We Discuss Why Accessibility Is Important For a Membership Website in 2024

With Special Guest Bet Hannon From Accessicart.com.

Boost user engagement in 2024 with an accessible membership website. Learn why accessibility is vital for your online community today.

Discover the crucial role of accessibility for membership websites in 2024. This video delves into ensuring all users, including those with disabilities, can navigate and engage with your platform seamlessly. Learn about the latest trends and legal requirements surrounding web accessibility to stay ahead in the digital landscape.

#1 – Bet can you give some background info and origin story around Accessicart.com and also can you some insights on what accessibility?

#2—What are some things membership website owners need to understand when it comes to having members who are European-based when it comes to accessibility?

#3 – Can you give some info on the $5,000 tax credit from the US government to make websites more accessible?

#4—Can you give some insights on why Overlay plugins like AccessiBe are so problematic and can never make your site fully accessible?

#5 – How will AI change SEO and accessibility in the next 18 months?

#6—If you had your time machine (H. G. Wells) and could travel back to the beginning of your career and business journey, what essential piece of advice would you give yourself?

This Week Show’s Sponsors

LifterLMS: LifterLMS

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The Show’s Main Transcript And Links

[00:00:00.000] – Jonathan Denwood

Welcome back, folks, to the Membership Machine Show. This is episode 76. In this episode, we’re going to be discussing accessibility. What is it? Why it is especially for a membership stroke community-focused website. I’ve got a special guest. I’ve got an expert in the space. I’ve got Bet Hannon from AccessCart. It should be a great discussion. She knows everything about this subject. So, Beth, can you give us a really quick intro before we go into the main meat and potatoes of this great show?

[00:01:04.120] – Bet Hannon

Yeah. So I had a first career, and I think you were asking about where we came from, and how we got into doing this. And I had my first career in nonprofit management. I spent about 12 years. And the last few years of that, I was doing more techy-geeky things around communication for them, email newsletters as those were starting to become popular in drag-and-drop websites. And in 2008, my position was downsized at the beginning of the financial crisis. And I stumbled into freelancing for a little bit. And then I just never had occurred to me that people would pay to do that stuff, just that stuff. And then quickly built an agency. We were doing mostly WordPress development, and we did some email newsletters, too, but we gravitated into web development. And then in 2017, well, I started the WordPress meetup in Fresno, and one of the folks I met there led to us having, as a client, a large agricultural water district in California, and they’re a part of the state of California government. And so they let us know in 2017 that they needed to be accessibility compliant, and we didn’t know much about that.

[00:02:23.930] – Bet Hannon

And initially, I said, oh, I think I need to refer you to somebody else for that. And they said, well, bring somebody in, but we want you all to continue to work with us day to day, which was looking back a huge investment in our team. Our team learned more about it, and started learning about accessibility. And it was just mind-blowing to realize that all of us on the team had people in our lives who needed accessibility in one way or another, and just the power of what it meant to be a part of making the web a better place for people with disabilities. And so we’re trying to do more and more things around accessibility. And you may know that there are a lot of services that focus on accessibility for government websites and for higher education. But We were starting to realize that there’s not a lot in the space for people for e-commerce. And 82 % of the websites that get sued are e-commerce. And they get sued because they’re high-user interaction sites, like membership sites, right? There are a lot of things that are going on on e-commerce sites and membership sites where the users are logging in and they’re doing things on the site.

[00:03:40.540] – Bet Hannon

And so we realized there was this opening, this opportunity to begin to do more for e-commerce and related high-user sites, more direct to the public website. So in 2022, we rebranded as AccessiCart I think back, maybe that wasn’t the best choice of name. People tell me it sounds like a plugin, but we’re a services agency. You do what you do. And so we do services around web accessibility, and we are becoming more platform agnostic, because a lot of what we do is just looking at things from the front end of the site, the testing. And so we can work. We have several clients that are on Shopify for example, and we can begin to work with things there. But we provide… We still do some traditional audits, but we’re doing some more… Well, we can talk more about that if you want, but some services that are more ongoing and try to be more effective for helping people.

[00:04:49.120] – Jonathan Denwood

It’s obvious we have a true expert here, but before we go into all of this, I’ve got a couple of messages from our major sponsors. We will be back in a few moments, folks. Three, two, one. We’re coming back, folks and I just want to point out that we’ve got some fabulous special offers from the sponsors, plus a curated list of the best plugins and services to help you build your membership community website in 2024. You can get all these free goodies by going over to wp-tonic. Com WP-tonic. Com/deals, wp-tonic. Com/deals, and you’ll find all the goodies there. What more could you ask for? That’s what I say. So let’s go into it. So accessibility, when somebody doesn’t know what the landscape is, or maybe somebody in their organization or somebody they know brings up accessibility and some of the things that they should be concerned about, but they know nothing about it. How do you attempt to explain it to them?


[00:06:13.740] – Bet Hannon

That’s a good question. So I think the most important thing is to step back and realize that not everybody uses your website like you might assume they might. So I think sometimes we all assume that our users are in some perfect environment with a large monitor, and it’s well lighted, and all of that, right? And part of beginning to think about accessibility is realizing that people have a variety of ways that they’re going to come and use your website, right? So they may be coming in poor lighting. They may be on their phone in the bright sunlight. All of those are contextual. Then people may have limitations that might be temporary. They might have broken their hand and they can’t use their mouse for a while, or they may have more permanent limitations. They may be blind. People who are blind, for example, use a screen reader that reads out loud to them, not just the text on the page, but all of the context that’s in things like alt text and the semantic HTML. But if they are paralyzed, they can’t use a mouse, they have an adaptive device that comes down to keyboard navigation.


