038: Accessibility Reporting & The Client Experience, Wild Bill’s Pumpkin Spice Soda


In this episode, we discuss automated accessibility reporting, and how it can impact the customer experience for web hosts, digital agencies, and website maintenance providers, and we go over the many ways in which organizations can benefit from embracing and advocating for accessibility best practices. 

Mentioned in This Episode


>> CHRIS HINDS: Welcome to episode 38 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 automated accessibility reporting, and how it can impact the customer experience for web hosts, digital agencies, and website maintenance providers, and we go over the many ways in which organizations can benefit from embracing and advocating for accessibility best practices. 

For show notes and a full transcript, go to “AccessibilityCraft.com/038.”

Now on to the show. 

>> AMBER HINDS: Hey, everybody, it’s Amber, and I’m here with Chris.

>> CHRIS: Hello, everybody. 

>> AMBER: And Steve.

>> STEVE JONES: Hello, everyone. 

>> AMBER: And we are going to be chatting quite a bit, but to be honest, I want to start with a beverage. I’m excited about this for a couple of reasons. Chris, I’ll let you introduce it, but we also, not too long ago, just got off a three-hour meeting, and I am really thirsty, so tell us what we’re drinking so I can have a sip. [laughs] 

>> CHRIS: All right. Well, we are celebrating fall in true form today with Wild Bill’s Pumpkin Spice Soda. We’ve had something from Wild Bill’s on the podcast before. We tried the root beer. This time, we are trying a… They a did a limited run of a pumpkin spice flavored soda, so just like the previous one we tried, this is going to be sweetened with sugar. Very cool, veteran owned, artisanal soda company, and I’m just really excited to try this one and get our pumpkin spice on today. 

>> AMBER: Yes. I love pumpkin spice flavor things, except for I hate coffee, so everyone gets all excited when pumpkin spice shows up at Starbucks, and I’m, like, “Nah.” So I’m excited about this. 

>> STEVE: Yes. I will say that there might be a color contrast issue with this can. 


>> AMBER: Yes, yes. Describe the can. It’s like a reddish, burnt brown, but the lettering is like a dirty orange, and when you get to the small type, I can’t read it with my eyes. 

>> CHRIS: Yes, and it’s cursive on top of it. 

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: I think I can if I put it really close. 

“Spice things up with the perfect balance of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. The classic fall blend is irresistibly delicious and by no means basic.” 

Took me a second to get that word. It definitely needs a color contrast improvement, but it is a cute can. They’re tall and skinny. Twelve ounces, so they look more unique than a typical soda can.

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: But I’m excited, and as I said, we’ve been talking a lot, so I’m literally opening it right now. 

>> CHRIS: Here we go. 

>> STEVE: Pure cane sugar, low sodium. Caffeine free, and gluten free.

>> AMBER: Is it also the gluten free? 

>> STEVE: Yes, yes, I guess. 

>> AMBER: Is there a soda with wheat in it? [laughs] 

>> STEVE: I don’t know. Maybe. 

>> AMBER: It’s the weird things, like, that No R… Or what is it, RBSC or something that they put on the milk? But actually, no milk is allowed to have that. [chuckles], so it’s like this weird thing. Like, it’s not really a differentiator, but… 

>> STEVE: This is kind of unusual. I don’t know if this is… 

>> AMBER: Mine is fizzing up. 

>> STEVE: Yes. Mine’s overflowing, like, out of the top.

>> AMBER: Mine too. It’s, like, super carbonated. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. 

>> STEVE: Yes. I can’t even hold it. I’m going to have to lean down and sip it right from the can. 


>> AMBER: I wanted to smell it first, but I’m worried. I think I have to sip it, but I don’t get a… Do you get a pumpkin spice smell off this? Because I don’t. 

>> STEVE: I don’t get any smell. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. I smell a little bit of vanilla. While you all taste, I’ve taken a couple of sips of this. The initial thing that jumps to mind for me is it kind of tastes like a cream soda.

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> CHRIS: I get the vanilla, but there is this little bit of undertone of cinnamon, and maybe a little nutmeg. I’m not getting the allspice or the clove as much in what I’m tasting. 

>> AMBER: OK, it is really carbonated, but not in, like, a biting way, and I think I remember this about their root beer. Like, it’s a soft carbonation, but it’s really bubbly. When I put it in my mouth, I feel it. You know how it was coming out of the can? 

>> STEVE: Yes, yes. 

>> AMBER: I feel it bubbling like that in my mouth, not in an unpleasant, sharp way. It’s soft. [laughs] That’s a weird thing to say, but. 

>> CHRIS: Yes, I don’t know. Did anyone eat Pop Rocks when they were a kid? I’m probably dating myself with that candy. Kind of gives me a Pop Rock vibe. It’s very [frizzles] like. 

>> STEVE: Yes. They said if you ate Pop Rocks and, like, Coke, it would kill you or something. 


Then we all did it and it didn’t kill us. [laughs]

>> AMBER: OK. Yes. I don’t know if I get pumpkin spice, but I’m a little sad. I wanted it to be spicier.

