales pitch, but yes, we do VPATS for other people and audits. 

Usually, the way it works, at least when we do them, is you get on an audit and typically a remediation plan, because nobody wants to write a VPAT that just says you don’t need anything, because, “Here you go, federal government. Here’s my VPAT.” They still won’t buy from you. 


So it’s like the process would be, get an audit of all of the important things, fix whatever problems, so if you’re a developer, you fix those problems. Or maybe if you can’t fix them yourself, you hire someone, or we fix them, and then we go back and retest to confirm fixes, and then we write the VPAT, so that’s the thing I would keep in mind, you know, it’s not an overnight sort of thing. 

So if you don’t have one of these, and a school district says to you, “I need the VPAT,” depending upon the size of your website or your software, you might be looking at getting a VPAT in three to six months. Maybe even longer, I don’t know, but it certainly is not, “Oh, OK. I’ll just hire somebody and get one next week.” [laughs] 

>> CHRIS: Yes. If someone tells you they can get you a VPAT in a week, and you have a large piece of software, don’t work with them.

AMBER: Yes. It means they’re not testing everything thoroughly. It won’t be truthful, and then you could get in big trouble. I don’t know what happens when you hand inaccurate information to the federal government and I don’t want to find out. 


CHRIS: Oh, yes. I was going to say, that’s not something I ever want to learn. 

>> STEVE: Yes. Yes. 

>> CHRIS: But they’re the gold standard for a reason, right? They can take a long time to produce, but then you have them, and like we’ve just said, as with accessibility statements, VPATs also need to be updated occasionally if you enhance your software more. 

>> AMBER: But I would say the initial creation is probably the most amount of time that it takes to create a VPAT. We just talked about, “Oh, we fixed things.” So something that we could probably do better is… What’s our workflow, Steve? We create an issue in GitHub and then what happens? 

>> STEVE: So if there’s an issue created because we have an ambiguous buttons or link or something… The workflow is we create an issue, somebody works on the issue, they submit a PR. The PR gets reviewed; and if it’s approved, then it gets merged into develop, and develop gets tested and turned into a release, and then release gets released, right?

>> AMBER: So do we add a step at the end? 

>> STEVE: This is a hard part about making software, and with a small team too, is that there’s documentation that needs to be updated time to time, and probably tagging on, updating the VPAT or the accessibility statement at the same time as the documentation update, because I’m assuming that those two things could probably be done by the same person, at least on our team, so maybe when that issue is created, we nest in some issue to-dos. 

We’ve done that, where it’s like the development to-do, and then there’s a documentation to-do nested onto the issue, so before it can be released, those things get updated, and then we can merge it, but being a small team, that’s hard. [laughs] 

>> AMBER: Yes, it’s hard. Even so, the small team version of that might be once every six months, so we have an accessibility tag in our GitHub. We could go look at… Let’s say me, because I’m the person [laughs] who does our documentation, this stuff right now, because small team. I could probably go look at all of the closed issues that have an accessibility tag, and I could go see if that was something that was in the VPAT, and then just update that section of the VPAT, and maybe I’m not doing it every month. Nobody updates their VPATs every month, but every six months or something like that, and then the other thing that would trigger would be a massive new feature, and then that’s like a bigger lift maybe, because it’s not just, “Oh, go delete this one.” It doesn’t mean change it instead of partially to fully, right? That’s a quick change. 

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: But if we’re talking about a whole new thing, I mean, we already have accessibility testing built into our process anyway. Like front-end, we had one of our testers that we pay to test. We had him test our software, and he recorded a video, and then we are opening GitHub issues, and some of them are in resolved, some of them are still in process. 

>> STEVE: Sometimes our user testers submit PRs for us, which is great. Thank you, Alex Stine. 

>> AMBER: Yes. Thank you, Alex Stine. 


So I feel like it sounds scary in the beginning, when we were talking about, “Oh, this takes months to get a good VPAT.” Once you’ve created one, if you’re then keeping track of things as you’re finding them or fixing them, or building into the process.., and obviously, we just said this is something we need to get better at, but it’s not months every time you need to update it. It’s definitely faster to update a VPAT. 

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: So the other thing that I wanted to talk about a little bit here, and I have a link in our show notes. I don’t know if Chris or Steve, if you’ve had a chance to look at this at all, but this is the only government I’ve seen doing it. I could be wrong, but in Ontario, they actually have a requirement that businesses and nonprofits with 20 or more employees.., so for profit. We’re not just talking government now. We were talking government a lot. Now we’re talking any business with more than 20 employees who have to submit a compliance report to the provincial government, and they have to submit it every two years, saying how they are complying with the accessibility with Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and WCAG is a requirement under that. 

I thought that was really interesting, because following this whole discussion about documenting accessibility, this is a government that is saying, “You have to tell us if you’re doing it or not.”

>> CHRIS: That’s interesting. Are these private citizens auditing their own websites? 

>> AMBER: Well, that’s the thing that’s really interesting. They have a PDF which you can download in English or French, because Canada is awesome. [laughs] Anyone can download it and just look at it. The thing that I don’t love about this PDF is that it’s like a fillable PDF form. You’d have to fill certain things in in order to see the next steps, because I was playing around with it. 