[00:07:25.870] – Bet Hannon

So it’s just really thinking more about how can you make your website functional for the widest variety of people, the most inclusive group of people, because you would never build a brick and mortar store and then just leave in place barriers that prevent 25 % of people from coming in. You want to just continue to make sure that you are making it available to the most number of people.


[00:07:57.720] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s great. But you got any views why? Because I’ve been involved with some accessibility projects, and the free… I forgot the actual Oh, God, I should have re-read up on this a little bit, but the week has just gone flown by. But the last one I did was about over a year ago, and one of my team was deeply involved in it. And it’s three levels.


[00:08:33.640] – Bet Hannon

Oh, the website content accessibility guidelines? Yes, the guideline.


[00:08:37.680] – Jonathan Denwood

And the whole subject seems still to be a bit vague to some extent. And if it was clarified a bit more, and I was amazed. I did do a little bit of a dive, even though I was going to leave it, the majority of work, to a more experienced team member that had done a lot of work in this space. I just felt that I needed, and I was amazed at the lack of resources. Are there any good resources out there?


[00:09:10.160] – Bet Hannon

Oh, there’s some amazing resources. So in the WordPress community, one of the best ones is the WordPress Accessibility Meetup. So you can find them on meetup. Com. They’re completely online, two meetups a month, one in the morning and one in the every month. And they have a huge backlog of some great presentations. They’re getting some of the best folks around accessibility, not just in WordPress, but the wider accessibility experts community. So there’s some great help there. And then related to that group, there’s a Facebook group for that. And folks there are very generous about, if you have questions, you can come, you can ask your questions, and people will respond Those are two really great resources for folks, especially within WordPress.


[00:10:04.890] – Jonathan Denwood

What about somebody that’s just got… Just got. I meant somebody that has a membership or a community website, and they just want a reasonably good introduction. Are there any PDFs or websites? Maybe your own website. Do you provide a lot of-Yeah, we have a lot of…


[00:10:28.000] – Bet Hannon

Well, we have some things in our blog. We have some tutorials. There are some in there. But I think going back to that accessibility meetup, you’re still going to find there are some great intro level pieces about how you can get started and beginning to look at things. So, yeah, don’t discount. It’s not like when I say they’re bringing in some experts, yes, some of them are more, I would say, advanced level things that they’re working on, but a lot of them are really just intro level things as well. So check those out.


[00:11:00.850] – Jonathan Denwood

So what I like to do in these discussions, in these chats with experts like yourself, is to give the listeners and viewers a broad outline on a particular subject, and then also give them some guidance on some practical steps which they might be able to apply. We talk about membership in general and building community-focused websites in general, but with a focus on WordPress and Buddy Boss. Are there somebody that probably didn’t notice, and for some reason it comes on their radar, are What are some practical things, some first steps they can do to improve the situation before maybe they decide to get some outside consultation?


[00:11:56.980] – Bet Hannon

Yep, absolutely. So we know from folks who have done a bit of research that there are three big issues that are, I would say not on every website, but across the entire web, that’s estimated that these issues, these three issues make up about 75 or 80 % of all the issues on the web. And that would be having alt text on your images. And you want to take care with that, and then making sure that you have good heading structure so that you’re using… A lot of times people will use the headings in the WordPress editor as a way to style text, and it’s really not intended that way. It’s really intended for structuring your content, like the old high school essay outlines we saw, some of us had to do, the Roman numerals, and then the Roman numeral one, and then an A, and then a small Roman numeral. So that a nested structure for the H tags. And then finally, color contrast. Those are the big three, and those are not super technical. For the most part, people can control that? You may be able to in your theme settings, you may need, for example, depending on how your theme is put together, have to have a developer help you with some of the colors in your theme, maybe.


[00:13:27.230] – Bet Hannon

But for certain, the alt text the heading structure is just basic content related.


[00:13:34.980] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, and the reason why this is so important, folks, is that a lot of this stuff overlaps to people that maybe have accessibility difficulties. And what I mean by that, good UX design really will make your website a lot easier to do with the broader people that are using it. Absolutely. Color blindness. There’s some free or very inexpensive services that can take all the color from your website, so you get the actual- Oh, yeah.


[00:14:11.970] – Bet Hannon

Tons of free stuff for that. Yeah, absolutely.


[00:14:14.770] – Jonathan Denwood

Because How many people in the US suffer from color blindness?


[00:14:20.580] – Bet Hannon

About 10% of all adults, mostly men. So if your user groups skews toward men, you’ll want to pay attention to color blindness kinds of pieces. But we also know that, for example, I think a lot of times people think about disability as this binary, able-bodied, not able-bodied.


[00:14:41.910] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, it’s the most peculiar mindset, isn’t it? It’s understandable, but it’s not the best mindset, is it?


