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For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser hosted Glen Ingram, aka the Web Accessibility Guy, Founder of Web Search Pros Inc. Glen spells out the guidelines to optimize a website for ADA compliance and accessibility. Watch now for some deep insights.
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Thank you for having me.
Well, regarding websites and digital or the internet, I guess it’s ensuring that every web property works for everyone, regardless of their ability or disability. Depending on which statistics you look at, somewhere between 18% and 23% of the people in the US have one form of long-term disability or another. So as someone that makes their money helping businesses get business online, it makes sense not to exclude 18% to 23% of the population.
Yeah, 100%. It’s been a gray area for about six years concerning legal lawsuits and what’s happening with businesses. But on March 18, the good old Department of Justice finally wrote that websites are part of the Americans with Disabilities Act. So it’s federal law now.
That’s one of the big misperceptions. So that people know, there are different titles for the Americans with Disabilities Act or the ADA. Title one applies to employees. So okay, let’s have 15 employees for that part of the Americans with Disabilities Act to kick in. Websites are under Title Three, or Places of Public Accommodation. So it falls under a business or a building with that there are no minimums. I’ve seen a mom’s blog that was just a mom blogging that was sued about two and a half years ago.
Does not matter. It depends on where the disabled person is located. I know here out of Orange County, California, Quicksilver was sued a few years ago, and Quicksilver is based out of Australia, so it doesn’t matter where the business is.
When all this started in 2010, at an anniversary when President Obama was in office, for the original Americans with Disabilities Act, this whole thing came up. He suggested that the Americans with Disabilities Act should be extended to websites. And shortly after that, there was a UN Bill, and 122 nations worldwide signed off on this. So there are laws that have affected Canada, the UK, and different parts of the world here in the last five years.
People are not taking the time to ensure images have proper alt text to paint a word picture for someone who can’t see it. You have a lot of website architecture or structure that people have never taken the time to understand. W3C or the world wide consortiums web basics, when someone is using a screen-reader, it could be because they have a vision issue. It could be because they have a cognitive issue and a hard time reading but interpret information better when they hear it. They’re going to use what’s called a screen reader to make everything on the website audible. While a screen reader will peruse a webpage, and like you were, I would have perused a newspaper where they were popular and going headline to headline. If the headlines aren’t built properly, it’s going to go like a jigsaw puzzle instead of top to bottom, left to right, like we’re taught to read. So most websites can’t skip all those little buttons at the top that are called navigation because someone doesn’t want to click through every one of those as they’re going down to the main information. We shouldn’t make them go through stuff they don’t want to do just because they have a different level of ability than we do. So those are some of the primary ones. There’s a whole litany of other rules if you have a link on there; you have to have a description of the link audible so that the screen reader can say this is a link to USA Today. This is a link to ESPN or something like that. So they can determine if they want to follow that link or stay on the website. So those are probably some of the most common things we see in these lawsuits. We’re seeing everything thrown against the wall to see little sticks because 97% of websites don’t work properly.
Yeah, we do it every week. It was kind of interesting. We had a fairly; I would say decent size from a revenue standpoint, the online betting company that was referred to us just about a year ago as last summer sometimes. Thankfully, they were sued out of the third district in New York. They were sued the week before we finished our accessible website. But since it was in New York, and the website was finished before they went to court or responded to it, they could make the lawsuit go away; they just had to close with attorney fees. We are contacted a few times a week by other attorneys or businesses that have been sued just because we’ve done a decent job of establishing myself online as the person to contact, and I’ve done so many. I have spoken about this two hundred times in the last three years, whether online or in person.
I think the biggest one is that they don’t know that this is a law. They don’t know they have to do this. So there have been more lawsuits in California than in the rest of the states in the US combined. That is because, in January of 2018, a law called the Unruh Act, I guess Mr. Unruh used to be a secretary of state in California in the past, and they made it discrimination. So if you have a disability, and you sue me for my website not working properly, I must pay you a minimum of $4,000 plus your attorney fees. So I talked to people every week that had no clue they had to be accessible, or they worked with a developer that wanted to take a shortcut and put a little tool on there that they thought would make it work properly for people with disabilities. And those honestly don’t work there. They provide other obstacles for people with disabilities. So it’s either not knowing of or having a false sense of security are the two biggest issues business owners face.
