053: Amber Hinds on the Value of Accessibility


About Amber Hinds:

Amber Hinds is the CEO of Equalize Digital, a Certified B Corporation and website accessibility consulting firm striving to create a world where all people have equal access to information and tools on the internet, regardless of ability. Since 2010, Amber has led design and development projects for nonprofits, K-12 and higher education institutions, government agencies, and businesses of all sizes. User experience has always been a primary focus of Amber’s work, and after having the opportunity to experience first-hand the importance of accessible websites through a blind acquaintance, she founded Equalize Digital. Amber is a corporate member of teh International Association of Accessibility Professionals, frequently speaks on accessibility-related topics, and has been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and CNBC, among other media outlets.

Find Amber Hinds: Equalize Digital | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn

 

Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
053: Amber Hinds on the Value of Accessibility
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Show Notes

Tools for checking web accessibility: 

Tips: 

  • Navigate through with keyboard to see if you can navigate your whole site without using a mouse!
  • Then go back through with the screen readers above. How does your site read? Does it make sense?

What is web accessibility?

Transcript

Introduction:

Welcome to Women in WP, a bimonthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop, and more in the WordPress community.

Angela Bowman:

Hi, welcome to Women in WP. I’m Angela Bowman.

Tracy Apps:

I’m Tracy Apps.

Amy Masson:

And I’m Amy Masson.

Angela Bowman:

Our guest today is Amber Hinds. Amber is CEO of Equalize Digital, a website accessibility consulting firm that specializes in accessible WordPress development. Welcome Amber.

Amber Hinds:

Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Angela Bowman:

We like to start off each episode asking our guests how they got into WordPress. How did you get started?

Amber Hinds:

So, I started actually on wordpress.com in 2009, so way back when. I’m pretty sure I had a Xanga blog or something a long time ago, I don’t know if anybody’s even heard of that.

Tracy Apps:

I had one of those.

Amber Hinds:

I took a break from blogging, and then I had my first daughter, and we lived across country from family and we said, “Hey, maybe I should blog and share pictures of my kids.” So, I started-

Amy Masson:

Mommy blogger.

Amber Hinds:

Yep, totally mommy blogger. I lived on Nantucket.

Amy Masson:

I did that.

Amber Hinds:

I thought I would have a huge following because I lived on a cool island, not a good mommy blogger because I’m not consistent, but you know. So, I started on wordpress.com, and within about five months I realized I needed to be self hosted because I got frustrated with… I think you could do some limited CSS stuff back in 2009 on wordpress.com, but not very much. So, I moved to self hosted and I was just having fun playing around with my website and teaching myself HTML and PHP and all that, and I had a few friends that were like, “Your website looks good. Can we pay you to do ours?” And then all of a sudden, I realized I can have a business. So, that’s how I got started originally was my mommy blog roots. And I have not blogged on my personal blog for a very long time. I keep saying I’m going to, and I’ll post like one blog post, and then I won’t again for months.

Tracy Apps:

It’s really just like the gateway drug to web development I feel like. Because I used to blog a lot, and then I’m like, “I haven’t blogged in forever.” But, I got into web development because I was having fun making designs and then doing that. And then, I was like, “Oh, I can make websites for all these other things,” and then the blogs just kind of go on the wayside.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah. You get so busy doing work that you don’t do as much writing [crosstalk 00:02:37]-

Tracy Apps:

They say hire the people that have the most out of date website because usually it’s just because they’re busy with doing client work. At least, that’s what I say about mine because it’s so out of date.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah. So, Equalize Digital is part of our agency, and it was a shift from our agency, and so that’s Road Warrior Creative is the parent company, and if you go look at that website, it’s like I don’t know, five years old. Every time I look at it, I’m like, “It’s so bad, I hate it,” but we just built a new one, and a new brand, and we’re like, whatever, “We’ll just abandon that one,” I don’t know.

Tracy Apps:

I do the same thing.

Amber Hinds:

[crosstalk 00:03:11] still brings in leads, so I guess it works, you know? I don’t know.

Angela Bowman:

Just start a new brand, like when your website gets outdated, just-

Tracy Apps:

I’m guilty of doing this-

Amber Hinds:

Sometimes you [crosstalk 00:03:22]-

Tracy Apps:

For my personal sites.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah.

Amy Masson:

[crosstalk 00:03:25] redirect.

Tracy Apps:

I was like-

Amy Masson:

Redirect, redirect.

Tracy Apps:

This site is really old, I just made another one, and I just…

Amy Masson:

Redirect.

Amber Hinds:

I mean, there was a good reason for us having a name change too, so it did make sense, it wasn’t just that I hate the website. [inaudible 00:03:47] go try and look at that website now to see how bad it is.

Amy Masson:

Yeah, I think that it needs to be in the show notes to be honest.

Tracy Apps:

Oh absolutely. I mean, it’ll make people feel like, oh, okay, well, I’m not alone.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

So, 2009 when you got started, did you ever get involved in the WordPress community, like go to WordCamps or anything? Was that a thing for you?

Amber Hinds:

Yeah, so I lived in Nantucket, and it’s an island, for people who don’t know, off the coast of Massachusetts, about 30 miles off the coast. It’s pretty small; there’s only 11000 year round residents. My husband was a chef, and that’s why we moved there. He ran a restaurant there.

