As part of our commitment to giving back and sharing knowledge, we have partnered with the WordPress Foundation’s community team to run an official WordPress Meetup centered around building more accessible websites with WordPress. This post has a recap of our Meetup that took place on Monday, February 21st, 2022, and a video recording of the presentation.
About the Topic
In this presentation, Sally Thoun, Head of Partnerships and Sales at AAAtraq, talked about her journey learning WordPress and Accessibility. Then we move on to a guided community discussion of tips and resources for learning accessibility.
Thanks to Our Sponsors
WP Engine, a WordPress technology company, sponsored the live captions for this event. They provide the most relied upon and trusted brands and developer-centric WordPress products for companies and agencies of all sizes, including managed WordPress hosting, enterprise WordPress, headless WordPress, Flywheel, Local, and Genesis. WP Engine’s tech innovation and award-winning WordPress experts help to power more than 1.5 million sites across 150 countries.
Empire Caption Solutions strives to create inclusive experiences and engage individuals with different abilities and backgrounds by providing high-quality accessibility services for recorded media, such as closed captions, transcriptions, Audio Description, and ASL interpretation. By utilizing both the latest technology and human expertise, ECS is able to help its clients meet WCAG 2.1 success criteria and ADA compliance while offering options that fit almost any budget.
About the Meetup
The WordPress Accessibility Meetup is a global group of WordPress developers, designers, and users interested in building more accessible websites. The meetup meets twice per month for presentations on a variety of topics related to making WordPress websites that can be used by people of all abilities. Meetups are held on the 1st Thursday of the month at 10 AM Central/8 AM Pacific and on the 3rd Monday of the month at 7 PM Central/5 PM Pacific.
Learn more about WordPress Accessibility Meetup
Watch the Recording
If you missed the meetup or would like a recap, watch the video below or read the transcript. If you have questions about what was covered in this meetup please tweet us @EqualizeDigital on Twitter or join our Facebook group for WordPress Accessibility.
Links Mentioned in This Video
The following resources were discussed or shared in the chat at this Meetup:
- Sally’s Resources
- EDX Web Accessibility Introduction Course
- WordPress Accessibility Support Facebook Group
- Empire Captions
- Upcoming Meetup: U.S. Web Accessibility Laws in 2022 with Lainey Feingold
- Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR)
- Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM) Resource Page
- Colleen Gratzer’s Web Accessibility Course
- Check Your WGAC Compliance
- WebAIM Accessibility Training
- Accesibility Fundamentals
- Web Accessibility Perspective Videos
- Website Accessibility Facebook Group
- Developing an Accessibility Statement
- We Designed an Inclusive Flywheel
- Demystifying Dissability by Emily Ladau
- How People with Dissabilities Use the Web
- A11y Rules
Key Points from the Community Discussion
Question: How would you advise someone new to A11Y to get involved?
Answer: Getting into Accessibility groups on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn), finding a mentor, following accessibility people on LinkedIn. People want to help.
Question: How do you feel about posting on social media about accessibility as a rookie?
Answer: Sally doesn’t post as much as she would like to because of fear, but voicing your opinion is still important. That’s how she got her job at AAATrack, they saw the way she was posting on LinkedIn about accessibility and showed interest in her.
Question: Have you ever experienced Impostor Syndrome because you are “too new” to the accessibility world?
Answer: It’s all in the state of mind, you just have to keep trying and just do it. It could be intimidating, but everyone in the community is very welcome and willing to help.
Read the Transcript
[00:00:00] >> AMBER: I am going to officially get started. Feel free to continue introducing yourself in chat and connecting with everyone. I’m going to try and continue watching the living room and letting people in as they join in. As you may have seen, we have a slightly different topic than you may have seen some of the marketing for meetup too. I’m going to further introduce Sally more later.
[00:00:23] I just have to say that Sally saved me today when I heard very late last night that, unfortunately, our speaker, Nicholas, was very ill. He’s like I-can’t-even-function ill, and so he couldn’t come, which is disappointing because we’re very excited to hear his talk, so we’ll definitely try and reschedule it. I posted out there because I was thinking, “Man, am I going to have to come up with a talk on the fly?” Sally said, “Oh, I’ve got something for you.”
[00:00:52] I’m super excited about today and I’m super excited to have Sally here. I’m going to do our normal introduction and some of our getting-started information and then we will dive in. If you have not been here today, we have a Facebook group that you can connect between meetups if you are a Facebook person. It’s facebook.com/groups/wordpress.accessibility, or if you just look for WordPress accessibility on Facebook, you should be able to find it.
[00:01:26] You can also find upcoming events and past recordings in one place on our website at equalizedigital.com/meetup. I do have to admit that our last meetup is not there yet. We almost always have them up within five business days, but I had a snafu. If you remember, I was sharing the wrong screen for a good chunk at the beginning. It took me a while. I was like, “I want to fix that in the video and edit it with the right screen instead of my desktop of my children,” which they’re very adorable, but I don’t know if I really need to see my children on my desktop.
[00:02:03] It took a little longer for us to do that. It’s sitting with our transcribers right now so we can get corrected captions. As soon as that’s available, we will get it posted. Otherwise, you can find everything else on our website if you want to catch recordings. This one will go up, hopefully, within a week from this meetup. We are seeking some additional sponsors for the meetup. We rely on sponsors to help cover the cost of live captioning.
[00:02:33] We have a live captioner here today to ensure that the captions are accurate for anyone who needs or likes to use them. We also rely on sponsors to be able to provide ASL interpretation. We don’t have a sponsor for that right now, which is why we do not have ASL interpreters because, unfortunately, it is prohibitively expensive for me to cover personally. The WordPress Foundation does not have a budget for live captions or ASL.
[00:03:08] If you are interested in helping to support either of those things, please reach out to me. If you have any suggestions for the meetup or you need any additional accommodations to make it work for you, if you’re interested in speaking, we’re going to be looking for some speakers. Reach out to us. You can email meetup at equlizedigital.com and that will go to both myself and Paola, who’s here, and you’ll probably see her speaking to everyone in the chat. Reach out to us.
[00:03:41] Who am I? I haven’t introduced myself yet. I’m Amber Hinds. I’m the CEO of Equalize Digital. We’re a certified B Corporation, a WordPress VIP agency, and we specialize in accessibility. It’s something that is really important to us and who we are and central to everything we do. We started the meetup mostly because I wanted to have the opportunity to learn from a bunch of people and I was like, “What’s the best way to get them to give me almost a private session answering my question for an hour? Let’s run a meetup.”
[00:04:14] We also have a product called Accessibility Checker, which is a plugin that scans for problems and puts reports in the dashboard. You can learn more about my company at equalizedigital.com. We’re pretty active on Twitter if you want to tweet us @equalizedigital. Our sponsor for this evening is WP Engine. They are covering the cost of our live captions. WP Engine, I’m assuming most people are familiar with them. If you’re not, they are a hosting company.
[00:04:45] They also own Flywheel and they own the Genesis theme from StudioPress and Local, which is a tool for developing WordPress websites locally on your computer. They have been very generous and they are sponsoring the live captions for our evening meetup for the entire year, which is incredibly amazing that they– It wasn’t even hard. I just reached out to them and they said, “Yes, we would love to do that.”
[00:05:17] If you get a chance, we always ask people to maybe tweet at our sponsors and say, “Thank you.” Let them know that it matters because that helps encourage them to want to continue sponsoring in the future. You can find them at @wpengine on Twitter. Then we have another sponsor, which is Empire Caption Solutions. What they’re doing is they have donated their transcription services post-events.
[00:05:46] They take our video once we have it edited and give us perfect captions that are fully corrected. We really appreciate this because we were doing this in-house for the first eight or nine-plus videos. It takes a lot of time if you’re not used to doing it and you’re not an expert at captioning. They have incredibly fast turnaround. The accuracy of the captions are great. They worked with us to be really clear about what we wanted as far as whether it was verbatim or not, all of those things, and so we thought they were great.
[00:06:21] If you want to learn more about Empire Caption, you can go to empirecaptions.com. You can tweet them on Twitter @EmpireCaption. Again, we like to say thank you to our sponsors to encourage them to continue providing the services that help us make this meetup accessible. I have two upcoming events that I want to talk about now. In March, we are going to have our first talk. It’s going to be called Accessibility for Content Creators. It’s Ronnie Burt, who works for Automattic.
