It’s an exciting week. After more than a year of work, Content for Everyone officially releases in just a few days on Wednesday, March 1. The book will be available in ebook, paperback and large print paperback, with an audiobook version coming soon. You can get a copy anywhere you buy books.
Michele and I are going to be on a number of podcasts in the coming weeks to talk about the book, and it seemed fitting that the first conversation we have is on a special episode of the Big Gay Author Podcast, which is one of my shows.
In the episode, Michele and I discuss how we came together to write Content for Everyone, why it was important to us, and what readers will find in the book. In addition, we offer listeners some ideas on where to get started with content accessibility and what we hope they’ll take away from it.
You can find the Big Gay Author Podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts, and you can listen to this episode about Content for Everyone right here with the audio player on the page. You can also read the conversation with the transcript.
Big Gay Author Podcast: Bonus Episode: “Content for Everyone” with Jeff Adams & Michele Lucchini
Jeff: Welcome to a special episode of the “Big Gay Author Podcast.” I’m your host, Jeff Adams, and today is Monday, February 27th, 2023, as this goes out. Hello, writer friends. It’s great to be back with you, and thank you for joining me for this first episode of the podcast in more than two years. Now, while Will and I aren’t bringing this podcast back full-time, we decided a special episode was in order because this week I’m publishing my very first nonfiction book, which is designed to help authors and other creatives. Joining me for this episode is my friend, colleague, and co-author Michele Lucchini. Thanks for being here, Michele. It’s great to have you here.
Michele: Thanks, Jeff. And hi, everyone.
Jeff: Some of you listening may know that my day job is consulting on websites and digital accessibility. I work with companies around the world, helping them make their websites and apps usable and accessible for everyone. I’ve been working with a company called Usablenet for more than a decade now, and I’m currently the director of accessibility operations. Now, Michele, you’ve been doing this work even longer than I have.
Michele: Yeah, indeed. I mean, I started dealing with this…actually, I would like to say, pioneering this back to the university, thanks to a course that I took when I was studying computer science. And actually, that professor was the founder of the company we work for. So over two decades, dedicated to web accessibility, very passionate on accessibility, in general, and yeah, definitely a long journey.
Jeff: We’ve taken our knowledge, and we have co-written “Content for Everyone: A Practical Guide for Creative Entrepreneurs to Produce Accessible and Usable Web Content,” and that’s gonna be releasing in eBook, paperback, large print paperback on March 1st, and there’ll be an audiobook soon to follow. Now, I had the idea for this book because I see so many of my fellow creatives putting content on their website, sending out marketing emails, and doing social media posts that are going to be inaccessible to millions of people.
Now, I know this isn’t deliberate. It’s simply a matter that they don’t know that they’re doing it. “Content for Everyone” brings creatives the information that they need to create content that is usable, accessible, and inclusive for everyone. Now, Michele, from the first time I mentioned this book project to you, you were excited to help, and in no time, we had officially become co-authors. What made you wanna take on this project?
Michele: One of the things that characterize, I think, the 10 years that we spent together working for Usablenet is the progressive increment of us being totally in sync. While you were thinking to write something, I was still trying to elaborate what I can do to make the web a better place, and I wasn’t able to articulate the way to do it. So as soon as you mentioned your book, that clicked to me. Probably, if I wouldn’t study computer science, I would be more, like, in the area of literature I always love reading and writing. So I jumped straight on.
Jeff: Given that background. I mean, it’s not surprising that you took this on, and it is your first book. And since this podcast is for authors, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about the experience that you felt kind of putting this whole thing together, and even most recently, as we’re sitting here, you got to hold the paperback in your hand for the first time too.
Michele: Yeah, that was…well, I mean, the authors would know how that feels. So your creation, I mean, physically, in your hands, while we live in an era where everything is digital, I mean, the first seconds will be a feeling that I will remember forever and the whole journey as being…I mean, to be honest, I would say extremely simple.
I didn’t think when we started this journey that doing something that is kind of out of my comfort zone, considering my day job, my other activities, it was easy. It was easy because it has been just trying to put in words, thoughts that we elaborated in the course of the years, and because I think that we had very clear in our heads the mission we had. That ultimately is giving suggestions, giving options to people to start taking more care about people with all different abilities.