Tracy Apps:

Oh nice.

Amber Hinds:

It was great. It was the best place to live, but there’s no one else that does anything, and to be honest, we didn’t have very much money. So, I left the island once a year when we would leave to go to Target because there are no stores on the island. So, I did not get into WordPress meetups or anything like that until we ended up moving off Nantucket. And in, two thousand and, let me think, 14, we moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, and I joined a WordPress meetup there, and I joined Girl Develop It also, if you’re familiar with that organization. That was wheen I really started to learn about things like not cowboy coding and [crosstalk 00:05:14]-

Amy Masson:

We’re not supposed to cowboy code?

Amber Hinds:

[crosstalk 00:05:16]. I’ll tell you what, I’m our CEO, I don’t do very much development ever. But, every once in a while, I’ll help out on support, and I get in so much trouble with our developers, because what I’ll do is I’ll be like, well… So, I’ll just go fix it in, this is so bad, I’ll fix it in the theme editor, and then I go over the Bitbucket, and I make it commit on Bitbucket. And they’re all like, “Did you commit that on Bitbucket? That means you did it on a live site.” And I was like, “It didn’t break.” But yeah, [crosstalk 00:05:46], I am not our developer anymore.

Amy Masson:

Sometimes you can just log in, make a hex code change, and you don’t need to do the whole staging stuff.

Amber Hinds:

I’m like, if it’s a site I don’t have locally, you know how long [crosstalk 00:05:56]-

Amy Masson:

I want to defend, some of those changes are okay.

Amber Hinds:

As long as you commit [inaudible 00:06:01] pull it down, it’s good, right? So, I moved to Fort Collins and that’s when I really started learning and doing all that, and I actually got involved with WordCamp Denver, so I was an organizer for WordCamp Denver for two years. And we now live in Texas, we’ve moved a lot, and I co organize the Georgetown WordPress meetup, although I will admit that we’ve been taking a little bit of a COVID hiatus just because we were forced to in the beginning, and then both myself and my co organizer, who’s Bill Erickson, have been working on launching new brands. So, we said, “Well, let’s not do too many remote help sessions.”

Angela Bowman:

So, you’re with Bill Erickson there? I mean, he’s amazing.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of-

Angela Bowman:

He’s so freaking cool.

Amber Hinds:

He is. He’s very awesome, and it’s kind of funny. So, when I first started with WordPress and I moved over to self hosted, and was looking through themes, and I was like, “Okay, I decided to go with Genesis because there were tons of tutorials, and it was great for me learning to code. So, I started following him, and I definitely had a little bit of a fan girl thing, like wow, you’re so cool. [crosstalk 00:07:11]-

Angela Bowman:

Of course.

Amber Hinds:

Then, I met him at PressNomics, and that’s wheen I learned that he lived in Georgetown, here where we live. And I was like, “Oh, my father in law lives there.” Then, some years later, we realized we want to be closer to family, so we moved down here. I messaged him, I was like, “I don’t know if you remember me. I know who you are, but…” and he was like, “Oh yeah, I remember you. We met at PressNomics.” And I was like, “Yeah, so we just moved to town.” So, we got together and decided to start a meetup together, because there wasn’t one here, which was fun.

Angela Bowman:

And did you and I, we crossed paths at the Denver Word camp?

Amber Hinds:

Yeah-

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, totally.

Amber Hinds:

I don’t know if we were on a panel together-

Angela Bowman:

I don’t think I was on any panels-

Amber Hinds:

Or I think I moderated or something.

Angela Bowman:

What Denver WordCamps did you organize?

Amber Hinds:

I organized 2015 and 2016, maybe 2000. Yeah, 2015, 2016.

Angela Bowman:

Okay. I did the keynote for one, and I’m like, which one did I-

Amber Hinds:

They all run together.

Angela Bowman:

They run together, but I think I spoke at 2015 maybe.

Amber Hinds:

Okay.

Angela Bowman:

So then, I would’ve seen you at whatever. Then, did we ever see each other at the Fort Collins meetup?

Amber Hinds:

I don’t know. I mean, I was one of the main organizers for it for a long time, but-

Angela Bowman:

I more recently started going, and I’ve presented once or twice there. I love that [crosstalk 00:08:42]-

Tracy Apps:

Is that a big meetup? Is it a large one?

Amber Hinds:

At least in my experience and from talking to other people, I feel like it’s pretty big. The tech scene in Fort Collins is really cool. Colorado in general I feel like does really well. This is a little bit of a tangent, but one of the things I love about Colorado, and if you’re in Colorado it’s good to know, but they do this competition every year called Go Code Colorado, which is through the secretary of state. And the secretary of state funds, it’s like an app development competition where they’re trying to get people to use open data because Colorado is super into open data. They do different competitions in different cities around the state, and then they have a final in Denver, and the top three teams get $30000 to build their app, which is really cool

Tracy Apps:

Wow.

Angela Bowman:

That’s so cool, that’s really cool.