>> STEVE: I agree with Chris. It’s very creamy. Like, very smooth. I’m not getting a pumpkin vibe too much, but it’s good. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. 

>> AMBER: It tastes good, but I don’t think it tastes like fall, sorry Wild Bill’s. [laughs]. 

>> CHRIS: I would have liked a little more cinnamon clove forward flavor. I’m mostly getting kind of a of vanilla flavor, which is interesting, because I’m trying to find the ingredients here. 

>> STEVE: Yes, like a sugary vanilla. 

>> AMBER: Here’s why. While they do use pure cane sugar, which is better than high-fructose corn syrup, they just use natural flavor. [chuckles] “Natural flavor.” Who knows what that is, right?

>> STEVE: Yes, yes. 

>> AMBER: But they don’t list any actual spices in the ingredients. 

>> STEVE: Wow, I see. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. There’s no, like, spice extracts in it. 

>> AMBER: Yes, there’s no, like, clove oil or something like that. There’s none of that, which is probably why the flavor is not there. It’s not strong enough, and as I was about to say, if you are a voider of food coloring, it has yellow number six, so maybe don’t… 

>> STEVE: Oh, what’s that one do?

>> AMBER: I don’t know. 

>> CHRIS: It’s making it kind of like an orange-ish color. 

>> AMBER: I know I should have gotten a cup. It is actually kind of orange. 

>> STEVE: Yes. Caramel orange, yes. 

>> AMBER: Yes. Not like orange soda orange, but, like, kind of. Yes. 

>> STEVE: Brownish. Yes. 

>> AMBER: So it’s tasty, but it’s disappointing. That’s what I’m going to give it. I was excited. I was hoping it would have more of a fall pumpkin pie kind of flavor for it, and I don’t get any of that. 

>> STEVE: Yes, yes. 

>> CHRIS: Yes, sorry Wild Bill’s, but just didn’t quite live up to our hopes and dreams for what a pumpkin spice soda could be, but it’s definitely not bad either. I’ll be finishing this can. 

>> AMBER: Oh, yes, I’m sure I will drink it too. [laughs] 

So on the note of disappointing people – 

>> CHRIS: Ooh, good segue. 

>> AMBER: – Our topic today is something that Chris suggested, and maybe you can explain it a little more eloquently than I can, but we’ve had some conversations with people about our Accessibility Checker plugin and some concerns they have about using it because it surfaces problems in their work to their clients or their customers, and they don’t want their clients or customers to feel disappointed and/or angry. 


>> CHRIS: Yes. 

>> AMBER: Is that sort of summarized? 

>> CHRIS: Yes, so the working title for this is “Accessibility Reporting and the Client Experience,” right? And so the “client experience” here, to be clear, are not our clients. It’s the experience of the clients of the people who use our tool. 

What we’re talking about here are WordPress hosts, agencies, maintenance companies, a lot of whom I speak to pretty often. They’re all lovely people. They care about accessibility. They want to do the right thing. They are also really mindful of what the experience of their customers is going to be. They want it to be positive. They want it to be low stress so those people stick around. 

So what I want to talk about today is something that comes up in my conversations, which is they’re evaluating a tool. It could be Accessibility Checker. It could be something else, which at its most… Like, I’m being really reductive here, but this is a tool that points out problems in other people’s work, right? 

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> CHRIS: And it surfaces those problems in a way that is highly visible. It is right inside the dashboard where the user is. 

>> AMBER: Well, let’s be clear. Hold on. Back up, for anyone who’s not used our plugin. It surfaces problems to people who have administrator and back-end access to the website. It doesn’t put any problems surfaced publicly. They’re not like in an API that could be accessed. It’s not like to users of the website. 

>> STEVE: Right.

>> AMBER: I just want to make that clear for people who haven’t seen our plugin. 

>> CHRIS: It’s capital “you” users, people who are managing the website. They’re in the back-end. 

>> AMBER: Or owning the website. Yes. 

>> CHRIS: Or owning it. They’re going to see this, and one thing that often comes up are these questions of, “Is your tool going to make me look bad?” “Is this tool going to stress out my customers every time they go in and edit something?” “Am I going to get a bunch of extra support requests because this tool is here and they’re going to mistakenly blame me, the web host, for accessibility problems on their website, which I maybe didn’t have anything to do with other than I host it?”

So these are the kinds of questions that I get and some of the conversations that I have, and where I’d love to start is just to talk a little bit about why do we think people get worried about these things, and what sorts of scenarios do we think kind of play out in their heads, if we’re putting on our empathy hats. 

>> AMBER: What’s interesting about that more support request is different customers of ours, people who might purchase the plugin to put on sites, have different responses to that. 

A hosting company wants probably as few support requests as they possibly can because it’s a cost center for them, right? They have to pay someone to answer questions. 

