288 – The importance of making your website accessible

Interview with Amber Hinds and Nathan Wrigley

So on the podcast today we have Amber Hinds and she’s here to use her expertise to explain how and why WordPress websites need to be accessible.

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It’s a really important topic at the moment. There seems to be a groundswell of understanding that the web really does need to be made available to all, and that means thinking about all the people who might be visiting your site. So that’s people who are using screen readers, people consuming videos who are hard of hearing, and so much more.

We talk about what accessibility is and what comes under its purview. Is it something that you need to do under law or is it something that you can leave until later?

There’s a lot more to this than meets to eye. Broadly we cover the following topics:

  • What is accessibility – what are we dealing with here, what does it cover?
  • A description some of the situations people who need an accessible website might find themselves in. What are they experiencing as they browse the web? What tools are they using?
  • Is there a legal / moral responsibility here? Is there a growing international consensus, or are we bound by the laws in the country in which we reside (as designers) or where the company (the client) resides, or where the data resides?
  • Are there any ways to be 30 / 50 / 100% accessible which are a ‘good place’ to start? In other words is this 100% or nothing?
  • WordPress standards – how do they align with accessibility?
  • What groups / forums / websites can we use to learn more in this area? Is there anything on make.wordpress.org?
  • A description some of the tools needed to do this work.
  • Accessibility overlays… is a one click solution to accessibility snake oil?
  • Who does Amber turn to for advice? Where can we go for reliable information?
  • What if this is not something that your boss at Evil Corp. cares about, and you work for them. What techniques can we deploy to make them care?

As you can see we cover a lot of ground, but there’s some more things as well.

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WP Accessibility Meetup which Amber runs.


  • Zooming in.
  • Assistive technology.
  • Colour blindness.


  • Transcripts.
  • Closed captions.


  • Eye tracking.
  • Alternative keyboards.

Brain injuries:

  • Cognitive impairment.
  • Reading level.
  • Memory – form fields should have labels in case you forget the purpose of the field.

Situational limitations:

  • You can’t watch a video on the train without headphones, so CC would be good.
  • Language issues.

Mentioned in this podcast:

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the worth rest community. Now welcome your hosts. David Walmsley, a Nathan Wrigley.

Hello there and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. Once again, you've reached episode number 288 entitled the importance of making your website accessible. It was published on Thursday, the 21st of July, 2022, my name's Nathan Wrigley. And before we join our guest for the interview, which is Amber Hinds by the way, a few short bits of housekeeping.

If you're into the stuff that we produce over at WP Builds, which is typically a podcast on a Thursday. That's what you're listening to now. And also the, this week in WordPress show, which happens on a Monday and then is repurposed as a podcast on a Tuesday. You can keep up to date by going to WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe there's options there to follow us on Twitter, find our YouTube channel and subscribe to our newsletter so that we can keep you up to date.

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So on the podcast today, we have Amber Hinds. Amber Hinds is a bonafide accessibility expert. Over the last several years, she's been really.

Fine tuning her process, figuring out how to make websites accessible, as accessible as possible. And she's here today to help school me and potentially you into how you can do this. So we get into a conversation about really, what are the legal responsibilities? What are the things that you must do? And then we stray into a conversation about how we actually achieve it.

What kind of tooling is there out there? What happens if you are not a hundred percent accessible, but you are. Starting out on the journey. What if you've got a boss who doesn't care about this and just wants to ship websites quickly? We tackle all of these things. The whole conversation is absolutely fascinating and a hundred percent talking about accessibility.

I hope that you enjoy it. I am joined on the podcast today by Amber Hinds.. Hello, Amber. Hello, Amber.

[00:03:46] Amber Hinds: Hey, Nathan, glad to be here.

[00:03:48] Nathan Wrigley: I am really glad to have you on we, we are actually, we're getting to be good friends. Aren't we've spoken to each other on many occasions. Now you come onto the, this weekend WordPress show, which we do, and we've had you on the WP Tavern podcast and for good reason.

because you talk about a really well, not just interesting, but very important topic. We will get to that very interesting and important topic in a moment. But the bland question, which always needs to be asked, I hope you don't mind. Just tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live, perhaps what's your relationship with WordPress and all of that's fun stuff.

I am based out of Georgetown, Texas, which is a little bit north of Austin, Texas, and I'm the CEO of a company called equalized digital. We are a certified B corporation and a WordPress V I P agency partner, and we build websites for. Government higher ed nonprofits, large, very large businesses.