[00:14:50.360] – Bet Hannon

No. But for instance, color perception changes as we age. So the lens of the eye begins to yellow a bit with age, and that changes our color perception. And that’s why it’s harder to have color contrast as you’re getting over 50. So font sizes get harder to read. I’m doing that, right? It’s harder to read these small fonts. I’m wearing my readers sometimes, right? And so if your membership demographic skews toward over 50, you’re going to want to take care with some of those sorts of things, too, right? And so it’s really about… It’s an investment in your current members in some ways, right? That you’re doing some things like that.


[00:15:37.150] – Jonathan Denwood

I’m inducing this, but I might be totally wrong. I think the other thing, the things that you talked about, navigation and that, is that if you get these right, which helps with accessibility, it also helps when people use the mobile devices and that, because people tend to develop their websites, and we all do it, unless you learn from experience at WP tonic, we develop mobile first. But most people, it’s totally the difference, especially if they’re building a site themselves, I do in a DIY project, they tend to develop on the desktop, and they don’t even… It’s not even in their mind that the bulk of people are going to be utilizing it either on a tablet or on a mobile phone device, are they?


[00:16:28.920] – Bet Hannon

Yeah. And so That’s true. When you make your website more accessible for people with disabilities, you improve the user experience for everybody. We sometimes call this the curb-cut effect. So curb-cuts are those ramps in the sidewalks for people that are in wheelchairs or scooters. But people who are pushing strollers or dragging their wheeled briefcases or luggage, all of us benefit from those curb cuts, people on bikes. So it’s the curb cut effect that’s really improves, just lifts your user experience overall and really can improve work at improving conversions or sales more broadly. And it additionally, it improves your SEO. We talk about SEO benefits, but also it can be a real investment in your brand, especially if with your… Not all membership sites are focused or have values about trying to invite everyone, right? But some membership sites really do want to state as one of their values that we welcome everyone. We want anyone to come and use this. And so when you work then at accessibility, it’s really just an extension of that, that it’s a way that you can, you know, brag a little on your inclusivity, right? That you’re being more accessible.


[00:17:52.730] – Jonathan Denwood

I’m going to swap the… We got, we had agreed set of questions here, but I’m going move the order up, because I think there’s some overlap where this conversation has gone. So I’m going to talk, I want to talk about some of the solutions, because some people, for understandable reasons, look for plugins to solve this problem. And the last couple of times, because we work with a lot of associations and nonprofits and smaller entrepreneurs, we have a very mixed bag of clientele at WP Tonic. But the last two where we got involved a lot with a client around accessibility, one of the on the main committee, somebody had said, Well, your site isn’t accessible, and you need to sort it out. And they then recommended a plugin service that would solve all their troubles. So maybe we can… Because I think people that are going to listen to this are going to start doing searches, and there’s a couple of big players that provide WordPress plugins, and they market them that it’s going to solve all their problems that’s installing this plugin and paying a monthly subscription.


[00:19:21.970] – Bet Hannon

So the broad class of those plugins is called overlay plugins, because what they do essentially is use some JavaScript to try to fix all the accessibility problems on your site in a overlay the problems with their solution. It’s important to know that those plugins, but also any automated accessibility testing is only, at least at the moment, going to find about 30 % of issues. There are things that are able to be tested and you can use for those automated solutions, things like trying to add alt text on the fly or something like that, right? But there are things that can’t be fixed or tested for. Things like, is your site keyboard navigatable, right? Can someone use a keyboard to get to something? Because that’s not something, at least with the general all automated tools that we do now, that can be tested. So there are lots of issues that remain, and there are lots of problems with those overlay solutions. So one issue is that they’re only finding part of the issues. The other is that because they’re using JavaScript, people with disabilities, if they need a tool like that, they’ve got it on their computer because they need it on the other 99.9 % of websites on the Web that don’t have your little overlay.


[00:21:02.360] – Bet Hannon

But the problem for them is that the JavaScript in the plugin and the JavaScript for their tool of choice conflict and render neither one functional. And so I personally know people who are blind, who use screen readers, depend on screen readers, they actually actively block the IP addresses of the popular overlay plugins so that they don’t have to have that.


[00:21:33.280] – Jonathan Denwood

It must be enormously frustrating, wasn’t it?


[00:21:36.640] – Bet Hannon

And there’s also some question about privacy. So when someone clicks on this little widget that is providing some tools and says, yes, I want you to do the magnification for me, there’s growing evidence that the platform is storing that person’s choices, which reveals something about their health and disability status on their servers ostensibly so that they can leave that choice pre-checked for the person in the next site they visit with that same tool. But it’s a privacy violation, and there’s no notification, and there’s no way to remove your information. So some growing concerns about that. Additionally, we haven’t really mentioned the predatory lawsuits, but that’s a piece of the puzzle in the US, is that people who sites are not accessible get sued sued by… There’ll be a single attorney and a single plaintiff, and they will sue dozens and dozens of people. But they are in the last 2-3 years, increasingly, we’re seeing those suits that seem to be targeting the accessibility overlays because they know that it’s an easy case to make that you knew that you should do something about accessibility because you installed this plugin, but you didn’t fix all the issues, right?


[00:22:59.460] – Bet Hannon

Because that plugin We can’t fix all the issues.


