Steve and Doc are joined by Kim Krause Berg, to discuss the necessity of addressing accessibility on websites. Kim appeared with us about a year and a half ago in Episode 18, speaking about accessibility, but it still seems to be a aspect of which many site owners and developers are either ignorant or uncaring. So we intend to help shine some light on the subject.

Whether subject to Section 508 or just WCAG, no website, whether a business site or a family blog, should be ignoring accessibility. Failing to address it can lead to legal penalties or civil lawsuits for failing to be inclusive of all users, regardless of their limitations. And besides, it’s the right thing to do.

Anyone with a website should educate themselves or seek the counsel of a qualified professional (we highly recommend Kim – she’s certified and passionate – an unbeatable combination).

Transcript:

Sheldon (00:03): Okay, everybody. Thanks for showing up to Mentors On Tap, Episode #30. We’ve got an old friend here that we had on about a year and a half ago, Kim Kraus Berg. And she’s going to talk to us about some of the nuts and bolts and intricacies and nightmares and opportunities involved in in her area of specialty, which is usability and accessibility. I think we’re focusing mostly today on accessibility, but Kim Kraus Berg has her website. She’s a certified accessibility and usability specialist IAAP and CPACC certificate.

Sheldon (00:51):Her website is Creative Vision Web Consulting. And if you are in our industry of search and digital marketing, you know who Kim is. She’s probably been part of your baptism because her old Cre8asite forum was instrumental in teaching an awful lot of us in the very beginning. So Kim, welcome. And I’m going to just let you kind of have the floor because you’re going to talk about things that I really don’t know near as much about, because I’d love to, So I’m going to shut up and listen.

Kim (01:29): Oh, geez. Full accessibility and usability are so intertwined. Do you know that back at Cre8asiteforums, we were talking about accessibility and usability like 20 years ago. That’s how long it’s been around.

Sheldon (01: 49): I remember the usability discussion a couple of times. I don’t recall specifically accessibility.

Kim (01:56): Yeah, well that’s because I would sneak it in. Because it was, it was, I guess, a term that people didn’t use or understand. And even though I was using or adding accessibility testing criteria to my usability work, it was still more of, Hey, SEO is there’s this thing called usability. We were still back there. And now a lot of them know more about usability and user experience and conversions, but not accessibility. And we’re still kind of tipping, you know, barely tipping that one. But yeah, it’s, you know, for, for a lot of us, it’s been around for a long time.

Sheldon (02:44): Well, I remember discussions, not that many years ago in some of the forums and social media groups where I’ve heard people say that ADA was for brick and mortar and there were no requirements for websites. It’s just a level of ignorance that is unbelievable. But it’s not that far back.

Kim (03:11): Yeah. And it is a little complicated. When I started to write about accessibility, people would say, you know, they would say, well, it’s, it’s against the law not to have an accessible website. And I would say, well, no, that’s not quite accurate. It’s section 508 is the law for federal, for government websites. But if you have an e-commerce website or if you’re a blogger, or if you’re even a hotel, you don’t, you’re not governed by Section 508. So it’s not a legal requirement to be accessible. Where it is legal is if you’re accepting federal funds, which a hotel probably isn’t, but the airlines are and colleges and universities are so there’s like this little fine line. And, and some manufacturers are as well. I would have usability clients who were manufacturers with GSA contracts – BOOM – their websites had to be Section 508 accessible compliant just because of that connection.

Kim (04:26): So there’s that level of confusion there of what is ADA legally compliant. And what is, you’re just going to be aware of ADA accessibility because it’s the right thing to do. It’s an ethical thing to do, which is building websites that everybody can use. And you know, for a lot of us, why wouldn’t you, but that, why wouldn’t you means learning more about accessibility beyond Section 508. Now here’s the other kick in the pants – Section 508 standards are older than the present day standards that the rest of us are meeting. I bet a lot of people don’t even know that. The testing requirements are WCAG 2.0 for Section 508 in the United States. For the rest of us, It’s WCAG 2.1. So, which is the more, and now there’s going to be WCAG 2.2 this summer. So if you are a blogger or a hotel or a foodie website owner, or e-commerce you want to, to aim towards the WCAG 2.1 criteria, which are free, it’s available on the internet WCAG web con, or, you know, website, accessibility, content guidelines, all of that information is free.

