What the Justice Department’s Latest Decision Means for Accessibility

Accessibility expert Amber Hinds breaks down the new rules and how we can keep our clients compliant.

Live on

April 30th, 2024

at

11am PST • 2pm EST • 7pm GMT

New Doj 2

About the event

Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department unveiled new rules outlining website accessibility standards for websites operated by state and local governments.

If you build websites for schools, libraries, municipalities, or even non-profits who receive government funding — you’ll now be required to comply with WCAG 2.1 AA standards.

But what does this mean? Who, exactly, is affected? And how do communicate this information with your clients to get buy-in?

Thankfully our resident accessibility expert, Amber Hinds, is here to break it all down for us!

Amber will be joining me live on April 30th to dive into:

  • The New Standards: Understanding the essentials of the DOJ’s accessibility ruling.
  • Practical Application: Identifying the types of businesses, organizations, and clients that will be affected.
  • Client Communication: Tips on discussing these updates with your client to ensure they understand the importance of compliance.

Resources:

Transcript

[00:00:02.530] – Kyle Van Deusen
It says, You are live, and I never, ever, ever believe that until I actually see it with my own two eyes. So hopefully we’ll have some people here. It looks like we got 28 people waiting already, so that’s great. Once I see it pull up on my end, I got the phone notification. It says we’re live, so that’s good. There it is. It pops up.

[00:00:19.240] – Amber Hinds
So it should be good. Maybe that means we can talk.

[00:00:21.360] – Kyle Van Deusen
Yeah. It’s usually just me picking my nose for a minute, making sure everything’s working. So sweet. Well, if anybody’s here in comments and wants to let us know that they can hear us okay, that’s the last hurdle we got to climb before we know we’re good to go and we can get on with this show. Taylor’s here. Good to see you, Taylor. All good, Greg says. I imagine that means we sound all good. Yep, loud and clear. All good. Thank you. Jonathan, Steve, Roger. Awesome. Charlie, both sound good. Charlie, we both look good, too. You forgot that part.

[00:01:00.000] – Amber Hinds
Oh, that’s an important part.

[00:01:02.020] – Kyle Van Deusen
That’s right. I don’t get dolled up like this for just anybody. All right, sweet. We’ll get the show on the road here. Welcome, everybody. Really excited to have you guys here today. As soon as, I guess it was earlier this month, April has flown by. It feels like it was maybe longer than that ago, but earlier this month, there was news from the United States Justice Department about a new decision on accessibility. And anytime that happens, my ears perk up, and I know exactly who I want to turn to. Got Amber We’re signed up for a call just as quickly as I could, and we’re going to pick her brain today on what exactly this means. Now, I will say, Amber did us the favor of reading through about 300 pages of legal jargon, so we didn’t have to. And she’s put together an awesome summary post here. I’m going to dump into the chat, and I’ll dump it in there later, too. And that summarizes everything that’s in that decision, however we want to phrase it there.

[00:01:55.610] – Amber Hinds
They call it the final rule. The final rule, yeah. That is what they call it.

[00:02:00.390] – Kyle Van Deusen
Okay, perfect. So there’s the overview of that. And so now you don’t have to read the 300 pages. And thank you, Amber, for doing that for us. But before we jump in to start asking all these questions and finding out more, I want to give everybody a chance, who might not know you yet, Amber, to get to know you a little bit Amber has been a huge help for us inside the admin bar as far as accessibility. She wrote 52 accessibility weekly posts all of last year, which was absolutely awesome. We owe her a ton for that. She does the accessibility meetup. She has all kinds of things going on. I’ll stop doing it, and I’ll let Amber tell us a little bit about herself.

[00:02:35.440] – Amber Hinds
Yeah. So thank you, Kyle. I’m excited to be here, and I do love the group very much. I get a lot of benefit out of it myself as well. So it’s nice to hear other agency stories. So I am the CEO of a company called Equalize Digital. We are a mission-driven organization that focuses on WordPress accessibility. We have a plugin for WordPress websites that helps you audit for accessibility called Accessibility Checker. There’s a free version on wordpress. Org, and you can also get paid versions of it off of our website. And then in addition to that, we do a lot of accessibility-related services, many of which are for other agencies. We were excited to be the accessibility team on the NASA website, for example, last year, which was really fun. And we do audits and user testing, and I run the meetup. I also run I’m one of the co-lead organizers of WordPress Accessibility Day conference, and I’m on the core WordPress Accessibility team.

[00:03:38.450] – Kyle Van Deusen
That’s a lot of stuff.

[00:03:40.820] – Amber Hinds
Yes. Sometimes I definitely do not get enough sleep. I have four daughters, and my husband is my business partner, so that is always fun to have a business partnership in the house, which some people are like, I would never do that, and other people are like, Yeah, it’s awesome.

[00:03:58.960] – Kyle Van Deusen
Basically, what you’re saying is you have five children, if you include him.

[00:04:02.370] – Amber Hinds
Only at dinner time.

[00:04:04.620] – Kyle Van Deusen
That’s right. Well, sweet. Well, and obviously, you’ve been… One of the huge things you all do is pour so much into education, and I really appreciate you being here to do this. I know you have plenty of things to be doing. So sitting here talking to me, I feel privileged to have that. So I’m going to jump in here and start asking you questions. So I think the biggest… I think the rest of us get anxiety. We don’t know how to take these things. We’re not sure what to do with all this. So I’m hoping we can clear up some of those questions today. The biggest problem has been there’s just been not a lot of clear guidance. It feels like everything around accessibility is a little bit muddy here in the United States. Same with privacy. But I wonder if maybe just in a nutshell, you could tell us what this decision from the DOJ is all about.