An agency probably would see that as a boon, because they’re probably charging their customers hourly to provide support, and so they might be, like, “Oh, if the plugin flags something in another plugin…” Like, the website was fine, then a plugin that was on the website gets updated, and that adds accessibility problems, and Accessibility Checker finds it. “…My customer is now going to contact me and ask for help that I get to charge them for.” So that’s a really interesting thing. There’s different user groups that probably have different responses to that. 

>> STEVE: Yes. I would question what the alternative is, right? The alternative to seeing those issues, and the alternative is turning a blind eye to accessibility, right? Accessibility, to a lot of developers and content creators, it’s still a friction point. We don’t necessarily have tools that are one-click fixes. Now, some may claim that’s possible, but we don’t advocate for that, right? 

>> AMBER: We even spoke earlier about this, how in the WordPress project itself, there are some people who feel like accessibility, all it does is slow down their dev workflow, and it frustrates them. 

>> STEVE: And I can speak to that from a development standpoint, being somebody that has gone through learning how to code accessibility and helping bring other developers up to code accessibly, right? Yes, there is a learning curve, but after a while, that learning curve goes away and it starts to pay off, and you don’t know how to code it without making it accessible. 

Once you go through the steps to figure out how to make an accessible modal, right? And making an accessible modal is not all that difficult. You got to get a few Aria labels, you got to trap the focus on the modal, but once you’ve done it once or twice, it’s just something that gets ingrained in you, “This is how you make a modal.” It’s not, how do you make an accessible modal. This is how you make a modal, right? 

>> AMBER: Yes. 

>> STEVE: Because an accessible modal really is the only right way to make a modal. 

Some developers may look at it as something that impedes their progress, that slows them down, right? And, yes, it will for a time until you learn how to do it that way, and if you do it that way and you do it first, you’re not going to have that technical, all this inaccessible code, technical debt down the line that is then going to have to be fixed, because let’s face it, it’s going to have to be fixed, right? 

>> AMBER: Yes. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. 

>> STEVE: At some point in time. 

>> AMBER: The laws are coming. There is a requirement by June 2025 in Europe that websites… And we’re not just talking government websites. Like, the laws are pretty strong on government websites, but this law in Europe is on for-profit business websites too, so, yes, it’s coming. Those changes have to be made. 

What’s the alternative? The alternative is the problems are there and we just pretend they’re not? [laughs] Right? 

>> STEVE: Yes, and then the site owner gets sued, and they’ve not shown any measured steps to remediate or to acknowledge their accessibility problems. 

We spoke about in previous episode about your accessibility statement, and what that does is that allows you to acknowledge the inaccessible parts of your website and to show that you’re working and making effort to to solve those. 

So the Accessibility Checker plugin, if you put it on your website, it actually will show that you’re taking an effort to be accessible to some degree. Where I think a lot of people really get in trouble is when they’ve avoided any steps or measures to be accessible, right?

>> CHRIS: Yes.

>> AMBER: And they don’t have anything that can track that, which I don’t know if we’ll have it out yet when this comes out, but I know we’re working on an add-on for Accessibility Checker that will store history, because right now, it only shows current points in time, and people have been, like, screenshotting and stuff to maintain a history, but we’re going to build that into the plugin so you don’t have to do the extra work of screenshotting, so I think you’re right. 

Stepping back a little bit to your question, Chris, about putting ourselves in those shoes, I think a good example of this, if I were going to walk through one example is GoDaddy. On the WordPress Accessibility Meetup, Alex Stine and I did an audit for them. They stepped up and asked us to audit their theme that is on all of their one-click installs, and that was the first time I had, like, spun up a GoDaddy website, like, I went and bought one, because I actually was, like, maybe I’m going to put my own website here because I need to migrate it. 

What they have done really well in this is that, I bought the hosting plan. It was through WordPress, so I knew it would burst, so it’s, like, “Click a button.” It created the site with their starter theme. It even put in some content. I think I had templates or something I could choose from. It put in content. It was probably one of the most seamless “Spin up a website, start editing it so it sort of feels like a Squarespace” experience that I’ve seen in WordPress, which I was very impressed with. 

I know there’s probably other hosts that have this, too, beyond GoDaddy. I just don’t explore hosting a lot, but what I think from their standpoint is, they’re working really hard to have this easy onboarding for people who don’t know anything. Not people like us who build custom WordPress websites all the time, and so there’s this overhead that they probably need to get passed, which is their accessibility problems in their theme and maybe their core plugin or something or a couple of core plugins that they always install on these. 

So if ours is there, it spins up, somebody gets a brand-new website with only demo content, like, they haven’t edited anything, and here’s a report telling them why it sucks. 


Right? And so I could see from a hosting perspective how they would be, like, “Why’d you just give me a bad website or a broken website?” “I don’t want the broken website. I want the website that works [chuckles] for everyone.” Right? 

So my response to those people is, well, we know that websites have to be accessible, that there are laws that are increasingly requiring this around the world. 