So we do very custom WordPress installs and builds that are focused on website accessibility. And we also have a software product called accessibility checker, which sort of came out of our work for those clients and their need to have reports on accessibility. Inside their website after we launch it for them so they can try to keep it accessible.

Yeah. You really are thoroughly embedded in the whole accessibility movement. How long ago was it that people began to be concerned that there were things that were not accessible and therefore things that needed to be addressed. I've been doing this since websites were made with tables and, there was no.

CMSs or anything like that. And it feels at that point, like that debate didn't exist, but slowly it's been creeping up the importance in the agenda to the point where now I feel it's really dominating. People are talking about it a lot. So how long ago, how old is this fight that you've been having?

[00:05:56] Amber Hinds: So web content, accessibility guidelines have been around for more than 20 years. So there have been people who are aware of it and trying to put out recommendations for how websites can be made more accessible. But I feel like really, I have noticed in the past, I wanna say four years is when.

There's been a lot more attention paid to it, and there's been a much bigger spike since COVID because of how much people transition to engaging with businesses through the websites, especially during lockdown times. So there's been this, this small tale of it, but really in the more recent years is when it's picked up speed worldwide.

I think. In the WordPress community specifically, I feel like we're really noticing it more in. The last year and a half where there's been more awareness by agencies and people who create websites versus just the accessibility team that was working on accessibility and core WordPress, which of course has been going on for a very long time.

[00:07:13] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I feel that the word accessibility is now very much in the mainstream, but it may be useful to describe what it actually means. And what I'm thinking here is not the tooling which we might use or the things which we might do to resolve the problems. I just wanna spend a few minutes going through all of the different situations that people.

Find themselves needing accessibility to be born in mind. So what comes to mind immediately for me are people who, for example, are struggling with their site. For example, they may need a different experience, but I am imagining that there's a broad and rich spectrum of things under the umbrella of accessibility.

And I'd like to cover off as many of those as possible because I'll bet there's some in there that if we hadn't given it thought before, probably did need some.

[00:08:03] Amber Hinds: there is, there's a very broad spectrum. So as you mentioned, people who are blind or have low vision so this could range from, they have absolutely no sight and they use assistive technology, like a screen reader that actually reads out the content on their computer to them.

Or they might be. Someone who just has low vision so they can see some things and they will frequently be zoomed in. So they might access your website always at 200 or 300% zoom. And then also in the vision impairment, something people don't think about is colorblindness, which is actually a very common disability.

In certain cases that might mean if you're using color alone to denote something. So that's one reason why we say links always have to have underline in a body text. You can't just use color because if you use a certain color, let's say you use red because that's your brand color. Now people who can't see red.

May not know there's a link there if there's no underlying. So that's, there's a range of vision impairments deafness or having some hearing impairment is another common thing. And that's why we need transcripts and captions on videos or transcripts for a podcast. And then there's a wide range of mobility issues.

Which could be very severe where someone is using eye tracking, perhaps because they have ex like absolutely no use of their hands or perhaps they don't have hands. And then. There's also some people where they have limited use and they might use alternative keyboards. There is a keyboard called the Darcy USB, which allows people that could just use one or two fingers to tap out in Morris code and use a couple of buttons to engage with the web.

There are. Also brain disabilities or which could be a traumatic brain injury, which could happen. If someone is a military veteran or if they've been in a car accident or it could be a cognitive disability that someone was born with and this could impact a lot of things, like just their understanding of the overall usability and function of the website.

It could impact their reading level and their ability to read and understand content. or memory sometimes is the case. And this happens with aging a lot. And that's one reason why we say you always have to have a visible label above your fields on forms and not just placeholder texts, because when you start typing in there and there's placeholder texts, it just goes away.

And some people might forget, wait a minute, what was I supposed to be putting in this field? And so that's why you wanna have a visible label. But, and then let's see, what else am I missing? The other big thing that maybe some people don't think about is what we call situational limitations. So these are instances where people who perhaps don't think of themself as disabled, or they don't identify as disabled, but they can be impacted by the accessibility of a website.

So that's if I am riding on, a crowded train or a subway, and I wanna watch a video. But I forgot my headphones and there are no captions on the video now I can't watch the video. So that's an instance where I'm a hearing person, but having an accessibility feature will benefit me. Another one that comes into that is language learners.

So people that are engaging with content, that's not in their native language frequently benefit from From captions or things like that, or making sure that you have everything coded out properly so that it can work with the translation tool if it's being translated. So there's really a very wide range of abilities and disabilities that website accessibility can impact.

