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Demystifying WCAG 2.0: Webinar Q&A Highlights with David Berman

  • International web accessibility expert David Berman presented at last week’s webinar, Demystifying WCAG 2.0, An Intro to Web, Office, InDesign, and PDF Accessibility. Watch the video above for a full recording of the webinar.

    David gives a high-level overview of what accessibility means, why it matters, and how more people benefit from inclusive design than you’d think. He touches on disability discrimination laws in the US and Canada, including the upcoming Section 508 refresh which will incorporate WCAG standards. He shares case studies from his own accessibility consulting practice and provides excellent recommendations for inclusive design tools and resources.

    You can watch the full recording below or read on for highlights from the Q&A section.


    Isn’t our website going to look ugly after it gets an accessibility makeover?

    DAVID BERMAN: Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. I have seen cases where people have, very earnestly and with all the best intentions, without that much experience, gone and grabbed onto these WCAG 2.0 rules and tried to apply them. And indeed, they ended up with a website which was slower, clunkier, not as dramatic, and not necessarily that accessible. They didn’t believe that it was possible to create a website which was truly accessible without trade-offs.

    But it doesn’t have to be that way.

    Back in 1998 when we were first doing this with the federal government in Canada, there were a lot of trade-offs, because we didn’t have the tools. We didn’t have the techniques. But now there’s no reason. I can give you some great examples.

    I’m thinking of the MCIE.org, the Maryland Center for Inclusive Education. This is a fantastic organization in Maryland. When they came to us, their web team had never done accessibility before. We assessed their site, did a gap analysis, coached them through the differences, and the site ended up looking even more awesome than it began.

    It was a beautiful looking site to start off with. Now it’s even better, and of course, it reaches everyone. Why wouldn’t we want that? So it’s totally doable.

    Does assistive technology reduce the need to make web content accessible?

    DAVID BERMAN: Well, it’s more that assistive technology meets us. What we do is we create the content in a way that complies with the international inclusive design standards. The people who invent assistive technologies create technologies that assume that we’ve met those standards. So we meet them halfway.

    People are inventing new assistive technologies all the time. And so the more assistive technologies that are invented and the better they are, the more brilliantly our efforts to make our products accessible is going to be manifested for more and more people.

    You could argue some of the assistive technologies are so clever they actually overcome some of the web design shortcomings. So for instance, even though your site isn’t accessible, the JAWS screen reader is pretty clever at helping people push through it anyway.

    But the paradigm we want to work with here is to have sites that meet or exceed an international standard. And then everyone knows they’ll be able to plug in every assistive technology and have a delightful experience. That’s what we want for them, and that’s what they want for themselves.

    Slide from David Berman's presentation. 'Online accessibility: it's never been easier' with a photo of an amputee running on prosthetic limbs. 'By helping build a more accessible web, you are part of the largest liberation in human history'

    What’s the best way to work with YouTube’s autocaptions?

    DAVID BERMAN: YouTube has an amazing built-in engine that analyzes the speech in a video. And assuming the speech is fairly straightforward, the speech is clear, and there’s only one speaker, it’s very good at giving you a first draft.

    We have very funny examples of automatic captioning for some of our clients where there were actually swear words accidentally in them because YouTube got it wrong. But it’s way better than nothing. BThe captions that YouTube does are not at all professional-level quality captions, but they could save you some time.

    So essentially, we have two approaches we recommend to people if they want to do captioning. If you really want to try to roll your own captions–and that’s a good thing to get to know just to understand captioning–I’ve actually got a blog post where I go into great detail as to how you can work with YouTube’s captioning engine and learn how to make better captions that are properly paced and properly broken out.

    But the other way to handle captioning, and it’s what we’ve moved over to, is to hire 3Play Media. It sounds like a setup, but it’s not.

    I can see situations where you may want to caption your own stuff, but outsourcing it is often the right answer.

    David Berman
    Web Accessibility Expert

    3Play does the best captioning we’ve ever seen, and it’s so inexpensive that we might as well just send it to 3Play. They turn around captions to us usually in under 24 hours. It costs just a few dollars per minute, and it really is cheaper than anything. And the quality of captions is better than anything we were ever doing ourselves. So I can see situations where you may want to caption your own stuff, but outsourcing it is often the right answer.

    Does the ADA require universities to caption all videos, whether they’re on YouTube or part of library archives?

    DAVID BERMAN: It’s a bit of a gray area still.

    It all depends on your interpretation of what we consider ‘public space.’ Is every book in the library public? Is every classroom a public space? And to what degree do we need to conform with the various rules in WCAG 2.0, of which there are about six or seven rules regarding making video accessible.
    And accessibility is not just about captioning. It’s also about having descriptive text transcripts and audio descriptions.

    There’s also the challenge that some of these rules are level A and some of them are AA. And in some jurisdictions, there have been exemptions for live versus recorded video captioning.

    Do you have workflows or recipes for making web content accessible in content management systems (ex., WordPress) or in e-learning authoring applications (ex., Articulate, Adobe Camtasia, or Lectora)?

    DAVID BERMAN: Yes. I feel like I’m sounding like a commercial for our own services. But the reality is the public courses we do are generalist, but we also do on-site courses for specific organizations more often than we do public ones. We have a course on nothing but accessible e-learning.

    We were just delivering a course in Oman last month breaking down every major CMS there is on the planet and comparing and contrasting techniques for creating accessible experiences, not just with what comes out of that CMS from the audience perspective.

    We’re also thinking about whether the CMS has an interface which makes it easy for a fully-abled person to pack accessibility into their content? And does it have an interface that allows someone who lives with a substantial disability to also participate in authoring?

    We asses a CMS based on these three lenses:

    • Is the authoring accessible?
    • Does the authoring allow people to build accessibility in?
    • Does it result in an accessible experience for the audience?

    If you really don’t have the resources or staff to execute these accessibility workflows, would you recommend that these institutions never scale up or avoid media altogether, rather than making inaccessible content?

    DAVID BERMAN: Well, that’s a pretty dark scenario. Because the reality is that we have $97 manuals which cover all of these things. This is all stuff that anyone who’s sophisticated enough to create content and develop websites or documents certainly can learn these techniques.

    Rather than thinking, we can’t afford to be accessible, I’m arguing you can’t afford not to be accessible.

    David Berman
    Web Accessibility Expert

    When you go deep with these techniques, when you change how you roll, it actually reduces your costs. So rather than thinking, we can’t afford to be accessible, I’m arguing you can’t afford not to be accessible, whether it’s because of the lost opportunity of missing market reach or not being able to attract students.

    Whatever it is you’re selling, you’re selling it to fewer people or providing a lesser user experience for them, so it’s actually going to cost you on the revenue side.

    With very few exceptions, learning how to comply with WCAG 2.0 actually drives down development costs. Because it forces better systems on how you get things done.

    So I guess I’m rejecting the scenario where someone says, we can’t afford to do this. I’m arguing that you can’t afford not to do this, especially not even touching the regulatory challenge where people are going to say, by the way, you could have a lawsuit on your hands if you don’t do make your web content accessible, not to mention how your conscience feels about it.

    For a full transcript, slidedeck, and resources from David Berman, visit the webinar archive page.

    You might also like: 10 Tips for Creating Accessible Web Content with WCAG 2.0.

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