[00:06:56] He’s the head of the Sensei LMS team. He will be talking about accessibility within the content creation process. That will be Thursday, March 3rd. It’s at 8:00 AM Pacific. All the times on the slides are in Pacific because this is in San Francisco because that’s where WordPress Foundation is based. I’m in Central Time, so I always think it’s 10:00 AM for me. We’ve put a few different times up there.
[00:07:27] Then our second speaker in the month of March, which will be in the same time slot on Monday, March 21st at 5:00 PM Pacific or 7:00 PM Central, is Lainey Feingold, who is an attorney who has specialized in structured negotiation related to disability and ADA cases for 20 to 30 years. She is an incredible expert in this area. She’ll be talking to us about what web accessibility laws are in the US and different things that we need to be aware of.
[00:08:06] If you have a legal question, this is the talk to come to you because we have a legal expert who can answer and not just say, “This is what I’ve heard,” which is what I always say. [laughs] I’m very excited that Lainey agreed to come and speak. Tonight, I am really excited to introduce Sally. As I mentioned, she totally saved me when our previous speaker got sick. Sally and I have been getting to know each other working on the WP Accessibility Day, which is a conference that’s going to happen in the fall.
[00:08:48] I’ve really just been excited to work with her and how enthusiastic she is and getting to know her. She stepped up when she saw my plea on LinkedIn, “Does anyone have a talk?” Sally happened to have a recorded talk. What we’re going to do is I’m going to share my screen. I realized now, I might not have shared sound, so I’m probably going to stop sharing my screen and reshare my screen because I only am so good at tech. [laughs] We’ll play the video and then Sally will be available to ask questions.
[00:09:23] Then what we’re going to do because the presentation is about 17 minutes, so it’s not super long, is we have some follow-up questions prepared to really start a community discussion, which we’ve never done before this meetup but I think will be really fun and interesting to find some other resources and different ideas and have some conversations about learning accessibility here as a group. Let me stop sharing my screen and reshare my screen because there has to be a snafu at every single one of these meetups or I didn’t run it. [laughs] In the meantime, Sally, feel free to introduce yourself or say hello while I do that.
[00:10:03] >> SALLY: Well, hi, everyone. Thanks for being here. You’ll see my whole journey in this talk, but it has been amazing. This community has been amazing. I want to do a shout-out to two people that are on this call. Joe Simpson, Jr., from Castaic, who, really, I call him my guiding light in the presentation, and Alicia St. Rose, who has been coaching me. I’m working on my website, which is still coming. [laughs] I just hope that you guys are inspired because I never knew what was possible until I dove into accessibility and met this amazing community of WordPress and accessibility people.
[00:10:46] >> AMBER: Well, we are so excited to have you. What I’m going to do, I have shared my sound. I am flipping to the video and I’m going to hit play. If somebody can’t hear my sound, you got to tell me really fast. Hopefully, this will function the way we think it will. [laughs]
[00:11:04] >> SALLY: Thanks for joining me. I’m Sally and I’m here to share my journey to accessibility and WordPress to hopefully inspire the same purpose and passion that the selfless WordPress and accessibility community has inspired in me. I also want to show you that it is never too late or too early no matter how many years you’ve been on this earth to change careers or start something new. If I can do it, so can you. I’ll also provide some resources to help you start your own path to help make the web accessible and inclusive for all.
[00:11:38] I live in Central California but grew up in Montréal, Québec, Canada, and come from an entrepreneurial family. Even though I spent most of my career in broadcast entertainment, my grandfather actually opened up the first movie cinema in Montréal in 1905 and then started a huge chocolate factory with six stores like See’s candy called Cleopatra Chocolate, who I named my dogs after.
[00:12:02] You can see Cleo is on the right and Patra is on the left, who unfortunately crossed over to the rainbow bridge two-and-a-half years ago. Just before Christmas this year, we unexpectedly welcomed a big puppy, Emma Noel, who was dumped in the country backside. Emma is short for Emmanuel and Noel is French for Christmas as she was our surprise Christmas present.
[00:12:24] Now, I have an 8-pound and an 80-pound dog. Interesting times, but she has re-energized Cleo, my 15-and-a-half-year-old Min Pin Yorkie. You can see how he loves to steal her treats and eat her food. I never know what I’m going to find in my bed each night. Prior to COVID, I had my own digital marketing agency and was doing well. Then COVID hit all our worlds and turned everything upside down.
[00:12:49] I took a few digital marketing classes to enhance my skills and my teacher always talked about LDT (learn, do, and teach). At this point, I had not heard of a WordCamp, a Wapuu, or a GitHub. I had heard of a meetup and accessibility, but I wasn’t exactly sure what they were all about. I don’t want to assume that everyone here is aware of digital accessibility. Just like the Americans with Disabilities Act, also known as the ADA, it provides guidelines for physical access.
[00:13:20] An accessible website allows people living with disabilities, of which there’s 1 in 5 worldwide, to use their assistive technology to access the web. Web accessibility is also about removing barriers. The global pandemic brought the importance and lack of accessibility to the forefront causing a sudden pivot to digital-only services almost overnight. Unfortunately, this left many people without access.
[00:13:46] My learning journey began when I attended my first meetup in Bakersfield, California with Mr. Mike Pilley. I asked about accessibility and he said, “Well, funny you ask as we have a special guest here tonight, Mr. Joe Simpson, Jr., from the Santa Clarita meetup. Joe told me about the upcoming WordPress Meetup Accessibility Day camp that was to take place that Saturday, where three of the meetups were Northern California of Los Angeles teamed up.
[00:14:14] Well, that Saturday, August 20th, 2020, my accessibility journey began and I was so excited. Halfway through, I was hooked. I felt something had been missing from digital marketing and I did not realize it until I discovered accessibility. I found my purpose and my passion. Even though I didn’t understand all of it that day, it made a lot more sense the more classes that I took.
[00:14:38] I dove deeper, well, actually, head first, to learn all I could about accessibility, which you may sometimes see abbreviated as A11Y because there’s 11 letters between the letter A and Y. My learning started with the edX introduction to web accessibility course that Sumner Davenport recommended. I love this course because it gives you an overview of how people living with disabilities interact with technology.
[00:15:07] Courses are also offered through Deque University, the American with Disabilities Act, Level Level out of the Netherlands. Google now offers a free Web Advanced Accessibility course and Knowbility offers courses as well. Conferences are another great way to learn. Deque University has axe-con this month. Knowbility has their AccessU conference coming up in May. Accessibility.com has monthly conferences throughout the year.
[00:15:36] I really enjoyed my webinars at Oklahoma ABLE Tech as well. Of course, you can check all the universities. The University of Minnesota provides a list of every conference and webinar, which is really cool. All these resources have links in the slides. There’s podcasts, 125 accessibility meetups, and groups to join on LinkedIn and Facebook. A lot of resources are out there to help you get started. Twitter and LinkedIn have lively conversations as well. Now that I’ve been learning, it was time to do. [coughs] Excuse me.
[00:16:10] I asked Joe Simpson, Jr., who I now call my guiding light, how we could get involved. He introduced me to the organizers for the Los Angeles WordCamp 2020. I joined in a little late as the volunteer wrangler, but everyone was so welcoming and gracious. To those in the WordPress community, thank you so much. You guys were just incredible. You don’t judge as we’re all at different levels. All you want to do is share your knowledge and skills to help us become better. I’m very grateful for that. LAX 2020 was a lot of fun meeting tremendous people.
[00:16:44] After that, I asked my guiding light, Joe, and said, “Joe, I really want to put my new accessibility skills to the test. What can I do?” Well, he introduced me to the organizers from WordPress Accessibility Day, which was a 24-hour marathon in October 2020 of everything accessibility. You can visit the link on the screen, wpaccessibilityday.org, and review all of the past webinars. I was fortunate to meet Joe Dolson, who was one of the co-organizers and a huge accessibility advocate and leader in this community.
[00:17:15] He said they needed help writing blogs, which is great because I love writing content. I wrote the blogs for all the sponsors who were wonderful to work with. During this time, I was still attending a lot of meetups. Sumner Davenport from the San Fernando Valley Meetup, which is now the new Accessibility Web and WordPress Meetup, which is also eligible for the International Association of Accessibility Professionals or IAAP credits for their certification, told us about Knowbility’s annual AIR Rally, the Accessibility Internet AIR Rally, which is usually in October.
[00:17:50] I really wanted to enter to be able to work on a web-accessible website from start to finish. As our team was full, I signed up as an individual. I was teamed with these fabulous ladies, Renu and Carmina from Texas, and we called ourselves the Digital Diversity Divas. Well, we’re not really divas, but we just wanted to have fun with the name. I mentored with Herin Hentry from Australia and she was such a blessing, full of knowledge, encouraging, and helped us get past that finish line.