[00:04:48.640] – Amber Hinds
Basically, up until now, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, specifically, has said that public entities, so any government-funded thing needed to be accessible to people with disabilities, and that included their websites. But up until April, there wasn’t any specific technical standards within the ADA about how to measure accessibility, and they were relying on public entities to take it upon themselves to become accessible. What they found was that that was not happening. There was also confusion about what does it mean because there’s other laws that specifically reference the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, but the ADA does not. This rule specifically says that all government websites, state and local governments, and also special district governments, which I have a list of them in that post, examples of what those are, have to comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 and all of the level A and level AA success criteria. It provides a technical standard and it has a timeline for compliance.

[00:06:03.130] – Kyle Van Deusen
Excellent. I’m guessing a ruling like this is something you’re applauding from your side of it.

[00:06:09.360] – Amber Hinds
Yeah. I don’t know if you remember this, but in the news around the last election, there was a lot actually about voting websites in the state of Texas, which is where I live, not being accessible. If you think about what is some of the core things that we as human beings should have the right to do, being able to find a place to go vote, however you want to vote, and being able to get that information, that’s really important. There were other things, I think, that came up in recent years, access to COVID information or free testing or transportation. There’s a lot that really impacts quality of life for people with disabilities. Our government is is supposed to be for the people. If it’s not supporting everyone or giving everyone access to how they can get the services that they need, I think our government’s failing. I’m excited to see a rule that is going to push that to actually do what it’s been supposed to be doing since the ’70s when the ADA was written. I think, of course, there’s also some benefits which we could talk about later from an agency standpoint, that I think there’s a lot of potential opportunity here for WordPress developers.

[00:07:38.050] – Amber Hinds
If this isn’t serving public entities is something that they want to get into, you want to increase your revenue in that area. I think, of course, there’s benefits there as well. But I have a lot of friends who are disabled, and I want them to have access to the same thing I do. I think having a more clear standard, it reduces confusion. It’s good all around.

[00:07:58.660] – Kyle Van Deusen
Yeah, and it used to be that stuff on the internet was a bonus. There were still physical ways to find all this information or other places to go for the information. But now the internet is the baseline. When something you need gets published, it gets published online. Until somebody- Well, and there’s- Go ahead.

[00:08:15.000] – Amber Hinds
Yeah, I was just going to say, increasingly, there’s stuff that’s only online. I was down in Austin for a conference last week, and to pay for parking, in the city, you had to install their mobile app. Well, what if that mobile app is not accessible for some reason, but the person who has to pay for the parking, maybe they didn’t drive the car, but they’re the one who needs to pay, right? And there’s literally no other alternative. There’s not meters. It was like, you have to download the app and pay, and that’s it. Yeah.

[00:08:48.920] – Kyle Van Deusen
And if that’s… I mean, that happens at restaurants now. You can’t order a meal without scanning a QR code or whatever. And if that’s the way everything’s going to go, I mean, fine by me. I don’t mind using devices. But until people people are obligated to make things accessible. Obviously, just doing it on their own wasn’t working great. Besides, you mentioned that, I guess this is the first time that they’ve really come out and specified the technical guidelines. Is that the big difference between what we had previous to April and what we have now as specifics for us to go off of?

[00:09:22.320] – Amber Hinds
Yeah. That’s the biggest difference is it’s very clearly saying that it has to be WCAG 2.1 AA compliant, whereas before it was just a generic, it needs to be accessible. The other thing is, is they’ve created a lot more really clear standards about what it covers. For example, they’ve defined what web content means. When we’re talking about this and what has to be accessible, so it’s the website, and they provide examples of the code, the structure, anything like that, the images, videos, animation, organizations, controls on a website, so all the things that we would normally think of as websites, but they’re also including social media posts. So they say, for example, if a public entity is using a social media platform like Facebook or Instagram to communicate information to the public, and that platform supports the ability for them to add alt text on their image, but they don’t use that, then they can get in trouble because they have to make it as accessible as whatever social media platform supports. Captions on videos are another thing. They also talked a lot, and there was a lot of discussion about documents, things like spreadsheets, PDFs, word docs, presentation files, like keynote files, that thing.

[00:10:53.710] – Amber Hinds
In the public comment section, there were some people that were arguing that it’s too hard to make those accessible, or maybe they shouldn’t count as web content because you don’t open them in your browser. You usually download them and open them somewhere else, so it’s not web content. But the Justice Department was really clear that a lot of times these documents are really important for people to get the information they need. They are including those as well, and they weren’t having any exceptions for that. I think this provides a lot more clear idea of what is covered and required.

[00:11:25.100] – Kyle Van Deusen
It feels like the need for accessibility consultants is going to be on the rise soon.

[00:11:30.100] – Amber Hinds
Yeah. I expect over the next 2-3 years that there’s going to be a big push for this because so many are not accessible. I mean, my city website, which is built with WordPress, I actually discovered this when I was looking around for a talk and I was like, Where can I demo testing? You don’t want to call it your own clients, right? But it’s horrible. It’s one of the worst WordPress websites I’ve ever seen, which I laughed, but it’s actually very sad, Because it’s how we pay our water bill. And I was like, I don’t know. You can’t even use the navigation. So I was like, I don’t even know how somebody with disabilities that’s blind would pay their water bill. Maybe they have to ask someone to help them every time because it’s also not easy to fill out a paper form or write out a check. So you need the electronic payment platform.

