002: Building an Accessibility-First Mindset, Hello Kitty Fizzy Pop

In this episode, hosts Amber, Chris, and Steve discuss building accessibility-first into your mindset and web development processes, starting with making the sales process more accessible and through design, development, and post-launch training.

In honor of Valentine’s Day (which no one should take too seriously), they try Cherry Lime-flavored Hello Kitty fizzy pop.


Mentioned in This Episode


Chris Hinds 0:08
Welcome to Episode Two 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, hosts Amber Hinds, Steve Jones, and myself, Chris Hinds share thoughts on building an accessibility first mindset and what needs to change in your approach to web projects to ensure what you deliver is accessible.

For show notes and a full transcript go to accessibilitycraft.com/002 and now on to the show.

Amber Hinds 0:44
Hey, this is Amber and I’m excited to be back for the second episode of Accessibility Craft. Just a quick reminder, since this is only a second episode, we’re going to introduce ourselves. I am of course the CEO of Equalize Digital, and I’m here today with Chris.

Chris Hinds 1:01
Yeah, so my name is Chris. I am the COO of Equalize Digital, and we are also here with the man, the myth, and the legend himself.

Steve Jones 1:12
Steve, Steve Jones, I’m the CTO of Equalize Digital.

Amber Hinds 1:17
Of course, we like to kick things off with a beverage. I am going to totally admit that I’m horrified by this beverage and I think we need to have a conversation about what defines craft. Why don’t you tell us what our beverage is going to be today?

Chris Hinds 1:33
Well, no one’s going to take me seriously at this point. But I think that’s kind of my point is I wanted the audience to know one thing, which is I don’t take myself very seriously. And I don’t think as like beverage critiquers or tasters, we should take ourselves too seriously because obviously this is just a fun little bit at the beginning.

The reason that I bought this was because we could not get the single origin hot chocolate, or the nice chocolate stout before this airs on Valentine’s Day. So shipping logistics aside, the other reason I chose this is because I have a strange association with Valentine’s Day and Hello Kitty, and so that’s kind of where I found this and then the way the synapses in my brain connect, I was like, “Oh, this is perfect.” Then I bought it much to everyone’s shock and confusion.

Amber Hinds 2:28
You also haven’t told us yet what “it” is. No one listening has any idea. We’re just saying “it.” So what do we have?

Chris Hinds 2:34
Yeah, so they heard Hello Kitty, so they have a clue. I got us Hello Kitty fizzy pop, cherry lime flavored drink. It is in a tall red can with the Hello Kitty emblem on the front, red bow and everything. The whole can is Hello Kitty red and I don’t know what to expect. I’ve never had this before but Amazon got me with this suggestion so here we are.

Amber Hinds 3:00
And this episode is coming out the day before Valentine’s Day so if you have Prime and you get next day shipping and you need a red, ridiculous drink to drink on Valentine’s Day, this is it.

Steve Jones 3:19
There’s time. Yup.

Amber Hinds 3:19
Yeah, there’s still time.

Chris Hinds 3:22
We haven’t tasted it yet, but I think on novelty factor alone, it’s probably a good eight out of 10.

Steve Jones 3:28

Amber Hinds 3:29
So should we crack cans open?

Chris Hinds 3:32
Let’s crack them open.

Steve Jones 3:34
All right.

Amber Hinds 3:34
All right.

I want to see how red it is, so I’m gonna pour mine in a cup.

Steve Jones 3:41
Oh, you’re gonna pour yours?

Amber Hinds 3:45
I have to tell you guys, I don’t drink pop ever. Like never. I drink carbonated water, so I’m a little bit nervous. If it’s sweet because I don’t drink even, though I’m from in the South, I don’t drink sweet tea. I don’t drink sweet stuff.

It’s not as red as the can.

Steve Jones 4:06
No, it’s kind of pinkish.

Amber Hinds 4:08
But I am on theme, I’m wearing a red hoodie and it kind of matches my hoodie.

Steve Jones 4:12
Yeah. Well have you know when Chris shipped this, it came with two cans and my 15-year-old daughter laid claim to the other can.

Amber Hinds 4:21
Did she try it already?

Steve Jones 4:24
No, not yet. Not yet.

Chris Hinds 4:30
It’s going in, I’m trying it. I can’t wait any more.

Steve Jones 4:32
All right, here we go.

Amber Hinds 4:38
Okay, it has a decent cherry lime flavor.

Steve Jones 4:40
Yeah, yep.

Amber Hinds 4:42
You know, what’s hilarious? I think this tastes better than the fancy Seedlip mix we had last week.

Chris Hinds 4:51
Maybe I’m onto something. I don’t know. But yeah, I mean it definitely has a solid cherry lime flavor. The other thing that actually impressed me about this when I was reading the back of the can, is it is sweetened with sugar and not the infamous corn syrup. Which is kind of cool.

Amber Hinds 5:04
So does that make it qualify as a craft beverage?