[00:18:18] Our nonprofit was Uniformed Meditation, who offers meditation to first responders and frontline workers. We just love their concept, which made it even more fun to work on. There are misconceptions that websites can’t be pretty or they’re ugly if they’re accessible. Well, that’s really not true. Here’s our site and I beg to differ. Now, of course, I could be a little biased. As you can see, the opening page is really beautiful and evokes that calm sense that they wanted to portray.
[00:18:46] On January 3rd, 2021, Knowbility announced the winners out of 31 international teams. When they announced the winners, we were completely shocked. We never expected to win anything as we entered to have fun, enhance our skills, and meet great people. As you can see, we won third place. This just confirmed that I could do this and that I was on the right path.
[00:19:09] Volunteering is a great way to do or give back, enhanced with their new skill sets. I’ve met more incredible people by volunteering that I might never have otherwise met. Knowbility is always looking for volunteers, so check their websites for projects. AIR Rally 2022 will be coming up in October. Watch their website knowbility.org in August when registration usually opens. I came across Taproot, who pairs volunteers with nonprofits that need help on a project basis and can’t afford to pay people. Of course, there’s your local nonprofits.
[00:19:44] With everyone at home, volunteering really helped keep me sane as I made new friends from around the world and that wouldn’t have been possible pre-COVID. To all the accessibility advocates who have been doing this way before me, thank you for paving the way for us newcomers. I look forward to the opportunity we work together. Also, a thank you to the companies that put on a lot of courses at no charge and for a reduced fee.
[00:20:10] After AIR Rally, Joe invited me to be on the organizing team for Santa Clarita WordCamp 2021. It was a different experience coming in at the beginning compared to coming in towards the end. It was very eye-opening to see how a WordCamp is put together. It gave me another opportunity to learn new skills. It also allowed me to work with everyone as a team as with LAX 2020 as many of us here are freelancers or independent contractors. We are used to working by ourselves remotely.
[00:20:41] Every path that you travel may have a disappointment. Mine was learning about overlays or over-blahs, which are a quick fix for one line of code to supposedly make websites accessible. They actually make the user experience worse and not better. Some, their stress is to spend their time in educating companies about the value of accessible websites. If you’re going to talk the talk, please walk the walk. Build an accessible website and be an example to what you are preaching.
[00:21:08] Karl Groves, who is a major accessibility advocate, is very vocal against over-blahs as so many others in the community. He created two websites, overlayfactsheet.com of which I’m proud to be Signature # 304, and overlayfalseclaims that are very informative. I won’t go through them, but please take the time to learn the truth. In the US, many business owners are being blindsided with demand letters stating their websites are not accessible. Over-blahs actually puts them more at risk. In fact, Google searches for demand letters increase 62% in 2021.
[00:21:47] Now that I’ve learned and done, it’s time to teach. I know enough to educate people about accessibility without going too deep into the technical trenches. I’ve had the privilege to educate future digital marketing students and many digital marketing agencies, including a wonderful woman named Karen, who is going to start offering accessibility services by selling overlays. Once she understood the truth, she stopped. We need more business owners like Karen. [coughs] Excuse me.
[00:22:16] This chart from WebAIM is their annual study, which shows 97.4% of homepages had WCAG failures with the main one being color contrast. Usually, it’s the typical light text on a light background. I won’t go into WCAG because that’s a whole other area, but what does this mean? It means that we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to educate. People living with disabilities can be independent.
[00:22:43] Then AIR Rally 2021 came around again. I posted about open registration on my LinkedIn page. Knowbility said they had their highest registrations for individuals mainly because of my post, which was also my highest number of views. I was surprised. You never know how much you can motivate people. Then Knowbility reached out to see if I want to be a mentor. At this point, I still do not feel comfortable mentoring a team on my own as I still have so much technical items to learn.
[00:23:13] I asked if I could co-mentor and I chose my mentor, Sumner Davenport. We were paired with four incredibly talented team members who called themselves AccessHippos as their nonprofit was best for brain injury survivors. Sumner was such a huge help through this as she has a ton of experience and knowledge with the team affectionately calling her A11Y Einstein, so we won second place.
[00:23:41] As much fun as it was, I realized how much I still have to learn. Thankfully, accessibility is a journey. Wishing I was further along on my journey, I came across a tweet in January from Big Orange Heart, the nonprofit that WordFest 2020 is supporting here. “Don’t worry if your journey doesn’t feel like constant forward motion. Some days, you step backwards. Some days, you inch forward. Some days, you stand still. We all do, but look back over the course of a year and see how far you’ve come. Be proud of yourself. You’re amazing.”
[00:24:16] After seeing this timely message, I felt much better because, again, accessibility is a journey. I had to take breaks from webinars and life happens, which slows down the learning. Sometimes when I’m feeling unmotivated or down, I would pull out a poem that I found in my father’s books after he died when I was 12. It’s called It’s All in the State of Mind, author unknown.
[00:24:39] Some of the words that stand out to me are, “If you think you’ll be beaten, you are. If you think you dare not, you don’t. Many a race is over before it’s even run. Life’s battle doesn’t always go to the faster or stronger man, but sooner or later, the man who wins is the fellow who thinks that he can.” This always motivates me and I hope it helps you as well. I have to mention my Aunty Lizzy, who always said to me, “We’re not here to see through each other but to see each other through.” I love this because it really summarizes what accessibility is all about. Unfortunately, we lost her this last fall.
[00:25:22] Here we are 18 months later and I share this slide because I never would have expected to experience so many wonderful moments when I started my WordPress accessibility journey. When you follow your heart, great things can happen. Being nominated as a Yoast Care fund recipient blew me away as I’m still new to this community. Last summer, I had a milestone birthday and was starting over when many of my friends were retiring.
[00:25:52] To be honest, it was hard on the psyche. Discovering and diving into accessibility gave me purpose and a direction. It also led me to a new opportunity as head of US partnerships and sales with AAAtraq.com, an award-winning insurtech company who mitigates ADA risk. One thing that really upset me during my studies was how innocent businesses were being served demand letters.
[00:26:18] AAAtraq educates companies while providing insurance and protection. To date, not one of our clients has received a demand letter. It is a dream come true and more than I ever could have imagined. I can help businesses get ahead of these demand letters and educate them on accessibility at the same time. My next goals are to finish my accessible WordPress website, complete all my courses at Deque, which I started to become IAAP-certified.
[00:26:46] I’ve been inspired by the WordPress developers to enhance my developer skills. Full site editing would, hopefully, make that easier. I also joined the WordPress Accessibility Day 2022 organizing team coming this November with amazing accessibility advocates. Here are a few of those advocates to follow to get you started in no particular order. There are many more, which you will find along your journey. Here are some dates of significance in the community and a few more resources.
[00:27:19] I want to just thank you for your time again and appreciate you for being here. The pandemic was hard, but there were many positives. I wouldn’t be here standing stronger today empowered with new skills and knowledge to teach accessibility properly if not for my accessibility mentors, the connections I’ve made along the way and new friends, and all the advocates who have fed into me and everyone else.
[00:27:43] I can’t wait to meet all my new friends in person one day and give them a huge hockey hug. I hope you’re inspired and encouraged to take your first step towards accessibility. Go out there, have fun, don’t give up, and make a difference to do your part to help make the world and the web accessible for all. Here’s my contact information. I look forward to seeing you in the accessibility community. Bye-bye.
[00:28:09] [pause ]
[00:28:11] >> AMBER: Sorry, everybody. Took me a while to find the unmute button. [laughs] Thank you so much, Sally. I first have to say– and let me go back to my browser tab here, Sally. Oop, what are we doing? Sally has provided with us– I will put a link in the chat, or maybe Paola can throw that in there. She has kindly put together this Google Doc, which has tons like all the resources and links and things that she referenced, which is amazing.
[00:28:59] That, we will put up in the chat for everyone. Then I wanted to start with thanking you, Sally, and then I think we have time for some questions before we move into our community discussion point. Joe asked the first question, which is, “How would you advise someone new to accessibility to get involved?”
[00:29:23] >> SALLY: Yes, I’m unmuted. I would say one of the biggest helps for me was getting into an accessibility group finding a mentor and people that can support you and guide you just like Joe Simpson, Jr., did. Sumner Davenport has been a huge help as well, as well as Alicia. I learned so much being in that group, excuse me, because people are constantly posting articles or sources or links, so it helps speed up your learning faster than if you were to do it on your own.