[00:12:21.580] – Kyle Van Deusen
So yeah, I think there’s a lot of room for growth here. Matt Mullenweg said a couple of years ago, Learn JavaScript deeply. I think the new one is learn accessibility deeply. That seems like the important thing today. We talked about government organizations, and I imagine people are thinking of huge big government organizations that are going to be covered under this. But my understanding is this trickles down all the way to local municipalities and could even have to do with people who get funding from government like some nonprofits. I know we have a ton of people in the group, maybe not a ton that work for cities or big government organizations, but a ton that work with nonprofits. How does that work and who is and isn’t included in this?

[00:13:08.270] – Amber Hinds
Schools, they’re including those in the state and local government categories. If you do anything for a school district, that counts. They have what they call special district governments, which are things that are considered public entities, but they’re not. Then they’re authorized by state law to provide a function. Sometimes these are nonprofits. Sometimes they’re even for-profit companies that are authorized to deliver a service for the state. An example here in Texas is we have Workforce Solutions that helps people If they’re going to get unemployment or if they’re going to get Snap food benefits, then they have to work with Workforce Solutions. Well, Workforce Solutions is what the program is called, but it’s actually a for-profit company that bid on and got the contract to to be able to deliver the services of Workforce Solutions. Technically, they’re not a government entity, but because they are getting money to deliver the services of the government, then it would apply, and that would apply to any nonprofit that is the same thing. I know there are nonprofits that do the same thing in some states or help people with housing assistance. If you’re doing anything to represent the state, And then, libraries.

[00:14:31.550] – Amber Hinds
A lot of times, libraries just seem small and not a big deal. And I’ve seen a lot of people actually in the group that have shared a library website or talked about something on a library website. So that’s one. Airport What else did I have in this list? Yeah, water, transit, parks and rec, and apply. If it’s getting any funding from the state to help create a park, then their website would apply as well.

[00:14:59.520] – Kyle Van Deusen
Yeah, I tried to copy and paste that list into the chat, but it looks like it’s garbbally goo in here. So I’ll just paste the link again here in case anybody wants to go check out that list. All those are listed out in Amber’s post. Okay, so I think that probably helps people give some self-assessment and go through your mental rolodex of all the clients that are under your care and think about the ones that could be affected with this. If nothing else, it’s probably important to reach out to them. If you think they might be on the cusp or might be affected by this, it’d probably important to know. But I guess the thing we’re going to have to talk with clients about first, and I do want to get into talking with clients about this, but when is the deadline for them to comply with all this and what happens if you don’t?

[00:15:42.560] – Amber Hinds
Basically, there’s a two or three-year deadline based upon the population of the area that they serve or that are in their jurisdiction. If there are fewer than 50,000 people, then they have two years and their website needs to comply by April 24th. Or sorry, they have three years and they need to comply by April 26th, 2027. If they have 50,000 or more, then they have two years, and that’s April 24th, 2026.

[00:16:13.580] – Kyle Van Deusen
Okay, so we got a little bit of time. That’s good.

[00:16:16.950] – Amber Hinds
That feels like- I think that’s good. It gives you time to assess and make a plan. Sometimes it’s auditing and remediation and just fixing things because maybe the website isn’t that old. It works in other ways really well. They like the design. So then it’s like, Okay, let’s just go through and make fixes where we can. Other times, it’s a complete overall. They had to give some number of time, and they gave the additional year to the smaller entities because they might have fixed budgets. They might have to go through a grant process sometimes to get additional funding, especially if they need a complete rebuild. Then usually with all of these entities, there’s an RFP process. Although sometimes we all know RFPs are a little rigged. If you have a relationship with them, they’re like, Okay, here’s how you can write your answer to the RFP.

[00:17:07.430] – Kyle Van Deusen
Yeah, they all happen back channels, right? Mm-hmm. Okay, let’s fast forward to April 26, 2027. It’s three years from now and our client is not compliant. What happens?

[00:17:21.490] – Amber Hinds
I kept hoping in that 289-page document, I was going to hear about fines. I don’t think I don’t think that the Justice Department has the ability to implement fines. I suspect that that would have to come from Congress. The Americans with Disabilities Act right now does not include anything with fines. However, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there’s a couple of ways that it can be enforced. People with Disabilities can submit official complaints to the Justice Department, and then the Justice Department can go through a process with the website owner, if you will. That’s not it’s a great word, but to make it compliant and can sometimes mandate it with potential risk of losing funding, which could be very bad in some cases. Also under the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities are allowed to sue. We’ve seen a lot of lawsuits, primarily against for-profit businesses or nonprofit organizations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But I think this strengthening it could potentially increase lawsuits against the actual government.

[00:18:35.010] – Kyle Van Deusen
This is maybe not potential for you to get fined directly from the government, but for those, for lack of a better term, ambulance chasing type lawyers to maybe create a bunch of problems on top of people actually with issues that need the help. I’m not saying that that doesn’t exist. I’m just saying that here in America, it seems at least it’s the people who want to take advantage of all these systems that seem to give us the most problem.

