Ep 257 | Why Website Accessibility is Important with Max Ivey

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Website accessibility is not something we commonly think about, but is really important. It matters because you want your users to have a great experience, search engines care, and it's a legal requirement. So how do you know if your website is accessible? We start to scratch the surface in this episode so you can evaluate your current website and start to make changes.

What you'll learn:

→ why accessibility matters.
→ where to get started.
→ focus on simplicity.
→ paying attention to your multimedia elements.

Want to skip ahead? Here are key takeaways:

[3:37] Two reasons why building an accessible website is important. The first is that when your website is accessible it creates a better user experience for all users. Creating an accessible experience creates loyalty with users.
[7:29] Ditch the overwhelm and tackle this project like you would any problem you're trying to solve at your organization. Start with the goals in mind and the most important thing you need your website to do. Fix that process first and go from there.
[10:04] Simply your designs. If someone has a visual impairment they must use the website from a keyboard only. Ensure they can easily navigate the page and understand the flow of content.
[16:49] Pay special attention to images, audio and video. Ensure all images have alt text so e-readers know what the image is about. Add transcripts to video and audio. If you can, describe things that people might need hep visualizing in your audio or video. And don't upload images with text on them.

Resources

WAVE – Web Accessibility Evalutation Tool
EP 164 | Create a Better User Experience for All with Amber Hinds

Max Ivey

Max Ivey

Founder, The Accessibility Advantage

Maxwell, known around the world as The Blind Blogger, is an accessibility and inclusion advisor who emphasizes education, communication, and collaboration over compliance, legal threats, and shame. He works to show people how creating accessible products, services, and content will help grow their businesses. He is a serial online entrepreneur with over 15 years experience who has had to deal with the accessibility or more likely the lack of accessibility on a daily basis. He shares his knowledge through writing, speaking, consulting, and podcasting. If you have any questions, please just ask him.

Learn more at: https://www.theaccessibilityadvantage.com

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Full Transcript

This transcript was created using AI and may have some errors.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern
Accessibility is something we think about when it comes to entering a physical business. You know, or parking lots or kind of anything that we do physically, you know, outside of our space, we want to make sure things are accessible. If we're at a park, or an event, making sure that people can access the things that they need to access. We don't have to think about accessibility with our website. And we've talked about this topic before. And I'll make sure to link up those other episodes in the show notes. But it's really important that we continue to talk about this website accessibility piece, because it's always going to be relevant and important. It's not just important for those that have a physical, visual or hearing impairment. It's also important just for general user experience overall.

So today, my guest is Max Ivey, and he's here to talk about website accessibility. Max, known around the world as the blind blogger is an accessibility and inclusion advisor who emphasis emphasizes education, communication and collaboration over client compliance, legal threats and shame. He works to show people how creating accessible products, services and content will help grow their businesses. He is a serial online entrepreneur with over 15 years experience who has had to deal with the accessibility and more likely the lack of accessibility on a daily basis. He shares his podcasting, or excuse me, he shares his knowledge through writing, speaking, consulting, and podcasting. If you have any questions, just reach out, and all of the content and contact information will be available to you at the end of the podcast. Or you can go to thefirstclick.net/257 to check it out. It's a great conversation. And I'm really excited for you to listen and kind of take in how you are looking at your website, maybe with fresh eyes as you think about maybe making some updates just some ways to the things to consider when it comes to accessibility and how people are able to get the information that is on your website. So that's what we're going to talk about today.

But before we get into it, this episode is brought to you by our May freebie this month is all about websites. And we know that your donation page is a critical part of your website. And so we've created a donation page guide that can help you walk through the elements that are on your website. Check them to make sure that they're the best that they can be used that you can get more people visiting that page and converting into donors. So head on over to thefirstclick.net/resources Grab that guide or any of the other freebies that we've launched this years so far, I think you'll really find it valuable. So again, that's thefirsclick.net/resources Let's get into the episode.

Intro
You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. Each month we dive deep into a digital marketing or fundraising strategy that you can implement in your organization. Each week, you'll hear from guest experts, nonprofits, and myself on best practices, tips and resources to help you raise more money online and reach your organizational goals.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern
Hey, friends, please join me in welcoming Max Ivey to the podcast. Max, thanks so much for being here.

Max Ivey
Well, thank you so much for having me. I always enjoy having good conversations with great people. And I get to talk about accessibility and websites and stuff like that all the better.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern
Yeah, well, let's just jump right into kind of why is this? I know this is something that's personally a passion for you. Why is this something that you chose to kind of make a career out of?