Chris Hinds 5:08
Oh, no, this is probably the lowest or the furthest we’ll get removed from the term craft on this podcast, hopefully. This selection was born out of time crunch and desperation. Actually, I’m definitely not unhappy with it.

Steve Jones 5:32
No, no, I mean, you can definitely taste the sugar.

Amber Hinds 5:35
Yeah, it’s very sweet.

I’m going to tell you guys right now, the other thing that I don’t do this so everyone’s gonna have particular I am about. I don’t eat food coloring like never. And I have tried so hard not to have our kids have food coloring. And this has FD and C red 40, which I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in the UK because it has bad…

Steve Jones 6:02
Is that the one made from bugs?

Amber Hinds 6:04
No, the one made from bugs is quote, all-natural. This is the one made from I don’t know, fossil fuels. But we’re all going to be really crazy by the end of this because I’m pretty sure there are studies that this exact red food coloring causes hyperactivity and that’s why it’s banned in the UK.

Steve Jones 6:25
Oh, right.

Chris Hinds 6:26
Oh, my goodness.

Steve Jones 6:27
So this podcast is going to be lit.

Amber Hinds 6:32
Hey, I’m also telling you right now, because I’ve never tried them in my entire life, but all those like Redbull things, those don’t count as a craft beverage. We are not drinking caffeine. I won’t be able to handle it. I will die.

Chris Hinds 6:43
That was the other thing, and I know I’ve told both of you about this before. But there is a YouTuber called Unemployed Wine Guy and when I saw this can in my Amazon feed when I was desperately trying to find something, anything, that ties remotely to Valentine’s Day that could be shipped in time. It made me think of that YouTube channel because this guy I think he used to be a sommelier in restaurants and he started a YouTube channel where he tries really weird or low quality stuff, but from a very high brow sort of elevation. And I just remember the one I watched him that just had me rolling out of my chair was he tried ranch dressing flavored soda. So don’t worry, I won’t subject any of us to anything like that.

Amber Hinds 7:29
If you all could have watched this episode, you would have seen the incredibly horrified and disgusted expression that I’m in. I can’t even imagine. What was his thought on ranch-flavored soda?

Chris Hinds 7:50
He said it was pretty much exactly like tipping back a jug of Hidden Valley. I mean, that was the other thing about that guy is like he’s very witty, and has funny ways of describing things.

But yeah, that was that was Hello Kitty cherry limeade, which actually wasn’t that bad. It’s definitely sweet, though.

Amber Hinds 8:17
I mean, I think if you like Sonic cherry limeade, you would probably like this. It tastes pretty much the same to me is what I vaguely remember those tasted like for maybe like 20 years ago.

Chris Hinds 8:32
I promise my palate has evolved past this.

Amber Hinds 8:36
I think it’s funny that you picked this because of out of the three of us, you went to culinary school. You actually took wine tasting classes and you were taught how to taste things with your entire mouth and all that kind of stuff. Then sometimes I’m shocked at the things that you eat and drink.

Chris Hinds 8:55
Yeah. That’s the poorly kept secret of the restaurant and food and beverage industry. They know everything they’re supposed to know, but they eat the garbage.

Steve Jones 9:09

Chris Hinds 9:09
And drink the garbage.

I had executive chefs who would walk in the back door with with Taco Bell bags, in a fine dining setting, you know, and go to their office and eat that.

Steve Jones 9:20

Amber Hinds 9:21
Oh, wait, this is a really great segue. I’ve been working on our website, which may or may not look totally done by the time this podcast episode comes out. Because I decided that, one I wasn’t going to have our designer design it because he’s working on a lot of client stuff and I wasn’t foing to ask him because they’re also working on a lot of client stuff. And so I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna do it myself.”

I’ve just been thinking I’m gonna use a page builder. Well, we’ll pause on what page builder that’s going to be. Maybe hold that in suspense or maybe this website will have a page builder by the time you look at this and you’ll know. But I think that’s kind of the same thing, right? We code really intense stuff. But there are moments when you’re like, “Man, I just want the shortcut.”

Steve Jones 10:08

Chris Hinds 10:09
Yeah, I just want the McDonald’s of WordPress themes. What would be the McDonald’s of WordPress themes? Do we want to come out and say, public and record it? I don’t know if we want to do that.

Steve Jones 10:19
We might make some enemies that way.

Amber Hinds 10:20
Yeah, I don’t think I’ve had a McDonald’s WordPress theme. I will tell you that the McDonald’s website is probably not accessible.

Steve Jones 10:31
But I bet it has delicious french fries.

Amber Hinds 10:35
What is the french fry, the delicious french fry equivalent on a website? Really good content?

Steve Jones 10:42
Yeah, I don’t know.

Amber Hinds 10:43
Or graphics that are cool.

Chris Hinds 10:45
Oh, it’s got to be really good content, because you can’t put it down. Right? You just have to come back for one more.

There’s our segue. Speaking of good content. Amber, what’s our subject for today? What are we talking about?

Amber Hinds 11:01
Yeah, so we are going to be talking a little bit more, extending on what Steve started talking about last week, on changing your mindset so that you can have more of an accessibility first mindset.