[00:18:58.660] – Amber Hinds
I think it depends. There are definitely law firms that a lot of lawsuits come out of. But sometimes the way I like to think about it, I always err on the side of giving them the benefit of the doubt, which is literally the only way… It was written into the law that that was how the law would be enforced. The only way that people with disabilities have been able to make change sometimes has been suing. I don’t know. It’s hard to say. But the thing to be aware of earlier this year in January in California, there was an ADA a complaint against a website that was built for the camping, like camping registration system for the state parks where you can go reserve a campsite. It was a very large project, like a $60 million project. I’m going to preface that first. But the actual web developer ended up getting sued in addition to the state, and the web developer had to pay over $2 million in in damages because they had said they were delivering an accessible website and they were not. I think for those of us that build websites for any entities covered by the ADA, which is for profit as well.

[00:20:15.580] – Amber Hinds
This particular conversation is about what’s changed for government, but it applies to for profit businesses and nonprofits as well. You need to be really clear about what you can deliver and not, and don’t promise something, like bring in a partner or whatever, because you can put yourself at risk as a developer or an agency if you say something is accessible and it’s not.

[00:20:40.170] – Kyle Van Deusen
Do you know of any good resources where there’s some already pre-written language we might want to include in contracts?

[00:20:47.740] – Amber Hinds
Yeah. So on the Accessibility Weekly on the Admin bar, I have a post about this, and I don’t have the link off the top of my head, but maybe we can find it and put it in the chat for people. Or in the show notes later. But it has contract language from our contracts, which came from an attorney. I’m not an attorney, so I always recommend… You could take it because my attorney wrote it, but just because my attorney wrote it for my company does not mean it’s great for you. I would recommend consulting with an attorney, but it is there if you want to reference it. Even with ours, I know it’s a slight tangent, but we’re very clear with our projects, even as we sell them, that the parts we build will be accessible, but we do not say that we’re going to deliver a 100% accessible website because we’re frequently, and if you imagine if you’re building something for a city or state, you might be importing in hundreds of blog posts or documents from a way long time ago, and you just don’t want to promise accessibility of something you’ve never looked at.

[00:21:57.630] – Kyle Van Deusen
Well, I definitely don’t want to promise any more than you guys promising because I know you’re doing about a thousand times better of a job than I am. So I definitely want to be below that. Did we run into some technical issues?

[00:22:15.310] – Amber Hinds
Maybe I can hear you now.

[00:22:17.770] – Kyle Van Deusen
Hello, hello, hello.

[00:22:19.170] – Amber Hinds
Yep, sorry. I don’t know what happened to my earbud.

[00:22:21.620] – Kyle Van Deusen
That’s okay. I just said that I don’t want to promise anything more than you guys are promising because I know you’re doing a lot more than I am. So that’s a great starting point for me. All right, so AA standards. So for people that might have not read through all the WCAG standards, let’s try to talk a little bit about that. So what are the low-hanging fruit things that you see most often that are like AA violations that we could probably make ourselves aware of and get educated on quickly to make a significant difference?

[00:22:56.060] – Amber Hinds
Yes, so a common one, we’ll be able I’m going to just list some really fast that I think are easy to find and maybe even really easy to fix. Color contrast is a big one, making sure that you have good contrast so that things are easy to read for people with low vision or people on mobile phones outside on sunny day. Captions, having captions. This is an interesting thing in that doc. There was a whole conversation and discussion about whether automated captions were sufficient for live events because WCAG AA does require captions for live events. The Justice Department decided that they were not going to weigh in on whether or not automated captions were not okay, and they weren’t going to set a specific % accuracy that captions had to have or anything like that because they were worried that it might add an undue burden or cost that would stop public entities from having webinars or other virtual events or sharing their town meeting on Facebook or whatever. That was interesting where they went a little less strict on that specifically. But there has to be captions of some sort. Alt text on images is a really frequently mentioned one.

[00:24:14.530] – Amber Hinds
Another thing that I think is really important is headings, using headings in the right order so they provide a meaningful outline of the page and they’re not just picked because of the size or color they are, which we all know clients love to do in their page builders. Oh, yeah. The having meaningful links is really important, so not using things like Click Here, Learn More, even Download. If it’s just download on its own and there’s multiple downloads or whatever that might be, it doesn’t really provide context or meaning for people. I actually have a blog post which I think I can throw in that has a quick things that you can test, and it talks a lot about keyboard testing. So even if you’re I’m not an accessibility expert. Something you can do that’s really easy is just going to your website not using your mouse and using only your keyboard and making sure, or the website you’re building for clients, and making sure that you can do everything that needs to be done on that website with only a keyboard. That would be using the tab key to move forward through links and buttons and shift tab to go backwards if you want to go backwards.

[00:25:25.280] – Amber Hinds
Then making sure you can use the navigation, you can submit forms, you can navigate carousels, open accordions, change which tab is being viewed, because a lot of times those things are not keyboard accessible because they’re not coded semantically. They use divs or something instead of buttons. So that’s a really big one.

[00:25:49.030] – Kyle Van Deusen
Yeah, and if you want to take that a step further, turn on your voiceover and try to navigate the website with your eyes closed. I try that whenever once in a while, I get very disappointed in myself because it is not easy to do somewhere. And so some of the easy things there, and obviously, your guys is plug in to Accessibility Checker. If you install that on your WordPress website, it’s going to cover a lot of those things as well. The testing can be done automated like that, and it’s going to give you instructions on how to go fix that and all those kinds of things. If nothing else, download the free version of you all’s plugin and install on your site, and you’re going to be able to see some of the issues you might have right away. I found it’s one of those things, too, that’s intimidating at first. I mean, it’s always intimidating, but it becomes less intimidating the more you do it because you end up remediating less and building it right in the first place more. If you screw up color contrast two or three times and have to go back and fix it, the fourth time, you’re going to remember to check the color contrast before you put it all over the website.