Amber Hinds:

And I feel like that has helped a lot. Our meetup, at least when I was there in Fort Collins, we had enough that we would meet twice a month, and we’d have a developer focus and a user focus. So, here in Georgetown, we pretty much do a user focus. We tried in the beginning to alternate, and it was like, people would come and they were like, “We have no idea what you guys are talking about.” I was like, this is just me and Bill teaching each other [crosstalk 00:10:05], I don’t know, you know? So mostly, we’re user focused. But, Fort Collins has a good feel. There’s a lot of people there, and a lot of tech stuff going on.

Angela Bowman:

I love it. I just actually spent the weekend in Fort Collins. I live in Boulder so I’m an hour away, but my daughter and granddaughter live there so I went up for the weekend and just played with them. Like, we spent all day at the park every day.

Amber Hinds:

Besides WordPress meetup that I miss, I also miss the breweries. We have two here-

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, and they have the best playgrounds too for little kids. They are-

Tracy Apps:

Breweries and playgrounds.

Angela Bowman:

That’s right. And you can bike to the mall.

Amber Hinds:

Also, in Fort Collins, they were the same a lot of the time, so the brewery with a playground.

Tracy Apps:

I’m from Milwaukee so I totally understand this.

Angela Bowman:

This culture thing we have going on.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, it’s funny, you were talking about… Back when I first got involved in just the tech community in generally here in Milwaukee, we had so much more. We had I think a web developer meetup, and then meetups started charging, so then they branched off because we’re all web developers so we did that. Then, Web414 came up, but then someone was like, “Oh, we need a web developer thing,” so then another one started up. Then, there was a web designer meetup that came. So, we had these three different levels just all working together. But then, I don’t know, it just probably wasn’t sustainable, or that culture seemed to just shift where people weren’t meeting up in person again. Now, this makes me wonder if now because we’ve been so isolated, that when we get back into where we can actually meet up safely, will that change? We’ll be like, “I’m going to go to all of these things,” or have we all-

Amber Hinds:

[crosstalk 00:12:00] that we won’t do it? Yeah, I don’t know. I think it would be interesting to see too, because there’s been some neat collaborations, like WordPress mega meetups and that kind of stuff, where a bunch of WordPress groups are doing virtuals. It’d be interesting to see how much of that continues.

Tracy Apps:

Well, and I like that idea, because you’re saying, you’re like, at Georgetown or whatever, they’re user focused and just stuff. So, the niche of developer, we want to do this hardcore, really complex things is small in more localities. But then, national or international, there would be that interest. So, I could see those kind of specific developer focused or UX/UI focused within WordPress could really do well, especially now we have all the technology, we’re used to it.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

Right?

Amber Hinds:

I know [inaudible 00:12:54] we were using Zoom because we’re a remote company, we’ve been using Zoom for a long time. I used to always have to explain to my clients what Zoom was, because we’re like, “This is how we’re going to meet with you. We prefer that over phone, because we can share screens.” And they’re all just like, “Wait a minute, what?” Now, everybody knows, it’s great.

Amy Masson:

Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

Yep.

Amy Masson:

Well, once this COVID stuff has passed and we are free to go places, I’m going to go to all the things and all the places. I don’t care if I could do it over Zoom, I just want to very out and be with my people.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah.

Amber Hinds:

There is definitely, some of the networking stuff, especially in the conference side or the WordCamp side, you just don’t get the same. I know that there’s some cool WordPress things that are more conference-y that have been happening, and they’ve been trying to have virtual sponsorships, and it’s not the same.

Tracy Apps:

Not the same, you’re right.

Amber Hinds:

[crosstalk 00:13:43] definitely go to those kinds of things. But yeah, I don’t know, I have moments when I’m kind of glad. It’s nice. Our youngest is 15 months old, so honestly, it wasn’t so bad spending more time with her last year than we might have otherwise.

Tracy Apps:

That’s nice. Yeah, I can totally see it going both ways. But then also, you talk about you focus on accessibility, and one of the big things that I have been noticing as well, especially when we’re seeing so many things having to rely on digital, how much more crucial that accessibility for everyone is. So, the awareness hopefully has gone up, right? And hopefully, those accessibility and access disparities will be better or made better. What kind of things have you experienced within the company of projects that you’ve been doing especially when it comes to accessibility and readjusting to life online versus in person?

Amber Hinds:

Well, I think, it’s interesting the conferences and digital event space, I feel like I’m not seeing as much progress on the accessibility side as I would like to see to be honest.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, same.

Amber Hinds:

I have a couple of connections that I’ve met through prior events or a member of the international association of accessibility professionals, which is great if you’re looking to learn about accessibility. I highly recommend it. And that’s an ongoing conversation that I’ve been having with some of them. There’s one woman, her name is Marilyn, she spoke at WordPress accessibility day so she has a talk about that. She is a deaf person, and she talks a lot about captioning and that kind of stuff. It’s interesting her just talking about Zoom and the challenges that it has presented for her. I wish I would see more, even a lot of diversity and inclusion conferences fail to think about accessibility, which is crazy to me that we don’t think about that.

Amber Hinds:

So, I think that’s one thing that we actually had a fair number of live conference clients that we’ve been working with for a number of years, and some of them have just gone on hiatus, and some of them have tried to transition to online. So, it’s something that we personally as an organization have been trying to be like, hey, this is something you should think about. But, it’s hard, and it’s hard especially for those events that were in person, and they were getting a lot of their funding… One of our really big conference clients, I think they lost more than half their revenue last year.