But I want to talk about everything throughout our entire process, when we do custom website projects.

So I’m going to put you on the spot, Chris, and I’m actually going to start with sales. And I want to know, what have you done in your sales processes and your sales communications to make your sales more accessible to people?

Chris Hinds 11:41
I think the main adjustments that I’ve made, have to do with the initial interactions, and making sure to ask, like, do people need any sort of accommodation for the upcoming sales call? I try to always remember to ask that and to be ready if they do, and to be ready, even if they don’t. Right?

For an example, I had a sales call, maybe two weeks ago with an absolutely lovely woman who happened to be blind, or not blind, excuse me, deaf. When we got on the Zoom, it was clear to me that she was like looking for the option to turn on captions and so I like held up a finger I was like, “Wait one second,” and we got it enabled.

Then we carried on and had an absolutely lovely call. Amber, I ended up introducing her to you and she writes copy and everything else. And she thanked me after the fact and while those auto-captions are, as an influential person in the in the captioning space calls them auto-craptions, right?

Amber Hinds 12:56
That’s Meryl, for anyone that wants to find Meryl. She is awesome and a great resource on captioning.

Chris Hinds 13:06
They often misinterpret me and so as I’m talking, I’m reading the captions and then pausing and then reiterating something or spelling it out with letters if the captions are misinterpreting. Like, ironically, one of the number one things that the captions don’t get is WCAG. The auto captioning tool always says it wrong or like relays it wrong after I say it.

Beyond that, the types of documents that I send to people to review for sales have shifted a bit. I always say now, like if I’m sending someone a copy of a slide deck, we went through. Just in case, I’ll say, if you need this in a Word format or something that works better with assistive technology, please just let me know. And if they’ve told me they need accommodations, that obviously that’s what I said in the first place.

But I think it’s for my sales process, it’s mostly down to just being more conscientious and more intentional in the way that I approach sales interactions. Instead of just rushing through it, following the script. It’s actually harder, right? Because you have to be ready to pivot or adjust your sales process based on what that person needs from you in order to absorb the information.

Amber Hinds 14:33
Yeah, some of this stuff applies, like I remember we were talking about also, making sure you use meaningful links in emails or not posting a naked link in an email if you know. Or if you’re not sure if someone might be using a screen reader. Actually linking words that mean something.

Chris Hinds 14:54
Oh, yeah, I used to have “click here” in my emails and those are gone. Yeah, it’s meaningfully labeled. Even if I do have a naked link, it’s preceded by a sentence with a colon saying what it is, which is pretty rare these days. Normally I hyperlink it.

Amber Hinds 15:12
Yeah. I know we talk a lot about PDFs, and now we don’t really have PDFs, like we either send people or share a Google Doc. Or Google Docs sometimes can cause problems for people, so we’ll just make a Word doc for people. Also making sure that all of our Word docs, or Google Docs have alt text on the images, proper heading structure, just like a website.

Chris Hinds 15:37
Yep. Yep. No, it’s good you mentioned that because that was another thing that, as we pivoted our sales process to be accessible, that was a very worthwhile, but also very time consuming process. Was going through all of that, making sure all the headings were actually headings, making sure all the images were properly labeled with alternative text. It’s a lot like remediating a website.

Now, whenever I, much like Steve, whenever he builds something, or whenever we design something, which we’re going to get into. Anytime I create any new sales document, I am starting with having the headings be actual headings, and be in hierarchical order, and have everything properly in the tool.

Yeah, it’s interesting, too. It seems like Microsoft Word is the most accessible or most preferred word processing medium that people seem to ask for most often when I’m sending an alternative version of something.

Amber Hinds 16:35
If they’re a screen reader user, you mean?

Chris Hinds 16:38

Amber Hinds 16:40
Yeah, I’ve heard that as well.

Do you feel like there was anything specific you had to do to shift your mindset to be more aware of those in your sales communications?

Chris Hinds 16:51
I think it’s down to being open to change and to just learning it. And I learned by doing so it was a matter of reading documentation on Google Docs and figuring out how to set everything up in a way that’s as accessible as possible within that medium.

And then, I’ll be open and admit too. The biggest thing that I still need to break myself away from that is definitely not the most accessible, but that I still use is Google Slides. It is not very good based on all the feedback I’ve gotten.

Amber Hinds 17:30
All of our proposals are Google Slides, right?

Chris Hinds 17:33
All of our proposals are Google Slides, but I always offer to provide a different version, and will provide a different version if they say they need accommodation. So I’m very upfront about it, so that we’re not presuming anything when we send it over.

Amber Hinds 17:49
And you’re also not usually just sending them over, I think you actually present them, right?

Chris Hinds 17:54
Yeah, they’re presented in a Zoom call and we go through the slides, and then it’s all verbally discussed, and they get a recording, so I really do try to hit it from every angle. Then even within the Google Slides, I’m still putting alternative text on everything, I’m still trying to build the slides in as accessible away as possible.