The goal of a website, let’s be real, it’s to make money. Except for your personal blog, or you’re sharing pictures of your kids with your parents, and five people go there a month and it’s, like, your mom and your grandma. Other than that, websites are to make money, and you will make more money if everyone can engage with your website, and so that’s why accessibility matters regardless of the laws. 

Although I think there’s this sort of overhead that needs to happen with these companies. They need to assess their starters and really figure out what the problems are, because if they fix everything in the starter, then Accessibility Checker would install and it would be all green, and it would be 100% accessible until the customer started adding bad things. [chuckles] 

>> CHRIS: Yes, 100% pass checks, right? 

>> AMBER: Yes. 

>> CHRIS: So that leads me to a follow-up. If we’re putting ourselves in their shoes, trying to play out these scenarios in our head, do we think that people are worried that someone’s going to get to get angry, potentially? Like, if we’re in the hosting side, are they worried that they’re going to get angry or write them a bad review or complain to support? Those kinds of scenarios are kind of what’s playing over in their heads?

>> AMBER: Is that what they’re telling you, the hosting companies? 

>> CHRIS: The one I’ve heard the most is “support” in my conversations. They’re worried about people reaching out to support. I’m just curious what you all think, if there are other things beyond what I shared there. 

>> AMBER: I think there’s definitely a possibility of more support if people don’t understand it. That’s on us, you know, like, how can we add more education into our plugin, or provide links out to education resources on our website? I mean, it’s a big reason why we run the meetup, because the reality is, having a tool that points out accessibility problems does nothing if no one knows how to fix those problems, right? Like, everything will stay inaccessible. 

Maybe there is some anger. Like I was saying, if I spun up that website and it dumped me in, and then I saw a report right there in the editor that’s, like, “There’s 10 bad things on this page,” I would be, like, “Why did you give me the bad website?” [laughs] Right? 

>> CHRIS: Yes, totally. 

>> STEVE: I think when you’ve seen people get angry about seeing those issues… I mean, I’ve seen it on the development side, you know… 

>> AMBER: Like with clients, right?

>> STEVE: With clients. 

>> AMBER: Agency stuff. Yes. 

>> STEVE: Yes. If we have a client that we’re doing audits and remediation on, and then they’re actively developing in tandem with those audits and remediation, and the Accessibility Checker is identifying issues with code that they’re generating, like, in real time, and then we’re auditing and providing feedback, it creates this feedback loop of, like, they’re generating code, and then we audit, and there’s these issues, and there becomes kind of this, we’re impeding in another development company’s development process, right? 

Now, we’re hired to do this, but I’ve seen a little bit of a reaction to the plugin, like, maybe… I don’t know what the right word to say is, but it almost feels like, “Oh, we shouldn’t be using this plugin.” Like, it’s getting in the way of us being productive, right?

>> AMBER: Yes. There’s some companies out there that churn and burn, and it’s not to say say this particular person does this, but I met someone at CaboPress and I was impressed.

CaboPress is a business conference, and I think she told me they built like 100 websites a month or more than 100, and I was just like, “Wow.” First of all, I was impressed because I was, like, I don’t even know how. Even when we were doing a small template sites, we could never get them out, so I was, like, “Cool.” Like, this person is super systematized. 

If your starter is accessible and all that stuff, then it would be fine. You could build 100 accessible websites a month, but if it’s not, it might slow down your process, and then you have to figure out, like, how is that working? 

I do think on the anger side… I don’t know as much on hosting, but I have definitely seen this. One that comes to mind is a large nonprofit in California, where we got hired by the nonprofit, not the agency building the website, sometimes we get hired by the agency building the website, which is great, sometimes we get hired by the organization, and there’s a little more friction there. 

So we got hired by the organization to do the audit on a brand-new website before it launched, and the agency had promised an accessible websites, and the organization is very large. They’re in California, so they really have to be accessible because there’s extra laws in California, and the website was built with Elementor, the Hello Theme, and a whole bunch of stuff, and there were so many problems everywhere, and the organization, the nonprofit, they weren’t mad at us, but they were very angry at their developer, and they were thinking, “Oh, this is going to launch. Not too long after, we’ll bring them in and they’ll just be some extra fixes, but they won’t be a lot.” But it’s, like, “Here’s a massive list.” Right? Because it was clear that dev had promised accessibility without actually knowing accessibility, and had done literally nothing, so I do see how it could cause a problem if you… 

>> CHRIS: Well, it could cause a problem if you’ve set that expectation and then don’t deliver on it. 

>> AMBER: Yes. 

>> CHRIS: So is the problem really accessibility in that instance? Or is the problem a failure to deliver on expectations that you’ve set? 

>> AMBER: Yes. I think that’s a good point, Chris, because I’ve had this conversation with a couple of people in our Facebook group, and at, like, office hours for Accessibility Checker, which we do. If you’re at certain plan tiers, you can show up and we just chat, which is fun, but we’ve talked to agencies that are, like, “I was never aware of accessibility and I’ve built all these websites, and now I want to roll it out and I want to start including it in the care plan.” and they’re just trying to figure out what the language is, and I do think that there is a way to go to your clients and say, “This is a thing that, you know, when we built your website, it wasn’t as big of a deal.” It’s fine if you say that, right? 