[00:29:59] Of course, just following people on Twitter and LinkedIn. A lot of amazing resources that are out there. I want to say too is because I’m so new, I’m a behind-the-scenes person. I remember speaking to Sheri Byrne-Haber when she wanted to connect with me. I was just like, “Wow,” because she’s such a huge advocate, right? I just said, “I’d always want to connect with you, but because you’re so big, I didn’t think you would accept my connection.”
[00:30:26] She said, “Oh, silly.” She goes, “When I started, I just wrote everybody.” She goes, “You just got to do it, so don’t be shy. The worst they’re going to do is not accept you, but the accessibility community connects with everyone because we’re all in this together for the better purpose. You’ve got nothing to lose. If they don’t accept you, then follow them.” [laughs]
[00:30:54] >> AMBER: I think that’s been my experience as well. People are really open. I will say though, I mentioned that earlier. That was part of my motivation for the meetup because I was like, “Well, that makes me feel braver about reaching out to people and inviting them.” It’s like I have a reason. I found that everyone is open, I feel like.
[00:31:14] >> SALLY: Everyone that is connected with me in the accessibility community, which blows me away when I look at some of my connections, I take the time to write a, “Thank you,” to each and every one of them. I send them a message because people have forgotten the gift of gratitude. I just make sure that I always do that.
[00:31:32] >> AMBER: Alice is wondering if you could talk about your process for your upcoming website.
[00:31:39] >> SALLY: Oh, okay. [laughs] Well, I’m working with Alicia St. Rose of WordPress with Heart and she has a 16-week coaching program. It’s amazing because it’s not just about helping me build my website, but she’s totally encouraged me to think in a different way because content is king as we know. You can have a website. If there’s not valuable content on it, people aren’t going to stay.
[00:32:06] We’ve slowly, just because so much going on, slowly been working on it. We’re still on the About Me page and then I haven’t gotten to the next step with her. I’m just going to do a shout-out to Alicia St. Rose if you want help with your WordPress. She’s amazing. She uses GeneratePress. I look forward to our calls on Thursday because it just brightens my week. She’s just always so happy and motivating and inspiring.
[00:32:35] >> AMBER: Are you doing anything special on the planning of content front with regards to accessibility or testing or anything like that?
[00:32:43] >> SALLY: Well, I’m writing about my experience and then all the resources here. I’ve written a couple of blogs that I’m nervous to put out because they’re so different from all the other blogs everyone’s writing about. My goal is to reach people who don’t understand accessibility. I have one article called Accessibility and Marriage and I kind of related to that even though I’m single and never been married, but I just try to find a hook where that will get people to read it and get it. I still have to learn about plugins.
[00:33:21] I know there’s the type 7 contact form, I think, Able Player. I really need to get going on that because it’s been a long process. I just really wanted to inspire people to take the next step because, now, I’m working with AAAtraq. That takes up a lot of my time as well, but I just want to have a resource out there because people don’t know where to go. There’s so much and it’s overwhelming and confusing. Again, if you can have a mentor get to an accessibility group, they can help you navigate through all the options out there.
[00:33:55] >> AMBER: Beth put in the chat, “That’s exactly the kind of content you should publish. Different will usually get more attraction, not less,” which I definitely agree. That sounds unique and interesting and I think that will bring people there. Do you have a timeline for launching the website?
[00:34:12] >> SALLY: I’m hoping–
[00:34:12] >> AMBER: I’m going to put you on the spot in front of everyone. I can ask you that.
[00:34:17] >> SALLY: I started it a year ago, I think, with Alicia. I get really hunkered down the next two months and get it done, at least just to get something up there rather than just like a
[00:34:27] “coming soon” because things switched. I was doing digital marketing. Then when I moved into accessibility, I was going to change the focus of my agency to offer accessible services, mainly content because I do a lot of content.
[00:34:42] Then AAAtraq reached out to me on LinkedIn and started talking to me and offered me this opportunity. I felt I could reach more people working with them than I could just on my own one-on-one. I’m juggling both because I’m not going to let what I’ve built up fall to the wayside because I still have so many things I want to learn.
[00:35:07] >> AMBER: Let’s see. Someone mentioned the poem, “If you think you are beaten, you are,” by Walter Wintle. I think this is ever said, “I remember studying it in school. It’s also known by the title, Thinking.”
[00:35:21] >> SALLY: Interesting. I googled that. My dad died in 1974, which meant that he had it in his books. The picture in there is the actual paper I found in his books. I googled this gentleman and it said he was like July 2020. I was like, “Well, that’s too recent.” It could be. You know what? I can change it to possibly– No one’s been able to confirm that was him, but I can change it to possibly him as the author. That’s really stuck with me through the years.
[00:36:00] >> AMBER: This goes ahead to one of the questions that I had for community discussion. You just mentioned that AAAtraq reached out to you on LinkedIn rather than you go into them, which is super cool. How do you feel like growing in the accessibility community? Did that contribute to that? Are there things that you did, do you think, that other people who are hoping to get jobs in accessibility might be able to do to attract attention from employers?
[00:36:32] >> SALLY: Thank you. That’s a great question. I don’t post a lot because, again, I’m still new, but I would post occasionally about accessibility or I love promoting other people that educate. They reached out to me and we started up conversations. They wanted my input on their presentation and then they were looking for someone to head up sales. I’ve been with three startups. Prior to digital marketing, I was 20 years in sales.
[00:37:03] It’s like a combination of both. I said to them, “Well, what made you reach out?” Because if they advertise that job, [laughs] I don’t know if I ever would have gotten it. They just liked the way I worded things and spoke on LinkedIn. I was like, “Wow, okay.” I can say the great thing is follow a lot of these companies and there’s more and more positions in accessibility that are opening up. A lot of companies are starting to embrace accessibility more. The pandemic, like I said, really helped that.
[00:37:39] On the AIR Rally team for best, one of the gentlemen had worked for a small nonprofit up north. Level Access was looking for, I think, a project manager. He applied and he got hired. He won AIR Rally and then got hired. Volunteer, get out there. That’s how, like I said, I have met so many incredible people here that if I didn’t volunteer, I never would have. I’m grateful for the time through COVID, as hard as it was, that I had the time to do all of this. Really, just volunteer because like now, I’m on the accessibility organizing team.
[00:38:21] There’s a whole bunch of new advocates like yourself, Amber, that I didn’t know before. The world just keeps opening. We all are like-minded, so everyone just wants to help. When I was in sales, no one would share knowledge or when I worked at the studios because knowledge was power and there was all that competitiveness. It’s not like that in accessibility at all. I love it. I wish I would have gotten to it a few years ago when I heard about it, but all my developers said it wasn’t important and wasn’t necessary and they were wrong.
[00:38:59] >> AMBER: Have you ever experienced– I don’t know. We talked about imposter syndrome, right? Did you ever have, in the beginning, any feelings of like, “I’m just getting started with this. I shouldn’t volunteer,” or “I shouldn’t be in AIR,” or anything like that? If so, what did you do to get over that and what advice would you have for somebody who’s maybe experiencing that? They feel like they’re too new to accessibility to speak up or post about it on social media.
[00:39:30] >> SALLY: Well, thank you because I’ve mentioned that to a couple of people here that know me. I don’t post as much as I’d like to because of that imposter syndrome because it’s been 18 months now that I’ve been in this. With AIR Rally, I was so excited. Where else would I have an opportunity to work on building a website from start to finish and make it accessible? We actually customized our site in 2021 because our developer wants to challenge herself and the two top winners were WordPress.
[00:40:02] This year, we worked on WordPress and the top winner customized their site. It was my mentor from Australia, Herin, whose team won. You know what? Like that poem, it’s all in the state of mind. You just have to push through. I get a lot of, honestly, negative voices all the time. “You’re too old. No one’s going to hire you.” That’s why I just continued. I was going to just try and forge ahead in accessibility and just see where it took me, and then AAAtraq came along.
[00:40:33] It’s harder for older people to get jobs, especially in tech. Everyone’s really young, which is great. My career wasn’t in that. You just have to believe in yourself and keep pushing because everything that I worry about never happens or I’m going to write like– I’m a behind-the-scenes person. Even posting on my LinkedIn about today, I was so nervous because it’s like, “Well, who’s this person that’s been in accessibility for 18 months?”
[00:41:02] When you look at people that are coming up like Lainey or Sumner Davenport or Karl Groves or Joe Dolson or whatever, it’s intimidating, but you know what? They are so welcoming. They really, really are. I think once you get past it the first time, just keep going. Fear is false evidence appearing real, so just scratch that out. That’s what I’ve been doing.
