Talk by Merary Alvarado
The importance to understand correctly the concept of disability is imperative to create WordPress Sites accessible and usable for all users, don’t matter the background, language, ability and technology savviness.
But, how can we translate this concept into technical requirements to improve the user experience? Is this relatable?
With the information provided in this talk, you will be able to understand the concept of disability, translate this into technical requirements and create sustainable websites, applications, and other digital products by including a robust accessibility governance model.
Watch Merary’s Presentation
Amanda: Okay welcome or welcome back to WordPress Accessibility Day everyone. My name is Amanda. I’m based here in Cleveland Ohio. It is not yet daylight out so it seems a bit dark and I will be your host for the next three sessions here. I have the honor of introducing the next session which is the Digital Transformation or the Social Digital Transformation with Merary Alvarado.
A little bit about Merary. She is a software engineer and accessibility evangelist with six plus years of proven experience in executing development and leading accessibility processes in digital strategies for Fortune 100 clients. She has collaborated, collaborated to create national standards and best practices to be applicable across Costa Rica for digital educational and physical environments to improve their independent living. She is the co-lead of the Accessibility Web Costa Rica a public group on Facebook which develops digital content, training, conferences, events webinars in Spanish to create awareness about the importance of accessibility in the digital era.
So welcome to Merary, very excited to hear her talk. Please feel free to add your questions to the YouTube chat feed there and we can answer those at the end. So let’s get started.
Merary: Perfect so thank you very much for that introduction. I would like to start sharing my screen right now.
Okay so, thank you so much for that introduction. I’m really happy to be here participating right now in this event because it’s the first one. I’m, I’m really happy to be participant because it’s important at least for Costa Rica because we are from a Latin American country being presenting today here is really really great for us.
So accessibility as a Digital Transformation or Social Digital Transformation. What do we, what we can say about that. So I would like to start telling a story. When I was 16 years old I was sat down at the first row at a bus just waiting to go to the high school. And suddenly, one woman stood up in front of the door bus caring a baby. She was started talking with her hands and I didn’t understand. I was shocked, neither the bus driver he was shocked as well. And suddenly the answer of the bus driver was close the door in her face. I just remembered the feeling to, to feel so bad going to the high school and I couldn’t forget her face behind the door with the baby. She wait for a couple of seconds and then leave.
That experience for me was important and in terms of disabilities it was my first experience talking or interacting with a person with disabilities. Even though I was 16 years old I didn’t have the opportunity to talk before, with any person with disabilities, at that moment with a deaf person. One of the funny things is that after like 10 years I met Martha. Martha was that woman that was at that time, at that moment and she assigned me right now the sign that we have in Costa Rica. She gave me my name for the deaf community.
So I would like to say thank you very much for being here to watching my presentation. I’m super happy you are here in YouTube just watching that. So I would like to start saying one thing. There is important to mention a couple of important concepts that we need to understand when we are talking about accessibility. Sometimes we assume that accessibility is just technical aspects, but I think implied it implies more other concepts.
For example, the first one that I would like to start mentioning is Inclusive Economy and you probably said, I’m sorry Merary we are talking about accessibility. So what Inclusive Economy needs to be related with that conversation? Well a lot. When we are talking about inclusive economies we are talking about the violence to include all people, doesn’t matter the background, doesn’t matter the level or savings in technology or the way uh the color looks like, the gender, doesn’t matter. Neither the disability. So that’s why uh talking about inclusive economy is important, because we are entrepreneurs, we have businesses, we lead some projects and thinking about this is we’re really important to create more accessible products and services to many users as possible and of course try to be more inclusive with all of users. Now one of the other important concepts that we need to understand is Disability.
Because if we want to create the accessible content, we need to understand what disability means. And actually an accessibility, well sorry disability, is complex. It’s not easy to understand. It has too many variables and we definitely understand that. But one of the things that I really need to mention here or to recall is that disability is not the problem. We need to understand what disability means, but disability is not the problem, is usually the infrastructure the way that we create the sites, uh the type of services. If they are so complex. So we need to create more things that are accessible. So that’s why it’s important to mention that the complexity of those combinations like the disability concept and also what we have around of us, it’s important. So I would like to make a question. What do you understand about disabilities?