I think the other thing that a lot of sales teams may have to factor in that may be a little bit beyond their control, and maybe this segues us into designs a little bit, is the accessibility of the color palette, and how the colors are combined. If your company or your brand uses a lot of really soft colors, that may be a challenge.

Amber Hinds 18:36
Yeah. That was one of the many reasons why we made Equalize into its own brand, and didn’t just like we were first talking about building a plugin. We had Road Warrior Creative, was what our company was called. It had gray and light greens, and there were so there’s so many reasons why it didn’t make sense to keep that. But I remember having this conversation about well, our whole brand color palette it’s gonna have to change anyway. So it’s like, maybe we should change the name. Right?

Chris Hinds 19:11

Amber Hinds 19:12
I think you have to make those decisions. Then, when we were sitting down and having conversations about what Equalize’s color palette should be. One, we wanted AAA compliance, so we came up with a palette that allowed us to have the highest level of contrast, so it’s not the minimum 4.5 to 1, it’s over 7 to 1. Then also, I kind of liked the fact that our blue is in there and blue is the historical color for links on the internet.

Chris Hinds 19:46

Amber Hinds 19:47
Instead of being like all the links on our website are green. They look like the color people expect links to be. Although, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case anymore, because so many websites do things differently as long as they’re underlined, then you’re probably good.

Steve Jones 20:04
When we’re approached from a client that has a identity that doesn’t meet guidelines, how have you guys addressed that?

Amber Hinds 20:17
When I’m doing discovery with people I use a tool, EightShapes Contrast Grid, is super handy. I think we’re going to try and build something like this into Accessibility Checker and we can link it in the show notes.

I’ll usually put their palette in and what it does is it allows you to put their color codes in and it makes a grid where they go across the top and across the left side. Then it shows you what color combinations work or do not work. So if you have a blue and a green, and a white and a black, you might see that this green works on the black, but it doesn’t work on the white and this blue works on the white, but it doesn’t work on the black and the blue and green don’t work on each other.

We use that tool, which is really handy, because then I’ll usually say, like we’ve had instances where none of their colors work or they they only work on black.

Chris Hinds 21:13

Amber Hinds 21:14
Then I have a conversation with them about, how do you feel about a darker aesthetics on your website? And then, a lot of times, they don’t want that, they don’t want to a dark mode designed website.

Chris Hinds 21:29

Amber Hinds 21:28
Then we’re talking about how can we introduce other colors that are still in the same family or keep the same feel and then using their primary. We just launched a website, Miverva Strategies, where they use a bright orange and a bright blue. So we added a navy, and like a dark maroon kind of color. So when those are there, those could have the bright blue or the orange on them, and it’s fine. But then it also gave us something on sections that have lighter backgrounds, it could have like a navy heading.

I think it’s really just about trying to be thoughtful in the design. While even, I mean, I feel like we start really even in discovery.

Chris Hinds 22:15

Amber Hinds 22:15
Talking about that kind of stuff, the colors. We talk about who the users are, what sort of journeys they might take on the website. I think being thoughtful about that and not just moving right into it. Okay, this is helpful because sometimes you might realize you actually need different settings based upon what people are supposed to be doing on the website.

Steve Jones 22:42
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Amber Hinds 24:12
The other things that come up in design, I know Jacob who’s not on this call, but he’s our designer, he has spent a lot of time and he’s worked with us for many years, right?

Chris Hinds 24:22

Amber Hinds 24:23
He’s gotten very familiar with. It took some back and forth, where I at one point, I was like, “Okay, here’s a list of things that I want to never see or I want to always see.” So I was like, “don’t make headlines all caps. I don’t care if you think it looks good, if you want the shape of the letters to look the same just don’t. Because I don’t want to see it and I’m not going to approve it.”

It took a matter of us spending time creating some of these do’s and don’ts for different things. We gave it to him and now he sends us stuff and it’s very rare that I have to go back can be like, “I think this might be an accessibility problem in the design.” So once we established what that baseline would be, and he checks for color contrast, I think he uses Stark to add to Figma and check for color contrast as he’s designing.

Also with content too. If we’re getting content from clients, we usually start doing training on accessibility early, so they know things. You could probably speak to this a little bit, Chris, because you used to do some of the helping them figure out how to give us content. Some of the things we would talk to them about before they even had a website, or a new one.

Chris Hinds 25:43
Yeah. One thing that immediately jumped to mind when you said that is we have an entire guide doc, and it’s, it’s maybe a page or two long at most. It explains how to put in headings as actual headings, paragraphs as actual paragraphs in our content collection system. How to label things properly, etc. I think that helps set a baseline for entry of content in a manner that’s accessible.

I think we do mention accessibility in that, but I also know that with our process of Equalize, we approach all of it as just under the umbrella of best practice, right? Like this is the correct way to do this and the correct way to design, and collect content, and build a website.

Most people pay attention to that. There’s occasional pushback. I’d say the number one place I see pushback when I’m checking in on projects, even though of course you run them, Amber, its colors. That’s usually the biggest.