[00:23:00.940] – Jonathan Denwood

What is the situation? Is it the situation where… I know this is very broad and it varies by case to case, but is it the scenario? Because the last one I did, for us to get to the top tier, it would mean that basically we would have had… We didn’t develop the site, we are maintaining it, but it would have meant a total refactoring. But what we have… We did a very extensive sweep, and all the images you mentioned, there was a problem with PDFs. We had to sort… There was hundreds of PDFs that we had to clean up. It was a massive job that took over six months because it was an extremely large website. But is it the scenario where the court just expect… If you got documentation and you’ve attempted to reasonably try and sort things out, and you can show that you attempted to do it in a decent, respectful way, that that makes it harder for somebody are you trying to sue you to succeed?


[00:24:19.600] – Bet Hannon

We think so. There are at least a couple of cases that we know, a couple of court cases that we know. It’s a little… So we talked about those cases. We know that about 75 % of them get settled before they go to court. Partly, that’s the point, the people that are bringing the lawsuits want that to happen because that’s their only recourse to get any monetary settlement, any money out of it. If it goes to court, there’s no damages in an ADA lawsuit. Oh, I didn’t know that.


[00:24:50.580] – Jonathan Denwood

I didn’t actually know that.


[00:24:52.300] – Bet Hannon

No, they want you to settle because that’s how they’re getting money. If there’s Those settlements then are also very private. It means that the site doesn’t have to let anybody know that there was ever a suit. There’s often lots of NDAs around them. So it’s very… As you’re getting to know people and people are willing to share information with you, you get pieces of that, right? So typically, when you do go to court, that’s when things are a little more public and you get that. So we know at least a couple of cases where that’s been true, where the The right owner who was able to show that they were regularly paying attention and working on accessibility did get more favorable treatment, didn’t make it go away, and it doesn’t ever… This is the US, anybody can sue anybody So it’s not like, nobody can guarantee you that you will never be sued, right? So the best you can do is have a good defense. And really, you’re just leading right up into what we offer now. That’s the piece where I realized Those traditional audits, so traditionally in accessibility, people would get an audit of their website.


[00:26:06.030] – Bet Hannon

Probably not the whole website. It would be a scan maybe, but then some selected testing. And then you get this report, but it’s a snapshot in time. It would take you months, but things are changing on the site all the time, and you can’t keep up. And so we’ve shifted to doing more of a monthly maintenance service, because accessibility is not something that’s once and done. As you talked about, you’re maintaining it, right? You have to continually be looking at what’s happening, not only with content changes, but even plugins that output things on the front end, if they change, they can change the accessibility of the site, right? We had a case where we had a plugin that we really liked calendar, an event plugin, and they refactored their plugin, and it became totally inaccessible, right? So you have to be paying attention to those things as well. So we offer that ongoing service. But the monthly reports that you get from that service is then your documentation that you’ve been working at this over time, that you have a regular program for testing and remediation. You’re working on it. And then you get to go.


[00:27:16.420] – Bet Hannon

And the longer, of course, you have that set of documentation, if you’ve been doing that for a year, somebody sued you, then you can say, hey, we have this whole stack of PDF reports. We’ve been working on that. Thanks for identifying that issue. We’ll get it to our already existing system and take care of that. And that’s the premise, is that that should reduce the amount of the settlement that you would have to make, or extend, make it more favorable to you if you ended up going to court.


[00:27:49.560] – Jonathan Denwood

Fantastic. I have got a follow-up question about this, but I think I’ll leave that to the second half of the show. We’re going to go for our break, folks. It’s been fascinating discussion so far. I think we’re given some clear insights about the subject. We will be back in a few moments, folks. Three, two, one. We’re coming back, folks. We’ve had a feast, a feast of accessibility. But before we go into the second part of the show, I want to point out that we’ve got a fabulous newsletter that gives you insights about most of the subjects that we discuss in this podcast. You can get this fab and free newsletter by going over to Wp-tonic. Com/newsletter. Wp-tonic. Com/newsletter. I write it every week. Words of wisdom about your membership and community website? What more could you ask for?


[00:28:54.320] – Bet Hannon

Crafted with love.


[00:28:57.300] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, well, if you use it, I would say.


[00:29:00.490] – Bet Hannon

Enthusiasm. Okay, we’ll go with it.


[00:29:01.610] – Jonathan Denwood

Enthusiasm. It depends how much coffee I’ve had that morning, folks. I sometimes have five cups. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?


[00:29:11.380] – Bet Hannon

Do you just buzz after that?


[00:29:14.830] – Jonathan Denwood

I English, dear. Not anymore. But I’m English, but I might be living in America for 20 years. But if you’re brought up in London, it’s grave, but it’s a little bit like being brought up in Seattle. You go there in the summer. I love it. Seattle looks lovely, but you’re not there for the other seven months of gloom, are you? So my follow-up question is an obvious one. People were listening to us before we went for our break, and we were talking about these audits and that. But if you’re a smaller person, an entrepreneur, and you got a couple of hundred members, and you’re starting on your journey, you just haven’t got the resources to hire somebody like yourself. So what can you do to protect… And you’re tempted by these plugins because they offer a subscription at 50, 70, whatever dollars. But what can you do to resist these plugins? That won’t really help you. But are there any things you can that you don’t have the budget to hire some fabulous people like yourselves?