We already read about the disability meaning, but what do you understand about disability? Because if you don’t understand the concept in the way that we expect it, we cannot create accessible websites. And you probably said, what what are you talking about? Well, usually when we think about disabilities we think and we think about disabilities with different perceptions. We have some bias or we have assumptions. We usually think about disability in different levels. For example, in Costa Rica sometimes I heard that said, oh poor babies, poor angels. And we are limiting people with disabilities to access some information, because we are not properly understanding what disability means.
And for example, we we usually associate that disabilities are always people who is deaf or who is blind or who have some physical disabilities, but we have a range of many disability types that we need to understand as well. And other things that is most related to business is probably in our team or in in in our project, we have a more accessible culture. But what about our clients, what about their business owners, what about our team members, what they think about disability. So they are understanding what is disability and why is important accessibility, when they are creating wire-frames, for example, or they are creating websites. So that’s important to mention.
So I would like to just talk as a high level about the different disabilities that we have. We have the permanent one which is the one that we can see. We can see people who is blind or people who is deaf or people with mobility impairments. That’s the permanent one. Then we have the other which is the one the temporary. For example, you are fan of rugby, martial arts, or if you are fan of American football, so sorry, if you have an injury you will be disabled for a couple of days. You will not able to do the things as the way you did before, so you need to understand that some of the things will be difficult for you, but temporary. Okay, then we have the third one and it’s the situational and I would like to illustrate that within the story.
As you can notice, I have an a strong accent, Costa Rica accent. The “r” is super strong in in Costa Rica accent. And I will like, I love to visit, I would like to to visit Korea. And can you imagine me talking in English with a Korean citizen with also they have a strong accent. Well yes, that would be a situational disability, but I would like to clarify that is not physical, is not mental, it’s just situational. It’s because the language. And finally we have the invisible disabilities and nobody in this call is is safe of that because everyone has been suffer these kind of disabilities, at any time in your life.
So that’s why it’s important to understand that invisible disabilities are really important now. And why is this important when we know what is disability, what are the types of disabilities, we can definitely understand what are the Internet Disabilities. This classification implies five main levels like Visual, Hearing, Mobility & Dexterity, Speech and Cognitive. Being Cognitive the most common in internet.
So also when we understand disabilities we need to understand what will be the Governance Models. What will be the laws that we need to cover. We talked a lot about Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and also I didn’t, I didn’t miss some of really great talks between yesterday and today, really great talks about different normatives, like Section 508 or WAI-ARIA, so that is great.
So if we understand what will be our governance model in terms of the digital product that we are creating, that will be really great, because for example talking about United States, for example, we need to consider International Levels, Federal Levels or Estate levels depending on the industry. Now taking, keeping in mind the previous information, what will be the Best Practices in terms of accessibility to create better sites, to be participant in inclusive economies and also make this kind of digital transformation? And I would like to start saying you need to define the status quo. And when I say that, a couple of days back I, I needed to start working with a project. I needed to just let some clients that why it’s important accessibility. And that’s the question that I received.
Do you know how much is the percentage of people with disabilities who access the site? I feel that way. Why? Because some people think that disability is just a number and this one this is not good. So we can just not disregard people with disabilities, because yeah it’s it’s it’s, is that it? No, we need to be really inclusive when we are creating sites. So I would like to mention this project
The Valuable 500. This product project is led by Caroline Casey which is great you need to listen to, listening her, listening her talking. So she is great and she led on a specific survey with different leaders, business leaders of great companies and one of the the topics that she discovered was that 6 6 66, sorry 56 percent of the global managers that are participating on the business plans of their companies didn’t, didn’t think about disability. And as I mentioned before is not accessibility, is disability the main point on the agenda so you can start working better accessible products. And I would like to invite you to just go back one year and try, to go work to look for the World Economic Forum, because that was for the first time the entire World Economic Forum talking about inclusive business includes inclusion, uh diversity and they talk a lot about that.