[00:26:49.470] – Kyle Van Deusen
That just multiplies throughout the process, and you end up just building more accessible sites over time, hopefully anyway.

[00:26:55.380] – Amber Hinds
What I would recommend, too, is if you have a starter, which if you don’t, you You should have a starter. It saves you so much time. Just audit your base, whatever your theme and the base plugins that you always have without any content from a client, because that’s nice, because that will get what’s in the header, what’s in the footer? What already exists? And then you can fix those things in your starter. And then you never have to fix them again. We spent time working on our navigation menu in our starter because we wanted to make sure it super accessible, and it was an upfront time investment. But now every time we build a website, it just works. I think spending that time to work on your starter and audit your starter is helpful. And then sometimes you do have to make decisions. I think this is something that plugin developers increasingly are going to have to take accessibility more seriously. There are some that really do a great job with it, and there are others that don’t, and it sucks, to put it mildly. But increasingly, this is not the law that’s going to apply here.

[00:28:01.280] – Amber Hinds
The European Accessibility Act has a enforcement cliff that starts in June of 2025. We’re going to see websites that need to comply are going to stop using certain plugins. I think if you have a plugin in your stack and you find problems in it and you contact the developer and they’re like, whatever, or you open an issue for them and it’s still open 6, 10 months later, I would start to look at, are there alternative options? Because you don’t want those things to be things that cause you problems down the road on your client websites.

[00:28:38.060] – Kyle Van Deusen
Absolutely. The things you talked about, like the header and the footer, those are going to show up on every page of your website. You want to make sure to get those things right or you’re just compounding your issues everywhere. There’s some pretty good starting point on the most common things, easy, low-hanging fruit type stuff that you might be able to take care of. As far as in the AA level, are there things that seem to be more tricky for people or that are going to be harder for people to comply with that you see people needing expertise like yours to be able to accomplish that, or is it all fairly standard stuff?

[00:29:12.470] – Amber Hinds
Well, I think that if you’re not familiar with screen reader testing, it’s useful to have someone who knows how to screen reader test, come in and test your work at least one or two times, and then you’ll start to get a feel for it. I think in WordPress and on these types of websites in particular, there’s some stuff that may be more difficult, which is if they have graphs or charts, there’s not a ton of great options for really accessible table blocks or table plugins. So that definitely can be something that’s more difficult. So you might We need to come up with a custom one. We have a workaround, like a code snippet that we use to modify table for us, but most of the other ones, and even the core table block, it doesn’t support having headings on the left, like row headings. So it’s almost useless unless it’s a very simplistic short small table.

[00:30:16.080] – Kyle Van Deusen
The hard thing with tables, too, is a lot of times what people will do for pricing tables is not actually use a table. They’ll just arrange divs into a grid, into some column thing, and then there’s no accessibility left in that.

[00:30:29.750] – Amber Hinds
Well, actually, if you look at our pricing page for Accessibility Checker, we’re doing that. And even on the WordPress Accessibility Day website on the sponsorship tiers. So that’s not necessarily a problem. I don’t think just because we call them pricing tables and they visually look like that, I don’t think they have to be tables because they can have meaning. As long as there’s not stuff out to the left that you’re then connecting to. If there’s stuff out to the left, then definitely want it in a table. But if you just have the column design, then that could be really helpful just to have headings for whatever the pricing tier is, and then lists, use a list for the thing. And then that semantically still provides meaning for people who can’t see it.

[00:31:18.190] – Kyle Van Deusen
That’s super helpful to know. That’s great. All right. So I think the biggest challenge we have as agencies in dealing with clients, our clients can’t understand, God love them, they can’t understand the most basic things sometimes. Sometimes, and sometimes that becomes the most difficult part of our job is just educating clients, but it’s going to be really important in this case to get them on board. Obviously, the law compelling them to do that is one thing, but there’s going to be a lot of education that I think goes into this. Let’s say we’re watching this live stream now, we’re making this list of clients that we think are going to fall under these guidelines or that we know are going to fall under these guidelines. How do we approach them about this and start to talk to them about compliance in in the next two or three years?

[00:32:03.300] – Amber Hinds
I think there is a press release, which I have linked in that post. It’s linked on a quote, but it says official press release, and maybe we can grab that and throw that in. I would send that to your clients. If you know this applies to them, I think this is great to just do random outreach for clients about whether it’s legal compliance or security or something like that, especially if you don’t talk to them all the time. They’re on a maintenance plan that just runs on its own. Or even if it’s a client that you launched and they are not on a maintenance retainer because it’s good upsells and it makes them think, Oh, they care about me. They’re thinking about me. They’re not waiting for me to reach out to them. They’re being proactive. So I would draft just a short email that’s like, Hey, Donna, I saw this press release from the Justice Department, and I’m pretty sure this new law, a rule applies to your website. When we originally launched the site, this rule didn’t exist. Well, maybe you say something like, Well, we did some accessibility best practices. It’s maybe not fully WCAG 2.1 compliant.