You have to consider everything from the beginning. So depending on the processes, sometimes people would have a designer build a layout, colors, and stuff like that. Then from there, you code it to make it look how it’s supposed to be. Well, you either have to turn that around or train designers about color contrast. 9% of guys are colorblind by the time they’re 50. So if there’s not enough color contrast with the logo and the colors that you’re going to use just like the text and the backgrounds, and if it doesn’t contrast enough people that are colorblind may not be able to read the text on a page. So it’s just understanding the rules and regulations at inception, and coding it properly from the beginning so that you can cover all the things I mentioned before. Plus, you have people that maybe had MS, MD, cerebral palsy, and you don’t have the dexterity to operate a mouse. So a website was built properly, your Tab key turns into your pointer, and your Enter or Return key turns into the clicker. And you can operate an entire website just with two fingers. So it’s just understanding how to do all this stuff from the front side. And then it’s always easier to do things properly from the beginning than to go in and try and fix where someone else did something or find someone else’s errors.
We do that 99% of the time because we’ve been doing this now for over four years. We have our SOPs and our assembly line basically in place so we can build it accessible from the beginning faster than we can go in, as I said, and find errors or deficiencies. We had some people that liked one specific builder and one specific theme and WordPress and dev or a section or a block on a website. You can’t have the same piece of code twice. We spent five hours trying to find out where the developer hid the second code in one of the devs and still couldn’t find it. So a lot of times it’s just easier to pay us to fix it from the beginning than to pay us to go and find other people’s inefficiencies.
Here are some that do, maybe about 15% to 20% of checking. There are some tools like A Wave by Web aim, it’s really good for color contrast, it’s good for your title tag structure, and it’s good for maybe some alt tags looking at it. You have Insights for the web that does, they all seem to have their little specialties, and they’ll get 10% to 15% to 20% of the error. So you kind of have to use a multitude of tools, just to double-check it. We built our own to test ours, so it’s a lot more efficient that we use in-house. And then the only way to truly know if a site is successful is to either have someone that has a disability test the site or to learn how to use screen readers in these things to be able to test it yourself as well.
When we started doing this, people were, I think, extorting businesses because they were kind of under the gun, and they had to do this. So I always like messing with people in our industry and turning things upside down. So we have our processes down, it might take us one to two hours more to build a website accessible than it used to, once we have everything done. So I don’t charge anymore to build them than we used to just because I like irritating some of the people in our industry.
Most of it is coding on the backside, and most of it you’re never going to see. Because the people that built screen readers weren’t developers. So they had to use some little nuances of HTML that 99% of people never use. Most people don’t know what ARIA is, most people don’t know what semantic HTML is. So you have to understand those subsets of the language to make the website work properly. Other than that, when someone’s looking at the main thing they can see different is color contrast. There is a rule that you can’t use color unless there’s a reason for it. So typically, the only time you’re gonna have color that’s different from your normal text is either in a title tag, or an h1, h2, or whatever, or with a hyperlink. There’s no more of just saying, I think this sentence is important and so I’m going to change the color without having a reason for changing the color.
You only have one h1 on a page, which all comes from the W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium, they’re the same people that make the website accessibility guidelines for content.
Yeah, it’s a great read, especially if you want to fall asleep.
So each tag starts with an h2 after that. You could have h2, h2. But once you go to an h3, you can’t go back to an h2. So you can repeat or descend, you just can’t re-ascend. And most people are lazy and don’t understand, you can just change the size or the boldness with CSS. They’re just doing oh, I want this one to be bigger, so I’m gonna put an h2 that I’m doing an h2 instead of taking, again 10, 20 seconds longer to do it properly.
It’s really good, and I can’t tell you how many times I’m brought in to consult on why a website isn’t ranking someone that spent 1000s or hundreds of 1000s of dollars on SEO. I was just looking at a plastic surgeon site in Texas here last month. And literally, they had 11 h1s on their homepage and not one of them said plastic surgery.