And really it impacts all of us.

[00:12:16] Nathan Wrigley: It's really, there's an awful lot in there. And. I've done a couple of podcasts with you, and yet still I'm learning new things because there was a couple in there, especially towards the end. You mentioned the brain injuries category. I don't think we, we covered that off at all before.

And honestly that. That really hadn't occurred to me. And that's fascinating, but also the situational limitation one as well, that's new and completely unique to me. And actually it's probably the only one I can truly identify with. I can tell you that I've sat on a train and refuse to watch a video because of the fact that I was going to disturb people around me.

So for me anyway, that is the one that I immediately get, but let's rewind right to the top of the. you mentioned vision as the first one. And you mentioned things like screen readers. Let's dig down into what these people are actually doing. How do they manage the website?

Because for me, and I would imagine for the significant proportion of the people listening to this, the process. Sit at the computer or hold the phone and there's no impediment. You just, you observe what's on the screen. You read what's on the screen. You listen to what comes through the speaker or the headphones and you use the mouse and you use the mouse and there's no thought to anything else apart from those utilities for interacting.

And of course, for people. Particularly in vision, which we'll go for first, there's a completely different way of interacting. So could you just describe some of that to paint a picture for people who haven't given this thought.

[00:13:58] Amber Hinds: Yeah. So someone who uses a screen reader, first of all, they are a keyboard only user.

So obviously they would not be able to use a mouse if they're on a desktop or a laptop computer, because they can't see where the mouse is pointing. So they are 100% exploring the website with a keyboard. And if they're on a Mac, They're typically using voiceover, which is the screen reader software that is built into max on windows.

There's a couple of different ones. One of the ones that has really gained popularity is called in VDA because it's a free open source screen reader. So anyone can go install it. And I highly recommend if you're a web developer or a designer or a content creator to go install it and try it out. If you're on windows, otherwise you've already got voiceover if you're on Mac.

And so they would have that. All the time. Because it's not just for websites, it would be how they use word. For example, if they have that or any other software that's on their computer and They can set it to go very fast. That's the thing. If you hear a native screen reader, user doing exploring on the web or using their screen reader, it's going to read out so fast that if you're not used to it, you might be like, I don't even know what it's saying.

How can you understand that? But. There's different tricks that can be used in screen readers in order to help them find the content they're looking for and move quickly through a website. So you and I, when we go to websites, I'm assuming we don't read every word. We skim, we jump around because we're looking for specific things and rarely do we sit down and read.

Literally every word. So one of the primary ways that they will engage with a website is you can hear in your screen reader lists of headings that are on a page, and then you can just jump to a heading and then hear the content that is below that heading. And so that's one reason why, one of the things that everyone can do and frequently this is just set up in your content editor, not even in your code is making sure that you're using.

That one, you have headings in your content and two that you're using them in the proper numerical order. So you only have one heading one on your page, and then you use heading twos, heading threes, heading, heading fours, et cetera, but you use them. In order as if your document is in outlines, thinking back to college or high school, when you had to create outlines before you could write an essay.

Yes. Yeah. It's the same sort of idea because those numbers is going, are going to help them understand how the content exists on a page and help them jump around. Skip links is something that we frequently talk about. A best practice. And if you're using a WordPress theme that has been reviewed as being accessibility ready, they will all have skip links.

And basically what that means is when you first come to the website, if you hit tab, it would the first link, which typically is visually hidden until you hit tab will pop up and it will say skip a content. And that would allow someone to. Go past the navigation and not be forced to tab through every item in the navigation before they can actually get to the content of the page, which is really important.

Another thing that's a shortcut that screen reader users use is they can hear a list of every link that's on the page. And again, this is a fast way if I'm trying to find out. I wanna find someone's email address and I'm on a directory page. I don't wanna have to read through all the content.

I could just listen to the email address links, for example, or if I'm trying to find, a specific guideline or something like that. And I want to hear it. And that's why. And we talk about not having ambiguous link anchor text. So that, for example, if you just have text that says read more or linking the word here, we see that a lot.

Yeah. People will say con to contact us, click here. and they'll link the word here. If. Someone on a screen reader is hearing a list of links on that page. Those kinds of links have no meaning because they aren't getting any of the surrounding context. They're literally hearing link here.