[00:41:33] >> AMBER: I love that. I think that’s all great advice. I still sometimes have moments when I’m like, “Am I really an expert?” I have to go google it. I’m going to be like, “Oh wait, yes, I did know the answer to that.” It was right. I think we all have moments of that.
[00:41:46] >> SALLY: Just like on AIR Rally this year when Knowbility reached out for me to be a mentor, I was totally surprised because I’m still so new. That post I did had almost 500 views. That’s the most of any post I’ve ever written. I was like, “I can’t do this. I don’t want to lead a team to failure.” I still have so much technical knowledge to learn. That’s where I was like, “Could I co-mentor?” because they had way more mentors than they had teams.
[00:42:17] Everyone on this call, join Knowbility. Team up, enter alone, build your own team. I’m going to do it again, but I want to do it as a team because, like I said, I realize I still have so much to learn. Sumner was really instrumental with moving the team forward because a lot of the questions were technical. I can do content and links and alt text and the easy stuff. When you get deep into the trenches, I’m not there yet, but I’m not stopping. I will get there one day. [laughs]
[00:42:50] >> AMBER: I think that is really like learning through doing is what AIR Rally is all about, right? They don’t expect people on the teams to be expert. That’s why there are mentors there. I think it’s a good transition to maybe our first community discussion item. I’m going to flip my view so I can see as many people as possible on my grid. We’ve never done this before, but I wanted to open the floor. I think it might be helpful if people use the raise-your-hand feature if you’re able, which is under “reactions,” just so we don’t have a ton of people talking over each other because it gets challenging from a captioning perspective.
[00:43:28] If you’re not able to find that, send me a message or let me know if you’re on assistive technology that doesn’t work and you just need to unmute, then we’ll understand. My first question is I was wondering if anyone else has participated in AIR and if they wanted to share their experience and how it helped from a learning perspective and what you think you might need to know going into it or not.
[00:43:52] >> SALLY: Not to put anyone on the spot, but Joe and Alicia are here. They were on the seminars team, the team I wanted to get on. I’ll let them talk about that, or I’d like them to talk about that. Sorry.
[00:44:07] >> AMBER: If either of them want to.
[00:44:10] >> ALICIA: This is Alicia, bronze woman with freckles. [laughs] I did do the rally and I couldn’t do it the following year because I was still recovering. [laughs] I was very, very, very anal about what I do. I wanted it to be perfect and I felt the home stretch was a little rough for me. I believe that that was the first year they had done it online. We were the guinea pigs that year. I think it even started late, so that’s what it was. Everything was compacted. I think that second year when Sally did it again, it was probably– you had a little more time, didn’t you? Okay, and also–
[00:44:54] >> SALLY: Yes, and it was much more organized because they weren’t pivoting and they also provided captioning services on the videos by rev.com, which I’m happy for them. Do you know how many hours I spent learning how to caption our video? Ugh, but now, I know how to do it.
[00:45:11] >> ALICIA: Oh, my goodness. I do want to second that. I went in it to learn stuff. I didn’t know anything either. I code my own websites and I do custom WordPress development. I don’t use a page builder or anything like that. I didn’t know this stuff and I knew that that’s why I wanted to do it. It’s not something that you go into because you know some accessibility stuff. You literally choose that Knowbility, the AIR Rally to learn some stuff. You will learn stuff, lots of stuff. I thought it was extremely beneficial and everyone should at least investigate it if it’s something you want to do.
[00:45:53] >> AMBER: Alice asked, “They’ll put you on a team if you aren’t part of one,” so you don’t have to go do it with the team, right? You could show up as an individual and we’ll connect you with other people?
[00:46:02] >> ALICIA: I think that’s how most of them are, but we were one of the rare ones that could put our team together and actually wooed someone to be on our team. It was during that WordPress Accessibility Day and Colleen Gratzer showed up. The PDF session that I was talking about, accessible PDFs, and just the questions she was asking and all this stuff. I googled her and I’m like, “She’s coming on our team.”
[00:46:32] >> ALICIA: We sent her love letters and things. I did. I sent an email. I’m like, “Hi, Colleen, you don’t know us, but we love you.”
[00:46:41] >> AMBER: That’s awesome.
[00:46:42] >> ALICIA: She knew none of us and she give her 1,000% points for just saying, “All right, I don’t know who you oddballs are, but I’ll do it.” It was so magical. It really was. She knows a lot.
[00:46:57] >> AMBER: What’s the time commitment for doing AIR?
[00:47:01] >> ALICIA: Six weeks minimum, I think.
[00:47:03] >> AMBER: Six weeks. How many hours a week do you think you all put into it?
[00:47:08] >> ALICIA: Oh, we have it somewhere. [laughs] I think it’s–
[00:47:11] >> AMBER: Was it a full-time job? Could you still do your normal job? [laughs]
[00:47:15] >> ALICIA: You can. [laughs] You can.
[00:47:17] >> AMBER: You laughed. That makes me nervous. [laughs]
[00:47:20] >> SALLY: There are six, seven people on the team, right? Everyone does different things. Our first year, we didn’t get our content until 24 hours before the deadline. I was up practically all night freaking out and you know–
[00:47:36] >> ALICIA: That’s content.
[00:47:38] >> SALLY: Yes, getting content is hard.
[00:47:40] >> AMBER: From the nonprofit because they’re your “client”?
[00:47:43] >> SALLY: Yes, they’re like your client. Yes.
[00:47:47] >> JOE: That’s one of the challenges too, is making sure that you can usher your client along the way. Sorry, I finally was able to find a quiet spot.
[00:47:57] >> SALLY: Yay, Joe.
[00:47:57] >> AMBER: This is Joe speaking?
[00:47:59] >> JOE: Yes. Oh, sorry.
[00:48:00] >> SALLY: My guiding light. [laughs]
[00:48:02] >> JOE: Joe Simpson, African-American male, salt-and-pepper beard, glasses, and baseball cap. I would just chime in. It was a pleasure working with Alicia. I was more on the front-end design side. As Sally mentioned, no matter what your skill level, they put you on a team with other people of different skill sets, so everyone– There was also a checklist of all the things that we needed to hit along the way, which was very helpful, because most people don’t think about those things in terms of building the site. We had to build to something that was required. It actually got you in the mindset of what I’m sure what you do, Amber, on a day-to-day basis when you deal with your clients. It was really an awesome experience.
[00:48:47] >> AMBER: Well, I appreciate you all sharing that information about AIR. It’s something that I’ve been curious about and I’m sure other people have been. My next topic that I want to open the floor for anyone is, are there any other resources that you would recommend for learning accessibility? Sally gave us a great list, but I want to hear if there’s any others that people have found useful. Feel free to raise your hand if you want to share it or you can share it in the chat and I can also read them out.
[00:49:24] Your list was so comprehensive. [laughs] No one has anything else. Colleen Gratzer was mentioned before. I will say she has an online course, which I haven’t done, but I’ve heard positive things from other people. That might be something if you’re interested in learning about from her. Amy posted in the chat, webaim.org, which I agree that half the time when I google, that’s what comes up. [laughs] They have great articles and resources. We got a second on got a second on DQ and edX from Joe Simpson. I have a question. Does anyone have a thought then, and feel free to put in more resources as well, how important do we think these accessibility certifications are for either learning and/or getting employment specifically related to accessibility? Does anyone have any thoughts or experiences with that that they wanted to share? Carlos.
[00:50:34] >> CARLOS: Let me unmute myself. I think there are more important in the field of us learning about the subject because a lot of times when you have a certification, people will look around and say how many other people have it and you stand as the basis for whether they consider it important or not.
[00:51:07] >> AMBER: Yes. Can I put you on the spot? Do you have any of the certifications from the IAAP?
[00:51:16] >> ALICE: No. Not any recent ones.
[00:51:21] >> AMBER: Okay. Do we have anybody on here because I personally do not? I’ve been studying for the Webex accessibility specialist but I haven’t taken the exam. Do we have anyone on the call today who has them? Alice raised her hand. Feel free to unmute, Alice.
[00:51:41] >> ALICE: It’s late, my brain and my hands aren’t working. I took the IAAP, the basic course, several years ago. I worked at a community college. I’m in the disability services department. I’ve technically been doing accessibility work about eight years now. I’m a lifelong learner. Sally, everything you’ve said tonight resonates. Just trying to learn more. I’m also retirement age and I’m hoping to retire from full-time work possibly this year.