[00:33:13.790] – Amber Hinds
You have a couple of years to comply. Let’s have a call and talk about what you might want to think about from a budgeting standpoint so you can write that in your budget for next year. That’s how we do this a lot, especially with these entities where their budget for this year is You’re not selling them on starting next week, probably. But that gets them thinking. Then if they are going to hit an RFP threshold, you can be… My partner Chris has had moments where he’s worked with an entity to help them write their RFP. He’s told them, This is the language you should put in your RFP. Then you can be their partner and all that, and then they’ll keep you in mind But I think sending it and just saying, Hey, I was thinking about you. You should be aware of this. It’s a good way to make your clients think that you’re really proactive, you care about them.

[00:34:11.100] – Kyle Van Deusen
I think there’s two really hard parts there, and you did a great job of just I’m just going to clip everything you said and put it into an email later for my clients. But there’s two parts that make me a little anxious. One is the, Well, didn’t I just pay you a bunch of money to build this website? Now you’re telling me that there’s something wrong with it. I think you covered that the last bit there by this didn’t exist then, it exists now. We have that cover for basically no more time for no more new websites you’re building, but everything you did in the past. But the other one is just getting buy-in from them. I just have so many clients that Even if I tell them this is important, it’s hard to really get their attention. Obviously, a press release from the DOJ should help, but I think accessibility is more than just complying to the law. It’s a commitment to the way you’re going to represent your organization. So I feel like we need to have a bigger conversation with clients about, let me check this off the list. This is a new way we need to approach maintaining, improving, adding content to the website here and into the For sure, right?

[00:35:16.450] – Amber Hinds
Yeah, we talk a lot about how accessibility is not a one and done. And I’ll use the parallel about SEO a lot because a lot of people get that. You don’t ever say, I optimized my website for SEO last year, I’m done now. And they’ll be like, Oh, yeah, that makes sense. You have to add content. Maybe the rules change. You have to do things over time as you see how people are engaging on the website. Conversion optimization is the same thing. You might tweak your heading things, or you might go change your meta description, or you might go change the questions in your form or what’s required to see if it will get more people to submit. We’ll talk about accessibility a lot of times as an ongoing practice. I actually have a talk that I gave at our meetup about how we do recurring. We’ve used accessibility to grow recurring revenue, and I know we’ve talked about that with the admin bar as well. But having it as part of a care plan or an independent plan that’s like an audit and remediation. That’s something that’s helpful, too, for really budget-conscious nonprofits. I mean, even some of these state or local governments, they might have very small budgets.

[00:36:28.100] – Amber Hinds
We’ll talk about It’s a lot of things like, Okay, well, instead of thinking that you have to totally redo your whole website for $20,000 in two months, let’s talk about how can we each month for some small number of dollars, audit, find some number of things, fix them, and then wait till the next month. Especially because right now we know that there’s two or three years that comply. That’s a great time to get someone onto some recurring container. And then by the time that compliance deadline comes around, it will be a compliant website. And that whole time, you will have had a more steady revenue flow, which is really nice anyway. And then what’s also nice is it gets them in the thought of thinking that I have to pay for accessibility every month. So once it’s accessible or it sufficiently meets what’s required, then typically what we have is we don’t We don’t have them stop. We just take them down to a smaller number of hours. Then there’s maintenance that can be done and checking in or doing smaller things. We provide a lot of training to our clients, and I think our clients would really like that because it’s another way to help them reduce cost.

[00:37:45.310] – Amber Hinds
A lot of times, they’re not paying us to write alt text for their image because paying a web developer rate to do that when they could pay an intern, I don’t know, $10 an hour, depending on who they’re hiring to do it. I think thinking about ways that you can provide education and value to your clients is really good because then you can say, We’re going to be partners in making this accessible together, and we’ll divide up. We’ve even had clients, and that’s what’s nice about our accessibility checker, if you have the paid version, it’ll scan your whole website, and then there’s a report page where you can see each specific issue. For example, heading is out of order, and then without having to go into each page to check, it’ll be like, Here’s all the pages with headings out of order. And that’s something frequently where clients have just been like, Oh, I can go in and change the heading text. Maybe we show them how, and they do that. Or fixing link text, the ambiguous link text, they’ll be like, Oh, we’re going to own this. We definitely can go in. Sometimes there’s things in themes or plugins that have to be fixed if they can’t, but a lot of times it’s because they wrote, Click here, and linked it.

[00:38:54.810] – Amber Hinds
I think that’s another way. If you have more budget-conscious clients is really talking about how this is something we can team up together. And over time, you’re going to learn about accessibility so that as you’re adding new content to your website, you’re not adding more problems that you have to pay someone to fix. And then they really see you as a partner. And then also you get to focus on the more fun and not the nitty-gritty, like go in, update the alt text, hit update on all these different posts.

[00:39:24.930] – Kyle Van Deusen
Yeah, that’s not what I want to be spending my time doing, but it is such a risk when clients are getting in there posting new blog posts or whatever, if they’re not educated on all these things, you’re just chasing your tail, trying to fix the issues as they create more. You’re just running around putting out their fires all day long.

[00:39:40.830] – Amber Hinds
You need to put accessibility checker on.

[00:39:42.910] – Kyle Van Deusen
Yeah, that’s true. Very good point.

[00:39:45.300] – Amber Hinds
Yeah, then it flags it for them. They’re not allowed to hit publish if the score doesn’t say 100.

[00:39:50.640] – Kyle Van Deusen
There you go. That’s a good rule. Earlier in the call, you alluded to this being maybe an opportunity for web developers, too. So is that the ongoing accessibility thing, what you were alluding to, or is there other opportunities you see out there?