>> CHRIS: Yes. 

>> AMBER: Like, “It wasn’t as big of a deal, it wasn’t an industry standard. It’s becoming an industry standard.” “Hey, there’s a law coming up that’s going to impact you, and because I care about you, I want to tell you about it, and here’s a solution that I can offer.” I think if you frame it that way, then when you install Accessibility Checker and the client logs in their back-end, they see all the reports, they’re not suddenly surprised, right? 

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: And you’ve then showed them that you’re on their side and you’re thinking about them, and even though this website launched a year, two years ago, you’re still trying to make sure they get the most out of it, and it does what it needs to do. I think there are ways to sell that which doesn’t just make it sound, like, “Your work sucks,” which will make the client angry. I think you can sell that in a way that makes the client happy, because they realize that you’re trying to think about them. 

>> CHRIS: Yes, and that’s an interesting counter argument to those fears, right? And if we’re looking at the driving reason behind some of the fears that I hear from these larger organizations, maybe there’s something deeper, which is perhaps they just don’t know how to talk about this stuff with their customers, and how to pre-frame what they’re about to see, and help them understand at a very high level, not teaching them accessibility, what this is, why it’s here, and what to do. 

>> STEVE: Right. Yes. There’s an education component to it, right? If you install the Accessibility Checker and, you know, say, the site maintainer, right? The Accessibility Checker will automate what can be automated as far as the check and what it’s checking, but it’s still going to require to turn everything green, right? Some things will still take human evaluation, and that requires the user of that plugin to look at it, click on the information bubble, read the summary, jump over to our docs, read through our docs to kind of know whether or not they can ignore that issue or that it’s an actual issue. 

For small agencies, that’s another thing that they have to tack on, right? But like I said before, I think there’s an initial cost to the education, there’s an initial cost to the dev skills education, but once you get past that, it starts to pay off later on. 

>> AMBER: Yes. I know we’ve talked to some universities about rolling it out, even just the free version on all of their student intranets, or their faculty intranets, because some of these universities have multisites, WordPress multisites, where they might have 500, 1000, even 5,000 or more sites that aren’t coming from a marketing department.

>> STEVE: Well, they allow the faculty and students to roll up their own installs. Yes. 

>> AMBER: Yes, and the thing there is they want to put it on, because those sites, if they’re on official “.edu,” they still can be getting trouble for that. I mean, it’s less likely than their admissions website, but still it’s something, you know, they want to make sure that the content there is accessible. 

So really it’s about creating some whole campus-wide… Or if you’re a company that’s doing this for all your brands, like, communication, and maybe even some short videos, which is something we’re trying to get better about, and we have some plans in the works for creating short, like, “Here’s how you use this,” or, “This is what you’re seeing,” “What does this mean?” But I think if you have more communication around it when you roll it out, then that really helps. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. I want to just list out some common reactions that I see from not very large customers, who are more concerned about the experience of their customers, but the people who would be working with these agencies and hosts, once they actually start to understand what their overall accessibility position is… And we’ve worked with these organizations, we talked to them. The worst reaction I’ve ever seen is what I would just categorically call denial, like, “Oh, it’s not a big deal.” “Our customers don’t have disabilities.” “Well, I’m not colorblind, so we don’t need to care about red, green.” You know, those types of things is probably the worst reaction I see, and I want to give you all an opportunity to talk here too, but probably the one I see the most often is just that, like, “This is a problem. I have to fix it.” “Tell me how, tell me how much, tell me how long. Let’s get this fixed.” 

Most decision makers in businesses, whether they’re deeply involved in their online presence or they’re three or four steps back, if there’s a problem, they are going to care most about fixing the problem. They’re not going to care as much about who caused the problem, when the problem came up, who’s “fault” it is. They want the problem fixed, and if you can kind of align yourself with that motivation as an agency, as a hosting company, given all the other kind of tailwinds we’re seeing for accessibility right now in terms of legal enforcement and just general industry trends, you’re going to win in the next three to five years. It’s going to be a huge win. 

>> AMBER: And I’ve seen that even with some of our bigger clients. In, like, agency days, when something broke, I think they did kind of want to know what caused it and whose fault it was. [chuckles] 

>> STEVE: Yes, yes. 

>> AMBER: I don’t think it’s true to say the clients never care whose fault it is, but I don’t think that they’re always doing it because they want to fire you. I think sometimes they want to know what caused the problem or who was the person on the team that, you know, coded the thing that took down all of AWS, [chuckles] right, or whatever. Not our team. We didn’t do that. [laughs]. That would be cool. That would mean we had a lot of power if we did that, but we did not. 

I think sometimes it’s more of, “We want to understand what happened so we just know how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Right?

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> CHRIS: Prevention. Prevention, which dovetails in with that drive to get the problem fixed. It’s like, “I don’t want to just fix it now. I want to fix it forever.”