Jeff: And it was interesting writing this because we speak to the audience of the creative entrepreneur a little differently than we speak to the audience when we’re working with our clients. And it really adjusted how we wrote it. I mean, authors out there will know the first draft is just what you do to get it out on paper and then you start revising. We had a heavy revision, because when we had the first draft, we realized that we were still talking primarily to the audience that we would talk to for Usablenet as opposed to really starting to peel it back. Bringing it down to the level of people who are, you know, getting by on their websites with just WordPress or Wix, Squarespace, something like that, using a mail program like MailChimp or MailerLite or something similar, and posting across all the social media platforms and really stripping it back, knowing that the technical ability is not very strong. Because it’s not what you need to know. You just wanna put up your pages to help promote whatever you’re creating in your creative business.
And so we kept peeling that back. For me, the ideal reader was, in fact, Will, because I’m his tech support and it was important to present this information in a way that he felt he could take action on it. And it was a big difference for me to write and present in that way. And I think I learned a lot from it.
Michele: Yeah, we definitely learned a lot. I think that considering the big difference in the audience, we had to go through a complicated learning process. Everything on accessibility usually is associated to legal aspects, to mandates, to things that you must do. And we are also quite strict with our clients, telling them what they have to do. I think that we decided to approach the message in our book in a different way, which is…and sorry for oversimplifying it, but at least start doing something.
Because the technology the authors might use may not even allow to do everything, so start doing something. Start being more sensitive on different abilities. I’m sure that everyone is not ignoring accessibility because they want to ignore accessibility but just because we are not talking enough about accessibility, about disabilities. We are now exposing everyone to knowing more about the needs of people with different abilities.
Jeff: Exactly. We mentioned in the conclusion of the book, that I’ve been on my own accessibility journey with my sites. There’s the sites for this podcast, for Big Gay Fiction, for my writing. Will’s got his writing website. And each of those, I’ve cleaned up as much as I can, because I’m not technical either. I know how to use these platforms. I might know them a little better than some of my fellow creatives and probably less than some of my fellow creatives, so there’s only so many things I can do as well.
And that was kind of another lens for me to put on the book. I know there are so many things I could clean up. I’ve cleaned up, certainly, the primary areas of the site but also for our blog. Will and I have had a blog for more than 10 years, I think closer to 15, and to clean up every one of those posts would be insane. So it’s also about learning some of this stuff and doing it moving forward and then deciding where you’re going to clean up with your current content, whether it’s just the homepage or homepage plus product pages, you know, whatever that may look like for you. There’s no wrong answer, I think, as long as you’re doing something.
Michele: Yeah, very much so.
Jeff: I mentioned millions of people affected by this, and that was not an exaggeration. Just in the U.S. alone, there’s 60 million people who have known disabilities. And that means that it’s either through an insurance claim maybe or they filed disability with the government, maybe they filled it out on a census form, but they are the known number of people. But that number is so much larger than that, because you have people who may have a temporary disability. If somebody breaks their wrist, for example, maybe they’re not going to be able to use a mouse in the way that they’re used to. Certainly, if I lost my glasses, I would need some help until I was able to replace those because I wouldn’t be able to see the screen adequately. So I may have a screen reader read screen information to me or I might use Zoom technology to magnify what’s on the screen. So there are those kinds of disabilities.
Then situational things. If you’re out and maybe you’re holding an infant in your arms, your ability to perhaps use your mobile phone, you won’t be able to do it. So you may ask your mobile phone, you may engage Siri or something like that to do something. And then there are flare-up type things that, you know, if you have a migraine, the way you’re going to interact with the world while you’re having that migraine, or maybe an arthritis flare-up, your ability to function as you were used to becomes impaired. So there’s all of these things to think about. I think one of the things that’s gonna surprise people the most too, because we often think of disabilities in terms of solving for people who are blind, but that’s also not the largest impairment group.
Michele: Yeah, and probably, Jeff, your words are scaring your audience to death and…
Jeff: Don’t be scared.
Michele: No, don’t be, because I think that what Jeff just said is fundamental to understand the magnitude of the scenario. But the beauty of accessibility is that you don’t have to implement your site for a blind user, implement your site for somebody that uses a screen magnifier, implement your site for somebody that uses the keyboard. The technology that you have available, the CMS you are using, if configured properly, will be already suitable for users with all the possible different disabilities certified or determined by the context of use that Jeff just mentioned.