And they provide some really great recommendations about what will be good in terms of business and why accessibility is very important. So now going back to the Accessibility Best Practices in terms of our sites, what we need to do first? Well, try to Reshape the Bias. Try to include accessibility as part of the culture of my team starting with me. If I did, if I uh, if I am the leader right, because it’s important to start thinking strategically and create best practices in our team. Now try to look for support for executive managers. If they understand that accessibility is important, you can all start creating really great products.
And of course you need two advices from experts in the area, so you will learn more about what will be the best strategy for you and for your digital product. Then we have the Scope. We can do a lot of things with accessibility. We can include accessibility in everything, but sometimes we are limited and we have some misconceptions about that. We can create disruptive products, innovative products just by including accessibility. So accessibility will be great for that. Try to understand what is the business need, what is what would be your audience, what type of of project or service are you providing to to to the clients and try to include accessibility in all the process. Okay?
Now what what would be the cost? Well, sometimes I heard people say, accessibility is super expensive and yes it could be expensive, but if you include accessibility until testing rounds, without including since the planning, since their requirements validation, or since that not including in the design portion, it will be really difficult to minimize the cost. So it will be really expensive at that, at that stages in the life cycle. But if you are including best practices since the beginning, it will be really good for your teams.
Now Test Test Test and Test that’s the most important. We cannot avoid the, the importance that testing is the most critical part in terms of accessibility. Why? Because of the one hundred percent, seventy percent of the effort and the notification or the clarification for the users that the site is accessible or not, depends on manual testing strategies. So it’s important to create an specific strategy when we have trained resources that can also provide really good recommendations in terms of accessibility, because it will be the specific experience of the user, use using assistive technology and the digital product.
So we will have a real perspective about if our site is accessible or not. Then we have the automated tools which is another thing that we will cover in the next slides, but also we need to try to balance these two strategies to create a really good process. Now I would like to give you some tips and tricks in order to create some user stories. If you don’t have any anything of this created in your team, so that’s the the the starting point. So it’s important to create a Diverse Persona. When we are creating the sites we usually design what will be our, what what type of user we will have, what will be our audience, right? But usually we we we don’t think about the different abilities of the users.
Okay we usually think in our in our final product, but we are usually not think so much about the audience. So, by having this kind of tools you will learn what type of screen readers you will need in order to test and also what type of checkpoints in InDesign we need to apply, before to send everything to development. So it will be really great for you and this is a great example. This is a reference, you can check the links below and you can check that we have some really good practices. If we, if we create that, you will have a really great vision that what will be the specifications that we need to also consider during development process, design process, testing process, and in the final product, okay. Now related to WordPress, the themes, the selection of themes, it’s really really important.
Not every theme that is trendy is accessible. Even though if they are super shiny, if they’re they have a lot of colors and combinations and super complex functional elements, not all of them are accessible. So that’s why it’s important to keep that in mind. And the other thing that I would like to mention before to proceed to the next sessions, uh next section, is Be Aware the Lawsuits. Why? Because usually when we are thinking about accessibility, we think about what will be the specific technical aspects that we need to cover when we are creating our product.
What will be the test strategy, what will be the requirements? However, I would like to mention that a QA miss will be a lawsuit. So most of the users that impose some lawsuits to you, or to your company are not just mentioned that the site is inaccessible. It’s because it’s they are creating the lawsuits because you are excluding people with disabilities. So that’s why it’s important to keep in mind even the small details in terms of accessibility, because this is really important. Now what are the recommendations that I have for you today? For example, if we’re talking about WordPress you will have like a Quick Start Guide.
So you will have an Accessibility Handbook. You will find information about training resources, you will have best practices in terms of design designs and content creation, because it’s important to create accessible content as well and the visual presentation of the pages should be clear and easy to understand, even though the digital product X is complex itself. And then you will have some checklist testing strategies and also you will find some, the most common accessibility defects.
So you will be able to identify properly what will be the strategy to follow in terms of development or design of quality assurance, for example. Those, those two options are, I love these two options. I think the information that is included in these blocks are really good and you will find really best practices for developers, very technical so that is great in terms to apply best practices to existing components on your sites. And also you will have some tools to evaluate your site and with really great references.
Also one of the things that I like the most of those blogs are related to some aspects to cover public sites, because it’s different when we are working with private sites and public sites, the exposure will be a little bit different. So by having this reference will be really great. Then do you remember that we talked about about Themes? Okay we have a really great future here.