Kim (05:58): Not so easy to follow, but it’s free. And by following the guidelines, at least they get, they start to build compliant websites. And I think there’s some pushback on the word compliant as well, because that sounds like too legal of a term. And if you’re just following the guidelines, there’s guidelines and then there’s best practices. There’s for one example, the H1 tag – you’ve heard all the fights about the H1 don’t you have to have one H1, as opposed to two – the H1 has to be the page title. And when you get into the “has to be” and you’ll actually look it up, that H1 is a recommendation. It’s not a law and it’s not a guideline. It’s a best practice. So yes, logically we’ve found over time, especially with the SEO people, that the H1 for the page title is a really, really good idea, not just for accessibility, but for SEO. Why? Because the keywords go into the page title. So there’s this overlap, and this is why, for me, it’s been a lot of fun, because, you know, where do they meet – usability, SEO, information architecture, and accessibility, and it’s marketed as a legal thing, or you’re going to get sued if you don’t do it. And that’s kind of sad, because there are so many other reasons to work towards building an accessible website. Does that make any sense or am I getting too complicated?

Steve (07:51): Oh, it reminds me of the time when all the, I think it was MIT videos were taken down because they had to make a choice: closed-caption them all, or take them all down and their choice was take them all down because of the amount of money it was going to cost to go back and retroactively fix all the videos to make them compliant. And I see a lot of things like that pointed to as to, as to why compliance is a bad thing, because it wound up taking a wonderful resource off of the internet, as opposed to trying to figure out a way to work through the process and let it stay.

Kim (08:34): Right – PDFs are the other ones. I had a client who said, okay, they had like a thousand PDFs. You either make them accessible because PDFs have to be accessible, or you remove them. And they got really upset that they, they were like, well, we’re going to take them away. We’re going to remove them. And was, they were important PDFs. And, you know, they could have made HTML versions if they really had thought hard enough, but you know, they didn’t want to do that either. So, and on your point about MIT and videos and stuff, did you see the news about Chrome? Google Chrome or Chrome. I don’t know how much Google had anything to do with it, but it’s automatically captured in videos now. Yeah. I haven’t tested it. I don’t know if it’s accurate, but it’s, it’s something new.

Steve (09:33): One of the big YouTubers, I follow mentioned that in their video this week, or last week when somebody asked him why they were, Oh, it was Phil DeFranco, they were asking why he doesn’t closed-caption his videos. And he’s like, it takes time. It’s expensive. And now it happens for free automatically in Chrome.

Kim (09:51): Right. Yeah. And it’s interesting because you have to kind of test and make sure that, that it’s getting picked up and, you know, things are pronounced properly because there is, this’ll kill you – there was a, and I’m not going to say who they were, but it was a conference for accessibility people and it was captioned and it wasn’t captioned very well. So there was a lot of complaints and drop-offs because of that, because the captions weren’t – it wasn’t being transcribed and I was – literally, I was watching and I was going, Oh my God, they just pronounced the name incorrectly. And it just, this was bad for accessibility, this is bad. But it just goes to show that we are all kind of still learning this. And we are all trying to do a better job.

Kim (10:48): And it takes a lot of education. And that rabbit hole that I keep mentioning here and there, because even though I’ve been doing this work from the usability side for so many years, it wasn’t until I decided to get certified in it, that I realized how in depth accessibility is. And, and now we’re talking about ARIA and the screen readers and coding for assistive technology which is… because this was coming down the pipe, this is why WordPress core decided to make that decision to be accessible. And Gutenberg is designed to be accessible and enable it so that people with access to assistive devices and technology can build websites using Gutenberg. There’s. So we’re, we’re, it’s opening doors, but there’s a lot to, to learn, to keep up with all of that, which is what I’ve been spending the past couple of years, just really deep diving into it. You know, like form labels, there’s so many forms that aren’t labeled properly. You go,

Doc (12:08): And we own a few of them by the way, there, Steve, that was one of the things on DeepSEO conference that WAVE pinged me on – what the hell is a form label?

Steve (12:24): The people that make the plugins for the forms, don’t make it easy to go ahead and do that. It’s like this literally is the easy thing for them to do. Yeah. It’s adding another one more data field. That’s it!

Kim (12:39): Right

Steve (12:41): Now. We can’t get them to do it because they’re all, well, not enough people care. It’s like, they’re going to. At some point, they’re going to care very much.

Kim (12:50): Yes. Yeah, I-frames and forms missing those, you know, the labels and placeholder labels and labeling for screen readers is, is huge. And they just… go ahead.

Steve (13:02): I was just, you said, I-framed and my brain just went well, what about all the credit card processing that happens through an I-frame these days?

Kim (13:10): And ads?

Steve (13:17): And ads! Yeah. Because so many of our Clients now use token-based processing that happens through an I-frame. What does that do?

Kim (13:25): Right. Yeah. It just means that, you know, it doesn’t pass, you know, some screen readers probably can’t process a credit card screen reader, users, if that is not read back to them properly. And, you know, yeah. The interesting thing is people, I mean, it’s enough for us to go, Oh my God, we’ve got to learn this. Meanwhile, while we’re trying to learn at this present time and stage, Android and Apple have been updating their accessibility applications and their software on their devices. They keep rolling out with update after update, after update, because so many people with various disabilities are using their mobile devices more and more. And, and accessibility has got to keep up with them too, as well as the desktop.