[00:30:35.490] – Bet Hannon

Yeah. There are a lot of free resources out there for educating yourself and your content team. The very first thing to do is to stop creating new inaccessible content.


[00:30:50.830] – Jonathan Denwood

Stop digging the hole deeper.


[00:30:55.280] – Bet Hannon

Stop digging the hole. Exactly. So when we think about accessible Accessibility, there are content related issues and there are more theme and functionality code related issues. So just stop creating the new content issues. So educate yourself about how to put things up on the website inaccessibly. But you mentioned it before for for membership sites, PDFs, make sure all your PDFs have to be accessible. And there are tools inside of Microsoft Word and Adobe and other places to help you do some accessibility checks. Use those tools, get it in there. We have on our website a five part series about PDF accessibility. Learn a little bit about that. Get those in there. Make sure you’re putting your videos in in an accessible way. They need to have captions. But you’re going to want, like anything with AI, you’re going to double check the work, right? And so the automated captions that can be generated can sometimes be not not just wrong, but grieviously wrong. And especially if you’re doing something that has technical language in it, sometimes the AI just doesn’t have the capacity to pick up the technical language or jargon things, and you’re going to I’m not going to correct those.


[00:32:17.040] – Bet Hannon

But make sure that you’re putting stuff out there. I would say put out when you’re putting out video, put up the transcript, too. So even something like this podcast, Jonathan, right? If you’ve got transcripts going that are there, when you when you post the video, you’re posting the transcripts, too, because that also helps people without disabilities, search for what they heard. They heard something about overlay plugins, and now they want to go back and look for it, they can search the transcript rather than try to figure out where it was in the video. So all kinds of ways that you’re going to begin to put things out there making content more accessible. Then start planning ahead for And when you do your next website redesign. So typically three to five years or so, you’re going to end up doing some redesign project of your website for the theme. And so when you are get to that point, just plan ahead that you know you need to make that a requirement. If you hire somebody to do that, if you’re going to DIY it, read up on that. Make sure you’re looking at that. You can check the color contrast things.


[00:33:30.280] – Bet Hannon

That’s a DIY item. You can begin to make those changes now, too. And then as you’re looking at plugins, you’re going to want and choosing plugins for your site, you’re going to want to be thoughtful about choosing plugins that do any front-end output. Now, if it’s on the back-end and it’s, maybe that’s not as big a deal. If it’s sending out a newsletter through your website or something, that’s not as… Well, it can be, right? If it’s doing the email not correct and accessibly. But be thoughtful about accessibility as you’re making those choices on. It’s just something that we all have to start integrating along the way. Just like we’re thinking about, we think about the impacts for SEO, or we think about the impacts for traffic. And it’s just something else we need to keep thinking about as we’re making choices.


[00:34:25.960] – Jonathan Denwood

I’m going to choose my words carefully here. What’s the situation around WordPress? Obviously, we are stroke hosting providers, stroke agency, stroke consultancy. If people are building a website and they move their website to our hosting, which is set up for somebody that is building a membership or community website, that is our focus. We don’t… Whatever they built that website, we’ll host it. But when they came We were using the animator, and I don’t want to have a dig at that because it’s got your strengths. But when it came to accessibility, it was a disaster, to be quite truthful. We have moved, when they ask us the solution, we still support Animator because it’s one of the few ways that you can economically customize a Buddy Boss website. But for all the hours, we are now Gutenberg, and we use Cadence. Now, Gutenberg has got its own problems. Through the Cadence platform, we provide half a dozen themes that we develop worked ourselves, and we spent a little bit of money and time to make them accessible. Oh, good for you. We did the best that you can with the Gutenberg It’s a big system. But I think in some ways, the whole thing has been a step backwards.


[00:36:23.060] – Jonathan Denwood

But compared to Elementor, it probably isn’t. What’s your thoughts about this?


[00:36:28.650] – Bet Hannon

So Elementor is part a whole class of page builder plugins. And in general, I would say, I mean, there are some that are worse than others. But in general, you’re going to increase your chances of having accessibility issues by using a page builder plugin. The front-end accessibility with the Gutenberg block editor is better, but not… But again, it’s the choices that the content creator is making that are a part of that. We did not coordinate this ahead of time, but we, too, use Cadence. We find Cadence… So it’s that difference between a page builder and then block libraries that are using the Gutenberg system but providing you with custom blocks. So we use Cadence and find not too many issues there, quite frankly.


[00:37:22.360] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, it’s not perfect in any shape or form, but it’s one of the better ones.


[00:37:27.290] – Bet Hannon

But again, it’s about the content creator, having an awareness and some training. We have a post on our site, like a checklist for content creators. So finding those kinds of things, where you’re going to train your folks to be working at putting things in in accessible ways and be thinking about accessibility.


[00:37:53.350] – Jonathan Denwood

We’ve also got the European element because I do have some clients that have a lot of members in Australia, Europe. I have clients that are based in Europe. Is the situation when it comes to accessibility a bit light when it comes to cookies? Because obviously, something that is increasingly applying because you’ve got the new Californian laws and some other state laws around cookies. But in Europe, they bring it up straight away because the fines can be enormous. Is the situation similar when it comes to accessibility in Europe, where the actual fines can be massive?