Amber Hinds 26:50
Yeah, we talked about it last week. My big pain point.

Chris Hinds 26:54
The biggest place that we get pushback is colors. People wanting inaccessible color combinations.

But what’s interesting, too, and I remember this from a project we did last summer. We designed something out for a customer and they said it looked flat and boring and washed out. Then we gave them a version back with higher contrast and they liked it.

Amber Hinds 27:20
But their original brand colors were the boring and washed out. Right?

Steve Jones 27:24

Chris Hinds 27:24
Yes. So I think if people can see it in action, right? Because some people I think have trouble conceptualizing or visualizing in the abstract how a color palette and a block of text are eventually going to add up to a website, right? They can’t really see that in their head, or visualize it. I think it helps. It sometimes helps for them to just see it. And then they’re like, “Oh, I get it.” Right?

Steve Jones 27:53

Amber Hinds 27:54
Yeah, I think sometimes too with the content requests, we talked with them a lot about SEO. We have frequently, bring headings. You should include headings in the content you give us.

You should give us the alt text for these images. Sometimes we write that depending on the scope of the project, but sometimes they need to.

When you’re linking and putting links in your content, make sure that they’re meaningful things. We’ll frequently frame frame it as SEO, even though it’s accessibility, but it’s both. Unfortunately, SEO can sell. So then they are like, “Oh, yeah, I gotta put more effort into doing what they said, instead of just, here’s our non formatted multiple paragraphs without headings, and bad links, and all that kind of stuff.”

Then, I think the interesting thing about this probably is also the mindset on the development side. And I think you talked about that a little bit, Steve, but I’m wondering if you have extra thoughts. My last thought on that is maybe we could talk to about the handoff, from design to development, and some of the things that are different when you’re going to build from an accessibility first perspective.

Steve Jones 29:16
Sure. The handoff, I mean, over time, as we’ve ventured into being much more compliant with accessibility than we were many years ago. The handoff is a lot better these days, with the headings. Sometimes, as a developer, you want to go through those mock ups and you want to review them, like their sub headings that don’t quite make sense or that if there’s heading orders that visually don’t make sense. You could push back before going into development.

I know a lot of developers don’t always want to pushback. Sometimes we can be code monkeys and just, we’ll do whatever you give us, right? You know, it’s like Ron Burgundy, I’ll read whatever you put on the teleprompter. So developers can be like that sometimes.

Amber Hinds 30:19
But do you think it’s important for developers to see it and push back to the designer?

Steve Jones 30:22
Yeah, absolutely. Because you got to think about from a business standpoint, right? That can be quite expensive and sometimes you outsource these to developers, right?

So before you send that off, and, and I will say, if you outsource something, there’s less likelihood you’re gonna get pushback from them, or questioning on things like heading size, and stuff like that, or if they follow a visual order.

Us, as business owners, we really need to be mindful of that before we send that off to a third party contractor to develop it. And yeah, if I was to go through and code what I see, even though I know it’s wrong, or maybe I’m just moving too fast, to acknowledge that it’s wrong. I’ve gone through and coded this whole thing out. I’ve spent all this time and then, it goes for review and then it comes up that, “hey, these headings don’t match or whatever.” It can be kind of costly timewise for me to go back and recode that, right? It’s best to just do it right the first time.

Amber Hinds 31:40
Yeah, well, I know the other thing, too, that we’ve sort of overtime built this list of things developers did wrong. Not always you, right?

Steve Jones 31:48

Amber Hinds 31:50
Now, if we, and we do frequently, we will contract out a new website build depending upon how many projects are running simultaneously. It’s like, here’s the designs and here’s a giant list of expectations for the designs. We’re literally saying, this should be a foreground image. Here’s an example of a foreground image. Here’s an example of a background image.

Steve Jones 32:13

Amber Hinds 32:14
Because we got instances where someone made every image a background image, and we were just like, what?

Steve Jones 32:19

Amber Hinds 32:20
It’s like the things that you don’t think you should have to tell people, you end up sometimes having to tell people. So I just have this giant doc that I continually add to or I’m like, here’s the headings.

Sometimes I’ll go through that design, like where you’re talking about where it’s not always obvious what the heading order should be as much as I wish that we could always consistently have like, this is the size of an h1 and h2, right?

Steve Jones 32:40

Amber Hinds 32:40
Sometimes in one section that gets bigger or smaller. And sometimes I’ll go through, and I’ll just mark it up and I’ll be like, I’ll literally tell the developer, here are the headings for this page and these are the numbers I expect. And if you have to add classes, then add classes or whatever.

Steve Jones 32:56
Right, yeah.

Amber Hinds 33:01
What are other things on the dev side, that we’ve sort of changed, or that has to be different if you’re trying to be more accessibility first, anything else going by?

Steve Jones 33:13
Well, we use a base install, right? Which is a custom theme that we’ve created ourselves and continually evolving that to be more accessible as we find the accessibility issues on our current project. Instead of just doing it for that one project. We’re mindful of that, and then we’re updating our baseline code base, so that on the next project, it’s not overlooked, or it’s not something that has to be brought up again in testing.