Link. Yeah. Here, link read more. So you really wanna try and make sure that you're actually linking text that is meaningful if heard 100% on its own, without any context from other texts that may be around that link on the page. There. I'd say like those are some of the top things for screen reader, users, and ways that.

Engage with the website. I think I mentioned, sometimes people, if they have some vision will be super zoomed in color contrast can matter a lot for people who are low vision. And that's really making sure that you have a significant difference between the color that you're using for your text and any background colors that they're on.

And I'll say. That's one that gets me. Sometimes I go on websites and I have corrective lenses, but I don't really consider myself to have a vision impairment, but especially if I'm outside and I'm on my phone. and it's sunny. But even at my desk, there have been times when I'm like, boy, I can barely read this and I'll zoom in on a website.

Or I, as someone who understands code I open the inspector and I literally changed the color of the font. . In the dev tools in the inspector, in order for me to be able to read the webpage

[00:19:42] Nathan Wrigley: there's are so many things to unpack there. Obviously, hopefully if this is the first time that you've come across this conversation, your brain is now worrying and your.

Presumably thinking about going back and maybe modifying those H tags and getting the links all in line and changing the color contrast. And what have you now in order to. Make all this happen. I'm guessing that there are a range of tools out there that people like you and I may be able to get a hold of.

You mentioned some of the things which are available on windows and Mac for the people who are. Listening to the content, but for people like us who are building the sites, are there any tools that we can go to see how we are doing, as we've, when we've written our blog post, is there a tool that we can point towards that blog post or webpage or whatever it may be and get some sort of advice, some critical help that might point to the things that we need to do in I don't know, a list of prior.

[00:20:48] Amber Hinds: yeah, there are a few tools available. So I mentioned early on, we have a plugin called the accessibility checker. There's a free version of it on the plugin repository on wordpress.org. And it will. Put a report like SEO tools do yeah. On the post or page edit screen. And we don't have any restrictions on post or pages in the free version.

So you could use it on, if you have a basic website with no custom post types, you could use the free version forever. And. And that will do some scanning and point things out for you. Another really popular one that a lot of people are aware of. That's outside of WordPress is called wave and that's a single page scanner.

So it won't do any sort of book scanning like our tool can do. But it's one that. is very commonly used and they have a browser extension. So you could either go to their website or you can install like the, I have the Chrome wave extension and I just click a little button and it runs a report on the front end of any website.

So it doesn't have to be one I manage. And and put, and it puts up some problems that are on the website for me as a developer. I highly recommend acts, which is made by a company called DQ. They have a free version. They also have a pro version. And I think for any developers, it is totally worth paying for the pro version because what their pro version does is they have some guided tests.

So one of the things that's really important to understand about accessibility. Is that not all problems can be identified by an automated tool even my plugin accessibility checker. We have disclaimer right on it that, not everything can be identified by an automated tool.

Some things require a human to assess them. So for example, We know that people on screen readers need to have alternative text or alt text on images so that the screen reader can describe the image for them. Our plugin accessibility checker can tell you if alternative text is missing. From an image and flag that for you.

But if the alternative text is filled in, but the alternative text is wrong, we can't do that because we can't really assess what this image is. And what is the context in which the image is being added to the page? Because alternative text is not really just about literally. There's a cat in this picture.

It's more about, why was this specific cat picture added to this blog post? Yeah, right? Yeah. What purpose is it playing? What emotions does it convey? If it's a link to something, where does maybe it doesn't even matter that there's a cat in there. You don't describe, this is a white cat sitting on a couch.

You actually would want your alternative text to describe where the link is going. See all adoptable cats or something would be more relevant than actually describing what's visually in the image. And so what's helpful about the. The acts tool, and this is something we're hoping to get to at some point with our product is that they have some tools in their pro version where you can do a guided test and they would, for example say here is, here are all the focusable elements on the page and the order at which we.

We see them in the tab stop. Is this correct? Is anything missing? So it, if you're trying to learn how to do some of the manual testing that you need to do, I think that's a great tool and one that I highly recommend the wave tool I mentioned earlier is useful to be aware of because it's quick and easy.

And I will say here in the United States where there's a lot of people increasingly we're seeing a lot of lawsuits around websites not being accessible. A lot of times the lawsuit. Talk about wave or problems being found with wave. So it's probably good to be aware of that, but I don't know that I think it's the most thorough tool.

[00:25:01] Nathan Wrigley: That's really interesting. We'll get to the lower side of it in a minute, cuz I think that's really quite fascinating, but okay. So imagine that my quickest route is to use one of the tools, either your tool or wave or any of the ones that I found out on the. and I use it and I make all the corrections that are recommended to me.