[00:38:32.590] – Bet Hannon

Yeah, so in the US, the US is the outlier. We really have just ADA and that whole mess with lawsuits. Most of the rest of the world, under some portion of their human rights laws, they have web accessibility requirements. So Australia, Canada, different places around the world have different rights. They are enforced, but not at this level that you might think. So in some places, they’re not taken all that seriously, although those enforcements are ramping up. But we have a new law that exists already in the EU that will come into enforcement. So they’re giving people this window to prepare, and enforcement will start in the end of June 2025. So that is basically all websites that have any EU customers. So like GDPR, it’s where your customers are members, your site users live, not where your business is based. So lots of US or other businesses in other countries, if they have EU members, they’re going to need to be working at getting their compliance up to speed. You’re going to need to get your website to WCAG, Website Accessibility Content Guidelines 2.1 AA standards by that time. And they have the European Union has been explicit that those overlay plugins will not get you compliance.


[00:40:09.770] – Bet Hannon

And then it’s a little different in the EU. So EU, it’s a lot of different member countries. They have this overarching government. They gave this accessibility directive. And then each individual country has their own laws about the big overarching law is the minimum threshold. And then Each country develops their own little take on that, including the enforcement penalties. So we’ve been seeing those roll out. Not all of them have been translated into English yet. We’re still learning about some of them, but the fines can be quite significant, €60,000 and more. And in Ireland, I learned a few weeks ago, in Ireland, if you refuse to make your website accessible, they can give you up to 18 months of jail time. So they’re taking this quite seriously. And the law, the big overarching law deals with a lot of different things. It deals with check-in kiosks and telecommunications devices. And it’s very, very broad. But it explicitly includes e-commerce There’s user-centric, membership sites would be included in all of that. And so definitely. So if you have EU members or users, you will have to comply with that law by next year.


[00:41:28.030] – Jonathan Denwood

That’s fantastic information.


[00:41:29.210] – Bet Hannon

When it comes to So here’s another tip. Wait, here’s another tip. That is unlike GDPR, it’s going to take you a while. You talked about six months to get a site. And so six to eight months or more may be typical to get there. So don’t delay. And we expect that as we approach that, just like with GDPR, everybody waited until the last minute. And so we expect that the anxiety and concern about accessibility will be hockey sticking up over the next 12 months. And so the availability of professionals to help you if you need a professional will become more and more limited. So you should start early so that you have enough time to do it. And if you need somebody, start looking for those folks.


[00:42:13.830] – Jonathan Denwood

When it comes to the accessibility plugins, I think it’s a very similar scenario in some ways to the security plugins in the WordPress space, because certain well-known security plugin providers say, I install our plugin and all your security problems will go away. It just isn’t true, is it? No. Anybody that knows it’s about keeping your plugins updated, keeping the core, being fussy about where you get your plugins from, which plugin to install. Other factors, passwords, hygiene, not allowing every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the organization to have admin access to your website. Is there a policy of removing admin passwords and users?


[00:43:05.110] – Bet Hannon

Let’s talk about a couple of plugins, though, that are helpful for accessible, that may have accessibility benefits that you may want to use. Now, again, they’re not going to solve all your problems, but It could be super helpful. One is the Accessibility Checker plugin from Equalize Digital. So you can get a free level of that plugin on the repo. And what that does is at the free level, it just When you have an SEO plugin and it adds some extra boxes at the bottom of the content editor, it adds some extra checks inside the content editor. And it’s really just giving you the automated checks that are available for that particular piece of content. And so when your content creator is there, it’s just giving them that feedback. Now, they can say, ignore, or they can choose not to do that. When you get to the pro level, when you pay for it, and it’s $145 a year or something like that, you can get a full dashboard. You can do a whole scan of all the existing… On the free level, you have to open every page or poster product to get that feedback.


[00:44:13.740] – Bet Hannon

But on the So on the pro level, you get a dashboard and you can run scans and you can deal with some things more globally, some nice features, but it’s not necessary. You can just use that free level of the plugin, get in there and use that. Another one that may be helpful if you have a lot of of images that are missing alt text. There are a couple of plugins on the repo that deal with generating through AI some alt text And I would really… And then a third one that has recently come up with that is the Bertha AI plugin that pulls in some automated… And through this automated process, they can generate draughts of the alt text. But remember, alt So the purpose on an image is to describe not just the image, but its purpose in that particular context. So the same image can have different alt text depending on how it’s being used in that particular location. So you’re always going to want to look at the alt text, and alt text just AI can be really wrong. We had a picture one time that we were testing with, well, I assume a dad, a guy in his 30s with a kid on the beach, and the The automated alt text that came back was, Scary people in masks.


[00:45:34.280] – Bet Hannon

I was like, That’s not even anything remotely what that picture is.


[00:45:38.430] – Jonathan Denwood

That sounds a bit alarming, doesn’t it?


[00:45:39.530] – Bet Hannon

To check everything, but use those tools. Those are some great tools for it.


[00:45:43.990] – Jonathan Denwood

Oh, thanks for that. That was great. Let’s go on to a more happier element of this, which I didn’t know. In the info that you were so kind to send to me, you mentioned this, a 5,000 tax credit. I I knew nothing about this. Can you tell us some more about this?