Being mindful of evolving that base install to be more and more in line with accessibility standards. Some of the biggest challenges, I think, in that base theme was definitely navigation. Navigation can be very tricky to make that fully accessible, because you’re trying to meet a lot of different things, right? You’re trying to make a keyboard accessible. You’re trying to make it work for a sighted person. You’re trying to make it work on a mobile device, right? So it can be quite complex.

I know Amber and I went back and forth quite a bit to get that to a good place and so every site we roll up has a nice accessible navigation.

We still get requests on new sites, sometimes for mega menus and from an accessibility standpoint, that can be quite a nightmare, right?

Amber Hinds 34:56

Steve Jones 34:57
We’re just being mindful of that and putting accessibility first in the dev workflow. For me, when you’re coding in, you jump over to your browser to view and test what you’ve been doing. It’s no longer just a visual look with the eyes, right? It’s every time I do that, now, it’s a jump over and I start using the keyboard. I tap through it, and I use the Arrow keys or whatever for whatever element I’m testing is needed. To be quite honest, I probably spend more time keyboard testing UI elements than I do visually testing them, right?

Amber Hinds 35:43
Oh, like, mobile where you’re making the screen small.

Steve Jones 35:46
Yeah, yeah.

Amber Hinds 35:47
Or keyboard testing than just, dragging?

Steve Jones 35:50
Yeah, I think so.

Amber Hinds 35:52
Has that changed? Because of things like, is it just we have a better responsive system in our starter theme, so you don’t have to worry quite as much about all the little weirdness on mobile? I don’t know, though, because things get created in the block editor, which, is not super great.

Steve Jones 36:10
Yeah. Well, that’s a that’s a whole nother podcast episode. Responsiveness and Gutenberg is definitely a challenge.

Amber Hinds 36:20
Yeah, but you still find that you spend more time on the keyboard testing and having to check the response?

Steve Jones 36:26
Yeah, I think so. You got to think we’ve been doing responsive design for 12 years, or 10 years, a long time. So there’s a lot built in to our base theme. We have our own SaaS mixed in, that we can easily define breakpoints. That just seems to be a little more old hat these days, very easy to do. The keyboard testing, if I’m working on a UI element, like an accordion tabs, modals, those things, you want to ensure that those are working properly? Yeah.

Amber Hinds 37:09
Yeah. I think something that stands out there, it’s just that you even mentioned testing, because I think a lot of times developers don’t think that the accessibility testing is part of their job. They think I code that thing that someone will come test it, and then give me a list of fixes, and then I’ll go fix it.

Steve Jones 37:28
Right. And at one time, we thought that same way about responsive design. You know? I remember when we made the switch, from a developer standpoint. I think in those days, I was working for myself as a freelancer. There’s a bottom line effect. I make X number of dollars to code out a website. To design and code a website. Now, clients are requesting this new thing called mobile responsiveness. So now I have to basically design this at three-ish, different viewports. Mobile, tablet, desktop. Can I charge for that? I think to some degree, I was able to charge a little bit more for that. As I became very proficient with it, I could bid for projects that were requesting, that were more high dollar.

The question is, can a developer charge for access accessibility? It may be hard for the individual freelancer. They may not be positioned well enough. For a company like ours, where it’s our motto, we’re gonna do this regardless, right?

Chris Hinds 38:58
Yeah. And that’s the thing with us, too. Accessibility isn’t even a line item. You won’t find it in our proposals or in our invoices in the dollar field. It is just part of it. And there’s very clear language everywhere in terms about it. I’m not saying we completely ignored in our proposals or anything. If you’re building things excessively, you should mention that, like, in your proposals, right?

Amber Hinds 39:25
It’s part of every line item, right?

Steve Jones 39:28

Chris Hinds 39:28
Yeah, it’s part of every line item, that’s the thing. We’ve fully shifted left. We’re even trying to be accessible in the sales process. I don’t know how much more left you can go.

Amber Hinds 39:38
I think of that as micro training. That is one of the biggest things that I think about. This is this is another shift we made, which was that when we were first building websites, we did sales, we do discovery calls, we’d make designs, clients would approve them or not, we’d then make changes. We got something approved and we build it. Then we launch it. Then we do trainings with our clients.

Now I think we’re doing a lot of micro trainings, even during the sales process. You asking someone before you get on a sales call with them if they need any accommodations, if you do that enough times. I’ve had people get on Zoom with me and be surprised, they’re impressed that I have captions turned on. I’m just like, “I just have them on all the time, just in case.”

Chris Hinds 40:34
That woman I spoke with the other week was impressed that the option was enabled in my Zoom. I’m like, “well, we are Equalize Digital.” I think I said something like that, something corny. But yeah, I think it’s just mindset.