[00:52:19] I’m also an older mother. I have a potential law school student in the fall graduating from college. I’m not sure what I’m going to be able to do. What I’m finding is that- and I took CPack test pretty early on in their process, I have a side small consulting, it’s a contract through our state network of colleges called the Tennessee Board of Regents. At the time, I think I took it in 2014, the Tennessee Board of Regents launched an accessibility initiative that went quite well and quite full on for a couple of years until the person who was most passionate about it in the leadership role moved to another state.
[00:53:15] We still have the initiative. It’s just that there has been less- I would say, less mandates. He was a bit more powerful about what he wanted the colleges in the group to be doing and had regular benchmarks of things like looking at your top 30 courses and looking at those kinds of things. Most of what I do as far as accessibility now and in the last several years has been documenting accessibility and then also textbooks which is still a huge issue. It’s gotten a little bit better for my sighted students in the last couple of years since we’ve gone to more digital but for my blind students, it’s still very, very, difficult for the most part.
[00:54:04] Even with the initiative, we still have issues in terms of adoption and procurement. I think from what I’ve been seeing in the last few months, as I’ve been looking forward towards what the next part of my career is going to look at, I’ve been in the system of technology for over 30 years and in disability services since I was a teenager. It was one of those paths that just got me early as a volunteer and then I went to college and I’ve been in the field ever since.
[00:54:36] I tried to become an engineer and that didn’t work out. It wasn’t my path. I’m very much looking towards what is possibly going to help in terms of doing any kind of consulting and I am seeing the IAAP either the core credential which is the one I have and then I just bought the DQ course with a web accessibility because I can look at code, it doesn’t frighten me so much anymore. Now that I know it’s a language and not math, which is not my strength, but I don’t have that skill set that many are looking for– Sally, you mentioned this too, but what skillsets were needed in terms of being able to say to someone who is writing the code, that this is what needs to be fixed. I can run automated checkers. I’m very passionate about user-end testing.
[00:55:36] I had the fortunate experience for the last eight years of working with someone who is blind from birth and he’s been my guru in terms of teaching me about how to think as a non-sided person since I am a sided spring reader and how to think about that. I do think that the credential in this instance is helpful in terms of the learning. When I studied I bought the DEQ course much like I’m doing now and my testing was paid for by my accessibility specialist side contract that I have. It’s just a very small contract that I get paid for a little bit every semester. Who knows where that’s going to go? That seems to be the way that you can learn is by going through the testing.
[00:56:27] I’m not looking forward to taking another test and keeping up with yet another credential because I also have the rehab engineering society of north America credential. The issue I think with credentials becomes more of that, of trying not to stress out that you won’t have all of the points that you need by the end of two years for [inaudible] or three years, although IAAP having this being certified, they’re a little bit easier to get the points for them that rosenort requires certainty CEU’s from only certain places.
[00:57:04] That gets a little tricky sometimes. I think that it shows your commitment to the field that you’re willing to study, you’re willing to learn. I’m a little on the fence about whether or not a test shows what. It does give you some indication of what you know as well as what the standards are. Like I said, recently, just looking around and seeing what’s out there from remote employment, it seems like a lot of people are putting that, not necessarily in the top part of the job description, but it would be nice to have.
[00:57:47] >> AMBER: It could help edge you out over others.
[00:57:52] >> ALICE: I think so.
[00:57:54] >> AMBER: I will put out a quick note that our meetup and I think also Alice’s meetup– Does your meetup count for the continuing credits IIAP.
[00:58:06] >> SUMNER: No, I don’t know how you do that.
[00:58:10] >> AMBER: Oh, wait. Who runs the accessible web, Sumner?
[00:58:14] >> SUMNER: Oh yes, that would be them. I can’t do that. I don’t think I could do that.
[00:58:20] >> AMBER: That one both count towards continuing credits. That’s helpful. You’re getting some right now. [laughs] I feel like I’m seeing it more as a nice to have. I haven’t seen it yet as a requirement for a job on the agency side, but it might become one, I would think if you wanted to work in higher ed. I would expect in the web development department or in some government agencies. Does anyone else have any thoughts or opinions? Oh, Joe, you’ve got your hand up about currencies.
[00:59:01] >> JOE: I was just going to chime in part of my journey this year for me, I’m trying to get involved like I’m on the make accessibility team and I wanted to see how tickets are pushed through the process in terms of making WordPress more accessible and getting more experience and one of the things that I heard that was disappointing was a lot of the folks that are on the team aren’t really high on getting certified.
[00:59:25] They’re really more into getting fixing things on your learning through doing. I was on the track to get certification and things of that nature. Then when I heard that I was like I should just start building and testing more sites and learning on my own. I’m torn about what approach. Again, I don’t want to discourage anybody, but it was interesting that a lot of the folks that are making WordPress more accessible, some of their opinions were that, “Hey, you need to just get in and get your hands dirty instead of doing some certification.”
[00:59:57] >> AMBER: Yes I will also say that I was talking to someone on the Make team who is a screen reader user, who’s blind and he said that his understanding is that the actual testing, even the online testing is not accessible, which seems a little bit hypocritical.
[01:00:19] >> JOE: That person presented that year lead up. He said that their website isn’t accessible.
[01:00:24] >> AMBER: Yes. He said that he was having problems on his new website. [crosstalk]
[01:00:29] >> JOE: There are just some issues.
[01:00:30] >> AMBER: The old one was better than the new one. Alicia, you’ve got your hand up.
[01:00:35] >> ALICE: I just wanted to answer that question that Alice just put up there because I am the get in there and learn as I go. That’s why I did the Air Rally. I can tell you how it works with me because I work on my own. I’m juggling a lot of things. I do custom development. I’m actually good at the code. I can get at the code. If it’s a plug-in or something, sometimes there’s a barrier. I will write the plug-in developer and inform them of things. Then also I will write to theme developers. They can be really receptive and in some cases, with generate press even change the documentation and add certain things because when we’re in the Air Rally there’s certain things we needed to do and they were like, “Oh, wow. Okay.” Because their theme got in the way of it a little bit.
[01:01:32] What I’m working, actually it’s an emotional thing before it’s a tech thing. I try to put myself in the context of being like if I couldn’t see this webpage and I couldn’t tab through, it’s almost this holistic thing, if I was a blob and I couldn’t do anything, how is something on this page going to be a hindrance. Then I’m going to come across something, for instance, prime and double prime to signify inches.
[01:02:12] In my mind, I’m thinking, “Well, those can signify other things too. What will a screen reader do with those?” Then I google. I literally just google. I will google at least once a day or something about some issue that comes up. I’m starting to think outside the box about this. I’ll google and then I’ll learn about it. I stopped doing those because there were some screen readers that got them mixed up. Now, I use inches and feet. I actually use the words. It’s like, “That’s off the list now. No more prime for inches and things.”
[01:02:43] There’s a whole website where this guy had diameter and length and width of everything. Just things like that.
[01:02:53] Every time I look something up I add to my trove. It’s almost like this personal journey because it’s the one that I’m going from the projects that I’m working on. Not going to get a certification where they’re telling me a whole bunch of stuff and I may not touch it again for another year because my project is not doing that. Then by the time I have to do something I forgot that was in there. We’re all working so much on our WordPress site if we’re developers and stuff or even for copywriters. Copywriters or graphic designers who mock-up things, it’s the same thing.
[01:03:28] As you’re mocking up, you can just wonder about, “Oh, what happens if I use a serif font or a non-serif font? How does that affect people with vision?” Then you just think about it. Then you just google and get a little bit of information about that and then you make your decision accordingly. That’s how I do it.
[01:03:49] >> AMBER: I feel like it’s the WordPress way honestly. I don’t know if it’s this way because I haven’t worked in other languages or really I’m not in the Dreamweaver community or whatever. I feel like a lot of us are very self-taught and there’s a lot of learning through google or other people’s courses or meetups or things like that. It feels natural to us to approach this accessibility learning in the similar way. The way you’re describing it, that is a lot of how I have learned, too. It’s through having a problem, listening to it on voice-over, and then being like, “Well, that sounds weird. Why does that sound weird?” Then trying to figure out, “Can I find a better example on some other website, and then what can I do differently?” Carlos, do you want to say something?