>> AMBER: Yes, so I think that’s a big thing. For hosting companies, I think this is a different ballgame because of the kind of relationship they have with their customers, but for agencies, there is a lot of opportunity here to beyond, your customers see problems and they want you to make the red thing green. [chuckles] They’re, like, “Fix it.” But you could also be having monthly consulting phone calls with them that you charge them for an hour of your time, and literally you say, “OK, here are the top five things that we saw your content team added in the last month that caused a problem. We went in and fixed them. Here is how we fixed it.” 

I know there’s a lot of small businesses that literally do nothing on their website and the agency does everything for them, but when you get working in these mid and large-size businesses, they usually have a marketing team or they have content writers, sometimes multiple, and they want training and they appreciate that. Like, being taught, “Oh, this is how you make a real list in WordPress, and not just put little dashes.” [chuckles] Right? Like, those kinds of things. 

I think there’s an opportunity, because one of the things that I know we learned a lot in our agency days was that, if you get clients to have regular monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly phone calls with you, they will spend more money. 

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: It’s the people you never talk to that never go up, and that risk going away. The people who get on the phone with you and you’re teaching them and showing them things and providing value, they’re going to be, like, “Oh, OK, how do I get more of this?” 

>> STEVE: Yes, so in regards to reactions that people have had to this, and I think it underscores some of the stuff we do with awareness around accessibility. I don’t think it’s always like denial, sometimes it’s just a lack of awareness. 

At WordCamp US, we were running many audits. Like, 15-minutes Accessibility audits, people would schedule with us, and I had just finished one up and I was speaking at a table with a couple of gentlemen that run a small agency in Europe, and we were just talking, and accessibility came up. There was two guys. One was a developer, and he kind of just dismissed it. “Oh, that’s something that we handle in development.” and I’m, like, “OK.” and then I was like, “In Europe it’s going to become a law here soon.” So I offered to do an audit of one of their websites right there unannounced, and they got real nervous and real tense, and because they were claiming, you know, “Yes, yes, it’s accessible.” 

>> AMBER: “Because our developers do it,” that’s what he said? 

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: So they didn’t need to have any auditing or any content training because it’s just a dev thing?

>> STEVE: Yes, and so he just dismissed it, and I was like, “Well, let’s audit it. Let’s audit the site.” and we audited like an arts website that’s publicly funded and we found some issues. 

Now, I will say, overall, their accessibility wasn’t that bad. It was pretty good, but I did find issues, and you could see the light bulb kind of go off, “Oh, wait. OK, I need to be aware of some things that I was kind of just dismissing.” 

I think sometimes the denial comes from a place of, like, lack of education, or unawareness, and sometimes that’s the hardest thing in this whole accessibility thing, which is getting people’s mindset and having that paradigm shift that the stuff is a necessity. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. Or just even knowing that it’s a thing.

>> STEVE: Yes. Yes. 

>> CHRIS: Some people just don’t even know. 

In our time, like, managing these types of relationships with people, whether they’re kind of just… Like Steve was just describing, they know almost nothing about accessibility other than that it’s a word in the English language, right? Or other times as veterans. 

What I want to talk about next is what we really think they care about, and what they want the most from their agency, or host, or maintenance company, or some of these big people where these types of people are their customers, and I’m thinking about this in the context of, there’s the managers and then there’s the implementers, who are both interacting with these distinct audiences. 

So what do we think? If I’m a manager at an agency or a manager at an E-commerce website, what do I really want from my host or my agency or my maintenance company? What is most important to me? 

>> AMBER: Yes. I mean… Well, uptime. [laughter] Let’s be real. Like, what do you want from your host? 

>> CHRIS: Stability, predictability. 

>> AMBER: Stability, yes. Predictability. You want your stuff to work well, right? So you want it to be fast. You want it to move… This is where it gets a little weird. Hosts have nothing to do with the user journey on the website, but agencies sure do, and you care a lot about, like, does your website convert? I think those are probably the top things that a website owner is looking for, and probably, the other thing is just they don’t want to get in trouble for their website, and that’s where privacy policies, and cookie notices, and accessibility can really come in, right? 

>> STEVE: Yes. I think things are changing with host, right? It used to be, you go to a host because you’re looking for a server to put a website on, right? And you just needed your FTP or SSH access and you would do it all, right, as a developer. Hosts are becoming one-click installs, like Amber described, right? They’re going to recommend the best product for what you’re trying to achieve, and I think what people are going to want from that is trust, that whatever they’re offering to them is going to benefit their company, not harm it. 

Plus if the base theme that XYZ hosting company is using has a lot of accessibility issues in it, and 5% or 10% of their users use that, and their user base is millions, you’re generating a lot of inaccessible websites, so I think there should be a certain level of trust that a user has when they go to these hosts and do these one-click installs.

>> CHRIS: Yes, and so that’s kind of the initial hump that these providers need to get over, is they need to make sure that their baseline offering that’s being spun up is not having issues flagged in at least automated testing tools. Ideally, they’re also having them user-tested as well. 