Jeff: There’s really four types of disability. There is the group of visually impaired at about 4.9% of the U.S. population. And when we have that number, we’re talking about people who are blind, may have low vision, might be colorblind, they have some type of a visual disability. People who have some form of hearing loss is about 5.7% of the population. So that’s hard of hearing going to full deafness. Cognitive disabilities are one of the largest groups, and that includes everything from being on the autism spectrum, it might be having ADHD. That’s about 10.9% of the population. And then mobility comes in as the largest group at a little over 11%.
I think when we think of mobility most, it’s for people who are in wheelchairs or might be using walkers, but it also is folks who maybe they can’t use their arms or maybe they have some type of paralysis or some severe pain. One of the people we actually interviewed for the book has chronic pain, and to use her arms is very painful. So she’ll rely on a technology to speak commands to the computer and navigate that way rather than using a mouse, a trackpad, or something else.
Michele: Yeah. And I think that it’s worth mentioning a couple of other, let’s say, categories, even if are not well identified as the four that you just mentioned. One is, I think, extremely appropriate for this forum, which are the bicultural disabilities. They cannot be, I mean, called, properly, disabilities, but the guidelines that we should respect when we want to make our website accessible are covering these aspects. And for the others, I think, it is a really important message, so making sure that the language you use can be understood by the majority of the audience you may reach.
And another category is people that are simply getting older. The web population is getting older and older, and the expectations of a user in terms of the web experience will not change while the user gets older. So the basic expectation is to be able to do whatever I’m doing right now, in the following 20, 30, 40 years. So the web should adapt to my different abilities, not me.
Jeff: And that’s a good point. I mean, even in the last couple of years, we’ve seen the number of people, 65 and older, who are using the internet grow in double-digit percentages, because of the pandemic. You know, as we were all in lockdown, it became a necessity to do so many things that we might have gone out to do errands for, to bring those things online, to help stay safe. And that was particularly true, of course, for the older population, because they were in that more dangerous group for the pandemic. They’ve jumped online, and they’ve become much more web savvy than they were as a whole group pre-pandemic. And so now they understand the importance of the sites that work and the sites that don’t. And certainly, it’s better for your site to work so that you’re not potentially leaving out somebody in your audience who wants to engage with, again, whatever that creativity is that you’re putting out in the world.
Michele: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that just to summarize everything we said, to give a number, I think that we can easily say that at least 20% of the web audience has a sort of disability. And this number is absolutely meaningful.
Jeff: That’s absolutely right. And it’s probably larger than that, because we know, just from that 60 million that I gave you, it’s about 1 in 4, which is about 25%. Then, when you add everything else into it, could be larger because there’s so many that might be underreported in there.
So one of the things that we brought to the book, because we wanted you to hear from more than just us, we went out to find people who live with disabilities to be able to help you understand from the people who actually encounter the barriers what it’s like to try to navigate with that. And we landed on four with very different stories because of the impairments that they have.
One of them is another of our friend and colleague, Joe DiNero, who works for Helen Keller Services for the Blind. He leads our user testing team at Usablenet, and he is also blind. He’s a big music fan, he loves music, and he moderates a lot of music groups on Facebook. And he has the classic example of when there are so many images put onto a social post, and especially on Facebook, which will then try to create automatically generated text. You know, the kinds of posts that you could see all the time is like, “Here’s my playlist for today,” and somebody throws up four album covers. If they don’t say who those artists are, then Joe has no idea. And he’s got to go through comments and try to figure out maybe songs or something that they’re talking about. So, you know, he is a great example of what happens if you’re not using alternative text on images and not providing some other context. Or how he navigates the website using headings, which is something that’s so misunderstood that we helped to break down further in the book. So he gives us kind of the blind user perspective of the web.