[01:06:15] >> AMBER: I think there’s definitely a lot of concerns around the speed at which some of the, particularly full site editing is going out there and what the implications for that might be for accessibility. That’s a hard one. I pushed before the state of the word. I tried to push Matt Mongelli to encourage people in a single sentence that accessibility is important and he responded to me in post status. He said that the challenge with that is that he doesn’t even want to talk about accessibility because he feels like people tell him they’re just doing it wrong. I get that that there’s a fear. This circles back to talking about it on social media.
[01:07:18] Am I going to make a mistake or say something wrong? I’ve been recommending a block plugin and somebody mentioned to me, it was accordion blocks, somebody mentioned to me, “Hey, did you see that support ticket about the headings don’t show up in the heading list?” I was like, “Oh, I had no idea.” I was totally wrong. I missed that. Clearly, I was making a recommendation to our clients and we’ve been using out a lot of projects for over a year now. I think you have to be willing to just be like, “Oops, we made a mistake, we did something wrong, but we still have to talk about it.”
[01:07:53] We can’t just be like, “Well, we’re going to bury it under the rub.” I think that’s the thing, too, about going out on social and being willing to talk about things and not being afraid on that end. I had a question then about- this is something people ask me sometimes, and I’m always curious what other people have at the top of their list. If we’re talking about starting small and starting incrementally, and obviously, we can’t make an existing website accessible overnight, or if we’re learning and there’s only a handful of things that we can do initially to get started.
[01:08:34] If you had to identify the most important things to do for accessibility on a website, what would be on that list? I’m curious to hear what’s on other people’s lists. I’m totally going to let somebody start talking because I apparently have to plug my computer in. Gen, do you want to talk about that while I grab my [inaudible]? [chuckles]
[01:08:55] >> GEN: I literally have a top 11 items to make your site accessible to regular people. One of the biggest things is, when I first get a website and someone asks me to look at it and I’m like, “Honestly, this sucks for a normal person. Your font colors are really poor. I can barely even read this text.” I’m like, “This is not great for someone who is sighted. Let alone someone who’s not sighted or someone who has other issues.”
[01:09:33] I hit through the get an accessibility statement. There’s that really minimal one. I think it’s on W-3, they have a super minimal accessibility statement. Get the super minimal one up saying that you’re trying and contact us if you’re having problems, but not committing to any sort of specific standard or anything like that and then get your colors in order, make a link obvious. I can’t tell you how many times clients come to me with a site and they’re like, “Oh, I love how pretty this site is. Look how pretty this is.” I’m like, “I don’t even know where links are.” There’s four sections of text, they’re all different colors, I have absolutely no idea what I’ll link. This bolded blue is not a link. This bolded blue is a link. This plain black is a link.
[01:10:34] This plain black is a paragraph. Make it obvious to regular sighted people. That’s where I start with people and accessibility is just- make it easy for everyone and then we can start working on making a keyboard nav and working through stuff like that. Just make it decent for a regular average person to start. I can get a lot of buy-in from clients to get through that stuff. Once they get through the first step and you can put them to say yes to something, then you can get them to say yes to the next thing and move on from there.
[01:11:20] >> AMBER: I think that’s a good point. There’s so many things that impact literally everyone. We just improved the visibility of those. Melanie, what thoughts do you have? What’s top on your list for things to fix?
[01:11:37] >> MELANIE: I’m like Gen. A lot of it is just for me good design, but fonts are a huge ones for me, super skinny font. Now, my picture doesn’t show it, but I wear contacts with glasses on top of them. I can see. I had a former client who had this. Their designer was dead set and always putting white text on a light blue background. It’s like, “I can’t see it and I’m supposed to make edits to your website when I can’t actually see the text.” Another thing is movement for movement’s sake. That drives me nuts. It’s like shooting a moving target with everything moving around the page. It’s because you can make something animate doesn’t mean you should.
[01:12:36] One of my big things is headings should be hierarchical. I’ve even let VA’s go because they would not do that. That and alt text for images. It’s a non-negotiable. Headings have to make sense. It’s all the good practice that you should be doing when you’re building a website anyway, but fortunately and unfortunately we’re in an industry where somebody can wake up and say, “Gee, I think I’m going to be a web designer today.” They don’t know what they don’t know. Then we come in behind them and clean up the mess. Even me, I’ve been doing accessible websites for few years and I’m still learning. It’s great when we can say, “Oh, wow.” Of course, I’m looking for the same thing, the holy grail and an accordion that’s accessible. [laughs] I really need it for an upcoming project.
[01:13:54] >> AMBER: It is always a learning process. I appreciated that, too. Nick Croft, when he gave a talk earlier and I introduced him, it was like, “I’ve been following forever.” He’s got all of the certifications. He’s been doing it for a really long time. He does it on major websites. I introduced him as an accessibility expert. He’s like, “No, I’m just learning.” I like that we’re all learning.
[01:14:22] I have to say and then I’m going to let Beth share hers, but I think headings are top of level for me just because with our users, we do user testing for our clients and we bring in users and I feel that’s one of the things that I have learned the most from watching people on screen [inaudible] navigate is how important those heading levels are and that you don’t choose them for their size or their font. You need to choose them for their numerical order. Beth, what’s the top of your list?
[01:14:52] >> BETH: I’m actually not going to answer that question. I just wanted to say this based on some conversation that’s going on in the chat that this area is really new to a lot of us who haven’t really had a lot of exposure to disabled persons. We may use the wrong words that might make you feel uncomfortable. Please understand that we’re all just learning this, we’re new at this, and this is something that we’re not accustomed to. Just be patient, we’ll get the language right. It’ll happen eventually. Let’s all cut each other some slack. I appreciate the education that’s going on in the chat. I just wanted to throw that out there.
[01:15:43] >> AMBER: I think I think specifically for anyone who can’t see the chat, what Beth was referencing someone might have used the term normal. The phrase I typically use as I say, someone who’s typically able, or typically sighted, typically hearing. I think that’s specifically what that’s about. I think it is hard with language, I would say, and probably I wish I had a really great resource on this, like what language works well.
[01:16:10] I feel like maybe Sheri Byrne-Habe might have a post about language that works well. I always feel like going to the source, you want to hear from the people who live with the experience, and try and get an idea of what language they prefer because I know, recently actually, Nicholas, who was supposed to be [inaudible] tonight and hopefully we’ll get him back soon. I saw an exchange with him and someone on Twitter who- she used the word handicapped and she is a person in a wheelchair and she likes that word. He was like, “I don’t think that word is okay.”
[01:16:53] That’s the other thing, too. It can be very different for different people as well. I think it’s a good conversation. I think in general, it’s good for us all to be aware that there are words that are maybe not ideal to use. Daniel, do you want to say something?
[01:17:11] >> DANIEL: Yes. I think one of my neuro divergences is that I often sound harsh. That could be part of it, too. I think in an environment like this, in order to not be offended by someone sounding offended, you should just assume that we’re all coming from a place of trying to help out. I run into this in the queer community, too, because you have people in the LGBTQ+ community that don’t like the word queer and I do.
[01:17:51] There’s a few things that you should stay away from because more often than not, you would offend somebody. In general, you just say, if you’re going to come across a word, you say, “Oh, when I’m referring to this, here’s what I say. Is that okay with you?”, or whatever or like, “Oh, how would you like to be referred?”, or something like that. It’s always going to be a touchy subject. I think when it comes to using the word normal, there’s so much precedence for everything. You have being in school and not being normal. It’s like this knee-jerk reaction. That’s usually one that I would stay away from.
[01:18:31] Other than that, as long as you’re coming from a place of like, you’re caring what you’re talking about and honestly, it’s probably good branding. Saying things that work for normal people for who you’re targeting, that’s probably going to work best because they’re like, “Oh, normal people love this, too.” You’ll then just probably inadvertently or on purpose piss off a lot of people in the process. To talk about a couple of things. I had mentioned a few in the chat. Luckily, Google, and the major players are caring about accessibility stuff.
[01:19:08] It’s a little bit easier to convince a client that it’s important because it has direct impact in, you could run a report on Google rather than running a report for accessibility as unfortunate as that is.