Kim (14:26): So it’s, it’s, it’s very fast paced. And so, which just adds to a bit of the pressure, I think, to keep up with it all. And I also don’t think that there’s a lot – enough people trained in accessibility to meet the demand. You’re either, you know, you’re doing the audit, which, which is my end, or you’re a developer. And I think the developers need to be trained in accessibility. And I don’t have enough access to know if that’s where that’s breaking down. But I think it is and don’t even get me going about other countries because they’re ahead of us.

Sheldon (15:12): Yeah. Oh yeah. I found that too today, Kim – the U.S. is way back at the tail end of the line.

Kim (15:22): Yeah. Canada and the UK have their act together. But it’s interesting because every country has their own guidelines and procedures for accessibility and they either enforce it or they don’t, or in any case they have their own criteria, every country there’s what, 130 something countries in the world

Sheldon (15:48): No, 180-some.

Kim (15:50): 180-some? Okay. then there’s also States just in our United States, we got 50 States. Each state has their own accessibility guidelines, and people don’t even look at their own state. And then somebody will say, well, my website business is based in such and such a state. Can somebody from another state sue me? And the answer is yes. And if they, and there are, you know, in California as you know, and New York and even my state – Pennsylvania, they’re pretty hot. As far as looking for, you know,

Steve (16:37): There are a lot of examples of lawsuits happening across the states like that. In a lot of different ways based on websites and what they sell, – Utah’s really bad about that.

Sheldon (16:49): Well, if it’s like you could have a Salt Lake City-based business focused primarily on U S customers. But if somebody from Spain logged in and decided to order something for his nephew who lives in Missouri, guess what you are subject to GDPR, which means you could be subject to both criminal and civil action. When I say criminal – criminal isn’t accurate – legal and civil action, because they could actually fine you and lay penalties upon you. So it’s the same thing with the privacy and the, the accessibility issues, there are no borders.

Kim (17:33): Right, right. Yeah. I think people think that there are, I’m just going to think of something. I had this idea in my head and it just went right out. I had a thought, then I started listen to you more. And I forgot what I was going to say, Oh my goodness, what was, and I thought it was pretty important too, but  yeah, the… oh, it had to do with the legal stuff, I think, okay. I was getting hot and then I forgot it again. There’s so much with accessibility that, and you can see that I get passionate about it and I get really jazzed up about it. And because to me, even just, if you started the, the low hanging fruit, you’re, you’re doing a lot of help. Like the alt text for images and color contrast. Those two are huge. And just educating people on just those two things is it has been difficult for your local mom and pop website – they don’t know. They don’t even know what they don’t know until somebody says, Hey, I can’t read your, your, your webpage. I can’t see your text. I can’t see that button. And they’re like, well, how come? And you know, and that kind of starts a dialogue, but if you know in advance, something about color contrast and how to test for that, then you’re already ahead of the game.

Steve (19:13): Most of the tools really suck at that. Yeah. They don’t do that very well. I know. And I’ve started work a couple of different times on a plugin for WordPress that requires you to add alt tags and descriptions before you can save an image. Yeah. And it’s really not that hard to force, but why that, again, this is something that shouldn’t have to be a plugin, right? It should just be baked right into it.

Kim (19:46): I think some people unless they’re actually using, you know, creating their own like WordPress pages, don’t realize that when you add – upload an image to the media folder, there’s a field there to add the alt tag. You can do it right then and there. And if you miss that opportunity, if you go to use that image inside a page, there’s a second opportunity to add the all tag. And, but there are situations where you don’t need to describe the image and it can be a decorative image. So that’s where it’s, you know, you kind of need a little bit more education to know, do I need an all tag? Do I, or can I ignore it? But the rule of thumb is more times than not put something in there and try to be as descriptive as you can. And context, as you know, how does this relate to any content that’s around it, et cetera, et cetera.

Kim (20:52): I don’t know if you guys know this, but I have another website it’s called TheUserisOutThere.com. Doc’s, probably familiar with that User Is Out There thing. I’m addicted to that because I was an X-Files fanatic. So but that’s where I’ve been putting resources and it’s got like a little directory in there. And in there I have a link to something called the alt decision tree and that’s put out by the worldwide web consortium, I think. I don’t think that’s WCAG, I think it’s W3C. But anyway, it helps people figure out what to put there. How do you decide what to put into that alt tag for that image? And it’s got a really nice breakdown and helps you figure it out. It’s right there. It’s free. It doesn’t cost a thing. You just have to know where that link is. Which I can send it to you later. But for all of my clients and all of my audits, I have that in there for them. I give that to them so that they have that.