Amber Hinds 40:48
I think for clients that aren’t familiar with that, like seeing those things, they might be like, “Oh, I could do the same thing in my business.” That’s why our email signature, at the footer of every email, it basically says if something this email doesn’t work for you, your assistive technology, contact us, and we’ll try and help you. I’ve had people say this, and they’re like, “Wow, that’s really great.” And I was like, you could put that in your email, too.

Steve Jones 41:13

Amber Hinds 41:14
I think that like the training, so we’re doing a lot more small training. We do like a little bit of training on content accessibility before we ask them to give us content, instead of at the very end being like, here’s how you enter your content and this is what headings are.

We’re explaining it earlier in the process, so that over the entire engagement, which, for us, they’re not short. They’re many months, typically, right? They’re getting these little accessibility, I don’t know, bombs of knowledge, or whatever we want to call it, right. But they’re getting like accessibility training sometimes that feels very explicitly like training. Sometimes it’s just, something they maybe don’t even realize is kind of like training, but it’s something they’re kind of absorbing and going, “Oh, this is something we could do.”

I think that that helps them with the handoff. We frequently don’t maintain content on these websites, they’re maintaining their own content. So if they’ve had for the past, three months, four months of a website project and getting accessibility over time, that makes it easier, hopefully, for them to maintain it on an ongoing basis.

I think it would be interesting to talk about how much, you kind of started to go there, Steve, when you’re talking about can I charge extra for mobile?

Steve Jones 42:33

Amber Hinds 42:34
How much extra time do you think it takes to add accessibility into a project? So if somebody has never done an accessible website build, how much extra time should they account for the first one?

Steve Jones 42:52
That’s kind of a loaded question. Right? What are we building? We just did a project for a client where it was a realty company or in that space. That may not be exactly what they are.

There’s a full search like Zillow, there’s a full search, there’s many facets or search parameters and stuff. And there’s lots of fly out menus and, things like that. Something like that, even for us took quite a bit of time. I would say, on that project, I would say accessibility development-wise probably took 20% of the time. And that’s a large amount of time.

Amber Hinds 43:46
And that was just focused on the accessible development.

Steve Jones 43:50
Yeah, just all these little flyout menus, all these mobiles where you’re locking focus, and then you’re trying to set focus back where you left off, a lot of custom modals as well. It can definitely take time. I think if you’re starting out doing it…

Amber Hinds 44:09
It would probably be longer, right?

Steve Jones 44:11
Yeah, it’d definitely take longer, and it just depends what type of project you’re working on. If it’s a basic brochure website, you might be fine to, the most complicated things you might have to deal with are some navigation issues, maybe some button issues. It can just run the gamut. Yeah.

Chris Hinds 44:32
I was contacted by an agency owner, because I talked to quite a few of those, as you can imagine. And they said, “Hey, we’re getting ready to build our first website where accessibility is basically guaranteed in the scope.” right? They were a little nervous and they were like, “we’re bidding this we don’t know what to charge.” And my very basic advice to them was just to charge way more than they think they should and still plan for that project to be a learning experience project and not a profit project, and to approach it with that mindset.

Amber Hinds 45:12

Chris Hinds 45:12
The next one will be the one where the accessibility is a little more profitable.

Amber Hinds 45:20
I think even on that note, like Steve’s 20%, that’s probably too low. If you were going to add accessibility as a guaranteed certain, and this is maybe a good thing to flag. We don’t ever say that every website we build is 100% accessible. And I don’t think anyone should promise that.

Steve Jones 45:38

Amber Hinds 45:40
Because we imported in blog posts, or I don’t know, products or something from somewhere else. And I am not going to guarantee the accessibility of something that someone on our team has not personally looked at.

Steve Jones 45:55

Amber Hinds 45:57
We guarantee the accessibility of things we built. Whether it’s in the code, so like header, footer, sidebars, or any pages that were manually assembled by someone on our team, where we did the content. But anything that gets imported from a spreadsheet or XML file or something, I’m not going to tell you it’s accessible. Unless, sometimes clients pay extra to have like a certain number of blog posts audited and corrected.

But I think like that 20%, that seems too low. If it was my first project, I don’t think increasing my normal project fee by 20% would be enough. Would you double it? Triple it?

Chris Hinds 46:39
I told that agency owner, to me way more than you think you should charge is like 50% more. If you’re charging $10,000 for a typical brochure website, charge $15,000 for your first accessible brochure website. And you’re probably going to come close to making the profit you think you should make or maybe slightly less?

Steve Jones 46:39
Yeah. That 20% just speaks to our efficiency, so contact Chris, about your next website project.

Chris Hinds 47:11

Amber Hinds 47:13
Which is like you should always, I mean, we always say that, right? Everybody says that in our industry just charge more.

Steve Jones 47:20

Amber Hinds 47:20
You just need to charge more.

I think that this is another thing. On that efficiency we’re building. We used to do template websites, where we would start with a different theme and modify it. We don’t do that anymore. Everything uses our same theme. And I think that is part of that efficiency with accessibility. But it’s like, well, you only had to fix the like, we talked about that. Right? You wanted to fix it once.