We also spoke to author E.M. Lindsey. Now, they have a hearing disability, and progressively they’ve been losing their hearing for some years now. They wear hearing aid implants, but at best, they said that they get about 30%, 40% of conversations that happen around them. And one of the areas that they are really left out that they noted is with the classes that are taught. There are many classes, of course, that are available to authors, whether it’s for marketing, or for craft, or some other aspect of the author business, and often those don’t come with live captions when the sessions are presented live. And sometimes they don’t even have captions when they are presented with replays. So for them, that means that maybe they can’t engage at all. Maybe they had to spend, you know, three, four, or five times as much time to replay and replay and replay the session, trying to get the information out of it that they want. So you can imagine the kind of frustration that is for E.M. because they can’t access the captions that would make all of it so much easier.
Then there’s Heather Neff, who is a multifaceted creative and a graphic designer and actually runs a company around creating accessible graphics. She has vision loss. She has motor impairments because of the pain that she feels through her arms. She’s got some cognitive disabilities. So we learned from her many aspects on things. She was the example I was mentioning earlier of somebody who uses voice to control their computer so that she doesn’t have to use her arms as much and try to alleviate that aspect of the pain.
And then the fourth one we talk to is Karla Hailer. She is a member of an author community that I’m in and has ADHD. She actually saw an early version of the cover of this book and gave me some feedback on it, that it was so busy, that she would turn away from that book because it was too much for her brain to want to handle because of all the noise, as she put it, that was in the cover image. So it’s really interesting these four very diverse views on the barriers that they can run into, and I thought they really provided some nice different aspects to the book as well.
Michele: Yeah, they definitely helped a lot in highlighting areas that we have to develop in a certain way. But I think that what surprised me most after talking to them, that was extremely disappointing, wasn’t a surprise, to be honest, but was a confirmation of the expectations that, nowadays, a user with disabilities has when approaching the web. It is extremely sad that users with disabilities are now used to deal with a mediocre web. They have to adapt in order to be able to use the web, and that becomes normal to them, which is really something we should not accept.
This, also, in a couple of scenarios, highlighted a distorted view on what they believe it could be helpful for them to be able to browse the web in an easier way. Often, there is this concept of having the site with accessories to allow functionalities that should just be the basic implementation or implement a workaround to provide them with an alternative. These are all concepts that maybe were popular and could work, like, 10, 15 years ago. But like I said before, it makes me sad thinking that these are the expectations that people with disabilities have when they approach the web. So they know that they will struggle. They know they will have frustration as probably the main feeling. They will know that, ultimately, they might need to call somebody to help them out. We are in 2023. That is no longer acceptable. The technology allows us to provide a better environment to every user.
Jeff: It’s interesting that you bring that up because when we talked to Heather Neff, she actually mentioned that occasionally she has to add different plugins and things to occasionally force the site to behave in the way that she needs it too.
And the thing is, most of the things aren’t that hard to do either. And that’s what we’re really trying to highlight with the book, because again, we don’t wanna scare the folks listening right now. There are definitely things that you can do and that members of your audience will appreciate if you take some of the steps that we outlined in the book. And we’ll talk about the structure of the book in just a moment.
I wanted to highlight one other person that we spoke with. We also spoke with an attorney for the book as well, because there are some legal aspects around web accessibility, as Michele alluded to earlier. And so we wanted to give you the understanding of the possibilities of what could happen in the legal aspect.
Now, first of all, I’ll tell you what I often tell clients, I’m not an attorney, and I’m not providing you legal advice as we talk about this here. But as we spoke with Michael Karlin, who is a California-based attorney with the Karlin Law Firm, he does point out that creatives are at a lower risk. The folks who are generating a lot of lawsuits out there are going after larger e-commerce-based companies, restaurants who have ordering mechanisms on their sites, and things like that.
For most of us in the creative community, and I count myself in that bucket as I talk about this, we’ve got sites that are primarily designed to provide information about our books, our podcasts, our jewelry, our pottery, our T-shirts, whatever it is that we’re creating for the world. Even if we’re selling things on our website, usually, it’s through another venue like taking payment through PayPal or using a site like Shopify, or Payhip, or something like that. And having it not on your site also helps to lessen that risk a little bit. So Michael really gave us some good feedback and really focused on creative entrepreneurs. So you understand what to do, the steps you could take to protect yourself even more, and to certainly get in touch with an attorney if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of getting a claim, which, again, your risk is minimal on that in his view.