, I'm interested in the law around this and let's concentrate I'm in the UK, but I'm imagining that your understanding of UK law is probably different than your understanding of the law in well, Texas and the United States in general. So let's concentrate on the us law just because it's easier.

What is the what is the law, is this a legal responsibility that you have that's enshrined in law and breaking it is an offense. Are there certain characteristics that you absolutely cannot afford to OIT certain things? Whereas other things are it would be helpful if you added that in.

That would be nice but it's not essential. And do you know? Yeah. So is it more legal or moral responsibility?

[00:26:08] Amber Hinds: so there are laws worldwide. I am most familiar with the us laws, as you mentioned, let's go with that. Yeah, that, yeah, there are definitely laws in the UK around government websites.

I'm less familiar with what it might be for public businesses. But here in the United States, we have. Two primary laws that come into play. One is called section 5 0 8. And that specifically applies to any website that has received federal funding. So this could be a government website. It could also be a higher education institution.

It could also be a non-profit that has received a federal grant. And then we have a law called the Americans with disabilities act, and this law specifically applies to. With title three, it does apply to any businesses that serve the public. And actually on March 18th, the department of justice put out a statement more explicitly saying, yes, this does apply to websites because there, there were some cases where.

During lawsuits businesses tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, cuz they said the Americans with disabilities act only applies to public places and not websites. And so there had been a lot of people asking the department of justice to really weigh in on this and they did. And they said, no, it does apply.

We've that's been our consistent stance. And in fact we're increasing enforcement. . So really here in the United States, there is a legal requirement for everyone to have an accessible website. And if you do not, you do open yourself up to the possibility of a lawsuit, which could come from the department of justice because they have sued even for profit businesses or it could come from an individual with disabilities who.

Who is able to show harm from your website not being accessible. And the other really big one that we talk about a lot here in the us is actually in Ontario because sometimes there's overlap between businesses in Canada and in the us. And Ontario has probably what I've seen as the strictest accessibility law.

The accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities act and they Actually have fines, which can be, I wanna say it's like 500. Thousand on Canadian dollars per day. Oh, it's I it's could be very high, especially if you're a business with more than 50 employees, which is their, one of their limits on that, but they do have some requirements.

So any business with more than 25 employees actually have to. Has to submit a yearly statement to the government on the accessibility of their website. So there is definitely a legal requirement. And then beyond that, I think, yeah there's a moral requirement. We. As human beings, I think should want to do the right thing and want to help other human beings.

And even, maybe there's an ethical obligation beyond, ensuring that the public can access your business. But also what if you have an employee with disabilities? I heard once where there was someone who didn't even realize until something came up during a logo redesign that their business partner was colorblind and.

So you maybe don't even really know that there are people in your audience that may work for you or be your customers, or be your partner that has a limitation that could be impacted negatively by your website. And really it's just the right thing to do.

[00:30:01] Nathan Wrigley: In terms of the legal responsibility, because obviously the moral responsibility is an ideal.

And if we left it in the moral responsibility framework, I'm sure a lot of it would be left just because of the nature of things. So the legal responsibility is crucial. It matters. You've talked about in, particularly in an Ontario. Probably in the us and I'm imagining large parts of Europe and other parts of the world.

There, there are fines to be had. There are consequences, but I'm curious as to what, where you've got to begin this journey. So in other words if I've got a really old website and there's, I've put no effort at all into accessibility, am I better doing. 10% because that's all I can manage in the next few weeks that literally I'm, I would have to bring the website offline if I was, if I, if I tried to attempt a hundred percent of it at once, I'm just not gonna manage it.

So I aim for 10% or 20% or I aim for three of the 10 things that are on my to-do list. There. What's the advice around that? Is it better to make a start and do something? Or should we aim for a hundred percent? Get everything done right now?

[00:31:19] Amber Hinds: So I would say for most businesses, the most realistic way to approach it is to make a start and make a plan for what remediation looks like over time.

If you have an existing website that you are not replacing, it's. It's less likely that you're going to go to 100%, without a lot of work, especially, some people are in better positions than others, depending upon, what theme they started with . Yeah. There are some themes that just, you know, for whatever reason, whether it's the developer was unaware or the developer didn't care, I don't know like that.

They're not a great starting point and sometimes it's better off. Start over. But I will say that even on, even when we're building websites for our clients, we don't say that the new rarely do we say that the new website will be 100% accessible or 100% web content, accessibility guidelines, compliant, Wied compliant.