Amber Hinds:

So then, to say, you should pay somebody $200 an hour to do live captioning of your event is really hard, when they’re just trying to think about how can we transition to online. Now, we’re debating, we used to charge people $500 for a ticket, and now we’re maybe charging them 40, and there’s fewer sponsors because the sponsors are like, “Yeah, not worth it.” So, it’s hard, and I think that’s probably one of the biggest pain points I think in accessibility, is figuring out how to make the value really obvious to the companies, whether it’s an event or just a website accessibility, how to make that value make sense to them, but also how can we make it affordable. I know there’s a lot of companies like ours, and I mean, we’ve tried really hard to be thoughtful about how we do our audits and pricing for that, and all of that kind of thing. But, I’ve talked to other individuals at companies, where they’re like, “Our audits start at 15 or 20000 dollars, and I’m like, “for a small business owner, that’s less than what they paid for their website. They’re not going to do that.”

Angela Bowman:

More than what they paid for the website.

Tracy Apps:

More, yeah.

Amber Hinds:

Sorry, yes.

Amy Masson:

A lot more.

Angela Bowman:

A lot more

Amber Hinds:

[crosstalk 00:17:55] meant to say. It’s more, it’s a lot more, right? If they’re thinking, I paid like $5000… so then, it’s like trying to figure out, how can you make this affordable, or what can we do? Can we get more templates or out of the box WordPress themes that are accessibility ready to train people that are doing their own content creation so that it’s easier for them to make their websites accessible without having to go hire a company that’s going to charge them more than they have in their budget?

Tracy Apps:

Well, and one of the things that especially with web development when I do and when I talk through… even when I’m doing product design, accessibility doesn’t have to be a huge cost, but that requires you to start thinking about accessibility right from the first meeting, like right away because then you’re thinking through it, and then being able to build that in so you’re not then spending twice as much or three times as much to try to fix up things that could have been just done during the development phase. One of the things I did see, because I’ve been noticing a lot with captions and such, one thing I was a speaker at, Wordfest, and what I really kind of liked… First what they did is all of our talks were prerecorded, and we had to submit them early on. And they said, and here’s where you put your caption file. And I was like, oh, okay. So then, there was this talk about here’s some of tools to use this, and I was like, “Oh.” Now, all the prerecorded, all the sessions had captions in them without having to have that extra cost, but that was that balance between what’s a live event and then what’s prerecorded, and then they had the question afterwards. I thought it was a good balance, and it allowed for a little bit more accessibility considerations without adding the cost to it.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah, well, and I think it’s great too that they just said, “Here’s where you put your caption file,” so the assumption is everyone’s planning to give us captions, right?

Tracy Apps:

Exactly.

Amber Hinds:

A lot of people wouldn’t have thought of that.

Tracy Apps:

Exactly, and then there was this talk of where do I get this file, and like, “Well, try this.” Even just the free version will get you this because your talks were 30 minutes, so that falls within this free thing.” I was like, “Oh, look at that. That’s interesting, it works really well.” So, yep.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah. Yeah, that’s great.

Amy Masson:

Oh, I was just going to say, I noticed that you had instituted something when you organized WordCamp Denver to try to ensure that more women were speaking. Can you tell us more about that?

Amber Hinds:

Yeah, so the first year that I was a WordCamp Denver organizer, at least at that time, the way we handled speaker applications is they went onto a Trello board, and it was sort of organized by the categories they were in. Then, there weren’t a ton of us organizers so all would go and we would drag them over to these are ones we think are interesting. I started to notice, I was looking at all the names, and I was thinking… We didn’t ask any diversity questions on the speaker application, which I’m actually a huge proponent for, I think we should have quotas and we should ask that because it makes for a much better conference in my experience.

Amber Hinds:

But, I was just looking at the names, and of course you can’t fully gender people based on their names, but it became pretty clear that from at least what the names looked like that we had selected zero female speakers. We hadn’t notified anyone yet, but they were like, “We think we have our list,” and I looked at it and I was like, “Wait a minute.” So, I said, “Everyone pause. I’m going to go through,” because we did have flags where people could say, “We’re from Colorado,” because we were like, we’re going to give preference to people from Colorado, some of those things. So, I literally went through and I either gendered people, which is bad. But, I either gendered people or if I couldn’t tell, I would look at their LinkedIn, or try and see if I can figure out. I started putting flags on female, female, female, because… and I was like, “So, look at this. These are all the women who applied to speak, and we literally selected none.” So, I said, “We have to do something about this. We have to go back and revisit.” We do a lot of work with Lesbians Who Tech, which is a conference in the LGB-

Tracy Apps:

I love them, yep.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah, so they’ve been a client of mine since 2014, and one of the things that i love about Lesbians Who Tech, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Lesbians Who Tech event, but-

Tracy Apps:

I was at the one in San Francisco, the first event that they had. It was so much fun.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah. I have never been to San Francisco, but we’ve been to the New York one, and then when they do the roadshows, sometimes we’ll go depending on how close it is. But, Leanne Pittsford who is the founder, she has always, from the very beginning, said that we’re going to have diversity quotas on our speakers. That is the most, not just from a gender perspective diverse conference, but also from a racial perspective, the most diverse conference I have ever been to. I mean, if you go look, you can see. I don’t know what their exact stats, but they get a certain percentage of people who identify as black or African American, Latinx people, all of that sort of thing, people on the who gender perspective. So, it’s not only women, it’s not only lesbians even though that’s their name, they always have allies too, and they have male speakers, and trans speakers and all that, and it really brings a lot of value to the conference.