Max Ivey
Right? Well, it is a personal passion of me because I am almost totally blind. I have retinitis pigmentosa. I've been online for over 15 years, and I've had to advocate for accessibility one website or app at a time pretty much every day of that online life. So it is very important and personal to me. But the reason it should be personal to everybody else is is that accessibility isn't just for people like me. And there are two very important reasons for that. One is when you design and create content, websites, apps and content that are accessible, you make them easier to use and more enjoyable to participate in for everybody else that will visit your website. Things that make it easier for a screen reader or a screen magnification user. Make it easier for somebody that using a mobile device or a tablet or somebody that's just in a hurry that day that wants to get to the thing they need to do so they can go do something else they don't want to do. So it's really important because accessible content will make your websites and your blogs more enjoyable for everybody that visits them. And that will result in more traffic, more conversions, more donations, more sales, whatever it is your website is there to do. You give yourself a better opportunity for everybody else by making accessible the second part is that is the second part is the disability community is a large, mostly untapped community of consumers. Depending on who you ask, it's somewhere around a billion people globally. It's somewhere between 30 and 60 million people just in the US who identifies as this as having a disability. And that doesn't include our friends, families, co workers and social media followers, or what they say disability adjacent or disability allies. And not only are there a lot of us, we are generally loyal consumers, once we find a quality product or service that is delivered in an accessible manner, we will stick with those companies. And in many cases, we have even overpaid to those companies, because there was no other option that was also accessible. And in addition to telling you other people are addicted to be loyal, we will tell other people about your product services or your or your content. We like to say that when you include the disabled, and the work you're doing, it's like hiring influencers that you don't have to pay.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern
Yeah, um, but I just two things. I mean, like those two things alone are a great kind of jumping off point for this conversation, because I truly agree with you. And it's not just about tailoring it to a certain group of people, it's really just about making our websites inclusive and accessible for everybody, it trickles down into all users that are coming. So I think if you could start with, you know, we think about accessibility in in person locations, you know, like you have to have, you know, the ability for people to maneuver through the store or parking or like how you interact with people that are physically coming through how you train your staff for that. We don't think about that in the digital space. So could you maybe just start by sharing what that kind of looks like for you on a day to day because I think it's hard for us to envision what your experience is like when you're trying to access a website or make a donation like what are some of the things we might want to consider and look at at the very beginning?

Max Ivey
Okay, would it be okay, would it be okay, if I shared some some general thoughts and then gave a couple of specific examples?

Sami Bedell-Mulhern
Absolutely.

Max Ivey
Okay, so when it comes to designing for accessibility, there are two things that I think people need to remember. And these will make it a lot easier, I believe, and will help you avoid the fear and the overwhelm around this issue. First off, when designing for accessibility on your website is no different than solving any other problem in your organization or your business. Think about how you would solve for increasing your mailing list or increasing donations, or lowering volunteer or employee turnover, how would you solve any other problem in your organization, and then apply that to accessibility because a big part of this problem is either intentionally or accidentally, people like me have given the rest of the world the idea that accessibility is so foreign, and so alien, that it requires a different type of skill set a different, totally different group of tools in order to solve for it. So I'm sure you have processes in place for the problems that come up. How would you solve those problems, apply that to how you would solve for accessibility.

The second most important thing is, what is the main reason why you want people to come to your website, you want to make the most important thing, the most important thing. And so if your website is designed to generate donations, for example, then you need two things. You need one the compelling content that's in an accessible format, to make me want to give you my money. And then you need an easy form, or process for me to make that transaction and for you to receive my money. Those are the two most important things. So you focus on the most important things. First, you have a whole lot less to deal with when it comes to accessibility and think about it. If I focus on the most important things on my website, that's going to make the lives of everybody else who visits my website easier. They're going to have a more clear understanding of why they're here what we need them to do. And so that's, that's why I say make the most important thing, the most important thing, and if you do those two things, use your usual problem solving approach and start with the most important thing then accessibility becomes a lot easier because you will actually avoid a lot of the things just By doing those two things, you'll avoid a lot of things that you would have had to think about otherwise.