And really that's. For the most part, we are working on large websites that may have thousands of blog posts or tens of thousands of eCommerce products. And we won't guarantee anything is perfect unless we've looked at it all. And there's probably a lot of technical. Debt or accessibility problems in the content itself that we're importing from the old website.

So like I mentioned, those click here links. If you have a blog post from a year ago, and nobody's looking at it, there might be one of those in there. So really you're looking at, even on a new build, doing some sort of remediation over time. And I really like to draw a parallel to search engine optimization or website speed and performance.

And it's not really something that you do once you don't ever say I'm gonna SEO optimize my website and then I'm done. And it will just be optimized for search engines from this point forward. And I won't ever have to work on it again. And accessibility is in many ways the same. There are definitely major improvements that can be made one time and then have lasting effects.

And there's something, if you didn't have skip links, you add that you add it one time and it fixes every page. If they use that same header template But there's other things where if you're adding new content or you have plugins on your website and you're running updates, that's one thing, with using a tool like ours, where it constantly monitors, you could set it to do weekly or monthly scans at the pro level.

And then you can see at a high level. So if your plugins. Or you have someone adding new blog posts or someone's gone in and edited your about page. The content is changing and you need to be thinking about accessibility every time rather than a one time. But I think if you're just getting started, it's important to think about what your budget is, what your.

You know what the timeline is. Obviously, people who are being sued, their timeline is a lot different than someone who's I'm coming at this, cuz I understand it's important and it's something that we wanna do and we're committing to it as an organization. And so then you can figure out what pages and changes will make the biggest impact.

Fix all the problems in your header, then fix all the problems in your footer. Those will probably resolve a lot of problems across your entire website, because they're all using the same header in footer. And then we look at things like what pages get the most traffic. We also. Think about maybe we do an archive page and an example, single page from every post type that exists on the website.

So you know that you're getting anything that might be in the template. For those individual post types or the archive pages for them. So there are different ways that you can approach it

[00:35:44] Nathan Wrigley: with the WordPress side of things. We've got this lovely WordPress community and people like you are in it, who are obviously coming on podcasts and things to try and push this agenda forward.

I'm just wondering if there's any. Places, any blogs that you recommend or WordPress groups, slack channels that people could join. If they were curious and wanted to get stuck into this a bit more.

[00:36:09] Amber Hinds: Yeah. I realized actually when I introduced myself, I didn't mention that , I'm the lead organizer for the WordPress accessibility meetup which is a virtual meetup.

We're permanently virtual. We're always on zoom. We're twice a month. It's on the first Thursday of the month in the morning for me here in the us and the third, Monday in the evening for me. And so we split. So that we get a good worldwide audience and it's just different people from different parts of the world show up at, on the Monday evening versus the Thursday morning.

And those are all live captions. So we pay someone to come in and caption with the human. And they're. On zoom and you can just find it in the normal, WordPress meetup, section, WordPress accessibility, meetup. We also have a Facebook group for that meetup, which allows people to connect afterwards beyond the meetup.

There's a. Conference, which all of the recordings are up from the last time it ran, which was in 2020, but it's gonna be happening again in November which is called WP accessibility day. And that I'm. Lead organizer with Joe Dolson. He's the other lead organizer of that. And it's a 24 hour event where people come and we have a single track, but you can come and talk all about accessibility.

I know word camp, Santa Cita. Also had, they had three tracks, but they dedicated one of their three tracks during their word camp to accessibility. And all of the talks from their word camps are up on wordpress.tv. That's super awesome and a great place to go learn like WordPress specific accessibility, and then there's some different resources outside of WordPress.

And one that I mentioned earlier was ax by DQ as their tool, will they have a conference called ACON and anyone can go register and watch all of the recordings for free. And they had, I wanna say four, maybe five sessions over. Three days. So there's a wealth of information there.

[00:38:33] Nathan Wrigley: Thank you so much, by the way, Amber did my phone go off during that.

Did you hear my phone?

[00:38:39] Amber Hinds: I did not hear your phone. My

[00:38:40] Nathan Wrigley: phone went off and it was really loud and I couldn't work out whether it was in my headphones. Whether it was anyway, cuz it's on silent and I was just conscious that it might have, you might have lost your stride because of that. Let me just put that.