Amber Hinds:

So, that was one thing when I came on and I saw that at Word camp Denver, and it wasn’t intentional, nobody was saying… they were just looking at the top names. But, I think the thing is is you have to think what’s going to create a good, well rounded user experience of our conference, attendee experience? And the more diverse of voices you can have, the better it is. It’s also good I think for WordCamps. Sometimes, we might get the big name people and get all excited, which is awesome, but if you only pick people like that or you only pick people that have been in the industry for a really long time, they might bring stuff that is not as helpful to somebody who’s just getting started. Sometimes it’s great to have a speaker who, I’ve never talked at a conference before, I’ve only been working with WordPress for a year, but I’m excited about this thing. Attendees can relate to that because there are going to be attendees that are new too, and then that might inspire them to talk.

Amber Hinds:

So, that’s one thing that I [inaudible 00:25:01] besides the gender, but also looking at… I think it’d be great to ask people how long have you been doing WordPress, and then say, “We’re going to choose at least 10% of speakers have to be two years or less,” or something like that, and not just trying to get the big WordPress superhero names, that kind of thing.

Tracy Apps:

Well, I mean, and one of the things you said that whole like… I know people think of, oh, well, these quotas, what is that? You’re trying to stack it this way. I’m like, “No, really, because we have to be intentional to break that,” because we will. Just things that are subconscious, that we don’t even realize that go within our decisions is going to favor the status quo or the things that we’re used to. But then also, if we’re at the deciding table, and we are the people that are very well prominently displayed on the speakers and the organizers, and then we will also be the attendees. But, you have someone come in of a different color, a different race, a different background, and they don’t see themselves on the stage, they think, well, am I welcomed here?

Amber Hinds:

Yes.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah.

Tracy Apps:

Is this a place for me? So, having that intentionality is only going to help everything because then people will learn something from others and it’s going to welcome more people into that group, and make them feel like you are a part of this, and you are valued. That just benefits everyone.

Angela Bowman:

That’s why Tracy and I are here, because we met at a conference that had no women.

Tracy Apps:

Yep.

Angela Bowman:

Well, it did, but it was like, we counted. It was like 12%.

Amy Masson:

Yeah. And I noticed that at the very first WordCamp US . There were women speakers, but it was maybe like 25%. But, if you notice from 2015 to the last one, which was I think 50%, and somebody had to have made the point to do equality with women versus men speakers at that point. It had to have been a conscious decision.

Angela Bowman:

Well, and I remember that 2015 WordCamp because I… So, I think it was in 2013, I wasn’t chosen to speak, but I was really a part of the community, the local community because they were going after the titles of the people. So, I went to the organizers, and I said, “I don’t like this stuff, you know?” And I said, “I’m sorry, but you have to allow me to speak.” I had this very strongly worded email, and just like this is who I am, this is what I do, I’m a part of this, and you have to find a place for me to speak.” I was just like, [crosstalk 00:27:51]. Yeah, but they had all their [inaudible 00:27:55].

Angela Bowman:

But then, in 2015, the one that you did, I was I think more like invite… I think Patrick came to me and said, “Hey, we want you to do a talk,” and that may have been the one where you said, “Whoa, it’s all men,” because then someone came to me, and I hadn’t even applied I think, and they’re like, “We understand that you know about security, could you give a talk?” I was like, “Oh, well, I was begging to talk a couple of years ago, and had to wedge my way in.” It might have been 2012 actually, something, there was something that happened that it was just like, oh my gosh, this is crazy. But, when I look at the WordCamp Denver roster for that year that you worked on it, it’s all the women that I know in our community were speaking there, and there’s so many. It was amazing. So, I think that, yeah, that effort that you put through really brought the… These are women people know, they relate to, and they’re already apart of the community. To not see them there would’ve been weird.

Tracy Apps:

And you think about how you were like, “Oh wait, I need to do this.” How many women would do that? We’re like conditioned to not do that, and I think that was one of the big things when we started this, was like we want to be intentional in inviting people because we’ve had so many people like, “Oh, well, I don’t know, I just did this, I just made this largest plugin, the most popular plugin because I couldn’t find something.” And I was like, “Just?”

Amber Hinds:

Yeah, that’s amazing.

Tracy Apps:

Exactly, that’s amazing. And I could guarantee I know a good percentage of men, very capable and would not in flaunting way, but they would lean into that and be like, “I have done this.” We, as women, we’re like, “Well, I mean, I guess I kind of did that,” and that we’re just conditioned with the society. So sometimes, that requires that yeah, we’re inviting and reaching out to women or people of color or those that we don’t see, we’re intentionally doing that. That’s just because they are conditioned or wouldn’t step up and because they don’t feel like that’s their place. But, it’s still, that’s that balance there. I think that was one of the reasons why we were like, with all of the guests that we’ve had on the show, we’ve been like, people are like, oh, I never thought about being on a podcast. I was like, “But, you’re amazing.”