Michele: Yeah. And I think that besides the legal risks, one of the reasons why we have decided to write this book is because we believe in the power of influencing others. So if a person that is creative decides to challenge herself in trying to satisfy rules, satisfy guidelines, which are actually not very strict, but it’s mainly common sense, that should inspire everyone to do at least something and keep repeating that, at least something to make the web a better place to make the message we are conveying more clear.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s important to do something. And one of the things that we mentioned at the beginning of the book and at the end of the book is the concept of progress over perfection, and that’s really kind of a mantra of folks who work in the accessibility space. You can’t do everything. You can’t do it all at once. You’re gonna have to break down the tasks that you want to accomplish, which is why we said earlier that you could decide to just create accessible content going forward or maybe create it going forward and clean up your homepage, something like that.
And then spread the word too. I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago, I was interviewing author, Onley James, for “Big Gay Fiction Podcast.” And as I was doing the research on Onley to get my questions together, I came across their link tree page. And there’s a blog post about this on the Content for Everyone website, and I’ll put a link to that in the show notes so you can go read it and even see the examples for this.
But the link tree page had a constantly moving color background, it had very tiny text in its buttons, the text was a curly font, and the color contrast wasn’t good with that font. It was very difficult to read, even for me, with no colorblind issues, you know, vision issues that are corrected with my glasses, but it was a very difficult thing to read. And after the interview, I talked with Onley about that, and she’s like, “Oh, my God, I had no idea. How can I fix that?” And I gave her some tips. And before that evening was over, she emailed me back and go, “Okay, I’ve done this, how does this look?” And she created a page that had good contrast for the buttons, it was very readable, it was still very colorful, but it had been made now in a way that more people could get engaged with that, more people could now understand how to go find her on all the social platforms and on her website and to get to the book she was linking to.
And she was very open to the idea of, “I didn’t know I was doing that wrong. Please tell me about it.” So it’s really something that we hope everybody takes away from the book also is once you understand some of these aspects and then you start to see problems somewhere else, to gently help people create accessible content and make them aware of the situation also.
Michele: Yeah. When we decide to present something to send a message to our audience, being creatives, well, I’m including myself in the creatives…
Jeff: You’re creative. You’ve written a book now.
Michele: Yeah. So we tend to do what we like. I think that what Jeff just said highlight the importance of knowing aspects that might change our mind on not just what we like but what is correct, what is most meaningful, what is more suitable to everyone to access.
Jeff: And what you highlight there is exactly correct, because Onley told me, as we were talking about this page, she thought it looked pretty. And it did look pretty, but pretty, in that case, wasn’t functional for everyone. And as soon as she knew what to do, she fixed it. And I think that kind of goes with our message of progress over perfection. Now she knows more and she could tell other people to know more, because she does occasionally coach authors on things, because she’s so good with her business so it just becomes part of even the message that she can start to spread as well. Hopefully, this all starts a movement in the creative community towards better and usable web content, as we like to say on the front of the book.
So I wanna tell you a little bit about what you’re gonna find in this book if you pick it up. We really tried to structure it in a way that, in the beginning chapters, we’re telling you about the basics of accessibility, who it impacts, giving you those interviews that we mentioned, giving you a little bit of the history on the actual guidelines that exist around accessible content. Because there have been, since 2000, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which have grown and evolved over the years to really help primarily developers and QA folks and designers understand what they need to do to create accessible digital experiences.
And then we kind of break those down a little bit to give you the things that we think you can manage on your own. But we also give you all the history too. So if you happen to be able to work with a designer, if you’re working with a developer on your site, or if you’re maybe having a custom theme done, you know some of the questions to ask the folks that you’re working with to make sure that they’re gonna provide you an accessible experience when you’re purchasing something from them. I think that’s so important if you’re going to be buying something that you actually get something back that’s accessible.
And then we get into 16 elements of things that we think you can take on, and these include how to handle images and images of text, and things like page titles and headings, and the use of color and how important color contrast is. Creating good link text, for example. We give you all the rules that you need if you’re creating any kind of multimedia, so a podcast, a video, and things like that, to make sure that those are accessible.