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: So if you’re a hosting company, we can help you with that. [laughs] 

>> STEVE: Yes. 

AMBER: Sorry, guys. Sales pitch. [laughs] 

>> STEVE: Yes. I’ll add onto that, Amber. In our own internal dev processes, we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve audited and used enough plugins to where we have certain plugins that we’ve basically approved for development, right? We use XYZ block plugin because it’s accessible and we’ve tested it and it can be used, and I think that hosting companies need to do the same thing. They need to be auditing and approving certain software packages that can be used on their websites. 

Amber’s right. You can outsource that auditing to companies like ours, but there should be some process in place to evaluate those tools before releasing them to the masses. 

WordPress is a duplication machine. You create a theme or a plugin, and it can be duplicated millions of times very easily. Our mission is to create a more accessible web, not a less accessible web. 

Now, there is another side to this, and it’s the developer’s responsibility behind creating accessible products in the first place, but. 

>> AMBER: Yes. Actually, this is really interesting because every once in a while, there are conversations about having plugin marketplaces beyond “WordPress.org.” “WordPress.com,” they actually duplicated the “WordPress.org” plugin marketplace on “WordPress.com.”

What could have been interesting… And I see hosts potentially… Like, hosts do have… And they’re, like, “We’re in WP Engine’s solution gallery.” Right? They’re different, and we’re in a couple of other hosts as recommended partners, Convezio and some other ones, and thinking about the plugin directories beyond “WordPress.org,” I think this is an opportunity that hosts have, because they could potentially do that and they could limit… 

What if “WordPress.com” didn’t just show every “WordPress.org” plugin on “WordPress.com?” What if they went and they said, “OK, well, there are 25 table of contents plugins. This is the one that works the best, and therefore, it is our recommended solution for WordPress.com”?

Now, you can still go to “WordPress.org” and download anyone you want and install it, right? But if you go to our plugin directory, this is the one you’re going to see if you search table of contents plugin. 

If we’re thinking about, how do we provide a really good user experience to a hosting customer? The average website owner does not want to have to choose from 25 plugins that supposedly do the same thing?

>> STEVE: Right, right.

>> AMBER: They want to just be told, “This is the best one.” 

>> STEVE: Yes, and the metric that we typically use is install count, right? 

[crosstalk ] 

>> CHRIS: And that’s not a great metric, if you really think about it. 

>> STEVE: No. 

>> AMBER: Yes, and it’s really not from an accessibility standpoint. I would love it if we could just identify even if it was like five or 10 really obvious things that could be scanned in the code, and just scan all “WordPress.org” plugins and put labels on them.


For real, just put a, “Warning, this includes empty buttons.”

>> STEVE: Yes.

>> AMBER: Something obvious like that, like, “Warning, this plugin has accessibility problems.” That would sure motivate. It wouldn’t fix everything. It would not guarantee an accessible plugin, but it might remove all the empty buttons from the plugins that have developers who are actively maintaining them, right? Things like that. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. It’s true, because at a certain point, there’s the bottom-up of developers building things more accessible, and content creators making their content more accessible, et cetera, but then there’s the top-down of the hosts and the platform holders, and these people really are the gatekeepers of all of this. 

>> AMBER: Well, they could be. I don’t think there is… 

>> CHRIS: Yes, they could be. 

>> AMBER: I haven’t seen a single host step up and be like, “We are going to be the accessibility-first host.” I haven’t seen that. I haven’t seen any hosts marketing that. I’ve seen hosts take steps to make their own hosting dashboards more accessible, which is phenomenal. There are a lot of wonderful hosts that support WordPress Accessibility Day and some other events that are out there for accessibility education, but I have not yet seen a host say, “Everything we’re going to do is going to be accessible, and we are going to create a user experience centered around accessibility.” and that is maybe a really interesting marketing play that any of you hosting companies who are listening to this podcast could take on, because I think… 

>> STEVE: I’ll play devil’s advocate that it may be a legal night, but. [laughs] 

>> AMBER: Yes. I don’t think you guarantee it, right? 

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: Because you can’t guarantee anyone’s content, but it’s like accessibility-ready tag on themes in “WordPress.org.” It’s not saying your website will be accessible, but it is saying that we are giving you a base foundation, and a hosting company or an agency can easily, I think, brand around accessibility-ready or an accessible foundation, right? And obviously, what the customer does with that, the customer does with that, but I think that there is an opportunity there, and it doesn’t just have to be like, “The Accessibility Checker plugin makes my stuff look bad.” It could be like, “We’ve put in some work to make our things accessible, and if you use Accessibility Checker on our hosting, you’re going to start with zero problems, but you go to some other host and you’re going to start with their starter and their plugins and 50 problems on every page.” I don’t know what it is. [chuckles] That’s a really interesting way to position that, and agencies do the same way, right? 

There are agencies out there beyond us who are caring about accessibility and doing a lot for accessibility and building accessibility into their practices, and I think it is a positioning thing, and it is a way to attract customers, because there are a lot of agencies who don’t, and in the next couple of years, those agencies are really, really going to be left behind. 