Sheldon (22:00): Like, something that I learned from, from looking at your site today was I was not aware that if you want to be ever held harmless in any kind of a lawsuit or action involving accessibility, you have to have a statement. I didn’t know that. Okay. So now I’m, now I’m manually searching Google and looking for some sample templates. So I can doctor my policy, privacy, cookie, you know, all of these combined policies, you didn’t add a major section on accessibility. And again, my research rabbit hole, I found, Oh, you’re not ready to talk about this yet, because look at all these things you gotta do. Don’t figure out how to do it.

Kim (22:46): I have on The User Is Out There, I have a couple of links to how to do them and why, and there, and again, when I do an audit for a client, I include that accessibility statement. And I explained to them, this is what you do. This is where, how you – you word it. This is where you put it. And I do, and I actually start one for them. So it’s not a free get-out-of-jail card, but it goes a long way towards saying, I’m, we’re working on it. And in some cases, if we put in there, we’re working with our certified accessibility specialists on remediating our problems and our, you know, whatever. And that’s huge. It’s a huge help.

Sheldon (23:35): Well, one of the things that I saw for instance today, was that your statement it’s supposed to identify any non-compliant areas. There’s a three-year degree right there, just to figure out what my non-compliant areas are.

Kim (23:50): Hire me, hire me. I can tell you,

Sheldon (23:53): Well, I would have to, because it’s just like – what’s that meme – ain’t, nobody got time for that. Anyhow you know, this is, this is a deep topic. We’re not going to cover it all today. Obviously. it’s, it’s something that I think is not getting enough attention. People don’t really seem to accept the importance of it yet. I hope that everybody does, before it becomes a major issue for them in terms of, of lawsuits or actions against them. And, and, and like Kim said, it’s the right thing to do. Somebody who has failed vision should not have to forego using your site because the reader can’t tell them where the buy now button is. Okay, it’s ridiculous. What happened?

Kim (24:51): We chased him away. No, he had to go, I think, deal with that.

Sheldon (24:55): My, my screen went blank. Okay. Well, whatever. Anyway, it’s, it’s an important topic and it needs to get more attention and it needs to get attention before it become more of an issue for more users. If somebody is having to use any sort of assistive technology, we need to make our sites available to them. We need to make sure our clients make their sites available, too.

Kim (25:23): To that point, doc, I think one of the misconceptions about accessibility is that it’s for blind people and

Doc (25:29):no, by no means, right.

Kim (25:32):But I’m saying in, in the general public, I think they think that, that, that it’s limited to just, you know, a small demographic or a small segment of the population. And that is definitely not the case. There is, there is a lot more to it than that.

Sheldon (25:54): Yeah, absolutely. And you know, the, the impaired vision is, is probably the area that gets the most lip service. Okay. But yeah, there are a lot of different areas. There are people that have, I mean, think about, for instance, back in the old whole cityscape or everybody was using blink or marquis, there are people that would have a seizure, if they faced some of those sites. You could, you could have a legal liability, if somebody hits your site, had a seizure that caused them harm. If they could try to sue you. And, you know, you can say, well, I didn’t, I had no control over that. I can’t help that. That’s not my fault, all you like – the judge will decide that. If that judge, happens to have an epileptic niece – you think there might be some bias there, right? And if it is biased, is it wrong? You know, these people deserve to be included in society. And if we’re not including them in the ability to use our website, we’re helping exclude them.

Kim (27:20): I think another thing is that when people went students were sent home, teachers – home, employees – home, they’re doing more work with their desktops, not mobile, but desktops. And you have a whole new market here for people with all kinds of various needs, readability, autism, the deaf, people who can’t even hold a mouse. I mean, it just, it just went above and beyond and exploded with COVID the number of use cases. We’re not even talking about conversions anymore. We’re just talking about the basic ability to access and use a webpage or application. That’s all we’re talking about here.

Sheldon (28:26): Well, I think we need to work towards ensuring that the, the whole subject gets more attention and education.

Sheldon (28:38): It’s not been given the attention it deserves. And I think that, you know, typically, society and/or government and/or the courts and eventually, and/or our consciences, will eventually push us to take action, much better sooner than later.

Kim (28:59): Well, I appreciate the chance to talk about it.

Sheldon (29:03): Well, we appreciate your input and I’m sorry it’s been a year and a half since you were on here. We need to fix that and make it a little bit more often. I think that, you know, I think it’s quite likely we will have another session on this because it’s just, we barely scratched the surface. This was kind of a wake-up call, you know, just be aware of the fact we’re going to be talking about this. It needs attention. And Kim is the individual in my book. She is the preeminent authority on anything to do with usability and accessibility. If she doesn’t know the answer, she’ll find it. And I assure you having done a little bit of digging into it. She’ll find it a lot faster than I will, because it’s not a, an easily grasped area of expertise by any means. Kim enjoyed having you. I’m going to go ahead and end this recording. Thank you everybody for your attention. And we’ll stop recording here.

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