Actually when you are going to the theme directory you will find a tag that says Accessibility Ready. So as soon as you select that, you will find a list of different themes that are accessible. However, I would like to recall that even though you are clicking this label and you are seeing some things that are accessible, you need to take care of the opportunities for improvement that we can also apply after, to select this theme. Just, just, just keep an eye on that. Then we have some WordPress Accessibility Tools, for example, I would like to mention in in two ways.
The first of all, the first one is the WordPress Accessibility Plugin. It is really good. You can use it and integrate to your WordPress pages and right and try to make some, some audits using this plugin. And actually it’s important to have an specific strategy for automation. As I mentioned before, the most important is to cover the manual portion. But actually when we are also using automated tools, we can cover a really great aspects in terms of code.
So in this slide, in this slide I’m providing you some of the best tools that I work with in the past years and this is really great for you. And it’s important to mention that it’s a combination of tools that you can have better results. I cannot say that just by using the WordPress Accessibility Plugin is the one. No, probably you can use it to mix for example, with the Axe or expert or together with Accessibility Insights, because this kind of tools will provide you different reference, technical reference, so you can have some reference from one and some reference for others.
So you can create a really great strategy.
Then based on the screen readers, one of the most common questions that I have when I work with different projects is what about the screen readers? They usually ask if there is the, the, like what is the most critical screen reader that I need to to consider when we are creating? Well, I can say that it depends. It depends of the analytics of your site. For example, if the most visited browser is Chrome so you can need to try to design your strategy based on Chrome, but actually there is a combination of the screen readers that work, that works really good with Chrome and so on. So and now in on the screen I’m presented to you what is, sorry, what is the best combination that you can keep in mind when we are working with the screen readers?
Actually you need to also consider if you are working with native applications, because it will be a little bit different, right, in terms of of of screen readers and the combination. It will be different in terms of gestures, also, because we need to use gestures and other additional tools that we can apply to improve the accessibility.
And I will give you a gift. In this case, Include People with Disabilities.
It’s important just to don’t take just for granted that the, all the checkpoints that you are doing at are enough. So this is a really great page that I want to provide you. The name of the page is Fable. So you will find people with disabilities as part of the board of this company, so they can provide you in real in real time, what are the the most common defects of your page.
We, if this page has specialized users in screen readers and magnification tools and also in code best practices, so they can provide you the tools you need in order to create a really great content. Then a couple of takeaways about this project is try to reshape your bias. Try to think differently, try to educate yourself and try to unlearn things because usually when we are working in the technical part we are superstructure, right. And we usually try to follow rules, but in this case we need to think differently.
We need to just think in ways that that are not common when we are talking about accessibility. So that’s important to reshape their bias. Also always think in your users. There, there is no more important to an honest feedback from your, for from your users, so try to keep in mind the user experience.
What will be the experience of an screen reader user. So you can connect with different companies depending of the state you are, or depending of the country you are, there are specific like companies or services that you can send your link and those persons with disabilities can help you how to validate, what is the current experience from the from them in their site, so they can give you really real and honest feedback about your site so please keep in mind that option. And also, it’s important to ask for expert advice.
Why? Because sometimes when we start creating the accessibility process we, the learning curve is really long okay, because we need to understand what will be the success criteria that we need to cover in terms of of of the development code, what will be well, when will be enough to have the successful criteria on, or when can do more in terms of that success criteria. So that’s, it’s really important to ask for expert advice. And definitely, and the last one is, if you are an entrepreneur you are a business lead, you are working creating products, you are working creating services, please always keep accessibility in your agenda.
Try to don’t to don’t avoid this comment, this conversation, because it’s really important. You are creating opportunities to make more people with disabilities just get a really good education and some new job opportunities and everything related to knowledge management, etc. So if you are creating this kind of projects, thinking also in inclusion, that would be really great. So and also I would like to keep keep keep in touch with anybody so I would like to provide my point of contact. So that’s it, thank you very much.
Amanda: All right that was awesome Merary, I learned, I learned a lot. Your slides were wonderful. We do have plenty of time for questions, so and we have a couple questions here, but if anyone else does have questions make sure you add them to the chat, so we can we can ask those. So the first question is, how would you persuade a company about the benefits of developing and implementing an accessibility strategy in less than five minutes?