>> STEVE: Yes, totally. This is definitely the time to come into alignment with this stuff. It’s not going away. 

>> CHRIS: So we’ve obviously given a lot of evidence for why this is a good idea and why finding avenues around these internal objections, if you’re one of these companies, is probably the right course of action to take, if we’re doing long-term thinking, and not just short-term thinking, and if you’re running a company or making major decisions for a company, you should be thinking long term, but that’s a whole different discussion. 

Some people are still going to have this fear. They’re going to be afraid that their reputation is going to be harmed, that they’re going to have customers reject them if they put a tool like ours and it starts pointing out a bunch of problems. 

I’m wondering, from our end, as the people who have one of these tools that scans, that points out problems that we’re trying to get more distribution for with organizations like these, what, if anything, can we do about it in our own tool to reduce friction for these organizations? We already talked about helping with training videos and communication strategies. Are there other things? I know this question you weren’t permitted to prepare for. 

>> STEVE: Yes, yes. 


Off the top of my head, we could have more advanced user controls. Like, where are the reports? Who has access to the reports? And who has access to the summaries on posts? And things like that.

Right now, we can limit it to admin users, correct? 

>> AMBER: Well, no. I thought we had all of our centralized reports. You have a setting where you can choose a user role for those?

>> STEVE: Yes. 

>> AMBER: But the actual reports on any given post or page edit screen, those aren’t restricted at all. 

I do think some user role on that… I know something that, it’s like the bane of your existence, and at some point in time, we will figure it out. [chuckles] But I do think we’re going to have to get around the challenge of figuring out how to flag what problems are in the content versus in header, in the sidebar, in the footer, because that is a prime area where someone with the role of contributor who can write blog posts… They can’t even publish their own blog posts. [chuckles] Right? … They don’t need to see problems that are in the header, or the sidebar, the footer. They can’t do anything about it. It just kind of creates noise, and it could be confusing for them?

>> STEVE: Yes, yes.

>> AMBER: Because they might not even be very technical users. Or it might even get up to, like, editor, potentially, because I don’t even think the editor can edit the header, right? Only admins can. 

So I do think we’re going to have to figure out how to better identify where issues are occurring on the website, or what area of the website created them, and only surfacing problems that are relevant to the user role. 

>> STEVE: Yes, yes, yes. 

>> AMBER: That’s something I would love to do. It is a big challenge that we don’t have enough time to dive into on this episode, since we’re pretty much at the end of this episode, and perhaps, we could have a whole episode, Steve, honestly talking about how we would even try to figure out how to flag this, because I know we’ve had internal conversations. It might be interesting for people, and I just had a thought. 

Everyone, one of our next episodes is going to be with Alex Stine, and we should ask Alex Stine what ideas he has for this, because he might have an interesting idea about how to identify locations or problems.

>> STEVE: Yes.

>> AMBER: So, everyone, stay tuned. This will come. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. The next conversation episode will be with Alex Stine, the accessibility expert in software engineer extraordinaire, so that’ll be fun for you all. 

I’m jealous I’m going to miss that one.

>> AMBER: Yes. Do you feel like this answered the question about how to address, sufficiently, concerns about customers or clients thinking things are bad when they see accessibility reports? 

>> CHRIS: I mean, it’s left me with probably more questions, and the reality is I just thought this would be a fun discussion. The people that I actually have to work through this with are the large agencies. They are the hosts, they are the maintenance companies who have these concerns, and it’s my job as the salesperson to be their partner in brainstorming and figuring out a solution, where we can collaborate with them to figure them out, and help them help their customers be more accessible, hopefully while using Accessibility Checker in some way. That’s obviously my goal. 

It’s been a good discussion, and I think that I have interesting ideas about ways that hosts could really take an opportunity to change the paradigm of how people get into the WordPress ecosystem. What that method is, and what the metrics are for using their tools and their services, right? In terms of which plugins they pick, which themes they pick for their spin-up tools, because all the hosts are doing what Amber saw on GoDaddy now. They’re all doing it with these one-click spin-ups. 

So those are my closing thoughts. I don’t know if anyone has anything else. 

>> STEVE: [laughs] I think the only thing I would add is that, when this journey for us began with developing an Accessibility Checker tool, naively, maybe I had the idea that, you build it and they will come, right? But as we continue on this journey, I think issues like these highlight that awareness and education are probably bigger hurdles to overcome than evaluating the accessibility issues in the first place. 

>> AMBER: Yes. 

>> CHRIS: Yes. That’s a great thought to end with. Thank you, Steve, for that nugget, and thank you, Wild Bill’s, for your pumpkin spice today. 

>> STEVE: Ish. 

>> CHRIS: And we’ll see you all next time. 

>> STEVE: All right. See you guys. 

>> CHRIS: Pumpkin spice-ish. 


>> AMBER: Bye. 

>> CHRIS: 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.”