Amber Hinds:

Yeah, why aren’t you on 50 podcasts, right?

Tracy Apps:

Exactly. This community, WordPress itself would crumble without people like you.

Amy Masson:

So, I’m curious, when you notice that, that you haven’t picked any women, what was the ratio, if you remember, of women applicants to men applicants.

Amber Hinds:

so, I wouldn’t be able to tell you an exact number, but I feel like it was… It was easily double, if not more male applicants. So, that was, like Angela said, we actually went out and asked more women to speak. Patrick, by the way, has also done that for WooConf when he was organizing WooConf, so he’s really [crosstalk 00:31:12]-

Angela Bowman:

We love Patrick. Which was the most amazing conference I’ve ever been to. It gives me goosebumps to think about it, because in terms of feeling inclusivity and diversity and like I belonged, it was the only tech conference I went to that I felt 100% good and not insecure at.

Amber Hinds:

WooConf?

Angela Bowman:

WooConf.

Amber Hinds:

[crosstalk 00:31:28]-

Angela Bowman:

And I talked to Patrick, I said, I don’t know what you did here, but you did something, and it’s amazing.

Amber Hinds:

I spoke at WooConf in 2017 when my third daughter was four months old, and I took her with me. And they made me a nursing room, which was so nice.

Angela Bowman:

That’s what I remember. I actually met you.

Amber Hinds:

[crosstalk 00:31:51] that’s where we met, yeah-

Angela Bowman:

And you were at the nursing room. Yes.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah, no, it’s a great… So, I think the thing that’s interesting, besides going out if you don’t have them is also trying to do, and this is great for WordPress meetups to do, and I believe we did this in Fort Collins the following year before WordCamp Denver is we had a meetup all about speaking at WordCamp. We talked about what you need to do to apply, why you should do it, what are some ideas or topics, because it doesn’t just have to be crazy coding, it could be SEO or it could be how to write good content, it could be all these different things that people who have never been to a WordCamp might not know. But, I think the idea behind that too was to try and encourage some people who wouldn’t normally have thought about applying to speak to speak, and to give them the thought in their head, oh, this is something I can do, it’s not scary. I mean, word camps are great. That is the best place to start speaking.

Tracy Apps:

I agree.

Amber Hinds:

So, I think that’s something that helped, and I know Girl Develop It too, also we did one for them. Girl Develop It is an awesome meetup if you’re interested in learning more about code and networking with other women. I think that’s a big piece though too is trying to get out the word. I saw, I want to say it was like [inaudible 00:33:25] with their Teams conference. On their speaker application this year, it literally said, “We are not going to only pick people that are experienced speakers.” They wanted to know who was a beginner or hadn’t really spoken very much, and they wrote it, “This will not hurt you to give us an honest answer here because we are trying to… We will include mentoring too. So, if you’re nervous at speaking at a giant conference, it’s okay, you can still apply, and then if we select you, we will mentor you and coach you and help you figure out how to be a good speaker or how to [crosstalk 00:33:57]-

Amy Masson:

That’s amazing.

Amber Hinds:

Right? Which is so cool.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, for me, I remember once I realized, because I always thought, oh, I can’t, I don’t know enough code. I’m self taught. But, I knew a lot about design. Then, it wasn’t until I realized that… because I always just thought, oh, well, the stuff I know, just everyone knows, it’s just common knowledge. Then, when people are like, “Oh, wow, I didn’t realize you do that.” I’m like, oh okay, that’s valuable? So, understanding when conferences and WordCamps, they say, where no only looking for developer talks because people usually get intimidated by that, you can say, “Do you know something about SEO?” Spelling it out and being like, wait a minute, I do that, I didn’t know I could talk about that. That just opens up a whole other world.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah. Sometimes even just case study type talks, I really [inaudible 00:34:47], I think are so interesting, where someone is just like, they’re sharing their website journey and building it, or specific clients or something like that. They’re talking about here’s this problem we had and here’s how we fixed it. I feel like anyone who works with WordPress has a story like that, whether it’s their own website or it’s one they did for a client. We can learn so much from those kinds of talks too.

Tracy Apps:

I agree. I learned more from those than I do from a lot of other ones actually. I’m a person that I like to, I need to apply something to… I need real life application to something for it to stick, so that, I’m like, oh, I can relate to that, I can see it. Yeah, I think you’re right on that.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah.

Angela Bowman:

In terms of accessibility, I am working with the University of Colorado, and part of my contract is I have to have Double-A accessibility. It’s interesting because our budget, like you said, could double if we were to have to hire an accessibility company. But, I’ve run a lot of the CU sites through accessibility tools and they’re not all passing. So, what I do for my accessibility is I run a variety of tools, and I think about the colors. CU came up with brand colors that were not accessible at one point. So, they want us to pass accessibility, but the brand colors we’re forced to use are not accessible. But then, they changed it, and then they did come up with one color color that wasn’t black that was accessible and so we could use that for buttons, because light gold is not a good accessible color for accent.