Merary: Okay that’s a really good question and a difficult one to answer, because one of the the most important things for companies is how will be my benefit, in terms of money, right? If we are including accessibility. And when we talk about accessibility, accessibility, we will not receive that money during after the first implementation.
It will be with a time, so make the different business owners or leaders understand that vision is a little bit difficult.
But they notice with the time when we create really good metrics, when we can create prototypes, when we have some empathy labs, for example, you can create also empathy labs in your own company. So you can have real users, real sorry, I don’t want to say that, people with disabilities just testing different sites and also you as a owner of this product, you can test using different tools so you can understand what is the current behavior for different users.
So based on that experience you can create a different atmosphere so they will able to understand, dependent of the products. So we can and a really great response response and then we have just kind of wait for better responses for other leaders, so depending on the business as well so.
Amanda: Right, that was less than five minutes so.
Amanda: Perfect, um the next question is, as an accessibility and US 508 expert, do you think that companies that currently use WordPress as a CMS or a platform to create content, can be exposed to legal lawsuits due to their lack of accessibility?
Merary: Oooh, that’s that’s a question that is important to answer and yes, definitely yes. So you need to take care about all details when we are talking about CMS it’s critical to also use other type of normatives or best practices like ATAG which is one of the the ones that you can integrate with the WCAG and also with the Section 508 and try to create a best strategy uh for CMS, but yes, you can be affected about that.
Amanda: Okay, all right and then we’ve got one more question I see right now and it is, have you tried the latest latest version of WordPress and did you see any major issues with accessibility?
Merary: Well, yes I saw a couple of things, mostly of the standards in keyboard navigation for some functional components. And so there is important to understand what are the keyword navigation, best practices you can find that information when you are using WAI-ARIA.
So there isn’t a specific chapter talking about what will be the keyword expectations so you can use that as reference, but yes that’s the most common like diff, I don’t want to say difficult, but uh the most common error that I noticed which is the keyword navigation or the expected keyword navigation for some component, fusion components.
Amanda: Okay fabulous. Thank you for taking the time to answer those. I also had a question, because you talked about personas and in, I’m in marketing and so you know we’ve taken the time to talk about personas, but actually this was very enlightening because we actually hadn’t considered access, accessibility within that and I just was wondering, how do you go about gathering data to incorporate disabilities into personas and how do you prioritize you know, as you’re saying these different levels of accessibility and different disabilities. I know from experience developing personas could be a full-time job in some cases, so.
Merary: Yes well actually, one of the best practices that I learned with the past years is try to understand properly what what what is what is the information included in the WCAG guidelines. So based on the different
success criteria that we have, we also have some specific sections that we can find a scenario they are looking to solve, when when we have users with these kind of abilities or using a specific type of assistive technology.
So based on that experience and also providing just the site to a specific projects that include people with disabilities so they also can provide you some reference. And one of the other things that that I noticed as well was that include people with disabilities in your team, so they have a different perspective, so they can provide you some reference about how they access the site.
Because sometimes when we are working with the screen readers and everything we have our own experience right, but we are not users from of this assistive technology so by having users that are experts with assistant technology, we also have some different ambitions. But also I have some lists that we have already created also I can talk with you later and share with you some information so that that can help you out with that.
Amanda: Okay wonderful wonderful, thank you very much. Again I don’t see any more questions right here, but you did an amazing job so much, so much good information.
So I just want to say thank you so much again and thank you to everyone for attending this session with Merary and I. You can continue the conversation on the WordPress Accessibility Day site on the page for this talk. Merary provided her contact information as well so and you can continue to follow the event conversation on Twitter @wpad2020 and #wpaccessibilityday. So don’t forget to attend the next talk which is The Case for Captions with Abha Thakor
which will be actually on a different YouTube stream. The link is posted there in the YouTube chat and you can also access it from the home page of the WordPress Accessibility Day site. So we’ll be hopping on over there in about 20, 23ish minutes, so yeah we will see you there after the break. Thanks again everyone.
Merary: Thank you very much, bye.