[00:40:05.220] – Amber Hinds
Well, I think in general, there are not a ton of developers yet who really specialize or promote accessibility. I know I’ve heard from people in the group saying it, we have a WordPress Accessibility Facebook group, and they’ve also… There have been some people who said this as well, where they have talked to prospective clients, and they’ve brought up accessibility, and they’ve been like, wow, you were the only developer or agency who even mentioned this. And even if the client doesn’t go for the big accessibility package or whatever, but they say, Okay, yeah, we’ll agree with that. Sometimes that can be a way to stand out. From what I’m seeing, it’s still early enough that if a developer or an agency decides we’re going to talk about accessibility, we’re going to include it in our sales conversations, we’re going to have a baseline accessibility that we promise to deliver in our projects. One, I think you can attract bigger clients. So maybe you’ve just been working with more small businesses, but you want to try and get into education or local governments or things like that. That’s going to be required. I think it positions you really well on that front.

[00:41:22.200] – Amber Hinds
You don’t necessarily have to be an expert because you can hire… We do that for other people, but there’s also a lot of people with disabilities. The IAAP, International Association of Accessibility Professionals, has a directory of consultants or independent testers that you can hire. So even if you aren’t an accessibility expert, you can still add that to your project You just have to find a partner to help you deliver on that.

[00:41:47.800] – Kyle Van Deusen
Absolutely. I know one. So reach out to me if you need Amber’s contact information. I’ll just send you her. All right. I want to save just a few minutes here to go through questions and answers here because we already had some people drop some questions. And if you’re watching this live and you have a question, go ahead and drop it in. I’ve started a bunch of these, so I can go back and ask them, and we’ll see what damage we can do here. So this first one says, Will this also go for any local organizations like Regional Emergency Preparedness? I can’t even read now.

[00:42:20.930] – Amber Hinds
Coalitions, yeah.

[00:42:22.420] – Kyle Van Deusen
I think it’s coalitions under this umbrella since they were paid for by the state public health organizations.

[00:42:28.520] – Amber Hinds
In my non In my opinion, I would believe the answer to that is yes.

[00:42:33.690] – Kyle Van Deusen
Got it. That’s what I was thinking, too, since they’re being contracted by the government.

[00:42:37.840] – Amber Hinds
They’re getting state funding or contract. And that was a big thing that was specifically said in there is they are not giving any exclusion for third-party contracted content or apps or anything like that. So if it state or government funds paying for it, tax dollars paying for it, then it’s going to fall under this.

[00:43:00.700] – Kyle Van Deusen
Probably easier to air on the side of caution with that. All right, we have one here off topic, but are there any current or planned accessibility laws related to the UK? Now, you mentioned something earlier for the EU, I believe. Do you have any more insight on that?

[00:43:16.760] – Amber Hinds
Yes. The European Accessibility Act, which is a directive that requires all member states to enforce WCAG accessibility in 2025, doesn’t apply to the UK because of Brexit. The UK does have accessibility laws. I think they’re lagging behind on laws that apply to private businesses, but they do have a lot that apply to government. Interesting.

[00:43:46.270] – Kyle Van Deusen
All right, let’s see. Charlie here says, Do candidates for political office, do their websites need to be accessible? I do see a lot of people in our communities doing those as election season is ramping up here in the States.

[00:44:00.220] – Amber Hinds
I will say I’m not 100% certain. You know how when you do your taxes, you can donate money to the Political Fund, Campaign Fund? I don’t know if that applies to… If that’s only presidential candidates who get that or if there’s other people. I I would assume that if they’re getting any money from the government, then the answer is yes. If they’re not, then technically the answer is no. However, if you want people to vote for you or if they do get elected and then they are being paid a salary as the city council member and their city council website is where people would go to contact them about potholes on their street, then it would definitely apply. So I would say I would err on the side of if you are building political candidate websites, they should be accessible.

[00:44:49.260] – Kyle Van Deusen
Yeah. And it feels like that’d be going back to your sales spiel a minute ago, that would be a good one for any political candidates.

[00:44:57.490] – Amber Hinds
Yeah, if you want to give votes.

[00:44:59.110] – Kyle Van Deusen
Yeah, no doubt. Mark asked, How about the usage of the Sogeo Accessibility Plugin? Does that help?

[00:45:07.600] – Amber Hinds
So I’m not familiar with that one, but I’m going to take a wild stab at it. It might be a toolbar. There are a number of plugins on WordPress repo that add a toolbar which has a little floating accessibility icon. And when you click it, then it has things like make the text larger, change the contrast, a number of different things.

[00:45:33.210] – Kyle Van Deusen
That is what it is. I’m checking it on the thing.

[00:45:35.990] – Amber Hinds
Okay. Yeah. Those are slightly different from overlays, which I saw a question about. We maybe talk about that a little bit because it’s just a toolbar that allows the user to change things. If they are coded accessibly and they actually work and get all elements, I was on a website that had one of these toolbar plugins and it had to make the font size bigger button, but it only got some of the fonts, probably because it’s generic. It wasn’t coded for that specific website. So if it actually works and does what it’s supposed to do, they’re not a problem. I don’t think that they… There isn’t any studies or research I’ve been able to find that they’re actually super helpful. People ask, well, should I have the high contrast or whatever? And I’m like, no, just make your color contrast high enough for everyone. It’s Don’t make someone push a button to get it. So we never put them on websites that we build or remediate. Fair enough.

[00:46:42.570] – Kyle Van Deusen
Without knowing the tool, it’s hard to answer that one. Let’s see. My buddy Taylor here said, For the click here, when we’re talking about the nondescriptive text, would descriptive Aria labels with normal button text like click here, work?