[00:46:04.930] – Bet Hannon

So the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed in 1990, before the Internet was such a day to day… I mean, it existed, but it wasn’t really a part of day to day life like today. So when they did that, though, they created a tax credit for business owners to do things like retrofit their bathrooms or create ramps into their stores and those kinds of things. That That tax credit still exists, and it’s now being used for making your website more accessible. So the tax credit, it’s the accessibility, 8826 is the number on it, I believe. And then we can put the link in the show notes if we get it to you. But it is a tax credit for making your website more… Well, for any accessibility improvement for a business, you have to be under a million in revenue or under 30 So bigger enterprises don’t necessarily qualify, but smaller ones do. And you get back a 50 % of what you spend. So if you spend $10,000 to develop a new website, and it’s got accessibility as a stated focus purpose that you’re meeting those guidelines as a part of that development, then you can claim 50 % of that or $5,000.


[00:47:28.540] – Bet Hannon

It’s up to $5,000. So if you get an audit, if you have remediations done, all of that, you can get 50 % of that. So you just want to make sure that when you’re doing that, that you’re getting good invoices that clearly describe that there’s accessibility improvements happening as a part of that work. And then you save those invoices. They have to pay it out up front, and then you get it as a credit on your taxes the next year. So it’s never… You don’t get the money back. It just reduces the other taxes that you owe by that amount.


[00:48:03.250] – Jonathan Denwood

Well, it’s still worthwhile. I knew nothing about that. I knew nothing about that.


[00:48:06.900] – Bet Hannon

And you can claim it repeatedly if needed, right? So it’s not a one time thing. It’s because you’re… I mean, I think if you claimed it every year for 10 years, people would start to- Yeah, I think the England Revenue- a little questioning of that, right?


[00:48:22.040] – Jonathan Denwood

But- The England Revenue, that’s UK. I’ve been living in America for 20 years. The internal revenue service.


[00:48:29.820] – Bet Hannon

But if you did it right, if you planned it right, you could do a theme redesign with remediation, and then you could do content remediation. You could really work it- Well, I think it’s been a fab discussion so far because this whole area is only going to hot up more and more, isn’t it?


[00:48:49.850] – Jonathan Denwood

I think you’ve got to educate yourself a bit. So let’s move on. So you touched a little bit about AI. How Where do you see AI affecting this in the next 18 months? Because my own opinion is it could really benefit or it could make the situation even worse. So it’s a two-edged sold, isn’t it?


[00:49:13.790] – Bet Hannon

Yeah, everybody wants to know how AI is going to affect everything, right? We’re all seeing all these articles about everything AI. I think a lot of the tools and things like AI even, right? Like, Our assistance, our virtual assistance, like Siri and Alexa, and all those, all of those started as tools to help people with disabilities, right? That research all comes out of ways that people with disabilities were going to be helped by technology. So just acknowledging that, that we’re all the beneficiaries of all of this stuff. Ai is… Your question is a little more, you said in the next 18 months, 18 months is a fairly short window. I think over time in the long haul, in the next 5 to 10 years or more, it’s going to dramatically help people with disabilities live better lives, and including their online lives with web accessibility. But in the meantime, I don’t think it’s that fast coming. I have had some conversations with people that were really dismissive of having a conversation about a web accessibility because they said, oh, AI is going to take care of all of that for them in the near future.


[00:50:35.260] – Bet Hannon

And we don’t have to worry about it. We don’t have to think about them because AI will fix that. And I just don’t think that’s a very… I mean, that’s not going to happen soon, but also it’s… If you don’t think about how people might be different than you and how your customers- It comes to the whole area of UX design in that, because a lot of people, and we’ve had these discussions, and I’ll give them my own honest opinion about this, when people are building out a membership community, they have a tendency to overcomplicate things and wanting to change the layout of Pacific Learning Management System plugins.


[00:51:21.560] – Jonathan Denwood

I know the two leading LearnDash and Lifter LMS, they have spent a fortune and a lot of money with their basic layout. I strongly advise people to not mess, style it a little bit different, but don’t dramatically change the layouts because a fair bit of money and thought have gone in those layouts. And when you actually get some feedback from actual users, then you might consider changing it. But it falls on deaf ears. Yeah, it does. It falls on deaf ears most It does. People get very enthusiastic about changing everything, don’t they?


[00:52:05.220] – Bet Hannon

Oh, and yeah. I don’t think I told you before that I run a couple of membership sites for folks that have… One of them had a history before really having a website. They had a long history. They developed a website, and I worked with them, oh, my gosh, maybe eight years ago now, taking their membership online. Oh, my gosh, the people that still insisted on paying by check or all of that. And then one of the other membership systems that I run is really more developed as an online community. So that is a little different thing. But again, It’s like, how will AI begin to affect things? I think it’s really… It will improve things over time, but I think you need to not ignore more people with disabilities or users, more generally, as in the meantime, right? I think you need to use those tools to begin, use the tools to think more about how you can be more inclusive. But you talked about, US, essentially, accessibility is a form of user experience optimization, and it includes your user personas, people with disabilities, right? So if you begin to think about improving the user your experience of all your users, including users with disabilities, but also different types of users in various contexts, or situational- It’s a bit like a business.