So a couple of specific things. In addition to what I've already said, keep your website design simple, simple is better. It's not only better for a sphere user, it's better for somebody on mobile device. design from the point of view of a keyboard, even if you're designing an app, designed it as if somebody is using a portable keyboard, along with the usual potential for swipes. And the reason for that is, because of the screen reading technology, a lot of people, especially the vision loss community, are using keyboards, their desktop, their laptop, and the little Bluetooth or Wi Fi keyboards. And because we're using adaptive software that has to run alongside our web browsers, they have to remove some of the keys in order to make all of this work. And one of the main keys that they removed is the mouse key. So I have no way to use a mouse key to do a drag and drop to click a button to click the thing to start a video or a slideshow. So that's why I say start from a keyboard approach, you can always have mouse and swipe stuff. But you want to start from the keyboard, and you want to make sure there's a place where disabled users can find out what the keyboard commands are, what are the best examples, and I'm happy to see the other online meeting platforms are starting to follow their lead was is zoo, pretty much everything on their platform can be done, you know, on the screen, or it can be done with keyboard commands. And you can find those by using your menu or by downloading a PDF. So those are some of the things that are really important, because, trust me, you don't want to get to the end of a forum and be ready to press that button to check out or to save money on paypal, and not be able to click it, it makes you very frustrated. And then you might decide not to spend that money or you might decide to spend it on somebody else that day. So you want to keep your forms simple. I personally love a form that is broken down into multiple pages or multiple screens, because it makes it easier for me to figure out what I've done wrong. When I did something wrong before I can press submit. And just like before, by having fewer items on the screen, makes it easier for somebody that's trying to do this on their phone or a tablet. I think one of the things that's really helping the disability community is the fact that the percentage of transactions being done on mobile devices is growing every year. And the same things that make your website or your app more accessible for disabled people make it more friendly to people doing stuff on the ghosts.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern
Yeah, um, how do we start to understand if our website is keyboard friendly? Is there like an app or a plugin? Or is there something that we can use to kind of test that and see what that looks like? Or how do you recommend kind of navigating that?

Max Ivey
Right? Well, I don't want to mention any particular companies or nonprofits. But there are many websites out there where you can run a very simple check on your website to see how it tests out. I just recently heard of a great one called waves, which I don't have any affiliation with them people but I'm told it's a good one for checking what your current circumstances are on your website. There are companies that you can hire that will check your website on a regular basis. One thing I want to talk about is overlays. Because I know a lot of people think you know I'll just just get a WordPress plugin, promise by an overlay that will make my website accessible overnight. And I personally don't have a problem with those philosophically, I'm not like a lot of blind people who think they have no place in the world and all they do is make the world worse because there are some that work but here's what you need to do if you're going to use an automation option. Reach out to the creators, developers either reach out to them personally or visit their website and find out about their their mission statement and their process. Because you want to make sure of key things. You want to make sure one that there overlay or automated option has been developed with the help of people with disabilities. and continues to be maintained with input from people with disabilities. One of the problems a lot of the automation things get wrong is they start based on what their, their intuition tells them would be accessible, and inclusive. And they get a lot of things wrong. The other thing is, I highly recommend if you're going to use an automation option, yet one that get one that will say, okay, we can fix half of your site, or we can fix three quarters of your site. But the rest of that will tell you what's wrong. And you have to fix it yourself. Because there's a limit to what the automation can do. I feel like if, if, you know, just like in the days of, you know, I'll get you on the first page of Google rankings, which was we all knew was was BS. If somebody tells you that the the automation option you're about to buy or borrow or try out, if they tell you, you can fix 100% of your website, then you need to run because at this point, even with generative AI that just doesn't exist. Yeah.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern
No, that's such a good point. So like, if we're so if we're working on kind of the touch points that you mentioned already, you know, we're thinking about it from, you know, the perspective that you're giving, which I think is fantastic. And we're starting to kind of chunk away at things like, could you just maybe kind of share some of the biggest mistakes that we make? On our websites, we talked about clean design, but you know, there's, like, I see a lot of organizations that will create images in like Canva or something and put a bunch of text on top of the image and then just upload the image. You know what I mean? Like auto playing videos.