Chris Hinds 47:47
Right? Yeah, totally. Yeah.

Amber Hinds 47:53
I think the, that might be it. I don’t know if there’s anything else that comes to mind when we’re talking about building an accessibility first mindset that we should dive in before we wrap up.

Steve Jones 48:03
Yeah, the only other thing I had was kind of in the challenges of this and a little bit from a development standpoint, sometimes a challenge is that we do from time to time, we’ll get requests from the client to do something on a website that we know can’t be accessible.

Amber Hinds 48:26
I’m gonna guess that loop forever.

Steve Jones 48:28
Yeah, there you go.

Amber Hinds 48:29
Have you had that conversation with a client?

Steve Jones 48:34
Yeah. From the developer standpoint, the request can come through. It can make it over to me, and then I have to approach “Hey, you know, this is not going to be accessible.” And then I know that our mission is to make our websites as accessible as possible. But there are times where we have to do something that may not necessarily be accessible. And I know that from the business side. Chris, you have a way of handling this, right?

Chris Hinds 49:10
Yes, I do. Thank you for teeing that one up for me.

We have a one pager that they can sign that basically says, “We know we’re asking for something that isn’t accessible, and we’re going to assume all liability for the consequences of this decision we’re making” is the paraphrased legalese, only it’s a full page long of legalese.

It looks it looks very scary, and sometimes when they’re faced with that option. “Okay, we’ll do what you want. You just have to sign this thing.” They backup, they backpedal, and they’re like, “oh, wait, you’re asking me to sign a legal document because I’m making this decision. That makes it seem a little more serious to me.”

It comes down to visibility. For a lot of high powered executives, certainly not all of them, but we’re working with CMOS, we’re working with VPs of marketing on these websites. They may not really think about the audience’s that we’re catering to when we’re making something accessible. Or they may commit the faux pas of thinking that those people just aren’t part of their audience. I’ve heard that before.

It’s a delicate thing to deal with, and there are all sorts of different strategies that you can take to counter those arguments and to counter those assumptions. I think we’ve had some recent WordPress Accessibility Meetups on that topic.

The final thing that I wanted to mention too, other adjustments we’ve made are things that we changed in our process. The other thing that we’ve done like post delivery on all of our websites, is we give them a full year’s license of Accessibility Checker Pro. Because having that built in scanning, that built in teaching tool, it’s part of our training to showing them that tool, and how it works, and to always look at it, and to always check it as they’re modifying content on their websites. I think that too helps what we build stay accessible, and hopefully eventually become more accessible as they go back and look at legacy content and updated over time.

I know that was one of our pain points that we were trying to address when we built it originally was. We build this accessible thing, and then two weeks later, they go slap a bunch of images without alt text and change all the headings structure and do all this stuff that completely breaks it. And we’re just pulling our hair out, “why? No.” And writing a hasty email being like “you can’t do this.” Having a preventive tool there helps.

Steve Jones 51:49

Amber Hinds 51:51
Yeah. I think too, it’s just training on why it’s important. There was actually, Ryan Bracey, from Second Melody, he gave a talk, I don’t know if either of you watched it at WordPress Accessibility Meetup.

Chris Hinds 52:05
I did. It was very good.

Amber Hinds 52:09
He has a whole side deck, which he presented for us that he gives for clients about why accessibility matters. I was very impressed, and I was like, “I need to make a better slides for the clients.”

But I think doing a good job of just really making people understand the why is very helpful. Then talking to them about what their process is for maintaining the website. If there’s going to be, if it’s a very large website with a lot of contributors. Like at the University, they have student workers, what can be done to ensure that those people get training if someone new comes on next quarter?

Steve Jones 52:47

Amber Hinds 52:50
That it’s like really understood and communicated that it’s an ongoing thing. Accessibility is not a destination, it’s a journey. It’s constantly processing and happening, and you constantly have to be thinking about it in everything you do both during the project and after the project.

Chris Hinds 53:09
All right, that’s a perfect sign off, Amber.

Steve Jones 53:11
There you go.

Amber Hinds 53:12
All right. Well, this has been fun. I don’t know if I’m going to finish my Hello Kitty soda, to be totally honest. But we will be back.

Actually, next week’s episode is going to be a recording from Meetup because people have been asking to be able to listen to those on audio. So that will be that and then in two weeks, we’ll be back with another conversation. And I think we’re gonna be talking about accessibility in Elementor.

Chris Hinds 53:42
All right, see y’all later.

Steve Jones 53:44
See ya.

Amber Hinds 53:45

Chris Hinds 53:47
Thanks for listening to Accessibility Craft. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe in your podcast app to get notified when future episodes release. You can find Accessibility Craft on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, and more. And if building accessibility awareness is important to you, please consider rating Accessibility Craft five stars on Apple podcasts. Accessibility Craft is produced by Equalize Digital and hosted by Amber Hinds, Chris Hinds, and Steve Jones. Steve Jones composed our theme music. Learn how we helped make 1000s of WordPress websites more accessible at equalizedigital.com