We also tell you about things that you may not be able to fix, but they’re important for you to understand. So things, like, around keyboard navigation, and the importance of instructions, and some of the hazards of pop-up windows and things like that. And then I’ve always kind of troubled that we have to get into this, but talking about clear, concise, easy-to-read content, because that seems like a no-brainer, and yet, so often, we can find that people tend to overcomplicate things, for whatever reason. And if you bring it down to clear and concise text, even if you’re speaking of complex things, then you increase everybody’s ability to understand what you’re talking about.
Michele: Yeah. I think that our intent in structuring the book in this way was to explain the whys. That’s an important step to invite people to make themselves uncomfortable and approaching something new. But the other hand, like you explained, Jeff, is to provide a very practical guideline on things to do. We would like to see pictures of these books packed with sticky notes and annotations. That is what I think we had in our mind when we decided the structure of the book.
Jeff: That’s exactly right. I mean, whether you’ve got the paperback copy and you put sticky notes in it or whether you’re marking it up on your e-reader device, to definitely take the notes. But it’s also why there’s a worksheet that’s available with it so that you can either print that out and write on it or stick it in your tablet if you’re somebody, like I am, who likes to write digitally. It’s there for you to start taking notes and organize the way that you’re going to kind of approach this as you get started with it.
It struck me how interesting it was that we learned things as we wrote, which I really enjoyed. I wasn’t sure how much I would learn new because I talk about accessible content all day long in what we do at Usablenet. What was one of the things that struck you most as we were going through and structuring the book that is something that you’re gonna take into perhaps what we talk about to our clients?
Michele: I think that the big opportunity that writing this book offered to us was challenging the way we were talking to accessibility at different levels. It was an opportunity to stop for a minute and try to identify new communication strategies to sound less academic, less strict in our communication, and make our clients feeling understood. We understand that it could be complicated, it could be something that they didn’t think about, it could be something that is not, like, fixing errors, but it’s something like a new requirement that has not been considered when their website was designed, was implemented.
I think that it helped us be better communicators to our clients and the importance of distilling, the importance of a divide-and-conquer approach, where it is more important that I start rather than I think only as the final goal, which is an extremely ambitious goal. The perfection is very complicated to achieve in web accessibility and, to be honest, probably is not even needed. People with disabilities want accessible sites. They don’t necessarily need perfect sites.
Jeff: Yeah, progress over perfection just resonates so much for me, just looking at my own properties. You look at the website for this very podcast. “Big Gay Author Podcast” does not have a great history of creating transcripts, especially because when this show ended in 2020, while I knew the importance of transcripts, it wasn’t something that I was able to do for every single episode of this particular podcast. And even “Big Gay Fiction,” I mean, “Big Gay Fiction” has been around now…it’s in its eighth year, and it was only around episode 180 that we suddenly had some of the financial resources to be able to offer, at the time, it was transcripts for author interviews. And then we kept expanding to where, at some point, we started transcribing the entire show. And now we’re working on the backlist. So really it’s about progress over perfection and doing what you can.
I think one of the things I loved about doing this book was the interviews and talking to some people about what they encountered on the web and where the barriers were. None of it surprised me, but to really hear it spelled out in the way that they gave it to us, I thought was just really interesting. And I would like to do more interviews over time, whether it’s for our blog, or whether we’re doing it for Usablenet, or however we kind of start to incorporate that. I think it would be interesting to get more used experience kind of wrapped into everything.
Michele: Yeah. That’s another extremely good point. And if we think about our work is based on telling people on how to fix stuff, and I agree that we don’t spend enough time with, actually, the consumers, so people actually will use that stuff. We’re relying on a guideline. We rely on something that has been defined by experts. But in order to have a better understanding of the entire picture, it is fundamental to know which are the real needs of the consumers.
Jeff: It’s the reason why at the end of each section, for the 16 things that we talked to creatives to guide them on, that we in that section with, you know, who it benefits, who within the four disability groups does taking care of this thing actually help. And you’ll find, through almost all of them, that it’s multiple groups who, in fact, benefit from each of these things that we talked about. And some of that, I think, I’ll be incorporating into how I talk about it with UsableNet to really drive home all the more the groups that you help as you take care of each of the items.
Michele: We have seen an immediate benefit of explaining people why they have to do something instead of just telling them what they have to do.
If you had to give one place that a creative should start this journey, where would you say that they can achieve a lot by focusing on a certain aspect?