Max Ivey
Well, thanks for pitching me, thanks for teeing it up for me. Um, so yeah, images, audio, and video, these are where people generally do make their biggest mistakes. And even even beyond those, a common mistake that I see it's kind of in the same area, is people will use image characters to create text. And by scrolling under can't read that unless they take the time to tell my screen reader what the text is, and they would have been better off just to have written it and text to start with. That's one thing. But when straight images and with the image you use, you know, when you have a video or a slideshow, there's always a first image that starts things. There's a thing, which I'm sure you know about, because you asked me about this on purpose is called alternative text descriptions. And it's a way to tell screen readers what an image includes. So if you do not add those, then it says that it's not as if the image doesn't exist, damage doesn't exist. And if you have created an image that is tied to a link or a button, and you didn't include the alternative text, then the link or the button does exist. It isn't just, you know, it's it really literally is that simple. Because I can't, there's no way I can find it, if you don't tell the and that's that's part of the problem with adaptive technology, a lot of times somebody has to go in there and tell the screen reader or the screen magnification software or the voice activated devices like a Lexa. And Google, somebody has to code that or those people don't know what it is. So the alternative text, and when you create the text, you really try to put yourself in the point of view of the person that you're trying to reach. I'm sure that you had an idea when you created that image or video or slideshow. I'm sure your point was to compel people to take an action. So try to capture the information and the emotional value that you want people to get from that image and its description. Now, you mentioned putting text over the top of images, that's a very bad thing. If you need to do that, then the text needs to be below the image and a caption where the screen reader can manage it more smoothly. Because having to have a description of an image plus reading the text over the top of the image. That's just a lot to handle. And quite often, the more text the more information there is, the longer it takes me to sift through it to find the thing that I need. So I really wouldn't do that. With videos and with podcast audio, you want to include include closed captions, which are not hard anymore, because now zoom and Google meet and YouTube will do them for you. Yes, just like anything else automated they aren't perfect, but it only takes you a few minutes to go in and edit the really bad mistakes so that you have closed captioning Do you really need to have a transcript or at least a link to the transcript, you don't have a transcript right there with the player for the video or the audio. And in a perfect world, there'd be something called audio descriptions for video, which is where somebody whenever people aren't talking, somebody will narrate what's going on or describe who's involved. And by adding that audio description, it makes your content more compelling to people who can't see it. But the really cool thing about closed captioning and audio descriptions, is they're being used by sighted people more and more. I found this stat just a couple of weeks ago that 37% of people under the age of 30, will not watch a video if it doesn't have closed captioning, because most of them are watching their videos at work. You know, when you when you create a slideshow, I would really avoid a slideshow that starts automatically. Because even if I'm not on the part of the screen where that slideshow or carousel is, it's going to send information to my screen reader or to the screen magnification for somebody who has more visual than I do. And then you have to find the buttons to pause it or stop it. And then you have to get back to the beginning of it. And in most cases, that first image is the image you created to get people to watch the rest of the images are reversed in your text. So he's really want that first one to be the first one I see. And that doesn't happen with automated carousel or slideshow. So I would avoid automation. But if you are going to use an automated one, make sure that I can easily find the button to stop it quickly. And similarly with audio with audio, if you're going to have a video or an audio start playing when I load your page, the volume better be low enough that I can still hear the buttons to pause it or shut it off, or I'm going to somebody else's website. So video audio images carousels, this is where most people get it wrong. And usually, it's really not all that difficult to make them better like to say you want all text descriptions on images, you want closed captioning transcripts and described audio for for videos. And I would even say if your organization is doing a podcast, you should try to implement audio descriptions in the podcast because people can't see you on audio. I know that that sounds almost offensive to some people. So I'll apologize if I just hurt your feelings. But when people are enjoying your podcast, they can't see it. They might as well be blind. So audio descriptions during the podcast wherever appropriate, and whenever you can work with men are great. So I'd like to, I'd like to give you a little bit of an example. So I'm a I'm a Caucasian male with medium brown curly hair. I'm not exactly sure what color brown because it depends on what color hair dyes was for sale at Walmart that day. Brown eyes, nice smile, I'm wearing a blue button down shirt with a blue green mix tie. And I'm recording this in my bedroom. I am, as I mentioned earlier, totally blind with retinitis pigmentosa. So these are the kinds of things you would want to mention in your audio description. So people that are listening to this now, they may have a little bit more idea of of who I am won't be perfect as as if they saw a picture of New York could see a video of me. But I think especially if if those moments that are really compelling, like, you know, say you said something and Max is sitting here shaking his head, and there's no talking going on, it would be perfectly appropriate for him to say that Max is shaking his head vehemently or, you know, Max put his thumbs up or Max's dog or cat just walked across the back of and he's trying to shoot down the roof. So these are things that make you more compelling when you're recording your audio, and your video. They're the kinds of things that help the visually impaired but they will also help make a stronger connection with your audience. And when you're starting a podcast, you want to grow that audience as quickly as possible. So those are the things all text descriptions, captioning transcripts, and audio description. And make sure any thing that starts automatically I can easily find it and stop it now.