Angela Bowman:

But yeah, so I run it through all the tools and stuff, and I just work things until they pass. And I test with the keyboard and make sure that I can navigate the site with the keyboard, and stuff. But, I feel like, wow, I’m not an expert. It takes hours though for a single site to run through all of the pages and make sure I use FacetWP plugin and the facets are not accessible, the inputs don’t have proper label. But, I found some jQuery where I could do some jQuery to make a proper ID for the select list, and write in a label in the html so it would pass accessibility. So, I’ve done things like that. Do you feel like novices in that way like I am. I’m a developer, so I know how to understand these things, can manage to make sites accessible, and how much do you feel like you really have to bring… At what point do you feel like you need to bring the experts in for the accessibility? Like more for apps or what…

Amber Hinds:

Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t call yourself a novice, right? If you’re a developer and you know how to do code-

Angela Bowman:

Okay. Okay.

Amber Hinds:

Maybe you haven’t done as much on the accessibility side, but you’re definitely not a novice, right? Because I think that, so a big portion of accessibility, which I’m sure you know is just how the content is entered on the page, and that’s a big thing that maybe a lot of people don’t think about as much. It’s theme, but it’s also in a lot of ways, it’s just how content is entered. Certainly, anyone can use different sorts of testing tools to figure that out. Do you use a screen reader when you do testing?

Angela Bowman:

No, but I would like to, and so I kind of would like… and we can put this in our show notes too later so we don’t have to necessarily have you list them all out, but I would like to use this opportunity since we have you that we could educate our listeners and we could put in the show notes for anyone listening, some tools that you would recommend, recommended by Amber Hinds.

Amber Hinds:

So, Macs all have voiceover on them, and that is free, it’s included in a Mac. If you are on a PC, then I typically recommend NVDA-

Angela Bowman:

Yes.

Amber Hinds:

And NVDA tends to work best in Firefox, but you can use it in Chrome too. And NVDA is open source and free. The other really popular screen reader that has a large user base is JAWS, and it is not open source, and it cost money. So, if you’re just trying to figure out screen reader testing, that might not be where you start. And I would say, the way we do it is we do keyboards, so you navigate through, make sure your focus state is there, your focus never gets lost the whole time down the page. Then, you do a loop back after we’ve fixed everything that’s keyboard problem, and then we do a loop back with screen readers, and we always test with at least two.

Amber Hinds:

I would say, if you are a developer, and you feel comfortable puzzling through problems, then 100% you can identify issues. Between the free scanning tools, whether you’re using WAVE, axe, if you’re familiar with that, comes from DQ, and it has Chrome and Firefox extensions, and it puts the reports in Dev Tools panel. I really like axe, I feel like it’s actually more thorough than WAVE is. Between those tools, and then also we have a plugin for WordPress called accessibility checker that does scanning similar, and it puts reports right on the dashboard, and your poster page edit screen, which is really useful when you’re handing the website off to a client, and they’re going to be adding new blog posts, or editing content on a page, because it will show them right there, oh hey, you missed a heading level, or your color contrast is wrong because your button, you didn’t pick the right colors. Even though, WordPress also now has a little waning about that, which is great.

Amber Hinds:

So, between that and doing the testing, I feel like anyone can probably figure out what the problems is, or what the problems are. What is maybe more challenging depending upon someone’s ability and coding is figuring out the fix for the problem. So, I think most people can tab through. We were just auditing a website that used a popular page builder, and it had a blog post carousel, and when you hit tab, it tabbed to blog posts that were not visible in the carousel. You had to go through I don’t know, five of them, and you’re just hitting tab. The only reason I know is because I have it showing me where my focus is in dev panels, I have consoles set to log where my focus is. So, I’m like, okay, I have to tab through an image and a title, and a read more button for five blog posts, so it’s like 15 tabs-

Angela Bowman:

Oh, until you can progress on the page?

Amber Hinds:

Well, but also before it even becomes visible on the three blog posts that are visible in the carousel because it was scrolling to the ones that aren’t visible. So, I think a lot of people, you could tab and be like, hold on, it’s tabbing, I have no idea where I am. But then, that’s where if you don’t have a lot of skills, you might be like, “Well, what do I do?” Honestly, my response for that, is there’s no reason to have your blog posts in a carousel, so you just get rid of the carousel. It’s way better than recoding this thing.

Angela Bowman:

Yes.

Amber Hinds:

And trust me, I do so much, my other top secret on this, if you can’t afford… we do user testing and we work with students from Texas School of the Blind and Visually Impaired, which is amazing. We hire them, and we can get students that are really experienced, and also students that are not super experienced with a screen reader, which is useful too, because it wouldn’t just be younger people, it could also be someone who is newly blind. They may not be as expert, and they’re just learning how to do it, could come on your website. But, if you can’t do a lot of user testing because of budgetary reason or whatever, then I like Hotjar-

Tracy Apps:

Oh yeah.

Amber Hinds:

Hotjar.

Tracy Apps:

I like Hotjar.