Yeah, restaurants back in 2019 and 2020, were hammered by lawsuits in California. With my affiliation with different law firms and restaurant associations, we helped a lot of restaurants build proper websites to protect them from being sued. And it was kind of interesting, we built one for a restaurant that had three locations in one city. And they were on Wix or Squarespace, one of them, I’m gonna say, lesser-used builders, and probably one that is a little bit less efficient, working with Google typically. And just in building the website properly, they already have all the links, all of the influence coming into it, over the years of paying for SEO, and they just never had a web page built properly. And it was kind of interesting, as we were working with the owner, he had this artist that wanted to do these different things and I just would ask him, every time the artist would say something, I said, What’s more important, the artistic bent on this or getting more or selling more food? And he’d say, I want to sell more food. And literally within I think, 10 days or two weeks of building the website, we still typically within about 15 to 30 days, we’re going to put Yoast are All In One SEO or something on there to help with all their title tags and metadata and stuff like that. We hadn’t even put that on there and they were ranking number one now in their city for their title food with no meta description at all. So we had to fix that of course. But just the fact that they had had all the outside influence, they didn’t know how to build a page that said, Hey, Google, this page is about this type of business in this geographic location.
If you really, truly understand SEO, and you understand on-page architecture from W3C, it works hand in hand. And then like you said, you mentioned earlier how many sites we built over the years, when I went down this rabbit hole in 2018, it probably took us three to six months to get it, from a while all these things. And I think it was quicker for us to learn that because the backbone of our web design was based on W3C website basics for SEO.
We have used Divi with this, just because they were the first ones to go down the rabbit hole. There’s no way that it’s going to build accessible properly, just if you want to go in and fix some things on them. But at least they were responsive back in 2018. They would know when you had a problem, they would acknowledge there was an issue and go ahead and address it. Now since then a lot of them have come along and 2019 in the last full three or four years. But I would say they were at the forefront of accessibility. I know as far as forms, Gravity Forms was another one that was on the forefront of working. And if you found an issue, they would address the issue.
The 50,000 pound elephant is always these plugins or overlays that people are buying, that are out there being sold on the internet by marketers who maybe don’t want to take the time to do things right. In the old marketing adage, there’s never enough time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over. You have people that are spending money on these overlays which are, three lines of code or a plugin, and then putting a little icon on their website thinking, Oh, this makes my site accessible. I would say for the last year to year and a half, probably 60 to 70% of the lawsuits are targeting websites with those tools on them. Because you know as well as I do for these serial plaintiffs and law firms that are making revenue from this, they can use a footprint for one of these little tools, and they can find every website in the city and a county and a state that’s using them and go after them because they know that if you’re using that you don’t understand accessibility.
Yeah, there’s a guy named Karl Rove, some of us can refer to him as the godfather of accessibility, he’s been doing this for years. Because a lot of people that worked with institutions have been familiar with accessibility for 20, 30 years with websites and whatnot. He appeared as an expert witness a couple of times, in 2021. I think it was about a year or two and a half years ago, talking about some of these overlays, and explaining them in litigation about this and why they don’t work.
No, the alt tag has never been for SEO. Those are people that didn’t understand SEO, and that were trying to do something that has no benefit for Google whatsoever. The alt title or the alt attribute that you see when you’re like, if you’re in the word part of a builder, and you click on the image and it comes up, 99% of people don’t know, if you click Advanced, it’s going to come up with an advanced alt tag or an advanced title attribute. That’s the only part of an image that Google uses for SEO and ranking. So you do the alt tag to give a description, and you use the alt title attribute or advanced attribute to tell Google this image is about a plumber in Los Angeles. So it’s just different parts of the image.
You can. It’s again, making sure that each image at the media gallery has a proper alt tag on it. So it’s done properly. But now what you have to be concerned about with flip boxes, or slideshows, is the speed at which it’s transitioning from one image to another. If someone has epilepsy, and the image is moving too quickly, so it does flicker a little bit, you can induce a seizure for someone who has epilepsy. So, slideshows are something that we’re using less than if we do. It does move slower, just to make sure that we’re not bothering someone with epilepsy. So flash, and a lot of the animation is really kind of, in my opinion, older stuff that it’s dead and it should have never been born probably.
Yeah, as long as the images are all too old to have a proper alt tag, as long as it’s not moving fast, you can use them. It’s just been constant. So those two things.
I was gonna say it was kind of funny. Probably about 10 years ago, I worked with us martial arts and we probably spent more time building their header with complete animation. And we did the rest of the website. But the guy thought it was so cool as the karate guy rolled in with his leg up in the ear kicking and did all these things that we would never do again now knowing this stuff. But yeah, there were a lot of things that you could do, maybe shouldn’t have done.