[01:19:26] You have things like alt texts and Colour Contrast and all of that stuff. Actually, Google cares about that stuff. We can thank some of these major players for having care for some of these accessibility things. I love that movement for moving sake. I love just using correct markup, like H1s following, to H2s following H1s et cetera, not using H1s outside of a section more than once. I think if you just go in with the best of intentions and trying to do those like top four things, you’ll cover most of what the issues are. Then it’s really just a matter of running a report using your accessibility plugin and just chipping away at issues. I think it’s a very– What’s the word I’m looking for? It’s a very scary thing to be like, “How am I supposed to account for all of these things?” You’re like, “Well, you’re not at first.” The point is intention just like the words that we’re using. I feel like if you just do those four things, most of the things are going to be fixed. I’ll stop talking now. I can be rambling sometimes. You’re muted,
[01:20:45] >> AMBER: I’m muted. I appreciate it and I also appreciate circling back a little bit, but I know we’ve got a couple of other people with their hands up. I was going to say on that whole approaching things, too, I think it’s interesting it’s not also necessarily just about, “Let’s do these specific things,” but sometimes it can be like, “Let’s do this specific page.” You’re like, “This is a page that gets the most traffic.” That matters way more than the page on your blog. That was a post you wrote five years ago that you don’t even see Google analytics because probably no one but the Google block goes there.
[01:21:21] I think sometimes that’s the way we like to approach it. I think from a learning perspective, that’s a good thing that took me a while to realize because I was like, “The whole thing has to be 100% accessible.” Really it’s like the pages that people go to have to be accessible, not the random things that no one actually look at. Alicia, I think you were next.
[01:21:45] >> ALICIA: I’m glad everybody did go ahead of me because now I can just peg on something on the top. My one thing is the click here– [laughs] That is a cause for editing people. It’s a cause for editing, it’s a cause for maybe make a sentence out of this and maybe even explain to us we’re clicking on. Like I say, people can actually see the thing. It does become richer to make the whole phrase, click here for our PDF download.
[01:22:15] The other one about the terms and the names for people. I always saw this from my personal experience. I can’t give that much power to something that comes out to someone else’s mouth. What I really focus on is where their heart was. I know that this is maybe a controversial viewpoint. Some people have really, really feel it’s important that the right terms are used, but there’s a heart that matters more. That’s what I listen to and it’s like a vibration music for me.
[01:22:46] That discussion that we were having was heartfelt. She wanted to help people and every situation is so nuanced. Even for me, I introduced myself differently than Joe did. The term doesn’t apply to me. I won’t let it apply. I just wanted to put that out there from my personal thing. I stand as a unique individual that wants to help people. Finally, when I really want to convince people about accessibility, I try to find anecdotal stories.
[01:23:22] Like me experiencing someone with a screen-reader and the pain they went through trying to order a Christmas trinket or something. They didn’t know it was Christmas because the description didn’t say Christmas trees. They could have actually been shopping for Easter and got this Christmas thing. When I started telling all human stories, I’ve seen people go, “Oh.” Like that. It hit them somewhere in a place that’s visceral. That’s what I do to try to help people and it works almost 100% of the time.
[01:23:53] >> AMBER: If you’re just getting started with accessibility and you may be really care about it, you want to get your clients going on it, but you don’t personally know anybody who can share that story or anything like that, do you have any resources that you for learning those stories that you can then communicate them and be like, “I heard this.” Whatever. Provide real-world examples with real people.
[01:24:19] >> ALICIA: That EDX course, because that’s what’s so powerful about that. It’s EDX accessibility course. It is not about tech. In fact, I remember the first story that I knew it was going to be a valuable course to me because they talked about this man who was blogging, and then he was blind. He was blogging and then they changed the blogging platform so he couldn’t actually blog anymore and communicate, which was something that was really important to him because now with less accessible. Then he ended up getting an illness. I think it was cancer or something. Maybe we get just a cough or something. We run to the internet to look for answers, and we were there for a long time, maybe too long, but we get there and we start digging, and we find answers. He couldn’t find anything because the web’s only 1.8% accessible. His answers weren’t going to be on a government website. You know what I mean?
[01:25:14] I don’t know that guy. I just found that story out because that’s when I decided to take that course where it’s showing you a human being after human being with things that you can’t even imagine that they have to deal with because of something that is with their body that you didn’t imagine could happen with somebody. It’s not just about blind people on the internet. That’s what most people think it is. They’ll say, “Well, we sell cars, who’s driving and it doesn’t matter.” [laughs] They should have the same experience and they can do buying a Tesla, you know what I mean?
[01:25:52] >> AMBER: Just because they don’t drive the car, it doesn’t mean they’re not the decision-maker. Maybe their partner drives the car, but they are the one who controls money.
[01:26:04] >> ALICIA: Exactly, exactly. It’s not our place to put their story in there for them. They have their own story just goes back to the other thing I was talking about. Anyway.
[01:26:16] >> AMBER: I want to let Carlos chime in, but the second thing that I would add for user stories is the A11Y Rules Podcast. He has this little- there are like five to seven-minute episodes. I love them because they’re short, he calls them sound bites. I’ve talked about them before because that’s how much I love this podcast. It’s been so eye-opening for me because he’s even like someone with ADD, and you just think, “Well, does ADD really impacting all these the web.”
[01:26:47] People move literally say like, these are problems that cause me issues, so I can’t complete checkout or a forum or whatever, or colorblind people. He’s had people all different- someone who’s like, “I can only move one finger like a tiny bit.” I think, for me, it was really eye-opening listening to that podcast. I highly recommend it. Carlos, what thoughts do you have?
[01:27:11] >> CARLOS: It’s interesting, because one of the first things I do when trying to address accessibility is I run the site through a screen reader myself. Took me years to fully learn how to use Voiceover to a place where I think I may be getting somewhat good at it, but I run it. I get to hear what a page sounds like. I get to hear, for example, when you use the ‘LL when you’re writing, voiceover will spell that out, ‘LL instead of the well contraction.
[01:28:04] There are times when it will get confused and it won’t be able to fully navigate a page. Showing that to the client and say, “Look, this is what a person who’s just using voice assistive technology to listen to your page sounds like to them. Would you like these to be your experience?” That has worked for me, that has been a really good conversation starter, eye-opener. “This is not acceptable. Why do we need to do to change it?”
[01:28:44] >> AMBER: Yes, I think it is interesting hearing how screening or sometimes interact with content, even things that are not arguably wrong. We had a whole conversation about it could be grammatically correct, my partner’s name is Chris, to not do ‘S on something that ends with an S. If something belongs to Chris, we could just say Chris apostrophe, but when a screen reader reads that it reads it as singular. We were like, “Nope, even if we think it looks weird, or the MLA or whatever doesn’t say that it’s right to have extra S, we’re we should probably put the extra S because, for a screen reader, it sounds right.”
[01:29:22] If somebody sends us an email about our grammar, and our website looks weird, then we’ll just be, “Okay, well, whatever.” There are little things like that, or even numbers on dates, I write them out now with the ST or the TH because otherwise, it sounds weird the way it reads it. I do feel like that was a big learning curve for me when I finally got over the fear of screen readers. I just started playing around with one. Then I feel like I learned a lot just by hearing what it sounds like.
[01:29:54] >> CARLOS: I know we can’t do excuse because all computers whatever the operating system can with an integrated screen reader.
[01:30:06] >> AMBER: Does windows have a screen reader that’s built-in?
[01:30:08] >> CARLOS: I believe so. I’ll check.
[01:30:11] >> AMBER: I did not know that. When I was in windows I was always using NVDA, which I downloaded and I sorely miss. Every once in a while, I think I need to get rid of my Mac just because I hate voiceover that much. [chuckles] We are at 8:35, which means we have a few more minutes and then we’ll need to wrap up for the evening. Does anyone have any final thoughts that they want to share or questions for the group about learning accessibility or getting better at accessibility? I will hold that. If you do, feel free to either raise your hand or post them in the chat. In the meantime, I will say thank you to everyone for coming tonight. Thank you so much–
[01:31:05] >> ALICIA: Tell everybody to save the chat.
[01:31:08] >> AMBER: There might be stuff in the chat you can save. We’ll also post this up once we get everything recorded. Thank you again to Sally for her awesome talk that spurred this great conversation. I’ve been wanting to do something where we have a lot of discussions, but I didn’t really know how to do that. I appreciate it that she offered that up last minute and saved me and keeps me, and this is great. She has an amazing list of resources, which is in the chat. We’ll also post them up with the recap as well of great places to learn about accessibility. Our next meetup, because this is a short month, is at next week. No, nevermind.
[01:31:56] >> CARLOS: It’s a week from today.
[01:31:58] >> AMBER: I’m thinking about the calendar wrong. It’s not. It is on Thursday, March 3rd, and we’ll be talking about accessibility for content creators with Ron Burke. Thank you, everyone. We really appreciate it and have a great evening.
[01:32:11] >> CARLOS: Thanks. great discussion. Thanks, Amber.
[01:32:15] >> AMBER: Bye.
[01:32:15] [END OF AUDIO]