Amber Hinds:

So, Hotjar, you put a JavaScript snippet on, and it records sessions, so you can watch people navigate through your website. What also is really useful is it tells you what device they’re on and what browser so you can see all these different screen widths. It’s great for just, oh, did we miss one little thing in our responsive… Maybe we need to adjust our break point here. But, that’s one of our things that is also really useful because you can see how are people going down the page, what looks like they got confused on. Because accessibility, it’s about the digital, functional, but really what it comes down to is it’s more than needing WCAG, web content accessibility guidelines, it’s about making your website usable.

Tracy Apps:

Yes.

Amber Hinds:

So, part of accessibility is also having a navigation structure that makes sense, having a site map in the footer of your page so they can get to anything quickly, right? So, I feel like anyone can make their website accessible as long as they’re thoughtful and conscientious. That goes back to budget. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big budget, but there will be some problems that come up that someone who is more on the designer or the WordPress power user side-

Angela Bowman:

Well, like that jQuery problem, I had to use jQuery to solve the problem. Yeah.

Amber Hinds:

Yeah, so some people might not be able to do that, and so that’s where you might want to hire a developer or you might want to hire an accessibility specialist who can also be like, “Oh hey, here’s some other items you missed.” Then, there’s things that are nuanced, that doesn’t get caught by testing tools. So, for example, our scanner and any scanner, like WAVE, axe, they’ll tell you if an image is missing an alt, but it can’t really verify the quality of your alt text. So, one thing we see a lot on our websites where clients are trying to be really diligent is they get overly verbose in their alt text, and they put these really long descriptions of images that are just extraneous and don’t make any sense and they’re going to slow someone down. Or another thing we see is they describe the image even though it’s a linked image, and when you have a linked image, which is what we call a functional image, the alt text shouldn’t actually describe what the image is, it should describe the [crosstalk 00:45:36]-

Angela Bowman:

Should describe the link.

Amber Hinds:

Where it’s going.

Angela Bowman:

Yep.

Amber Hinds:

So, I saw this on a website last week, and it was like, they were just saying, “Map icon,” when really it goes to their contact page when you click on it, or that kind of thing. Well, but, you don’t want someone to think if I follow this link, I’m getting a map icon, right? Or even your logo on the home page, it shouldn’t just say logo, it should say “visit Equalize Digital’s homepage.” [crosstalk 00:46:03]-

Angela Bowman:

Well, and that’s what’s really confusing because I think the SEO community really conflicts with the accessibility community, because in SEO, they’re like, “Use your alt text for SEO,” and accessibility is like, “Use your alt text for accessibility,” and the two things do not go together.

Tracy Apps:

[crosstalk 00:46:22] well, for me, I feel like they should because good SEO is going to… If your site is, and for me, usability and accessibility should bet same thing because otherwise you’re saying, “Usability for only a portion of my audience is usable, but then the other part I’m not worried about.” But technically, Google wants things that are going to be usable by everyone and resourceful, so I don’t understand. I think they don’t combat each other.

Angela Bowman:

They do. On alt text, they totally conflict because if it is a linked image, it serves a different purpose than an image in the body content.

Amber Hinds:

But, I think the thing I always say if somebody says something to me like that is, Google doesn’t like keyword stuffing. That’s a thing we used to do, make the alt text on every image on the page just have the keywords for that page. But, Google’s gotten smarter, and they don’t like that. So, no, you should really describe your image, and it should make sense in the flow of the page as they’re interacting. There’s a reason why you chose that image and you put that image in that position and not somewhere else. It needs to make sense. And if you do it that way logically, and it makes sense, then it is good for SEO.

Tracy Apps:

Exactly.

Amber Hinds:

And trying to just stick a bunch of keywords on it, or repeat the post title as the alt for the image, people think that’s good for SEO, but it’s not.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, exactly. Google figures out oh, they’re doing this to game the system, and then they’re like, well, nope, we just improved it, and now they are not on any of the first five pages.

Amber Hinds:

And that’s what happened [crosstalk 00:48:07]. I was on page one or two and now all of a sudden, I can’t even find my post anymore, right?

Tracy Apps:

Yep, exactly, exactly.

Amber Hinds:

I mean, I feel like it’s only a matter of time before SEO becomes a ranking… or sorry, accessibility becomes a ranking signal.

Amy Masson:

I think it already is.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah, I agree. Like, Google also already gives you kind of a prominence or priority for responsive and mobile friendly sites. I think same thing. Yeah, I agree.

Amber Hinds:

I think it may be a little bit, but I think at some point, they’re going to straight up say to us, “This impacts your rank in search.” I mean, hints on that is Lighthouse includes an accessibility score and also maybe two or three years ago now, Google put out a developer focused course on Udacity that’s free, so anyone can take it, on accessibility. I’m like, they’re starting to put effort into this, it’s only a matter of time.

Tracy Apps:

Nice.

Amy Masson:

Well, it has been a great conversation with you today. Before we go, can you tell everybody where they can find you online?

Amber Hinds:

Yep, so I’m at EqualizeDigital.com, and I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. So, my LinkedIn name is just amberhinds, all one word, and that’s probably the best way to find me. You’re also welcome to email me, amber@equalizedigital.com. I love talking accessibility.

Angela Bowman:

Awesome. Thanks.

Tracy Apps:

Thank you.

Amber Hinds:

Thank you.

Introduction:

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