I need to edit this bit of the conversation out. This is 35 40, roughly 35 40. Okay. I'll go onto my next question. Okay. Where were we at? Okay, so given that there's probably a lot of work to do for a lot of people. The. The idea I guess, would be to go out and find solutions. And in many cases you might be beguiled into thinking that there are some simple solutions and there are products on the market, which we probably spend the next couple of minutes talking about which purport to.

To solve your accessibility problems in an instant, you basically install something at a bit of JavaScript, whatever it may be. And it all goes away, the headaches all go away. They're often associated with solutions like overlays, something that's put on top of the website. Do you wanna just talk through what your posture is on that?

[00:39:49] Amber Hinds: Sure. I think if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is like many things in life. Yeah. And so the reality of install this JavaScript snippet in the header of your website, and we'll make everything accessible with our AI technology in 24 to 48 hours, is that they will not . There's a couple of reasons.

One was what we've already spoken about, which is that AI simply cannot detect everything. And or it, maybe it can detect things, but it won't know how to solve it the right way. Whether it's writing proper alternative texts for images or being able to assess if actually the alt text on this image is blank because it's decorative and it's supposed to be, so don't go add alt text to it.

To a variety of other things. Beyond that, I've read a lot from people with disabilities and we actually hire people with disabilities to test websites for our clients. And so I've spoken with them in person and I have not met a single person or even been able to find I tried on LinkedIn and Twitter a couple months ago to really hard.

I was like, I just wanna find one person who uses assistive technology who likes, overlays and finds them helpful, but does not work for an overlay company. And I could not find one and like a ton of people in the space shared it. Like we couldn't find anyone. For me, that's a sign if people who.

Have disabilities say that these tools aren't helpful. And I know it, it seems cool because a lot of them will not only do they purport to fix things behind the scenes with JavaScript, but they'll put something out there where there's a little you might see like the accessibility icon, or sometimes you see someone in a wheelchair or something like that.

And you can open it and it'll do things like change all the fonts or make everything bigger or flip it to. High contrast mode or turn on it has so many different bells and whistles and most people with disabilities will say I don't, I already have something that handles whatever I need on my computer or installed in my browser because I don't just need it for one website.

I need it for everything. And so having this tool on the front is not helpful to me. I wouldn't use it because I've already figured out how to do this on most websites, if I need that. I've seen instances where when you have one of those overlays installed and it knows, it can tell someone's using a screen reader where it will hijack the experience and actually stop their screen reader from working, or it will not allow them to engage with the website the way they normally would.

So that for me is a big thing that people with disabilities don't like them and say they don't work. Yeah. So I just and I guess the third point on that is. in the last year in the United States about a quarter of the lawsuits were against companies who already had one of those overlay solutions on their website.

So they were trying to make their website accessible, but they were using an overlay to do it. They got sued. And in almost every cases, when those companies settle every settlement that I've read or. Part of the agreement in the settlement is that they will remove the accessibility overlay and they will do accessibility correctly.

And so that for me is a big sign, when some of these companies and some of them are better than others, some of them, they use fear, tactic marketing, and they basically are like, you're going to get sued. And the only way to not get sued is to use our tool and we will protect you. But when you look at the, like the actual evidence and the lawsuit, They don't protect you.

So it's really better to just do it the right way so that you don't have to put yourself into that position.

[00:43:58] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. You use the analogy of, if something seems too good to be true, it is probably too good to be true. And a similar analogy would be, everything that's worth doing requires a bit of hard work and this requires work.

You there's no correct. Shortcut.

[00:44:14] Amber Hinds: imagine. Yeah. It's like the black hat SEO, right? Yeah. We talked about how it's like SEO yeah. Yeah. There's not really good shortcuts for that. Exactly. Yeah. Good. I just saw Google saying that any sort of AI generated content they consider spam in are against, could get you right.

And it's the same thing. AI generated accessibility. Yeah, not a good idea.

[00:44:37] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah. We, yeah, we'll, we don't need to say much more on that. Do we? That's a that sentence encapsulates it beautifully. The scenario may arise where I am very keen to do all the accessibility things on the website for the company I work for, however, I am employed by somebody who is less inclined to do these kind of things, because ultimately it's gonna be a drain on the resources.

So I'm just wondering if you've got any tips or tricks that you may have got up your sleeve. In order to try and persuade people who are reluctant to move forward with this. Are there any journal articles or blogs that you would recommend going to? We know there's the threat of the law and all of that, but I'm just wondering if the, if you've got any good advice for how to persuade people who need to be persuaded that this is worth doing.