[00:53:43.240] – Jonathan Denwood

It’s a bit like anything in business life. I’ve learned it takes a true expert to make something simple. But any idiot can make things complicated. When it comes to business models, using things, it takes a true… Even experts, it takes a lot of work to make something accessible and easy to use, but any fool can make something complicated. So On to our last question. It’s been a fab discussion. So if you had your own time machine, like HD Wells, if you’re from the UK, your own TARDIS from Doctor Who, and you could go back to your business and give yourself some quick mentorship, one or two things you wish you had known at the beginning, what would you say to yourself?


[00:54:40.360] – Bet Hannon

That’s a really good question. What would I say? I think I would… So owning a business in our industry, because things are constantly changing, means that you have to be constantly growing and adapting. I mean, I think even when you find your sweet spot, there’s a level of you’re constantly monitoring and adapting. And I think my younger self, and even today, if I’m honest, occasionally, I just feel like, oh, if I just… When I really make it, we’ll You’ll be able to just relax. And it’s really just like, get used to that. That’s just the way that that continual growth thing, it doesn’t have to be on hyper drive, but there’s a constant level of attention into growing, and that if you… I wouldn’t say if you snooze, you lose, but if you just feel like you shouldn’t have a goal of just finding a place where you can sit, right?


[00:56:00.130] – Jonathan Denwood

Oh, yeah.


[00:56:01.430] – Bet Hannon

That’s a good goal, right?


[00:56:03.820] – Jonathan Denwood

I think things are very dualistic. Is there a word dualistic? I have a bit of dyslexia, and I’m notorious in my company. I don’t know if it’s part of being dyslexic, but I just make words if I think I like the sound of them. But I think dualistic. The fundamentals of UX and good design are eternal. But on the other hand, you’re right. Things are in flex consistency.

[00:56:41.590] – Bet Hannon

Yeah. I don’t think about it in terms of the deliverables so much. I mean, maybe some of those, too, in terms of services, ways that you package services or ways that you approach clients or ways that you… But I’m thinking more in terms of the business, in terms of the marketing or the ways that you’re niching down or not niching down, all of those kinds of thoughts. I think once I realized, oh, we should do accessibility. It’s like, that’ll be our niche. Okay. And we get there and we’re doing that. And then I’m like, oh, we should not focus so much on government and higher Ed. We should do e-commerce. And then we’re like, there’s an eternal… There’s some nicheing and positioning and how are you doing? But that never ends. I don’t think it ever ends. I think at least if you’re smart and you’re keeping your business running well, I think it’s- Well, I’ll give you an example.

[00:57:44.310] – Jonathan Denwood

I’m not going to name names, but yesterday I was listening. I was part of a conversation, which luckily, I was mostly in the background listening with some minor contributions. It was a cliché corner. The client had a business model, but they hadn’t even tested it on one live student. It was enormous getting by the sound of it, their aspirations were getting… As the minutes moved on, their aspirations were accelerating in the complexity of the system that they were going to offer. They also wanted it all can be automated so they could run the business on the beach. I’m in the middle because obviously, intellectually and based on experience, the four-hour week, and the individual that’s mostly known to promote that biology, I think is some of the worst garbage ever produced that led to a normal success for that particular individual. But on the other hand, the other banner check, where you got to work 80 hours, is the other extreme, and I consider that to be nonsense as well because that will just lead to total burnout, mental and emotional burnout. So literally every business cliché was part of this conversation that I witnessed yesterday.

[00:59:32.560] – Jonathan Denwood

I was just happy that I only had to contribute a very minor part of the conversation. So we come to the end. So what’s the best way for people to find out more about your FAB knowledge about this subject?

[00:59:51.260] – Bet Hannon

So people can contact me through the AccessiCart website. And I’m I’m still on Twitter.

[01:00:01.590] – Jonathan Denwood

Are you? X. I am? X, whatever it’s called.

[01:00:05.000] – Bet Hannon

Yeah, whatever it’s called this week. Yeah.

[01:00:07.230] – Jonathan Denwood

I have done it.

[01:00:07.850] – Bet Hannon

Yeah, I’m still on there. I find that… That’s a lot of tech folks are still there. And I’m on LinkedIn.

[01:00:17.930] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah. LinkedIn, good old LinkedIn, that’s a strange beast, isn’t it? Yeah. They’re all strange beings, aren’t they?

[01:00:24.620] – Bet Hannon

Yeah, they are.

[01:00:25.810] – Jonathan Denwood

I think the day- Those are good places to be in touch. I predict by the end of this X, formerly known as Twitter, will have new ownership. You think so?

[01:00:34.860] – Bet Hannon

Yeah, I think so.

[01:00:35.920] – Jonathan Denwood

Yeah, I think so.

[01:00:37.920] – Bet Hannon

I think- You think Elon will get bored?

[01:00:40.360] – Jonathan Denwood

I think he’s bored already. He’s got his plans to go to Mars, hasn’t he? That’s the English sarcasm that gets me into a lot of trouble. Some Americans like it. I love that. I get the rabbit. A lot of Americans see, but I get the rabbit look, that… What did he just say? Sorry. It’s been a fab discussion. It’s been fun. It’s been broad, but we’ve had some specifics as well. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Absolutely. I think people that will listen to this will get great insights about the subject. We’re going to wrap it up now. We will be back next week. We’ll see you soon, folks. Bye.


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#76 – The Membership Machine Show: We Discuss Why Accessibility Is Important For a Membership Website in 2024 was last modified: by