Michele: The recommendation is to start with the easy things. It seems trivial, but that will be a good enough starting point to start understanding what does it mean to handle this new requirement. Easy to understand, maybe could not be extremely easy to resolve, in some cases, but at least start identifying the way you are potentially causing gaps or problems with your customers. I would recommend to start reviewing the way you use colors inside your website, determining whether you have contrast issues where, for example, a text overlaps a background that is not unified, that might not offer always an appropriate reading.
And second is focus on your images. Are your images conveying the message? Do you use images to enforce the message that is already described in your text? So think about the way your images are providing a contribution to your content and start describing them in an appropriate way.
Jeff: I’m gonna go a little bit on images as well. When you’re posting on social media, and in particular, Facebook and Instagram, please take the time to add good meaningful alternative text. And meaningful is the keyword here, because your alternative text needs to let people know what the image is and how it connects to your post. And the easiest way I could say this within this podcast episode is think about, “If you could not see that image, what would you want to know about it considering the post that you had written that is being put up with it?”
And, in particular, if there’s text inside your image that needs to be part of the alternative text if it’s not already part of your post so that, you know, people with screen readers and who may be accessing the alternative text get that information. And I point this out specifically on Facebook and Instagram because those two platforms are gonna auto-generate text for your image if you don’t put something else in there. And I can guarantee you that what Facebook and Instagram generate is not what you want. It’s never what it should be. So take the steps to read the help documentation if you don’t know how to add the alternative text and take that step, because it’ll improve things for everybody.
And then the other one that I’ll throw out there that also relates to images is, as you’re putting together emails, I see so many emails that are just loaded up with pictures, and sometimes the pictures are there and telling the entire story. But, if somebody can’t see those images or, again, if those images have text inside of them, there could be people with low vision, you know, running into issues with color contrast or maybe with dyslexia who have trouble parsing out the words with everything else going on in the image. You may be leaving some of your audience behind because of the heavy use of images. So have a good balance of image to actual text so that if somebody is only engaging with the text, they understand exactly what you’re conveying. I would give those as a couple of places to start as well.
So as we start to wrap up, any last advice you’d give to folks as they’re thinking about picking up this book and starting the journey?
Michele: I want to share a story, something that worked very well for me. It came to my mind what happened the first day I heard about usability and accessibility back to the university days. And I remember, on my way home, asking questions around the everyday object, trying to understand, can this be improved, can this be more usable, can this be more accessible, and start appreciating usable and accessible designs in the objects I was interacting with. That, to me, is an excellent exercise to start building that mindset and helped me a lot, helped me a lot with my work, helped me a lot with having the ability to determine and analyze whether something is accessible or usable or not, is an exercise that I recommend to everyone.
Jeff: I think that’s part of why I decided to write this book is because, as I know more and more about what is accessible and what isn’t, it’s really something you can’t get away from. Almost every site I go visit, whether it’s a fellow creative or a big e-commerce website or, you know, an email that comes in from somewhere, I can’t not focus on something like, “Oh, that color contrast is really not good,” or, “That link text should really be better,” or, “Wow, there’s a lot of redundancy in this email.” Because redundancy could also cause a drain for people if they have to, like, move through three links that are all the same thing and try to figure out if they’re different or not. And I think if people get into this book and start to embrace it, they’re gonna end up in the same boat, which I think then leads to gently letting other people know like, “Hey, have you looked at this? This could be something that is better or different or something like that.”
So “Content for Everyone” is available starting March 1st at your favorite book retailer, and you can also keep up with our blog at contentforeveryone.info where we will be routinely adding examples, highlighting stories that we come across, and providing interesting resources for you to follow. So just several amazing accessibility advocates and experts that you can also learn from who you will find over on LinkedIn most often.
Michele, thank you so much for joining me to write this book and being here with me on the podcast to discuss it a little bit.
Michele: Thank you, Jeff. It was an amazing journey. It was great to consolidate our friendship, so not just being colleague. And thanks a lot to opening the doors to your podcast to me.
Jeff: And that will conclude this special episode of the “Big Gay Author Podcast.” You can find the show notes and complete transcript for this episode at biggayauthorpodcast.com. Thank you so much for listening. And as ever, Will and I want you to remember that your story is important. So keep writing.