I don’t know because we would never do that. I think it’s just bad form. So we haven’t tested, I mean, if you’re on a mobile device, as long as your skip nap is built properly to go to the main content, not the main image, it should still work. But I don’t know, when things are bad form, I don’t test it just because I think why the heck would I ever do that to somebody?
I gave a presentation a few years ago, and there’s one person that has heard me before brought his entire design team and they specialized in aesthetics, medical plastic surgery type of websites. And they didn’t like my response when they were asked some questions about what you’re asking about. And I said, I’ve never had clients that complained to me, because their websites were easy to navigate, and their customers purchased a lot from them. There’s a reason why you can walk into any Walmart in the country and know exactly where to go. And they build on the same and that’s because they want you to buy as much as possible.
And they left candy and gum right there at the checkout, so you buy all that stuff when you are close to going out.
So up in Canada, your law went into effect I think it was January 1, 2021, or 2020. The difference is the states have the ability to fine businesses themselves. And the fine depends on the state. So an individual is going to sue but the state can levy fines against businesses for their websites. In your government, they like to keep the money themselves.
No one should use pop-ups anymore. With Google’s UX algorithm that came out summer of last year, Google said, don’t use pop-ups, pop-ups are going to be bad for ranking. So most pop-ups don’t give me the ability to X out without a mouse. So if you can’t X out with your tab key or your Enter key, you can’t use a pop-up anymore.
I understand why Marketers use it and I think that’s why Marketing should be a four-letter word sometimes.
Just for people to understand they have to take this seriously. It’s an international thing. It’s not going away by any shape or means. And they need to talk to someone who truly understands this because it seems part of my job is being a grief counselor. Because I can tell you, every time I speak to someone, they go through the stages of grief when they get sued. You have the denial, the anger, the acceptance, and on down the road. I feel bad for businesses. We had an e-commerce store reach out last fall, they had been sued thrice in eighteen months. Because they thought the marketing company was great for SEO, I shared that same opinion with them. But that’s ok. They went from one plug-in to another, to another, without them ever fixing the thing properly. E-commerce can be expensive, when you are looking at images and making sure you give a good description. We did a jewelry store in 2019 and I think they had 4000 images. I had 200 hours and one person was just doing alt text.
Matt, Just make sure your lines are not under fifty characters and you have an alt-tag to say this is a picture of a man talking to a computer with a dog looking out the window and a lamp on the table. Something like that, so it paints a word picture of what you are seeing through the lens.
If you want to see why (a) some of these litigations, look at Domino’s pizzas. It has been the most famous lawsuit. It went to the Supreme court. Dominoes was sued over the buy one get one free offer that they put on the website in haste. Their website was accessible but one law firm in Newport Beach California that sues more businesses and has filed more of these lawsuits than anyone else, caught Dominoes with a BOGO, with no alt on it and that’s the lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court.
It’s not the judgment that gets to me. The judgment was $4000, but they had three years of Attorney fees that they had to pay.
This all started back in the fall of 18, right before the law affected California. And this was a Federal lawsuit. When the case started it was under President Obama, the DOJ never put in writing this is what we have to do. So everything was based on Case Law or law Suits. So it was still an interpretation of attorneys. We know Attorneys love to talk because they get paid when they talk. In the first hearing they had in Federal Court in California, the Judge ruled for Dominos and said, “ No this is not a place of physical accommodations or a part of your building, it’s a website.” The attorney then appealed that and the appellant court said a website is an extension of your physical business or will be used as one if you don’t have one, so it must adhere to ADA rules. And the Supreme court refused to hear the Dominos argument, agreeing in their opinion paper with the Appellant court that a website is the extension of a physical business, so it must adhere to ADA guidelines.
I am on LinkedIn if they want to reach out via LinkedIn. The name of our company as you mentioned at the beginning is Web Search Pros, so it’s websearchpros.com. There is contact information there and contact information on LinkedIn. Those are the two best places to connect if they want to reach out.
I am, but I hate social media so I am on there as little as possible.
I have notifications turned on for those two. I am on those other places, but I am not on there very often.
Thank you very much. Thanks for having me. Take care.
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