One of the things just occurred to me a lot of people use PDFs they either use them in their slides, or downloads. Most people don't realize this when you create a PDF in Adobe, instead of like just exporting a text document to Adobe. If you create a slide in Adobe, there are the default setting is for it to read from time Top to bottom, like the way you would read an eye chart. And that's not the way most people read. So if you're creating slides in Adobe, make sure that you've said it. So it reads the top line from left to right. And then the next line from left to right in the next slide, by the way, normal people read. And then just one last thing about PDFs is you want to, you want to choose a fairly simple font, something with clear lettering, and with good spacing, not only above and below the words, but also a little spacing between the letters. Because what happens for people who use screen magnification, and there are a lot of people using screen magnification on their mobile devices, the more you expand it, if you're not using a clear, simple font, those letters will will blur and the person that's depending on screen of magnification won't be able to understand that information that you put in that wonderful slide that you wanted everybody to see.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern
Ya know, you said so many amazing things in there. But I really want to touch on one thing really quick in that, you know, yes, we're talking about creating better accessibility for our websites, but you're talking about transcripts and clips, captionings, and videos and all that stuff. And that's also just helping people that learn in different ways be able to access your content, how they feel comfortable. So, you know, every and also, you know, affects how Google ranks your website, in some ways, you know, they want to know that they're serving up websites that are accessible to people how they want to consume the content, that's a user experience situation, whether it is geared towards a physical disability, or a mental disability or a learning disability, you know, so I think everything that you're saying is great. And I just really want to drive that home, because it's not just about one thing. And when we start to think about it from a global perspective, it just makes sense. Like, there's no reason not to do the things that you're talking about. So I really wanted to highlight that because I loved that you that you brought that up.

Max Ivey
I appreciate you bringing me back to that because one thing I forgot to mention about the alt text, which, you know, we're we're talking about Google and and the search engines. For a long time now, the search engines have indexed the alt alt text descriptions that you attach to your images into the beginning of your video. So it's not only a good thing to do, like you say, for people who are in a different ways. It's also good for your search engine optimization. I don't claim to be an SEO expert. My approach to SEO is creating good content with the rest of it takes care of itself. But since I know that all tags do get indexed, and I know there isn't a person watching that can't use more web traffic, I wouldn't. I'm glad you reminded me to bring that up. And I think you're right, I think we need to start thinking about accessibility. As a localization almost like when you, you know, people are really quick to try to make their websites applicable to people from different languages of different ethnicities. I think that eventually people are going to realize that accessibility and creating for people with disabilities is just another form of a native language that in this case, represents about one in seven people around the world.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern
Yep, love it. Well, Max, so many amazing tips and ways to get started with this and ways to think about it. I hear you maybe even have a little song that you're wanting to share with us.

Max Ivey
Yeah, I will. And thank you for asking. And I appreciate you saying yes, when I asked so what before I do that I do want mention people can find me at the at theaccessibilityadvantage.com and I am willing to offer a free review of the homepage if anybody who mentioned seeing me or hearing me on the website. So I really do want to get people started with accessibility. And I feel like trying to make it more friendly, non threatening. More of a positive collaborative approach is is the way we're going to get more people to be more inclusive. So I hope y'all will reach out to me at the accessibility advantage.com So the song goes like this.

[singing] I accessibility ages for those with disabilities. makes the world better for every wall. online as well as in person. Raise more people to your site every day and every night. Most people for Ya know about us, makes you grow within our eyes, disabled people we tell our friends and share to social sides. Don't think about how hard it is just focus on those dollar signs. Because I accessibility angels for those with disabilities, makes the world better forever he was online as well as in per song. Thank you. Yay, that

Sami Bedell-Mulhern
was amazing. Well, you can get all of the links to connect with Max, in the show notes for this episode at thefirstclick.net/257. Max, this was awesome. Thank you so much for all of your energy and insights into how we can really improve the overall user experience of our website. So thank you so much for being here.

Max Ivey
Well, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share a little bit with your audience. And I want to especially thank you for your skill as an interviewer, because you'd have really helped me focus in on some points that I either didn't cover or hadn't covered or maybe hadn't covered as well as I should have. And I feel like one of the problems in the world in general is, people don't say you did a good job as much as we ought to. So I just want to let you know that you're a very skilled interviewer and a very personable person. And I feel like I was better today because of having you on the other side of this mic.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern
Ah, that's so nice. Thank you so much for saying that. That's awesome.

So I really love this conversation. I hope that you did too. I mean, for example, with this podcast, we have video versions with closed captioning, we have transcripts, we have audio versions, we have summaries. And so there's so many different ways that you can consume this content, which doesn't just help me get more people engaged with it, because some people listen and engage and want to consume content in different ways. It just makes sure that anybody can access the content without having any sort of burden or issue. So I hope that you will take some of these into play with regards to how we are tackling our websites, the accessibility that we have as part of it. And making changes you don't have to do it all at once, but just put some effort into making some of those changes. For now. Thank you so much for listening. Please make sure you click that subscribe button wherever you are. If you're watching this on YouTube or listening wherever you love to stream podcasts. We have new episodes that come out every week for now. I'll see you in the next one.

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