Technically, it’s the business owner who’s is supposed to submit it, but if I were a business owner and I didn’t know about it, I don’t think I would just answer questions. I feel like I’d probably bring someone in, but it’s the same way. How do you know if you’re meeting the appropriate laws for wheelchair access if you have a physical space? You‘d probably go ask someone right? Whether you ask someone in the province, like, “How many handicapped parking spaces do I need in my parking lot?” I have no idea, but there’s probably a lot about that, and so I’m assuming that there’s someone you can ask and they tell you, and then you know, “Yes or no, I have the right number of handicapped parking spaces.”

>> STEVE: Interesting. Let’s lean on the ethical. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s not give the governments more power. Let’s make the web accessible on our own, because we can do it. It’s the right thing to do. 

>> AMBER: Yes, so you’re not for this then, Steve? You would rather that people make their things accessible and don’t have to report it to government?

>> STEVE: Wow, so we’re going to start another episode here. 

>> AMBER: Right at the end. Stay tuned. 

>> STEVE: Yes. Yes. You know, as high level as I can get with my opinion, which it’s just my opinion, right? So take it for whatever it’s worth. I believe the less power the government has, the better. More power to the people, right? I think that’s the best way to go. The reason why governments are stepping forward into this area of accessibility is because we’re not doing the right things. We’re not doing it on our own, and this is a result of our failings of making accessible websites. 

Now, I get that when the Internet was made, it was a lot easier to make something accessible, but now we have CSS and we have JavaScript and we’ve got dynamic content. We’ve got all this crazy stuff that really impedes on accessibility. They’re stepping in because we’re not doing the right thing. I think we need to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. 

Everybody should have access to your content. If it’s good stuff, everybody should be able to read it or buy it or whatever, but I would like to see us pushing forward on the ethical side more than the legal side, and for many reasons, because you can see it. 

There’s probably lawyers that are just searching for standing so they can sue companies, so they can turn this into profit, and that’s not what we want. We don’t want just to make lawyers rich, so the more laws there are, the more area of ambulance chaser of sorts, but if we don’t turn around and start doing the right thing, the governments are going to step in and force us to do the right thing.

AMBER: Well, what I will say about what I like more about what they’ve done with the AODA in Ontario versus the ADA is that this whole filing a report to the government and having the government enforce it, I honestly think that’s better than the way the ADA is, which is where the law was literally written and it says, “The government can’t find you, but people can sue you.” And then what happens is it sort of puts the onus on people with disabilities to demand access, and I don’t really think that’s fair or right. I don’t think that they should have to force me to make my… It’s an extra burden on them. They don’t have access, and now it’s their job to make sure they can get access. 

So I will say, I much prefer the approach that they’ve taken in Ontario, which is, it’s not people can sue you, it’s that the government can say, “Hey, you’re not complying, and here’s what you need to do,” which is more of what we see happening with the education websites through the justice department. 

They’re not being like, “Oh, we’re going to make people sue,” it’s that people can go complain to the justice. Or through the Department of Education, they can complain, and then the Office of Civil Rights then goes and works with that institution to make it accessible, which is the way I think it should be, really.

STEVE: Well, the risk there is that it opens the door for abuse, and it’s not like governments haven’t abused their power before. The more you give to them, the more opportunity they have to abuse that power. 

Canada has a different government structure than the United States, but in the United States, I’m sure if things started to get real strict like that, that there would have to be checks and balances on who’s creating the standards, and who’s approving what a standard is. It can get really, really messy. 

>> AMBER: Yes, it’s interesting. Everybody references Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, but what happens if there becomes a law that doesn’t? I don’t know if there would, but, like, right? Yes. 

>> CHRIS: And I think this is what Steve is maybe referencing a little bit with possible government overreach with these things, is if we’re going to suddenly be in a scenario where the government is.., and granted I’m reaching with this a little bit, but say we’re in a situation where our government is setting its own accessibility standards, there would have to be checks and balances, otherwise someone could write standards that would create economic advantages for certain platforms over other platforms, and things of that nature, right? And so there would have to be checks and balances. 

>> STEVE: Yes. Or put people completely out of business because their political views don’t align correctly with the current administration. Abuse of power happens, that’s why I always lean on the ethical. Let’s do the right thing.

>> AMBER: Yes. 

>> CHRIS: Yes, and on the ethics argument, too, if everyone was building accessible websites, Ontario would not be requiring biannual reports for accessibility compliance.

STEVE: You’re totally right. 

>> CHRIS: They’re stepping in because people aren’t doing the right thing. 

>> AMBER: So I’ve just realized that we’ve maybe recorded the longest podcast episode we have ever recorded. Even though this is a phenomenal conversation, I’m going to wrap us up. I think that was a great point. I’m going to say, build things accessible, document your accessibility, have a statement that tells people how they can get help, because, really, that’s what this is about: helping people. 

We’ll see you back here for another conversation in two weeks. 

>> STEVE: All right. See you guys. 

>> CHRIS: All right. Bye. 

>> SPEAKER 1: 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 help make thousands of WordPress websites more accessible at “EqualizeDigital.com.”