[00:46:58.540] – Amber Hinds
Yes. It is It’s totally fine to have visible text. It’s like, Click here, learn more, read more, download, where they all look the same because you want it to fit a certain space across all of the elements. Then you can either have an Aria label that describes it, or you can add hidden screen reader text. I think we have examples of both of those in the Accessibly Weekly posts.

[00:47:20.760] – Kyle Van Deusen
Yes, we do. I think the biggest challenge for that, or at least the biggest one that I’ve ran into, is when you’re doing something like a query loop, you can design one of the Loop items, right? So you might have a button that says Click Here, and you could put an Aria label on that one button, but then it’s going to be the same for every one of them in the loop, and you probably need something unique for everyone, and that becomes a challenge.

[00:47:43.060] – Amber Hinds
So this is where we need to go to plugin developers and say to them, Hey, when we’re adding an Aria label, we need the ability to have a dynamic fill in the title of the post, right? So to some degree, some of this is going to fall on WordPress plugin and theme developers to to either add features or correct features so that they can actually be used and to enhance accessibility.

[00:48:11.560] – Kyle Van Deusen
All right. We had a couple of questions here on our good friends, the overlays. Mike asked if we were going to address plugin/widgets like Userway, and we also had a question here, is Accessibly a good solution for small businesses? I’m just going to duck and let you take over for a second on those questions.

[00:48:30.990] – Amber Hinds
Maybe while I’m answering this, you can go find a link to overlayfact sheet. Com. Overlays, I mentioned before, there’s the Toolbar Plugins, and then there’s Overlays, which have a Toolbar, but they also have a component that uses a JavaScript snippet to attempt to modify the page at time of page load and change things. I highly advise against them for a couple of reasons. One is that all of my friends who are blind despise them. I have never found… I actually tried for a while. I put on LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook. I was like, If you like an overlay and you have disabilities, would you please tell me? I was like, You can contact me privately if you don’t want to pose it. I was trying Let me just find one person who said that they thought it was helpful. I even had 8,000 views or something on LinkedIn. No, everyone was like, No, not helpful. I’m like, Well, I’m going to listen to people with I’ve also seen a bunch of studies and reports. Ai-generated alt text is frequently not actually good alt text. If it’s filling in alternative text for things, it’s probably not actually putting what it should put.

[00:49:45.220] – Amber Hinds
I’ve seen instances where users talk about it hijacking their experience. During a conference presentation, I saw someone who was a screen reader user demoing on an actual website, and it was doing weird things that actually made the website less successful to him. I don’t recommend them for those reasons. Also, a lot of times they say they will stop you from getting sued. Usablenet, every six months, puts out a report on all the accessibility lawsuits in the United States. At the end of 2023, over 30% of them were against companies or websites that already had an overlay, and they got sued anyway. I think it can sometimes put a target on your back because some of these law firms are seeking to prove that they’re not good, and so they will sue people because they’re using an overlay. And then usually what happens is you have to agree as part of the settlement to remove the overlay and to actually make the website really accessible. So I would not sell them to my clients.

[00:50:50.050] – Kyle Van Deusen
That sounds like about a million and a half good reasons there. All right. I think that gets us to the end of the questions here. Unless anybody has anything last second, Elijah just said, Fantastic information. Thanks for doing this. And I want to tell him, I agree. Thank you for doing this, Amber. I really appreciate it. Been super helpful here. I did drop in some links for other bits we mentioned, like the ambiguous links. There’s an accessibility article there. If you just go to theadminbar. Com/accessibility-weekly. There’s 52 different articles that cover a lot of this information. Amber did an awesome job of making it all really easy to digest and easy to understand, which is huge because we get so snowed under. If you haven’t seen the Accessibility Meetup, I’m going to post a link to that in there. I think one of the most amazing things I’ve gained from watching some of these events and replays of these events is watching actually somebody using a screen reader, go through a website and how you’re asking them questions on, I believe Alex, you’ve done it with Alex a bunch of times, asking questions on what do you prefer to have here?

[00:51:56.300] – Kyle Van Deusen
How does this work for you? And it’s so eye-opening. Every time I’ve watched one of I’ve come away with tons of things that I just would have never thought of as a sighted user who is going through websites visually, having to listen to all that, it’s so eye-opening. So if you haven’t done that, I would at least encourage everybody to go do that once for sure.

[00:52:15.550] – Amber Hinds
Yeah, they’re fun meetups, and we have all the recaps on our website with full transcripts and all that stuff.

[00:52:23.640] – Kyle Van Deusen
I’m sure that there are full transcripts. Good job.

[00:52:27.120] – Amber Hinds
Also good for SEO. I’m going to tell you that. They’re great for accessibility, but they really help your SEO. So any client who’s like, I don’t want to make transcripts, you should be like, Well, would you like to rank and search?

[00:52:38.290] – Kyle Van Deusen
That’s right. No doubt. We’re going to kill multiple birds with one stone, figuratively, of course. All right. Well, Amber, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this today. I learned a ton. We got lots of good comments here of people saying thank you and super informative and great talk. So it looks like it was a hit here. I really appreciate your time, and I’m sure it will not be the last time we’re doing this if I can twist your arm to get you here again.

[00:53:00.090] – Amber Hinds
Yeah, well, thank you.

[00:53:01.380] – Kyle Van Deusen
All right, we will talk to you all soon. Bye-bye. Bye.

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