[00:45:33] Amber Hinds: Yeah. So as much as it's, we wish we could just say. It's the right thing to do, and everybody would wanna do it. I think a lot of times you have to talk about what the business case is for it. And yes, there's the fear based motivations of a lawsuit. I don't really, we, if you go to our website, you notice we might mention lawsuits here or there, but we are not heavy on that.

I don't really like motivating people with sticks. I would rather do it with carrots. And if you are trying to convince your client or your boss, if you work in house at a company that accessibility is worth investing in, there are some real benefits to businesses that can be highlighted. For example, a lot of accessibility features actually help your search engine optimization because.

Our improvements to the HTML semantics on the website they are, when we're talking about those links and having good anchor text, that's a really great helper for accessibility or having all texts on images. But also for search engines benefit from knowing what a link is about too. So hon honestly like a good thought about that is the Google bot.

It's probably the most common blind user of your website. Good point. And so search engine optimization is there frequently. Accessibility improvements will improve the speed of a website, which again goes back to SEO, but also can impact your conversions and your bounce rate, things like that.

So accessibility will bring more people to your website. Accessibility will keep more people on your website, which then assuming you have, good calls to actions and all that kind of things could mean that accessibility will increase your conversions or your sales or whatever it is that the goal of your website is.

So there's there and there are some studies and some numbers out on that. If you have a boss or a client who's really driven by that. Another thought too for larger organizations is a lot of larger organizations. These days, there is pressure to have more of a focus on The ethics of the business or how they're engaging in the community from a social good perspective.

And there's a lot of businesses that have diversity equity and inclusion initiatives and including people with disabilities, with the other groups that you're focusing on, maybe it's people with color in LGBTQ, but people with disabilities are part of DEI. And so really. If that is something that your company.

Included in their values or as part of their corporate initiatives, then you really do. It's easier. I think, to sell accessibility as part of that. And as a way that you can actually meet those initiatives and live up to it and it, it does not hurt to share your efforts and say, Hey, we've improved these things on our website to make it more accessible.

People with disabilities as you make improvement publicly. Like I think that will make prospective customers or clients think better of you and better of the organization as a whole. So it can help your overall brand reputation. Yeah. It's

[00:49:13] Nathan Wrigley: interesting that all of the things you've said over the last two or three minutes are all very positive and affirmative aren't they there's there's a whole range of things.

Obviously there is the law, but there are boatload of things and good reasons and profitability being one of them, you might make more sales because of this. And Google may very well discover. Website, and you can display with pride, all of this information on your website that you've made those endeavors and tried to make things work better.

Sadly, our time is up, but I'm very keen to get your name out there. And if anybody is interested in speaking to you about this, what's the best place to, to discover.

[00:50:01] Amber Hinds: Yeah. So if you're on Facebook and you join the WordPress accessibility, Facebook group, I am there all the time. And then I'm on Twitter pretty frequently.

My handle is acoeur blog, which is A U C O E U R blog, kind of remnants from my early days as a blocker. And then of course our website is equalized digital dot.

[00:50:28] Nathan Wrigley: And behind. Thank you very much for chatting with me on the podcast. Thank you. I hope that you enjoyed that episode. Absolutely fascinating.

And behind is obviously a real proponent for accessibility online and full of useful ideas, useful information about what you need to do and how to go about doing it. If you're interested in finding out more, you can head over to WP Builds.com and look for the show notes. It is episode number 288 that you're looking for and all of the links and things that we suggested looking at in this episode, you'll find them there.

Please feel free to leave a comment, either good or bad, quite happy to accept bad comments as well as good comments. We just like the conversation. If you enjoy those kind of conversations, we've also got a Facebook group. WP Builds.com/facebook, where you can join over 3,100. Very polite. May I stress the word polite WordPresses. Who are having a conversation over there about all things WordPress.

The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of manage WordPress hosting. That includes free domain SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients and get 30% of new purchases. You can find out more by going to go.me forward slash WP Builds. And we really do thank go daddy pro for their ongoing support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay, we'll be back next week as this was an interview episode. Next week, it'll be a chat with David Worsley and myself, because we like to flip flop between an interview and a chat with David.

And I don't forget, we'll be back this week in WordPress, the live show happening Monday. At WP Builds.com/live. That's 2:00 PM UK time. And then we'll repurpose that as a podcast episode, the following day, I hope that you enjoyed that episode. I really do enjoy making these for you. Have a good week. Stay safe. Bye bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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